Tag Archives: housework

Linda Nightingale to the Rescue

I am currently (or finally if you ask him) dating a German man. While it’s true that Germans aren’t known the world over for their romantic side, I feel that this is something that should be rectified.

A German man, or at least this German man, shows you in a thousand different ways how much you mean to him – and he does it in a way that doesn’t make me want to vomit.

These little Germantic gestures include things like:

  • getting up at crackofdawn o’clock to drive me halfway across the city to a morning lesson when I’m running late
  • having a thermos of black tea with milk waiting in the car to soothe the savage beast
  • doing the midnight run to the petrol station when we run out of wine
  • having a word with a security guard at a concert to see if I could stand over by the exit so that I might see something other than the backs of tall Germans’ heads – it actually worked
  • buying me little gifts, not because it’s a special occasion but simply because he thinks I’ll get a kick out of them
The Terrible German Language by Mark Twain
The Terrible German Language by Mark Twain
  • He also bought me the rather entertaining Travel Pussy, which shows how well he knows me…
  • He listens to my bizarre questions about his mother tongue and claims to find them “endearing”

Anyway, I could go on but that’s probably enough for now. The point is, he does so much for me that when he injured his leg playing football, I felt that this was my chance to do something for him so I offered to move in and play nurse for a week or so.

Regular readers will know that I’m hardly the most tender soul on the planet but well, what was the worst that could happen? My mother told me to wish Manfredas luck in between disbelieving snorts of laughter, and I told his next-door neighbour to call 112 if she heard screaming coming from the apartment. We were all set.

The second I moved in, I felt at home. This was partly to do with the fact that he’d previously bought me slippers that said “Home” on them. I quickly unpacked my bits and bobs and put them away in the drawers and spaces that he’d cleared for me. If he was horrified by the lack of neatness, he didn’t say anything.

We had decided from the get-go that we would speak more German. Ostensibly, this was to improve my fluency but I think he was secretly hoping for the entertainment value. Naturally, I didn’t disappoint.

Me: I just need to brush my hair. 

Manfredas: Ha ha ha ha! 

Me: What? What did I say? 

Manfredas: Bah hahahaha! 

Me: Oh wait. I know. Breast, right? I said that I need to breast my hair… 

(Bürsten – to brush, Brüste – breasts)

Me: What’s “to score” in German? 

Manfredas: Schießen.

Me: But that’s “to shoot”.

Manfredas: It’s the same in German. 

Me: But isn’t there another word for “to score”? 

Manfredas: Erzielen.

Me: And “Ziel” means “goal”, right? 

Manfredas: Yes.

Me: So… in German, you goal it in the goal? 

Manfredas: Sigh. 

Me: GOAL IT! GOAL IT IN THE GOAL! Ha ha haha! Anyway, es ist nicht vorbei bis die dicke Frau singt… (it ain’t over til the fat lady sings)

Manfredas: NEIN! That doesn’t work in German. 

Me: Oh well. It was worth a goal I guess…

Amazingly, he didn’t kick me out and, as the days progressed, we slipped into a nice routine. I’d go out to work, popping back home whenever I could, and picking up any supplies we needed along the way.

Every morning, I’d get out of the shower to find that he’d laid out everything I’d need to make breakfast, including a fresh pot of tea.

German planning
German planning

Every evening, I’d come home to find my washing done and a delicious meal underway. Pasta bake, pork tenderloin, roast chicken, burgers barbequed on the balcony… I started to wonder who was taking care of whom. Still, I wasn’t complaining.

How to hang your washing, German-style
How to hang your washing, German-style

We’d spend most evenings out on the balcony, chatting, drinking wine and making up stories about the neighbours. I’m convinced one guy, who Manfredas dubs “The Constant Gardener”, is actually out there to be closer to the all the bodies he’s got buried under the lawn (but that’s just me).

Berlin sky at night
Berlin sky at night

Regrettably,  Manfredas’s leg got a little better every day so, after 9 days, I moved back to my own place. Yup, it’s back to toasted sandwiches and beans on toast for me. I’m not sure I was any better as a nurse than I am in the kitchen, but if it’s true that laughter is the best medicine, then maybe I helped a little after all.

OK, it’s time to breast my hair before bed…

My 1st Germanniversary

This time last year, I was sitting on a bus from Riga to Berlin, my worldly possessions safely stowed in the hold (I hoped), with around 16 hours stretching ahead of me to contemplate what exactly I was doing; moving to a city where I didn’t know a soul, with no job and no long-term accommodation lined up. All I had was about five words of German and a roof over my head for the next two weeks. Little did I know I’d end up sharing with a septuagenarian who would have a penchant for dry humping me while I cleaned his fridge.

I still did a bloody good job on the fridge though.
I still did a bloody good job on the fridge though.

Looking back, there were a lot of things I couldn’t have predicted. And while I’m not saying six flats, three jobs, leaving the Catholic Church, and endless rounds of bureaucracy were a walk in the park, they certainly made for an interesting year. In between all of this, of course, I did have some fun. I’ve been to museums, festivals, lakes, book launches, football matches, Christmas markets. I’ve been to Hamburg, Dresden, Leipzig, Potsdam, and Marzahn (shudder). I even managed to get my name on a plaque in Humboldthain Park.

You have to look very closely, but it's there.
You have to look very closely, but it’s there.

I’ve done my best to unravel the mysteries of the German poo shelf. I’ve been sold on the idea of two single duvets on a double bed (that probably also has two single mattresses). I’ve battled with the German language and am now an expert absolute beginner at business German thanks to “Die Höhle der Löwen”*. Or at least I can almost pronounce “Die Höhle der Löwen” – it’s something like “dee huhhluh der luhffen” if you want to give it a go. (Germans, feel free to laugh now.) I’ve tried – and failed miserably – to be a good German Hausfrau, but I do still rinse out my pasta sauce jars. The fact that I use pasta sauce from a jar explains a lot about my failure to be a good Hausfrau.

Because you can never have too many poo shelf pictures in one blog
Because you can never have too many poo shelf pictures in one blog

I’ve made some fantastic friends, and some colossal mistakes. Thankfully, the former helped get me through the latter. The thing about Berlin is that she’s a slippery little sucker. Every time one thing slips into place, something else slips away. For the past year, it’s all been a bit one step forward, two steps back. Or, sometimes, more like half a step forward, have your feet ripped from under you and end up flat on your arse. But I’ve realised that the trick is to keep getting up again, a bit like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator. (The similarity would probably be more apparent if the Terminator liked a glass of wine and busting out Dusty Springfield tunes.) Aaaaanyway, the point is, one year on, I’m still here and I’m still standing.

Because this is my life, this is Berlin, and this is home. There’s always something amazing around the corner. And even if there isn’t, there’s only a few months to go ’til Glühwein season…

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So, I hope you’ll all be sticking around, because I know I will be.

*The German version of Dragons’ Den/Shark Tank. The 50% I can understand is massively entertaining.

Why I’ll never be a good German Hausfrau

“Whose turn is it to clean the apartment?”

This is not a real question. If Hildegard or Hildeberta have got to the stage where this question has to be asked, then it’s definitely my turn to clean. Sigh. 

This is where ze Germans and I have very different opinions. I hate housework with the fire of a thousand suns; it bores the pants off me.

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Pants – bored off me. (A German would have ironed both the pants and the sheet before taking that photo.)

Before I moved to Germany, I watched a BBC documentary called “Make me a German”. The show claims that the average German woman does four hours and eleven minutes of housework A DAY. When I’d picked myself up off the (probably not hoovered) floor, my skeptical side kicked in. Surely nobody could spend four hours and eleven minutes a day doing housework. But, now that I live with two German women, I’m starting to realise that it might actually be true. They love it.

If you want to see a German woman really excited, go out drinking, cover your white dress in red wine, and then come back home and look helpless. They’ll spring into action with the same gusto I normally reserve for cake.

Mmm, cake...
Mmm, cake…

And by god, they’ll get those stains out, even if takes four hours and eleven minutes… After all of this excitement, they’ll probably unwind by ironing everything they own or cleaning their shoes. They find this relaxing.

Hildegard: Feel free to borrow the iron any time you like. 

Me: I haven’t ironed anything in around 20 years. I’m a fan of the “take it out of the washing machine quickly and hang it up” method. Then if there are still wrinkles, you just wear the item of clothing until they fall out. The “body heat” approach. 

Hildegard: (Thud)

There are a few other household-related things I’ve done that have resulted in sharp intakes of breath and widened eyes.

Hildeberta: What are you doing? 

Me: Pouring my soup into a bowl.

Hildeberta: Huh, I’ve never seen anyone pour soup directly from a saucepan before.

Me: Really? What do you do? 

Hildeberta: Use a ladle. (She didn’t say “like a normal person” but I guess she was thinking it.)

Me: Huh.

Unnecessary washing-up
Unnecessary washing-up

On another occasion:

Hildeberta: What are you doing?

Me: Filling the kettle.

Hildeberta: Through the spout?

Me: Yeah, I find that opening and closing the lid adds valuable seconds to the process and I’m all about efficiency in the home.

Hildeberta: Huh. 

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not like I’m trying to be lazy or a bad flatmate; I just genuinely don’t see stuff. To me, the flat simply never really looks like it’s in need of cleaning. It’s the cleanest place I’ve ever lived. My mother always said that there could be an elephant sitting in the middle of the living room, and I wouldn’t notice it. I think she’s right. Incidentally, Hildeberta just popped her head into my room.

Hildeberta: Hey, where’s the other chair? 

Me: What chair?

Hildeberta: Didn’t you have two?

Me: Oh, I think you’re right. Hmm, I wonder where the other one went…

Then I remembered that my landlady had come around several months ago to pick up some of her stuff. She must have taken it. Yes, you read that correctly – several months, and I still hadn’t noticed that the chair was gone. I probably never would have.

Now there’s talk of putting together a housework rota. Clearly, this is the last thing on earth I want. Anyway, I probably won’t notice the rota any more than I notice the dirt.

The cupboard of boredom and doom.
The cupboard of boredom and doom.

On a positive note, however, I have a new fan. Hildeberta’s dad is the latest German to enjoy reading the blog. This is good news for me. Now, not only does Hildeberta have to listen to all of my stupid adventures first-hand, she also has to read about them, and then hear all about them again from her dad. He likes to recount my blog posts to her whenever he calls – charming man. I’m hoping that this means that she just won’t have time to put together a rota.

Thank you, Herr Hildeberta. You might just have saved my Speck…

 

You can find the highly entertaining BBC documentary here: 

 

 

Germanification

I feel like my inner German is growing stronger by the day. I’ve even started glaring at people who jaywalk – not because I disapprove, but because it seems like rather a German thing to do.

The process is being accelerated by the fact that I live with two German girls, and I believe that their German influence over me is stronger than my Irish influence over them. Although, in the beginning, I thought that the Irish might win out.

Hildeberta: Last night I had a night that you would be proud of. 

Me: I assume that something terribly sophisticated happened. 

Hildeberta: HA! NO! (A classic example of that German delusion-crushing directness you’ve probably heard about.) No, no, I ended up drinking with a bunch of randoms in some gay bar, then somehow found myself in an African bar, then finished the night sitting in the road eating pizza with a homeless guy. 

Me: Hmm. Yeah, that does sound more like something I would do…

However, despite this little Irish blip, it is, most definitely, a German apartment. This is mainly evidenced in the fact that it is spotless – apart from my room, obviously.

The cleanest bathroom in the world
The cleanest bathroom in the world

The reason for this is that Germans never stop cleaning. Even when something is clean, they’ll clean over the clean – just for good measure. When it comes to O’Grady vs Germ, I adopt a very ‘live and let live’ attitude – it’s worked for me so far. When it comes to German vs Germ… well, let’s just say you feel sorry for any germ that has the audacity to lurk on German soil.

The most used hoover in the world
The most used hoover in the world – and Elvis

I think that all of this might, one day, have the effect of turning me into a good decent semi-decent Hausfrau. The other day, I actually hoovered – spontaneously. However, I feel that my progress may not be speedy enough for ze Germans.

Last week, I was über proud of myself when I finished a carton of milk and remembered to put it into the “cardboard” bin. I swaggered off somewhere and came back to find Hildegard standing in the kitchen holding the offending item. I’d messed up in two ways –

1. I hadn’t folded the milk carton to the size of a 10 cent coin.

2. I’d put it into the “cardboard” bin, when it was lined with plastic and probably still contained some drops of milk. (Actually, I knew it did.)

Hildegard: I know! It’s such a German thing! 

Me: Yeah… haha. 

Although she was laughing, there was German steel in there at the same time. I then got my first lesson in Mülltrennung (rubbish separation), the one thing every foreigner dreads when they move to Germany.

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Guess which one is mine…

Still, I console myself with the fact that while my German Hausfrau-ness is a work in progress, my German beer-drinking abilities are second to none. Well, apart from the Germans – natürlich.