Tag Archives: Wine

Moving in with a German

Earlier this year, Manfredas asked me to move in with him. This was actually a brave move on his part as I’d previously told him that I’d set fire to my kitchen while making a ham and cheese toastie. Twice.

Still, from my point of view, it was a great idea for a number of reasons:

  1. Germans have better insurance than I do – i.e. they have insurance.
  2. I’d accidentally flashed my boobs at my elderly neighbour while I was getting dressed and he was having a smoke on his balcony. He’d been very unfriendly to begin with, but it turned out that all it took was an impromptu peep show to lead to daily invitations to his apartment for a drink. I politely (then not so politely) declined.
  3. I’d managed to clog my shower drain with hair beyond what my questionable abilities as a plumber could cope with. Loath to go and tell the Hausmeister and watch him pull a yeti out of there, I tried (and failed) to use my own methods.
Not to be confused.

I decided to leave my slightly blackened oven, randy neighbour and hirsute shower drain behind and accept Manfredas’ offer. (Sometimes I can be just as romantic as the Germans.)

Manfredas lent me some boxes from when he’d last moved and I assured him I would be packed up and ready to go that weekend. Unfortunately, it seemed that my box-putting-together skills were about as developed as my cooking and plumbing skills. Never fear – after about half an hour of arsing around on youtube, I found what I was looking for, put my first box together (with a lot of pause/play/swearing) and it was plain sailing from there.

Utilising a woman’s touch I didn’t know I possessed, I adorned Manfredas’ (sorry, OUR) flat with cardboard boxes, clothes and shoes, cosmetics, toiletries, and four wineglasses and a packet of Bisto – the only things worth taking from my old kitchen.

Me: (upon closer inspection of my new kitchen) I’m afraid I have to move out.

Manfredas: You just moved in! What’s wrong? 

Me: I can’t reach the wineglasses. This could be a deal-breaker.

German kitchens are not made for Irish people.

Luckily Manfredas – being the resourceful sort that he is – quickly remedied the situation and disaster was averted.

The Linda shelf!

While I could cope with living out of a suitcase for a week or so, I kind of needed to hit the ground running on the work front so the first priority was a desk, chair and shelving unit for my brand new home office. Yes, home office. I am now fancy.

An hour or so in Sconto and I was the proud owner of all of the above. In flat-pack form.

Urgh.

While Manfredas was happy enough to let me bash a dowel (I just had to ask him what the word is for “the little wooden things that you hammer into other things to make furniture stick together”) every now and then, it was decided that my unique skill-set would probably be better put to use in keeping the music going and the wine flowing.

Manfredas: Hmm, I don’t think the tools given are good enough for this bit. I need a drill. (Produces a rather nice Black & Decker drill set.)

Me: Bah haha! You own drills! 

Manfredas: Well, of course I own drills. How else do you think things get on walls? 

Me: Oh yes. Right. That makes sense.

Sometimes I forget that I’m a grown-up dating a grown-up.

Anyway, in a few short hours – for me, at any rate – the office was complete.

Don’t worry – the screwdriver is just for show.

Once I had everything in place, it was time for the next phase – showing me how to use the TV, the heating, the dishwasher, the washing machine and various other gadgets that Germans love. Amazingly, Manfredas has undertaken to do most of the cooking so a cooker tutorial didn’t really come into play.

This probably explains why the flat is still standing and we’re rubbing along nicely together. I guess he should probably put the ham and cheese on the top shelf of the fridge though…

 

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The von Grady guide to Mauritius

Manfredas: You know the way it’s your birthday in January and mine in February? 

Me: Uh huh.

Manfredas: Fancy going to Mauritius to celebrate? 

Me: (running)

Manfredas: Where are you going??

Me: Packing! 

And so, after a near miss by Manfredas with the ticket inspectors on the S-Bahn, we were off.

I won’t bore you with oodles of photos of idyllic beaches, glorious sunsets or stunning scenery because you can google those yourself. Hint: google “Mauritius” – that’s really how it looks. I won’t even attempt to get my blog stats up by posting Halle Berry-style shots of me emerging from the water in a bikini. (Just google “Halle Berry bikini” – that’s far less scary.)

That’s probably a more accurate representation of me on the beach in the midday sun.

Instead, I’m going to take you on a slightly alternative tour of Mauritius, courtesy of the ever-so-slightly rambling mind that is mine.

You are welcome.

Upon arriving at our guest house and settling in a bit, Manfredas announced that he would be putting his valuables in the safe.

Me: Good idea. I’ll do that too. 

Manfredas: Cool. I’ll just put the key up here on top of the wardrobe. 

Me: Erm, are you sure that’s a good idea? 

Manfredas: Well, if we take it with us and lose it, then we’re really screwed. 

Me: Yes, you’re right. Now we can only get robbed by German, Scandinavian or Dutch people. Oh, or short people with the strength to drag a chair in front of the wardrobe and stand on it. 

Manfredas: Sigh. 

Guest house pool (without me emerging in a bikini).

We were off to a great start.

I decided to make us a nice cup of tea to get things back on track. We had a choice of two cups – Piglet or Pooh. Upon closer examination, I discovered that the clever designers had not only drawn a picture of each character, but also broken them down by body part. I’m still not sure why they had to draw such close attention to Piglet’s arm but maybe someone can enlighten me…

Arm?

After a couple of days’ relaxing on the beaches or by the pool, we decided we should explore a little. First up, the Botanical Gardens. 

Now, if you’re anything like me, when you picture botanical gardens, trees probably play a role. And, sure enough, it turned out that there were trees in the Botanical Gardens – lots of them. The only problem was:

Erm…

Manfredas: How the hell are you supposed to “refrain from walking/standing under trees” in a botanical garden? 

If the finest of logical, German thinking couldn’t make any sense of it, then other people didn’t stand a chance.

RULE BREAKERS!

However, it wasn’t just the tourists who were prone to a bit of flexibility with the Mauritian law…

This might be my new favourite photo ever.

As it’s entirely possible that Mauritian buses are solely responsible for global warming (kind of)…

The BEAST

… on this day, we had decided to rent a car to go and visit the Seven Cascades in the south of the island.

Manfredas: They drive on the “wrong” side of the road here but it’s fine; I’ve done it before.

As I’ve never felt unsafe in a car with him in the past, I took him at his word. And so began the most terrifying day anyone has ever experienced on the über-chilled island of Mauritius. Bollards, walls, ditches, sheer drops, lamp-posts, parked cars and scooters, small children and stray dogs whooshed past me, inches from my face.

Me: Jesus Christ! Could you leave a bit more space on this side of the car?! 

Manfredas: Sorry! I don’t want to go too far into the middle of the road! 

BUMP.

Manfredas: What was that? 

Me: (cowering) Kerb.

Manfredas: Shit, really?

Me: Yes bloody really! We’re not making it back with this mirror…

Manfredas: It’s fine. I’m getting the hang of it now. 

BUMP.

Manfredas: What was that?

Me: Car mirror…

A couple of lifetimes later, we arrived at where the Seven Cascades should have been.

Me: This looks like a bus depot. 

This was really rather observant of me as it was a bus depot. We circled around, following signs for the Seven Cascades and finally arrived at… the same bus depot.

Luckily, a local man was standing by. He ushered us down a dirt track, assuring us that there was parking down there somewhere. We crawled along, parked up where a couple of other cars were parked and got out.

Me: This looks like a dead-end dirt track. 

It was. Fortunately, our new friend wasn’t far behind us. In broken English/French, we managed a conversation that saw us following him down said dirt track.

Kindly stranger: (shoving something under my nose) Smell! 

Me: Oooh, lovely…

KS: Is mint! 

Me: Oooh, lovely. 

KS: Here! Is for you! 

Me: Oooh, lovely! 

I’ve never really known how to comment on plants and stuff.

I tucked the leaves into my handbag for politeness sake and we carried on a bit until we were finally greeted with a view of the Seven Cascades in the distance.


Me: Oooh, lovely! 

And it was. But short of hiking down there, that was as close as we were going to get. I tossed the mint on the path when our new friend wasn’t looking and we headed back to the car for the death trip home. This time, I wisely decided to close my eyes for most of it.

All in all, we had a fantastic time. The island is gorgeous, the people are among the friendliest on earth, the food is amazing, and Manfredas had what, I hope, will be one of his most memorable birthdays.

So, I’ll leave you with some random observations.

  1. Some guest houses have bed clothes that would be more at home in Latvia.
ARGH! My eyes!

2. Avoid Mauritian wine at all costs.

This was not Mauritian. Hence the smiling.

3. Mauritians take the sacred “O apostrophe” and use it to wipe their bums.

2-ply…

And finally, finally, since you’ve borne with my ramblings for so long, here’s the long-awaited bikini shot.

Just kidding.
Ahh, that’s better!

Au revoir!

Note: This post is in no way sponsored by the Tourism Board of Mauritius. If they see it, they’ll probably never let me back. 

German men 101

As someone who’s perfectly happy with her German man, you can imagine my surprise when I came across this event on Facebook:

German Men 101

German men are unique species. Usually, men are not easy to handle, but German men beat them all. It requires deep understanding of their nature, and the cultural differences, in order to survive a long-term relationship. 

We all experience the same: drinking habits, jealousy, your friends (particularly straight male friends), his friends and family, privacy issues, keeping his football trophy from 4th grade, and many more weird habits that you do not know how to digest…

Don’t worry! We are here to advise and support!! After years of dating German men (including getting married to some of them), we offer our knowledge and experience to help others. You are not alone!! 

We will have an overview and explanations for the most common and weird habits we observed through the years, ask questions, get answers and share war stories. Come to reveal the mystery!

I had several thoughts after reading this:

  1. It can’t be real.
  2. It sounds like a bunch of mad Eastern European women mistaking mad Eastern European men for lovely German men.
  3. I have to go.

It seems I was not alone on my first thought. The day before the event, the organiser posted:

People asked us if the event is real. So, yes, it is  We are looking forward to see you tomorrow!

Final thought – please God, let there be wine…

Men were not allowed “due to the sensitive topics” so I left Manfredas (chuckling gleefully at the things I do for this blog) and stepped out into the night. Around 20 minutes later, I arrived at the venue looking like a drowned rat and dripping onto the registration table. I paid my fiver (yeah, I know…), got a stamp to indicate my betrayal of the German men I love and hit the bar. I said a mental “thank you” to the Big Guy and got a glass of wine, scouting the room for the seat closest to the snack table.

I may have seen it all now.

Comfortably seated, I leaned over and spoke to the rather beautiful girl beside me.

Me: So, have you had terrible experiences with German men? 

Maria: Oh God, yes! So many! 

Me: Really? Like what? 

Maria: Oh, this one time, I was on a date in a restaurant and the guy told me that I was being too loud and everyone in the restaurant was looking at us and it was very embarrassing for him.

Me: Bah haha! I guess that was your first and last date! 

The room had filled up a bit and now there were around 20 women – and one guy. The Israeli woman hosting the event said that she had “allowed him” to be there as he was a journalist. Needless to say, he looked more and more depressed as the evening wore on.

Poor dude.

Suddenly, the screen was filled with my new (Brazilian, as it turned out) friend, who had made a video bemoaning German men’s inability to flirt. This was met with groans of approval, nodding heads and rolling eyes. German men cannot approach women or flirt, it seems.

The host, Tal, explained that this is because German men are both “afraid and respectful”. And, as only 17% of German men use dating apps, “you have to hunt them outside – you have to be creepy”.

I began to feel very, very sorry for German men.

If, however, you do manage to ensnare a German man (insert evil cackle here), moving in together will present a whole new set of issues. A German man’s idea of moving in together is that you move in with him and he clears you a shelf. The more serious it gets, the more space you receive. This, however, is not as easy as it sounds since German men hoard everything they’ve ever owned since they were babies.

Me: Hey Manfredas, do you have any trophies from the fourth grade? 

Manfredas: Erm, no. I do have a hockey trophy from 2007, though. 

Me: Hmm. 

True story.

If joint shelves are an issue, you can imagine how German men feel about joint bank accounts. NEIN!

Friends are another thorny subject. Your German man will have one to three people in his life that he considers friends. For example:

Jane: Hey honey, are you inviting any friends from work to the wedding? 

Jannes: I do not have “friends from work”. They are COLLEAGUES! COLLEAGUES ARE COLLEAGUES, FRIENDS ARE FRIENDS!! 

Jane: (sniffle)

According to the (possibly quite mad) women at this event, German men will also have major problems with your straight male friends. However, contrary to popular belief, this is not because they are jealous; it’s because they have low self-esteem and are afraid that someone will steal you away from them…

Some other choice words used to describe German men during the evening were: negative, pessimistic, passive, logical, private, over-insured… they also like a drink or seven but that’s not so different from Irish men (or women) so I’m alright with that.

Apart from the last point, it was like listening to someone describing people from another planet. If men really are from Mars, then most of these women were from TrES-2b (yep, it’s a real thing – Google it).

I’ve been chatted up by an Irish guy with the line, “your eyes are the same colour as my tractor”; I dated (for a short time) an English man who thought that we could visit each other using “the bridge between England and Ireland”; I had a Polish man hit on me in my kitchen while his wife was in the other room… So yeah, I think I’ll stick with the Germans, weirdness and all.

 

 

Digging up the dog in Rheinsberg (Part 2)

Here it is – the long-awaited, “exciting” second installment.

You’ll be relieved to hear that I did eventually manage to get my cup of tea to my mouth, by adopting a new technique I like to call the “Wurstfinger-out manoeuvre”. I might patent it.

I am a genius.

While elegantly sipping my exquisite Netto own brand tea, I spotted Oma emerging from the tool shed in the garden and decided to pop out to say “good morning”. This was just after 10 a.m. and I was feeling rather pleased with myself for simply being up, even if I was still in my pajamas with bed hair. Oma, however, looked like she’d been up for hours and was suitably full of the joys. I raised an eyebrow at the toolbox she was carrying and she threw back a cheery, “So ist das Leben!” (Such is life!)

I couldn’t even imagine a life that would involve me chirpily carting around a toolbox at 10 a.m. (or any time of the day for that matter) but then I’m not a German Oma; she’d probably built the shed while I was sleeping.

Feeling a little underachieving, I went back inside, showered and got myself ready for the day. I figured I would probably have enough plasters to get me through.

Now looking slightly more presentable (and appropriately plastered), I set out in search of food. Before long, I hit the jackpot – a cosy little café that served… Käse-Schinkenbrötchen! The nice lady behind the counter even offered to heat it up for me. (I think there must be something gormlessly endearing about me, or my accent, that Germans find appealing as she just glared at everyone else who came in.)

Gold.

On the way out, I discovered that there must be some live dogs* in Rheinsberg as dead dogs don’t poop, as far as I know.

The dump dump.

Satisfied with my morning so far, I set off for the palace and lake. My plan was to take a few photos of the palace and lake, walk around the lake to the obelisk, take photos of the palace and lake from the other side and then walk back again. Just when you thought this trip couldn’t get any more exciting, eh?

I set off, convincing myself that I was enjoying the (freezing) fresh air. Along the way, I passed a few other brave souls out for a walk, all very clearly German in their sensible footwear and all-weather clothing. Most of them gave me a cheery smile and a hello. It could have been the even more gormless, half-frozen look I was sporting at the time.

Brrrr.

Anyway, I achieved my goal of making it to the obelisk, taking a lot of pretty photos along the way.

At this point, I was feeling so “at one” with nature, that I decided to carry on walking for a while. After ten minutes or so, I noticed something odd. I was completely alone. I hadn’t passed any Germans since the obelisk. Did they know something I didn’t? Had I missed a sign or something? I sent Manfredas a quick message.

Me: Are there wild boars in Brandenburg? 

Manfredas: Hmm, I think you’ll be quite safe in the middle of the day. 

Pfft. What did he know? Maybe the wild boar had never smelled Irish meat before and would disrupt their nocturnal habits for a nibble. Feeling more like eating than being eaten, I headed back towards town for some cake.

Unfortunately, I came to a Glühwein hut first.

Actually, there was nothing unfortunate about it; it was bloody brilliant. My cockles warmed, I continued on for around three minutes until I hit a likely-looking café.

A mandarin, cream and sponge concoction that was just as delicious as it looks.

Naturally, after all of this wild adventure I was exhausted, so I walked back to my apartment for a nap. A few hours later, I was ready to eat again. (I know – it just keeps getting more exciting…)

I’d spied a reasonably-priced restaurant on my earlier travels and, this being Rheinsberg, had no trouble getting a table. A lively foursome were sitting at the table next to me and thankfully, they didn’t look like they were about to leave any time soon. This was good as we were soon the only people left. We ended up having a nice chat but soon they were also ready to leave. Determined not to be the last one in the restaurant again, I downed my wine and left with them. We parted ways and I headed to the only Kneipe in town.

OPEN! YES!

While it wasn’t the most salubrious of joints, I’m generally quite at home in these places so I plonked myself at the bar and ordered a glass of wine. The heads around me turned. Ah, “strange face in a local bar syndrome” – fun.

Me: Huh. Am I the only woman here? 

Holger: (nodding behind the bar) She’s a woman. 

Me: (casting a dubious look at the barkeep giantess) Oh, yes, of course she is! I meant, you know, as a customer… (eek, bad start)

Holger: Hmm, you speak good German but you don’t sound like a German. Where are you from? 

Me: Ireland. 

Holger: Oh, right then! Shot? 

Me: Yes, please. 

And so began a merry night of shot-drinking, bizarre conversations and terrible dart-playing. It seemed there was some fun to be had in this town after all.

Day three got off to a rather later start and was pretty much a carbon copy of day two, apart from a nice glass of wine on a (currently non-touring) tour boat – and skipping the Kneipe; I was worried I might have some damages to settle from my slightly erratic darts skills.

And, while I may not have dug up the dog, I did find where he’s buried.

Woof.

All in all, a perfectly enjoyable few days. I can definitely recommend it – especially if you enjoy having entire restaurants to yourself at the outrageous hour of 9 p.m.

*If you’re confused by the dog references, you probably need to read the previous post.

Digging up the dog in Rheinsberg (part 1)

Me: I’m going to Rheinsberg for a few days between Christmas and New Year’s. 

Ze Germans:

“Where?”

“Why??”

“Da ist der Hund begraben.”

Me: The dog is buried there? What?

Ze German: Ja, this means it is a very boring place where nothing ever happens. 

Me: Oh, good. Perfect! 

After a pretty hectic year, a few days in a sleepy, picturesque town in Brandenburg sounded ideal. I’d booked a beautiful apartment a few minutes’ walk from Rheinsberg Palace, Googled how to get there and was good to go. It was while I was on the last leg of the journey, a bus ride from Neuruppin to Rheinsberg, that my phone decided I was roaming. But not to worry – unbelievably, they have WiFi (that actually works) on the buses in Brandenburg. A true post-Christmas miracle…

I texted the owner of the flat to tell her I was outside and, a couple of minutes later, was being warmly ushered in by a jolly German granny. After she’d shown me around the flat and we’d had a jolly chat, I decided that I would like her to be my new German Oma.

The flat was even better than I had hoped; really cosy, newly renovated and adorned with twinkly Christmas lights.

My very own garden

This being Germany, of course there was some form-filling to be done. Rheinsberg is one of the areas that charges a Kurtaxe (visitor’s tax) of €1.50 per person per night. I’m not sure why some places charge it and some don’t but again, this is Germany so there doesn’t necessarily have to be any logic.

Urgh.

Form filled in, Kurtaxe paid, Oma left me to it. At this stage, I was pretty hungry so I hit the town in search of cake. Unfortunately, most places I liked the look of were either having their Ruhetag (day of rest) or closed until March. Hmm. I wandered on and eventually found what I was looking for, settling in with my book, a cup of tea and…

cake!

I decided to take a walk back through the town to the palace and Lake Grienerick. It was around this time that I noticed how much Brandenburger folk like to stare at people, or maybe just me. In a town of only 6,000 inhabitants maybe I stood out a bit but I don’t think I’m that odd-looking. After one gawp too many, I alternated between beaming at people (instant confusion) or hitting them with the Latvian-Girl-Death-Stare (instant cowering wreck). This is how I like to entertain myself sometimes.

The palace and lake were pretty impressive, even in the already dimming light. I decided to leave most of the walking and photos until the following day but managed to snap a few pics before heading to the charming Ratskeller Restaurant (nothing to do with rats) for a glass of wine to warm up.

After that, it was off to Netto to pick up a few essentials (shower gel, tea, wine and crisps) and then back to my apartment for a little nap. I woke up a couple of hours later, feeling wonderfully refreshed and ready for food.

Unfortunately for me, my packing skills are a bit Irish, i.e. fecking everything into a bag with no particular rhyme or reason. While rummaging for my make-up, I felt something prick the index finger on my right hand. What the …? I withdrew my hand and watched with fascinated horror as the blood started flowing. Oh shite.

A quick (very quick) look in the bag revealed that my razor had landed blade up and that I had gashed myself quite badly. Then it was time to run. In the bathroom, I tore through sheets of toilet paper, wrapping the offending finger, waiting for the blood to soak through, binning the blood-soaked tissue and repeating. After a few minutes, the sink and surrounding area looked a bit like the bathroom in SAW. How could something as small as my finger bleed so bloody much!?

ARGH!

Swathed in half a roll of toilet paper, I found my handbag and tried to locate a plaster. In the chaos that is my bag, you never know what you’ll find but luckily, there was one plaster. I stuck it on, thinking that would be the end of the matter.

But no, blood started seeping out above, below and even through the damn thing. I thought about tearfully calling Oma at this point but decided she probably had enough to cope with as she had around 20 family members staying with her.

By now, it was 8.15 p.m. and Oma had told me that the supermarkets closed at 7. My last hope was the Späti (late-night shop). I waved my bloody stump at the Späti guy, while asking calmly and politely if he sold plasters. He did not. BUT (Gott sei Dank) LIDL was open until 9 p.m. I raced down the road, squeezing excess blood into a tissue as I went and located the plasters.

With three more plasters wrapped around the original plaster, I figured things would probably be OK. I found a nice Italian restaurant I’d seen a poster for earlier in the day and ordered. Little did I realise how difficult knives were without a fully-functioning index finger. Every time I pressed on the knife, blood started seeping out again until I’d gone through another four plasters and created the ultimate Wurstfinger. I was so focused on my finger that I failed to notice I was the last one in the restaurant. It was around 9.30.

I finished off my wine and hit the town. Unfortunately, the town was shut. Oh well. I guess I had been looking for a quiet few days; it didn’t get much quieter than this. Back at the flat, I fired up my laptop and started chatting to my Irish friend on Facebook.

Me: Aw crap, my finger is bleeding on my keyboard. Hang on…

Sinéad: Did you put pressure on it? 

Me: If shouting at it to stop bloody bleeding counts as pressure, then yes.  

Sinéad: Erm…

The next morning, I had a new problem.

Massive sausage finger vs tiny, tiny cup

 

Did the bleeding ever stop? Did I manage to get that cup to my lips? Did I dig up the buried dog?? Find out in the next “exciting” installment… 

Talking shit. Literally.

On Monday, I got rained into a bar – my worst nightmare, as you can imagine. However, I really did mean to stay for just one but then the heavens opened. Google had (oh so reliably) informed me that there was a 0% chance of precipitation that day, so I’d set off in a summer dress and flip-flops, without any of the all-weather paraphernalia the Germans are famous for.

While a lot of people might look at this as a fail on my part, these people clearly do not know me very well. First of all, it was a chance to confuse a whole new set of Berlin pub regulars with my intoxicating Irish accent. Second of all, a trip to the bathroom provided unexpected gold. (“Really, Linda? Toilets again?” I hear you groan.)

Gold.

Now, I’m all for “WC” signs throughout the establishment directing me towards the floodgate unleasher, but never have I seen a “WC” sign directly above the loo. Maybe this was the kind of pub where people got so drunk there was a chance they might mistake the sink/floor for the toilet? Or maybe the local clientele just weren’t that bright to begin with? There were no signs over the bin or the sink but I guess it’s not so important if you miss those…

Anyway, I figured out from the clever signage that the WC was, in fact, the toilet. I’m a smart cookie…

As I approached, I noticed the little picture on the toilet lid. I rubbed my eyes. Nope, the glass of wine hadn’t gone to my head – it really was a poo in a speech bubble. But what could it mean? I started coming up with some ideas:

  • Feel free to talk shit here?
  • Let your poo do the talking?
  • If I were a turd, what would I say…?
  • Poo has the right to freedom of speech?
  • A poo is worth a thousand words?

The only talking poo I’d ever seen was on South Park so this was a bit of a mystery to me. I’m shit out of ideas so does anybody else have any? Is this some kind of German thing I’ve never heard of? Answers on a postcard (i.e. in the comments below).

 

Do you give up or are you Hungary for more?

Eight Hungarian men have moved into my apartment block. Thankfully, the only hot one moved into the apartment opposite mine. He has a propensity for walking around half-naked which I find pleasing. We have mildly flirtatious conversations that I can barely understand as he only speaks Hungariman. They don’t seem to go to bars but, instead, enjoy knacker-drinking on the roof of the parking garage which is just below my balcony. I feel like a bit like Juliet some nights, if Juliet had had eight Hungarian Romeos, that is.

On one such occasion, they offered me some Hungarian moonshine. (If you want to know what that tastes like, go and swig some petrol.) We all ended up at a party in one of their flats and I immediately impressed with my one word of Hungarian – “egészségedre!” Where I could have picked up the word for “cheers!” in Hungarian (and around 15 other languages) is a mystery…

Anyway, on Sunday, I decided that a major blitz of my flat was necessary. I had amassed enough paper over the last year and a half to start my own recycling plant. Five sacks of paper and general rubbish (separated, of course) sat in the hall and I proceeded to lug them down to the bins one by one. On my fourth trip, I bumped into the Hungarian who acts as an interpreter for the rest of them. He looks a bit like Chris Evans, unfortunately not the hot Hollywood one.

This one. But less smiley.
(image taken from imdb.com)

He also likes wearing socks and sandals.

He kindly unlocked the front door for me and I trudged back upstairs. I was hoping he’d have finished his cigarette by the time I went back down with bag number five but no, he was still there.

András: Wow, so much rubbish. 

Me: Ja, heute ist Putztag. 

Luckily, he hadn’t seen me schlepping down with the first three bags. He opened the door for me again and then paused on the steps.

András: Em, Linda, can I ask you something? 

Me: Sure, (whatever your name is).

András: I’m looking for someone to practise my German with and I was wondering if you’d be interested.

Me: I’m not sure I’m the right person for that job. I’m pretty sure your German is better than mine. (Educating someone on the art of the Sitzpinkel does not make you an expert on the German language; it merely means that you have a rather unhealthy fascination with the peeing habits of German men and like talking about it when you’ve been drinking Hungarian moonshine.)

András: (peering at me intensely through his black-rimmed glasses) I’d like to try though. I can cook dinner for us. Monday? 

Me: Erm, no, I can’t tomorrow. I have a pub quiz. 

András: Tuesday? 

Me: Erm, erm… Maybe. I have a late lesson though so… we’ll see. Maybe. Byeeeeeee!

On Tuesday, I arrived home, put on my slippers, spooned some beans into a saucepan and started up my laptop. I hadn’t even had time to enter the password when there was a ring at the bell. Scheiße.

Me: Oh. Hi.

András: Are you coming? 

Me: Well, I’m really tired and I’ve just got in the door. (He lives directly under me so he had obviously heard me coming home.) Would you mind if we left it for another night? 

His face fell. More.

András: But I’ve already cooked. 

Me: I’m…

András: It’s 20 minutes out of your life and I’ve already prepared everything. 

Me: (Sigh.) OK, then. 

I then flopped around the flat, sighing loudly, sulkily taking off my slippers again and angrily bunging my poor beans into the fridge. I gave the bottle of wine in there a last wistful glance and walked wearily downstairs.

When I stepped into the living room, I was comforted to see that András had his laptop on and was currently browsing a website full of terrifying-looking knives.

Me: Em, what’s that? 

András: Oh, it’s a hobby of mine. I make knives. 

Me: … Cool? 

He then opened a cupboard and proceeded to show me his collection. Just in case I wasn’t convinced by the glinting blades, he then shaved a chunk of hair off his arm to demonstrate how sharp they were. Tufts of ginger hair floated lazily to the floor.

Me: (Hmm, I wonder if I should throw myself through the window or try to make an attempt for the door…) Um, wow, impressive. Oh, is that a photo of your family?

Immediate crisis averted, we sat down to eat. To be fair, he had gone to quite a bit of effort. He’d even bought wine. I tucked into the goulash while making what I felt were appropriately appreciative noises. We chatted a bit about his family in Hungary, his work here and the joys of learning German. He pulled out the book he was using. It was quite possibly the most boring book I’d ever seen.

András: I’m using this book. 

Me: (Say something positive, say something positive) Bah hahaha! That’s probably the worst book I’ve ever seen! It’s just table after table of conjugated verbs! It’s so dry! 

András: (Peering at me over his goulash) You think your books are better than my books? 

Me: (Say no, say no) Yes, for sure. They have pictures and dialogues and useful everyday German. I can lend you a couple if you like? 

András: OK.

I polished off my goulash and got ready to make good my escape.

András: I’ll get the main course.

Crap.

He set down a plate of grilled chicken and a pot of vegetables. I refilled my glass.

Me: Mmm, this is really good, thanks. 

András: You know, I don’t want to be… wait, I don’t know the word. 

He started typing the Hungarian word into the translator app on his phone. The German word appeared letter by letter:

g-e-w-a-l-t-t-ä-t-i-g

Me: (Gulp) Violent? You don’t want to be violent? 

András: No.

Me: And are you? 

András: I don’t want to be. But when you said you didn’t want to come tonight after I’d prepared everything…

At that moment, I knew exactly how Julia Roberts had felt in “Sleeping with the Enemy”. Door it was.

Me: Well, that was delicious but I really must be going now. Thank you for dinner! 

András: Next Tuesday? 

Me: Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! 

I scarpered back upstairs and gave Manfredas the abridged version over Messenger.

Manfredas: Double lock your door.

Me: Done:

Manfredas: And your balcony door.

Me: Also done. I mean, he has a wife and kids, but then, so did Fred West.

The real tragedy of the story is that I never did get around to eating the beans.

Forlorn-looking beans