Tap dance

Ok, this one has been bugging me for a long time. Who on earth thinks of a design like that? I mean, look at it. Notice anything strange?


Faulty design through and through

It’s in need of a clean? Yeah, I knew you were gonna say that. I’ll get to it as soon as this post is published, promised. After all, a girl needs to get her priorities straight. Anything else?

The taps (what my American readers might know as faucets) are too short? Definitely! They do not combine well with my little monster’s short arms. Or my big hands, for that matter.

The handle design doesn’t exactly lend itself to opening the taps with soapy/sticky hands? Oh yes, but that is not a typically British issue. Unfortunately.

No, what I am really peeved about is the fact that there are separate taps for hot and cold water. A standard here on the island. And I can’t help but wonder WHY?!

Sure, my basins at home are all equipped with a plug, so I could mix the water in the basin. Which is absolutely fine when I want to fill my bath tub to take a bath. But who takes the time to fill the basin for a quick hand wash? Especially one as shallow as this one that needs to be almost overflowing to give you enough depth to submerge your hands?

Apart from my little monster, of course, whose arms are too short to reach the taps anyway.

So why don’t island monkeys do mixer taps? They are so much more convenient!!! And faster. And in a public toilet pretty much the only way to wash your hands with warm water without adding more germs than there are on them to start with.

Honestly, when I see a construction like that, I wonder why they even bothered putting in a second tap for the hot water. What a waste of material! Especially when the basin in question does not possess the added amenity of a plug. What, am I expected to open both taps and then alternately let cold and hot water run into my cupped hands until the temperature is right? How does that work with the dinky little hands of a three-year old? And how do I then close the taps again while I clean my hands with soap?

Oh yeah, I forgot, I can’t close them because it’s impossible to re-open them with soapy hands.

So, cold water it is then. I swear, since I have moved to the UK roughly three years ago I have never washed my hands with warm water!

The sad thing is, it’s not like mixer taps aren’t available in this country. You can buy them at any DIY store. People here just don’t. It’s a mystery. If there is anyone out there who can explain this to me, please do. Much obliged.

When you hear “crisp”, do you think of lettuce?

Dear readers! I have to apologise. When I started this blog in November last year I did so with the unexpressed but underlying intention of updating it on a more or less regular basis with hilarious or outrageous stories from my life among Brits. These efforts have of late been severely thwarted by a lady thing. I am pregnant.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this is a joyous time in my life. I get to study every nook and cranny of the four toilet bowls in our house (and some outside our house, too) intensively, wear bras double the size of my usual cups, get loads of exercise running to the loo every 15 minutes and my little monster lifts up my shirt in public, proudly announcing to complete strangers “There is a baby!”. At the same time I have to battle with a few adversities though such as being forced to take an afternoon nap every day, comb through more and more hair every morning or eat healthily. Seriously, judging by what the little parasite in me has me crave, he/she seems to be wanting to become a vegetarian.

Which finally brings me back to the topic of this post – food choices.

Before anyone is tempted to pigeonhole me, I am NOT a health food fanatic, vegetarian or otherwise exceedingly conscious of what is ending up in my stomach. My BMI which has traditionally hovered somewhere around the upper limits of “normal” will vouch for that. Although I have to admit that raising a child and cooking for him and myself on a regular basis has certainly made me more aware of what’s out there – and how simple things can markedly improve his and my good food vs. bad food balance. Granted, wading the shallows of preservatives, additives, organic, bio, processed or – god forbid – genetically engineered food can be intimidating and time-consuming. However, it is not rocket science to know that an apple trumps a chocolate muffin.

Sure, I like them too. In moderate amounts.

A pack of Walkers Salt & Vinegar potato crisps. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For some reason, this subcategory of common sense doesn’t seem to be overly developed here on the island. It simply boggles my mind how often I see toddlers and children in the park around lunch time, snacking away on a bag of crisps*. I mean, how much harder is it to wash a few grapes or cut up two peaches and put them into a resealable plastic container before you leave for the playground with your little ones instead of pocketing a bag of crisps?!

Unfortunately, crisps seem to be a main staple of the British diet. They almost always come in these handy 80g packages (sold individually or, much cheaper, in wholesale amounts, i.e. huge bags that compete in size with my 3-year old – I kid you not!). And you will struggle to find a set meal outside a sit-down restaurant that doesn’t include a packet of crisps.


How about a carrot instead?

Note that even this artery-clogging meal contains crisps on top of everything else!

A traditional English meal of fish and chips, with beer, tartar sauce, and salt and vinegar crisps. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Note that even this artery-clogging meal contains crisps on top of everything else!


Make them organic, hand-made, from 100% British potatoes, whatever; it doesn’t change the fact that crisps are junk food, period. Including them in your (or worse, your kids’) meals on a daily basis will play havoc with your and their health. The fact that the UK is leading the obesity statistics in Europe in nearly every demographic should suffice as proof. Although British dietary mainstays like pies (I’m talking the pasty, greasy, meat-derivative filled variety), sausage rolls (Don’t ask! – If you have to know, google it) or the traditional fish and chips might have a good chunk of complicity in this sad record.

The funny thing is that, where I come from, you can’t even buy chips in snack-sized bags. Which obviously is a positive thing not just from a waste avoidance point of view. If I really want to treat my child to some potato chips (maybe because I am craving them and don’t want him to have to leave the room) I can always give him some from a big bag. Or cut up a watermelon instead. Of course this approach would require a modicum of self-control and a basic knowledge of what’s desirable in food choices.

But then, what do I expect from a country that has to mark fruit and vegetables with a specifically designed logo for people to know that these are the healthy options and how much of them to consume? Whenever I see the “5 a day” sign on a punnet of strawberries I always imagine some nitwit scrutinising a packet of crisps, wondering why on earth it doesn’t count as one of his “5 a day”, seeing that they are made from potatoes.

Thanks for telling me that tomatoes are ok to consume. I’d hate to die in ignorance.



* For my confused non-British readers: crisps are what the rest of the world calls chips, whereas chips over here are fries elsewhere. Easy, or not?

Someone save me from Health and Safety!

Brits are a very safety-conscious people. Security is their lifeblood. I think they invented the phrase ‘play it safe’. Incidentally, it’s an English phrase, so chances are I’m right.

I’ll never get over all the little things here that are designed to minimise the risk in peoples’ lives. Like the neon-coloured high visibility safety vests that every cyclist and professional driver is wearing, along with gardeners, rubbish pick-uppers, supermarket cashiers and loads of ordinary people just walking down the street. Sure, if I was a lollipop lady I might want to don one of these, too, but leaving the house early in the morning when it’s still dark doesn’t mean you are automatically hit by a car without your high-viz vest. Unless, of course, you can’t wait for green before crossing the street.

And what’s with all the warning signs? You know, I was under the impression we Germans were the world champions of ridiculous, superfluent danger notices à la ‘Don’t go too close to the drop-off, you might fall down’. Look at this one here:


I mean, isn't this just the peak of covering your arse?!


Sorry, the little monster wasn’t even half that age when he confidently strode towards said tower. At first, I had to help out a little by holding my hand under his bottom when he climbed up the ladder with rungs at intervals more than half the length of himself. But soon he’d just monkey all the way up and come down the really long slide on his own.

It was quite an accomplishment for him, and he was accordingly proud. Who am I to thwart such enthusiasm by pointing out that he had to wait another 2 1/2 years plus? Only so that the zoo could not get sued if anything ever happened to a less-than-5-year old!

This kind of disclaimer is unfortunately all-too common around here. When friends of mine from Germany visited last year, we had to make it almost a sport to find a place that would microwave the baby food jar for their youngest. It normally took several attempts, and the usual response (especially at but not restricted to chains like Subway or Burger King) was “Sorry, management doesn’t allow me to do it because they could get sued if I heat it up too much and your baby burns his tongue”. Really?! Which parent would 1. not check the temperature before feeding something someone else has warmed up to their little one and 2. sue the helpful soul that had mercy on their hungry toddler?

I also think the island monkeys might have invented helicopter parenting. If you so much as sit down on a bench at the playground and let your toddler run around and explore on his own you get shot dirty looks. The other day the little monster threw a tantrum (it’s known to happen with 2-year olds, you know) on the way home from the shops, and because I couldn’t be asked to drag a screaming, wriggling rugrat along I just kept walking slowly, confident he would follow me eventually as he does. Two minutes later I was shouted at by a complete stranger who deemed the distance of about 30 metres between him and me too large to be safe. For whatever reason, because this is a section of the pavement that is actually separated from the road by a fence. I suppose I should have put a leash on my little monster, that would have taught him!

Just like that day when we went to a pantomime with him. OK, one could argue why I have to take a not-yet-3-year old to a theatre, but then, despite my general awesomeness, I have by bad-mom moments like everyone else I guess. Plus, my mother-in-law had been raving about how much fun the kids have at these Christmas shows with singing along and dancing in the aisles. Except that no-one was allowed in the aisles. For health-and-safety reasons. Of course. God forbid someone trip over him or he fall down the stairs!

Newsflash, people: Kids need to run around on their own, bump their heads or fall down a climbing frame every now and then. It’s called adventure and an integral part of growing up. More often than not they will not even hurt themselves (much) because their bones and ligaments are still super flexible. And it will teach them valuable life skills. Like risk assessment, or finding out where their limits are. Pushing those limits in order to succeed. Trust in their own abilities and ask for help when they feel they can’t succeed on their own. I am convinced they come out better people when you don’t constantly mollycoddle them.

And please, don’t continually try to decide for me, too, what’s too dangerous and what’s not. It will only bring out my rebellious side and I will end up taking risks that I wouldn’t have taken if it weren’t forbidden.


Note: I am probably not as bad a mother as I make myself sound. My little monster is actually allowed to play risk-free games, I do comfort him when he hurts himself and I (dare I say it?) cringe when he runs, climbs or does other risky stuff at insane speeds and with his seemingly uncoordinated movements. I just don’t stop him all the time.

Man, are they ugg-ly!

I might have mentioned on one or two occasions how disgusted I am by ugg boots.

Granted, technically I am not qualified to pass judgement on fashion-related topics, seeing that I am not exactly a style icon. I do, however, have a little something called ‘common sense’ at my command. That, and the decency not to assault my fellow human beings with unnecessary lapses of taste.

Unfortunately, not few female island monkeys don’t have this kind of consideration. Quite the contrary actually, the sheer amount of ugg-wearers in this country frankly boggles my mind.

I concede that this density of bad taste could be partly owed to the fact that I am here in Essex, the proverbial home of the British chav.

Yes, I do understand that it’s winter and cold and you want to keep warm and all. But why then do I see the uggliest boots in the history of footwear so often coupled with black leggings instead of proper trousers?

So you don’t believe me? You think I am exaggerating? Think again. I have compiled irrefutable evidence. Be warned though, it is not a pretty sight.



Uggs1Here is an example to get used to the heinousness. The jeans are alright, so is the rest of the attire.

But these boots! Aren’t they just pug-uggly? A disgrace for an otherwise absolutely acceptable outfit?

I will admit that her funny feet probably have caused the boots to take this funny shape and not vice versa. But isn’t that all the more reason to wear sensible shoes?

Granted, the ones in the picture are not ‘real’ UGGs, so one could make the argument that the inferior quality is to blame for the shaplessness and general failure to function as proper footwear. But then…





But then, these here ARE the real deal. And this lady’s feet are leaning inward just as elegantly.

Not to mention that she manages to spruce up her accoutrement with a baggy pair of red trousers to match her friend’s coat. Nice!

Note: Wearing uggs in the colour black does not make them look less appalling.







An observation that this person unfortunately corroborates.

This exceptionally hideous ensemble also gets across a simple message pretty convincingly: Ugg wearers are generally inflicted by a severe lack of taste. I am sorry but it had to be said.

This is hands down the worst thing I’ve seen so far. And to think that she is raising kids…





Uggs5However, even if worn in the more traditional ‘tan boots plus black leggings’ combination, uggs are somehow sub-stunning.

This picture also illustrates one of the main issues I have with uggs: Unless your legs are exceedingly skinny these boots make them look downright elephantine.

I know, I know, what’s looking pretty compared to being comfortable? Blah-blah. Two things:

1. There are comfy, warm and not-budget-blowing boot models around that don’t make you look like you are 13 months pregnant and struggling majorly with water retention.

2. If uggs are so cushy, why then do most women not stand or walk IN them but NEXT to them?!


Uggs8This one here documents the extent of the problem. I am literally surrounded by uggliness when I dare the high street these days.

It also supports my theory that ugg wearers are fundamentally challenged when it comes to appropriateness. Why else would so many of them feel entitled to combine them with leggings worn as trouser replacement? With just a longish shirt over them to barely cover those ginormous butt cheaks!

Makes me desperately hope for the next gust to wait until they are out of eyeshot.



This lady here could probably pull off the ugg look, seeing that she is one of the rare cases in which the boots don’t end at the widest part of the calf, thus making her look like a rhino on a stampede.

She also proves that it is not impossible to actually walk on top of rather than alongside the sole. That can’t be easy in boots with this little support.

Still, I can’t put my finger on it but doesn’t her posture seem somehow… warped to you?



Ok, ready for my favourite? Want to sit down first?



This one brilliantly sums up the whole misery. It was like a car wreck, I just had to stare.

Honestly, don’t you have to agree that uggs should just be prohibited?

The absolute worst thing about this? See the guy walking just ahead of her? He was actually the one being adequately dressed for the mild, springy 16 °C on that day. In other words, not even the fact that springtide is slowly rolling in is very likely to stop the abomination that are uggs. British girls are known to wear their dearest ‘fashion’ accessory in literally every weather. Urgh!



I read the other day that the microclimate inside the sheepskin is particularly conducive to the development of some nasty microbes. I mean, if these ladies don’t even care about the outside appearance of their footwear, how much less will they be interested in the inner life (forgive the pun)?

And aren’t there any studies around on the long-term effects of boots without any foot support? Flat feet with ensuing knee and hip problems don’t sound extremely far-fetched to me.


What do you think? Are uggs the holy grail of comfort or just a crime against good taste and sense?


I have lived in the UK for nigh on three years now, and the thing that keeps boggling my mind is just how paranoid the island monkeys are.

Boys can’t wear tights or play with dolls because that’s for girls, and girls only. Imagine the damage if your boy did these things! He’d surely grow a vagina or turn gay!

No-one in this country dares to give their bank details to anyone for fast and easy bank transfers. That’s why cheques incomprehensibly are still ubiquitous here.

Oh, and for the love of Darwin, don’t ever let your toddler run around freely because he could get snatched by a pervert.

As a matter of fact, paedophiles are lurking everywhere these days, so you better beware.

no photography

Taking photographs of your little monster when he’s attempting his first tentative steps into the shallow end of the local swimming pool? Forget it! Who knows, you could deviously snap other kiddies and publish their pics on the interwebs, you bad, bad person you! Even at the ice rink, where everyone is wrapped up really nicely, you are not allowed to shoot silly photos of your friends because, well, it says so on the sign. The rules of paranoia also demand the nursery first obtain all parents’ consent before taking and displaying pics in the confined environment of a particular room. Ridiculous!


In my not so humble opinion, Brits are waaayyy too concerned with their privacy.

The most important piece of furniture in our study is … drumroll … a shredder! That’s right. Ok, I give him the benefit of the doubt because he grew up in South Africa, but my dear husband is just short of forcing me to destroy every tiny bit of completely innocuous paper. Granted, I wouldn’t put my intact bank statements into the paper recycling collection bag either. But blank envelopes just because they have my name on it? There surely must be smarter ways to steal my identity if someone was so inclined.

doorbellWait! Maybe not. Because in this country, it’s not only fairly hard to find out the address of a particular abode, seeing that street name signs are few and far between and house numbers are often inconspicuous, overgrown or missing altogether. More importantly, no-one displays their names on their doors. Ever!


Where I come from, the doorbells generally freely exhibit the family name of the inhabitant/s, as do the mailboxes. What a fancy way to make sure mail is delivered to the correct receiver!

We have lived in our current house for more than 2 1/2 years now, and we still on a regular basis get mail for four (4!) different previous tenants. Go figure!

As always, I wonder why we Krauts are not as fussed. Is identity theft less of a threat there? Or kidnapping? Are we simply less susceptible to panicmongering by the media? Or are German prisons just that much more effective as a scare tactic?

Maybe it’s all of the above.

Psst, don’t tell anyone. I actually like the island monkeys. Sometimes.

Since I’ve started my blog, I have been asked several times whether there are any things here in the UK that I do not want to write rants about. And why I still live here, seeing how much I hate it.

Well, I’ll let you in on a secret. I don’t hate living among Brits. I don’t hate Brits either. They just make such lovely tirade targets sometimes.


Who could say 'no' to so much love?

You see, you could compare me and the collective entity of ‘The Brits’ to an old couple. All year long they exchange little meannesses, bad-mouth each other behind their backs and mock the other one’s quirks and oddities. But come Valentine’s Day he gets her the chocolates she likes so much without simultaneously flinging a jab at her waistline, while she refrains from nagging about his less endearing qualities like leaving smelly socks just about everywhere.

So in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I have decided to abandon the nagging for a moment and focus on the positive aspects of living among island monkeys. Because there are quite some as I have pointed out in my first post when I started this blog (if you are interested or just want to refresh your memory, go check out the Why island monkeys? page).

I have since given this a bit more thought and came up with a little list of likeables of British life. And here they are, in no particular order:


1. Politeness

Yes, the old stereotype is true. In my experience, Brits are more polite than the average Kraut.

In Germany, it’s been known to happen that a mother with a pram had to wait for several minutes at the bottom of a flight of stairs before some merciful soul stopped to offer help. I never had that problem in the UK. Most of the time I had two or more very friendly gentlemen almost break into a fight over who’d get the honour to assist me. Maybe they felt bad because hardly any of the Central London underground stations are equipped with escalators or elevators?

Now, to set the record straight, I also met people here who were so rude I needed all my restraint not to punch them in the face! I write those encounters off to living in Essex. Look it up.


After you! No, I insist!


2. Supermarket opening hours

You woldn’t believe how often I run out of (or notice that I forgot to buy) this essential food item just after the shops closed. In Germany, that is, because here in the UK, opening hours are so much more forgiving. Being able to hop over to the supermarket after the little monster is in bed or browsing through furniture or DIY stores as a family on Sundays – no problem!

Of course, having this kind of opening hours at your disposal, entails two problems. First, I am always unprepared when I come across a smaller high street store or mom-and-pop’s that has opening hours like the shops at home. I deal with it by pretending I’d be at home. Takes care of the homesickness, if not the frustration. And second, apparently this kind of customer service is socially questionable. Well, I guess in this case you will just have to live with the fact that I am a selfish pig with no social conscience.


I'm in heaven!


3. Traffic lights

A while ago, I have bemoaned the island monkeys’ unfortunate predilection for completely ignoring pedestrian traffic lights. There is, however, an aspect of British traffic lights that I find very agreeable and, indeed, much preferable over the German solution. I am talking about the positioning of additional lights on the opposite side of an intersection.

Only the other day I was driving in Germany and nearly popped a disc in my neck from totally contorting it to be able to see the damn traffic light there in the blind spot turn green. The other option, of course, would have been to drive by ear – simply wait for the car behind me to honk. They usually have a better vantage point.

traffic lights

Here you can see why I don't usually do comics. I suck at it.


4. The weather

The British all-pervasive habit of talking about the weather is universally acknowledged to be a particularly defining trait. Apparently, this has got nothing to do with how bad it is but with its volatility. In fact, it is not rare to encounter rain, sunshine, storm, hail and clear skies again within the relatively small window of one day.

However, one thing that is usually absent from the weather menu is cold. As in really cold. Granted, summers are generally less hot than in my more land-locked home country, but, in return, we also don’t get long and severe frost periods in winter like the ones my people back home have to suffer through on a regular basis. As a rule of thumb, here on the island, from October to March I usually have to wear one layer less than I would have to in Germany. Hooray for gulf-streamy balminess!

The fact that, when it gets cold, a lot of island monkeys fail to recognise the unpleasantness of the temperatures and dress accordingly, is a different story altogether.


Why do you need a caption for this one? It's self-explanatory, for crying out loud!


5. Small talk

I know, it sounds counterintuitive, what with the proverbial British reservedness, but I find it much easier to strike up a conversation with a Brit than with strangers at home. Germans tend to keep to themselves in public, so if you happen to sit next to someone on a plane or park bench, you are highly unlikely to get involved in a conversation.

Island monkeys are pleasantly different. They will almost always start a chat about the weather (what else?). Or the little monster if he happens to be around. I like this. After all, as a housewife and mother, I sometimes crave a conversation with an adult more than rhubarb crumble with custard.


Of course, this guy will chat to any stranger, German or not.


6. Queueing

The British propensity for forming neat queues is the subject of much ridicule among mainland monkeys. Frankly, I find it only logical and fair.

Flying Ryanair is not a pleasant experience in anyone’s book, but if everyone behaved like the civilised creatures we are supposed to be, the irritation could be kept to a tolerable level. However, having some German chick brazenly push past you while you are already ON THE STEPS boarding the plane, just so she can secure a window seat for herself, that’s just beyond rude!

How I knew she was German, you ask? Well, we were flying from Berlin to London, and she sure wasn’t British. Otherwise she would have, without complaining or looking at her wrist watch, queued.


Some Germans could well take a leaf out of the island monkeys


I’m sure, if I racked my brain a little more I would come up with maaaany more positives. But then, what would I write about next year?

So I’m just going to stop here and wish you all a happy celebration of the holy headless Valentine.


Snow and I have an ambivalent relationship.



Try to use your bicycle now!

I used to hate snow. Don’t ask. Suffice it to say it’s cold, wet, and inconvenient if you have to go places. In big cities, like the one I grew up in, it also isn’t exactly pretty as it turns grey quickly. Or yellow. Never mind.

Then came Lorelai Gilmore, with whom I (not very) secretly identified quite a bit, and her love affair with snow. A little later I met my husband with his childlike enthusiasm about snow and his adorably cute inability to pronounce the German word ‘Schnee’ properly. And finally I had a real child, my little monster. Now, if you have ever seen a kid looking out the window in the morning, exclaiming with unadulterated glee “Snow!!!” you can’t really hate snow. Much.

So snow and I have agreed on a fragile truce for the time being.

Which is subjected to quite some strain every time it snows here in the UK.

Granted, it doesn’t happen very often, but it is also not an extremely rare occurrence. Last winter we had three instances, in one of which it stayed cold and white for more than a week.

This season we got lucky. Until last Saturday, when it snowed all through the night, resulting in up to 15 cm of white fluff. And a virtually immediate standstill of life. Even on Monday, there were still 50 % of all flights cancelled because the runways couldn’t get plowed, train services disrupted because of signal failures and schools closed (really?!) – and all of that after the snow had been

  • anticipated (with mixed emotions) for most of the winter,
  • forecasted for at least two days and
  • on the ground for all of Sunday.

OK, I admit I was actually quite impressed when two hours into the storm the major roads here in our neck of the woods were all ready salted. I mean, people were still driving like idiots but I’m not going to gripe about that, seeing that hardly anyone here uses snow tyres and is consequently – and rightfully – concerned about his/her own and others’ well-being.


Drivers like that drive me mad!

Which raises an interesting question: Why the frill does half of the drivers not clear their cars of the snow before partaking in traffic? Lazy? In a hurry? Spouse away on a business trip?

I have a theory about this: Most of the island monkeys who fail to rid themselves of snowy view barriers simply can’t. Because British cars are – out of misguided optimism? – not usually equipped with the essential tools for this kind of enterprise, such as hand brushes and ice scrapers.

Just like most households do not own a snow shovel. And why would they? Where I come from, we live by the principle that property entails obligations. In this case the duty to clear a path on the sidewalk outside your property wide enough for a wheelchair to pass. This ideal is obviously not adhered to in this country.


Happy sliding!

Instead, it is the council’s responsibility to plow, grit or salt the pavement. Now this is where it gets silly, because in this picture here you can see what a sidewalk looks like after the council has taken care of its responsibilities (NOT!), followed by a sunny day with some thawing and a subsequent night of temperatures below zero. Mind you, this is one of the major thoroughfares between the main train station, ASDA and the town centre.

By the way, minor roads and residential areas look pretty much the same, except they usually sport lovely icy ruts in which the cars slither along and which pedestrians wanting to cross the road have to navigate or die trying.

Needless to say, there is no sense in me dusting the snow off my bicycle as it is an utterly useless means of transport until the mighty weather gods have mercy on me and send some serious spring around.


Thank Germany for all-terrain buggies!

In fact, in conditions like this I tend to not leave the house without the little monster’s buggy for support. It has saved me more than once from probing the temperature and consistency of the ice with my backside. Of course, I am usually the only pram-pusher far and wide because our robust, thick-tyred, German 4×4 equivalent of a pushchair is pretty much the only model that can cope with slush, snow and ice around here.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. The past couple of days have me grateful for a number of things:


We even made this little fellow.

  • Snow is fuuuunnn! For the first time since last year’s pathetic excuse for a summer left us alone with the proverbial British weather, the little monster actually wants to go outside all the time. Horsing around in the snow even trumps watching DVDs. I am in mommy heaven!
  • Once you have hobbled your way to the supermarket it is actually a delight to shop there at the moment as most people rather stay at home if they can help it at all.
  • So far it has not snowed again, so for now we are spared to proceed to the advanced level of treacherousness that is snow-covered ice. I am sure the NHS (National Health Service) appreciates the break (forgive the pun), too.
  • Thanks to the lovely cold weather, two of my earliest posts, Boys in tights and Clothes make the man… have been receiving loads of attention via various search engines. Oh I feel so popular…

I am an accomplished writer now – I think

Thanks, Nathan, over at The Life and Times of Nathan Badley, for rescuing me from a predicament.

I have been in Germany for the last six days, collecting fodder for my special Valentine’s Day post. Incidentally, this has made it a bit difficult for me to get into the ranting mood in order to produce something by my usual Tuesday deadline.

Thankfully I am not German enough to lose any sleep over this prospect, after all, I like to think my esteemed readers will still enjoy this week’s post on a Wednesday or even Thursday.

Unfortunately, after returning to the island, the ‘mood’ usually takes a moment to kick in. Imagine this as an absence-induced writer’s block or a muse gone into hibernation due to being surrounded by utter non-Britishness for too long. Posts about something that ticked me off a while ago, while I happened to be in the UK, simply lack the acute frustration, exasperation and anger quintessential for a snarky tirade.

The other option was a week without a post at all, but after having seen the damage that my recent short holiday in the sun wreaked among my blog stats, I wasn’t quite ready to call this a real alternative.


This is how I see myself in a mirror now

Enter Nathan and with him the ‘One lovely blog’ award. My. First. Blog. Award. Ever. YAY!

Now, since I’ve started this blog in November last year, I have been convinced that sooner or later I will get freshly pressed. Hence my acceptance speech for this event is all done and dusted. However, I did not expect the high honours of being awarded such a lovely trophy.

To tell you the truth, I am not even entirely sure Nathan seriously meant to confer this honour on me. After all, what’s lovely about a blog whose main objective is cussing at the most unpleasant traits of a nation that happens to be resident on a set of islands?

In any event, I am going to accept the award. Now, instead of having to come up with a moderately funny post topic I just have to comply with the rules in the fine print the award comes with. Which are:

1. Thank the person who nominated you

I am not sure this is a formal requirement but I sure think it’s good form to do so, especially when the person in question is such a thoughtful and sincere individual with such great judgement. He happens to be pretty funny, too, so if you haven’t read any of his writings yet, go do it.

2. Reveal seven interesting facts about yourself

This requirement is often bemoaned among bloggers, especially those who receive such prizes left, right and centre, therefore running out of fascinating details of their lives worth relating to their audience. I don’t have these problems, because, you see, I like to talk about myself. You could say I’m a natural born attention seeker. So this is actually my favourite part of being nominated.

It also helps that I don’t care whether you find my facts interesting. Not much, anyway.

So, here goes, in no particular order:

  • I have double-jointed feet. No, really, ask my husband, he will confirm that.
  • I have a severe dislike for cooking. During the week I kinda have to, lest my little monster and I starve, or worse, eat fast food, but I am lucky enough to have married a man who will gladly take over on weekends, if only for his own taste buds’ sake. Maybe this self-sacrificial behaviour was even the qualifying feature that convinced me to marry him in the first place, who knows?
  • I own two Kindle e-book readers. I am not only that erudite but also generous enough to let my husband use one of them. Usually the older, chunkier one.
  • I have a second blog named Inselaffen (German for island monkeys). It contains the same posts, only in German. Go figure. If you’d like to practice your German, or just want to look up how to say ‘award’ in German, go check it out. In two days. That’s how long I usually give myself for the translation.
  • I don’t own an iPod. I know, I’m hopeless.
  • I used to be Berlin champion over 200 m butterfly in the masters class, age group 30 to 34. Those days are gone. After all, I don’t live in Berlin anymore and am not between 30 and 34 anymore either.
  • I am a heathen but I do like looking at old churches, all built on the backs and wallets of religious people. What a hypocrite I am!
  • I prefer warm and rainy over sunny yet ice-cold weather anytime.

I know, I know, these are actually eight facts. I told you I like talking about myself. Deal with it.

3. Pass the award on to ten other worthy blogs

Now this obligation is tricky because it single-handedly changes a wonderful thing – an award for your achievements in the high art of writing – into something as trivial and annoying as a chain letter. ‘Hey, have you read this atrocious and hateful blog over at …? Let’s give him an award, this way he will have to deal with all those tedious requirements, hehe!’

I have therefore decided to copy others before me and just give you a (non-comprehensive) list of blogs that I follow and thoroughly enjoy reading. I leave it to the respective authors if they want to accept the award and its side effects.

Rangewriter: Often philosophical and always entertaining and thoughtful posts with the odd, really enjoyable, fiction sprinkled in, Linda is one of my favourites.

Mostly Bright Ideas: Charles is a master of the word who possesses the unique gift of making people think. I simply adore his insightful and wise pieces.

Phytoplanktonic: Not only is Laura stranded in the UK like me, we also used to study marine biology together. She successfully juggles her PhD, her love for nature, art and a boyfriend and still finds time to write awesome blog posts about her endeavours.

Where Do Gaybies Come From? I am the straight mother of only one child, and I sure appreciate the troubles and curiosities that raising a kid entails. Jerry is a gay dad and, together with his partner, he is raising twins. I suppose stuff like this can only be digested with a huge portion of humour and sharing your experiences through a – tremendously successful – blog.

Way Too Much Free Time: Max is a hilarious writer who accomplished the feat of getting freshly pressed on his second ever post. That’s how good he is. Considering how much free time he allegedly has he is also refreshingly restrained with the number of his posts, i.e. your inbox doesn’t get cluttered when you follow him.


That’s it for today, back to the normal ranting routine next week. And aren’t you looking forward to it?

Just flush it down the drain!

Incipient note: People have complained about my toilet humour before. Now at least they’ve got a point.


Last Thursday we came back from a one-week holiday. We touched down in Gatwick and, being the good female that I am, I was bursting for a pee. I mean, I had to strap myself into a seat for all of landing and taxiing and then there was a queue to get off the plane at that, so it was almost 30 minutes without access to a loo. That’s just inhumane! But I digress.

The real horror came when I finally reached the first lavatory in the airport building.

On this planet, toilet designs with questionable aesthetics abound, and I’m afraid I have seen (and used) them all: Squat toilets, latrines, port-a-potties, outhouses, German dry pan toilets (they are great because your bottom stays dry but they smell like… well, potty), toilets that clog up so easily that you can’t throw the toilet paper in but have to toss it into a basket next to the loo instead…

The shocking part about British toilets, however, is not the bowl design, it’s the flushing system. Every time I am at a restaurant, cinema, supermarket, pub, park, swimming pool, mall, airport or other public place and need to take a leak, I tremble with anticipation of what I might find.

Unfortunately, in an estimated 90 % of all public powder rooms, I am greeted by The Handle.



Note that The Handle is inevitably attached to a humongous cistern


This sight instantly triggers an imaginary sound in my auditory cortex, namely the signature screech from ‘Psycho’. That’s when I know I will speedily have to don my mental Kevlar vest to protect myself from getting too worked up about two things:

1. I will probably have to push down the lever several times with all my might in order to pump up enough water and get the flushing in motion. I try to see this part as a challenge. One can never get too much exercise.

2. Once the flushing has started, the complete tank contents will empty into the bowl and drown my modest number one in insane amounts of unnecessarily wasted drinking water. This part never fails to piss me off, no matter how thick the Kevlar.

I am frequently tempted to not flush at all, especially if the culprit isn’t me but my little monster with his *wee* bladder. But then I figure that I wouldn’t like that very much if I was the next person to use this particular cubby hole. So I flush. And try not to scream.


We had a toilet like that in the early 70ies. Sooo last millennium! (Image: Wikipedia)

True, we are on an island here which, by all accounts, is haunted by copious amounts of precipitation. That’s actually a myth. As a matter of fact, East Anglia, which is the part of the country I live in, gets less annual rainfall than my home town Berlin which itself lies in one of the driest areas in Germany.

So why on earth are you insisting on using flushing mechanisms like in the times of the invention of WCs?!

Where I come from, it has been the standard for decades to equip toilets with start/stop devices. Depending on the degree of soiling you just push the stop button or tip the rocker switch back into its original position as soon as the bowl is clean. Easy.


German flushing systems rock! (Image: Wikipedia)





I have never seen this logical and simple solution anywhere in the UK. That frankly baffles me.

Granted, once in a while I come across a rather modern cistern here with a dual flush system. These will allow you to choose between two different flush volumes. If you’re lucky, the right amount for your needs is among them.


Thankfully, the loos in our house are fitted with this nifty system. Otherwise I would probably just stop eating and drinking altogether.

I mean, you don’t have to be a quantum physicist to figure out that even in a normal household, with East Anglian water prices, the installation of a water-wise flushing mechanism is an investment that pays off before you can say “economic crisis”. Seeing how much more often public conveniences are used compared to my humble home, upgrading them might just *pan* out nicely from a financial point of view.


Now, please don’t get me started on the environmental aspect of wasting water!


I’ve lost a stone!

If my son was going to say that to me it would be something that he would feel kind of sad about. He loves collecting stones. In fact, he loves collecting a lot of things.

If, on the other hand, I heard this sentence from anyone else around here it would probably be followed by cheers, congratulations and ‘way to go’s.

I confess that I find that confusing.

metric 1

Which one do you prefer?

Why on earth can’t you island monkeys use the normal metric measures that everyone else in the world is using? Ehem. The normal metric measures that everyone else in the world but the US of A is using?

Sure, I am a reasonably bright girl, I can figure it out.

But why?! I mean, don’t you know that the metric system is actually your official system of measurement? You should have thought of the consequences before you joined the European Community in 1973. For crying out loud, British scientists like Joule and Lord Kelvin used to be pioneers in metrication in the 19th century! What happened? Did you just want to be different from everybody else?

What’s worse, you guys just take our universally recognised unit symbols and employ them for your own purposes.


16 metres? How on earth am I gonna brake quickly enough to pull into this service station?!

metric 2

See, even the Chinese get it right! (Image: Wikipedia)

Admittedly, the metric system is not free of faults and hiccups. But adhering to a set of units that are not immediately understood by most other people in the world and very impractical to boot seems a bit… excuse me, obstinate and childish to me!

I can somehow relate to your resistance to joining the majority when considering the recent misery of the Euro currency. But in the case of measurements, going metric would actually make sense because it does make everyday life simpler. What is easier to calculate: the number of metres in a kilometre or the number of feet in a mile? And how many inches are in a yard again? What if a measurement is smaller than 1/2 inch?

Or, coming back to my initial example, how heavy is a stone? How many ounces in a pound? Can ounces have babies with fluid ounces?

And why the hell is a British pint that much bigger than an American pint? Questions upon questions.

You see, metrication is not really the same as Europeanisation. And while it takes a bit of effort, it’s also not that painful, promise! Take temperatures, for instance. While the Fahrenheit scale is still sometimes used as supplementary indication, you are mainly dealing in °Celsius now. Way to go! So much more intuitive: everything below 0 °C means you are freezing your appendages off.

If you could now convert in the remaining areas, too, that would be just swell. Would have saved us some trouble, you know? Here’s why:

When we got a new bed for the little monster who had outgrown his cot bed, it was an IKEA hand-me-down loft bed and we needed to buy a new mattress for it. So we went and got a bunk bed mattress at the friendly mattress store across the road. Standard length, we were assured, 6 ft. Rattle, rattle, went my poor, continental brain before spitting out an answer: that’s pretty much 2 metres, in other words, standard length. Result!


Well, until we put the mattress into the bed frame and… Surprise! The mattress was too short. Some 17 cm too short, because that is the difference between a Swedish 2 m bed and a British 6 ft mattress. Dang!

Mind you, I consider myself a bit of a maths wiz (please don’t shun me!), but even I don’t generally have the completely random conversion factors to 4 decimal places ready for retrieval. So much for being reasonably bright.

But the worst thing was that I couldn’t even blame hubby for the calculation fail. He couldn’t have known either because he grew up in South Africa. Make an educated guess which system they are using down there!