Let your children off the leash!

IMG_1722

If you have to put her on a leash, at least use it to keep her off the cycling lane!

This is what I saw the other day on my way home from the supermarket. Yeah, look closer. And don’t let her atrocious boots distract you from the even more heinous lapse of having her child on a leash!

The appalling bit is, here in the UK, I see this all the time! When I last visited Germany, I specifically paid attention to how often I would see parents with their kids on a lead. Well, yes, there is the odd occurrence, but it doesn’t even remotely compare to how frequently the average island monkey does it.

I was curious whether I would be able to unearth more facts to back up my observations. So I typed into Amazon.co.uk ‘harness and reins’ and was ‘rewarded’ with a horrifying number of 95 different products. Type the German equivalent search term into Amazon.de, you get 30 results! What does that tell you? That’s right, we Germans don’t care about our kids. We want to see them in pain and unsafe.

Sure, I could, with a lot of imagination, conceive of situations where a rein might possibly be useful. Like when you are at the airport, trying to check in your bag and therefore waiting in the slowest ever queue, and your little monster is convinced that running around and challenging the definition of ‘authorised personnel’ is way more fun than standing in line with Mommy. Or when you are at a busy supermarket and the beckoning of the muffin aisle is so much more enticing for your offspring than your pleading to stay with you.

But in the pictured situation? Just walking down the road, hardly any other people around, and not even any hands occupied by lugging grocery bags/pushing pushchairs/holding siblings in check? To what purpose does this little girl have to walk on a leash? Is she prone to run away? Fall over? Bump into other pedestrians? Pass on the germs from her grubby hands to her moms’ clinically clean ones? I’ll never know.

My other ‘favourite’ observation of this kind happened at the park and I didn’t dare take a photograph lest the lens burst with indignation. Or maybe I just didn’t have my camera on me that day. In any case you will just have to take my word for it: it was disgraceful!

Another lady, another little girl on a leash. But this time not next to a road with all its terrible dangers but – you might want to sit down or hold onto something – on a PLAYGROUND! The little one, probably about 2, tried to use the slide but that would have meant that said lady would have had to get up onto that thing as well, which of course she didn’t.

OK, in this case it was clearly not the little girl’s mother, but her grandmother, on the reigning end of the rein. And she was probably just uncertain how best to rein in a dinky, shy 2-year-old other than with a, well, rein. Mind you, here in the UK, the average mother is probably about 19 years old, so this granny was not that much older than myself and would have been able to keep up with her granddaughter. But what if, god forbid, the girl would have fallen over and possibly ended up with a bruise (cue shocked outcry, preferably with your hands on your cheeks)? Mommy might have gotten so angry that gran would have been forbidden to ever again take her granddaughter to the playground. Ever!

I mean, children running around freely on a playground? Without the safety of a Safety 1st Safety Harness that “Comes complete with walking rein to give your child the freedom to walk around safely”?! Whatever next?!

Eventually the girl had to climb down the stairs again because granny just wouldn’t let go of the bloody reins! I would have laughed at the ridiculousness of the scene if it wouldn’t have been so sad!

Again, I confess that I have been in situations where I wished I had one of these things to keep my little monster in check. However, both times I made the conscious decision not to buy one. I feel that putting a child on a leash lacks the dignity and respect I wish to concede to any person, regardless of their age.

monkey harness

Hey, you've got a monkey on your back. Erm... Never mind, my bad, it's just a DOG LEASH!

Oh, and making them pink for girls, camouflage them as little backpacks or use stuffed animals for the extra cuteness factor doesn’t change the fact that your child would be happier without it!

By the way, if you were wondering whether there is anything that could take the concept of leashes for children over the top, yes, there is! The newest must-have is apparently a retractable rein. Yeah, you’re reading correctly, just like the ones for doggies!

Newsflash, people: Your little one is not a dog that needs reining in! So, you claim it’s all about your child’s safety? Sorry, but I don’t buy it. Because in this case you would be saying that all the parents that don’t use them don’t give a rat’s arse about their kids’ wellbeing. Not the case! To be honest, to me it just looks like you are trying to dodge one of your responsibilities as a parent.

Granted, I am by no definition an expert in this field, but common sense sounds pretty convincing to me when it argues that holding your child’s hand, talking to him, giving him reasons why he can’t do certain things, explaining situations and dangers to him and – please don’t stab me for this one – letting him actually run around as long as you can keep an eye on him seems to be a much more sensible way of raising him to become an independent, responsible, self-reliant person who can confidently assess risks and judge situations.

Also, you don’t do your little one a favour by shielding her from each and every possible danger, imagined or real. I read the other day that empowerment is the freedom to fail. So, please, let your child make their own experiences. Yes, falling down does hurt, but it also teaches them valuable lessons that will reduce the likelihood of them falling again the next time.

And if you absolutely have to use a rein in certain, particularly dangerous situations, please make sure you restrict its use to these instances. And please, don’t forget that you have your child on a leash, it could look funny…

Let’s talk rubbish!

Christmas tree

Imagine if we adults would get stuff too!

Christmas is over, hallelujah! And what a gift orgy it was again. Mind you, in my family only the kids get presents, we others just enjoy their excitement, great food and spending time together. Still, with parcels arriving from grandparents, great-grandparents, godparents as well as aunts and uncles, not to mention our own little share in our offspring’s spoiling, the space under our dinky Christmas tree was getting scarce.

But I am not going to get into a rant about this overabundance’s possible negative repercussions for the little monster’s character development. Instead I wanted to talk rubbish.

I hate rubbish. “Yeah,” I hear you say “who doesn’t?” The point is, I also make an effort to avoid it.

To be precise, I am a bit of a compulsive recycler.

And why not? It’s good for the environment, it doesn’t take much effort, and it does actually save us money. So why don’t more people here do it?

The other day I couldn’t help but gather photographic evidence. Take a look at this here:

rubbish

Gives the term visual aesthetics a whole new meaning

On the left, our ‘little’ pile of rubbish/recycling. This is all the plastic (in the clear bag) and garden waste three adults and one toddler accumulate in two weeks, plus one week’s residual waste (in the black bag) which is, at least in our little town, not recyclable. On the right is what our neighbours churned out in – you guessed it from the colour of the bags – residual waste over one week. I am not entirely sure, how many people live in their household but I can tell you that their house is identical to ours (yeah, the cheerful British terraced houses), so it’s certainly not more than one family.

Unfortunately, they are not the only ones in our block who can’t be bothered to recycle or even to avoid rubbish. The little monster loves to watch the dump trucks collecting our rubbish, so whenever we hear the telltale beeping sound of a reversing lorry on Fridays, we run outside. Which means I get a pretty decent look at our neighbours’ waste disposal habits. It regularly makes me want to use alliterations! I can barely refrain from rummaging through their rubbish and remove all the recyclables. Is it so hard?!

Our council offers a rather extensive recycling scheme free of charge (other than council tax, that is). Yet every so often I can hear the clinking of glass (i.e. more than one bottle) in those black bags, and it drives me up the walls. Then there is the amount of food scraps that our residential stray cats are so fond of ripping out of the bags and scatter around. Would it be so revolting to have leftover meals every now and then?

But what I saw the other day nearly made my blood curdle: a whole black bag stuffed with empty plastic carrier bags!

I mean, apart from the fact that all the grocery stores in the area have bag collection bins (and presumably recycle the bags too), why on earth do you island monkeys have to squander these things like there was no tomorrow?!

Whenever I go grocery shopping, I either have the little monster’s pram with its generous shopping basket underneath, my backpack, my bicycle basket or, in the rare cases that I use the car, a collapsible crate on me. Only every once in a blue moon I am compelled to use one of the free plastic bags all the retailers offer, and these I always reuse as bin liners.

Maybe I’m just shopping in the wrong place, but at ASDA, part of the WalMart family, which happens to be my food store of choice because I can walk there within 10 minutes, I am always looked at with incredulity at the checkout when I reject the wad of plastic bags shoved into my direction in the assumption I’d use them like pretty much everyone else. But then the same happens on a regular basis in high street shops as well. I am eyeballed like a unicorn when I ask to put whatever it is I am buying into my backpack without the free shop advertisement plastic bag to protect it from, well, my backpack. Urgh!

Seriously, people, plastic bags are bad! Where I come from, hardly anyone carries home their grocery shopping in single-use plastic bags. Mainly because they cost money. Funny how a marginal fee of 10 cents per bag can coax people into not forgetting to take their jute bags when they leave the house.

Not so here in the UK. In fact, 2011 has seen a fierce debate about introducing such a fee, and I recall with horror the arguments against the campaign: Not convenient, not practicable, not fair in the current economic climate. Really?! As a consequence, only in Wales was a 5p charge per bag introduced. I haven’t seen any results yet but it’s expected to cut plastic use considerably.

With the exception of a very few valiant pioneers like Marks & Spencer, the rest of the UK simply continues their wasteful shopping practices. Outrageous!

Wake up, Brits, or do you really want the world to be taken over by this here species?

 

PS: Our Christmas tree is not made of plastic, and it came in a pot it was grown in. So I hope we can plant it outside when the season is *really* over.

10 Things that I miss when not spending Christmas in Germany

Christmas is just around the corner, the season of peace and benevolence. Which is why today I decided to be nice for a change. In other words, I won’t rant about the hardships of living among island monkeys and instead focus on the hardships of not not living in Germany.

So without further ado I present the 10 things I miss most when I don’t get to spend Christmas in Germany:

 

1. Celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve

I mean, why would anyone in their right minds wait until the 25th when they could have the goodies the evening before already?! I’m way out of my comfort zone here, so correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t the Magi bring their gifts on the night of Jesus’s birth too?

advent calendar

Granted, it would be nice to get one treat more out of your advent calendar, but if that's worth the wait?

 

2. Having a real Weihnachtsmann

A friend or remote family member dresses up as Santa and gives gifts to the kids. Not before they recited a poem or sang a song for him of course. Keeps them on their toes and nice instead of naughty much more effectively than just the imaginary cookie-eater who rushes in during the night, unseen by all but the cat, and leaves gifts that may or may not match the wish list written to him earlier.

Weihnachtsmann

"No, I wasn't nice!"

 

3. Getting together…

… at my best friend’s house for a Pre-Christmas cookie baking session. I did some baking at home with the little monster this year but at my friend’s it is always more fun. Mainly because they have a much spacier kitchen. And because I don’t have to clean up afterwards. OK, I admit it, I also miss the usual suspects who normally attend this fixture. And the ruckus all the kids make that we have popped out by now.

cookies

Yeah, I made these. With a lot of love and a bit of help from the little monster.

 

4. The food

Rotkohl (red cabbage), Grünkohl (green cabbage) and Sauerkraut (you can figure that one out yourself). Yes, there is a reason why Germans are called Krauts, and I for one don’t mind the tiniest bit. I love my Kraut and Kohl. Just as much as the goose or duck that comes with it instead of the anglo-saxon inevitability called turkey. And of course the dumplings. Please, can I be excused for a moment while I dry off my mouth.

goose

Sometimes it's great to be German!

 

5. Christmas markets

I mean, the Brits really are trying but they just don’t get it quite right. The ‘Authentic German Bratwurst’ is just short of tasting like the real deal and the atmosphere is somewhat off, too. As I say, they are trying.

ChristmasMarketJena

That's how it's supposed to look like: Christmas market in Jena

 

6. Seeing the look…

… in my parents’ and grandparents’ eyes when they unwrap their photo calendars that I spent 2 weeks creating painstakingly from photos of the little monster. Sure, on an intellectual level I know that they will absolutely appreciate this gift (if nothing else because they will voice their gratefulness time and again until well into March of next year). Still, being there would be just priceless.

skype

Oh well, I suppose skype will have to do this year.

 

7. Traditional German Christmas decorations

My Mom comes from a region called ‘Erzgebirge’ (Ore Mountains) which is where most of the prettiest items originate. Christmas pyramids, Schwibbögen (candle arches), Räuchermännchen (incense burner figurines), nutcrackers… the list goes on. I used to find this stuff really tacky and I wouldn’t want to put too many of these dustcatchers up in my house but now that I don’t see them at my grandparents’ every year anymore I kinda miss them. Not to mention the nostalgia that comes with seeing the tranquil and understated light arch of a Schwibbogen in a window instead of the psychedelic, incessantly flickering lights that are, for some reason completely beyond my grasp, so popular today.

christmas decorations

Clockwise from left: Pyramid, Schwibbogen, nutcrackers, Räuchermännchen

 

8. Christmas music

I know I said I hate Christmas songs and I won’t backpedal on that one because it is still very much true for the Christmassy pop songs that are played to death before and during Christmas on the radio and in stores. What I’m talking about here are the traditional songs that we used to play and sing. I guess I need to get myself a copy of a few of my Mom’s CDs for next year. If only so that the little monster gets to grow up with them too.

music

Nooooo, not these guys!

 

9. Having a fight with my sister

Seriously. We two are very different and for as long as I can remember we have fought over little nothingnesses as soon as we have spent more than 3 hours in the same room. But she is my sister and also a diligent follower of this blog (probably even the first follower ever), and I’m sure she will appreciate being featured in this post.

streit

You can't live with them and you can't... wait, YES WE CAN!

 

10. Snow

Though I will deny I said that should anyone ever claim I did. Well, I guess I should also phrase this a bit differently. Something along the lines of: The higher likelihood of having a White Christmas. There is nothing like taking a walk after a lovely (=heavy, greasy, unhealthy but divinely tasty) Christmas dinner through snowy streets where every sound is muffled and everything is just soooooo peaceful…

snow

That's right, this is outside my Mom and Dad's house

 

Of course, after Christmas is over, there are still some things German that I will miss. Like watching Dinner for One on New Years Eve. I know, it’s not even in German but it has been a tradition forever.

 

So here are two things to be grateful for this Christmas season: Skype and Youtube. Yeah, I know, they are no replacement for being there in person but they are better than nothing at all.

 

Merry Christmas to everyone!

 

 

PS: I might have pilfered one or two pictures from Google images. Dear artist, please don’t consider this as a vile act of copyright infringement but rather an hommage to further your fame and the awareness of your awesome artistic skill. Rest assured, I am not making any money with this, so you’re not missing out.

Queer cards

‘Tis this time of the year again and, after trying to ignore the impending holidays for as long as I possibly could, I am finally starting to get myself into the mood. It does take a bit of effort, you know, some tricks I’ve acquired over the years. Like ordering the presents for the kids (’cause they are the only ones getting Christmas gifts in my family) online, thus dodging the insane crowds that are currently milling through our high street and malls. Like extreme-fast forwarding the bits of adverts where huge eyes staring out of starving African children’s faces are trying to blackmail you into parting with your hard-earned savings in the name of Christmassy generosity. Or like closing my eyes every now and then when walking through the streets to avoid bringing on an epileptic seizure induced by all those hectically flashing, multicoloured, oh-so-peaceful Christmas lights.
Snowflakes

I suspect crafting is not exactly my strongest suit but I think I deserve brownie points for trying. Plus, the little monster really enjoyed running wild with scissors.

Other things that help me conjure up a Christmassy atmosphere are some old family traditions. Like crafting little things, or baking Christmas cookies. Especially with the little monster around now, these small pleasures do bring a bit of Christmas spirit to my commerce-weary soul.

Then there is the habit of writing a Christmas message or card to the most important people in our lives. I haven’t written any real cards myself in a while, mainly because email is so much faster, less hassle, less environmentally questionable and, oh yeah, cheaper. For special occasions I tend to send e-cards. Not the soppy ones with puppies and butterflies. I like the cute b-cards by German artist Chris Schlag.

Cards aplenty

They even have a section 'Suitable for terminal illness'!

I am digressing. Cards. Sending cards is HUGE in the UK. Much bigger than in Germany. Where I come from, I have never seen an entire store exclusively dedicated to greeting cards. Here, in our little town which has exactly one (1) cinema, there are actually double as many card shops. Wow! Not to mention the card aisles in the big supermarkets. Granted, they also offer a small collection of wrapping paper, ribbons and gift items like balloons or cuddly toys but by and large they are selling cards, gazillions of cards.

Unfortunately not a single one without a pre-printed message inside! What’s up with that?!

The other day I was looking for a birthday card for my granddad in Germany. He is one of the few people I know who doesn’t have internet so I thought I’d surprise him with an old-fashioned, snail mail greeting card from across the English Channel. Except he doesn’t understand English. And I didn’t fancy versing around a bog standard, run-of-the-mill text. So I ended up buying some coloured cardboard and making my own card instead. I am slowly but surely getting really good with that crafty stuff. I suppose I should thank the unimaginative card manufacturers who can’t conceive of people like me who are actually able and willing to come up with their own words. But I won’t be thankful.

Because here comes the most annoying thing about these instant cards: They are way too often sent exactly as is! I mean, if you don’t have the time to at least rudimentarily personalise my card I’d rather not get one at all, thank you very much. It’s like birthdays on facebook. Dozens of people leave messages on your wall but only a handful manages to write more than a slight variation of ‘Happy birthday, have a great day’. What’s the point?

Seriously, if I get one more Christmas card that doesn’t show any other signs of individualisation than ‘Love/xxx/All the best, [name]’ I will forget that I have put myself painstakingly into a Christmas mood and hate the holiday all over again! And then promptly discard the culprit.

PS: This one captures my pre-Christmas thoughts pretty neatly. Prominently featured: Writing Christmas cards 😉

Boys in tights

OMG, it's a boy!

OMG, it's a boy! (© me!)

At the beginning of my little monster’s first winter, he was about 6 months old and had just begun to crawl. So I went out to a store for children’s clothes, wanting to buy this indispensable item of winter clothing that is tights. Alas, no luck. I only found the pink, purple and white-with-flowers varieties for girls. Now, while I personally wouldn’t have minded seeing him in those I wanted to avoid him being called a little girl any more than necessary. It might also have had something to do with the fact that I like being in my husbands will.

So I tried another store. And another one. To no avail. Relating the story to my English Mom-in-law finally shed light on the matter: Island monkeys don’t do tights for little boys. Why? Because tights are for girls. Ah yes…

So I would like to make a case here for tights for boys. Maybe I can change one or two of your island monkey’s minds.

1. Tights are comfy.

I mean, have you seen how your little one struggles to get up onto that chair there in his (undoubtedly handsome) little pair of jeans? No such problems in tights. He can run around as if naked. Actually, I think, tights are the next best thing to letting them run around without clothes. Especially in winter! They are just perfect for horsing around at the nursery or playgroup.

Oh, I hear you argue that track suit bottoms (or whatever you might call them) are also quite comfortable. Well, they are, but have you looked at these usually grey, shapeless things lately? There is a time and a place for everything, and track suit bottoms should be worn in a gym or when going for a jog in cold weather. Otherwise the wearer just looks like a chav.

2. Tights are practical.

My little hero is potty training and unless his jeans have an elastic waist, he struggles with pulling them down and – after the deed – back up. Never happened with tights.

You advocates of track suit bottoms: See above.

3. Tights are cosy.

Why do you think your daughter likes wearing them?

4. Tights are essential for layering.

You know, the onion principle. When it becomes colder, you put on layers. You also put layers onto your little boy’s upper body. Vest first (if you’re sensible), then a longsleeve. When you take them outside (as well you should!) you add, depending on temperatures, a cardi, jumper, jacket or coat – or all of the above in case it gets really mean cold.

But what about their bottoms?! Nappy/undies, then trousers/jeans. And when you go outside? The same, even though it might be 20°C colder than inside? Ever thought about the fact that they only develop hairy legs a bit later in life?

I found that the easiest way to dress my little monster for a cold winter day outing is to simply put a pair of jeans over the tights, just like a coat over the top. Double layer, double warmth – result! Try that with track suit bottoms. Hah!

(By the way, more tips on how to dress appropriately in cold weather here. Brought to you by an expert in cold German winters – me.)

5. Tights put an end to losing/pulling off socks.

The little blighters just loooove taking their socks off. And in some socks the cuffs are just too loose, so they frequently lose them. Now, if you don’t mind your little one having cold feet, by all means, go ahead and let it be. Alternatively you could purchase some of these nifty sock ons for your baby boy. Or you can simply try tights like you would for your baby girl too.

6. Tights are cute!

This one comes with an exclamation point because it’s such an important factor. Granted, little boys look cute in pretty much anything you throw on them but tights are – in my not so humble opinion – a notch above everything else on the cuteness scale. I mean, these adorable nappy bottoms… Which isn’t to say that a toddler’s bum isn’t the most adorable body part without a nappy too! Especially in tights. So will you please shut up already, you insufferable track suit bottom lovers!

Also, to put those of you I couldn’t quite convince yet a little more at ease with the thought of boys in tights, here are a few points of clarification:

  • I never let the little monster go outside in just his tights. Neither would any other German mother. They are indoor clothes, think of them as slippers for legs. Or maybe not, as slippers stay indoors all the time. Tights can go outside but then they hide under ‘real’ trousers or jeans. Except maybe when you take the rubbish out and the little monster – as always – ignores your command to stay inside.
  • As I mentioned, I try to steer clear of colours that are too girly and so should you if you consider getting some for your little boy. But I do love bright colours, especially for kids. So the tights I buy (at the moment unfortunately only in Germany) often have red, orange or yellow in them (see pic above). So cute…
  • Tights really are only for boys of a younger age. I don’t expect you to wrestle down your teenage son in order to put tights on him. Plus, at that stage he might have developed some hairy legs anyway.
  • Wearing tights does not make your son look gay. He’s a little boy for crying out loud!
  • And no, WEARING TIGHTS DOES NOT MAKE YOUR SON BECOME GAY either! He will be gay or not, no matter what clothes you put on him as a youngster (and frankly, what difference does it make anyway?). I thought I better state the obvious again. To my knowledge, the percentage of gay men in the German population isn’t any higher than in the UK. If anything, we are less homophobic. Or maybe not. Scientific research yet to be conducted.

Banking in the UK is killing me! Or: Where did I leave my chequebook?

Everyone seems to rant about banks these days, so let me join the ranks. But while I don’t really mind German financial institutions (I even used to work for one a long time ago), banking in the UK is just a nightmare for me.

Let’s start from the beginning (where else?). You move to the UK. You want to open an account. Easy when you have a banking history here. Which of course I didn’t. The next best thing to have is an address. Now that I had but how to prove it? Where I come from, we move house, we go and register with the local registry office, and the new address is put onto our identity cards. End of story. From this moment on, whenever anyone asks us for our address, we just produce our ID cards. Simples.

Not so in the UK. In the country of the island monkeys, you prove where you live with a utility bill. Well, I had moved in with my husband and guess what, all the utility bills were in his name. Go figure. I’m sure eon has heard the request before but I felt decidedly weird calling them up to ask that my name be put onto my husband’s account as well. And then you wait. For the next bill. Half a year later, if you’re lucky. You might get a utility bill a bit quicker if you decide it was time to change to a cheaper energy supplier anyway. Just make sure that they get your post code right, otherwise your new bill will be of no use when trying to open said bank account.

Well then, alternatively you can also get us your tenancy agreement – as long as it is printed on letterheaded paper. Are you deaf?! I moved in with my husband and it’s his flat. No such thing as a tenancy agreement, sorry. Ah, but there is always the council tax bill. Except, this is only ever in one occupier’s name, and all the other liable people in the household appear on the side. Which, of course, is not enough and won’t be accepted as proof of address by your friendly bank. Grrrrrrr!!!

Hand inflammation? Cheque!

Hand inflammation? Cheque! (image: Wikipedia)

Well, finally, your name is on some bill, the post code is correct too, so you get the account. Yay! And a big wad of … nah, not banknotes, cheques! What am I supposed to do with these? In Germany I haven’t used a cheque for, I don’t know, 15 years? Take them, you’ll see, you’ll need them. OK.

And indeed, a lot of the bills you get you can only pay cash or by cheque. Weird! Whatever happened to the good, old bank transfer? What?! People don’t want to put their bank details on the invoices they write because they are afraid of identity theft??!! Oh yeah, because in Germany, everyone who has his bank details on every business letter he writes (i.e. everyone), had his identity stolen at least 3 or 4 times already, right!

Never mind, let’s use cheques and kill some more trees then, shall we? Monthly nursery fees for the little one? Cheque! Private doctors’ bills? Cheque! You seriously have to stuff a cheque into an envelope and mail it off! And I don’t even want to think about the amount of administrative hassles that this medieval practice causes the receiver. Or the bank.

By the way, as unpopular as bank transfers are on this island, direct debit seems to be even worse. On a par with selling your soul to the devil. No wonder that companies like our new energy supplier will give you huge discounts for the privilege to relieve you of the tedious obligation to effect the monthly payments – by whichever method.

OK, maybe it is not THIS bad, but you get the drift

OK, maybe it is not THIS bad, but you get the drift (image: Wikipedia)

I have a theory. I firmly believe that one of the reasons why people here don’t mind having to pay their bills by cheque or cash is that the average island monkey loves queueing. Must be so because I have never seen a single cash machine in this country that didn’t have a long queue of people waiting to draw money in front of it. 24/7.

PS: Sometimes you are lucky enough to be able to settle a bill by credit card. Which takes me to a whole new topic. One day I will rant about credit cards in this country, promise.

I see red!!! reloaded

Red pedestrian light

It says 'Wait for signal', morons!

OK, first I want to put one thing straight: I am no law-and-order nazi. Yes, I might be German but I do break rules. Sometimes.

I am also in a hurry quite often. 24 hours in a day is just not enough for all the things to do. And frankly, red traffic lights suck. So I cross the road. On red. Uh-oh!

My husband gives me grief, in the nicest possible way of course, for not doing it all the time. Because that’s what the island monkeys do. For you guys, pedestrian lights are not just a nuisance or a recommendation, they are in fact non-existent. No matter what, as long as there is the slightest gap in traffic, you cross. It’s not even rare, especially on our High Street, that cars have to jam on their brakes because some old fuddy-duddy with a walking stick decides he can’t wait his turn. Or a cyclist has to swerve dangerously because some numbnut couldn’t hear any cars coming and didn’t bother to use his eyes to double-check before walking across.

But the main reason for me to complain about people brainlessly crossing on red is my little monster. He is 2 1/2 now, which puts him into a very impressionable age bracket. And, to teach him from a young age how to cross a road safely, I make a point of going only on green when he is with me. Unfortunately, no-one else in this country gives a monkey’s (pun intended!) about a stranger’s kid’s safety.

I taught my son this little German rhyme: “Bei Rot bleibe steh’n, bei Grün darfst du geh’n.” (At red stay put, at green you can go.) He loves pushing the demand button and is acutely excited when the light eventually turns green and he can shout “Grüüüüüüün!!!”, closely followed by “Schnelllllll!!!” (=quick), and break into a run. Until recently, he didn’t even seem to notice that other pedestrians weren’t quite as thrilled to wait for the right signal. Those times are over.

The other day a lady with a 6-year old girl walked up to the traffic light we were waiting at, checked traffic quickly and, pulling her daughter with her, ran across just before a car. My little one’s reaction was to shout “Rot!!!” (=red), and for the rest of the way he kept indignantly saying something along the lines of “Must not go on red (vigorous shaking of the head), must wait for green (vigorous nodding)!” I can only hope that he will not one fine day be distracted, as kids tend to be at times, and just thoughtlessly follow one of these dimwits that call themselves parents.

Dear island monkeys, I know, it is not against the law in the UK for pedestrians to cross on red. However, small children CANNOT judge traffic speed and distances as well as you. Actually, they can’t judge them at all. And because I for one prefer my offspring to reach legal age without me having to hold his hand until this date I’d rather he follow the suggestion of the traffic light and only walk on green for the time being. And I would be much obliged if you wouldn’t be such crappy role models for him. So please, try not to cross on red when kids are around. It’s inconsiderate, dangerous and stupid.

Apart from that I keep wondering why there are pedestrian lights installed in certain places at all. Common sense dictates they’re there for a reason. I wonder what that could be.

Oh, and don’t you just love it too when you are in a car and have to stop for no reason because the demand button had been pressed by a pedestrian who then couldn’t be asked to stay and wait until his light went green. Arrrrghhhh!!!

Clothes make the man…

… so if the clothing shows a disturbed sense of reality, what does that say about the wearer?

OK, I get it, England has got the gulf stream, so it’s never cold. Right? Except when November arrives and with it some nasty autumn weather. Or would you call maximum day temperatures of 4°C, in conjunction with some chilling winds, warm? Me neither.

So what does the sensible soul do to stay cosy? That’s right, where I come from, we dress warmly.

Not so the island monkeys. Well, quite a few of them anyway.

I have seen this countless times now, but I still doubt the information my optic nerves conduct to my brain every time I see someone wearing shorts and/or a short-sleeved shirt in weather like this! After the chill running down my spine has reached my coccyx and then calmed down a bit that is. This can’t be healthy!

I could probably work up some understanding if it would be some cyclist working up a sweat pedalling around our little town and its quite steep hills. But no, just a “normal” guy walking down the street with a severe scantiness of fabric on his body and not even particularly hairy arms and legs. Or that chick on her way home from last night’s party in nothing more than a skimpy top and a rather wide belt. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!

Do you know some Jedi mind trick to prevent yourself from feeling the frightfully freezing frostiness?

I can understand that you don’t want to expose your fair, freckled English skin to the fiery rays of summer sun. But please, don’t try to make up for it by getting into the nude as soon as summer is over.

But it would be only half bad if you wouldn’t try to train your children in your inappropriate dressing habits too! What did I see the other day? Kid in a buggy, and not only no blanket but also NO SOCKS despite temperatures well south of 15°C?! Is that really necessary?
Warmly dressed = happy (Image via Wikipedia)

Warmly dressed = happy (Image via Wikipedia)

Or this one here: Baby under 1 with no hair worth mentioning to keep the ears or even the scalp warm and of course no hat to protect him from an overcast, drizzly and wind-chilled 5°C impertinence of a day. I was going to call child protection services but my frozen fingers wouldn’t hit the right keys on my mobile! Seriously, that extra layer of blubber on your obese child is not an excuse for not putting adequate-for-the-weather clothes on him!

PS: I have little fights with my 2-year old all the time about literally everything. Except wearing a hat. Absolutely no objections there. He likes having warm ears!

I see red!

Poppy on a car grill

Poppy on a car grill

Actually I meant to start the blog with a more light-hearted, less political post. But it bugs me to see red literally everywhere I look these days. What’s the deal with poppy mania?!

To make it totally clear, I don’t mind Remembrance Day per se or people showing solidarity with the families of soldiers killed in service. What I do mind is the omnipresence of poppies. Seems like the majority of people I see on the street at the moment wear a poppy! I am woken up by the BBC in the morning and the first thing I see when I open my eyes are the poppies on the presenters’ lapels. I grab a newspaper, the front page is adorned by a poppy. Walking through our little town last Sunday, I counted as many as seven (7!) volunteer couples selling them on street corners. Don’t dare to imagine how many I might have missed.

Frankly, I feel like an outcast NOT wearing one. I have a hard time going out these days because I am constantly afraid someone will shout at me for not sporting a damn poppy! Am I even allowed to get onto a bus with a poppy on the grill if I’m not member of the holy poppy brotherhood?

Apparently, my fear isn’t entirely unsubstantiated. Check out the ongoing debate about Channel 4 News anchor Jon Snow. Looks like there are people insisting every TV presenter wear one. Why???!!!

Now, I don’t want to question people’s motives for wearing one. Could be anything from actually mourning a fallen friend, showing support for the troops overseas (what business do they have there anyway, but I guess that’s a topic for another day) to wanting to financially support the charities that sell them. But why is it that seemingly most of the people I see wearing them are commuters from London in their suits (not last Sunday obviously). Is there something to the views of Robert Fisk that “all kinds of people […] were now ostentatiously wearing a poppy for social or work-related reasons, to look patriotic when it suited them”?

Oh, and get the public outcry because the FIFA dared to ban the English football team from having a poppy on their jerseys in their match against Spain this weekend (it is FIFA policy not to allow ANY statements, political or otherwise, on the shirts). Thank god, following personal intervention of charming Prince William, they now got their way and can wear poppies on armbands this Saturday. I’m sure each and every player on the team will be absolutely delighted!

Incidentally, has anyone ever calculated the environmental impact of gazillions of poppies sold and discarded later? Think about it.

Gee, yet another blog!

Blogging is fashionable. So fashionable, in fact, that I am afraid it will be out of fashion really soon. Oh well, I was never an early adopter of innovative technologies or new ideas.

I am aware that the net is full of blogs and no-one really has the time to read yet another one. So what. I know of at least one person who will be grateful for it: my husband. Why? Well, that way he gets a break from having to listen to my rants which usually include variations of “where I come from…”

Which brings me to the reason why I am writing this: I am an alien. A German in the UK. A big-city girl in a backwater town. In Essex, of all places. I am trying to make the best of it. Which is hard.

Mainly because Brits are weird.

Weird beyond their strange insistence on driving on the wrong side of the road. Or maintaining an expansive Royal Family which has no real job other than supporting poor tabloid journalists in making a living.

The other day, after one of my tirades, my dad asked me the German equivalent of “Is there actually anything that you like about living in England?” “Apart from being able to be with my husband?” I replied. “Sure.” And it’s true, there are things that I positively miss when I’m in Germany. Rhubarb crumble. British comedy. Hedges of fuchsia (hence my photograph in the header). Bed linen that costs only a fraction of what one would have to fork out in Germany (It can’t be the sheep, can it? After all, it’s not New Zealand!).

But then there are so many things that drive me nuts on a daily basis. No examples given here now. If you’re curious, you’ll have to follow my blog. Or pop in again at a later point. I can promise you it will be ugly. Nasty. Vicious. In real life I am trying to steer clear of swearwords for the temporary benefit of my 2-year old son. I might not be equally G-rated here. It’s just so bad!

There, that’s my justification for boring you, who intentionally or unwittingly stumbled across my blog, with my insights. Which leaves only two questions to be answered.

  1. Why on earth would a German blog in English? Well, that’s easy. I am not just a nagging bitch, I do care about the Brits. And how are they supposed to see the errs of their ways if they couldn’t understand a word of my constructive criticism?
  2. What the heck is an island monkey? It’s the literal translation of the German word Inselaffe which is one of the nicknames we call the Brits by. And I would like to make it clear that it is a term of endearment. Really. A bit like they like to call us Krauts. All very innocent. Would I call myself an immigrant island monkey otherwise?

Oh, one more thing: Along the way I might even get a chance to refute the common misconception that Germans don’t have a sense of humour. Let me know how I’m doing.