Thursday, May 24, 2007

Show off

Today I had the great pleasure of acting like a world-travelling, freewheeling, free-spirited and adventurous soul, rather than the stay-at-home in jamys type I really am most of the time. It was lovely, and went something like this:

Friend: Oh, hey we're having a party tomorrow night, it's going to be a surprise party. Want to drop by?
Me (sucking air through teeth): Awww Id love to but I can't...I'm going to London.
Friend (obviously a little taken aback given my usual lethargy): Oh right, great, what are you doing there?
Me: Oh, you know... visiting friends (inaudible whoop of glee).
Friend (backing away from obviously body-snatched Hanna): Well... have a great time.

Yay!Yay! It's true I'm going from a city no-one has ever heard of to one many have, and that makes me cool. For once, I'm actually living like I'm living in Europe. Of course, I will come back from this weekend of debauchery with a big debt to the nice people at the Commerzbank, but hey. That's how we live here. In Europe.

Ps the above picture was taken by a lovely student of mine when he visited London recently. For my trip, add rain.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Trash talk

On Saturday I had the dubious pleasure of hosting a Eurovision event - three screens, one of which was a projection onto the wall, showing the night of all nights, the Grand Prix of Entertainment, the Eurovision Song Contest. A few weeks ago I was in raptures at the idea of seeing the thing live, in Europe, with the possibility of voting (even if I knew I wasn't going to) for every country except the one I was in. Which, given that Germany usually sucks, wasn't too much of a problem. On the day, however, I lost all of my enthusiaism and couldn't remember why I'd wanted to watch the damn thing in the first place, as we shopped for booze, food and rearranged our entire room in its name.

In the end I quite enjoyed it, even after a whole day of trying to get the digital projector to work and failing (my techhead surfie flatmate wandered in about three minutes before showtime and fixed it, using a handfull of cables I don't know what to do with and would certainly never own. Then he proceeded back to his room to boycott the "Shit festival"). It's just so glorious in its mix of deadly serious chicks in sparkly dresses, camp dance routines and rich countries like France and Sweden seemingly taking the piss while Turkey belly-dances pop-stlye and the Ukraine takes the piss out of the Germans.

Actually that was the favorite of the night at our place, because it combind sparkle, satire, men in tight shorts and a man dressed as a woman while pretending to be some kind of disco nazi - his song went "Eins, zwei, sieben - TANZEN!" while boys in silver sparkly bike shorts did some kind of pogo dance.

Another favorite moment of mine was the oh-so-crap British pop band Minogue-esque song, which looked and sounded like a Virgin commercial (although I appreciated the camp "Would you like something to suck on during the flight?" they threw in).

It was, however, kind of tragic how no-one likes the Germans. During the voting when the Danish presenter said gushingly "And X points for our neighbour Sweden!" one of Simon's friend's said "But we're your neighbours!" in an agonized tone. And when another country deigned to give Germany five or so points the German commentator said on behalf of his country he was "surprised and delighted". Pathetic.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Square eyes

In case it's not hugely obvious, I'm home sick with a cold and a swollen foot today (from tripping over while wandering around in a daze with a head cold) so I've revamped my blog, added some new bits and pieces and even read some German newspaper which I usually avoid because it's too depressing realizing how many words I don't know.

I've recently been watching the following excellent American shows: Scrubs, Veronica Mars and Heroes. Highly recommended. I was so upset when I got to the last Scrubs available - it's completely addictive. And John Dorian reminds me of my brother. Ms Mars, on the other hand, reminds me of who I'd like to be, although a little less underweight. And perhaps not in California.


When I think of spring, I think of birthdays (mine and those of friends), of the September holidays, of a slow, delicious warming up until the long, lazy days of a hot summer. When I was a child spring meant endings of things, the school year, wearing stuffy woolen jumpers, huddling around the gas heater. The older me was relieved at the end of studying with a hot water bottle on my lap, or paying exorbitant heating bills. Spring means the days get longer, no longer dark at six o'clock, the scarves are packed away and the city comes alive with festivals, celebrations (Jewish New Year), chairs in the sun, picnics in the park.
A spring in May seems right on paper - hence the Maypole dance I did in September when I was ten - but it feels wrong, wrong, wrong. The flowers come out, they are suddenly everywhere in all colours. There are hyacinths, tulips, magnolias, bluebells, daisies and everywhere there are daffodils. In German they are called Easter bells, because they bloom over Easter. There are tulips growing in gardens and on nature strips which I would pay good money for back home; they're lush pink, lipstick red, violent purple, vivid orange or canary yellow and perfectly formed. The trees blossom, and then, too quickly, start to grow back their leaves, the daffodils die, suddenly the air smells sweet and mild and the sky is full of jet streams. It's a brief, beautiful European spring and it feels a little like walking into a film of how spring is supposed to be.

Here, when the sun comes out and it's twenty degrees there's no waiting for next weekend. It's time to head to the park, with your portable barbecue, your array of outdoor games, a case of beer, your bikini and eight to twenty of your closest friends. If you're a homeowner with a garden it's time to lacquer your garden furniture, repaint the garage, remove your winter tyres and crack out the barbecue in the backyard. Time to go on cycling trips, to play tennis, soccer, to take the kids to the sandpit. In our case it's time to play Frisbee without getting wet feet, although trying to find a patch of grass to play it on is difficult. We can play until almost ten o'clock, because it's still light, and still find time for an ice cream on the way home. The best flavours here are of course the ones made with the rich, creamy milk they drink, hazelnut, chocolate, caramel, vanilla. For risk takers there's nutella, plum, egg liquor and miracle flavour (tastes like lollies).

As far as food goes, that's also seasonal. It's asparagus season, not the green but the white variation, the one that needs to be peeled before consumption. Last year my cousin was lovely enough to cook it for us, with butter and salt and ham for the meat-eaters. It's also strawberry season, which means a kilo of strawberries for an eighth of their winter price, sweet and fresh and delicious. Manuela maintains that these are the only two foodstuffs that still have a season here, but I think otherwise. To me, child of a GroƟstadt (big city), everything seems so seasonal here, and not just personal seasons but communal. People seem to know when it's time to eat beet, or which kind of potato is the best this year, when the canola fields are in bloom or when to buy tulips. There's flea markets every other weekend to get rid of the products of spring cleaning or acquire new objects to sell next year.

For me it's a new kind of spring. It doesn't have that sense of things ending, rather of something new and different, strangely out of whack with my inner seasons but nonetheless familiar. There are no insects on the grass when we picnic, no hole in the ozone layer to worry about, no sharks or dangerous jellyfish when we go to the beach. It's a bit like stepping into one of those European fairy tales I read as a child, or a book by Enid Blyton, or Anne of Green Gables. Nature with it's claws removed. I'm not sure if I should, but so far, I'm enjoying the fantasy.