Want to find me.. I will be at the bar with a glass in my hand, but not eating the nuts... bar nuts are sort of scary.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Window Brothers

Usually, I look forward to the school holidays, the chance to sleep a bit longer is always a bonus. As Winter approaches and the mornings are gettng darker and colder, I was extra happy about this term break. Until I got the email telling me that between 8am and 9am, this coming Monday morning, the 'boys' would be arriving to install my new windows.

The punctuality reputation that Germans have, is not mis-deserved. For all the complaining you hear, German trains run pretty much on time. Businesses open and close on the exact minute that they state on their door, and tradesmen, generally arrive when they say they will.

It seemed to be tempting fate to NOT be at the house before 8am. And so I was. It is cold today, 10 degrees, rainy, and gray. All the lights were switched on, well at least those that that are more than wires hanging out of the ceiling. To kill time, I fiddled about trying to make as much space as possible, clearing paint sheets, and cleaned up paint rollers.

9am on the dot. Not a minute sooner and not a minute later. Two large vans arrived.

"Guten Morgen! My name is Pancakesoupmaker (or something like that)."

We did a quick tour of the house, he expressed his delight that the windows were easily accessible etc... and all was well.

Then the driver of the other van came in... "Guten Morgen!" My name is Pancakesoupmaker."

"Oh, you are brothers!" I said.

"Yes, don't we look alike?"

"Hmmhm yes, you are both very good looking!" said I, deciding that this was my chance to curry favor in the hope that they would do a great job, and do it quickly. They seemed pleased.

I have left them too it. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Lady GaGa & her Big Brass Band

Overheard....then roughly translated into English, but you will get the gist.

It is a rainy, misty Autumn morning. The kitchen is warm and cosy, there are wonderful smells drifting through the house as the clock inches its way toward midday lunch.

Miss 8 is sitting at the kitchen table, she is peeling the skins off a bag of hazelnuts, which she triumphantly collected from our garden, chatting away to her Oma (Miss 82). The radio is playing softly in the background.

Miss 8: "Oma, can you please turn up the radio, this is my favourite song." Miss 8 has managed (with French Resistance style skill) to switch the radio station from WDR4 (Tunes to grow your nose hair by) to SWR3 (hip, slick and cool appealing to precocious 8 year olds).

Oma obliges, and then continues stirring the red cabbage.

Miss 8: "Oma, this is Lady Gaga, do you know lady Gaga?"

Oma continues to stir, and makes a non-commital sound, something like "hummhoom".

Miss 8 sings along to the song on the radio.....

Miss 8: "Oma, do you like this song? Do you know what it is called?"

Oma is no fool, she has been listening to her bilingual grandchild, and has the tune down.....

Oma: "Yes, I can even sing a bit." A slight clearing of the throat and out came "Ompah pa pa Ompah pa paparazzi, Ompah pa pa Ompah pa paparazzi...."

You can bring the English to the Oma, but you can't take the German out of her!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Mary, Mary quite contrary

"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy: They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." Marcel ProustIn Australia, I have always considered gardening an extreme sport. Once you manage to hack your way through the Lantana, there is the very high possiblity of turning over a branch or a stone and having something dangerous jump out and give you a nasty bite. Something like a Funnel Web spider or a Red Belly black snake, both of whom, lived happily in our bushland suburb. So gardening was never really my thing. Hard earned cash was happily paid out to other, much braver souls.

Gardening in Germany is a whole other ball game. We have inherited a wildly overgrown garden at the front and the back of the new house. On first inspection, is seemed like a team of crack SAS Gardners would need to be installed, just to find the back fence. None of this is helped the fact that we are flanked on both sides by garden perfection. Seems our neighbours take their little piece of the world very seriously, down to every blade of grass growing in the same direction. It must have been their despair to see our jungle creeping closer and closer toward their tiny little piece of the Chelsea Flower Show.
We are having a wonderful dose of Autumn weather, so yesterday, I just couldn't bring myself to paint another wall, instead I wandered outside and picked up a rack....and something incredible happened. I became a gardner! There was something so exciting about clearing the first garden bed, sitting back on my heels and inspecting my work...something to do with instant gratification. I started to get bolder, the fear of ending up in the poisions unit of the local hospital having passed. Borders were pulled apart, bushes trimmed, roses cut. I raked, and hoed, I hacked and carted. Before my very eyes, magic happened.

It was not without it's moments. There was the struggle and subsequent swearing, after a close encounter with some well hidden Brennnesseln (Stinging Nettle). Innocuous looking, but it gives a nasty sting, this time right through my gardening gloves. My last meeting was when I took an extravagant fall from my bike, as if the shock from the fall wasn't bad enough, the pain from landing in the Brennnesseln had me jumping up quick smart. Mr Dear Husband's suggestion was that I "pee on the stings"......I don't need to tell you my response, do I?.
As I was putting away my tools, and feeling a touch of self-appreciation, I swear I saw the curtains twitch in the neighbour's window.. and perhaps a little smile in the corner of his mouth. Whether it was from watching me do the 'damn I just got another rose thorn in my thumb dance' or he was trying to encourage me to continue, I'm really not sure.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Don't mention the war...**

"If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play." John Cleese

I am in the mood to tell a story. Are you in the mood for a story? Good, I thought as much. Bear with me, it's a little longer than usual.

During my time in Cairo, there were some stories that were just too explosive to blog. It is well know that Egypt takes a particularly tough stance against anyone sassy enough to critisize either Islam, the government or Mr Mubarak himself. Bloggers that do cross the line, can be found hanging out in gaols that make Midnight Express look like a Disney film. And so it is that I choose to stay away from controversy and play in the meadow, with butterflies and bunnies.

Until I experienced an extreme dose of 'lack of internet access' rage caused by We-Take-Your-Money & Sons (Cairo Division). Bloggers will have full sympathy with me when I say that writing a blog post only to lose the whole thing seconds after completion due to an unstable connection, can cause major stress. This happened to me for six days, each day worse than the next. Each day I would phone up the Customer Non-Service Centre of We-Take-Your-Money & Sons. Each day I would report that my internet had become erratic, I think it is the modem, and would they please fix it. Each day they would say, "Thank you for calling, but the problem lies with Tellicom Egypt, we will report it, they will call you back to check the line". And call me they did. It went something like this:

Ring, ring.....
"Hello, Lulu speaking".
"Alo, Alo....". (slightly disembodied voice on crackly telephone line)
"You phone work now?" (voice is pleased with itself for constructing sentence)
"Well yes, it is working, but the internet comes and goes constantly and it is driving me nuts!"
"aagrrhrump". (sound of voice trying to work out what the hell Lulu just said)
"So, is work now? (voice is hopeful)
"Yes, but it could turn off again any minute", desperation is creeping in as Lulu realises her chance to have this repaired is slipping through her fingers.
"Good, so work, thank you, goodbye". (dial tone)
The gutteral scream that slipped out of Lulu's mouth after the 5th day of this conversation, could be heard in Israel.

On day 6, I begged. Yes, I am not ashamed to admit it. I begged for help. "Please, please, help me to fix my internet connection!". And it worked. The man at the Customer Non-Service Centre took pity on me, and said "Ok, I will send someone to take a look at it for you, they will be there in 20 minutes". Huh? Just like that? And 20 minutes later the doorbell rang.

Two likely looking characters, poked about for a minute or two and then said "Well it is clear, you need a new modem, it will be sent to you in two to three weeks." I felt gutted, I turned to show them to the door, and saw Mr Dear Husband coming down the stairs. Before I knew it, huge, hot, salty tears spilled down my cheeks. "What is wrong?", said an anxious Mr Dear Husband, scanning between his sobbing wife and the two Egyptian versions of Dumb and Dumber. "Whaaaaaaa, sob, sniff, sniff, sob......they said, sniff, sob....3 weeks... sob......." He got the message. And it is what happened next that could not be told while we were still in the country.

Now for all intents and purposes, Mr Dear Husband is a mild mannered, and gentle sort. It is only when he slips into his Mr Super Dear Husband tights with underpants on top, that he can be a little intimidating. He is, after all, a German.

"You two, sit down." And they did.
"Get on the phone and call your office, I want to speak to your boss." And they did.
What ensued was a 45 minute hostage situation.

Within minutes, Mr Dear Husband had worked his way from the Call Centre to the Ceo, "We live in Cairo, your office is 5 minutes drive from my house, in Cairo I can have ANYTHING I want delivered within 20 minutes (traffic withstanding)...and my wife wants a modem NOW!" Cairo is a fabulous city to live if you are agoraphobic.

"Ok, we will send someone with the new modem, he will be there in 20 minutes, could you please release our technicians, they have other work to do."
"No, they can stay here until the modem arrives."

During all this, I was hiding in the kitchen with Busy Brenda, saying naughty things like .... "Well, nobody takes prisoners like the Germans!"... and my sobbing had turned to rib-breaking, shaking, contained laughter.

"Please sir, can we go downstairs to smoke?" asked, the now more than bewildered, dynamic duo.
"No, you can smoke on the balcony", opens the door, and I am sure I heard him muttering under his breath words like escape plan...etc etc
"Please sir, can we have some water?"
"Yes, you can have some water...but nothing to eat!"
At this point I am starting to worry that Mr Dear Super Husband is taking this role a little too serious.

Twenty minutes later, I had a new modem, a stable internet connection, two very relieved We-Take-Your-Money & Sons employees, and a Mr Dear Husband that, I do believe, was strutting...if only a little.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Cable Guy 2.0

"God gave women intuition and femininity. Used properly, the combination easily jumbles the brain of any man I've ever met." Farrah Fawcett

Years of expat life have sharpened my 'settling in' skills. I pretty much now have it down when it comes to the priorities of setting up a new home. Right up there with hot, running water and clean sheets, comes the communication trilogy. Phone, Internet & TV. Experience has taught me that it is best to start sorting these things from day one, and as we are hoping to move in by the end of the month, time is a-ticking.

The call was made to We-Take-Your-Money & Sons. Seems they have the best deal on offer, so we asked them to come and 'hook us up'. What I didn't bargain for, was a good healthy dose of German discipline. Within minutes, we had an email, an appointment for the next day, and even a time frame of 'between 1:00pm and 1:27pm'. Hmm all good, I think to myself, although slightly disbelieving.

At exactly 1:19pm the next day, lo and behold I get a call saying "I will be there in 5 minutes".

I hop on my bike and take off at the speed of custard, peddling for all I am worth. Just as I turn into our new street, I realise that something very important is missing...THE HOUSE KEY. Bugger! Quick U-turn... race back...leaving in my wake, open mouthed people, trying to work out why there is a wide-eyed, red-faced, maniac-cycling 'almost' middle aged woman racing down the street and simultaneously muttering very bad words.

Now I feel that first impressions are important. Most people have it all tied up within the first 30 seconds of shaking your hand. So what did I get from The cable guy? He looked like he had just fallen out of bed, his hair could have housed two owls and a family of field mice. There are 'comfy' clothes and then there are the clothes that have gathered at the end of the bed and are able to stand up on their own, thus allowing the wearer to simply slip straight out of bed and slide right on into his pants.

Where he really caught my eye, was when he started to scratch his head... he would look at bits of cable, then scratch his head. He would let out a long, low sigh, then scratch his head. As you well know (dear bloggers), I have experience with 'head scratchers', having been married to one for over 20 years. The classic male head scratching, is a dead giveaway. It is like a flashing, neon billboard. It means "Holy cow, what has she done this time!!!!"

Words started to tumble out of his mouth, words like.... long cable, no electricty to the amplifer, thick walls, drilling holes in walls, 4-6 hour job...........all the time, scratching, scratching, scratching.

What happened next had to be seen to be believed. Before his bloodshot and bleary eyes, the woman causing his scratching, transformed into a Southern Belle of Steel Magnolia proportions. My usually passable German, dropped an octave, become more whispery and took on a distinct drawl mixed with a dose of Aussie twang. My hip popped out and my shoulders were pulled back. A classic toss of the head and a batter of the eyelashes.

"Please have a little patience with me, my good sir." Battering those eyelashes and popping that hip for all I was worth. "I am Australian, and I don't really understand how this all works, but I am sure that a clever and educated man, such as your self, would know all about it."

He stopped scratching. He started muttering again... "well perhaps... with some help....could pick up drill from xyz...hmmm still 6 hour job..." Two and half hours later, he had drilled through two walls, laid cables throughout the entire cellar and hooked up the phone, the modem for wireless internet and we have cable telly.

I am shameless in my pursuit of internet access. Now you know it. At least he had a great tale to tell his mates when he went to the pub on Friday night.

BTW: The character I relate to the most in Steel Magnolia's is Ouisa, played be Shirley MacLaine. The scene where she is at the funeral and gets offered up to be slapped, still makes me laugh/cry everytime.


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