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.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lessons in Snow Etiquette

If you are going to use an Egg Flip to clean the ice off your car windscreen…

…don’t get caught by the neighbour who already thinks you are a little weird. Telling him you ‘couldn’t find the ice scraper’ will win you no love.

When shovelling your front path, do not enter into a competition with aforementioned neighbour…

…he is a pensioner (senior citizen), having the cleanest path in the street is the highlight of his day and he will keep going until he breaks you.

If you are going to open the boot (trunk) of your car BEFORE you clean off the snow…

…be prepared to spend the next hour shovelling snow OUT of your boot before your husband finds out.

Should you run out of grit or salt to stop your paths from icing up…

…using that expensive salt from your last holiday in the South of France, is not a good choice.

Mis-judging the curb when crossing the street during a partial thaw…

…can result in EXTREMELY cold ankles, your child will learn words that are NOT age appropriate and a squelching sound that attracts unnecessary attention in the library.

When you are walking down the street in Germany and you see this sign:

vorsicht-dachlawinen NOT look up!  It took Miss Eight 10 minutes to stop laughing before she asked, “Would you like a tissue?”

I am still trying to work out why I even bothered leaving the house today.

Jack of all trades…

"What's an expert? I read somewhere, that the more a man knows, the more he knows he doesn't know. So I suppose one definition of an expert would be someone who doesn't admit out loud that he knows enough about a subject to know he doesn't really know how much." Malcom S Forbes

Jack of all trades, master of none.  I seriously considered putting that on an application this week.  Instead, I wrote in, “the lady that puts pickle bottle labels on pickle bottle jars.”  Will they be impressed, do you think?  The saying comes from my Nanna.  It was her greatest training tool.  “Learn your times tables or you will end up putting pickle bottle labels on pickle bottle jars!!!”  I wonder if she could see me now, would she reconsider her motivational skills.

Many times, I have thought, “Hell, I am just going to become a doctor, so that at the next cocktail party, when Hans Von Smellybottomholesinhisunderpants asks me “what do YOU do?”  I will be ready for him.  “Oh me?”  Here I will just try to brush it off like it is nothing, toss my long, golden locks, take a sip of my wine… “I am a doctor, I save people’s lives everyday.” Hmm maybe that last bit was laying it on a bit thick.  He will be so impressed that he will immediately leave me in peace to finish demolishing the hosts supply of white wine and potato latkes.

Germany brings all my insecurities to the surface.  Last year, during an interview with ‘the authorities’, the beamter (public servant) was trying to enter my employment history into her computer.  It went something like this:

“I have tried to enter in ALL the different qualifications and positions you have held in the past 25 years, but unfortunately, they don’t fit our strict parameters.  Unless I am able to tick at least one box, I will not be able to process your application.”  Then she just sat there, stabbing at her computer and making a tisk-tisk sound.  Until finally, she looked up at me and said: 

“Well… I could put you down as a cleaner, because that does not have the German requirement of at least a 4 year university degree, followed up by a 2 year unpaid apprenticeship, and finished off by another 1 year probation period, where you will be required to wear a giant P on your back during working hours.”

And she was deadly serious.

Dear Mr Husband was squeezing my arm VERY TIGHTLY, as if he instinctively knew that I was about to jump across the woman's desk and start pounding her head into her exasperating keyboard.  Tears sprang into my eyes, and a deep, red blush rose up from underneath my collar and filled my face.  I tried to concentrate on the tacky pictures of angels she had pinned on the walls of her windowless cubical, so as not to allow the tears to start rolling down my face.

“I see you have a picture of Machu Picchu behind your desk?.”  This was Mr Dear Husband, ever the diplomat, and probably trying to save my tormentor from spending the next 3 years in the company of her plastic surgeon.  “Have you been there?”  He can be so polite.

“OH NO!”  Gasp, horror showing on her face.  I love to look at the picture, but I would never go there… it is a terrible thing that all those dreadful tourists do to such wonderful sites.”

We left the office.  It was very quiet as we walked down the stairs.

“What a fruitcake!”

He knew just what to say… and I felt a little better.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Original Expat Brat

“When I was in therapy about two years ago, one day I noticed that I hadn't had any children. And I like children at a distance. I wondered if I'd like them up close. I wondered why I didn't have any. I wondered if it was a mistake, or if I'd done it on purpose, or what. And I noticed my therapist didn't have any children either. He had pictures of his cats on the wall. Framed.” Spalding Gray

There are not a lot of references to LuLu’s Big Daughter.  Mainly because she now lives a happy and productive adult life in (the witness protection program) Australia, and I haven’t asked her if she minds being fodder for my blogging. OK, OK… so maybe it is because she said something like, “Mum, if I EVER read about myself on your blog, I am cutting off your allowance and you are grounded for a month!” …or words to that effect… I never listen to threats… nah, nah..

But…Someone reminded me about some of her early episodes as an expat brat, and I figure that she won’t REALLY mind if I relate a couple of them.  As the original Expat LuLu babe, she went first.  Big Daughter was all of 20 months old when we got on the “Let’s get outta here train.”  Raising her was often more than any normal parent should have to deal with, let alone, doing it in crazy, new countries where you can’t drink the water.


Floating around in a swimming pool.  The Island is Lombok (before it turned into a mad tourist infestation).  It is warm, soothingly warm.  The service is sublime.  The air is clean. I have a drink with an umbrella in it… and an orchid behind my right ear…

Says the American businessman to then Miss 7(older version):

“I have been listening to you for sometime, but I can’t pick your accent, young lady.  Just where DO you come from?”

I don’t open my eyes, but my ears prick up and I wait for her reply…only remembering to breath when I start feeling faint.

“Well…”  Miss 7(older version) was never shy.  Some would say she could talk the leg off a wooden chair.

“My mummy comes from Australia.  My daddy comes from Germany.  We live in Bombay, India….  but I think I might be Turkish.”

Mr American businessman looked confused… shook his head and swam away to try his luck at the pool bar.

I kept my eyes closed and decided that it was best to just remain silent.

She was obviously already confused enough without my weighing in.

Truly a child of the united nations.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The things you learn…

All it takes is someone to put an idea in my head and it can take me ages (sometimes years) before I can get it loose.

Baggy pants I totally nicked this photo off the net… I wonder if these boys know that when you Google ‘baggy pants’, their ‘boxered bums’ come up more than any other?

In response to yesterday’s post about German School Kid Fashions, the gorgeous and baby-upped (I know that is not a word, but it fits the language of the style we are discussing… besides, it makes me hip, slick and cool…right?…RIGHT!) Miss Global Librarian told a little story and it would be such a shame not to share it.

Mind you, I will never be able to look at those boy’s with the droopy pants in the same light again:

“When I worked as a public librarian in Kansas City (US), I worked in a gang neighbourhood. (They were not gangsta-wannabes. They were the real thing.)
I did not allow the droopy pants and gang colors in the library. Partially because library was neutral territory and I didn't want them fighting with each other. But also because I thought the look disrespectful and they should treat the library, its customers and its staff with respect. (I was well-known in the neighbourhood. And gang activity of any kind DID NOT happen on My Watch.)

I used to enjoy explaining to the young boys how the droopy pants thing came to be. See, in prisons, where young men are locked up for long periods of time and "anything goes," wearing droopy pants signals to the other prisoners that you are a "bitch" and your back side is "open for business." The young men would always pull those pants up quite quickly.

I really, really wish I knew enough Swiss German to explain this to the young men I see wandering about Zürich. If those silly white boys ever appeared in my old neighbourhood, they would get their asses whipped by the real gangstas.”

Just too good a story to let slide.

Have a good one, people!

Monday, January 25, 2010

The German Conspiracy

We live near a school.  In fact, we are surrounded by schools, which is a good thing on the weekend, but not so great if you are looking for a car parking spot around pick up time.

From the warm comfort of my kitchen window, I like to observe the world going about its business.  The kids strolling up, timing their entrance  -- not too early, not too late – chatting, smoking (I know, but what can I do!) and generally being cool (is that still a word that means cool?)

Germans don’t wear school uniforms.  They don’t like to be seen as being too conformist. But they are.  They have little secret rituals that provide them with the same comfort we Aussies enjoyed during our childhood.  The Germans think they are being covert, but more and more, I am discovering their secrets…

If we can’t have school uniforms… then we will conform in every other part of our lives.

All the high school kids wear jeans.  Jeans and boots… jeans and boots and short jackets  - which in my opinion offer absolutely no protection against the bitter weather we have had lately.  The boys all have floppy hair… it looks like The Beatles gone wild.  I have visions of the ozone layer getting thinner each morning with the amount of product that is being used to hold those elaborate hair-do’s in place. 

Eyeliner is very popular with the girls, and I suspect that there is a local shortage of blonding kits.  Contrary to public belief, there are not that many blonde-haired, blue-eyed Germans. 

But my favourite part is watching the boys trying do their impression of Ghetto Street Fashion.  I love it.  They saunter down the road with their freshly, laundered-by-mum, underpants showing, their shoelaces undone and their caps turned sideways.  When Miss Eight and I are walking behind a gaggle of these Rapper Replicas, she will whisper to me, “Go on Mum, tell him to pull up his pants and get a job…go on!”

I truly believe she thinks that one day, I will grab one of them by the ear and give him a good wash. 

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Expat, Immigrant or Beam Me Up Scotty!

“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.”  Clifton Fadiman

When I realised I hadn’t spoken to another living soul except Miss Eight for two days, I got a jolt.  What is going on?  Sure enough, it has been a busy couple of months.  Actually, I have been head down, bum up since September 2009, so a few weeks of less social interaction and time for a little inner reflection were in order.

It is easy to kid myself that I have a full and busy calendar when you spend time online.  I chat to other bloggers, read and write comments, read the dailies, update my FaceBook, answer my emails – hell I am constantly talking in my head, there is just no sound for the outside world.

Expat Wife with a Gun

Normally, as an expat, I hit the ground running.  Join the local groups, meet the mums at school, find my place among the other wives at Mr Dear Husband’s place of employment.  But this time, it has been different.  Germans keep their work and private lives separate.  Never the two shall meet.  There could be ‘other’ wives in the same boat… but I will never hear about it.

German mum’s don’t walk their kids to school… there is not a great deal of “let’s go for coffee” call.  And to add fuel to the fire, because this is a small town, everybody knows everybody, and has done since kindergarten, leaving little room for ‘Lulus-come-lately’.

There is none of that: ‘Expat Wife + Bottle (or two) of Wine = Instant New Best Mate’. 

As it stands, I also don’t need the usual level of support that happens in other countries.  I speak the language, so no ‘Quick! Must sign up for Turkish/Hindi/Arabic course so I can tell off the Taxi drivers’.  I can read the language, so shopping is not an issue.  Many a friendship has been made over asking questions.  “Where do I find ‘A Victorian Costume/Halloween Decorations/Christmas Decorations/Pork products/A new hose for my washing machine".  All can be

Mr Dear Husband returns from Upper Mongolia (or perhaps the moon) tonight.  Might be time to talk to him about making the Madagascar office his permanent hang-out.  So much for ‘finally settling down’. 


This post could have had a completely different title:

Once a gypsy, always a gypsy. 

“When my wife has nothing to do, it is like coming home, walking through the door and finding a pistol pointed at my head.”  Mr Dear Husband

Friday, January 22, 2010

They should be Recalled

“I hate the word housewife; I don't like the word home-maker either. I want to be called Domestic Goddess.” Roseanne Barr

During the course of the last few days, it has crossed my mind that had I had the foresight to invest in an extended warranty, there is a good chance that a certain eight year old would be heading back to “You-Don’t-Know-What-You-Are-Getting-Yourself-In-For” Headquarters, Australasian Division.

We are sitting at breakfast and I am leafing through a bunch of junk mail.  Mainly catalogues for the local collection of supermarkets (the older generations of Germans are a little nuts about their ‘catalogues’… but that is another story).  So there I am, sorting; tossing the furniture and whitegoods into the recycling, flicking through the grocery pages, frowning at the “Have you got your Funeral Insurance covered”.  Miss Eight leans across her muesli bowl and slides one of the catalogues over for a closer inspection.  Then with wide eyes, looks at me and says, “Hey mum, you need to get this stuff, then you will be really happy and love doing housework!”

I peer over my specs to see what she is referring to, only to find myself confronted by this picture:


Further more, she is deadly serious and I am gobsmacked. 

“You do know that sweeping the kitchen floor is still work, even if the broom is pink!”  I am having serious doubts about whether or not I will keep this particular child once the lease expires.

“Of course I do, but if you also wore the pretty gloves and put on some lipstick, then you would be just like the lady in this picture, and she looks really happy.”

And to think… I could have bought a goldfish.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Nose Knows or You Can Pick It

“Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousand of miles and all the years you have lived.” Helen Keller

That is what I am going to write about today… Smell.  Get over it, it’s not like you have a choice.  I suppose you could send me ideas (it would appear I can weave a story out of just about anything), but for today, you are stuck with my topic.

I read recently that memory is attached to adrenalin.  That would make sense to me.  Most things that have terrified or excited me are planted well and truly in the filing system that is my brain.  But for me, there is a whole other world to explore.

I have often been caught saying “Hmm… that doesn’t smell right to me..”  and usually I am spot on.  Let’s not mention the time Miss 16 decided she wasn’t going to show me her Mid-year school report and concocted the most elaborate deception this side of the Gaza Strip. I said, let’s not mention it!…. but can you say “1 month house arrest with hard labour.”

Ask me about my first day of school and I have a sudden rush of open lunch box with a cheese sandwich and a green apple.  It could have been worse, much worse.  The boy sitting next to me chose that day to forget his toilet training… big time.  I can still see him squirming about and the teachers look of horror -- well there you go… smell.

We spent two years living in Bombay (it was Bombay then and will stay that way for me… Mumbai sounds like something a Telly Tubby eats)  We had an apartment in a 5 star hotel, compliments of Mr Dear Husbands’ employer.  There was only one thing missing, nothing crucial I suppose, if you live on astronaut food and mini bar selections… we had no kitchen.  Oh, I could boil water and make a cup of tea… but all other meals were eaten in one of the many restaurants – or out of the snack boxes that I filled up each morning from the breakfast buffet.  I lost weight faster than a B Grade starlet on a cocaine binge.  Without the smell of onions being sautéed, or fresh bread straight from the oven, there were no juices flowing.  No appetite.  

Break the skin of a mandarin, and I am instantly transported back to a water skiing weekend as a kid… camping on a river bank.  We gorged ourselves with mandarins from the neighbouring orchard.  We ate and ate and ate… then we filled the back of the car with our ill-gotten gains.  And continued to eat all the way home, tossing the peels out of the car window.  I am pretty sure I didn’t eat another mandarin for about 20 years.

There are a million memories wrapped around my olfactory system.  Some great, some not so great.  But whatever you do, when you come to my house for breakfast, don’t burn the toast… it sets me off for the rest of the day and you will never hear the end of it. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Little green balls of horror

I found myself sitting at the lunch table of my future in-laws, not understanding a word that was being said and watching with growing distress as an enormous bowl of Brussels sprouts was placed directly in front of my plate.  Oh No!  This could no be happening. But sure enough, my smiling mother in law picked up the overflowing bowl and offered it to me.  There was no escape…


As a child, there were many things that could tip me over the edge, but there was only one that would follow me through to adulthood.

Raised as one of three daughters, by a widowed father, life looked nothing like the Brady Bunch from where I sat.  There was little else to do other than pick up a broom and learn to keep house from an early age. 

Cooking would come later.  Until I was tall enough to be able to see into a pot on the stove, this crucial part of life was left to my father.  He had a few specialties, one of them was Brussels sprouts, cooked until they were dead, grey and revolting.

Meals were eaten at the table.  Plates were cleaned before leaving the table, and nights when Brussels sprouts featured, were small lessons in hell.


We did eventually learn how to outfox the perpetrator of our torture.  By sitting long enough, pushing the nasty little critters around our plates, we could ensure that eventually our father would give up in disgust, push back his chair and declare us an ungrateful pack of brats…then troop off to watch the evening news.  This was our chance.  By packing our cheeks full of the offending vegetable, we could make a break for the bathroom…one after the other…and spit the sludge into the toilet.  It is a wonder that we didn’t manage to block it, considering how often this act occurred.  And so it was that I declared my ever lasting loathing for Brussels sprouts and a promise that I would never eat them again.


I should have been suspicious after she vigorously offered it at least five times.  I at least, should have twigged when I noticed that Mr Dear Husband would not make eye contact.  The little beasts seemed to glow with kryptonite like potency… urging me to “eat up, eat up”.  I chopped those little beggars into a million pieces.  I hid them in my napkin, in my pocket, under a lettuce leaf… anywhere other than my mouth. Still, no eye contact from Mr Future Dear Husband.

Back in our room, I gagged and coughed and made all manner of fuss.  “Why would she do that!” I cried.  What could have possessed the woman to force feed me the one food on earth that I could not stomach?

“Well….”  and he started scratching the back of his head, the tips of his ears warm to a ruby red and he is clearing his throat.

“Perhaps because I told her that Brussels sprouts are your favourite food…” He steps back a couple of paces and brings his hands up to protect his head. 

“I’m sorry, it was just meant to be a joke. I thought it would be funny.”

I let him live.  But believe me when I tell you that his little joke would cost him dearly across the next 20 years of his life.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Arch nemesis…

“You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you.”  Eric Hoffer

It fair took my breath away.  Like Rod Taylor in the Time Machine, I felt myself fall down, down, down… and I was back there.  That crippling, punch in the guts, flushed cheeks, wave of humiliation. 

All it took was a Google.  A stumble upon.  I wasn’t looking for anything remotely close to what came.  Before my eyes, grinning and laughing was the girl, now a woman, that had made my high school days a misery. A YouTube clip.  Links to her life showed that she is accomplished.  A self-starter, a go-getter.  Right out there in the world.

The internet can unearth all matter of information.  People that were thought to be long lost, can suddenly appear back in your life, whether you want them there or not.

There was always an air of success about her.  A contentment that had been her aura over 25 years ago.  Such confidence, the mirror of my own tortured soul.  If I were to have a mishap, she would be there as witness.  A trip down the stairs of slapstick comedy proportions, yep, I can still hear her loud and hearty laugh ringing in my ears.  No sooner was I complimented by an English teacher, and there would be a catcall from the back of the class, just loud enough for me to hear and no-one else.

There was no way that she could have know of the heartache and agony that was my childhood home life.  No way could she have known that her words cut me to my very core. But no doubt that she saw a wounded animal and took pleasure in playing with me like a cat and a mouse.

I watched out for her constantly.  A deer in a meadow, ever alert should she come close enough to be able to cause me pain.  If she went right, I went left.  In class, I would sit at the polar opposite.  Managed to avoid being lab partners for 4 years straight… believe me when I tell you that it took co-ordination of mastermind proportions to achieve.

So we meet again.  The sight of her caused the girl in me to shrink back behind my heart.  I consider contacting her, after all, I am now an adult, also accomplished, in my mind.  What would her reaction be?  Would she remember.  Would we be friends today?

It makes me wonder if somewhere, out there, one day, I will discover that I too, had such an impact. 

If I hurt you, I am sorry…

Saturday, January 16, 2010

And that is that.

Miss Eight requires a new German passport.  It was necessary to take her with me, so that she could be finger printed.


On the way…

“Why do they need to finger print me?”

“Well, they need to fingerprint everybody because… hmm let me think about that… in fact, I can’t really answer that…let me get back to you.”


It would seem that yet again, my ‘oh so clever’ daughter has come up with a question I can’t answer.

“So where exactly are we going?”

“We are going to the Rathaus (Town Hall).” Ha!  finally I manage to get it right.

“I know what they do at the Rathaus.”  She seems to be chewing on the inside of her cheek.

“Oh, you do?”  I can feel it coming…

“Yes, when you are born, they SIGN YOU ON at the Rathaus, and when you die, they SIGN YOU OFF.”

Ok, that wasn’t quite what I was expecting. 

“Um, how do you know that?” Actually, I was scared to ask…

“Well mother, what DO you think I learn in school!”

Bamboozled yet again. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

First Impressions Do Count.

Some times in life, I just have a knack for ‘pooping in my own nest’ (how Australian is that!).  Usually it is caused by not thinking through my actions.  I am all about enthusiasm, less about long term affect.


It is now 22 years since I first planted my foot on German soil.  I can still remember how scary the machine-gun toting police looked at Frankfurt airport.  And it was my first meeting with the parent’s of Mr Dear Husband.  All I could think of was making a good impression.  Hoping they would like me, really like me (hello Sally Fields) and therefore, accept that this Non-German, Non-German-Speaking, Non-Catholic Australian girl was good enough for their Golden Boy (believe me, for them he is).

It didn’t start well. 

All I could think about after a 24 hour flight was a hot shower, comfy pants (preferably with elastic waist and maybe holes in the knees), and flaking out.  But the parents had other ideas.  Straight from the Airport we went to their graceful home. I saw the glint of crystal and antique china cups.  A beautifully pressed damask tablecloth.  All set for ‘a little bite to eat’.

The bathroom mirror was not my friend as I frantically tried to make myself suitable to sit at such a regal table.  I scrubbed my face, pulled my hair back and slapped my cheeks.  It would have to do.  Smiled and nodded as I took my place, and accepted a delicately made open sandwich.  Watched as my cup was filled with a dark, evil looking, black liquid.  I can still smell it now.  My eyes started to water and I took my first sip of real German coffee.

Before I could stop it, the taste overpowered my tongue and went into involuntary spasm.  This was no ordinary coffee, this coffee had been brewing since Golden Boy had left 3 years ago.  The unfamiliar strong acrid taste of the coffee caused  my lips to contort into a fish mouth and I watched helplessly as a long, thin stream, shot out, leaving a perfect arc of brown half way across the pristine white table. Silence.  This is the moment when aliens could have come to collect me and I would have offered myself up to their probing.

To their credit, the parents didn’t say a thing.  Mr Dear Husband had those little red spots on his cheeks that come only when he wants to be someplace else, and I just tried to pretend that nothing had happened.

Not a good start. 

With a slight of hand, Mr Dear Husband’s mother surreptitiously moved a few of the plates around to cover my disgrace.  Nothing was ever mentioned.  I should have realised right then and there that I had just shown them my true self – and they were never going to let me forget it.

Today, I am still a tea drinker, and have never been offered coffee since.

PS: Thinking I might make this a regular feature of my blog, telling you all about the ridiculous calamities I have managed to get up to over the years.  And believe me when I say there were plenty… what do you think?

Big Mistake

It doesn’t happen often.  Mr Dear Husband will tell you I never make mistakes.  It is his #1 rule to surviving in this marriage.  I am always right, he is wrong.  But yesterday, I will admit, my halo slipped a little and I did something that completely demoralised me.  I spent two hours reading the Martha Stewart website.

What was I thinking!  I know, right… it’s not like she is perfect, we all know that now.  Martha went to prison, not even I have done that, although I will admit to a few close calls…one particular incident at an airport in India, resulted in Mr Dear Husband uttering the words, “Please sit down and be quiet, or you are going to end up some butch axe murderer woman's cell mate, where she will refer to you as her Sugarpie".” You wouldn’t have recognised me, I was as quiet as a mouse.

Martha, Martha, Martha, what are you doing to me.  I looked to you for some solace.  My house is in that 87% stage of unpacked boxes and renovation and I have just plain run out of steam.  I needed inspiration.  What did you give me?  A big damn dose of inferiority syndrome.

Nobody can be that perfect.  The woman has a ‘craft’ loft (not room, but loft).  Neatly divided up into separate areas, with all the necessary equipment, stored, labelled and ready to go.  It doesn’t work like that here.  I am still looking for the sticky tape from before Christmas, thus resulting in all my Christmas parcels being tied up with kitchen string – I told them it was artistic and a reflection on the economic climate – nobody bought it.

This morning I was standing in the cold and nasty room of our cellar that is The Laundry.  I kept seeing the bright, shiny laundry room that Martha has.  With its neatly labelled baskets, bottles and boxes.  A special padded table for ironing, wire baskets on wheels for sorting (with padding around the edge so as not to bump and scrape the furniture), industrial lighting and recycling bins with wheels.  Hey, Martha’s laundry is nicer than my bedroom… that can’t be right.

Martha's Basement 2 IMG_7107 So here you see Martha’s Cellar – then LuLu’s Cellar

Martha's Basement IMG_7108 And again Martha – LuLu.  My laundry looks like the kind of place that certain Austrian’s like to keep their ‘family’ for 24 years.

But here is the clincher.  This is the point where I broke down and started sobbing at the impossible goal that Martha has set me.  In her Guest Bathroom, sat two small, dark green towels.  Each embroidered in gold with the words, MAKE UP. 

“Martha likes to leave these special towels for the guests so they can remove their make up without fear of marking up the other towels…”

Please kill me now.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Culling, or…

…it’s not you, it’s me.

Had a little time on my hands, not doin’ much, just messin’ about.  This can often lead to Mr Dear Husband looking anxious.. you know the drill, where he starts scratching the back of his head and doing those big sighs.

Peering over the back of the sofa, where he was attempting to watch some sporty thing on the TV, he asked me what I was doing.

“Just a little sorting.  Why?  Is it annoying you?”

“You are making that funny little click-clack noise with your tongue, the one you make when you are choosing the fruit at the grocers, or a new pair of shoes.”

And so I was… choosing, that is. 

I was, in fact, playing God with all your lives.  I was parting the Sea that is Google Reader.  I was Culling. 

For a while now, I have been mildly irritated by the ridiculously long list of blogs that I had collected, many of which have long sat dormant, and many of which, I no longer read.  There I said it.  And there I go again, spouting off like someone declared 2010 “Year of the Beat-Me-With-A-Stick Honest”.  But Hey!  What can I tell you…

A walk down memory lane.  I was plunged back to times when Mr Dear Husband would come home and say something like, “Hey Honey, how would you feel about moving to Moscow/Jordan/Kuwait/Dubai/Upper Mongolia (I made that last one up).”  And off I would scurry to my trusty keyboard, to search out local bloggers that would give me the low down, the real truth about real life.  But some of these adventures were shelved, and along with them, my skulking in the shadows, sucking out the marrow of other peoples’ lives in foreign lands.

Not all the culling was my fault.  Do you guy's have any idea how many of you just leave me waiting at the corner and never come back!  No wonder I have abandonment issues.  It is like a whole section of bloggers just got sucked up by aliens.  The next we will hear from you will be a reality TV program in the USA… ‘Bloggers from Outer Space’.  News at 11.

I did actually take the time to re-read the last post (some as old as 2 years ago) before I hit the unsubscribe button.  Often there was no warning at all that tomorrow would never come.  More often than not, the last post would read something like this:   “Someone reminded me that that I haven’t updated my blog for 3 weeks/months/years. Can’t think of anything to write. Nobody reads this anyway. Anything I do write is lame.”

Then nothing, nada, zip. Gone.

In the end, what seemed to stick out more than anything else, is just how fickle I am.  My Google Reader was a mismatch of special interests.  One week I would be snaffling up any blog that would tell me how to turn an empty egg carton into a new 3-piece suite, the next I was teaching myself how to cut my own bangs (believe me… it is not worth it, don’t even go there). I am like a bumble bee in a rose garden.  Every time I had a thought, I would search for clever people out there doing it, and read what they had achieved.  Then when I had my fill… I moved on.  So many clever people, so little time.

Google Reader is slimmer now, more streamline.  Now I can start the glorious task of refilling her again.

Why aren’t Germans funny?

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”  C. S. Lewis


I was having a little chat this morning… a cyber chat that is, with a fellow blogger.  We met online over two years ago. It was when I was still in Sydney, before I moved to Cairo.  I asked her lots of questions about what it was like to live in Egypt.  I read all her blog posts, I made comments on all her blog posts.  I suspect she thought I was stalking her, and in my own way, I was.

It didn’t start to get weird until I arrived in Cairo, and she very kindly offered to meet me for coffee… at a place where there were lots of people, and many exits.  I liked her right away.  She kept her pepper spray in her pocket and sat close to the door in case she needed to make a quick get away.

At the end of our coffee, she said she had enjoyed meeting me, didn’t give me her phone number and turned to walk home. 

“Oh, are you walking, me too!.” 

She stuck out her hand, making sure to be far enough away so that she could give me a quick karate kick to the head if I tried anything.  “Ok, then bye.”

We both turned left… then continued walking… we both crossed the road. We both continued walking down the road, side by side. There was that sort of awkward silence that happens when you really think you are about to head off in the opposite direction.

“Umm, are you following me?”

By now, even I have got the idea that this is looking very suspicious. 

“No, I am going home… I live at the end of this road.”

Here, she turned sharply on her heel, cocked her head to the side and did that squinty thing with her eyes…

“Where exactly do you live?”

Turned out, I not only lived across the street from her, but my bedroom window looked directly into her bedroom window.  What were the chances!  From Australia to Egypt, and this poor lass ends up with me being able to watch her brush her teeth each morning.

Eventually, she softened and decided that I was not an axe murderer.  We became friends, the sort of friends that say, “Hey, I have just put the kettle on, come and have a cuppa.”  Or the sort of friends that call up and say crazy stuff like, “My maid is driving me insane today, can I come and hang out at your house until she is gone.” (seriously, now that I am back doing all my own housework… I miss having a housekeeper…and can’t believe I ever complained…spoilt brat that I am) Even the sort of friends that say, “I think I have a lump… what do I do?”

One of the topics of this morning’s conversation was our ‘dry spell’ in the blogging world.  It occurred to me that we had often laughed together at some manic Egyptian episode, and then there would the race home to see who could put up a blog post first.  “Now that is a blog post just waiting to be written!”, we would say.

There just don’t seem to be so many funny ‘blogging’ moments here.  Everything is too clean and orderly, people are predictable and do the right thing.  There is not that level of insanity that helped to keep a constant stream of witty anecdotes flowing. 

Perhaps I need to start looking at this country through the same eyes I saw Egypt, or for that matter, Turkey, India etc.  Perhaps it is time to shake things up a bit.


PS:  If anyone is interested in reading any of the LuLu in Egypt adventures, you will find the rough ‘saved’ version sans photos here:  LuLusbay in Egypt  It is really just a stream of words now, one day I will try to put it back together.

PPS:  If you don’t know what happened to LuLusbay in Egypt… you can read about it here:  Disaster!!!!!!

Friday, January 8, 2010

It’s all about the Journey

“As you journey through life take a minute every now and then to give a thought for the other fellow. He could be plotting something.”  Hagar the Horrible

I love a good autobahn.  There, I said it.  Exposed myself for the non-green, environment-destroying villain that I am.  But I do.

My first encounter with the German road system was terrifying.  Not only was a I fairly new to driving, but the first time I sat in the car, I discovered the steering wheel was on the wrong side… and worse, people were driving on the wrong side.  The wrong side if you come from Australia, that is.

It took time.  Time to adjust.  Time to remember to get into the drivers seat on the left, time to look up to the right to find the rear vision mirror.  But most of all, it took time to lose the all blood draining terror that came from having to merge into traffic travelling at about 140km per hour… Holy crap!  One false move and I would be little less than road kill.


There is also the small matter of Stau (traffic jams).  These can really mess up your day.  Get stuck in a Stau on the way home from having your bikini waxed and there is a good chance it will have all grown back before you get home.

One particular occasion, on the way to Frankfurt Airport, we were doing good time, heading out to places yonder.  About 5km before the terminal, the traffic just stopped.  Nothing, nada, zip.  Nowhere to go.  And my bladder was full.  That uncomfortable full that makes you sort of cross and uncross your legs.  It makes you wriggle about a bit, but not too much.  It makes you try to think of something else, but that doesn’t help.  Finally, I could hold no more.  My German in-laws were sitting in the front of the car.  Why else could I do?  We had been sitting in the car for 3 hours.  I could see the lights of the airport, where toilets flowed in abundance.  There was no other solution.

My father-in-law driving… we opened the front driver’s door, and the back passenger door… and I peeded, right there and then, right on the Autobahn, right beside my father-in-law, with all those car headlights behind us, illuminating my big, white bum.

Ever the gentleman, my father-in-law politely turned his head, and hummed some Bavarian folk song… Mr Dear Husband stared into space, wishing with all his might that he was someplace else.  I tried to imagine that all the drivers behind us were actually looking at something else…anything else.

I wonder why you never hear about these things happening to members of the royal family.  Or Madonna.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Frugal LuLu McScrooge

“The tooth fairy teaches children that they can sell body parts for money.” David Richerby

Not one to make New Year’s resolutions.  What is the point, I don’t smoke, and I am not giving up anything else. I thought I was set for the year, then the first mail delivery of 2010 arrived, and with it, the latest bank statement. And I stopped breathing, just for a minute.

Now, many of my mates will tell you that they have seen me do the happy dance over a bargain.  Mr Dear Husband is of the opinion that it wouldn’t matter how much money I had, I would still be happiest digging to the bottom of the bargain bin.  He is right.  To a point.  I had a lot of fun over Christmas, so much so, that now my bank balance has balance-anorexia.

Ma Kettle

Time to pull in the belt.  Start keeping those nasty dried up end bits of bread that nobody ever wants to eat.  Making my own candles, and saving the little pieces of soap that end up in the shower recess.  Not that I know what the hell I am going to do with bread and soap bits? Might have to learn to sew… oh God, even worse, I might need to learn to knit!  Have never been able to sit still long enough to do those things well.

This morning, Miss Eight was complaining about having to put on her boots to walk to school, and out of my mouth came these words:

“Well, I suppose you could go barefoot, through the snow, and just pop your feet into the warm cowpats along the way.” She was no amused.

I suspect I am about to turn into Ma Kettle.  Pa, Paaa, PAAAAAAA!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Miss LuLu’s feeling for snow…

“Advice is like snow; the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into, the mind.”  Samuel Taylor Coleridge

If you grew up in Sydney, or spent most of your adult life in Asia or the Middle East, then snow is something you still find enchanting.  Well I did, until everyone left after Christmas and today arrived.

We have a thick blanket of snow on the ground here and a steady –3 degrees.  The snow makes everything look wonderful, even the garbage bins look sweet.  My unfinished efforts in the garden seem just right with a blanket of white.  The trees that didn’t get trimmed last Autumn, weigh heavy, dragged down by their powdery load.

But today, it was the first day of something resembling normal life.  Mr Dear Husband was shipped back to his place of endeavours, where we hope he will earn enough money to pay for our holiday festivities.  Those stragglers still hanging on, were loaded into the Outlaws car and sent on their way to a day of sledding.  Me, I considered going back to bed, then decided that perhaps it would be a good idea to check the laundry…. BIG MISTAKE!  any visions of flopping on the sofa and staring dreamily out the window were blown to smithereens.

The next shock was my storage cellar… empty.  The fridge, empty, the cupboards, empty… and so it was that I was forced outdoors.  And this is where the fun started.  A simple trip to the supermarket, when snow is involved, takes a level of military planning that I was just not ready for.  We won’t talk about the windshield scrapper that seems to have mysteriously disappeared (can you say Mr Dear Husband?) or the bollocking I got from the Father Outlaw when he discovered that we didn’t have any window anti-freeze in the house.  I am sure it was on a shopping list at some stage… some where… who knows!

It took me 20 minutes to get the car out of the driveway.  By the time I had cleared the snow off the car, scraped the windows, shovelled the snow away from the back of the car, and cleared my front path… I was sweating like Rambo under-fire, but my toes and fingers where turning black with frostbite.

The supermarket car park was just as much fun.  A choice of driving over huge mountains of snow, or parking in a lake of grey slush.  And I didn’t have a Euro coin to put in the slot to get a shopping cart.  All the time there was a little voice in my head saying… “Hmmm didn’t you just say you loved living in Germany?  Isn’t this the year that you embrace life and run with the bulls?” 

At about the same time I was searching my pockets to find a coin that would save me from doing the shopping as a juggling act, I noticed a man talking to his bicycle.  First to his bicycle lock, then to his shopping bag, and inside the store I saw him select a loaf of bread, give it a hearty kiss…then do a little jig.

He seemed pretty happy and normal to me.

I want to be that guy… just today, just until I find my feet again.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

My Love Affair

“I love being married. It's so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.”  Rita Rudner

My favourite thoughts are the ones that catch me when I least expect.  Cleaning out the lint filter of the dryer, and suddenly from nowhere, you start thinking about the boy that sat next to you in the 3rd grade, who always seem to smell like caramel.

Or likewise, trying to drown out the sound of the extended family, as we are packed into a mini van, hurtling along an Autobahn… it suddenly occurred to me that I was in love.  I had given my heart away, and didn’t even realise it.

It has taken me over twenty years to acknowledge this, and it has not always been an easy path.  There were times when the hatred I felt for this ‘new love’ could have outshone the blitz from a nuclear bomb drop.  There were many times that I would dip my big toe into it, feel the temperature, and decide to leave it well alone.  But this ‘love’ persevered until it captured me. We would cast shy glances, under our lashes.  We would bicker, we would make up.

This love is called Germany.

The good lord knows that I have resisted with all my might.  I have vocalized my dissent to all and sundry.  You may have seen me?  I was the wild haired girl that skipped through customs at Frankfurt Airport, grinning like a village idiot, filled with the sheer relief that I felt about being able to leave Germany behind… racing off to some place more exotic. 

People asked me all the time, “Wouldn’t you like to live here?” My reply did nothing help gender relationships, “I would rather stick Ebola laced needles in my eyes that live here.”  It stopped them in their tracks, they never asked me again.

It was a small child that brought my secret love to light.  The smallest of all the ‘guests’.  With her tiny hand tucked into mine, we spent Christmas striding through castles and snow… up hills and along over bridges, until one day, she turned her dear sweet little face up to mine, and with her squeaky voice (sort of like Mickey Mouse after sucking on a helium balloon) she asked me, “Aunty Lulu, do you know EVERYTHING about Germany?”

IMG_7081And it struck me, that I had been talking incessantly, constantly telling little anecdotes and stories.  Pointing out hills and houses, giving lectures on the history of everything from cemeteries to churches.  I was, in fact, doing exactly what a woman does when she is in love.  Talking non stop.

We have an uneasy love, Germany & I, but I believe that this is the place that I am meant to be.  And like all relationships, we will need to find a way to live together in harmony.  Right now, Germany has on its most beautiful dress, a thick blanket of crisp, cold snow.  And a quiet calm that is just what the doctor ordered.


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