Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Have received a rather chilling description of seven to nine centimetre cockroaches in South Africa which at night, while you’re asleep, aim for moist areas such as your mouth… and since they go really flat when you step on them you have to add a bit of ‘scrunch’ to kill and hope to succeed. A big thanks to Brynjar for that mental image. And I have now managed to make myself feel really queasy. And I decided to share it all with you. Don’t you love me?

That aside, I’m off to Coimbra tomorrow morning. That is in Portugal. And no, I didn’t know that either until I was told. My mother claimed it didn’t exist as she’d never heard of it and it has never occurred in any of her crosswords and she is all-knowing. Just like me. It’s a business trip so there won’t be much time to look around, but I’m looking forward to it all the same. I’ll be computer-less for nearly 4 glorious days. So I’ll bring my latest miserable book to read: “Wir sind die Liebermanns”, the family history of a wealthy Jewish family from Berlin, as many generations back as the author managed to find information about. Oh yes, I know how to have a good time.

(Kevin is trying to distract me with some chocolates we were given on our belated Burns Night. Handmade. From Holland. And yes, they really are heavenly. And the radio is streaming over the internet; Old Harry’s Game — the best comedy show ever. Apart from the other good ones. Such as Dad’s Army. And Sorry, I haven’t a clue. I could go on. No? Oh, ok.)

Oh well, better get back to the packing. Something I always do last second. Very bad habit, that. But what could I possibly need?


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The cockroach walk

I just don’t get it.

News staff sacked after insect invasion

Turkmenistan President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov fired 30 employees of the main state television channel after a cockroach crawled across the studio desk during the 9pm news programme, Vatan, the news website Kronika Turkmenistan reported on 21 February.”

After reading about this in both Index on Censorship and The Guardian, I still don’t get the ‘how’ or ‘why’ and exactly what people at the news station were sacked. There is just something in the way it is worded that explains exactly nothing. Am I responsible for the (possible) cockroaches at work too…? Will CH sack me if he sees one? Is my livelihood at stake, my life, my sanity? (Hey! No sniggering!) If one cockroach can topple 30 people at a news station, what can happen to me?

I am worried.

I will never forget the first time I saw a cockroach. Actually, I will never forget the first time I saw a carpet of cockroaches. A live, shiny brown carpet. It was in Texas, in Houston to be exact, in the suburb Katy to be even more exact, and the eternal summer was finally over and it was getting a tinsy bit colder at night. So the cockroaches took shelter. In the garage. And when Barbara and I opened the garage door in the morning, the entire floor parted like the Red sea in front of Moses. Except it was brown. And you could hear their little legs on the floor as they streamed off in all directions. I still shudder to think about it. Did you know that they smell when you step on them? Just thought I’d share that.

But I still don’t get the why or how 30 people could get sacked over one. And I still don’t get how nobody saw it, and how not a single person did what I would have done; jumped up on a chair and just screamed because that always really helps. At least that would have been a good YouTube moment.

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Let this be a lesson

It is not a good idea to organise a belated Burns Night on a Sunday. There is alcohol involved. Including in the haggis.

I’ve spent all day trying to feel better, I’ve even been desperate enough to drink HERBAL TEA.

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Looking forward to some top-notch misery

Got this wonderful e-mail from Tina today:


How are you doing? Well, I sort of know, thanks to your wonderful blog, but I’ve become so f****ing British I can’t start an email without asking that.

Where was I? Oh yes, complimenting you on the blog, it’s great! Haven’t really had a chance to keep up with it but recently started catching up with this year’s posts, so there. I saw you’re looking for German language books, preferably containing lots misery. Well, I’ve got a few I can recommend, though I’m not sure if they can live up to your personal “misery scale”, because I like to read books that have funny or “uplifting” (what a stupid word) elements too, so there- take it or leave it. Here is the vote of the ex-pat Austrian jury:

Stefanie Zweig: “Nirgendwo in Afrika” (autobiographical story about a Jewish family emigrating to Kenya in the nick of time)- if you like this there’s also a 2nd part: “Irgendwo in Deutschland”, when they return to Germany after the war (I think this one’s higher in the misery department!); She’s also written other good semi- autobiographical books, but these are my favourites.

Then there’s of course Stefan Zweig (no relation of her’s) with the famous “Schachnovelle” (more Nazis) and plenty of other things, very good.

High in the misery department is the fictional “Die Wand” by Marlene Haushofer (a woman wakes up one morning realising she is separated from the rest of the world by a wall of glass).

Another favourite of mine is Hermann Hesse, e.g., “Narziss und Goldmund” or “Demian” (one of the few books I had to read at school and enjoyed).

Then of course there is plenty more by Duerrenmatt, e.g. “Der Richter und sein Henker”.

Another great book is “Das Dschungelkind” by Sabine Kuegler, a stunning autobiography. Lot’s of things have been said to describe this book, none of them do it justice. And for a really depressing read get the “sequel”, “Ruf des Dschungels”, about internationally ignored genocide (nothing new there). These books are very different but both excellent, in my humble opinion.

Oh, and since we seem to share a love for all creatures canine, many years ago I got a book by Werner Freund, a German who reared a pack of wolves in an isolated forest, with lots of photos. It’s a very long time since I read it but it left a great impression on me.

Will that do for now? Let me know if you read any of these and what you think, maybe I can recommend more (or maybe we realise I should refrain from doing so…).

Enjoy, and keep up the good blog work!

Tina x”

Tina; you’re a star! You’ve got me completely worked out. Can’t wait to go use our new library card to see how many of these I can find. I guess the rest will just have to come from Amazon, unless some can be found through bookcrossing.

And yes, I kept the nice bits about the blog in because I’m a sucker for compliments.

And now I’m going to go back to the TV to watch in fascinated horror one of the scariest things on TV. Eddie Murphy as Dr. Dolittle, dubbed into German. I don’t know which part of that sentence scares me the most.

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Just rediscovered this ‘Letter to America’ on this blog. It’s been going around for several years now, but it’s still worth passing on as it contains a number of — uhm — truths, shall we say?

“Dear Citizens of America,
In view of your failure to elect a competent President and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately. Her Sovereign Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories (except Kansas, which she does not fancy), as from Monday next.

Your new prime minister, Gordon Brown, will appoint a governor for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. You should look up ‘revocation’ in the Oxford English Dictionary. Then look up ‘aluminium’ and check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it.

2. The letter ‘U’ will be reinstated in words such as ‘colour’, ‘favour’ and ‘neighbour.’ Likewise, you will learn to spell ‘doughnut’ without skipping half the letters, and the suffix ‘ize’ will be replaced by the suffix ‘ise’.

3. You will learn that the suffix ‘burgh’ is pronounced ‘burra’; you may elect to spell Pittsburgh as ‘Pittsberg’ if you find you simply can’t cope with correct pronunciation.

4. Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels (look up ‘vocabulary’). Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as ‘like’ and ‘you know’ is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication.

5. There is no such thing as ‘US English’. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter ‘u’ and the elimination of ‘-ize’.

6. You will relearn your original national anthem, ‘God Save The Queen’, but only after fully carrying out Task #1 (see above).

7. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday. November 2nd will be a new national holiday, but to be celebrated only in England. It will be called ‘Come-Uppance Day’.

8. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you’re not adult enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you’re not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you’re not grown up enough to handle a gun.

9. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. A permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

10. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and this is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean.

11. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric immediately and without the benefit of conversion tables… Both roundabouts and metrification will help you understand the British sense of humour.

12. The Former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling ‘gasoline’) — roughly $8/US per gallon. Get used to it.

13. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call french fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called ‘crisps’. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catchup but with malt vinegar.

14. Waiters and waitresses will be trained to be more aggressive with customers.

15. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as ‘beer’ and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as ‘Lager’. American brands will be referred to as ‘Near-Frozen Gnat’s Urine’ so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.

16. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors as English characters. Watching Andie MacDowell attempt English dialogue in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ was an experience akin to having one’s ear removed with a cheese grater.

17. You will cease playing American ‘football’. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it ‘soccer’. Those of you brave enough, in time, will be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American ‘football’, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of Jessies – English slang for ‘Big Girls Blouse’).

18. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the ‘World Series’ for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable and forgiven.

19. You must tell us who killed JFK. It’s been driving us mad.

20. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty’s Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due, backdated to 1776.

Thank you for your co-operation.

John Cleese”

If it wasn’t John Cleese who wrote it, who did? Not that I’m going to lose any sleep over the question, but whoever you are — very good. From what I can see right off, it’s been updated to accommodate the changeover from Tony Blair to Gordon Brown. And point 11. is clearly not something he would say. We’re still grappling with the introduction of the metric system, and Kevin is totally refusing to have anything to do with it and speaks in yards and (English) miles, pounds, stone and ounces as the good Brit that he is.

That aside… we just had another Kevin-moment here. And our cordless kettle is no more. We were having lunch, then Kevin wandered into the kitchen and… he’d carefully placed the (plastic) cordless kettle on the (turned off but still hot) electric hob. It looks kind of interesting. Has a nice circular pattern of an electric hotplate melted into the base, and I’m still scraping the hotplate free of blue plastic. Of course, once he managed to prize the thing off the hob, he subsequently turned it upside down to assess the damage and poured the contents all over the place. I LOVE THAT MAN! Never a dull moment. Who needs John Cleese, eh?

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A little nothing about something in Vienna

My walk to work goes across the Naschmarkt, and this is the exact point where I cross each morning. I don’t come back the same route. Don’t know why. Maybe there’s something wrong with me. You can tell the picture was taken in the morning as there’s daylight in it.


I am bored with winter, but this morning (the above was taken last week — with my mobile phone; a fact I am extremely proud of. Yes, you may feel sorry for me for being proud of being able to take pictures with my mobile phone. That’s the kind of sad person I am. There are other things in life to be proud of more deserving than mobile phones, but I have no dog — KEVIN, I HAVE NO DOG! GUESS WHAT YOU CAN GET ME FOR ANY TIME YOU FEEL LIKE GETTING ME SOMETHING! For Valentines he got me yellow roses and tulips and a frog-card. Very nice, but NOT A DOG. The stripe across the top is a power line, so I left it in.)
— anyway, this morning I stepped into a blizzard as I left for work. So don’t think for a second that winter is over.


But now I must go. There’s a double birthday party celebration taking place at the IT, and I am both duty bound to attend as well as in charge of the presents from me and Kevin. I must say I have outdone myself in tastelessness… I’m not sure I can go into all the details of these parties here; there are those who might not appreciate it… let me think about it and get back to you. They’re — uhm — possibly not possible to describe. Will get back to you on that one too.

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Wanna see my stamp collection?

The lamest pick-up line in history. But — I just love the fact that there is still a place for stamps and that we get them regularly here at work. Aren’t these just lovely? I must admit I find the ones from Bosnia Hercegovina a real treat. Look closely. You have the pretty ones with the deer, right? And then there’s one that looks a little like an obscure Christmas Yule decoration. And then — then you have potatoes and garlic. Potatoes. And Garlic. That sort of thing tells you a lot about a country. Kevin would stand a 50/50 chance of happiness; he just loves potatoes, but totally abhors garlic.

The Estonian ones are perhaps a li’l more ordinary, but pretty all the same.


And what I do with them is, I cut them off the envelopes, rubber stamp included, and send them to my mum. She told me she collects them and donates them to charity, but I suspect she has them all stashed away somewhere in a secret bank box.

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