I need to get serious for a few minutes. It’s something that I do on here from time to time.
I try to be honest I really do. I try to help people and give them my real opinions when they ask for them. Genuine advice, with no agenda (even if it hurts me personally sometimes).
If I say I am going to do something, be somewhere, help someone…I always follow through.
I mean, OK, I did have a few years where I made excuses and didn’t take up invitations…but sometimes you don’t want to do something and don’t want to hurt peoples feelings..that’s OK right?
Normally, when people get to know me, they know that they can rely on my word, my honesty, my commitment.
I don’t lie. It’s a point of pride for me. So is trust. I need to know that I can trust people and it’s important to me that people feel that they can trust me. I work at it every day, with people in the office and friends at home, to make sure that they feel I can be trusted. I am often asked for advice, spoken to in confidence and people do this knowing that I will never betray that confidence.
In years gone by I have been guilty of manipulation. It’s not something I am proud of, but it allows me a certain level of understanding of when people are trying that with me, or indeed others.
Life is a learning experience, you take what happens to you, what happens to those you care about, and you make things better for you and your loved ones.
I have a lot of friends and very few enemies.
In short, I am trustworthy and honest, to a fault sometimes. Someone you can rely on.
So why is it, when I say I am not going out this weekend…
NOONE FUCKING BELIEVES ME!!!
I will state it here once more, I am definitely not going out this weekend.
Well, maybe tomorrow for a couple, but definitely not tonight..
So, back in the day as a younger, more simple soul…I would fall in love with monotonous regularity. I am pretty sure that teenagers the world over suffer from this. Especially hormone riddled males of the species.
When you became besotted with a particular person, you would go pretty far in your own little pursuit of happiness. With that in mind, and trying to forget the fact that I seem to have regressed to this exact stage recently, I bring you a tale of 15 year old Dave, overcome with desire for a particular 16 year old lady.
The first thing you should know about me, I never really had any desire to join the Armed Forces. I lived the life, enjoyed the perks and ignored the dangers, but it was never really in my foreseeable future to join up. I had plans, such grand plans and the Armed Forces were never going to do it for me.
So you can imagine the surprise expressed by my parents, when I came home one day and let them know that I was joining the A.T.C. (Air Training Corps). The A.T.C is essentially the Junior Air Force without all that pesky war zone stuff. You would do drills, learn marksmanship, team activities and a whole host of other stuff. You also wore, what was essentially, the RAF Uniform.
I think they assumed it would be good for me and would help me become a better person or something. Which meant that they didn’t really question me. This was good, as I hadn’t really been able to formulate an excuse for wanting to join up. Don’t get me wrong, it had some nice side benefits. My Dad showing me how to polish your boots properly and press your uniform in that “Just Right” fashion that is expected of those wearing it, was great. Quality time with Dad, check. Becoming a Marksman with a variety of weapons was also fun. I did actually have a good time when I got there…but my reasoning may have raised an eyebrow or two in my general direction. I’ll take you back a few weeks before I walk through the door and announce my intentions to join up.
It is a few weeks earlier and I am at school with mates…
Friend 1: “You doing anything this half-term then?”
Me: “Don’t think so, Dad has to work, so we are deffo staying here”
Friend 2: “Same here, anything going on?”
Friend 1: “ATC have their weekend BBQ and Party. Doesn’t help you two though”
Me / Friend 2: “Party?? What Party??”
Friend 1: “They do it every year. Camp out for 3 days and do a massive BBQ Party. Music and the whole thing. You can take your own tent or share one of the massive ones”
Me: “Amanda (Can’t remember her actual name…sorry) is in the ATC right?”
Friend 1: “Oh dear…yes, yes she is”
Friend 2: “Dave, where are you going?”
Me: “Joining up, you coming?”
You needed to be a member for a while before they would allow you to the party. They didn’t want people just joining up for the BBQ weekend and then leaving you see. So the timing of the conversation was good as it meant I joined up just before the cut off time. What it meant, however, was that I had a few months of ATC’ing to do before the party. As I already said, it definitely had its benefits, and I did actually enjoy it…but I always knew I was only going to be there until after the party.
So, did it work? Well, yes and no. We got together on the weekend of the party and then had a blissful month together before we both “fell in love” again and went our separate ways.
I do know that I took my own tent, I also know that we had a moment of terror when they came around shining torches on the walls of the tents to make sure that the hormonal teenagers were actually asleep and, more importantly, alone.
I also know that I left the A.T.C about a week after Amanda and I broke up.
Totally worth it though.
So, in the past, I may have alluded to my morals taking a little while to develop.
It is fair to say that, as a young teenager, living on RAF bases around the world and being lucky enough to have access to amazing facilities, I was your fairly typical privileged git. I don’t think I was a bad person, but I did take a lot of stuff for granted that I most definitely wouldn’t today.
Anyhoo, when you are of that age and at a good level of privilege, you tend to think of yourself as 1) Invincible and 2) The center of the known universe. This can lead to behavioural “quirks”, shall we say.
My quirk was to be something of a “prankster” I suppose. Although I didn’t prank for the yuks, I pranked for personal gain. Namely, getting out of school early (with yuks along the way of course).
Now, these things happened a very very long time ago, I am not this person now and, more importantly, I sincerely hope the statute of limitations has expired…so, here we go.
I’ll start off a little light. Some of you will be content to read this, and then ignore the rest of the post. “That’s not too bad” you might say, “We still like you”. Ahh, hope springs eternal.
Early Leadership Skills Demonstration
I think this is still pretty standard but, before you get to choose your “options” (the lessons you intend to take exams in”, you are forced to live through years and years of lessons that have been forced upon you. Maths and English were clear along with Sports and Science. Unfortunately for me, Religious Studies was also thrust upon me like a Catholic Priest with a packet of Smarties.
Now, to suggest I am not religious is an understatement akin to “Donald Trump is not always respectful to women”, so imagine my joy at having an hour of my life taken from me, multiple times per week.
I should point out that, from my perspective, this all started when I told the teacher that I disagreed with being in the class on “religious grounds”, seeing as I had none. Her reaction did not leave me with the feeling that I was being taken seriously.
I decided to take action. To begin with, a subversive action. I started to get the rest of my scholarly colleagues riled up about being forced to go to this class and, after a few more lessons, I made my move.
I staged a walk-out in the middle of the lesson. Everybody followed. It was perfect and I managed to reign in the desire to just walk off the school premises and into the victorious sunset. Instead, I got everyone to sit on the steps just outside the classroom window.
The teachers response, after she collected herself, was fairly predictable. “Detention” she cried. I must confess that at this point, my colleagues were nervous. Detention was during breaks for us, and none of us wanted to miss out on those. So, grasping the momentum, I decided that we wouldn’t do detention either. Nor the next detention that was set for us and we would all enjoy ourselves in the quad when the lesson was supposed to take place. In the end, I was “invited” to the headmasters office for, what felt like, negotiations. These talks ended in an accord. I would ensure that the class would be full of attentive students, the religious studies teacher would allow the lesson to be a discussion of religion in general and the headmaster would not suspend me and/or involve my parents.
I probably should have gone into politics.
An “Alarming” Turn of Events
So, occasionally, we didn’t want to be in class. This happened a little more frequently when I first got to a new school once. I was never stupid, but I was lazy and, to that end, this meant ensuring that I was in a high enough class level to get decent grades, but not so high that I was expected to do anything spectacular. Back then, when you arrived at a new school, you would take a series of tests that would determine your class level for various subjects and I was always very careful to put myself on the top end of the middle.
This meant that I could sail through most tasks, looking good, with very little effort. Unfortunately, when I arrived at this particular school for my tests, I wasn’t paying attention and did the first test properly. I rallied on the rest but the damage was done…top class for English. I then spent the next 6 months trying to get kicked down a level or two to resume my laziness. I was ultimately successful, but not before I had discovered the remedy to hard work.
It was a pretty old school with, importantly, very old fire alarms. None of this break glass and push a hi-tec button malarkey. No no no, ours were the old school and Frankenstein’esque lever jobbies. Whilst fecking around with one in the hallway, I noticed that there was a balancing point where it would either try and continue it’s journey into the on position, or go back to the safety of the off position. Thing is, it took anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute to decide.
Thus began English lesson escape gambling. Hands would be held in the air, toilet breaks would be requested, the fire alarm lever would be primed and seats retaken whilst work resumed. If, after 5 minutes, nothing had happened, someone else would request a toilet break and it would begin again.
I am not sure if they ever figured out why the alarm would go off every couple of days in the same hallway, at roughly the same time (you know, give or take 30 minutes).
Now, the next two stories are going to make me sound like a dick…one of them especially…but you really have to understand what we forces kids considered to be normal, daily, life.
I lived on or around airbases from as early as I can remember until I was about 16. Now, as good as the life was, and you will rarely hear me talk badly of it, it did have it’s associated dangers. Growing up, the troubles in Northern Ireland were an ever present mention on the news. Part of that situation that spilt over was the targeting of military personnel, not just in Northern Ireland. For us, that meant that the gate guards had to carry very dangerous weaponry with live and substantially more dangerous ammunition.
Alert levels dictated our lives to a certain extent. My favourite (wrong word) story to tell of the time is when we were living off-base in a housing estate dedicated to service personnel, but about 15 minutes from the actual base. Pretty much in the middle of normal residential areas and, of course, not protected in any way shape or form. Due to this we had, just inside our doorway, a long stick with a car wing mirror attached to it. Every time we wanted to get into the car, Dad got the stick and checked for bombs….under our car…outside our house. You get the point.
The thing is, it would be easy to play that down. You could be forgiven for thinking that this was protocol and that we were under no real danger. Thing is, the British Military in Germany were being quite heavily targeted at the time. Far too many good people had their lives abruptly cut short by bombings and, whilst we didn’t have any where we were, approximately 2 hours down the road definitely did. These were very real issues.
Thing is, it was also perfectly normal. So normal that I would ask my Dad if I could do the mirror check today and then get all stroppy when he wouldn’t let me. We would often be on the school bus, get stopped at the gate, and have armed soldiers with live weaponry walk onto and around the bus, with sniffer dogs, checking for bombs and people that shouldn’t have been there. We would be messing with these guys and moving the barrel out of the way of our faces so that we could keep playing 52 card pickup or raps on some unsuspecting soul. I am not saying we didn’t take these things seriously but you adjust really quickly. Some things that would terrify most people became a part of every day life so, you just get on with it.
Anyway, that disclaimer out of the way, I will give you first a story of my stupidity where I paid for it and then a story of my stupidity, where I probably should have paid for it.
You didn’t think that through did you?
This one isn’t really about getting out of anything early, but it could also be called “You should know better”. We were back in the UK and I was hanging around with good bunch of guys on a base that was almost entirely dedicated to Officer training. This meant we had a few extra facilities that other, nearby, bases did not. The biggest one was a pool. This meant that people of our age group from other bases would be regularly transported to our base to use the pool for a few hours.
As is fairly normal from 2 bases, rivalry was often quite intense and it was so in this case. This meant that they had issue with us and we with them. Their technique was to try and hit us with something (often a fight) just as their bus was due to arrive, leaving them to leg it to their bus and us to get in the shite. After a reasonable amount of getting us in trouble, enough was enough, so a plan was hatched. We would allow them to kick off and run, but would not engage. Instead, we would all head to cars and chase them back to their base. We had assumed, wrongly as it turned out, that they would all live in accessible parts of their base like we did.
So they kick off, we let it happen, we all run to the cars and follow their bus, waiting for them to start dropping people off outside of the base. Unfortunately, their bus pulled up to the gates as we pulled in across the road from the gates. The guards got on the bus and we could see a lot of gesticulation in our general area, so we legged it back home. I pointed my fingers in a gun like pose and pulled the non-existent trigger in the general direction of the bus.
As we all get back to our base, and are standing around the cars having a laugh and a joke, we are surrounded by both military and civilian police cars. I am grabbed and slung in the back of a police car and so are a number of my friends.
Turns out, and unbeknownst to me, the moment I chose to pull my little finger gun maneuver, was the precise moment that one of the (heavily armed) soldiers was walking over to have a word with us. Accordingly, I was actually lucky to only be arrested as opposed to being shot.
My Dad was given no small amount of embarrassment and I was in considerable trouble for threatening a member of the military.
So, karma won that one….
You reeeaaaallly wanted to get out of class didn’t you?
Going to military schools means that you have a lot of friends that don’t always live around the corner. So, sleepovers tend to involve packing bags, getting on a different buses and travelling quite a distance. So, an excited Dave was happy to be spending the weekend at a friends some hours away from home and had taken his bag to school with him.
Obviously I had packed (or mum had packed for me) some clothes for the weekend, my toothbrush, a towel and, as you do when you know you are going to have to get up on Monday morning a lot earlier than normal…your alarm clock. So imagine my joy when, during our break, the alarms start going off in the school and we are all told to gather at the evacuation point. You see, it had happened before and it meant that we were going to be asked to go home early. Previously, they keep us in the evacuation point until they can get the buses to turn up and then we are all shuffled off.
Unfortunately, this time, that was not to be. We were all kept for a very fidgety hour while something was brought out and exploded in a controlled manner. Just before they covered it, and blew it up, a mate of mine pointed out that it looked remarkably like my bag.
Turns out, a teacher had seen my bag under a desk, heard the alarm clock ticking, panicked and called the Bomb Squad.
Fast forward a couple of years and the winter days are dragging. On a Thursday, a few of us are talking about how great it would be to get home early. I hatched a plan so cunning you could stick a tail on it and call it a weasel.
When I got home, I packed a bag, complete with alarm clock..
I figured a repeat of my accidental bomb evacuation was called for. So, I took the bag and left it under a desk before morning break and waited. Nothing happened. Noone noticed anything untoward and we were all, quite blatantly still in lessons.
It get’s to the lunch break with nothing having happened and so I decide to act. I found a teacher near where the bag was placed and simply asked if they knew whose bag it was. The teacher, very calmly, shooed me out of the building and initiated the alarm. 15 minutes later and we are all at the evacuation point. I was feeling more than a little smug at this point.
A few of the lads were happy with me. Sure it was fecking freezing, but it was only a matter of time before we were sent home.
An hour later, the smiles had pretty much gone, we were all freezing our tits off and a van arrived. The Bomb Squad proceeded to take something out of the van. It appeared to be a half-assembled Robot Wars reject. They then spent the next 40 minutes finishing the assembly. The smiles had now completely gone and some of them had turned into sneers. I was starting to feel pretty uncomfortable as well as freezing fucking cold.
Once assembled and tested (another 15 minutes) and the guy with a giant remote control steps up and throws the thing into high gear and things are starting to look up again. Sure, when the alert was triggered we were looking to be out of there 4 hours early and when the robot started moving, we were still looking at 2 hours early, so not bad.
Unfortunately, there then began the worlds longest waiting game. One of the things about remote controlled bomb disposal robots, one of the MOST IMPORTANT things, is that they are designed to be able to pickup packages in a safe and steady manner. This means that they do not shake about, lurch about or…….MOVE QUICKLY. 30 minutes after it started moving, it reached the door to the building. 30 minutes more and it collected the package. Almost an hour after that it had managed to bring the package out and deliver it to a zone full of people in heavy full body armour and carrying controlled explosion stuff.
We were now looking at leaving on-time. Which, considering we had been out of class the whole afternoon, I was still choosing to view as a win. My friends (although it may have been a stretch to call them that at this point) were not so enamoured with spending 4 hours outside if the freezing German winter.
Sadly it was not to be. The controlled explosion took another hour to setup and a further 45 minutes to check the whole thing and clear up before we were allowed to move towards our buses. So, my efforts to leave 4 hours early on a Friday afternoon, led to us leaving 2 hours late on a Friday evening…
Not my finest hour.
Well, certainly clearer than it has been for a little while. Although, if you listen carefully through the night, you could be forgiven for thinking that my apartment is ground zero in the origins story for The Walking Dead. It starts off innocuous enough, a sniffle here, a minor coughette there and, before you know it, “BRAAAAAINS” or something.
What the fuck are you talking about Dave? Man Flu.
I know, people thought it had been eradicated but the large red X that has been painted on my front door, along with food delivery drivers turning up in Hazmat suits, suggests otherwise.
Women will never be able to understand the plague that is Man Flu. A singularly sexist disease that targets the strongest amongst us and returns us to the state of mewling babes. I mean sure, they have Child Birth and the monthly Visit*, but nothing to the level of Man Flu.
Man Flu attacks the brain and disables the Fuckula Givelongata. Whilst recently under the control of Man Flu, I manage to use the Fuckenstien Giveafuckometer and I honestly thought it was broken as it did not even flicker. Subsequent tests with less accurate devices such as the Giveashitometer and even the very basic Offyourarseoscope and I realised how serious a bout of Man Flu I had contracted. After failing to make a difference with the Impetus Grantus**, I quickly employed the Refuckulator*** but, unfortunately, this did not have the expected results and I was forced to conclude that I was not long for this world.
What was a boy to do? I made an announcement on Facebook. Let’s face it, if it isn’t on there then it’s pointless. I have to say that my heart was warmed by the outpouring of sympathy from the people there. They only had one concern and it fair made my day (to be honest, I feel like it probably made my hole weak) and that was, of course, for the well being of..well…all my stuff. Within minutes, my PC, Recipes, Cakes and even my beloved fitness equipment was already allocated out.
Readying myself to pull the plug and allow the Man Flu to finally consume me, a shining beacon of hope appeared. IAP. She had heard the call and, while she couldn’t hope to understand the suffering, dipped into her Gypsy handbook and sent unto me the only known antidote to Man Flu….Jewish Penicillin. Sure enough and a day later, I was cured.
I realise that I will have to purchase many many sprigs of heather to absolve myself of this debt, lest I be cursed to have all of my MP3s become Baby by Justin Bieber, but it is a price worth paying and I will gladly do so. For Man Flu is not to be trifled with and you can’t always have Gypsy Witchcraft on your side.
I was lucky, you may not be…so pay attention and avoid drafts.
This post has been brought to you by the letters M and I and S and O and…fuck it…it was brought to you with Misogyny Ok, misogyny and a large amount of cheek based tongueness.
*Can we please just address the elephant in the room btw. How the hell is it possible for a creature to bleed for 7 days without becoming an ex-creature. ‘Tis the devils work I tells ya!
** 1 Coffee and a cigarette
** Complicated to explain, but contains at least 2 coffees and a cigarette
So…a recent request to, *ahem* “Enhance”, my (almost) famous brownies has reminded me of a story that I haven’t told before.
I was working as an IT contractor in Cardiff. This was in the run up to Y2K. For those of you that don’t remember, Y2K was a potential disaster. Planes were going to fall out of the sky, power stations were going to explode, nuclear reactors would lose control, the tills in McDonalds would make every order a Fillet O’ Fish.
The world, in short, was going to come to a rapid and abrupt end. All because of the little issue of computer dates being stored with a 2 digit year. Personally, I wasn’t concerned about the world ending, but I was not above milking the issue for all it was worth. Hence, I was working for a bank in Cardiff, replacing all of their computer systems with the new fangled 4 digit year based ones and my bank balance with a few more digits again.
This meant a lot of time away from home, living in a B&B all week. Now, when I wasn’t submitting invoices with totals that most people thought were my phone number, I was partying….hard…in Cardiff. We were a fairly small group that were all
fleecing reasonably charging the bank for our efforts and Cardiff can be quite the party town. So, we partied. A lot.
A few stories spring to mind. but I do have a couple of faves. The first of which revolves around AJ. AJ is (we lost touch unfortunately) a top top top fella. A good laugh and a genuine person.
AJ had, however, 2 minor flaws. #1 His love for the weed and #2 His love for the Vauxhall Calibra. Now, #1 is not really a flaw and I will get into that later, but #2 is where we are right now.
He decided, after putting in an invoice for about 4 hours work, to use that money and buy himself his dream car. A Vauxhall Calibra 4×4 2.0 Turbo. Full leather everything, all the mod cons of the time and more power than a powery thing with power written on it.
Now the problem with leather seats is that they are shiny and often a bit on the slidey side. We had been bowling for the evening (I know, living the high life right) and AJ had insisted on taking the car. CP had called shotgun and so I ended up in the back seat. I don’t fully recall the reason, but I did not have my seat belt on. Maybe it was faulty, maybe I was just being a moron, but whatever the reason, I was not strapped in when I really should have been.
After a period of mockery over AJs car decision making skills from both myself and CP, AJ was determined to demonstrate the power of this beast. It was quite late and we were on the Newport Road, which is both long and straight (ladies!). AJ floored it. The car reacted as though it had, indeed, been floored. And shot off like your bowels the morning after a particularly vicious lentil curry. I was forced back into my seat and the lack of a seat belt was no longer an issue worth contemplating. The problem with Newport Road, however, is that as you get closer to the city center, it stops being straight and, in fact, goes into a single lane sharp (75 degree’ish) left turn. AJ saw the turn up ahead and started to slow down. That said, we are at this point, doing around 95Mph with the turn rapidly approaching. AJ braces himself for what is coming, CP grabs the door handle and braces himself. My problem in the back seat became quickly apparent. Not only was I not strapped in, there were no rear doors (and therefore no handles).
Thinking quickly, I lay across the back seat and tried to brace my back against the side of the car with my feet pressed as hard as possible into the other side of the car. I felt secure. I felt confident. These feelings were misplaced. AJ had managed to get the car down to around 50Mph at the moment the sharp left could no longer be avoided.
I have to say, I will be forever impressed with that Calibra. It stuck to the road like glue, flew around the sharp turn, stayed on the road and (most importantly) didn’t kill us or anyone else. That’s when AJ started laughing so hard he had to stop the car to compose himself. CP was, understandably confused. When called upon to explain the reason for his mirth, AJ described what he had seen in his rear view mirror at the moment we hit the turn. Basically, he had checked the mirror as we started to turn and had seen my head lurch from one side of the mirror, very quickly, to the other side and then a split second later my head was replaced by my feet. CP turned around to see me, on the opposite side of the car from where I had started….upside down and trying to right myself, whilst crying hysterically with laughter. Ahh fun times.
Now, that story popped into my head whilst I was thinking of #1 from the AJ book of flaws (if you want to call them that).
So AJ was good friends with a certain plant that is known for it’s relaxing properties. CP and I on the other hand were, at best, on polite nodding terms with it. This meant that tolerances were a little different. We decided to give it a go and AJ, being AJ, made us one of his usuals. We devolved rapidly into a giggling mess and headed back to our B&B where we decided to continue along the path we had chosen, whilst watching whatever was on the TV.
I remember this vividly, it was the first screening of the first episode of “The League of Gentlemen”. The town of Royston Vasey was there is all of it’s technicolour bizzareness for us, as relaxed as we were, to enjoy. For any of you that have watched this show without “assistance”, it is fantastic. Funny and Dark…typical British Humour at it’s finest. If you haven’t watched the show, stop reading this immediately and go and watch it. You will love it. Veterinarians, Job Centers, Taxi Cabs and Frog Enthusiasts will never be the same again. With “assistance” it is downright dangerous. If we were giggling before the show, we were close to being hospitalised during it. 30 minutes of laughing so much that we could barely breathe and crying with laughter so we could barely see each other, let alone the TV. Now that I come to think of it, it could well be the reason that I love the show so much.
The show finishes (not that we noticed) and eventually, CP decides to head to his room next to mine and get ready for bed (we did have to work the next morning). Still giggling and trying to brush his teeth. It was that moment that I chose to quote something from the show. I would love to say I remember what I quoted, it was most likely something innocuous like “Mickey Love” “Yes Pauline”.
I could hear that CP started choking. The trouble was, I couldn’t move. The ridiculous noises that he was making started me laughing again. He stopped choking and, about 10 minutes later, was able to explain that the quote I had made had set him off again…the problem was that he was in the middle of brushing his teeth, almost swallowed his toothbrush and spat toothpaste all over the wall/sink/mirror. I think I was still giggling when I woke up the next morning.
So, don’t let anyone tell you it’s not dangerous…it nearly killed CP
Do you really want to hurt me?
Do you really want to make me cry?
To be honest, I am not referring to that particular Culture Club although, now I have started with those lyrics, I cannot for the life of me get the song out of my head.
I was sick for a couple of days last week and it made me realise how living in Germany for almost 11 years has changed me. We have a culture (in my experience) in the UK of not calling in sick. For us it is always better to get to work and be sent home, than it is to call in and say you can’t make it. I am not sure when that trend started. Probably when companies started providing the minimal amount of paid sick leave before slamming people over onto Statutory Sick Pay.
Here in Germany, however, it’s different. The idea of coming to work when you are sick is still a relatively alien concept. “You mean you would consider coming here and making the rest of us sick too? What kind of an animal are you?” seems to be the prevailing thought.
It made me think about other stuff that I accept after 11 years that, were I to head back to Blighty for more than a couple of weeks, I would probably face the biggest culture shock since Keith “Big Balls” Chaverton went on holiday to Spain and didn’t choose a package tour (the humanity, they didn’t even have a Red Lion…or Pie and Mash).
So, in no particular order, my top 4 points of difference:
Not only do we have the “Sick is sick” vs “It’ll look better if the boss sends me home”. We also have the classic sicknote excuses.
In the UK, the staple “I need a day or two off” is the “Bad Back”. In Germany it is Kreislauf (Circulation). Essentially “I’m feeling faint”.
That’s right, apparently Germany is made up of a nation of 1950s female movie stars who swoon at the slightest provocation.
Also, there is a very firm and national belief that drafts are the cause of all colds. Case in point, I was on the train a little while ago during a heatwave. The air conditioning wasn’t working and, as it was a 30 minute journey, I cracked open a window. Blissful air rushed over my glistening face…followed immediately by a blustery woman who slammed the window shut and proceeded to lecture me that she didn’t want to get sick because of my selfishness. I mean, god forbid that air should actually move across you in a cooling motion when you are at your very sweatiest. Ah well.
#2 Personal Space
Now, I am going to be honest here.. I could happily live with reverting to the English style of things. Germans have little to no concept of personal space. They stand so close to you in a queue (I have talked about this before) that I have, on a number of occasions, asked if they would at least take me to dinner first! Leaning across you, standing far to close when talking to you..nothing is taboo.
It’s enough to make your average Brit strap some form of hula hoop based contraption to themselves so as to ensure that they are not violated.
This is probably the biggest difference really. Over here, due to far more relaxed licensing laws, drinking is a more comfortable affair. You see, us Brits think that we have a drinking culture. It’s an oft user misnomer. We don’t have a drinking culture, we have a getting pissed culture and it is a subtle, but distinct, difference.
Germans go out late. So late, in fact, that at the same time in the UK, people are an hour away (at most) from last orders. The difference, therefore, is that in the UK it is often about drinking fast before you are unable to drink anymore. Whereas here, you take your time and if the bar you are in is closing, there is almost always another one to go to. Also, this avoids everyone getting kicked out at the same time and that leads to a lot less drunken brawling.
The nice thing is, you can always spot the groups of Brits…they are the only ones out drinking at 19:00, wondering why they bothered coming to Germany…only to be wrecked by the time the Germans are starting to head out.
The final point for today’s lecture, ladies and gentlemen is a very weird thing and, after over 10 years, something that I am still not fully accustomed to. Brits are, by and large, a friendly and accommodating people. We will invariably go out of our way to help people in need and are polite to the point of pain in most situations. Where we are not good, however, is dealing with strangers in situations where we expect zero interaction.
Let me start you off with an easy example..one to help you understand without making you too uncomfortable.
Now lifts are public things and, in a busy city like Frankfurt, you will rarely end up in one on your own. Doesn’t matter if it is in a shopping center or a car park, it’s a busy place, you are unlikely to be the only person needing a lift. Now, in the UK, it is a perfectly reasonable expectation that interaction with fellow lift travelers will be restricted to a nod and quite possibly a smile. The smile is designed to do 2 things. #1 Acknowledgement…we are nothing if not polite and #2 to let people know we have seen them, should they be harbouring any dark thoughts towards us, we are aware of what they look like. Now, to any right thinking individual, this is perfectly normal and correct.
Not to a German…oh no no nono. To the average German, the lift is the perfect place to strike up a conversation with complete strangers that are just trying to get from floor a to floor z without any social anxiety inducing conversation.
Also, when you are walking around during lunch time, Germans revel in the act of reminding you that it is indeed lunch time. Every single person you meet, that even remotely suspects that you work for the same company, will hit you with “Mahlzeit” (literally, Mealtime) as a greeting. People that would never have spoken to you (apart from in the lift obviously) are now providing you with information you already know ffs. It is made slightly more annoying when you are on your way to a meeting and are, in fact, being forced to skip lunch because of it.
The most heinous of them all, as far as I am concerned, is regarding men in the toilet. Obviously if I could attest to what the women get up to in their toilets, I would be writing this from jail. The urinal serves one major purpose…quick relief. You might also consider a secondary purpose, aiming practice, but generally it is there so that your average Brit can get in, siphon the python (or wring out the worm if you are unlucky in that area) and get the hell out. It is not, I REPEAT NOT, a suitable alternative to whatever passes for the European version of a water cooler. I do not want to shoot the shit, chew the fat, shoot the breeze or any other idiom you want to sling around. My penis is out people. I mean, I hope you aren’t looking and I really don’t want you to but..if I am stood at a urinal, I am definitely there for a single purpose, not because I have some kind of ceramic fixation. There is a time and place for everything…and you have just failed that sentence in every way imaginable.
Finally, to a Brit the toilet cubicle is a private place. You should be alone with your thoughts (and possibly your phone). You should not be forced into have a fucking conversation. Germans do not appreciate this. You are therefore forced to ninja your way into the toilets, unseen by anyone, just to be certain that the next person to walk in, cannot be certain that it is you. Alternatively, and quite possibly dangerously, hold it in until you get home. At least that way you will avoid being forced into discussing the finer points of life whilst trying to surreptitiously (and above all else quietly) lay some cabling.
I would write more but I need the toilet and it’s at least a 30 minute drive home……
…but then again, too few to mention. So sang the maestro and it rings true for me.
I think that most people who know anything about me will agree that 2016 has been, arguably, a year of considerable reflection for me. Not just reflection, but action taken as a result of it too.
Weight loss, friendships, jobs, embracing the German language, who I am, who I want to be and what I want out of life. I have reflected and acted on all of these things since the beginning of the year. I could have wallowed, I think most people would have forgiven me for that. I didn’t, and I am very proud that I didn’t. It really would have been easier, now that I look back, but easy is not the same as good.
I have a deep flaw that lies in over-analysis of situations. Well, I see it as a flaw, others might not, but it tends to lead me to exercising a little too much caution a lot of the time. Over thinking a situation will often cause it to be too late to act when you finally reach a decision (IF you finally reach a decision).
I don’t recall when it happened, but I hit a point where I started to care what people thought of me. Not too big of a problem you might think, but unfortunately that escalated to caring what everybody thought of me. Yep, even that guy walking towards me on the street that I don’t know and will most likely never see again.
Taking self-awareness to the umpteenth degree ladies and gentlemen. That affected my confidence to act. I stopped feeling free to dance when I went out, preferring to lean on the bar and nod my head with the best of them. I wanted to dance, I wanted to have a laugh, but something was stopping me. I gained weight around this time too and my vanity (such as it was) stopped me in my tracks. Now I wasn’t just worrying about how people were judging “That guy over there” now they were judging “That fat bastard over there”. It’s ridiculous the more I think about it.
In short I had, for reasons best known only to the dim dark recesses of my subconscious, generated a massive self-esteem issue. The trouble was, I either didn’t realise that’s what it was or I wasn’t prepared to admit it. I acted confident and was able to blag it to a certain extent, but I couldn’t quite carry it off completely.
My work suffered, I couldn’t give presentations, struggled with conflict resolution and became pretty angry pretty quickly with situations that didn’t really require it. I couldn’t trust any of my decisions properly, at home or at work, so I almost stopped making them. It was not a good time for Ole Davey.
Moving to Germany helped. It was something that I had always wanted for myself. Something that I have been saying since I was 15 that I wanted to do. So achieving a personal goal like that helped me. My confidence at work started to come back..culminating in me offering to take over a failing section and get it working again. Which I achieved. Presentations, hiring/firing, disciplinaries, meetings and all that jazz were flowing again. I left there and headed to another place. Promoted in 2 weeks, being sent to London regularly, involved in all sorts of projects and even sent to Santa Clara for a
jolly week long meeting.
The trouble was, my personal life was still problematic. Don’t get me wrong, I had found a relationship with an amazing woman, but I was struggling to deal with speaking German (even though I could), struggling with calling companies about bills or problems. When I went out…Mr Confident…when I had to deal with daily life stuff…Gibbering Wreck. I lost a little weight, but mainly I started looking after myself properly. So, whilst I was still huge, I at least looked OK. Slowly the confidence started to filter in and I was able to function a bit better on a daily basis. Still nowhere near the level that I should have been at, but better. Mostly I persuaded myself that it was better and so, invariably, it actually got better.
Here’s the big reveal though. I was diagnosed some years ago with mild depression. It’s something that very few people know about me. A lot of people wouldn’t believe it and a lot of people would be like “everyone has mild depression sometimes”. Unfortunately, that’s not the same thing. Feeling down from time to time is normal..it happens to us all..it happens to me sometimes. Mild Depression is a different beast.
Now, I am lucky. I think I have been prescribed Anti-Depressants once in my life and then only for a short time. I am able to function and my depressive episodes are, generally, not so severe that I can’t fake it until I actually feel better. Factor in my recent life turnaround/improvements and I haven’t suffered all year.
Then Monday happened, I got sick. Being more healthy has had the side effect of allowing me to avoid my standard “start of summer” illness that has always plagued both myself and my mum. I didn’t even think about this until Monday night, when I started to feel like crap. It left me feeling run down, unable to train properly and completely lethargic. These things contributed to an “episode” that I am currently fighting to get out of. One of the reasons for this post I guess. So, more reflection.
Things have a habit of going wrong. I think that is true for all of us. I got married at 21 and had 2 kids. Do I regret it? No. My kids are amazing and I look back fondly on the time with my wife. Sure, it went wrong in the end, but that doesn’t stop it being good while it lasted. I spent a bit of time alone, playing the field and then got with someone else for 10 years and had another 2 kids. Do I regret that? No…again, amazing kids and I can look back fondly on the great times we had.
Cue a bit more time playing the field and I, somehow, end up with CW for 7 years. Do I regret the relationship? Not at all. Right up until the break up, the relationship was amazing…at least to me (I don’t mean that to come across as bitterness). She helped me grow as a person, be more willing to take risks and get as close to being “myself” as I think I had ever been. Sure, there were still times where I was playing a role, but I was playing it well and a lot of the time I discovered that I hadn’t been playing a role for a while without realising it.
Without her, I would have missed out on a lot of music gigs, some great friends and of course the cake shop. Seeing the world through someone elses eyes can be a real experience if you allow yourself to do it. She had a way of looking at the world that made you want to drop your own cynicism and just enjoy shit.
The cake shop is the one that people wonder about. I think a lot of people see it as a failure. Which is fair, I was forced to close it and have suffered financially (and continue to do so) because of it. Was it a failure? No, not even close. It was a success. What failed was my body. The first 2-3 years of any new business are the hardest. You have invested a lot and have yet to recoup that investment. You build debt with suppliers whilst establishing yourself. After that time, things start to get easier and you will eventually turn a decent profit. So, yes, it was a struggle…but it was a struggle we were going to win. Unfortunately, things conspired against me. The finances were not there for me to hire the people that I would have needed to allow me to recover from my ankle problems, which led to me being forced to work crazy hours and made my ankle problems worse. Hobbling around a bakery kitchen, alone, at 4AM with your leg in a cast and crutches does not a stress-free environment make.
Do I regret it? Not for a split second. I regret not being able to continue longer so that I could have sold the business properly, but it was out of my control. The painkillers that allowed me to work did nothing, the ones that helped stopped me from working. It was a horrible catch 22 situation and I was forced to close the doors around 6-8 months too soon. Even with all of the financial issues that followed, I still don’t regret a minute of having that business.
I definitely do have regrets from the last few years. The biggest being that a lot of the stuff, described above, has stopped me from being financially sound enough to visit my kids often enough. Same goes for other members of my family. I have relied on birthday gifts to allow me to travel to the UK for a visit.
I regret that I didn’t tackle certain things from my childhood when I still had the chance to do so. I regret that I don’t seem able to get out of my own head sometimes. I regret that I was blind to the issues in my relationship with CW, meaning I was helpless to resolve them. I regret not looking after my ankle properly years ago. In general, I have very few regrets.
I am very lucky and, by writing this, I am hoping to very quickly get over my current “episode”.
For the record, I regret the bar of chocolate I just ate….Oh, and I definitely regret last Saturday night…but the less said about that the better
Yup, I appear to have it. I had quite a busy and tiring weekend (self-inflicted and not unusual)…so, imagine my joy when I went to bed last night yawning my head off and looking forward to getting some shut-eye….and then couldn’t. Despite ridding myself of almost all of my “Organic Thermal Protection” since February, I still do not appear to be able to handle the heat.
Some would therefore say that I should get out of the kitchen but, unfortunately, my company do not have offices in Siberia which would be my only realistic option at the moment.
33 degrees in Mid-September. This does not bode well for a decently cold Christmas and therefore my Christmas Market trips will be limited or non-existent. Glühwein and Feuerzangenbowle require, at the very minimum, minus temperatures. You need to feel the benefit of drinking a hot drink on a cold evening. Then you can convince yourself it is medicinal or healthy or something. Which you definitely cannot do when it is 14 degrees and pissing it down. Fuck you Christmas Market 2015 (and 2014 now I come to think of it), fuck you sideways…with something spikey.
Living in Germany means that we don’t generally do Air Conditioning…what we do have are fans that are happy to burn electricity whilst moving warm air around your room. These are generally about as effective as a chocolate fireguard.
I did briefly consider sleeping in a cold bath…but figured it would warm up at some point and I would end up awake again. Iced drinks only help for a little while and so I am left with that most British of options….Moaning.
We are damned good at it. As a nation we have managed to come full circle and perfected it to such a level that we can moan about moaning. We moan about other people moaning and we moan when situations cause us to moan.
Wow, that is an abundance of moanage in that last paragraph…I might have to complain. I am not 100% sure why we moan so much as a nation. It could be the weather, as people love to tell me. It could be the food (that other favourite). I don’t know.
All I can say with any certainty is that if moaning was an Olympic sport, the event would never actually start because the Brits would still be moaning about the rules, other competitors, referees, colour of the stadium, time of the event and anything else you can think of, until after the closing ceremony takes place. And then we would moan that we didn’t win.
I try not to. I really do, but sometimes it’s the only option.
My point is I like it warm, but I don’t like it this warm and my diet precludes Solero based up-shut-fuckery (that’s for you Peter Kay).
Actually…that’s not strictly true. The trains themselves are rarely the issue. I mean, sure, sometimes the Air Conditioning doesn’t work which makes for especially uncomfortable travel in 30+ degree weather with a full train and no windows that open. This issue can then be multiplied to extreme discomfort when the driver shuts down 2 carriages and forces 4 carriages worth of people to cram into 2…with the aforesaid lack of windows/air conditioning.
At that point it is not the train itself, but people in general, that I hate.
Occasionally I have an extreme dislike for the train station that co-ordinates badly and then forces said “Sauna Carriage” to be sat on the tracks, in sight of my destination…literally. The other day I was actually watching people buying frigging Ice Cream while my train, with no word as to why, proceeded to sit for 10 minutes without moving the 200 meters or so required to…you know….LET US OFF THE DAMN TRAIN.
I digress. What I am driving at here is that despite these things, what I really hate are the other train travelers.
Maybe it’s a cultural thing. I suspect it is. First off, queuing. Germans are bad at this. English people are good at this. It’s a fact of life. Like the French eating cheese and surrendering all the time, you know, common knowledge.
Germans queue in the same way that people who watch Bruce Lee films do martial arts. Thinking that they can chop and kick their way out of any situation without training. They kinda sorta almost understand what a queue is, but they get it hideously and comically wrong.
Take yesterday (no seriously, take it please)…Due to the ineptitude of the planners in Frankfurt (don’t get me started), the trains are running somewhat erratically at the moment. This means that my journey begins a good 45 minutes earlier than it needs to, just to ensure that I make my connection…a connection that is a mere 4 minute train journey away…but I digress. The first thing you notice is that everyone spreads out along the platform in an effort to be in the correct place to be at the door when the train pulls up.
Next comes the inevitable jostling to try and maintain your position at the door. Immediately after this, the person that has won the battle of the door, realises that there are about 300 people that would like to get off the train and they are now blocking the exit. Cue more jostling as the people behind spot that this person will need to move which could leave an opening. Factor in the average German persons complete disregard for personal space and I am quite surprised when fights don’t break out.
For my part, I position myself in classic queuing pose, complete with shakes of the head and tutting in the right places when people try and move me out of their way. In itself, attempts to move me are pretty funny. Yes I am no longer the man hillock (I would love to say mountain, but I am not that tall really) that I once was, but I am still pretty big.
Then comes the zombie shuffle onto the train and the veritable sprint to a seat where you will be, hopefully, left alone to your thoughts. Again, I must confess, my innate Britishness lets me down here. I hit the window seat, but do not do the bag on the spare seat, spready outy thing that stops all but the most determined seat finders..so I am often disturbed in my comfort.
So far so moderately annoying. The real fun comes when you get to your destination.
In an effort to get off the train in one piece, people will invariably get up and head to the door of the train a short while before the train actually arrives at the station. Not too bad really, but I think that if I had not picked up a car recently, and was forced to go on the train too much longer, I would sit down, wait for the train to pull out of Frankfurt and immediately stand-up and head for the door…such is the competition involved in getting off the train first.
Now normally this wouldn’t affect me, except for the fact that I generally have around 3 minutes to get off the train, out of the station and across the street to make my tram connection.
On the way home I am, generally, far more relaxed. Not always, but generally. If I am at the door, trying to barge past me is going to piss me off. Especially as there is nowhere to go…the fucking door is still closed. Breaches of queue etiquette notwithstanding, barging me out of the way when the doors begin to open will really rile me up. Now, here’s the thing, if you are in a rush and immediately sprint away the second the doors open, I will be OK with it. Your need is clearly greater than mine. However, and I think it goes without saying that this happened to me recently, sprinting down the platform is not an unrealistic expectation of mine. If you do all of that, get onto the platform and then proceed to saunter down the platform in front of me at a pace that would have the most lethargic of snails and sloths bored out of their minds, expect serious and I mean SERIOUS….tutting.
Still, the car will make it all better…then I only have traffic problems to deal with. Much less stressful