Better late than never

Happy New Year
Now, before you go saying anything..I know, I know..I have been remiss.  I completely failed to take advantage of the perfect opportunity to start the year as I mean to go on.  Namely, I didn’t make the (seemingly) obligatory “Year In Review/Happy New Year” post.

I did plan on writing one…then got busy and put it off for a while..then work was crazy and I never seemed to get beyond the title and intro.  The thing is, 2009 is a year that, well, happened…or at least that’s how it seems from reading a lot of other blogs and talking to friends and family.  Most people I know couldn’t wait for it to end and get a new year started..on a personal level though I seem to have bucked the trend.

Sure, it had it’s difficulties..or at least what appeared to be difficulties to start with.  I was out of work early on, which was really strange as I found myself recovering from levels of stress that I didn’t even realise I had.  What should have been a stressful and worrying time for a Brit living in Germany whilst unemployed, was actually a lot of fun and very cathartic.  I mean, I met CW, had a decent break from working..reconnected with friends and family and then took a job that I didn’t expect anything from except to pay the bills.

As I sit here now, I am still with CW and loving every minute of it, am in regular contact with my kids and my job is going fantastically well.  Life.  Is.  Good.

So for me, 2009 could have carried on as long as it wanted, but equally I am looking forward to what 2010 will bring.

I had the best time over Christmas and New Year.  I went over to the UK just after Christmas Day to spend a week or so with all four of my kids.  It was fantastic..all four, together..I can’t describe how great it felt.  They are all growing up so fast..and growing into great people.

You know how when you meet someone new, and it seems to be heading in the right direction,  and you introduce this person to your family..normally on a relatively slow and steady basis?  Maybe you meet your Mum for a coffee with them..possibly Mum and Dad at the same time for a get together or meal?  It’s kind of exciting and nice and new all at the same time..but you get time to adjust and get used to them all.

Well, that’s how it happened with me and CWs family.  We went for a beer with her Dad, then coffee with her Mum..then I was invited to her Dads birthday, where I got to meet the other members of the family.  It was a slow, steady and very nice introduction.

Fast forward to December 2009 and CW has yet to meet any of my family..trips where one or some of them were planning a visit never quite happened.  We spend a nice Christmas together with her family and then head to Blighty…where she gets to meet my Dad first..at the airport for the 2(ish) hour drive to my parents place..where she then meets my Mum for an hour or so before all of the kids turn up along with the rest of my family.

That’s the same right??

:-D

How was your year and start of 2010?

It's Christmas Time…

a christmas warp
Photo by Chewy Chua
… and there’s no need to be afraid.

Or so wrote the inimitable, and not at all tramp like, harpy marrying, ridiculous child naming, humanitarian and all around do-gooder..Bob Geldof

Now yes, I realise that it isn’t Christmas time yet…despite what the shops and TV adverts are telling us.  However, I have now confirmed my Chrimble plans fully.

I will be spending Christmas Day doing…well…I don’t actually know, beyond calling the kids.  The reason?  Well, I am having a German Christmas this year with the W’s…and Germans celebrate their Christmas day on our Christmas Eve.  It’s pretty much the same as ours, big family thing, lots of food and pressies to open…just done the evening before.

It’s more of a family affair than I am used to though, with pretty much the whole W clan arriving to Oma W’s apartment for fun and frivolity.  In our family, and I think this is true of a lot of British families, we do Christmas day with the kids and immediate family…and Boxing day is when we start going around visiting other family members etc.  I am looking forward to it.

Then, a few days later, we are off to Blighty, where I will be having all four of my kids for once, and I am ecstatic about that.  My family will get to meet CW and I know they are looking forward to it…especially the kids.  After talking to Brandon yesterday, he plans to make a special hot chocolate for her…just incase she is feeling sick from the English beer and too much Devils Food Cake :-)

It is also fairly unique for me, in that I will be doing “Christmas 2  – This time it’s personal” for the first time that I can remember.  Normally, I make sure that the kids presents are wherever the kids are on Christmas day.  I prefer it that way and have never really liked the “2 Christmas Days” thing…

This time though, I will have all 4 of my kids together, and I intend to enjoy it properly…so just this once, I will be doing a 2nd Christmas day…and I love the idea of watching them open everything..I know it’s a little selfish, but I want that.  There is another reason though…and that is that I am not quite as organised as I normally am…by now, in a normal year, over half of the presents would already be at my Mums place for wrapping and sending on…as of right now, I haven’t actually bought anything and intend to start a marathon online shop-a-thon shortly.

Yeah yeah, I know…bad Dad, but still..I am pretty confident in getting everything I need in time.

I know we will all have a great time…even my Mum and Dad, who are likely as not stressing about having a houseful of people…yeah see, you thought your house was big Mum….We will see just *how* big it really is

mwaha muahahahaahaaaaa

Or something

What are your plans for Christmas then?

Christmas pressies

So come on then, what did you all get?

I got some clothes, trainers, smellies, and a couple of books.   The 2nd of which is frickin’ genius.   It is called “Pets with tourettes”.   What is not to love about that title?   This is puerile genius at it’s very best…basically a series of cutesy animal pictures, with a speech bubble overlaid, saying some outlandish shit that would make the guys at Viz Comic blush.

Let me give you an example, using my own cats as a basis (in obvious fear of copyright issues).   Take this photo of Berry for instance, ok so the half closed eyes make her look slightly evil, but let’s face it…cats are inherently evil anyway

Now, if I were one of the “Authors” of Pets with Tourettes…this picture may end up looking something like this :-

Tell me you don’t find that a little bit funny.   I have decided that I am going to author my own version, but first I need to get in touch with that lovely Ann Geddes woman to make my dreams come true.   She would be up for something like this right?

And yes…this is Zak when he was born…you are welcome son

Christmas=Great, Travelling with amateurs…not so much

Day 11 - Oh TannenbaumLet me just say right now that I have had a fantastic Christmas.   I flew over to Blighty late on the 23rd and, after Dad had been robbed by the car park people for parking in the 15 minute car park instead of the short stay…30 quid for an hour!!!, arrived at my parents place at around 03:30.   Quick hello, quick bite to eat and a cuppa and then bed.   I had to set my alarm as Zak and Brandon were due to arrive at 10:30.

The boys arrive and we have a great day, we wander around Newark..do a bit of shopping for my Mum and meet Dad to walk home (after a mahoosive fish ‘n chip dinner of course).   It was great..tickle fights, drawing, watching TV, playing rugby in the back garden.   They saw the boatload of presents in the dining room, so I told them that Santas helper had been to see me in Germany, and asked if I could help get the presents to the boys.   This went down a treat and everyone was happy.   My Bro gave me a lift to drop them off, which was a drama in its own right…my brothers car is pretty small and this meant that some of the pressies went in the boot and the rest went…well, pretty much ON the boys.   Still, it gave them a giggle.

Getting back to my folks brought the Christmas Eve drinks…my Mum wasn’t feeling too hot and my other brother was at work (boo!), so it was left to Me, Paul and Dad to put in a good shift.   We did this by going on a pub crawl.   In pub 1 I can’t work out why I am so frickin’ hot…to the point of sweating quite a lot.   As we decide to move on because of the crap beer (British brewed Grolsch..eww) I notice that I have been stood with my head directly next to a 100w lightbulb…genius.   We head to another bar and discover Veltins (a regional brew from NRW in Germany).   I immediately settle in for a few bevvies and we have a great time.

Last orders is a little over 20 minutes away when Paul decides I must try Peroni, some Italian beer ffs!   Oh, and witness a Cider slushy type thing.   It was all going well until we see barmaid #2.   Holy frickin’ Mary mother of god…like Golums ugly sister that they don’t let out during the daytime.   Quite honestly it almost put me off my beer.   We escape to a corner of the bar where she is not in our line of sight and get chatting again.   When the next round is called, I decide that I can’t drink beer anymore thanks to this woman and tell Paul to get me a shot.   As he goes off to order it, I say to Dad “If he brings me a whiskey, I’ll punch him in the face”…sure enough, he brings me back a whisky.   I decide not to punch him in the face, but I can’t drink the whiskey..so Dad has a go…and it tastes foul..so he dumps it in his pint, thinking that will take the taste away…it doesn’t.   Paul then pours some of Dads beer/whisky combo into his cider.   This doesn’t kill the taste of the whiskey and we all say “sod it” and head home.   Paul and Dad wake up the next day with hangovers..I feel great (thanks German beer) and we settle in to watch a festive film.

After Die Hard finishes, we begin making Christmas dinner…screw turkey, screw roast potatoes and all that traditional crapola…what we wanted were steaks…steaks so big that you could only get 3 on a BBQ.   Oh, that’s right..we BBQ’d on Christmas Day.   Check out the results below.

Christmas SteaksBest Christmas Dinner EVER!

I met Pauls girlfriend, spent some quality time with my brothers and Mum/Dad, went bowling…had plenty of beers, built Pauls computer for him and basically had a whale of a time.

There is a subject I would like to mention though, and that is the “Amateur Traveller”.   Now, I place that in quotation marks, as this is my opinion based on…well…almost everyone around me both on the way to blighty and on the way back to Frankfurt.

I will do this rant’ette in bulletpoint form, so that hopefully this post doesn’t ramble on for too much longer.

1. Queues: Now, I know that it can be difficult to figure out who is next, especially when everyone else is in single file and directly behind the person in front of you, but maybe you could ask.   This is preferable to attempting to create a 2nd queue, when there is only one check-in desk.   Also, if a tannoy announcement comes on (literally) every 3 minutes to tell you to use the automatic check-in machines before queueing to drop your bag off….try not to look shocked when, after queueing for the better part of an hour, you are told to take your shit and find an electronic check-in machine and re-queue.

2.   Check-In: When you finally sort out your queue strategy and get to the check-in desk, please try not to be surprised when the (very) stressed out woman behind said desk asks to see your passport.   She will also want to see your booking confirmation….oh, and probably the passports of the people you are flying with.   Also, you are flying RyanAir…these are notoriously unforgiving when it comes to their weight limits per person and will want you to either pay, or take some stuff out.

#1 You booked, you knew the limit, don’t fucking argue about it.
#2 Move…if you fucked up, do not delay the rest of us checking in, just so you don’t lose your place in line…you fucked it up…get out of my way.
#3 Have your passports and booking information handy…not in one of the overweight suitcases that you are now desperately trying to repack…causing the passports to fall to the bottom.
#4 Now that you have managed to delay everyone else 15-20 minutes…under NO circumstances try to invite your friends (that have just arrived to the airport) to come to the front of the queue.   This may cause a large Englishman, with more than a passing resemblence to Uncle Fester, to lose the plot and physically block your friends from getting through to where you are stood.   This Englishman may also turn, growl and generally intimidate your friends.   This is probably not a good start to your holidays.

3.   Security Check: You will notice, as you walk towards the roped area (cattle-pen anyone?), that there is a kindly uniformed person there, asking to check your boarding card and passport.   This kindly soul is also asking if you have any liquids (or other items) that need to be bagged before going on the aircraft.   This person is merely trying to give you a chance to sort things out before you head into the security check area.   They are also another reminder to the signs plastered in bright yellow ALL OVER THE AIRPORT.   If you have such items, please follow the lead of the few people milling around the entrance to said cattle-pen and sort it out.   As you follow the cattle-pen to the security check itself, please pay attention to the 4 television screens that are demonstrating to you what you need to do.   If you are unable to see a television that is a mere 3 feet above your head, please feel free to watch the process, right in front of you, as it happens to fellow travellers.   You will notice that they are being asked to remove their jackets, watches, belts and contents of their pockets.   With the right person in front of you, you may even see them remove a laptop and place it seperately in a box.

As we are all around 15-20 minutes late now, thanks to you and your family…please try to follow the travellers in front of you and prepare for your encounter with security.   Do NOT blindly walk to security and moan when asked to take off your jacket, forget the watch and belt and be told to go back to take them off.   Then again to remove the mobile/change and eventually hat.   Try not to tell security that there is no laptop, only for them to see it and have to reverse the fucking conveyor to place it in a seperate container.   Oh, and thanks for being considerate and moving out of the way, so that the people behind you…WHO PAID ATTENTION…don’t have to wait for you to redress your fucking selves.

4.   On The Plane: It is a very narrow walkway, so try and have a little consideration for those people that are desperately trying to get their things in the overhead locker.   Also, if you are lucky enough to get to the over-wing, extra legroom seating…try and pay attention to the flight attendant when they tell you that no luggage or loose items can be stowed by the emergency exits.

5.   Passport Control: Again…you will need your passport here.   Try not to be surprised.   It might also be nice if you could use the 30 minutes you will spend in the queue…TO FIND IT.   Oh, and this one goes to Stansted Airport…there will be more people arriving that are EU Passport holders, this is to be expected…so we would really appreciate it if you could lay on more than, say, 3 members of staff for the EU Passport holders passport control…especially when you have over double that number looking after the few dozen Non-EU Passport holders…mmmkthanks

6.   Baggage Claim: This one also goes out to Stansted Airport.   When you have 5 planes land at roughly the same time, I can understand it being a little hectic…but it surely can’t take a friggin hour to get the bags onto the conveyors.   If it does…seeing as you have 9 conveyors..wouldn’t it be prudent to put the contents of each plane on it’s own…we have all seen Toy Story 2, we know that they all start at roughly the same place.   Try to avoid putting the contents of 3 different planes on 1 conveyor….

And a special mention must go to the bus driver that got me back to Frankfurt last night.   When I ask you, with packet of smokes in hand, how long before the bus leaves…if you tell me “Now”, please don’t leave 25 minutes later…I really needed that smoke after dealing with all these frickin’ amateur travellers.   Oh, and to the Indian pilot who ended up sitting next to me.   If you insist on eating peanuts (or whatever the fuck they were) for the ENTIRE 2 HOUR JOURNEY…please use your other arm so that you aren’t knocking me every 10 seconds for 2 hours…next time, I may do more than simply stopping your arm from hitting me…do we understand one another?   Good!

This has been a public service rant.   Travel safe everyone.

Paypal…aaaaaaaargh

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Whilst I don’t consider myself a typical guy most of the time, I am accutely aware that I tend to be around Christmas time.   My usual Christmas gift purchases occur on or around Christmas eve, if I am completely honest.   Being single and away from my kids though, means I had to be more organised this year.   Unfortunately, that just meant I would start at the beginning of December instead.

Obviously, it is easier from here to get things on Ebay and get them delivered to my parents place, so that they can wrap and post them for me.   Getting them sent to me here, only for me to ship them back to England just makes no sense.   Plus, the availability of what the kids want is greater in the UK.

So far, so easy right?

Wrong.   My credit card is, shall we say, unavailable at the moment…which leaves me with the time honoured tradition of using the paypal direct debit facility.   This has worked for me for years and makes an instant payment (with the occasional couple days delay for random security checks).   It worked for me a couple of weeks ago when I sent my son his birthday present.   It even worked for me a few days ago, when I bought my nephew his present.

Then it stopped.   Paypal is now insisting that I use a credit card (which isn’t on my account) and won’t allow me to choose another source of payment.   Emails to paypal and ebay have resulted in them explaining to me how to add a credit card, telling me that I need to talk to my bank and then explaining how to add a credit card.   It is ok though, because they understand my frustration whilst offering as much help as a chocolate fire guard.   I will have my rewengy though, they sent me a survey for how helpful they were….I will now get to spew my vitriol into a webform that will be … COMPLETELY … ignored by Paypal management…I know I feel better.

So last night, LA came up trumps and let me use her paypal account to pay for everything…which means the pressies are winging their merry way now.   Thank fook.

I am looking to get some stuff from ze vaterland for the adults I will be visiting, but due to flying on the 23rd…I actually have to plan.   That means recovering and being compus enough on a Saturday to actually get to the shops…honestly, I think HMV gift vouchers from the airport when I land seems favourite right now ;-)

The problem is what to get?   Let’s face it, I live in the land of pork and beer…but I don’t think that people will appreciate a string of sausages and a can of Warsteiner….plus the sausages would go off, unless I get pre-cooked ones..which I am then certain to consume at the airport…along with the beer.

Do I get Lederhosen and Dirndls?   I could do without the inevitable beating that would take place.   I could go for something that is already available in England…just with German writing on it.   I have already been told, on pain of death, not to bring Lebekuchen from the Christmas market…what is a guy to do?

Looks like I will actually have to trawl the Christmas market looking for actual and traditional German christmas gifts.   I wasn’t aware that growing up was so bloody tough…I mean, who buys proper gifts, that people can put on display?   Old people, that’s who.   No fair.

So, 5 Kilos of Lebekuchen, a few bottles of beer and a couple pound of Bratwurst it is then.

Enjoy :-)