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 :-)

Cake or death….

Not even close....but you get the ideaSo it looks like there is a possibility I will be in England for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my folks.   It goes without saying that I will do my damndest to get to see the kids at the same time, and I am sure I will manage to achieve it.   That said, it will be Christmas with the parents, and I am the son that lives furthest away….

Now, being the oldest of 3 boys means that certain expectations are placed on you to be responsible, level headed and able to look after yourself (and your brothers).   Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t spoiled and went without….far far from it.   I have mentioned before that I had a great childhood and wouldn’t change it for the world.   However, I didn’t always get the option for certain things..the options were normally delivered to the younger brethren before me.   Where the hell am I going with this??   Oh yeah, eldest son..far away…got it.

As it is now a rarity to see me, I am pretty much a shoe in to get the option of a special thing to be prepared.   This is guaranteed to be my Mums very special and never matched…Devils Food Cake.   It should be said that, despite my ample girth (and my belly ;-) ) I am not really a chocolate lover.   However, when you have tried some of my Mums Devils Food Cake, you could easily become a chocaholic…instantly…followed rapidly by a chocolate induced coma…with possible drowning by double cream.

It is one of “those” recipes… in that it is a closely guarded secret, has changed over time and consists of a plastic wallet with random pieces of paper..it sort of resembles a kidnappers ransom note starter pack and would probably have reduced the guys that cracked the Enigma device to tears trying to recreate it.   I was given the recipe, once…and subsequently lost it in the great hard disk crash of ’01.   Subsequent attempts to gain access have been futile, so I am left with the rare occasion when I can ask for this creation of the gods to be made for me.   Serious pleasure is all I am saying.

All of my 35 years on this planet will count for nothing when I regress into a mewling babe whislt simultaneously begging my Mum to make me this cake… I may ask for two to be made…specifically so I can have one with “Daves…keep off” iced on.

Now, I just need to work on getting Mum to make me a chilli and a lasagne, and I may weep a little.   It’s pretty pathetic really, but I am just about to embark on a new diet…and it is one of those 4 days on 3 days off things…I worked out my optimum start day to ensure that the 3 off falls outside of 2 events.   The first is the visit of my Dad next month, and the second being Christmas at my folks place.   The logistics of doing this should really be added to my CV…creative accounting, time management…political lies…it has it all, but all things considered…I will be drinking with my Dad quite merrily next month without feeling even the least bit guilty and then eating my bodyweight in Devils Food Cake at Christmas guilt free too.

Don’t get me wrong, I know all of you (well most of you….some of you at least) believe that your Mums cooking is better than anybody elses Mums cooking and you will never be swayed by any argument that anyone would care to make.   This is fine, but there is a difference…you are all wrong!   It’s a subtle difference I know, but an important one nevertheless.

I am quite looking forward to it now :-)

What is you favourite (albeit inferior to mine) Mums cooking that you would regress to your childhood for?

What a weekend :)

Me and the broodWell, I am back from blighty (Britain to you non-natives out there) and I had a wonderful time.   I still managed to put almost 1000 miles on the hire car…seems to be my lot in life I guess.   What I did have though was an amazing weekend with my 4 (count ’em) amazing kids.

Not a single harsh word was needed, they were all amazing well behaved and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it.   All of the stresses of recent times just evaporated when I got to hold them and spend time with them.   The best of it though, was just spending quality time with all of them.   I had planned to go bowling, to parks, do this and that and the other….it was going to be a full and packed weekend.   When I saw them though, I realised that I didn’t need any of those distractions.

We were out and about, visiting my brothers and sister in law with my amazing nephew Josh.   I have since been told that he is like it with most blokes, but I made an instant connection to Josh and he would cry whenever I left.   Quite nice really as I am inherently bad with other peoples kids, if they are related to me or not, but Josh was different..such a placid and nicely mannered boy for his age.   I got to see him walk, which he has only just started doing…which was cool :-)

I resolutely refused to allow Ellen to be “Little Mum” like she always used to end up being whenever she has visited me in the past.   I looked after all of the kids, properly, and enjoyed every minute of it.   I think they enjoyed it too.   Don’t get me wrong, I know Ellen loves to mother people and be involved, but she is a kid too and deserves to be spoilt like the others.   I treated them all to some useful sports stuff for school/after school activities, rather than trinkets that they won’t use in a week.   We played, we laughed, we cuddled up and watched a movie, went to the park, went for a walk, played rugby in the garden.   We just generally had fun together and for my part I got to reconnect with my children and loved every moment.

It is a strange life as an estranged father, but I intend to make the most of it whenever I can.   I absolutely refused to fall into my past routine of spending time on the computer and leaving the kids to their own devices.   I think I was on Facebook for a total of about 20 minutes, and I checked my email about 3 times…and I didn’t get the shakes – go me :-) .   I made sure that we only visited my family a few minutes away from where we were, as I didn’t want to waste time travelling and then be distracted by spending time with friends and not the kids.   We were all up at the crack of sparrows and went to bed quite late each day (not too late though ;-) )

None of the kids wanted to go home, and I agreed as it was far too short of a visit…something I will rectify for next time definitely.   Obviously I have to work around their holidays now to make sure I can have a week or two with them next time, but do that I will.   Tears were shed by everyone, but I know with complete certainty that they all genuinely love me and miss me, and I hope they know that I miss them all so much it is heartbreaking for me.

I did have to put up with some shocking music in the car, some eurodancetrashpopdrumbasehouse nonsense that they seem to like.   However, they are my kids afterall….which meant by the end of the weekend, they were all asking for The Wombats, Maximo Park and Dragonforce to be played so that they could all air guitar and air drum their way to wherever we were going.   Hey!   Kids need decent music too you know….and at least mine have taste….even if it is ruined by technogarageshed garbage from time to time.

Normal posting will resume shortly, I just wanted to share the best weekend I have had in a bloody long time :-)

Tradition or slow suicide?

BBQ

We have a tradition in our family…created I think by a series of drunken bets on behalf of my parents and their friends.   The tradition is that we will barbequeue on New Years Day…regardless of location and weather conditions.   It is something that I have tried to maintain over the years….it just seems like a bloody good idea.

Some of the conditions that we have achieved this in:

Torrential Downpour…protected by a series of strategically placed bin bags
8 inches of snow (thanks Berlin Christmas weather)
Sleet
Actual sunshine

These bbqs have been carried out in a number of different countries and the food is not always traditional.   I believe Mick (RIP) and Andrea once told my Mum that they wanted Swordfish steaks…..and sure enough, Swordfish steaks were bbq’d on New Years Day.

It has been bizarre sometimes, and the reason for the title is down in large part to my own attempt at keeping the tradition going a few years ago.   Everyone was invited, beer and food were purchased…when the heavens opened.   Now, having no real location to work with where the bbq could be located and covered with the aforementioned bin bags…I felt no option but to move the bbq into the garage.   I figured that the doors being open would provide plenty of ventilation….. I figured wrong it is fair to say.

I also failed to notice that the garage roof was made of asbestos and technically should have been pulled down a long time before.   So, after cooking in the asbestos garage for around 4 hours, it was of little surprise to people when I started feeling really ill and had to go and lie down.   Still, asbestos burgers have a little more zing to them I feel.   Also…totally worth it.

I do struggle to accept food from other peoples bbqs though.   Not that I am the best bbq chef in the world or anything, but I at least recognise when food is cooked and when it isn’t.   For example, burned on the outside does not always mean cooked on the inside.   I will always be seen cooking with a water sprayer to keep the flames down and the heat up…if anyone asks me why I am spraying water onto the coals, I make a mental note never to accept an invite to one of their bbqs.   A decision that has kept me virtually salmonella and botchulism free for many a year.   Unfortunately frostbite, man flu and asbestos poisoning are somewhat harder to avoid with my families penchant for bbq’ing in ridiculous weather.

We also like to play drinking games…and as with all drinking games, the aim is to drink even more should you make a mistake.   We have things like Fuzzy Duck, Railway Stations, Rippy Tippy, One Hand and various others.

One hand is my favourite – It is simply a repetition game, you all go round in a circle..someone starts off with a phrase (in this case “one hand”) and everyone takes turns to repeat it.   Then another phrase is added “One hand, and a couple of ducks” then another “One hand, and a couple of ducks, and three brown bears”.   It gets progressively more complex as it goes on….for example “Five pairs of Donald Veezers Tweezers” and “Six thousand screaming Mastedonians charging over the hill in full battle array”…”Eight sacred Egyptian monkeys from a sacred Egyptian crypt”.   It is normally around number 6 that people start emptying and refilling their glasses with terrible rapidity.

We like it…not that we drink in our family…oh no – Drink is the devil

:-P

My family and other animals

Wolf PackBeing the eldest of three boys is not always fun….it can be, but not always.   Especially when your brothers get to the age where your Mum starts asking you to take them with you wherever you go.

I have to say that the age gap helped, so I wasn’t forced into that too often.   That said, I love my brothers…although back then it was mainly for their usefulness.

We were living in Leicester many moons ago – I will never forget it..the Eyres Monsell area of Saffron Lane.   It wasn’t that bad really, but the local borstal was just up the road…anyhoo I digress.

I learned real quick that my brother Kev was a tough nut, always throwing himself everywhere and just getting up and laughing when most kids would be crying…actually, now I come to think of it, Zak is just like that now.   I was babysitting once, and decided to play football in the house…of course the ball ended up bouncing up onto the wall unit and breaking something (I forget what – sorry Mum), but Kevs exploits meant that it was plausible.   I escaped with a telling off for not keeping an eye on him, instead of being grounded until…well…now I suppose.

He was pretty fearless though, but this got him into trouble from time to time.   My Mum had her friend over and they were chatting and drinking wine.   After a little while, they notice that the bottle of wine has gone from the kitchen…it was open but untouched.   Kev was found drunk and a panicked Mum had to figure out ways to sober up a small child…it was made slightly worse, if I recall, by the fact that he had used a straw…

Younger siblings always tend to copy their elder siblings though, and I caught him stealing a cigarette from me once, so I forced him to chain smoke until he was physically sick.   I am actually quite proud of that as (to my knowledge) he has never smoked since.

My brothers have both always had their heads screwed on though, certainly more so than me.   They both excelled at whatever sport they turned their hand to and Paul in particular puts us all to shame with his dedication to academia.     Through it all, they have managed to be leaders, not followers and noone ever has a bad word to say about them.

Kev is married now and my nephew is 1 and Paul is engaged and about to enter into that most heinous of crimes….living in sin.

It’s strange to say, but we are a very close family…we just don’t feel the need to be in constant contact that most people seem to think being close requires.

My Mum and Dad have always been very supportive of me and my foibles….I was the one that got into all the trouble…smoking, drinking, wreaking havoc with my friends.   My Mum is incredibly forthright and will let you know if she isn’t happy with something…my Dad is a little more subtle, and he has always been the calming influence on my life I suppose.   I definitely needed it from time to time.

I remember my Dad and I walking across the base, on the way to the bowling alley.   The base was an RAF Officer training camp, so there were a lot of young kids that had rank.   We were in street clothes (civvies) as Dad wasn’t at work, and we walked past this snot nosed Officer Cadet.   My Dad casually said hello to him as we walked past (you never salute unless you are wearing the uniform yourself).   The cadet stopped and started having a go at my Dad.. “You will salute an officer and show some respect”…or something similar.   My Dad, simply leaned in and then really quietly, but with no small amount of contempt said “When in uniform, I salute your uniform and respect it and the rank it gives you, I do not however, have to respect the fucking idiot wearing it”.   Then he turned, put his arm around me and we went bowling for the night….legend.

My Mum and Dad are also responsible for my knowledge of drinking games, my sense of fun, sense of humour and my morality.

Thanks Mum and Dad

One? Theres bloody hundreds of 'em

A worried wife calls her husband who is driving home, to warn him about a news report of a lunatic driving on the wrong side of the road.   “A lunatic??!?!?!!” He says “There are bloody hundreds of ’em”

One of the problems with coming from England is that we drive on the left, in right hand drive cars.   Generally this isn’t an issue, but can cause problems from time to time.

I was in the car with my Dad many years ago, when I asked him if it had been difficult to get used to driving on the right.   He was in the process of explaining about how it becomes normal pretty quickly and that you get used to it etc, when we realised that Dad had pulled across a junction onto the left hand side of a dual carriageway.   A quick change of underwear later and we are back on the correct side of the road.   At the time, we had been in Germany around 3 years, so this sort of thing shouldn’t happen.

Similar things have happened to me recently.   Especially when borrowing my friends English spec car (right hand drive) and driving around Frankfurt.   Now that I can almost understand, however I have noticed and irresistable urge to do the same thing when driving large rental vans.

Maybe it is ingrained in the British psychy.   Like having vinegar with Fish and Chips, mint sauce with lamb, drinking tea, being bad at sports we helped invent, personal space and queueing.   Germans have absolutely no concept of personal space and think nothing of getting uncomfortably close to you when it is completely unnecessary.   Case in point is public transport over here.   If you are sat down on a train that has hundreds of empty seats, you still get people that will get on and sit next to you.   Same with queueing…now I know that this can be considered a British pastime, but if you leave more than 5 centimeters gap between you and the person in front of you, a German will get straight in there.   You certainly couldn’t pull the “Queue Gag” that we used to do in the UK.

Get 2 or 3 of your friends and walk up to a featureless wall and form a small queue.   After a while, start looking around and at your watch like something is due to happen or that something is late.   After a while, members of the general public will queue behind you.   When the queue is at a decent size, walk away and don’t look back.   If you circle around, you will normally see that the queue stays there for quite a while.   I know that this could be construed as an Urban Myth about Brits…but I have done it…..more than once.   The current record we have is 14 people joining the queue and the queue stayed in place for 15 minutes after we left.   If you are in the UK, try it – It’s so much more satisfying than the old look up in the sky gag.

So, whilst I can’t do that in Germany, I have to appease myself with mocking Germans general destruction of the English language.   Don’t get me wrong, my understanding of the German language is bordering on homicidal – But that shouldn’t stop me from having fun at their expense….not on my blog anyway.

Things I have heard today:

I have been here since four years.
We need to change the enWIREment settings
We have too many furnitures here
It can be happen that ……

My favourites:

I had wisitors for the veekend
The system is going life next week
It is paining me
I can borrow to you that

Now I have to go an make sure that I never attempt to speak German in public….or?

Why I am a cat person

I have never really been a pet person, I like animals, but they always seem like too much hassle.   Currently I have 2 cats that I essentially looking after until I can get them their required jabs and get them to Sarah and the kids.   I have experienced dogs and cats over the years, along with goldfish and hamsters….but cats always seem to win in the pet vote.

Dog experiences:

When I was a nipper, my nan and grandad had a dog, I forget its name but it used to get so excited when you came back into the house, that it would actually pee…it would do this whilst running around and jumping up at you.   Not the most pleasant experience.   Now, a lot of dogs are excited to see you and in fact I guess that can make up a lot of the attraction for having them.   Unfortunately, this dog would get excited to this level if you closed a door behind you and then opened it again…..

My mum and dad had 2 dogs a while ago.   A big pedigree labrador and a little long haired terrier thing.   Now Storm (the lab) was fun, but placid and generally no trouble.   Callie (I think) was different type of dog entirely, and took to trying to dig up the flooring in the house.   Unfortunately, as big as Storm was, Callie was clearly the boss.   Eventually getting Storms help in the big Dog Food Theft of ’98.   They tunnelled through the wall into the cupboard where their food was…

I have even tried dog ownership myself.   I am a firm advocate of rescuing animals, but I have to say I would be dubious about rescuing dogs in the future.   Labradors are generally considered to be placid and docile creatures, but the one I chose to rescue was a cross between the Tasmanian Devil and the Hound of the Baskervilles.   Brandy, not sure why we chose that name, had this amazing ability to leg it at any given opportunity.   Unfortunately chasing after her made her turn on you.   Not chasing after her, made her turn on other people.   Quite the dilemma.   She also resolutely refused to be house trained.   We finally had to find her a new home.

Sasha we got as a puppy and she was adorable.   Very friendly and gave the impression of being quite intelligent.   She had her moments though.   The most memorable for me is when I was living in Ollerton at the weekend and working in Cardiff.   Occasionally I would leave early doors on Monday morning, head to the hotel, get changed and go straight to work.   When this happened, I hung up my suits and shirts near the front door the night before, so that I could grab them, throw them in the car and go with minimal chance of disturbing the house.   This I duly did, drove to Cardiff, got into the hotel and started to get dressed for work.   It was at this point that I notice that none of my trousers have buttons…and that they have a distinctly chewed look about them.   Same for the shirts.   I end up having to run and buy new clothing and was late to work.

Cat experiences:

My first cat was a rescue cat.   Lorrin and I decided that a cat would be a good pet.   Loving but minimum effort as they can be pretty much trusted to do what they wanted.   So off we trot to the local vetinary clinic that did a bit of pet re-homing following rescue.   We are told that there are 2 cats available and proceed to bring out the cutest little tabby kitten.   Clearly loving, this little thing came up to us and was purring the whole time.   Lorrin fell in love and I was pretty impressed.   They tell us that the kitten is recovering from cat flu, so wouldn’t be available for at least 2 weeks.   At this point I ask to see the other one.   The assistant shrugs her shoulders and disappears into the back.   A lot of banging and clattering takes place, coupled with some muffled swearwords and eventually the assistant comes out holding what can only be described as a minature Tasmanian Devil….only with an attitude.   She follows the same protocol and puts the cat on the desk near the kitten – Where it decides that the kitten is obviously lunch.   Lorrin tries to stroke the cat and it goes into beserk mode.   I try to stroke the cat and….it lets me.   Weird.   So obviously I choose the bundle of fury over cutesy.   Hey, cats need to be fun too right?   Ebony (Ebby for short) begins a veritable reign of terror on Lorrin.   She chases her round the house, literally climbs the wallpaper and net curtains.   Lorrin can’t put her feet down off the sofa without being attacked.   All of this would take place whilst I was at work, clearly Lorrins place in the pecking order had been defined.   When I would get home from work, the reign of terror would stop, Ebby would jump up onto my lap, curl up and go to sleep.   Evil Genius cat.

Then their is the pedigree side (for pedigree read stupid).   When mum and dad were living in Berlin, mum got 2 persian kittens.   They were designated as house cats, and lets face it, if you have ever seen a persian cat, you do NOT want to be grooming it after it has been out running through grass and mud etc.   We were there one christmas and on christmas eve the snow started falling.   By christmas morning we had over 8 inches of snow – It was fantastic.   So everyone was running in and out of the house.   Eventually the door was left open and one of the cats made a break for it….and sank into snow well above its head.   Where it waited to be rescued and transferred into the warmth.

Another cat, Amy, instinctively knew what clothing was important and needed for the following day and would be guaranteed to shed all over whatever you made the mistake of lying out.   My dad came to visit once, and pre-warned about the cat, left it until the morning to lay his suit out for the day.   He went to have a shower and 5 minutes later was cursing at me in a number of languages…some of which I don’t even think were real.   Amy also had a tendency to sleep in the sink.   If you weren’t paying attention, the first you knew of it was her trying to shave your face with her claws after you turned the tap on.

And that brings me to Ollie and Berry, the cats currently living with me.   Berry is very skittish and Ollie is a methodical feline evil genius, who enjoys nothing more than tormenting the unwary, and in particular Berry.   As recently as this morning, he saw that I was going to shoo Berry from the bathroom and positioned himself just right, so that when she ran past he was already up on his back legs ready to swipe her.   His favourite trick though, is to see where you have left the treats, steal them and then rip the packaging to shreds to get at them.   There are other stories, but I suspect you are bored of animals….providing you have even read this far…

Dogs essentially focus on the nearest person, hoping for some form of interaction.   When that interaction doesn’t come they move on to the next person, however, even without the slightest hint they will go back to a previous source of rejection….all within the space of less than a minute.   There are exceptions to the rule of course, there was the infamous Lassie and I even know a very smart dog personally (W of Z fame).

Cats on the other hand are interesting creatures.   They have an air of authority and intellect, every cat you meet sizes you up and makes a determination as to what part of the pecking order you fit into.   Sometimes you are lucky and don’t find yourself at the bottom, othertimes you aren’t so lucky.

So what have we learned here class?   Well….certainly dogs are generally stupid, whilst cats are intelligent, cunning and only require human intervention until they work out the whole opposable thumbs deal…

I will leave you with something I was sent a looong time ago, it is a bulletpointed, step by step process about giving a cat medication.   I bring you, Cats and Pills:

Subject: Instructions For Giving Your Cat A Pill:

1. Pick up cat and cradle it in the crook of your arm as if holding a baby. Position right forefinger and thumb on either side of cat’s mouth and gently apply pressure to cheeks while holding pill in right hand. As cat opens mouth, pop pill into mouth. Allow cat to close mouth and swallow.

2. Retrieve pill from floor and cat from behind sofa. Cradle cat in left arm and repeat process.

3. Retrieve cat from bedroom, and throw soggy pill away.

4. Take new pill from foil wrap, cradle cat in left arm holding rear paws tightly with left hand. Force jaws open and push pill to back of mouth with right forefinger. Hold mouth shut for a count of 10.

5. Retrieve pill from goldfish bowl and cat from top of wardrobe. Call spouse from garden.

6. Kneel down on floor with cat wedged firmly between knees, holding front and rear paws. Ignore low growls emitted by cat. Get spouse to hold cat’s head firmly with one hand while forcing wooden ruler into cat’s mouth. Drop pill down ruler and rub cat’s throat vigorously.

7. Retrieve cat from curtain rail, get another pill from foil wrap. Make note to buy new ruler and repair curtains. Carefully sweep shattered figurines from hearth and set to one side for gluing later.

8. Wrap cat in large towel and get spouse to lie on cat with its head just visible from below spouse’s armpit. Put pill in end of drinking straw and force cat’s mouth open with pencil and blow down drinking straw.

9. Check label to make sure pill not harmful to humans, drink glass of water to take taste away. Apply band-aid to spouse’s forearm and remove blood from carpet with cold water and soap.

10. Retrieve cat from neighbor’s shed. Get another pill. Place cat in cupboard and close door onto neck to leave head showing. Force mouth open with dessert spoon. Flick pill down throat with elastic band.

11. Fetch screwdriver from garage and put door back on hinges. Apply cold compress to cheek and check records for date of last tetanus shot. Throw T-shirt away and fetch new one from bedroom.

12. Ring fire department to retrieve cat from tree across the road. Apologize to neighbor who crashed into fence while swerving to avoid cat. Take last pill from foil.

13. Tie cat’s front paws to rear paws with garden twine and bind tightly to leg of dining room table. Find heavy duty pruning gloves from shed. Force cat’s mouth open with small spanner. Push pill into mouth followed by large piece of fillet steak. Hold head vertically and pour a pint of water down throat to wash pill down.

14. Get spouse to drive you to emergency room; sit quietly while doctor stitches fingers and forearm and removes pill remnants from right eye. Stop by furniture shop on way home to order new table.

15. Arrange for SPCA to collect cat and call local pet shop to see if they have any hamsters.

Is this yours?

I am starting to detect a theme here, a lot of the stories I want to tell seem to revolve around alcohol.   Now I wouldn’t mind, but I don’t generally drink that often and neither do my family.   It’s just that, drunk stories seem to be funnier….at least to me.

Picture the scene.   Family friend and long time Sunderland Football Club supporter Alan has his 50th birthday.   My parents decide to throw a shindig for him at the football club bar.   Many people arrived, many a drink was drunk (all at RAF prices) and a jolly good time was had by all.

Presents that were given included a signed, framed picture of Newcastle United Football Club and a polyester lounge suit that Alan was forced to wear and be pictured with.

Now, when you are young, keeping up with the men is a favourite past time at parties.   When you are old enough to have reasonable drinking experience, you tend to think you have the same capacity as these men….this is a dangerous notion and one that should be stopped immediately.   I was fortunate enough to be a little older and wiser, therefore calling it a night relatively early.

I tried in vain to persuade my brother Kev that the best idea would be to come with me, but by then he had that drunken aura of invincibility that around 10 pints of beer brings you.   I left, he stayed.   Oh dear.

I went back to my parents place and was watching DVDs (Bill Hicks if I recall).   At around 4am the doorbell goes and I wander to the door, ready to hurle abuse at whichever lunatic had forgotten how a house key worked.   Opening the door, I was face to face with a stranger.   This stranger had a large (and slightly angry it seemed) dog.   I breathe in and puff my chest out in the classic pose of bigger is stronger that the animal kingdom tend to employ, when he utters the immortal words :

“Is this yours?”

He turns towards the front lawn and nods.   I recognise immediately that it is Kev….face down and starfished on the grass.     I run over to see if he is ok, while bloke with angry dog wanders off chuckling to himself.

Essentially Kev has been beaten, beaten badly in a drinking competition by the “olds”.   Made worse by the fact that they are still there, still drinking and having a good time.   He was a broken man.

It’s a level of shame that I am not sure he ever recovered from, all I know with any certainty….he never took up that challenge again.

For completeness…I am not a total bastard.   After waking him up and taking the piss for a while, I ended up staying awake all night to make sure he didn’t swallow his tongue or anything stupid.

Next time….it’s his turn to babysit

Stay tuned for more alcohol induced frivolity…

What is it with parents??

I was talking to Sarah last night and the subject came up of Zak and Brandon about to start doing Karate and Judo respectively.

Nothing particularly strange there, until Sarah mentions that it is ok, until both of them end up in competition on the same day in different places. How will she be in both places at once etc… We then move on to the statement that obviously, if it is a big competition, I will fly over for it. I wouldn’t be able to get there for every competition, but big ones would be no problem.

I mean wtf, the lads haven’t even joined the clubs yet and we have them entering multiple competitions and some major ones, where I will head over from wherever I am and cheer them on. They will probably become world and olympic champions and get a series of hollywood movies written for them, based on their martial arts prowess alone!!!

Babysteps…babysteps – We should probably at least allow them to join the club and buy the uniform first – I think that sounds reasonable. They can get their movie deal next year.

I don’t know if this is a normal leap of faith for parents, or if I am about to turn into “overly competitive Dad”

Jesus I hope not, I met a few of those when I was a kid playing football and frankly it was quite scary to watch these really talented kids losing any interest in the game thanks to their Dad giving them a hard time for the slightest mistake. Thankfully my Dad wasn’t like that for me and I don’t intend to be like that for my kids.

It does remind me of my time playing football as a kid though, I played for a couple of different teams while we were in Germany. My first was a team called Schwarz Weiss Elmpt, a German team where I made an immediate impact on my debut…..by scoring an own goal. I went on to do quite well, although I would probably be most remembered for my Mum turning the lovely black and white kit turning a distinctly grey colour :oops:

Also, playing on shale pitches was never fun, looking back I understand now why most of my team mates wore tracksuit bottoms under their shorts. Being a manly and oh-so-tough Brit, I continued to wear shorts, despite losing skin faster than a shedding snake. Still, I had a good time and even got to play against the Borossia Muenchengladbach junior side, which was nice.

When we moved to Gutersloh, my Dad took over the RAF Gutersloh Junior football team for my age group and we had no end of fun. We got promoted pretty rapidly and I remember warming up for a game against the team that were top of the league (we were 2nd at the time). We were in the dressing room before they arrived and were on the pitch before they were, and the speculation was mounting about the type of team they were. Based on some of the teams we had played already, the general opinion would be a team of man mountains.

When they finally came out of the dressing room, it was a team that seemed to consist entirely of Munchkins. It was almost like they had sent out the team about 3 ages lower than ours. So we thought we would have a little fun and run riot. We hadn’t anticipated them being a bunch of dirty bleeders. I got fouled by one and , while I was on the ground, another one stamped on my chest. They were doing this all over the pitch and we started to get pissed off. Eventually we got the upper hand, I think I broke the ankle of a guy I tackled. I used the often derided block tackle method, where you literally trap the ball between their foot and yours and then (if you are nasty….I was) lean into them.

It was a rough and tumble league and, as a defender, I was regularly in the wars. I got taken out (I know, it sounds a bit extreme, but I can’t think of another phrase) by a team whose name will stay with me, long after I have forgotten my name, my address and what a car key is for. FC Kaunitz. Bastards. Their entire team must have been 18-20, most of them were shaving, or not…they had beards FFS. I was playing for the under 16s at the time, so imagine my joy at performing a back somersault after a guy simply ran through my leg as I passed the ball. I landed in a position that I simply refer to as “Awkward” (yes it deserves the capital A) and, through tears of pain, looked up to see my Dad with his hands wrapped around the throat of the referee.

Good times.

Umm…where am I going with this?

Parents have silly expectations of their children?…..maybe, but no

Turkish adult males playing in an under 16s football league are bastards?

That’ll do