I should probably post this

So, after the weekend I just had, it’s probably a good idea to post this.

I should point out that noone knows what happened, including me.

I was out on Friday night, and we ended up moving on to our typical moving on spot. At some point, I realised I had hit my limit and needed to head home. T had already left and left his jacket behind, so I grabbed both mine and his jackets and headed out.

I could have grabbed a cab right outside, but I thought I wanted to grab some food.. I remember seeing the food place and deciding just to keep walking to the next taxi rank (I do that a lot since I lost all the weight). And that’s it, that’s all I remember until I woke up, surrounded by people and the paramedics. I was found, face down with a large cut on my forehead, cuts on my face and no small amount of pain in both shoulders and my neck.

It wasn’t until later, at the hospital, after they had checked me, scanned me and generally looked after me that I was able to think about going for a smoke and went to check my jacket. That was when I noticed that my wallet was there, but empty… Same for Ts wallet from his jacket. Still there, but all the cash gone.

It’s hard to say what happened. The doctors said it looks like I was worked over, especially with the bruising on my shoulders and back, like someone hit me with something across my back. Without that bruising, they would assume (and so would I) that I was more drunk than I thought, and fell over like a moron. The trouble is, noone knows. I would like to think that I fell over and that opportunists nicked the cash, as opposed to a full on mugging. I just can’t be sure.

The upshot is that I have stitches in my forehead and will most likely have an interesting scar (chicks dig scars right?) and a lot of back/neck pain right now. Oh, and I am able to pull a duck face for selfies without even trying… So, silver linings right?

So, why post this?

Well, a few people have commented with things like “Frankfurt doesn’t seem safe” and “Why does this keep happening to you?” or things along those lines. Understandable if I think about it, but it needs to be qualified I think.

I have been in Frankfurt 12 years now and in all that time, precisely 2 things have happened to me.  Last year, I made a decision to step in and help someone, and have been (essentially) suffering for that decision for the last 10 months.  However, that was a decision I made.

And then Friday night.

That’s it.

Now you could, rightly, argue that one (possible) mugging in 12 months is more than enough and, certainly from my perspective, you would be right.  However, it doesn’t make me particularly unlucky, a victim or Frankfurt any more inherently dangerous than anywhere else.

Does it suck?, absolutely, am I now going to be worried about walking through town?, nope.  I won’t let the actions of a couple of morons dictate that for me.  I just don’t see it as a massive issue.  Whatever happened, and whoever got my (and Ts) cash, they were idiots.  They failed to spot my phone in my front pocket and got away with, maybe, 100 or so euros.  People like that will get caught, they were clearly opportunists and I was drunk.

So there you have it, a very sore, but largely lucky and still Laughing Wolf.

T visited me in the hospital on Saturday and pointed out that noone used to mess with me before I lost all the weight, and then “IF” posted something very similar on Facebook…so maybe there is something in that  LOL

Also, I’m not entirely sure how long the swelling on my face will last, so if anyone wants any selfies with me….now’s the time.

Woof

 

Want to finish early? I’m your guy!

733tdgSo, 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.

Culture Club

get-around-in-english-how-to-be-politeDo 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:

#1 Sickness

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.

#3 Drinking

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.

#4 Greetings

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.

Lifts.

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……

Regrets, I’ve had a few…

regret…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  Fingers Crossed

Insomoaniac

complaint-boxYup, 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).

Ermahgerd! I hate trains

997-public-transportActually…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  Cry

Go West….I think they did

LapseHoly crapola…has it been this long?

I think it must have been, I mean, the last entry date seems to be honest, I don’t remember trying to play an elaborate prank on myself.  Ah well, let’s see if we can’t remember how this here blogging thing works shall we?

First of all…LW update:

I am still stupendously happy in Frankfurt, no mean feat for me….5 years and counting, and no plans to leave.  I am considering calling Norris McWhirter

CW and I are still ticking along nicely and enjoying life.  I think our life resembles a “Love Wanted” advert…we enjoy long walks, the cinema, sitting in the sun and drinking coffee and just chatting…
I bought a car, a nice BMW 320i…beautiful, that is until CW very kindly and lovingly points out that the 3 series is considered to be an Asbo car.  Cue slight proudness removal (I still love it though).

Now here’s the thing.  When you buy a car….unless you have a particular requirement….you tend to buy a car you want.  Something that makes you happy when you think about driving it.  The BMW 3 series has always been that for me.  I looked at loads of them and finally settled on a beautiful 320i.  High mileage (kilometerage??) but in absolutely mint condition.  Obviously, living in Germany has the benefit of BMW being a little more available and accessible than, say, the UK.  The likelihood of my being able to afford this particular car in the UK is pretty slim…so I grabbed the opportunity.  The trouble with them being more accessible over here, is that a lot of people have them….specifically people of a certain social group…meaning that the car has a stigma associated with it.

I’ll be honest, this took a little bit of the sheen off the car for me…telling people about the car and having them ask “Are you going to get a tan and start wearing thick gold jewellery?” will do that to you I suppose.  That was until I spoke to my folks about the car…and they were jealous.  It’s the exact model that my Dad has lusted over for years..which reminded me that the car still has something going for it outside of Germany.

So, having driven 900 kilometers, I arrived at my Mum and Dads place Smile …pride in my new vehicle restored.  To be fair, the real reason was to have an amazing week with all 4 of my kids….the car thing was a nice bonus Grin

Anyhoo, I should probably address the title of the post really.

Friday saw the birthday of TZ and the plan was to go to a music festival in Frankfurt.  It was the opening night and full of Electro, Dubstep and other dance rammel.  I will confess that, up until 2 hours before, I wasn’t going…especially when I “Youtube’d” some of the DJs that were playing.  Still, CW persuaded me and I agreed on the grounds that I wasn’t expected to dance.

We arrive at the “Festival” a little after its scheduled start time and we probably should have been paying closer attention to a number of things…

  • 2 people were leaving and chatting as we walked in…they said something along the lines of “What a waste of money”
  • In the building, directly next to the festival area, was a table tennis party…
  • We couldn’t see anyone milling about outside
  • We said we would try and get in for ?5 instead of ?10…they agreed without any argument
  • There was a tent that was advertising “Ethno Jazz” – Now, this tent was empty, having finished earlier in the evening…but still…wtf is Ethno Jazz??  Someone needs to explain that one to me

If you take any of those things on their own, you can be forgiven for going in anyway, but if you combine them…I forget why we were there.

Still, we had paid and had beers in hand, so we decided to stay…walking into the “Techno Room”, we see one guy dancing away quite happily (doing the UK wedding dance from what I could see).  The girls immediately head onto the dancefloor and let loose for a little while.  A few more people start arriving about an hour later and THAT is the moment when they decide to close down the better of the two “rooms”.

We all ended up outside, having a beer and a chat – It ended up being a really fun night….up until about 4am, when PW decides to have a go on a skateboard that was there…and knackers his Achilles in the process.  CW and I took him to the hospital and got home at around 8am  Confused

This leads me to something else…for the first time, I am starting to feel my age.  Years ago, I could finish work at 6pm, head out and not come home until 4am on Monday morning, get ready and go to work….and I would do that every weekend.  I got home at 8am Saturday morning….and I am still tired now.  I demand a stewards enquiry.  Damn my ageing and frail body….damn it all to hell.

That’ll do for now methinks…more posts in, well, less than a year Smile

I think I watch too much TV

BratsThis weekend I visited CW, who has been working away in Eastern Germany for the last couple of weeks, in Erfurt.

Erfurt is a beautiful town, clean and modern looking with enough oldie-worldy German goodness that it has that “wow” factor when you wander around.  It is clearly quite a touristy place, indicated by the inability to walk for more than, say, 5 paces..without falling over a cafe, restaurant, ice cream parlour or street musician.

Typically, based on the stories you hear about the East, I had expected a cross between Kosovo and East Berlin…so I was completely blown away by the place….and didn’t have a camera with me.  The thing is, it all seems a little too nice.  About halfway through Saturday..which was when we had a wander and explored the town…we noticed a number of things.

The women there are not beautiful.  Now, this may seem like a generalisation and, coming from a Fester clone, maybe a little cheeky….but it is true.

When you do come across a beautiful woman..it is either that they are simply less ugly than the rest…and based on the famine you have become accustomed to, you feast on whatever you can get.  Alternatively, it is simply the sort of chavvy beauty normally associated with women in Newcastle…

The place is clean, modern, young (in terms of people) and clearly has money flowing through it from somewhere…but it is kind of eerily clean and modern.  We were sat at the least Irish feeling Irish bar either of us had ever been to..when old people walked passed us..I joked that the Police would come and shuffle them off somewhere.  2 minutes later, 2 police vans trundled slowly down the street in the direction of the old people.  Coincidence? I think not…also, the 2nd Police van was basically just a standard red transit van…with Polizei written on the back door!

At 10pm, the place sounded like it was jumping…lots of music, lots of people…beer drinking..general partying going on everywhere.  I remember thinking that the place had really come alive.  By 11pm it was eerily silent.  Walking through the center and you only found teens that look like they walked out of High School Musical and decided to sit outside Burger King.  Seriously, talk about “Yo pants** on the ground”, wish I was American kids..

Everything is closed after 8pm at the latest.  We realised that we needed some smokes, so we decided to get a Taxi back to the hotel and ask the driver to go via anywhere that we could be some smokes.  His response “Oh my..you know it is already close to midnight right?”.  He then proceeded to take us to a place that “might be open”…it wasn’t.  He thought about somewhere else that also “might” be open…but decided to ration what we had and asked him to take us back to the hotel.

Everyone has dogs..and I mean everyone.  There is a bizarre number of waxen-faced people wandering aimlessly around the place whilst being directed by their hounds.  I firmly believe that the dogs are actually running the town and that there is something running through the town (other than brand new trams that have 1940s design) that causes you to instantly need a dog.  Seriously, CW and I were both discussing what dog we are going to get when we have a place that suits it…before I realised what was going on.

I think that they put something in the water…but if it is being run by dogs, I don’t want to consider exactly what that might be.  CW saw 3 shooting stars on Saturday night…I just think that was reinforcements arriving.

All in all a great weekend and as I was visiting the home of the best Bratwurst in Germany, I had precisely…..no Bratwursts at all Confused

CW is due back next Saturday..that is if she has managed to avoid purchasing a dog and being assimilated.  Also…I just thought..maybe the old people are scooped up by the Police and turned into the Thüringer Bratwurst…a la “League of Gentlemen”.

Holy crap, Erfurt IS Royston Vasey.

Eek!

** I should point out here that although I am English, I am aware that in this context that “pants” are in fact “trousers” and not (as it the correct useage) undergarments of the thong, briefs, boxer shorts or indeed Y-Front variety.  Equally, I will not go into the incorrect useage of Fanny..this is neither the time nor the place***

*** Well, it is, but I can’t be arsed…see

Home on the range


Love and Lust
So, as I appear to be in a reminiscing frame of mind at the moment, I thought I would share a story about a pursuit of lust love.  This pursuit would lead to my joining a uniformed organisation and would ultimately lead to a shooting incident where a number of people could have lost their lives.

Exciting, right?  Absolutely…prepare…..for….well, disappointment I am almost certain.

Hmm, I have sat here for at least 5 minutes, trying desperately to remember the year that this took place.  Not that it is important to the story, but I know how you all like to have complete facts and not just spurious memories.  Let’s see, I was in Gütersloh, which I left in 1990…so this would have been a year (ish) before that.  Ok, ok…I’ll say 1988 for the sake of argument.

So, back in 1988 I was living in Gütersloh, Germany as my dad was in the Royal Air Force (I may have mentioned this before).  It was fast approaching the summer, my Uncle Fester/Panda Hybrid looks were not even a remote possibility.  I played regular football, table tennis, squash and a myriad of other sports..and I was fortunate enough to be in the relatively “in” groups.  Life was good and I felt good about that.

A particular lady, however, had achieved the dubious honour of having me lusting after her and, indeed, being somewhat obsessed with her.  She was in a group of friends that regularly overlapped with my group, so we were chatting quite frequently.  Despite my (moderate) successes with the ladies…and the group that I was with…I was still abnormally shy about making any “moves”..so I hadn’t attempted to get with the object of my desires yet.  During one of our chats, it was revealed to me that she was a member of the Air Training Corps (a sort of youth Royal Air Force if you will) and that they were having a huge summer event in a couple of months.  After discovering that the event was a full weekend camping, with BBQs, party and other activities…I decided that I needed to get to this event.

Unfortunately, this was specifically an ATC event…no friends or external invites.  What was a boy to do?

After signing up to join the ATC and getting my uniform sorted out, I embarked upon, what I describe to be, a low point in my life.  Low because of what I was going through in an attempt to be with the object of my infatuation.  I attended every week, went to the special events…learned how to march, how to strip and clean a gun and also how to fire a gun.  Eventually, I got the all clear…I attended the weekend event and had a very….very good time….you don’t really need to hear more than that.

That is not the story though….oh no.  This story is based around what happened during my (self) enforced time in the ATC.  As I said, I attended everything that they wanted me to religiously, mainly to make sure that they couldn’t exclude me from the summer event.  Everything.  Including many visits to the shooting range, where we learned about firing various guns…how to keep them safe, strip them down and clean them etc…and of course, how to fire them.

I excelled at firing them and rapidly gained a marksman certificate for every weapon that we were allowed to handle.  I was one of, if not the, best shot out of everyone there.  We would visit the range almost every week and so I got plenty of practise.  This particular visit to the range was no different.

I should probably, at this point, explain how the range was setup.  It was a very long range, lots of dirt on the floor leading from where we shot to the targets at the other end.  The targets were set at about 1.8m from the ground and were supported by (and placed in front of) lots of sandbags.  For extra support (I think), the sandbags were themselves placed on the top of some rocks.  It was a pretty good setup.

We were firing SA-80s from the “prone” position, which is basically laying down, and were instructed to stop firing.  The rule was that you had to make the weapon safe before standing, then check the chambers and place the weapon (barrel facing down-range) onto the table next to your firing position.  We had done this many many many times and were all pretty skilled at it.

For some reason, one of the girls…I shall call her Brandine, completely forgot what she was supposed to do…stood up and went to place the gun on the table.  At the moment that she was doing this, the Sergeant who had been watching all of us intently, decided to act.  I am fairly certain, that, had he approached her in a calm manner and explained the issue, it would have been rectified without further incident..unfortunately, he decided to be a cliche and proceeded, at the top of his lungs, to scream “MAKE THAT WEAPON SAFE CADET BRANDINE”.

As you and I might reasonably expect, this did not have the desired effect on Brandine…what it did do was to scare the shit out of her.  Brandine, who at this point was in mid-reach to the table whilst attempting to put the gun down..jumped out of her skin and immediately dropped the weapon on the floor.

Dropped.  The.  Weapon.

As I am sure you can imagine (it wouldn’t be much of a story otherwise), the one in a million chance of a weapon discharge happened.

The bullet, travelling at god knows what speed, left the barrel which was (thankfully) pointing down range..and was, I swear, kicking up a dust trail as it went hurtling towards the targets…at about 2 inches off the ground.

This of course meant that it hit the rocks underneath the target and I got to experience my first ever real ricochet.  The Sergeant decided to scream again…but this time with a little more justification and we all hit the deck.

Fortunately, nothing bad happened to anyone (except Brandine, who was banned from the range)…but it could have done…which makes it exciting.

Surely by association, I am indeed exciting and interesting right?

What do you mean no?

Bastards.

So you see the sort of crap that us guys are willing to go through to get the girl.  Impressive or Sad, you decide…just don’t tell me about it.

Oh, and as for the object of my desires…we did get together at the weekend event…had lots and lots of fun…and 3 weeks later we were both seeing other, more interesting people.

Still, it was fun while it lasted.

Ain't no stoppin' us now…

white van man DSCN9143
We’re on the move…as a certain Mr L Vandross once sang.  That’s right ladles and jellyspoons, The Laughing Wolf is continuing his trend of refusing to live more than a couple of years in one place..and is moving across Frankfurt to a beautiful apartment that has just been finished.

I would love to say that I am being a grown up, getting on the property ladder and actually buying the apartment…but no, I will be renting again.  This time I will be renting with CW, and we are both very much looking forward to having you all over to dinner.  Well, not all of you and definitely not you on the left..but the rest of you…you know who you are.

My current apartment has served me well, but it was never supposed to be a long term thing and was nothing more than a bachelor pad.  A poorly decorated, but superbly located bachelor pad.  We are moving to a very quiet part of town…I am not sure how I will cope without the sounds from the pub below lulling me off to sleep.  Although I won’t miss not being able to have a quiet night in due to people shouting me from downstairs.

That all said, the White Van Man does not have to ride again, as a friend of CWs family has offered to do the move for us..which means I just have to help load and unload the van…and when you consider that I have very few actual posessions…it should be nice and easy.

I worked it out that after I moved into the current place, I owned:

3 bookcases

1 bed

1 set of bunk beds

1 computer desk

1 office chair

1 tumble dryer

1 freezer

My computer

Assorted pots/pans/crockery and cutlery

An iron and ironing board

1 ugly set of drawers

I have since added:

2 cheap wardrobes and matching cheap set of drawers

Another office chair

A giant slicer (thanks to CWs Dad)

A coffee pad machine

Fortunately, CW has plenty of stuff…so it will all work out Alien

I think that the best thing about the new apartment is that the toilet is inside…not in the main house stairwell like it is now (and by in the main stairwell I mean in it’s own room..outside the front door of the apartment…..not that we pee in the stairwell).  That and the fact that there is a bathtub and a brand spanking new kitchen that got installed a few days ago.

So there it is, cue massive underestimation of the work required and a marked increase in procrastination when I should be packing.  Oh, and the internet probably won’t get connected in time again..we shall see

Huzzah!