Where’s the magic housework fairy when I need her?

I really am a terrible housekeeper. I can just about manage to keep on top of the worst of it when Jan’s not around, but the minute he goes away somewhere I drop all pretence of being any sort of housekeeper and let the poor flat go to the dogs. Take this week as a case in point. Jan left for America on Friday. Since then I’ve:

– Failed to wash a dish
– Left all our CDs stacked in four messy piles on the living room rug (they usually live on the shelf that fell down)
– Left several tin cans standing around on the kitchen bench because I “didn’t get round to” putting a new ben liner in the bin
-Failed to hoover, despite the fact that the kitchen floor is crunchy and there appears of be dusty/gravelly stuff all over the flat from when I went out to a dusty place on Sunday
– Kept adding more stuff to the pile on the spare bed instead of clearing it ready for people to sleep in it this weekend

Life Is Short
Photo credit: Christina Saint Marche

In fact, the only thing I have done is take down the evil, smelly Biomüll – and I had no choice there. It really was that or be smothered in my sleep by some unsavoury creature. I’ve been meaning to do some cleaning all week, but I was out on Monday and Tuesday, and last night I feel asleep instead. So here I am, it’s Thursday night, I’m meeting some friends after work tomorrow and on Saturday both Jan and (hopefully) some guests are arriving. This is my last chance to get the flat looking semi-reasonable. So what am I doing? Writing a blog post. About housework. But I don’t have a problem with procrastination. Oh no, not me…


A rubbish experience

Deutsch: Bozen-Bolzano — Bioabfalltonne {| cel...
A Biomüll bin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of all the things about life in Germany, that annoy, amuse or simply puzzle me, the one thing I hate the most and don’t think I’ll ever get over is dealing with the Biomüll.
Time for a little German lesson at this point, I think. Bio means organic (lots of Bio shops around here!) and Müll is, well, rubbish – or trash if you prefer (hi Americans!). So Biomüll is organic waste or, in other words, food. This includes all fruit and vegetable peelings, but also leftovers, any out-of-date stuff that needs to be thrown away, teabags and – bizarrely – corks (although some areas have special cork collections as well). All of this waste goes in a special, separate bin to your ordinary household waste. So unless you want to troop all the way to the outside bin every time you have mashed potatoes for tea, you are expected to have what is basically a compost heap in a small container in your kitchen – unless you happen to live in Mannheim city centre, where there are no Biomüll bins. Instead food waste goes in the “Restmüll” – Rest meaning “everything else” basically. The decision on which types of bins to have outside is taken by the individual town (although the law states that there must be recycling bins, in some form or other) but as far as I know only Mannheim Stadt have chosen to do away with Biomüll. So I have to put up with having my compost container in the kitchen. However, having the thing there isn’t really a problem. It’s a perfectly simple system – recyclables (other than glass) in one bin, vegetable peelings in another and everything else in a small carrier bag we keep for the purpose (there isn’t much Restmüll). Glass and bottles that have a deposit on them go in the cupboard ready for either returning or taking to the large glass containers that are dotted around the place. All very easy. The problem comes when the Biomüll needs to be taken down…

This is actually supposed to be Jan’s job  – along with washing the dishes, although I am actually more forgiving on the latter and usually end up doing them myself. Most of the time, Jan actually does take down the Biomüll – if only because I nag remind him constantly until he does – I really, really hate the Biomüll! However, this time Jan had let it build up for several weeks (despite my comments!) and still didn’t take it down despite having an entire day off on Thursday. Supposedly to pack, but he didn’t do that either until 10 o’clock at night! Since he is now away for a week, and the stuff in there was getting to the stage where it no longer looked like food and I was beginning to fear it might actually come to life and take over the kitchen, I had no choice but to take the evilness down. So I grabbed the little bin, taking care to hold the handle with as few fingers as possible, and headed down two flights of stairs to the courtyard out the back. Once there, I opened the Biomüll container – causing a cloud of flies to swarm into my face –  and emptied our food stuffs onto the remains of everyone else’s that was already in there.

Bubbly Bins Dirty BinUnfortunately, I had forgotten to put the handle down, so the remains of the Biomüll bag (made of potato starch so it, too, turns into compost – and this one had already started to dissolve!) hung itself over it, meaning I had to use my finger to remove it. At this point I was almost physically sick! That trauma over with, I then had to take the Biomüll bin back upstairs using that very same handle – now covered in whatever horrid liquid substances had been lurking at the bottom of the bin. Needless to say, the first thing I did on reaching the top was wash my hands! Next followed the washing out of the dirty bin – squirt in a tonne of all-purpose cleaner, fill the kettle to the max. line and boil it, pour a couple of jugs of hot water from the tap into the bin while waiting for the kettle to boil, add boiling water, boil kettle again and add more boiling water, leave to soak for a while. Later the horrid mixture goes down the toilet , with lots of swishing around and pouring from different angles to makes sure all the edges get clean. Once the bin has been thoroughly rinsed out, it goes back to the kitchen to dry before having a new potato starch bag put in it, the toilet gets cleaned and the trauma of taking down the Biomüll is over. Until next time…

Now I get it!

I finally got round to buying and reading Watching the English – which I’ve been meaning to do since it came out. It’s very good! If you haven’t read it I certainly reommend that you do! Obviously not everything in the book strikes a chord with me (but it’s impossible to be 100% about anything as far as I’m concerned), but sooo many times I found myself nodding to myself thinking “Yes! I do that.”… “and that!”. And “Oooh, so that explains it!” And now I know… my utter social incompetence is not my fault! I’m not a freak of nature, I’m just English! And we’re just not that good at starting conversations with complete strangers, or even people we know just a little bit. Unless we’re standing at a bar, where the normal rules of social interaction are temporarily suspended (this also explains why it’s almost impossible to strike up a conversation with a random person in a pub here. Germans go out drinking with their friends… the English go out drinking because it’s one of the few ways you can make friends. And even then we need props, like dartboards and pub quizzes). I am definitely making my boyfriend read this book – it may explain a few things 🙂

Oh, and in case anyone cares, yes I did watch the Eurovision last night (sad, I know but it’s tradition!!). Poor old Engelbert was robbed. I didn’t expect him to do very well, but he was certainly better than second last! Some of the acts that got more points them him were genuninely awful – Jedward looked to me like they were miming (their lip movements in no way matched the words?!) and yet still managed to be off key. Explain that one somebody? I’m just hoping the people who voted for them were all pre-pubescent girls who didn’t know any better. I can see why Sweden won, although the song wasn’t really my thing. Germany (my adopted country!) did ok and I actually quite liked the song. It was certainly a lot better either of the ones by Lena! I heard that Satellite song (the one she won with 2 years ago) on the radio the other day and was reminded of exactly why I don’t like it. It makes no sense! And who cares if your underwear are blue?! So, there’s my verdict. And now no more Eurovision for another year. (Oh, I just have to add – I love the way Scott Mills managed to mention the London olympics before revealing the UK’s points… we may be doing terribly at this Eurovision lark, but at least we’ve got something!).

All fall down…

I arrived home from work to find my boyfriend (who is home for one day only before flying to America for a week tomorrow) hoovering up soil from our sofa. The shelf we have above the sofa fell down, for no reason whatsoever that we can figure out. Jan says he was in the bedroom at the time, so obviously he had nothing to do with it. As you’ve probably guessed, the sehlf contained (among other things) a plant – hence the soil all over the sofa…. and the rug Naturally the cross stitch I’ve been working on was also on the sofa, and has now been soiled (quite literally!). And the fabric I’m stitching on is, of course, white. I suppose this is a lesson to me about finding a place to keep cross stutch projects that are in progress rather than just leaving them wherever I was working on them last! *sigh* I’m just glad nobody was sitting on the sofa at the time… and that it didn’t happen while I was here alone. If I’d been in bed at the time I would definitely have freaked out! Loud cracks/bangs from the living room from a flat that’s supposed to be empty never bode any good! The boyfriend is currently trying to figure out why the shelf decided to come loose from its attachments, and hopefully put it back, so I’ll go and make us some food. Hopefully whatever he’s doing now will make the shelf stay up at least until he comes home again!

Back to reality with a bump

After 3 and a half days spent with my boyfriend, during which we drank a bottle of wine while reading out random facts to each other from books of useless information, purchased a new plant (and soil to repot one of the old ones), attended a mini music festival in celebration of a local music shop’s 30th anniversary and watched Chelsea beat Bayern on penalties in the Champions League (allowing me to laugh at Bayern), my four-day weekend is now over, Jan has gone away to a trade fair and the washing machine decided to leak all over the kitchen floor. I think it’s fairly safe to say reality has kicked back in. All I want to do now is sleeep – ready to be up for work at 6 a.m. tomorrow. Which is why I’m keeping this blog post short. Good night world! I’m off to try and sleep in my big empty double bed all by myself. I suppose it’s good practice for January, when it’s looking more and more likely that I will be alone…

Thank you Catholics!

There are quite a lot of public holidays in Germany, certainly more than in Britain, but not all of them are holidays throughout Germany. All the non-religious ones (May Day, which is called Tag der Arbeit – literally Day of Work, i.e. Labour Day, Reunification Day – Germany’s national holiday, etc.) are holidays in the whole country, but for the religious ones it depends on whether the majority of people in your particular Bundesland are Catholic or Protestant. Bavaria, for example, is mostly Catholic and has more Feiertage than any other state in Germany (12). Berlin has the least with 8. And here in Baden-Württemberg, where theCatholic/Protestant ratio is pretty much even, we get 11 – one less than the Bavarians. Which is why I have a lot of lovely short weeks coming up. This Thursday is Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension Day), one of the few religious holidays that everybody gets, and I’ve taken a bridge day* on Friday so I get a 4 day weekend this week. Fantastic! I then have a full week at work, followed by a three day weekend thanks to Pfingstmontag (Pentecost Monday). Then on Thursday 7 June it’s Fronleichnam (Corpus Christi). That week my colleague gets the bridge day, but I’ve taken the Monday and Tuesday off because I have visitors so I still only have a 2-day working week. Result! The only problem with all these holidays is that you start to miss them when you have to go back to five day working weeks for the three months afterwards (next public holiday after that will be Reunification Day on 3 October). But of course, there are actual holiday (vacation) days to be taken in between. After all, thanks to all the public holidays I’ll still have lots left despite all my three-day weekends! This is one aspect of German life that I will definitely miss if I decide to leave…

Bridge day: A day taken off to bridge the gap when a public holiday falls one day away from a weekend, meaning on a Tuesday or a Thursday. Apparantly this is an official English term – despite that fact that I had never heard of it before moving to Germany. This may have something to do with the fact that Britain sensibly moves most holidays to the Monday immediately after the actual holiday, meaning no arguments about who actually gets to have the bridge day. Everyone gets a long weekend. Some workplaces (only stae-run ones as far as I can tell) actually close on bridge days. My boyfriend’s is one of them but he usually insists on going to work anyway. No, I don’t get that either…

Little snippets

We have been doing stuff recently, but not enough to make up a whole blog post. Nevertheless, I promised to post more this year, so here are some little snippets from my life for you.

First of all, to the person who found my blog yesterday by searching for the term “German shopping blog”… sorry, but you’ve definitely come to the wrong place. Can you imagine anything further removed from my ramblings than a shopping blog? 😀 And now to the snippets…

Yesterday we came third in the pub quiz. At the last one, three weeks ago, we were first. Go us! The team that usually come first did really badly last time and left before the results were announced, knowing they weren’t getting a prize anyway. Talk about sore losers! This time they came second and didn’t seem happy about it at all. I would never have thought someone could pull such a long face after winning a round of drinks!

Jan’s dad turned 60 last Thursday, so at the weekend we headed up to Lower Saxony for his birthday party. It was a bit weird at first seeing as I barely knew anybody (only the 3 or 4 family members who were there), and Jan kept going off to talk to family friends he hadn’t seen in years, but I ended up having a great conversation with his dad’s neighbour, so that was nice. Also, Jan’s cousin brought her daughter along, who is almost one and who we had only seen in photos until now. She’s incredibly cute and was so well behaved! Even when she was getting tired there was no major tantrum – she just cried briefly, then as soon as she was in the sling on her mother’s front she went to sleep. If I ever have children, I hope they’re just as lovely.

At the end of April, Jan and I went to Ettlingen (next town over) to se some English folk music. A duo called Broom Bezzums was playing, who we had seen by complete coincidence in Ludwigshafen a couple of years ago. One of them is from the same area of England as I am, so it was nice to have a bit of a chat with him when he was signing my CD during the interval. They were followed by a second act – an Irish group called Beoga – who I didn’t enjoy as much (they were good musicians, but after a while everything started to sound the same), but we were only there for Broom Bezzums really so that was okay. The second act was just an added bonus.

On 1 May (which was a public holiday in Germany) I met up with some colleagues to go to a performance by the University of Mannheim’s English Theatre. They put on Black Comedy, which was hilarious and very well acted (in my opinion). We also went to Heidelberg to see the King’s Singers in April  (apparantly the best A Capella choir in the world – says the boyfriend who is into that kind of thing and who I bought the tickets for as an anniversary present) so I’ve been very cultural recently. And I bet you’re all really impressed 😉

And just generally, life is good at the moment. Jan and I are getting on really well and have been enjoying spending time together just doing nothing (almost unheard of for Jan – he usually wants to watch a film, play Scrabble, read a book… anything but just sit and have a cup of tea and not have to be involved in any other activity). And I’ve been able to (almost) stop worrying about doing/saying the wrong thing and causing an argument. Strangely, knowing that our relationship could be over by January has made me less afraid that it could end suddenly the minute I do something Jan doesn’t like. I’m sure a psychologist would be able to give me a really good explanation for that, but honestly I’d prefer not to go there. I’m just enjoying being happy while it lasts.