Monday, June 25, 2007

6 Weird Things

Tinakala, that bizarre but entertaining Estonian siren, has lured me into doing my first meme. 6 Weird Things about my sleeping habits.
1. I hate soft mattresses. As a kid I had an abandoned hospital bed-- we didn't have much money and I think my dad found it on a junkyard-- I loved the cranks and handles, I took all the excess machinery off and rigged up some hinges so I could fold it up against the wall during the daytime. We were six kids, and I wanted a bedroom of my own, but the only space left was a storage cupboard in the cellar, which measured 2 meters by 1 1/2, so the folding bed was a necessity.
Anyhow, the mattress was very hard (probably only some kind of an undermattress) but I got used to it. In college I had to choose between buying a camera and buying a bed, and the camera won. I slept on the floor. When I moved to London, I found that I was in the Land of Squishy, and slept on the floor.
After I got married (I was in Germany by that time), a bed seemed appropriate. But I never got used to having a normal mattress, and after a couple of years I bought us a specially firm bed. Perhaps it ruined my marriage, don't know.
Now, even though I have a huge apartment with a number of quite decent beds, I sleep in a tiny alcove that sits on top of a wooden construction I made (see picture above), on a thin mattress. It is very cosy.
2. I always hold my breath for about 15 seconds as part of the relaxing process before going to sleep. It helps drive the excess music out of my head.
3. I hate mushy pillows, feel like I am being suffocated. Given a soft pillow in a hotel, I rather do without completely.
4. The German system of not having blankets, but those lightweight feather filled duvets, which are sheet and blanket in one, is fantastic! They are warm in winter and not too hot for much of what passes for summer here, and I would never go back I think to the American system of thick (usually synthetic) overblankets and sheets, or (even worse) the English system with nasty scratchy terrycloth sheets and multiple thin nasty blankets (shudder).
5. If it is cold (I don't ever heat the bedroom)I go to bed with socks on, but sometime during the night they somehow get removed. I have never figured out how this happens, and have never consciously taken them off. Very mysterious. Proves the existence of the sock fairy.
6. I always believed that I didn't snore, but there are some indications that I am capable of it, it is not loud but is exacerbated by wine.

I am nervous about tagging, but if I were tagging, I would hit Carol and Christina G.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


This is my favorite cow pic, I took it in northern Germany after a particularly tedious concert of contemporary music, and it reminds me of what I want to do for at least a week, now that I am officially on vacation. It has been a rough and stressful last couple of weeks, but did my last day of work yesterday, with an open air concert... it rained but our early hopes that the show would be cancelled were dashed when we saw a sea of umbrellas in the audience.
Today I had my students recital, with "American Grill Party!" afterwards, and now (at 11:30 pm) the last of the group has gone home. Those Germans seem to love American food. I made (wait for it!) hamburgers, and served a garlic and yoghurt dip with taco chips and celery and carrot sticks. Dessert was homemade cheesecake (they have nothing like it here). It is always amazing to me how exotic these things are in Germany.
There are so many splendid food blogs out there, often with exact (and exacting) recipes and mouth-watering photographs. I didn't take any pictures (there was just too much going on that I had to oversee), but here, for those gourmets out there who want to know just how I do it:
Hamburgers: Find some beef (here they like to mix it with pig, a practice that I find tasteless), mix it up with a chopped onion or 2, throw in an egg or 2 cause otherwise the burgers fall through the slats in the grill.
Put them on a charcoal grill. But first light the charcoal, scream a lot because the coals don't catch, when they do catch, fan furiously with a filthy dustpan. When the burgers are on the grill, curse because some are cooking and the others are not because the charcoal is only buring on one end. Besides, the grill is completely rusty because I haven't used it for 2 years and it has been sitting out in the rain since the last American Grill. Worry that the police are going to come and bust me because grilling is illegal. (true!) But don't fan more with said filthy dustpan because the hamburgers will fill with nasty grit and ashes.
Serve with tomatoes, sliced, and onions.

chip dip: buy tub of intensely fatty yoghurt at the Turkish grocery, and mix it with Miree brand fresh herb cheese, whatever that is called in America.

Cheesecake: throw in all the Philadelphia you can find (yes, that is what they call cream cheese here) with some eggs, make a crust with some generic cookie crumbs (the best I have found are Brandt Hobbits), bake until it starts to set, pour Schmand over it and scald in the oven again, put in the fridge and hope no one finds it until the guests come.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Language and the Expat

An entry by Heidi got me thinking about my living for quite a while in a foreign country but not mastering the language, and I wonder if any other expats have this problem? I never studied German, had to learn by doing so to German is still grammatically faulty on a fairly basic level even after 20-odd years, I cannot seem to get the Dativ, Genitiv, Akkusativ endings right for the life of me! And the Germans, unfortunately, tend to equate grammar mistakes with sub-human intelligence or abject Turkishness, so I am leery of commiting anything to paper. The speaking and comprehension bit is not so bad, my method is to mumble when I get to the end of a declineable adjective or noun. People are bewildered that I can know all the big words and understand the dialects (yes, even K├Âlsch) and still get the "der, die, das, dem, den..." bits wrong.

Mark Twain wrote some really choice comments on Germany and its language after some extended travels in Europe... his most famous being the essay "The Awful German language". But there are other quotes, like:
Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of his Atlantic with his verb in his mouth.

It is not like studying German, where you mull along, in a groping, uncertain way, for thirty years; and at last, just as you think you've got it, they spring the subjunctive on you, and there you are. No- and I see now plainly enough, that the great pity about the German language is, that you can't fall off it and hurt yourself. There is nothing like that feature to make you attend strictly to business.
- Taming the Bicycle
The Germans have an inhuman way of cutting up their verbs. Now a verb has a hard time enough of it in this world when it's all together. It's downright inhuman to split it up. But that's just what those Germans do. They take part of a verb and put it down here, like a stake, and they take the other part of it and put it away over yonder like another stake, and between these two limits they just shovel in German.
- Mark Twain's Speeches, "Disappearance of Literature"
I don't speak German well but several experts have assured me that I write it like an angel. Maybe so, maybe so- I don't know. I've not yet made any acquaintances among the angels. That comes later, whenever it please the Deity. I'm not in any hurry.
- Concordia speech, 11/2/1897

To be fair, he was even less complimentary about Dutch:
It is too smooth and blubbery; it reads like butter-milk gurgling from a jug.

Monday, June 11, 2007


You all may have remembered that I have been complaining for years that there is no German equivalent for the American baking soda toothpastes, but I take it back: thanks to Corinna I now know what to use. It is terrific, better than the American version.
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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Summer Lethargy

My show begins in less than an hour, and I am still at home in my underwear, blogging feebly. My only excuse is that it has been a long day already and I haven't finished my tea. If only the show weren't so long and didn't require a whole lot of concentration! Assuming I have any energy left when I get home, I will write some more.

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