Friday 31 December 2010

Losing Sleep

Earlier this year, I already wrote about my neighbours, and since then, the setting has changed a little:

Nesla and Murat have a baby, and I went to visit my youngest neighbour (born on the 15th of this month) the other day.
Little Dalia had to be brought into this world four weeks early by Cesarean cut, as her mum is physically handicapped with a displaced hip and so could not give birth naturally. She already has a full head of black hair and relatively large hands and feet, which makes Nesla think she'll grow rather tall, as opposed to herself (she reaches about chest-high to me).
I brought a small present for the young mother, thinking that everyone was most likely going to give her things for the baby, but who was thinking of HER? After all, it was she who'd had a rather difficult pregnancy and now, because she is breast-feeding, can not take her usual pain medication for the hip and so is not really at her best at the moment. She was so pleased and said that I was so far the only one who had thought of her, just like I had suspected. Since she looked (and probably was!) rather tired, I only stayed maybe 15 minutes.
So far, I have not heard Dalia crying, not once.

I wish the same was true about the downstairs neighbours next door, a family of five.

They have never been the quietest of people, but except for some summer nights when they sit out on their patio and talk and laugh until 2.00 am and I have to use earplugs if I want some sleep, they do not disturb me. On the contrary, I mostly know them as friendly and kind people; again, especially in connection with my husband's sudden death last year.

Last night was very different, though.
I went to sleep just before 11 pm, and woke up at around 2.30 am from shouting and door-slamming and people stomping about. It didn't take me long to identify the source of all that racket, as the voices of Mr. and Mrs. Downstairs-Neighbours are very characteristical (hers is deep and raucous, a typical chainsmoker's voice, while his tends to have a high pitch).
It sounded as if the entire family was involved in a MASSIVE shouting match. I couldn't (to my relief) make out any noises indicating physical violence, but the shouting and crying (of the daughter) was very upsetting.
As I do not speak Turkish, I didn't understand a word - I didn't need or want to, either, because what the fight was about is none of my business.

If I had their phone number, I would have rung, but as I don't have it and they are not listed in the directory, I thought about going over and politely ask them to keep the noise level down.
The temperature was about -2 Celsius, it was almost 3.00 in the morning, but I felt I couldn't listen to this any longer.
So I put on my dressing gown, a pair of thick woolly socks and my wellies, went downstairs, out of the door and stood in front of next door's entrance.
I admit I was scared - what if I had misinterpreted the situation, and Mr. Downstairs was running amok with a knife? Or someone would punch me in the face for intruding on them? Or Mrs. Downstairs would snarl at me, telling me to mind my own business, making me her neighbourly enemy?
While I was mustering up more courage, the argument died down. The kitchen window next to where I stood was open a little, and I could clearly hear that things were going quieter.
The coward in me felt relief; now I wouldn't have to ring and ask for silence at this time of the night.

So all I did was going back upstairs to my own flat, remove my wellies and socks and go back to bed. Of course, there was a lot of adrenalin in my blood, and it took me a long time to fall asleep again, but there really was silence now.

When I finally did manage to get back to sleep, I had a rather nice dream.
I was in a palace-like house that belonged to some relative of mine (no idea who the relative was supposed to be), invited for a family gathering, a kind of ball with people in beautiful costumes. I met a very charming English gentleman on the stairs leading up to the ballroom, and we were just trying to figure out how (if at all) the two of us were related, when my cat decided it was time for me to get up and give her breakfast, and, jumping on the bed, woke me.

I still wonder whether I am related to the charming gentleman...

Wednesday 29 December 2010

This one's for Jill!

During my lunch break today, I went out on the fields where the snow is still exactly as it fell, only occasionally disturbed by a line of footprints.

I had brought my camera with me and took this picture especially for Jill :-)

After half an hour of walking in the snow, I was quite happy to return to my warm office, remove my wellies and put my extra pair of socks on top of the heating.

Tuesday 28 December 2010

An Avian Drama

In the gardens surrounding the house where I live, I'm afraid a terrible avian drama has taken place.

I did not witness it, but found some suspicious traces this morning.

From my kitchen window, I saw clusters of dark spots in the middle of the otherwise virginal white blanket of snow covering the lawn in the garden next door. At a closer look, I realized those dark spots were bits of grey feathers. Lots and lots of them.

When I stepped outside to leave for work, I found more grey feathers strewn about on the heaps of snow underneath the cherry tree which so conveniently reaches into my other kitchen window when I open it.

Now, for the past week or so, I've been feeding the birds on my living room window sill. There are blackbirds and tits and, of course, magpies. Magpies are beautiful and elegant birds with a rather fearless and challenging attitude towards other birds. We also have a large population of doves (like probably every city), but I have not seen any on my window sill in a long time. There has been the occasional crow visiting, but mainly it is blackbirds feeding on what I put there for them.

The grey feathers looked very much like dove feathers to me.
Doves are, as far as I know, less aggressive than magpies and crows.
In the summer, I often observe crows attacking a lone buzzard; they usually gang in on the buzzard, not actually touching him (or her), but flying so close and diving at the larger bird that the buzzard eventually gives up on the idea of hunting in that particular spot.

But do crows or magpies attack doves?
I have no doubt that they could easily kill one, if they set out to do so.
But would they?
Did a dove try to get to the food on my window sill, and crows or magpies - or other doves? - chased it away?

There was no blood; it would have been clearly visible in the snow.
But someone certainly got attacked, and fled under the attack.

Sunday 26 December 2010

Reporting Directly From...

...Winter Wonderland at -12 Celsius this morning - a rather dramatic drop, considering that we had an almost sub-tropical +6 Celsius on Thursday!
(View from my kitchen window on the afternoon of the 24th)
Friday early morning, it was still raining. From about 10.00 onwards, the rain turned into an icy sleet and then into snow, and this kept going non-stop until some time around 9.00 pm on the Saturday.
(The same view this morning, on the 26th)
I can not remember when we last had a really White Christmas, and for once, I have nothing against the snow. To get to my parents', where I spent Christmas Eve and had a very good dinner last night, I only need to walk 10-15 minutes, and with my new wellies, I rather enjoyed that - I did not need to carefully avoid puddles or heaps of snow, but could simply trudge through the quiet streets, where only one or two car drivers were bold enough to brave the weather.

For us, Christmas Eve is when we have our main Christmas get-together and when gifts are exchanged. Every year, I am amazed at how many presents there are, with us just being seven adults who actually already "have everything" and give each other "just one present each!" :-)
Our traditional Christmas Eve dinner is spuds salad and Wiener sausages - this has been going on, I think, already for my parents when they were children, and we wouldn't have it any other way. The same goes for the tree - if our parents would ever try to switch from candles to electric lights on the tree, my sister and I would go into open rebellion.
On the morning of the 25th, I opened my presents from England (that's one of the many benefits of having an English as well as a German family - I get to have TWO present-opening sessions!). And now I truly feel like some spoiled brat!!
Let me end this posting with some more pictures, showing you what the view from my flat is like this morning:
I hope everyone had a good time this weekened - no matter whether you were celebrating or not, on your own or with your family and friends.
Tomorrow, life as we know it will resume... (more or less).

Thursday 23 December 2010

Finally, a Long Weekend!

This has been a busy and interesting year for me. Never have I worked less and travelled more in one single year, at least not ever since I have started to work back in 1986.

Some of my travelling made it into my blog (examples can be read here and here), but most of it did not find mention in here. I was away from home and interrupted work for a total of nine times, which may sound ridiculous to those of you who usually dash about the planet for business all the time, but it was - so far - my personal record.

Actually, I am now for the first time this year in a period of uninterrupted work, lasting already more than six weeks. And there is no end in sight, as I have used up all my holidays for this year, and there is nothing planned (yet!) for next year.

Therefore, my weekend starting today is most welcome!

Tomorrow is the 24th of December, Christmas Eve.
In Germany, or at least where I live, this is the most important bit of Christmas. Most people who have office jobs like mine do not work anymore on the 24th; the evening is usually reserved for a family get-together, if possible with several generations in attendance, and it is also the time when presents are exchanged.
Having a German as well as an English family means I have two present-opening sessions - one on Christmas Eve with the German family and then on the morning of the 25th, when I am going to open the contents of the parcels that were sent to me from England during the past few weeks:

Tomorrow, I am going to wrap my presents for those who will be there at my parents' for the evening.
In the meantime, let me show you what the sideboard in my living room with the cards I got looks like now - quite different from what it was not so long ago!

To all my readers, no matter where you are:
Have a shiny Christmas and a sparkling New Year!
(View from my kitchen window on 17.12.2010, just after 7.00 am)

Wednesday 22 December 2010

On a Winning Streak

Two weeks ago, I had two Christmassy get-togethers one after the other.

On the Friday night, we had our annual Christmas dinner at work.
As I have been working for this company for 8 1/2 years now, I have witnessed the establishing of some traditions, my favourite of which is playing Bingo for the presents.

This is how it works:
Our bosses get Christmas presents sent from business partners, manufacturers and customers, and all those presents are collected in an extra room. At the Christmas party, we play Bingo; who has "BINGO" first, gets No. 1, the next one No. 2 and so on. A week later, we are all called into the extra room where all the presents are, and No. 1 has the choice of ALL presents, followed by No. 2 and so on; so, you can imagine the choice is not so great if you happen to have Bingo quite late in the game.
I came 28th (of 30!) and so I already knew that I wasn't going to get anything "great" - which is perfectly alright because this bingo game with all my colleagues is so much fun, the outcome doesn't really matter (there were still 3 presents to choose from when it was my turn, and I went for a rather big box of traditional German Christmas cookies called "Aachener Printen").
The following day, Saturday, I got everything ready for an evening with a group of friends, one of which came all the way from Hamburg (this is the other end of Germany from where I live - about 800 km, I think) just so that she could join the rest of us. She was to spend the night at my place, so I got the spare room ready for her.
I made pizza, my friends brought salad and drinks and chocolates, and after we'd finished eating, we played what we call "Schrottwichteln":
Everyone brings a nicely wrapped present - it is supposed to be something that you have been given yourself, but do not need, want or like, but can't really just throw away (imagine the horrid vase you had 5 years ago for your birthday from Auntie So-and-So? You get the idea, I guess!). So, yes, it is not supposed to be a nice present but something everybody can have a good laugh about.

Everyone places their own parcel in front of themselves, and then the dice come out.
With throwing the dices clock-wise, the presents are given to the person sitting next to you clock-wise as well. If someone throws a match, direction is changed. If someone throws a double six, they can swap parcel with someone else.
The whole thing is timed for, say, 10 minutes.
When the time is up, everyone should have a different parcel in front of them - not their own. So you have no idea what you are going to get, but you know who is going to get your "special" present :-)
The unwrapping begins, accompanied by lots of laughter and funny faces, and of course you have to tell the others the history of this particular present.

What I did with the present I received - a cheese platter, so actually not that bad a present at all - I sat on it accidentally... and I am sorry to report that it did not withstand 57 kg :-D
It was a great evening with my friends, and I felt on a Winning Streak; I think you understand why, don't you!

Tuesday 14 December 2010

And The Winner Is...

This was my very first giveaway ever, and probably, due to lack of response, it will be my last one, too.
Three of you participated, and Monday morning, the drawing of the winner took place in my living room.

I wrote the names of the participants on identical pieces of paper...

...then I folded them up and hid each paper underneath a cup (by the time the cups were in place I had already forgotten which name was under which cup)...

...then I moved the cups around several times, picked one, and unfolded the piece of paper...

...aaaaaand the winner iiiiiiiis...

Congratulations, Julie - the little parcel will be posted today :-)

Friday 10 December 2010

The First Of Many...

...Christmas cards arrived on Monday, the day I had posted all of my cards.
In the past years, I was never famous for writing many cards, but since 2009, I have started to write back to everyone who sent me a card, and the list has gotten longer.

Writing those is no small feat for me; my handwriting is terrible and it takes me a while to put pen to paper in a manner that is at least partly legible. Also, I am very impatient, and prefer the swift pouring out of words from my keyboard to the painstaking process.

Now, the whole peace-and-love-message of Christmas is not entirely mine; I am of the opinion that one should try and live in peace with one's neighbours all year round and not only when reminded to do so by a date in the calendar. But I do like the traditional, homely feeling this period gives me, as I have said before. And I simply love to get cards and letters and parcels!

So, if I want people to send me cards and letters and parcels, of course I have to start - nothing in life simply waits to fall in your lap if you're not taking the initiative, I have learnt, and this is no exception.

Monday morning thus saw me taking not only a pile of cards to the post office, but also a parcel for the relatives in England. I put together some bits I hope they will like; there are small presents for 10 people in there, and it was fun choosing them, wrapping them up and writing a short message for each recipient on the little tag.

On Wednesday, one of my sisters-in-law sent me a text message: my parcel already arrived! I was pleased and suprised; especially at this time of the year I did not expect the postal service be so quick.

The first card was from my Auntie Vonnie. A few more have since made their way to the sideboard in my living room.

Happy card-writing and -reading to all of you!

PS: And a little reminder: my giveaway will end on Sunday.

Sunday 5 December 2010

Here's My Giveaway!

Several of my fellow bloggers whose blogs I follow regularly from time to time post giveaways, and every time I read about one, I think what a good idea it is and how it helps a blogger to get or stay in touch with their readers.

For a few days now, I have been thinking of my own giveaway, to show all of you my appreciation, and today I am finally sitting down to actually post it.

Here is a small collection of four Agatha Christie paperbacks: A Pocket Full of Rye, The Moving Finger, The Thirteen Problems and Miss Marple's Last Cases.

Do not be mislead - Miss Marple does not even feature in all of the stories, and in some of them, she puts in an appearance only during the last third or quarter of the book.

All four books are in very good condition, with no owner's name written in the front or any markings, torn pages etc.; in fact they are in a good enough condition to make a nice little Christmas present for someone you know who likes a bit of an old-fashioned and very British read every now and then.
(Not long ago, a review of "The Moving Finger" was posted
here by Nan, in case you want to find out a bit more about the story.)

This is how it works:
If you want these books (all four of them together), leave me a comment to this post AND send me an email at with your postal address. It does not matter where you live, this giveaway is not limited to Germany or Europe. In case you wish to use the books for a Christmas present, I can wrap them up for you - see to what lengths I am prepared to go; anything for my readers! :-)

The drawing will be today, Sunday, in a week, that is the 12th of December. This should allow everyone enough time to write, AND enough time for me to have the parcel posted to the lucky winner in time for Christmas.

Now, I have no idea what to expect - anything from zero to a dozen answers (since that is the number of my non-anonymous followers) is possible, I suppose!

Friday 3 December 2010

Colour Me

There is something about the way colours can affect our mood and our perception of ourselves (as well as of others), that I find corresponds to the influence music has on our disposition.

Of course, many well-versed people have studied the psychological effects of both music and colours extensively, but I must admit to not having read their works; this blog entry is based entirely on my own thoughts about the subject (I have written about colours before).

Last week, I was, as is mostly the case on a Saturday morning, doing my washing. When I finished putting the contents of the washing machine on the clothes horse, I realized that almost everything I had been wearing during the past week was of dull, darkish colours; dark purple, burgundy, brown, grey and black. The only bright colours were a set of red undies and my pink Hello Kitty PJs, as well as a white nightie - none of which was seen outside the four walls of my flat.

So, to all the world, I spent the whole week dressed in what could be interpreted as a gloomy, dull look:

This made me question my choice of colours; I am neither gloomy nor dull, so why do my winter outfits not reflect my usual active, mostly easy-going (some would say shallow) character?

The answer may have something to do with my general dislike of winter. The cold forces me to dress in layers of fabric and cover up against the elements, something I do not enjoy.

A glimpse at the contents of my wardrobe shows that I have a thing for bright, cheerful colours, from pink to yellow to green to red to blue to fuchsia, as well as patterns like gingham, tartan, polka dots and even the one flowery dress. Except for a few items like the fuchsia dress or the tartan one, all those colourful outfits are made for the kind of weather that suits me best: a temperature range from 25C to 35C (that's 77F to 95F).

As winter has truly come to stay, I'm afraid I will have to wait five or more months unil it will finally be time to get those dresses out again.

Until then, I'll try to stay in as good a mood as possible - music is going to help, I know that.

Oh, and I got myself a colourful winter dress the other day, to counteract the dullness at least a tiny little bit: