31 December 2006

Happy New Year 2007!


To all of you,

have an excellent new year 2007. Stay healthy and may all you wish for come true! Peace and Light,

Stephan

Where did 2006 go? I can hardly believe that this year has already passed.

Looking back it seems like yesterday that we celebrated the new year in our old flat in Mülheim's old part of town.

Last February we started renovating the place where Annette’s grandparents used to live so that we could move in. This project meant the initiation of me into the circle of DIYers. Who would have thought that I would end up knocking down walls, plastering and using power tools?

Much of this year we have spent putting the finishing touches to our new place and finding the right furniture. We still need a lamp for the dining area and a bathroom mirror, but apart from that we are done. The next big project will be redesigning our garden next spring. Annette has already gotten into gardening; I am not quite so enthusiastic, yet.

In the course of this year I also passed my probation period and settled in at the Volkshochschule Essen, Essen’s adult education centre. I don’t feel like the newcomer anymore and am enjoying my new job. Currently I am having fun implementing an e‑learning strategy. Well, you know I have always enjoyed playing with computers...

Annette is still at her primary school in Krefeld and her workload seems to be ever increasing. Although her school day officially finishes at 1.30pm, I’m home earlier than her frequently. So we sit together in the evenings and while she is doing her marking I “play” on the computer (the aforementioned e-learning thingy or this blog, for example).

In the summer we spent a lovely week in Lynton, Devon and then picked up Nathan in Lichfield to have him stay with us in Mülheim for two weeks. We also celebrated our first wedding anniversary during this time and it was nice to have Sue and Vic, my English parents, over for the party as well.

In the autumn we celebrated Margret's and Norbert's 60th bithdays with a huge party and in November we all went away on a nostalgic family holiday to Holland. In December Annette and I also spent a lovely weekend in Münster, where Annette used to live during her university years.

The last couple of days I stayed in Lichfield to see Nathan and deliver the presents Santa left in Mülheim. A shame, I was only able to stay for two days but we made the most of it and I am now a Lego master-builder as well as an Uno expert.

I wonder what the new year will entail for us personally. I hope we will keep being blessed with good fortune as the last couple of years have been very happy ones. On the whole the year will probably proof quite difficult for the Germans; VAT and National Insurance contributions will rise and a lot of people will really be worse off. But I think I am due for a little pay rise, so it's not all bad news...

25 December 2006

25 December - Happy Birthday, Monika!






Happy 50th Birthday, Monika. Thank you for letting Annette's Mummy practise with you!

11 December 2006

Cages

This is a picture of Münster's St Lambert's Church with its three cages hanging from the spire.

Originally the baskets were used to display the dead bodies of Jan van Leiden, and other anabaptists after the troops of Bishop van Waldeck liberated Münster. However they'd make a great storage room for all kinds of people you want rid off. If it was up to you, who would you put in them? My wife Annette thought exactly 0.23 seconds to come up with three names. I still cannot make my mind up. Can you?

Last film seen: A Good Woman
CD currently playing: Billy Idol - Happy Holidays

01 December 2006

Things I like most about Germany


  1. My wife Annette
  2. Rouladen mit Rotkohl und Knödeln
  3. Beer and wine are sold at reasonable prices
Without Annette I'd be incomplete. There's no better reason to move to Germany than being with somebody you want to share the rest of your life with.

Especially in this cold time of year roulades with red cabbage and dumplings are a meal to look forward to. Annette's way of making them is of course inimitable. However another good recipe can be found here. If you struggle with the German try this babelfish translation. It also shows why translators won't be out of work for decades to come...

When buying wine or beer in Germany, I cannot believe how much I used to pay for a decent tipple. A good bottle of wine can be had for less than €6 (convert to Pound Sterling) and beer is bought in crates of 20 returnable bottles for less than a Euro per bottle. And who wouldn't argue that good food and drink forms an important part of a desirable quality of life?

The one thing I really like about Germany at the moment is the festive spirit, the Christmas decorations, markets and the illuminations. We're off to Münster tomorrow which has one of the most beautiful Christmas markets.

24 November 2006

Things I'm missing...

most about England and the English currently are:


  1. going out for a curry
  2. Real Ale, preferably not from a can
  3. Customer service and being able to apologise




  1. There is something deeply satisfying about going out for a curry with friends. I miss the food, the food-sharing, the way the waiters serve you and their accents. There are hardly any Indian restaurants in Germany, but in recent months there has been a steady increase of all things Indian in Germany. You only have to switch on the telly or browse the book stores. We now can buy authentic Indian recipe books, some Curry restaurants have opened in the bigger cities and bollywood movies are shown on the smaller private channels (you have to take the good with the bad, apparently)

  2. The real ale, and the Pedigree just happened to be the last can I had, I only really miss in autumn and winter. During the summer months a nice Pilsener is definitely my choice. However, when the days become shorter and the temperatures drop, I feel more like the darker, sweeter and more complex taste of the ale. A shame that the weight restrictions of the airlines rarely allow me to take home more than a couple of cans...

  3. I recently had to find out that customer service is virtually non-existent. While watching the new James Bond at its pre-premiere, the sound track was corrupted for several minutes. When complaining about this, not once were the words "we are sorry" uttered. On the contrary all blame was deflected and a bag of pop-corn was offered sarcastically as compensation. I remember getting free tickets once in Birmingham's Star City cinema because they hadn't cleaned the theatre properly...

There are a good many things that I prefer about Germany though. Which ones, I'll post next time.

Last film seen: Casino Royal (excellent James Bond!)
D-Rink of the week: my last can of Pedigree

18 November 2006

Angels baking biscuits

You may know the old proverb "red sky at night, sailor's delight". The Germans, being not quite as maritime as the Brits, tell children that a sky like the one in the picture indicates angels baking biscuits.Well, judging by the photograph there'll be plenty of fatties up there.
Current CD in stereo: The Beatles: "Love" (already out in Germany!!!)
Last Films seen: "Kill Bill" (1&2)
D-Rink of the week: Legado Muñoz, Tempranillo 2005 (bought at our favourite wine shop) Posted by Picasa

11 November 2006

A weekend away

Some impressions from our weekend away in Zeeland, Holland. My parents in law didn't want anything materialistic for their birthdays so everyone chipped in to present them with a family holiday in Kamperland.

I dont know what it is, but again I realised that there is something about the sea which eases all tensions and let's you wind down.

A welcome break before writing all those blooming project applications for the European social fund. We are desperately trying to consolidate the 18 per cent cut, the state government has threatened all public adult education institutions with. Have they still not realised that taking money out of education is extremely costly in the long run? I really feel like smacking those responsible.

Well, enough of this rant. Good news is that you can subscribe to these rants now via the link on the left (RSS Feed), so that you will always know when I add a new post.

Have an excellent week! Posted by Picasa

30 October 2006

One I haven't trodden on

Here's our friendly neighbourhood hedgehog. Luckily our current home has sufficient outdoor lighting, so that he is unlikely to suffer the same fate as his colleague a couple of years ago.

Well, this hedgehog shouldn't have decided to sit on a dark doormat during a pitch-black night. I assure you, the prickly pal was okay: I took him to the vet after I stood on him and was told he would be alright to be released into the wild (surely to be run over by an HGV the next night). Posted by Picasa

24 October 2006

Glasspecker


Would you like to enter your living room and be faced by this?

I'm sure Sue'd get bored if she didn't have a regular practical joke played on her. Whatever it takes to spice up married life, eh? I wonder whether Vic hid the black-handled knife before playing this joke on her.

Over to you, any particularly inventive pranks you played on somebody recently?

PS: Happy feast day, Nathan. Posted by Picasa

07 October 2006

My office

Just to show that Painsley's going away present is still appreciated: a picture of my office at the adult education college in Essen. I know the teachers among you will be envious about the office as it's bigger than your standard departmental office in a school. But, believe it or not, I miss teaching youngsters.

My office has just gotten better: I have my own printer now, which means that my daily fitness routine of walking an accumulated mile to and fro between printer and office will have to be substituted by proper exercise or my plan to lose weight will be seriously compromised.

Busy week ahead. I will have to plan next semester's timetable with no classrooms available. Posted by Picasa

24 September 2006

I miss this view

While looking through my photo collection I came across this one and I felt homesick straight away. This is the view from the Greenhouse, where I used to live for a good seven years.

Tranquil, isn't it? I loved watching the seasons change and walking round the field definitely helped clearing one's head whenever necessary.

Sorry for the long pause between posts, but I am in the process of implementing Moodle at Essen College and haven't had much time. If you are looking for an online learning environment that's easy to use, pretty much self-explanatory and -most importantly- free, look no further! Posted by Picasa

09 September 2006

David Hasselhoff Games

Miles Mendoza of Website of the Day fame has unearthed these games:

I know that the Germans have a lot to answer for, but in true Juergen the German style I want to apologize particularly for prolonging The Hoffs career and allowing him to sing!

Rob, I know you love The Hoff, so don't get caught playing the games using the school network.

04 September 2006

I need a drink...

and so will you if you have gone back to school this week. I have already had two weeks of hell:
Courses needed to be cancelled due to lack of participants, participants asking the most stupid of questions, teachers leaving at the last minute and, to top it all, a report to write about last year's targets. Not a single night that I went home before 8pm.

Okay, I have whinged enough. If you have gone back to work recently, I wish you a good start. And have one for me.

You Are Whiskey

You're a tough drinker, and you take it like a man
That means no girly drinks for you - even if you are a girl
You prefer a cold, hard drink at the end of the day
Every day, in fact. And make that a few.

23 August 2006

A sad day

when an English icon such as HP sauce is no longer produced in England. Seeing the HP factory with the familiar logo on the factory building used to be a very nice sight for me traveling out of Birmingham towards Lichfield.

I'm gutted!

I can still remember the first time I had HP sauce. It was in Kirwan's Irish Pub in Mülheim, which was then located in the old part of town but has subsequently moved to the city centre. I had an all-day breakfast and instantly fell in love with the taste. Shame you cannot really get it in Germany...

11 August 2006

Back fom the Holidays

On the right you can see some impressions of our stay in Lynton (Devon).

Our stay in London didn't do much for us this time around. It was just too hot and crowded. Perhaps we were also too tired from the journey. So sod Samuel Johnson .

Our stay in North Devon, however, was truly spectacular. Lovely countryside, superb food and time to relax and unwind.

Nathan staying over with us afterwards was brilliant as well. We really enjoyed having him over and miss him tremendously now. The place has gone awfully quiet since he has left.

Well, like all holidays this one was too short. We're back at work and have only managed a third of the things we wanted to get sorted around the house. At least I managed to cut the hedges today. It's been long overdue... Posted by Picasa

12 July 2006

Holidays

  We're off on our well-deserved holidays tomorrow night. First we'll have a weekend in London and then we'll move on to Lynton on the North coast of Devon. After five days we will pick up a certain boy in Lichfield before driving back to Mülheim where he will stay with us for a bit. Pictures of the holiday will of course be posted. Till then enjoy the summer and your well-deserved holidays. Keep your fingers crossed that we don't have too much of the kind of rain you can see in the picture above.

Before I forget, Martin, all the best for your travels. Come and see us in Germany some time. I am sure you will be missed at Painsley. Shame I didn't see you in Bad Salzig. People have told me why you weren't there... Start a blog and keep us all posted how you are getting on!

Piers, congratulations on your retirement. Painsley is losing a truly learned man with a big heart and no bad bone in his body! I'm sure your diary will be even more packed and people will have to book you weeks in advance. We are expecting you in Mülheim next year!

09 July 2006

World Cup of Hearts

What a brilliant tournament it has been. Perhaps not so much the football itself; the number of goals for example is disappointing and some performances by the referees have been diabolical.

What the tournament has done for Germany however is incredible. All of a sudden it is okay for Germans to fly the German flag and to show that they are proud of their country. Something that is quite natural for people of other nations, but in Germany this has always been eyed suspiciously.

Now what is even better is that even people from different cultural and national backgrounds have been supporting the German team and have shown that they like living in Germany. And with supporters as the ones that you can see in the picture, who would have doubted that the German team would win the World Cup of Hearts?

Thank you for being our guests in Germany and making this World Cup a very special one. You have given us the opportunity to show what being German is really about and it brought out the best in us. Posted by Picasa

06 July 2006

Visiting Painsley in Bad Salzig

I went down to Bad Salzig on the Rhine on Tuesday to meet up with some of my old colleagues from Painsley Catholic College where I worked before my return to Germany. It was really quite emotional to see them again as we had a very special department during my time there.

Working at Painsley definitely wasn't always easy; the pressure was immense and some of the decisions and policies were, in my view, often more concerned with achieving a well-oiled machine rather than having people's best interests in mind. At the time however it has always been a place where everybody worked hard and played hard and the atmosphere among staff was very supportive, "herzlich" and warm. But I have heard that this kind of spirit also forms during army boot camps. So perhaps it was quite natural ;-)

It was also nice to see so many of the kids I taught in Year 7 again. This year group was very special to me as I introduced the KS3 strategy with three teaching groups, which meant a lot of time spent with them. I was surprised how many of them I still knew by name and impressed to see how they have developed in the last two years. The best thing however were their excited faces when they saw me and their telling me that I am being missed at Painsley. It showed me how much I miss teaching young people.

Well enough nostalgia for one post. I'm off to enjoy a glass of the Hock Liz gave me as a thankyou for helping out during the day! Posted by Picasa

02 July 2006

England Game

It's not our fault. Everyone in my family did their best to support the team. Thomas even managed to send them off to the game. Shame he couldn't get any nearer to be able to take a better picture.

The only thing positive is that I'll be able to watch the final now without changing allegiances every ten seconds or so. Posted by Picasa

25 June 2006

We had a plan...

... and it worked.

As you can see in this cut from the Rheinische Post newspaper, the German team learned it with the aid of Sweden's most successful furniture store! And in a nation buying themselves silly at Ikea, (Billy, Bonde, Ingo and what not) this had to work. I have to admit, our place could also function as an Ikea show-home, but if the skills acquired during the assembly of bookshelves can be transferred successfully to footballing tactics, I'm all for it.

Well, what could the English team learn from Ecuador in order to beat them today? Only thing Ecuadorian I can think of is bananas... There we are, bend it like Beckham.

I'll keep fingers crossed later.

Got a warning yesterday about wearing my St George's Cross wristband, but they were all smaller than me ;-) Posted by Picasa

22 June 2006

Sweden

So against Sweden it is then. Their national team has already set up their camp in Essen, so we have quite a variety of football teams here now. The Italians are in Duisburg and Mexico and Sweden are in Essen at the moment.

Unfortunately the gorgeous Swedish blondes clad only in blue-yellow bikinis didn't want their picture on the web, so you will have to make do with these two likeable fellows (what a shame, Rob, isn't it?). They seem to be deluded enough to think that Sweden will actually win on Saturday. I'm sorry but even German hospitality has its limits! Posted by Picasa

20 June 2006

We are through (England and Germany that is)

Unfortunately I was only able to watch the second half of the Germany game, after some plonker arranged a meeting with representatives from the German-Tunisian Society, which I had to attend. Thanks, Carlo ;-)

Now, the England game, what can I say? Rollercoaster ride of emotions or what? Well, what counts is that England didn't lose and that England and Germany won't play one another on Saturday. Watching this game would be pure torture. I will have to steel myself for the final, won't I?

19 June 2006

Please tell Sean at Moorlands (Is he still around?)

Apparantly I'm Irish deep down inside.

Your Inner European is Irish!

Sprited and boisterous!
You drink everyone under the table.


Now I know where that fascination with Guinness, whiskey and explosives comes from...

PS: Who are you, mystery guest from near Sunnyvale, California? Leave a comment, you seem to be my most regular visitor.

16 June 2006

Alice Cooper (again)

Thomas and I went to the Alice Cooper / Deep Purple open air concert in Bonn yesterday and had a truly great time.

Not only did we manage to make it through to the third row, but our haul is quite impressive as well. As you can see in the lower picture, Alice and the band were in their usual generous mood. For once it paid to be of a certain height...


It was quite amusing at the end to walk past the Red Cross first aiders who did a double take after seeing me covered in stage blood (a lot of it had already come off by the time the top picture was taken).


I'm sure the England victory is due to us crossing our fingers during the concert and Eric Singer kitting out his drums with England flags (look carefully at the bottom picture). Hope we don't have to play England next. It would be shame if they lost on penalties again ;-)
Will have some hot tea now, perhaps my voice will come back... Posted by Picasa

11 June 2006

Supporting England...

... is not easy when you are abroad and not English. However I am doing my best and am flying (well at least wearing) the St George's Cross.

Fights gotten into: 0 (so far)
Unfriendly looks: some
Statements along the lines of "Good team" or "They have got the best chances ever to make it through to the final": many

There is an interesting bit of numerancy though that sees Germany as the winner of the world cup:

54 x 74 - 1990 = 2006

Germany won the World Cup in 1954, 1974 and 1990... Posted by Picasa

04 June 2006

Chinese Fortune Cookie

For those of you, who like my Dad, accidentally eat their fortune slip, you can have a virtual Chinese fortune cookie here.

I wonder what my Dad's fortune said? Perhaps, "diet rich in fibre leads to long life"...

Hope you don't choke on food.

Peace and light!

Image source: http://www.amyjogirardier.com/fortune%20cookie.jpg Posted by Picasa

03 June 2006

Learning Italian and the Dalai Lama

You know the theory of people being linked to any other person on the globe through only six steps? For example if you can link up to me then you are linked to Eddie the Eagle (I bought him a point of squash in a pub in Lichfield once) and Campino of the Toten Hosen (I met him at Düsseldorf airport), but since last week also to the Dalai Lama.

I was honoured to be chosen to translate a letter to His Holiness fo the mayor of Essen, who wants to visit an exhibition on Tibetan art together with the Dalai Lama. If he accepts the invitation, I have good chances to interpret for the mayor. Keep your fingers crossed. That would really make my day!

Apart from translating letters I have spent last week learning Italian. I can now introduce myself and ask other people's names, ask for directions, say what my hobbies are and go shopping, all in Italian.

Annette and I have agreed though that I'll stick to Spanish and she will keep at learning Italian. I get the impression that she wants to know at least one language better than me. Don't tell her that her German is infinitely better than mine.

Another premiere today: I cut my first hedge.

25 May 2006

Ascension Day

Just to rub it in: I have had a day off today. But don't be too jealous, it's been tipping it down all day and to make up for the free day today, I'm on INSET tomorrow AND Saturday.

We couldn't watch a movie today either as our DVD-player has ceased to function. It just doesn't read any CDs or DVDs anymore and spits them out after a couple of minutes. Any ideas how to make it work again?

The German post service have increased the postage on letters to other countries, so that a birthday card I sent, has been returned. The illegitimite sons of female canines... They seem to make a difference though according to who is sending the letter. My Mum's card has not been sent back.

Well, there's also good news. My telephone and Internet provider is lowering the costs of Internet telephone calls to England. From 1 June I'll only be paying 1ct/min (about 0.64p/min). I'll call you, promise...

PS: The card has arrived Sue. Thank you so much!

20 May 2006

Allemagne douze points

Tonight is the Eurovision Song Contest 2006 and normally I would hardly be able to contain my indifference. When Germany stopped sending people like Stefan Raab and Guildo Horn (equivalent of having Mr Blobby or the The Wombles compete for the UK), I lost interest. Tonight however could see the return to the old "we will not honor this competition with serious entries"-attitude. Texas Lightning, the German entry, consist of some of Germany's finest comedians (and, no, they are not the only ones we have), so we may be in for a surprise. At the moment however it looks like they are going to take this seriously, but you never know.

One entry that surely cannot be serious is Finlands, or is it? Looks just like the guys who pour out of pubs in Stoke at closing time, I reckon.

I know that at least one person has been gearing up for the big night tonight (haven't you Vic?). So if you watch it, have fun. At least you have the inimitable Terry to take the Michael out of contestants, something I will miss dearly.

Before I forget, have a very happy birthday, Mel! Lots of love from all of us here in Mülheim!

The official Eurovision website
Eurovision on Wikipedia
The German entry

I wish I was there (It's frigging cold in Mülheim...)

As you can see below, Barcelona is the place I was meant to live in...

You Belong in Barcelona

When it comes to Europe, you don't want to decide between culture and fun. You want art by day and a big party by night.
Barcelona is ideal for you. You can check out some Picasso, eat some tapas, take a siesta, and then dance all night!

14 May 2006

Getting there...

This is for all those of you who have requested a more exact description of our new home. As you can see we have a bit of garden with a lilac and lavender. The bottom left picture shows a premier: my first own bbq. The remaining pics show views of our kitchen, dining and living rooms. As you can see we still need to buy some lamps, but all in all we are getting there.

At least our cellar is nice and dry (wink, wink, Pete, thanks for the letter!).

Have a good start to the week! Posted by Picasa

09 May 2006

Want to talk Fußball?

then check out the British Embassy's World Cup Website which features a good glossary of football language as well as info on venues and some funnies. I'm sure the German Speaker of your choice will help you in acquiring a proper German accent so that you can slag off the ref properly (how about Piers or Jill?).

31 days to go...

01 May 2006

We have moved...

... and I'm back online. Sorry for the long radio silence, but there was just so much to do. We moved two weeks ago and still it took me ages to find a motif which wouldn't include boxes and too much mess.
At least I can show you our pride and joy: the new teak table. Frugally minded visitors could also use it as a spare bed, if they don't suffer from vertigo that is (it's good 4ft high). I'm sure it would be okay for Losh who is used to hard Japanese Futon beds and can breakfall in case he slips off during the night...
We're still waiting for our bathroom to be finished; at the moment we have to take showers very carefully, as the shower wall is still missing.
Also, there are still some bits and bobs missing in the kitchen but the cabinet maker has promised that all parts will arrive next week (Fingers Crossed).
Two things fill me with pride at the moment: 1. our friend Björn has won his lawsuit against the German Football Association and 2. Essen and the Ruhr have become capital of culture 2010. Perhaps Painsley will have to visit the Ruhr then and not the Rhine or Berlin!
A nice diversion to see you through tea-break can be found here. Thanks to Miles for finding it. Posted by Picasa

13 March 2006

Farmer Pickles is German!

and he tries to stay incognito by wearing a pair of glasses. I actually know the guy very well, so Email me any requests for autographs.

If you don't know who Farmer Pickles is, you obviously have a life. However you can find out here.

For the musical amnesiacs amongst you, this page is the answer to your problem. But be careful it's got a high addiction factor! Posted by Picasa

19 February 2006

Home Improvement

Here's the reason why I haven't been updating the blog as often as I would like to.

Annette and I are moving house again and are busy knocking down walls, removing tiles and wallpaper every free minute, so that we can move in before 30th April, which is when our old flat needs to be vacated.

The picture on the right shows something not many people have seen before: me using a power tool and getting my hands dirty. Vic will be surprised to see that I'm not even wearing rubber gloves!

If you feel like helping out scraping off wallpaper etc, drop a line and I will give you directions ;-)

Have a good start to the week! Posted by Picasa

25 January 2006

Alice Cooper

Just found this interview here and thought it gives all the answers to the questions people ask me when I tell them that I love going to Alice Cooper's shows.

If you like rock music and haven't seen him live yet, it's a must! Make up is more fun, but not obligatory ...

Tour dates can be found here: http://www.sickthingsuk.co.uk/ Posted by Picasa