Archive for October, 2009

Remember bright rain drops on Akademiestraße?

October 12, 2009


It’s raining.

And rain does funny things to me.

I love this kind of rain the most. It’s unashamedly heavy and real. Not like the pathetic drizzle you have to learn to appreciate in England. No no. Much better.

I’ve just sat with my window wide open and my head out, smelling the rain and getting my fringe wet. I noticed down on the street that a lamp which hangs across is collecting drops on its brim and then they fall, all the while illuminated by the street light. Quite the scene. I’m glad my camera managed to capture it; I really didn’t think it would.

I always want to go outside in rain like this. Just change into some oldish clothes and go for a walk somewhere and get completely drenched. To the point where it just doesn’t matter any more and there’s nothing you can do about it. Where you just end up embracing how wet everything is and enjoying the smell. The smell’s the best bit for definite.

Then those thoughts lead me on two ways. Firstly to the most recent memory of rain akin to this, which was in college in first year. When Sarah and I watched the final of The Apprentice, then went for a walk in the rain and up over the golf course, saw Grey fireworks and had to make a romantix out of it. It was really liberating. Sarah also laid down in a puddle. Which is all about the getting drenched thing.

Secondly to a time ages ago when I was a child. Jonathan, Jamie and I were at Jonathan’s great aunt’s house, Connie, and it started raining something awful. Her house had a massive, massive blue gate, which lead into a sort of courtyard to the left of her house. We came in after it had started raining, but I remember really wanting to go outside. I remember asking my mum whether she’d let us and, eventually, she did. So out we went. And we got soaked! It was fantastic. Being in that leafy, English garden, back then, with all the rain coming down. Makes you wonder how much your life changes in all that time.

Then I got thinking, maybe I should go out into the rain. I’m on my year abroad, after all, and things like that are dozen-a-penny on years abroad (year abroads). Then I thought, “What if I don’t come back? What if I just go and get lost out in the world? Out in the stars, out in Asia?” And got all fanciful and dreamy. I day-dreamed back-backing to India, with a cardboard sign that just reads ‘EAST’ in big black marker pen. In my coat, with my cards as a back-up, for when I finally want to buy my ticket home. Armed with only those as a lifeline. No mobile phone, no baggage. Just all the money in my account and my lifeline. And a hitch-hiking knowledge. Lordy. Imagine. I’d love to do that. But I’m just not ballsy enough. I’d just rather stick at home and worry about going to the Middle East and worrying about whether I’m speaking enough German every day to make my degree worth it in the long run. I pictured me on a dust road in Turkey, though. Definitely did that.

Today’s the first time that all 5 of us in the WG have been home at the same time. And tonight, in this rain, is the first time we’ve been altogether here – no-one thinking of jetting off tomorrow. But that’s because tomorrow is the beginning of lecture time for Heidelberg university. Fabian baked a cake for some friends and brought remains home. I’ve had two slices already. It has almonds on it and a vanilla cream layer in the middle and it’s yumatum. I ate it from an orange saucer.

There are multiple small ‘remember x?’ things I’ve thought I wanted to remember in the past day, but none of them have stuck with me. I haven’t remembered any of them. Which sucks. I’m just writing this now so as to stop me going outside and never coming back, with only my MasterCard as company.

It was my birthday yesterday. I reached a record high of facebook happy-birthday wishes (over last year’s 50 – not sure of this year’s exact date). Yes, that is how I measure how good my birthday is. I spent the day breakfasting with Aminata and Torben, being surprised by Sophia at home, meeting Sophie for a quick run around town before going to knitting (where Krokodil was hideously full and had screaming children in). Then I went home and met up with Marwood and Emir and Sarah and Nan for a wander around town, eating at ExtraBlatt (second time on my birthday) and then bumming around. I was pretty knackered from Friday night, when we ate at Pizza Hut then saw a fight on Untere Straße, before settling down in a (very, very smokey) bar for a drink (Sarah bought me a delicious pineapple cocktail), then meeting two randoms in the street (Marwood and I chatted to them and thereby lost the rest of the group), then went home. Not with the randoms, I hasten to add. Although one was quite a looker.

Today, I went to see Sophie in her home in Weinheim for lolz and knitz. Which was lovely as ever. We saw ‘ The Dom’ in the place we ate for lunch. A suited, very short chap, with a huge ‘squared-off afro’ (Sophie’s words). Quite the find, she reassured me. I fancied a massive, dirty take-away on the tram home, but managed to be sated by birthday chocolate and Fabian-baked cake on returning.

Then I was to be sighted on Akademiestrasse later this evening carrying an envelope, a shiny-silver bag of Tesco tea, a blue packet of posh Earl Grey and a large white/orange teapot, with elephants on it. At like 11pm at night. I did walk past a couple, who did laugh. Whether at me or not – we’ll never know.

There will be no list here.


Remember cornered beef?

October 9, 2009

Yeah, pictures are looking a bit sparse at the minute, right? Oh well. Deal with it. (I edited in this picture; it’s a close up of Banham’s socks).

So. I don’t want to be one of those annoying vegetarians who’s like, “UH-MY-GAWDDD LOOK HOW BLAH BLAH BLAH”, but I ate meat accidentally yesterday. And it was awful.

I went to Ana’s (she’s a Bosnian girl) birthday shindig last evening (is it me, or does everyone have their birthday in October? *points at self*). She’d cooked some pizzas, three types. I was trying to figure out what was what and also trying to avoid getting into the group’s spotlight by being like, “HELLO, I’M BRITISH. I DON’T DRINK. I DON’T MEAT.” But then a slice was thrust onto my ‘plate’ (it was Winnie the Pooh (!)). I saw a mushroom and thought, “A-ok.” Bit in and there was this.. texture. Lordy, I’m retching just thinking about it. Anyway, this horrible, horrible texture in my mouth.. And that taste, that taste I remember from all those years ago. It was horrible. I chewed and chewed and tried slowly to digest it and to move towards the table to exchange my slice. I managed to give the slice to Ana and mention the word vegetarian to her and she exchanged. But I had to swallow it. Lordy.. Retching or what. I managed to suppress all the retchings at the time, but now I come to write about it, it’s horrible. My word.

And yes, if you want to know: my body is reacting. And I don’t like it. My stomach hurts. (Again, please don’t take me for one of those “OMGGGGGG” vegetarians please k).

Yesterday was a big first too. A big first, in that I spent almost the entire day speaking German. I only spoke English on the phone with my dad for a few minutes, occasionally on the phone to Marwood, maybe a quick Skype with Fay. No full-length conversations in English – but at all. And a helluva lot of German. Aminata and I went on a small wool excursion, walking from our house up through Neuenheim and into Handschuhsheim. The woman in that wool shop in HSHeim is really really nice.. She’s really chatty and friendly (unlike those in Wolle Rödel… Hmph) and offered me a student discount on a large amount of wool that I was poking. She also has the perfect colours(!) for Kate’s Pikachu Jumper in there! So I can definitely go and get that thing sorted. The red and the yellow are just so perfect against each other. Looking forward to that. She had the perfect, perfect blue for my jumper and a grey to match, but the blue that she had was the last ball she had of a discontinued colour. It’s so annoying. That kind of thing happens in the wool industry far too often. They just change colour lines. She showed me another line of wool (different texture), which had a nice blue and a beautiful grey and a yellow too, but I just didn’t like the blue enough to buy the thing there and then. I may well go up and have another poke around today. Speaking of.. I should remember to ask whether she accepts credit card or not. Etc.

Anway! I was chatting about language then got all tangential. Yeah. So Aminata and I went up north in search of wool and had yums together in a little eatery round the corner. Then we came back and I milled around at home. She came back and we had a bit more wool bant, then Torben came back and we all went to the local super-market together to get some essentials. I had to borrow a 2€ coin from Torben, cause I’m well poor. Bloody transfers. Why can’t it be immediate? Anyway. We all three of us mocked Ami’s pronunciation of the words Kirche and Kirsche, because, for some reason, she can’t quite say ‘rch’ properly. Anyway. That was fun. Afterwards, we started talking about words that get borrowed from English or something and Torben mentioned that the Tschermans (lol) used to say “corn-ed” for “corned” as in, corned beef. Which sounds like ‘cornered.’ I broke out in extreme giggles, because the imagery of cornering a beef was just too much. They loved it too. That was fun. Fabian drank apple juice out of a bowl, too. That was fun. That was some yummy apple juice, even if I couldn’t open it and had to go back to the shop and ask the woman (this was a veg shop, so she was a bit of a beefy) to open it for me. I told her she was mächtig, she agreed. I felt thoroughly emasculated.

What else has happened? Probs nothing. I’ll start writing the big list, cause that gets me remembering things:

knitted one of the green mits for Emir (an asked-for production), got asked to knit a little laptop cover for Ana for her birthday (which reminds me, I should ask Kerstin how she did hers, cause hers is loooovely!), got gradually nearer and nearer my birthday (tomorrow…), got invited to play online games with Aminata and her Japanese friends (German-speaking banter and putting my amazing computer to good use once again, having stopped playing games..), got the heating in my house fixed, but still haven’t got the blind sorted, continually managed to avoid going to IKEA, rediscovered Elgar’s cello concerto, saved Aminata from multiple knitting catastrophes (affectionately named “knit-mergencies”), flicked through a magazine that came for Janni, watched the STEFANEL catwalk video and loved lots of the stuff (, realised how camp liking fashion is, struggled further with homosexuality, ran entirely out of money and asked a woman in Penny Markt which of my cards would work at the checkout, only to be told in pointy and grunty German that only my German card would, failed to arrange anything concrete for my birthday other than knitting, failed to find/send anything to Jono; OH YEH, met two cool knitting girls on a train on the way to Würzburg last week and meant to blog about it – that’ll do though; spooned with Sophia and later had her stay at my house – bed-sharing yum, failed to buy extra sheets/towels, managed to find some replacement face wash, managed to sort out my timetable for lectures and stuff here and put it into some kind of order, but I’m probably taking too many courses (this will probably be detailed in quite some detail in days/weeks to come), realised I should blog more often, enjoyed writing these huge, huge lists of stuff I’ve done way too much.

Finished writing this entry.

Remember a group of young’ns fighting on the Hauptstraße?

October 5, 2009

Thank God there’s still a word or two in this language where you can use the ß. I’m starting to fear that it’s slowly becoming just English words with a German accent.

That’s a lie really. I’m feeling nearer and nearer to the language and the what-was huge curtain of a transition between the two languages is slowly becoming a thinner and silkier veil. Aminata and I were speaking tonight (about knitting – I told her I can only really teach knitting in English, because I just don’t have the vocab in German) and at one point, I suddenly realised she was speaking German. Funny when that happens.

I’ve also realised I’ve got a very, very sticky brain for language acquisition. Which is handy.

I haven’t written anything for ages and that’s because I’m v scared of repeating myself. Most of the things I want to write are just fresher looks onto things I’ve already sorta mentioned. Like language things, or the thing about how the Earth beneath my feet is the skin of the country with which my nation has such a brilliantly colourful history.

I’m desperate not to ramble about knitting as well. So I won’t.

Chadi, who’s a housemate (quasi) of Laura’s, is an Arabic-speaking Kurd. He and I sometimes joke-speak in Arabic. An interesting observation there on would be thus: I’ve realised that Arabic is one side of my English and German is very much the other. So I have huge, huge problems, going from a German-speaking conversation into anything Arabic, because the words are right across the other side of the English river in the middle. The simplest of words escapes me. Words I know I’ve learnt. It could, however, be a simple combination of launching out from German and also the huge long break I’ve had from Arabic over the summer. I do, however, re-get the huge feeling of awe I have for the way the Arabic language works. It’s fascinating. Compared to German and English, it’s just so whacky. And that’s one of the reasons I enjoy it so much. Despite my very intense fear of travelling to the Middle East after I’m done here (which, by the way, hangs as ever in the balance. I’m very easily persuadable to stay in Heidelberg and, therefore, stop studying Arabic altogether, but all the sensible parts of me flash red in these instances and tell me how much of waste of my 2 years’ Arabic study that would be).

Which leads nicely into more of the previously-mentioned shitty, shitty admin. I need to learn to hide a bit more behind the huge ERASMUS term. I’m overly worried that my not being on-the-ball with signing up to courses might mean that I don’t get to take part. But then I have to remember that there are numerous other ERASMUS kids who can’t speak much or even any German who are having to rely entirely on what their home universities are telling them or what information is filtering down from the German-speaking contingent of their friends. So they’re not registering as properly as a real German student would have to. And then I remember that this placement is about polishing up my German – not studying all the courses I can fit into my week, just because they sound interesting. Having said that, there are many, many of them. Including two which I think I’m definitely going to be doing: Sprache und Emotion (Language and Emotion), Spracherwerb und kognitivie Entwicklung (Language Acquisition and Cognitive Development), Deutsch und Englisch im Vergleich: Grammatik, Pragmatik und noch was dazu (English and German in comparison: Grammar, Pragmatism (assumedly ‘use of language’) and some other word I forget), Arabisch Aufbaukurs II (Arabic Continuation course II) and probably another language on top, as well as Übersetzung V: Alltagstexte A- in B-Sprache (Translation 5: every-day texts from A to B language (which is German into English this way around)) and I want to slide an interpreting course in there too. A tall order, you might suspect. But the fact that I don’t have to study is somehow pushing me on to be really hard-working and learn loads. In fact, in these weeks between the language course’s end and the beginning of studying at uni, I promised myself that I’d take the opportunity to read up on all the stuff I seem to have missed out when I was a kid. Like developing a real grasp of my own language and working out what words fit where. Looking at Arabic. Reading books that everyone should’ve read. (Knitting the second glove…) All of this has lead me to buy a book called Biedermann und die Brandstifter. Members of my German A-Level class will remember Andorra, by Max Frisch. This is another play by the same author. One which I retrospectively remember our teacher mentioning at the time as a good read. Also, I am spurred on to read A Picture of Dorian Grey, just because everyone says it’s a piece of narrational genius (عبفري in Arabic.. Sweet times (… means ‘genius’, not ‘narrational genius’). The road to informed functionality is however long and lonely.

Another concept I’m having to come to terms with is looking at this €50 note and realising it’s all I’ve got left before I’m using my credit card to survive. Just interesting that I look at the thing and, even though it’s dividable into 2 20s and a 10, which seems so much more, I still have issues dealing with the unfamiliar currency. This is all pathetic, to be honest. There are people I know in Durham who are settling in to new lives in Damascus or South America, where things are wildly different and all I’m doing is keeping this chair warm in Heidelberg, Europe. And yet I moan about how everything here is so different. I guess the skill is transferable, to regurgitate one of those awful CV-terms. The fact that everything’s different just makes you realise how insular we are on our little island. We don’t actually have all that amazing a reputation anymore, either. Much to my disbelief. Having said that, I occasionally get hyper patriotic. For example, in the language course in the last week, we were talking about a Swedish (or Finnish?) med student who had previously been a murderer and the ethix behind that. And, for some reason, I was desperate to mention Dr. Shipman – somehow.. as if it were a competition or something. I felt ashamed, but also strangely British. Then again, I’m not sure how much I can align that with just the feeling of belonging to a nation. Who knows.

Yes, by the way, I’ve been present during a German election and somewhat successfully managed to avoid too deep a discussion about it and thereby retaining the shroud around my political ignorance.

But student loans come in on Wednesday. So a small transaction on the part of my dad will mean that my bank balance will once again soar through the €1k point. Thank the Lord. No wonder I’m skint, to be honest. The language course was €300, the flight out here was about €200 all told and the flight back for Pol’s birthday was not so small a dent on the not-so-smooth surface of my finances. Which puts me somewhere between £500-1000 down on what I would be.

It’s my birthday on Saturday. I’m not ready to be old.

The list of things I can’t manage to write too much about: there were a group of young’ns fighting on the Hauptstr. (from what I could gather, it was a break-up and all their friends, but I walked past), bought a long, woman’s cardigan from New Yorker (of all places) for the grand sum of €24.95 which I haven’t taken off since, got mega pissed off with how the heating doesn’t work and how much I’m having to wear in bed to keep myself warm, continually managed to avoid forcing myself to go to IKEA, tried a new cake from a bakery down the road and enjoyed it, drank 3 cups of tea today (very unusual..), watched Atonement, considered wearing things I actually like (and throwing caution to the wind, regards what society said) … (ok, I’ll explain that one a bit more. There’ve been a few items of clothing in my life recently, exclusively for women, which have made me want to embrace wearing the kind of things I like more than just throwing on the old t-shirt/jeans combo I’ve grown so comfortable in. Most recently, a large scarf of Marwood’s, which I wore all the way through Atonement, then stood staring at myself in in the mirror. A wonderfully drapey item with lots of purple floralies on it. There may well be a name for this kind of a pattern but I don’t know it. Then also a side-wards knit garter stitch item in the Irish shop (Tinney’s) on the Hauptstr. … Made for women (and cost in excess of 120€), but I think it would’ve looked glorious on me. The shame is that I’m not daring enough to wear what I want to confidently enough. Nor do I have enough pennies); gone back on my word about knitting a pair of socks (again), knitted a glove (with fingers and a surprisingly beautiful celtic knot in cables), worked my way down Ros’ shrug – which, by the way – is very near completion, considered seaming up Safiya’s (Fay’s mum’s) jacket and sending it to her with instructions of how to wash/dry/stretch, rambled on to more people about knitting than I can possibly imagine, met the most beautiful cowl in person from Marc O’ Polo (or something), which is a high-fash shop on the Hauptstr. – I saw the thing in the window a few weeks ago, but one of Aminata’s mates had bought it (the last one!) and it looks fab. This is the end.