Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Planned Binging and Ruthless Tossing

A tad risqué-sounding title today. It refers to how both G and I are trying to reduce our possessions before the move. The binging is an exaggerated term for us using up different food and drink items in the household. G. is drinking up the whiskey and cognac by having a glass after dinner some nights. Of course, I'm frustrated by this since I can't have any of the Hennessy (for example). What I'm doing instead is reaching to the back of the cupboards and fridge and finding food items which need to be used up, so doing some creative cooking. Of course, both of these are a bit silly, because the actual amount of money that we would lose by throwing away all half-full bottles or unopened packs of curry paste is negligible. But it doesn't stop us from trying. Maybe it's human nature to try and "stock up" before going away on a journey.

In other ways, we are doing the exact opposite. We are throwing away things that we have had for ages and ages and that we might even like, but can't see the point in actually packing up and moving. Things like candles, unused flip-flop sandals, little decorative items, roller-blade elbow pads, etc. Some truly random items. Moving is a good way to lose some of my pack-rat tendencies. As compared to just ignoring it now and letting it collect dust for the next forever, I am far more ruthless when I think about having to pack it, move it, unpack it and find a place for it. Still more work to be done there, but lots of little items are going to leave. Some souveniers too. An empty wine bottle with a beautiful label, reminding us of a trip to Bordeaux or to South Australia is really nice, but it's not worth packing.

Of course, if this move isn't more coordinated than our last one (within Munich), we may run out of time for ruthless tossing and end up just packing everything randomly together, to be dealt with on the other end...

P.S. I did finish both years' taxes from the last post.

Monday, September 25, 2006

No Time to Procrastinate

One of the things about moving so quickly is that we really don't have a lot of time to sit around and contemplate things. In a way that's good, it means there's little time to second-guess yourself and your decisions. But in another way it's very bad. I'm a terrible procrastinator, and there's honestly too much to do to leave it all to the last minute as I tend normally to do.

Today I'm supposed to be doing my taxes for 2005 and 2006 (don't panic, 2005 isn't honestly that late, the German tax office is a bit more lax about these things than other countries', believe it or not). Have I started yet? Noooooooo. I've frittered away the morning online. Although this post is also a distraction from my task, I'm hoping it will act as a record of accountability and that in a few hours I can edit it and say the taxes are done. It's noon here now, let's see how it goes...

EDIT 1 - 2 hours later and I have 2005 more or less done and lunch behind me. Hoorah!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Changes and Adaptation

There are always occasions when your life and lifestyle change. When you go from a regular easy pattern into something different. For instance, when you go from being a student to working full-time permanently for the first time, your life changes. You have more money coming in, but also more responsibility to others. When you go from being single to having a serious partner, you life changes. You probably do a lot of the same things you did whilst single, but with a partner there, your behaviour or frequency of attending might change.

This is one reason I think that moving to England just before having the baby is actually a good thing. Once the baby is born, life will change again. And from all accounts, this is a BIG CHANGE. Of course I realise this, but from everyone I talk to, it seems that it catches you by surprise none the less. Moving from Germany to England will be a big change too. But with both happening at once, I think that it will require less adapting than if they happened separately.

Let's look at some of the factors.
  • I won't be working, at the very least for a few months. That would happen whether I was in England or Germany. It's less adjustment than would be required if we moved over when I wasn't pregnant.
  • There will be a baby. Again, whether we live in Germany or England, that will require new behaviour and adaptation. I think it's better that we only have to settle into one routine, not first here in Germany and then a new one in England.
  • We won't know many people when we first move to England. Well, most of our friends here in Munich live a pretty single lifestyle. Of course we do have friends with families here, but the majority are single or if partnered, childless. So once baby is here, we would probably be a bit isolated from our friends here too, needing to make more friends with families. So although this will be more extreme in England, it would affect us in Germany too. Maybe moving to England and not always being confronted with singleton friends doing things that aren't so easy to manage anymore will be a relief.

These are some of the things I've thought about and how we'll get by dealing with them. I hope that I'm looking at it fairly objectively, but it's hard to say right now. I guess it's just a post to let you know we have been thinking about it.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Closing In

It's looking very promising for the place in Cookham. Everything is in place to set up a deal, just the paperwork to get through and then we have a house. That will take one big uncertainity out of moving if we can get that all settled soon.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Today, a wee bit of info fer yers

  • Today is international "Talk Like a Pirate Day". Ye best be practicin' yer accents fer all te hear. Arrrr! Ye can talk in English like a pirate, or fer ye more fluent types, also in German. Tis a good thing to speak more than one version of pirate-speak. Ye never knows who ye might come across in the high seas.
  • Today, the baby is kicking non-stop. Obviously doing internal jigs and reels in recognition of TLaPD.
  • Today was the first day someone offered their seat to me on the tram. I was tickled by it, but didn't take it, as I was only going one stop.
  • Today we found out that the place we would like in Cookham has wooden floors under the carpet and that the owner is willing to sand and varnish them. One step closer to having an address!
  • Today I am slightly stressed with preparation for our club's big Oktoberfest weekend.

And that's enough for today.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Scouting Mission #1 - conclusion

Monday morning we headed off in the car to Maidenhead. It's about 4okm from Wendover to Maidenhead, but took us around 45-50 minutes to drive it. I think there were only a couple of lights along the way, but the roads are busy and not major highways. That was also apparently light traffic, as school hadn't restarted for the fall. A bit far to commute every day, even if it's a nice area.

We parked the car and I came with his office and met his new boss. Very friendly guy. They had a meeting with the lawyer who is arranging the paperwork for G.'s work visa. One interesting thing is, G. will only be allowed to work for his company, but I will be allowed to work for anyone. So, if you know of any fantastically-paying jobs for new mothers in the Maidenhead area, do let me know.

I phoned and made arrangements to see the house in Cookham again around lunch. We drove to Marlow to pick up some lunch and to have a look around the area again, as when we passed through on Saturday, it was incredibly busy. It still was very busy. It's a nice town, but somehow hasn't grabbed me. Everyone else from around there seems to think it's the cat's pyjamas, but as I said, it somehow didn't stand out to me. It's pretty and prosperous, but that's about it. We had some surprisingly good pizza, looked over a few rental brochures we picked up from agents along the way and then headed back to Cookham to look at the house.

On second look, we were still interested in the house, and told the agent as much. That it was definitely on our short list. However, the carpet downstairs has a lot of wear on it, plus a couple of strange stainmarks from furniture or potted plants or something. We would prefer something other than carpet, and certainly not the carpet that was there. Later in the week, we emailed the agent to say as much, that it would be our number one choice if something could be done about the carpet. We're still waiting to hear back on that. The landlord is apparently on holidays...

In the afternoon, we drove back to Maidenhead and talked to a few more rental agents there. One of them was able to show us two places that afternoon, before I had to leave for the airport. Both of these unfortunately were pretty dumpy. Nice areas and if you were thinking of buying them, they had a lot of potential, but as rentals they were crap.

We sadly had to finish the partner scouting mission at this point. I dropped G. off in front of his work and headed off to Heathrow airport driving by myself!! It was thrilling I'll tell you. Actually, it was pretty easy; even driving on the M4, one of the biggest motorways around London, didn't throw me for a flap. They are nice, big, wide lanes, all the traffic moving in the same direction. It's those narrow little country roads with big blind corners around hedges that terrify me still. The drive went back to the car rental agency went smoothly, except for one point where I missed the turn off from the traffic circle (or roundabout, as the Brits so quaintly call them) and took a large tour of the cargo and business area of Heathrow airport. I can't really recommend it for an interesting detour, but it wasn't tough to get back to where I actually wanted to go.

I cleared security (after being asked repeatedly if I had any liquids, cosmetics or anything else more dangerous than a Q-Tip in my bag, on my person or in a hidden compartment of my shoes) and left G. in England to work and to check out a few more houses the next day on his own.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sunday Oktoberfest parade - a few more pictures

There will probably be more pictures on our other website very soon.

Things to do before leaving Munich - Oktoberfest parade

Despite having lived in Munich for 13 years, there are a few things that I have never done while living here. Off the top of my head are the following.

  • Gone to the top of Zugspitze, the tallest mountain in Germany. Only an hour away from Munich.
  • Been to the Tierpark, aka the Munich zoo.
  • Been to Villa Stuck, a museum dedicated to turn of the 20th century art.
  • Been dancing at P1, the nightclub in Munich. At least it used to be.
  • Seen the Sunday traditional costume parade from Oktoberfest.
Oktoberfest has two parades. One is on the opening Saturday, which is the brewery and tent owners' parade. The other is the following day, on Sunday, which features different traditonal costume (Tracht) groups from around Bavaria and actually, around the world. I heard that Japanese group all dressed in kimonos took part one year. So this point is the one that we will solve today. We're off to brunch and hopefully a good view of the parade. Pictures hopefully to follow.

So we went down for brunch, which was a bit of a screw-up on the reservation. I wanted a table on the first floor, but because of a private event, we ended up on the terrace outside. It probably was better for absorbing the atmosphere, but I was quite ticked off at first, since I had asked specifically for a seat upstairs. Oh well. The service was also pretty atrocious, but the food was excellent, so 50/50 I guess.

We enjoyed the parade, it was a lot of fun to watch and hear. The brewery beer wagons went by, as they do on the Saturday, but also a lot more traditional costume clubs and marching bands. I'm sure there was one from the United States and also one from somewhere in Eastern Europe, Romania or somewhere, as it was very similar to the Ukranian style I know.

One thing I realised however, is how much I do already have of Bavarian culture. I knew most of the songs the bands were playing, I recognised some of the different styles of Tracht and where they were from, I knew what was up with all the banners they were carrying. It's sort of good to know that I haven't led only and expat lifestyle here in Munich, that to a good extent, I have intergrated.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Scouting Mission #1 - part two

On Sunday we had a slow breakfast and watched a bit of TV before heading out for the day. I do have to admit I used to be a bit of a TV addict before moving to Germany, and so the idea of thousands of English-speaking programs does hold a certain fascination. Some German TV is pretty good, but lots of it is absolute crap. Plus the fact that it's in German, which doesn't allow me normally the "turn off brain" feeling means I don't bother watching much of it. Hopefully I won't get into the habit of watching crap English TV just because it's easy to watch. Please please please, don't let me become a Big Brother addict! But on this particular Sunday, it was another type of reality show that held me captive in front of the screen - the Antiques Roadshow. On a continent far far away, I used to watch this show on the American public broadcasting channel regularly. The idea of having a teacup that you picked up at a garage sale for practically nothing being worth hundreds of pounds always fascinated me. It still does; I made G. sit through 2 back-to-back episodes of the show before I was ready to hit the road. (Just between you and me though, G seemed to enjoy it as well.)

We headed off in our rental car with me doing the driving again. It being a Sunday, it seemed an ideal time to have an inexperienced, slow and slightly haphazard driver behind the wheel. We took the scenic route from Wendover (am I the only one who thinks that sounds like Bendover with a speech impediment? Don't get me started on Maidenhead, maybe in another post) towards Cookham. We went through Amersham, Beaconsfield and Seer Green on the north side of the M40 (one of the major highways in England). These are also possible places to live, but as we haven't really looked at any houses around here, we didn't stop to look that hard. On the other side of the motorway, we went through Taplow, Wooburn Green and Bourne End before stopping in Cookham.

I'm happy to report again that I drove without mishap. Though passing the bicycle peloton on a curve with oncoming traffic looming in fast did cause a few choice words to be said within the confines of the automobile. It had all be just fine and dandy, I could pass safely, and suddenly it felt really scary. But no one honked at me, no fists shaken in anger and no cyclists left as a reddish smear on the road, so I'm probably exaggerating the situation.

We headed to Cookham to look around the area where we had seen a house that we liked. Well, the house was okay, but the area looked particularly good, and having done a bit of research on St.Sh.'s computer, we saw that it was indeed an interesting place, worthy of deeper investigation. We parked in Cookham and took a little walk down to the river. Where I promptly twisted my ankle, as I am prone to do on uneven ground. I twisted it bad enough to fall down and required a few minutes of holding it tightly to deal with the pain. I was able to walk after, with a slight limp, which lasted about 3 days. This was an interesting opportunity to make some more observations about the British.

I fell down and was holding my ankle, obviously in pain. G. was there with me, but not really able to do anything for me. Several people walked past us, as the spot is a popular destination for walks and it was a beautiful day. Not one person asked if I was okay. Several didn't even look. Even when an older couple with canes walked past, looking with some concern, they didn't say anything when I joked I should have had a cane and maybe it wouldn't have happened. In Germany, speaking from experience, not just random guessing, people will ask if you are okay or if you need help. They have at least always asked me that. Certainly not staying silent if I started some sort of dialogue. I know others could say different about the Germans, but that's been my experience. The British are probably proud of not interfering, but it would have really taken my mind off my pain if someone had shown some concern.

After I had come to grips with the twist, we hobbled down to the river where I stuck my foot into the water, hoping for great healing powers from the Thames River. It was actually a really nice spot, under a shady tree, with the water coursing gently past us. There is a sailing club in Cookham, so we watched as several different types of boats sailed back and forth. It was really pleasant, easy to imagine spending weekends down there with the babe. We headed back towards High street (the main street for any North Americans) to find some lunch. We had an okay lunch in the lovely garden of one of the pubs. Well, it was okay until G. found a feather in his sandwich. That kind of took away our appetites, but fortunately we had eaten enough by then. We got refunded on the sandwich and left, deciding that if we do move to Cookham, that pub probably won't be chosen as our local.

We drove over to look again from the outside at the house we saw before. Both of us were satisfied with the scout around the neighbourhood. The area looked safe, wasn't loud and is only a short way from the train station, under 1km. So we decided to call the agent on Monday to take another proper look at the house.

G. did the driving back after lunch, as I figured I'd had enough excitement for one day. We drove via Marlow stopped briefly in High Wycombe to pick up a little something for me to eat, as the curvy roads were making me a bit car-sick. Marks & Spencers food court. Marks & Sparks is probably worth a post of its own at some point. Anyways, we ate our lunch on a bench in front of the church in the center of town, which was also kitty-corner from M&S. There were a number of young people about, giving it a lively but slightly Bogan feel to the place. Bogan is an Australian word which I might be misusing, but has the same idea as a chav or redneck. To me, it has fewer connotations associated with it in terms of class, names and breeding, but basically sums up the look of the people. Loud, lots of swearing, not worrying about getting their trash into the garbage can sort of thing.

We got back to Wendover, and had a great dinner that St.Sh. had cooked for us and another couple she had invited over. Delish!

Friday, September 15, 2006

A German house hunting near us

Michael Ballack used to live in Munich and play for Bayern Munich. He now works in England, in the Chelsea area, and is house-hunting. Having difficulties finding a place too. Just like us!

However, this is where the similarities end...

According to, Michael is looking for "a six-bedroom home with a pool, either in the capital or near Chelsea's training ground in Cobham, Surrey".

But apparently, it's too pricey for him at £4 million to buy. Obviously it's too much, I mean, the guy earns over £6 million a year, reportedly the most in the English Premiereship, who could expect him to afford it?

I guess if he does decide to rent instead, we'll have one more thing in common at least.

Once you find a place, invite us over Michael. We'll even bring the Weissbier.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Scouting Mission #1 - part one

We flew over a couple of weekends ago to go househunting in person. Enough of the realtors had gotten back to us and we had contacted others by phone to let us check out some properties. We flew in on Saturday morning to Heathrow. G goes over so often that he has registered himself with the retinal scans, so he just waltzed right through to wait for our luggage. I had to wait in the immigration line for around 40 minutes. Nice.

Eventually made it through and headed to the car rental office. I had already reserved and paid for the car, so the full sales technique of "Do you want extra insurance?" "Would you like the convenience of not having to refill the car?" "Do you want an upgrade for only 12 pounds a day?" and so on was annoying. I told G. that I'd be willing to pay an extra 10 on the rental to have a no-fuss, no-muss policy when picking up the car. He agreed. We got upgraded anyways, for free. So there.

G. did the driving at first, as we were in a bit of a rush and I wasn't quite ready to face driving on the wrong side of the road yet. We were a bit late, but so was the agent. A typical thing, we found over the weekend. We looked at 4 properties in and around Maidenhead and were pleasantly surprised to find that all 4 were acceptable. Not that we wanted all of them, but it was a relief to see what we were willing to pay in rent would get us more than a hovel.

Another agent in the afternoon, who wasn't very professional or friendly. She showed us 2 properties, one of which was the same as the first one the other agent showed us. Bit weird having the property listed with 2 different realtors we thought, but apparently common enough.

We did what we thought was a very clever thing. I took notes about all the properties and G. took pictures on the digital camera. Very useful for keeping track the different places, especially since they all started to blend together about an hour after we were through. I asked what were likely some odd questions to the agents.
"Does the place come with the oven? What about the curtains?"
"What do you recycle in all the recycling bins I've seen in front of the houses?"
"I've seen the term 'electric shower' in some of the ads. What is it?"
"So is this Maidenhead still or a separate village?"
But I honestly didn't know and figured they should know the answers. The list of things I don't know about living in England grows shorter by the day, but is still waaaaaaaaaay longer than the things I do know about living there.

After looking at houses, we headed off to our friend's place in Wendover. I drove, which was pretty stressful. I kept drifting over to the edge too far, making G. probably fear for his life a few times as the hedges loomed in. But we made it safe and sound, though with a large amount of adrenaline pumping through my veins. Our friend, St.Sh., has a lovely newish house. She's in the midst of redecorating, so one room was chaotic, but the rest were gorgeous. I looked at them and thought to myself, "I'll never be able to match the quilt cover to the pillows to the curtains like that." Not that I necessarily want to, but I admire others who can.

We had a slow and easy evening, as we were wiped out from the early flight. More about the weekend later.

Email impressions

I don't think the Brits like email. Being nearly 1000km away, it's a little hard to get go and get information first hand by walking into a shop, office, hospital, etc. So I've been emailing different people and businesses frantically to get more information. Do they write back? Nooooooooooooo, of course they don't. Well, some do, to be fair, but it's honestly the minority.

I wrote to about 8 different real estate agencies who deal with rental properties in the area we are looking to settle in. I said what we were looking for and asked them to send me anything that might be of interest to us. How many wrote back? Two. Two out of eight. That's a 25% hit rate. What, don't these people want to earn money? And one of the two just stuck me on their regular email list, nothing specific for us. Sigh. This has been a frustrating aspect; trying to get information and either not knowing where to look for it or not getting any response once I do know who to ask.

And I don't even want to talk about the difficulty in finding out information about being pregnant and birthing procedures in the UK.

Oh yes, I haven't told you (the world) yet. I'm also pregnant, due in mid-December. We're supposed to be moved before then.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Send in the C'lonials!

Let me introduce myself. I'm a Canadian who has been living in Germany for 13 years. I'm married to an Australian who's been living in Germany for 4 and a half years. This fall, we are moving to the United Kingdom; specifically near Maidenhead in England. This blog will be a diary of everything having to do with that move and the adjustment to English life.

In case you really don't get it, the title is a play on words. Attack of the Clones, the second Star Wars prequel. Being Aussie and Canuck, we qualify in most Brits' eyes as colonials. So there you go. Very clever, isn't it?