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Time keeps rolling on

Well, it’s been almost a month since our second daughter, Helen Philippa, was born, and I only just now have a moment to update my blog. I’d almost forgotten just how babies act like adorable little black holes: sucking up all of your attention, time and energy.

Helen is now different in that regard, but unlike her sister she might have a few differences here and there. Although these things change, I’m fairly certain that Helen will continue to have brown eyes unlike her sister and probably brown or black hair to match (too soon to be sure though). She’s a little angel. A noisy, inconsiderate, messy, all-consuming angel, but still an angel nonetheless.

I’ve just got back from a project meeting in Cyprus, we’re working with a company and a research institute to make some maritime assessment software, but I can’t say too much about it. The meeting was successful and I’m looking forward to continue working on this project.

There’s not too much else going on really, I’m applying for Helen’s British passport in much the same style as I did with Aurelia, I’m low on sleep (but not as much as my darling wife, who’s doing a fantastic job) and time keeps rolling on.

englishman abroad, parenting

Waiting

I’m learning to drive at the moment. For a number of reasons, I never really got around to it whilst I was 16 and living in the UK. Now I’m learning to drive in Germany, in German, at 32. This is tricky. It’s tricky because you can easily confuse concepts like “Verbot” and “Gebot” when you’ve only been speaking German for a little while. That causes you to never drive on the right-hand side, instead of always driving on the right-hand side, much to my instructor’s consternation. I also seem to be the only person of my age that my instructor has ever dealt with, as he seems genuinely surprised that he has to instruct me how to drive instead of idly watching as I do it. Still, exasperated and grudging instruction from behind a smartphone is better than none at all, and I’m hardly spoilt for choice in the small place I live in.

The grand idea was that I’d be able to drive before the baby comes. That’s been blown out of the water by work commitments (slightly) and Brexit (hugely). Having dropped everything non-vital between January and March to focus on getting my German citizenship. But enough of that. I said I wouldn’t talk about Brexit anymore.

Instead, let’s talk about this baby. It’s late. It’s late and I’ve got the next week off work because we’d anticipated that it would already be here. It’s late and there’s only so many times I can check on the chilli peppers I’m trying to grow in the new greenhouse. It’s late and there’s only so many times my wife can play patience/solitaire on the dining-room table (over 800 times by my reckoning). It’s late and there’s only so many times, please, God! Only so many times that Aurelia can play the same song over and over and over again. It’s late, and I’m off work and Aurelia’s off school and Andrea’s obviously off work and we’re all. Just. Waiting. For something. To happen.

englishman abroad, travel

Back from Cadiz

Well, I’m back again.

Just like on the previous project meeting trip to Bordeaux, I couldn’t speak the language in Cadiz. Thankfully my Boss, Peter, is fluent in Spanish and therefore we did pretty well. Cadiz is a beautifully well-preserved city, and the old town is a maze of winding alleys broken up by incongruous plazas and squares. The streets are mostly narrow and winding, with tall buildings everywhere — a rat warren for extremely privileged rats. You’ll be heading down a series of vertical channels, the slender, high-walled streets forming tall, upended rectangular spaces, and come suddenly out into an unexpected plaza, the rectangle, sideways and wide, vision horizontal once more.

The place is filled with historic buildings which, back in Oldenburg or other cities like it in Germany, would be a museum in their own right. In Cadiz, these buildings are so frequent as to be almost unremarkable. The buildings are so tall because Cadiz is a port city, the tall buildings dotted with watchtowers used by old merchant families to control trade routes to and from the new world. And yet, the buildings are not tall. The Tavira tower is the tallest tower in Cadiz, and that’s a mere 45 metres. Going to Cadiz is like going back in time.

This is where we had our latest partner meeting for the TRAILs project. The first work packet (or Output 1) has been finished, and Output 2 is well underway. Output1 was Jade University’s, mine and Peter’s responsibility, and the provisional findings were presented to partners. Output 2 and 3 (Cadiz University and Poznan University, respectively) were also updated and introduced.

Aside from the meetings and work, there were excellent dinners. There were museums and forts and history and things to do. There were even oranges growing on trees with fragrant blossoms. There was even sunshine. To top it all, I saw my first opera at the “Gran Teatro Falla”, it was Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. It was fantastic.

Cadiz is a wonderful place, and I thoroughly recommend it as a holiday destination. I’ll certainly go back in my leisure time.

Just before Cadiz, Peter and I were in Hamburg for the kick-off meeting of another project. This project involves a company and the funding is a bit different, so I can’t say too much about it. Suffice it to say that I’ve got quite a lot more travel coming up in the coming years: Cyprus, Finland, Poland, Italy, Croatia and possibly some others, too. All of this travel is part of my work; all of it connected to the EU and the Schengen area.

It would be impossible to continue in my job if I hadn’t become German just in time…

statue

Becoming German, englishman abroad

The time has come for better things

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

The Walrus and The Carpenter, Through the Looking-Glass (1872), Lewis Carrol

One of the more popular refrains in British media at the moment is that people are sick and tired of the Brexit process and want to get it over and done with, one way or the other.  In a similar vein, January saw an opinion piece in the Guardian entitled “What we don’t talk about when we only talk about Brexit”.

In my own life, I’ve been far too close to burning out over Brexit. I read the news from several sources obsessively. Maybe today would be the day, I thought, that my country turned back from its course towards rocks. Maybe today would be the day it heeded the lighthouse. Maybe today would be the day the bridge crew woke up.

Years passed this way. The last few months have seemed like the longest of the whole process. Vote, delay, repeat. Britain is nearly out of time now and parliament is due to vote (yet again, another conversation with itself) on 12th March. The last two weeks after that will probably last for eternity.

March 29th is Brexit day.

But I no longer care! I have finally fulfilled my New Year’s resolution! This afternoon I was at the Ausländerbehörde again, handed in my Sprachzertifikat and other documents, and got a certificate which confirms that, on receiving it, I became German.

So what can I talk about, now that I’m not talking about Brexit?

For starters, my wife and I are expecting our second child in April; I’m going to be a father again!

My daughter Aurelia has her birthday in a couple of weeks; she’ll be 7!

I put up my first fence the other day; it’s shit!

I’m doing a Master’s degree; it’s tricky!

I’m off to Hamburg next week for the kick-off meeting of a German project, and then off to Cadiz for an EU project.

Life can finally continue without the sea boiling or pigs flying.

 

Becoming German, englishman abroad

Halfway there

Well, I got my results back for the first of the two tests that I need to pass in order to get German citizenship. The DTZ (Deutsch Test für Zuwanderer) language test is in, and I passed. I don’t want to to boast, but I was one point off 100%.

Ok, Ok! That actually sounds a lot more impressive than it really is, it was only a B1 level test. Still, acing a test at one level typically means you are at least the level above it (B2). So that’s me happy. I can speak sufficient German to survive in Germany in everyday life.

All I need to do now is sit tight, and await the results of my Citizenship Test (Einbürgerungstest).