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englishman abroad, parenting, the German way

Einschulung

Saturday was the day of my daughter Aurelia’s Einschulung. Einschulung is sometimes translated as ‘first day of school’, and I suppose that, technically, it often is. It’s not really that though. As I said, it happened on a Saturday and therefore isn’t a ‘proper’ school day. Besides, Aurelia has already had ‘trial hours’ (Schnupperstunden) at this school – she’s been there before. Another translation of this word is ‘enrolment’, which is also totally off. Aurelia was already on the ‘rolls’ of this school; she has been registered to attend it since about the time we moved to this town. What the Einschulung actually is, is a sort of ‘into-school’ rite of passage. Here’s what happened…

On that Saturday morning, after breakfast, Aurelia got her first proper look at the Schultüte which had been hidden away for weeks. A Schultüte is part of this German rite of passage. It resembles a brightly coloured and garishly decorated giant ice-cream cone; it’s also a bit like a Christmas stocking in that it is packed with goodies and not to be opened before the appointed time.

That appointed time is always after school, so off to school we all went: Oma, Opa, Mama and Papa. I carried Aurelia’s Schultüte, and Aurelia carried her gigantic, red and purple school bag. All German kids seem to have dementedly oversized school bags, called Schulranzen, which make them look less like first-year schoolkids than they do NASA astronauts. Off we went to school, bobbing along like an Ice-cream-themed Pride Parade for Questionable Cosmonauts.

On arrival at the school, it became apparent that I was the only one who had given this School-based theme-parkery a second thought: every single other child had a brightly coloured Schultüte and Schulranzen as well. The new space cadets first-years sat right at the front of the assembly hall and then it all kicked off. The headteacher introduced all the teachers, each year of the school performed a play or song or dance to welcome the new children, culminating with them being called onto the stage to stand with their respective mentor child and be taken off to their first, half-hour “class”. No parents were allowed of course, but I suspect that it was a little induction and introduction from their teacher. Back at home, Aurelia got to open her Schultüte at last: sweets, school stuff and her first ever alarm clock (pink, of course).

Tomorrow I’ll take her to her first ‘real’ full day of school; 8 am to 1 pm. I’m probably looking forward to it just as much as she is.

englishman abroad, Teaching English

Teaching British slang to Germans

So, two Germans and an Englishman walk into a bar…
Specifically a proper English pub, the Red Lion in Southampton. The interior is old wood panelling and armour, coats of arms and other such British minutiae. The football is on and my two German colleagues, neglecting their fish and chips, are watching the match. I’m rather more interested in my gammon steak, so I don’t notice the hapless defender score an own goal. “Oh dear,” says German 1 “I suppose any hole is a goal”.
Dear God, I need to be more careful what I say around the Germans. That’s not what ‘any hole’s a goal’ means. I’d even taught him what a gammon was, and he looked at my steak knowingly but said nothing. “Yes,” I said, “I suppose so. More beer?”
“Ok, but let’s not get rat-faced”
“you mean…”
“No! Shit-arsed”
My teaching skills are clearly inadequate. I have failed as a teacher. A proper teacher would have rightly instilled shit-faced and rat-arsed as synonyms for drunk.

“shit-arsed”. Honestly. I sidle away to collect more warm, flat ales, perhaps the most British and un-German of beers. But as I leave, my dear Krauts resume their conversation:
“This referee is a C U Next Tuesday.”
“Whatevs”
I suppose I taught them something after all.

 

 

englishman abroad, history

DNA Results

In my vainer and more self-important moments, I like to imagine that people read this blog. More than that, I pretend that they notice if I don’t post for a while, as I have not done for about two months now. “What’s that mad Englishman who got stuck in Europe up to?” they might wonder. “Did he ever go to Lush again? Does he still have that Dad-belly?” they’ll muse.

Well, yes, The Dad-belly is still with me. I never did go to Lush again (yet) as I’ve moved out of Oldenburg and into a much smaller town. The house is taking up plenty of my time, which is why this blog has been neglected for so long. I also got my DNA results.

To recap, I recently applied for a British passport for my daughter, and the whole process got me interested in my genealogy just a little bit. I remember being at school and my mate Robert teasing me that I must be Greek because I had skin a little darker than his, he also used to joke that my nose must be fake because it was absolutely ginormous. A Corporal once told me I had hair like a boar. I thought about these and similar comments over the years as I waited for the DNA results to come back. Could I be Greek? Could I be part Jewish, as someone else suggested? Could I be part German, in some mad twist of fate? Was I distantly Irish, as my mother’s own family-tree research had suggested?

The answer was no, on most counts.

According to MyHeritage DNA, I am:

  • 7.4% Iberian (Spain/Portugal)
  • 22.3% English
  • 24.5% Irish, Scottish, Welsh
  • 45.8% Scandinavian (Sweden, Norway, Denmark)

Now I know you have to take these things with a pinch of salt, but I’m reasonably confident on the veracity of most of it.  Essentially, If it says I’m more than 20% something then there’s a fair chance there’s at least some something in me. The percentages don’t matter too much. Instead, the descriptors are the interesting point. And Iberian? Me?

No, de ninguna manera.

englishman abroad, man stuff

Lush is not for boys

Mindful that it will soon be my Wife’s birthday, I did a bit of shopping the other day. The lady likes bubblebath and I was about to enter the general-purpose Rossmann when I remembered that there was another shop, Lush Cosmetics, just around the corner.

I made the fateful decision to enter Lush instead. Never have I ever been out of my depth so quickly.

Lush is not like Rossmann. Lush is like a descent into Hell.

Katabatic winds sighed ominously from the cloying maw of the shop’s entrance. Tempting. Enticing. Promising such wonders. “100% vegetarisch” sounded the siren call of the shop windows, “100% ohne Tierversuch”, “abandon all hope ye who enter here”

It was too late, Satan’s scent had snared me. I was drawn mesmerised into the bowels. I was looking for bubblebath. Shelves upon shelves of oddly shaped, brightly coloured baubles clamoured for my attention. “No…bubblebath… must get to bubblebath…” the scent was overpowering. The air uncomfortably warm.

“Take off your jacket” hissed the jelly bombs, “we’ll make it worth your while…”

“Never!” sweat formed on my brown and I pushed on. Despair. There couldn’t be bubblebath here, I was a fool. A fool who would die in Lush. Bubblebath was far too simplistic an indulgence. Lush would torture me with bath products beyond my ken. It would claim my soul and I would never leave.

An acolyte noticed my distress and cackled gleefully, springing from behind the knot wraps. She showed me the bath carrots. The horror. The horror. Carrots made of soap. She filled a sacrificial ewer with water and swirled the carrots around, revelling in my dismay. The water turned the orange of ungodly betrayal. I knew it was too late to turn and flee. She knew that I knew. She removed the carrot and, from jug to jug, she juggled the orange liquid, the water somehow turning a darker and more pustulent orange by the moment. Witchcraft. Foam seethed on the viscous orange ichor, every bubble a lost soul entreating for release.

“I… I was just looking for bubblebath,” I stammered in German, hardly daring to hope. “Schaumbäder?” she whispered menacingly, her Medusa-like stare freezing my heart with dread, “this way” she susurrated, leading me hypnotically deeper into the Minotaur’s lair.

Had she raised my hopes just to dash them again? I didn’t think I could bear it. She showed me to a table laden with coloured gewgaws. Pandora’s box had been upturned and laid out before me. “Here,” she said wickedly, handing me a fully functioning fidget-spinner bath bomb, “like this?”

I screamed. I retched. I tore out my hair. A fidget-spinner bath bomb. Such feats were unnatural. An abomination before God. A chimaera of Beelzebub himself. I clawed at my face, I wailed and gnashed my teeth. All faded to black.

I awoke later in a daze. I was at home. My clothes were heavily scented with a cloying musk. A brown paper bag clutched feverishly in my grasp. “You’ve been mangoed” writ large upon it. An oil bath. The lesser of many evils, yet still palpably obscene.

It was too late. I knew I was damned. I knew that I would return once more against my will.

I had been mangoed.

 

englishman abroad, history

DNA Test

Genealogy had never really interested me until recently. My mother has traced some of her side of the family into Wales, Devon and Ireland and my father-in-law has a proudly displayed family tree in the hallway. Still, he’s a farmer and there’s a palpable sense of history on the family farm, which has been passed down for generations. But what about me?

Like many people born in England, I just presumed that I was as English as the Anglo-Saxons and didn’t think any more about it. True, England was invaded thereafter by Vikings, Normans, Irish, Scots and several others, and the Anglo-Saxons were Germanic anyway (and preceded by the Romans) but whatever. I was English in England and that was that.

Last year I went through a lot of rigmarole in getting my daughter, Aurelia, a British passport in Brexit’s wake. I had to dive a couple of generations back to facilitate this, and call up the General Register Office and get all manner of old birth certificates. Including that of my Grandfather Steve.

It turns out that Grandad Steve, who I’ve never spoken to and has lived elsewhere as far as I can remember, wasn’t really called Steve. He had an absolutely nutty name that I won’t put on here. Just really bonkers and quite distinctive. Not typically “English”.

So I’ve decided to do some digging and see what comes up, so I’ve ordered one of those ‘test your DNA’ kits that so many genealogy sites are offering.  I’ve done some research and I know you have to take these things with a pinch of salt, there’s surely a margin of error etc. etc. Nonetheless, I’m curious as to what such a test might say.

It’s sitting on my dining room table right now and I’m going to send it off this week; there isn’t really an answer that I’m particularly hoping for or dreading.