“No Internet! – what do I do now?”

27 Sep

 It has been 2 long months in the wilderness, the metaphorically bleak and empty wilderness that is life without internet of course! A few weeks after moving into our apartment in Germany the internet was abruptly disconnected and subsequently it has taken 2 months and several exasperating conversations to restore it. Apparently, German efficiency has yet to infiltrate the telecommunication industry as I am told this is normal practice, however, I am thrilled to report that normal service, has been resumed!

It was during this period of regression to a time without email, Online banking, You tube, Facebook, Spotify, Twitter, Google search and all the other crappy things I spend time looking at on the internet, I was forced to rethink my mediums of entertainment and sources of information.I have never been overly excited by big TVs, HD or surround sound systems, and I didn’t want to become a Sky +/ HD/ Multi room  ‘TV zombie‘ or one of the growing number of households that now have huge television that dominates their living room. So in light of this we of course , . . yeah we bought a big ass TV! What can I say I have principles, . . that I sometimes choose to ignore. I now have a wonderfully large dust collecting square box in the living room, . .  totally worth it just for the Olympics, . . . right? I am however, eternally grateful that living in Germany means that I do not have to watch depressing soap operas, endless Singing Competitions, washed up celebrity reality TV shows and host of talentless spray tanned and vajazzled simpletons from some backwater in Essex anymore.

So when the Olympics finished I was once again cast into a dark void of endless days and even darker nights without media entertainment! Ok maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but I’m so used to turning on the TV or surfing the internet when I’m bored or need entertaining that I’ve forgotten what I used to. Of course, I have my usual day to day tasks of cleaning and going to the gym and feeding a 110 Kilo eating machine, (also known as my boyfriend) but this only fills a small percentage of the day.

What did I used to do before?  Ahhh. . . . Read books!

Yes . . . . that old old OLD tradition of reading BOOKS . . . you know . . paper with words on them!

I decided to work my way through the collection of leather bound classics in the bookcase that look rather nice but really should be read.

The complete works of Shakespeare, Plato, Sherlock Holmes, The Scarlet Letter, The Last of The Mohicans, Moby Dick, Oliver Twist etc.

This should keep me busy for oh  . . . . about a decade!!

How my mug of tea changed the world!

13 Jul

An article published yesterday by James Hall, Consumer affairs expert for The Telegraph, claimed that ‘Builder’s tea’ (English breakfast tea) has lost some of it’s long standing popularity with the British population and young people are now turning to healthier alternatives like Green Tea! 

As a Brit and a purist when it comes to tea drinking, I struggle to imagine in the future ‘Dave the Builder’, (with standard bum crack peaking from the top of his tool belt),  . .  downing his power tools, pulling up a bean bag, lighting some  joss sticks and sipping on a cup of  ‘Pi Lo Chun Green Tea’  (Green Snail Spring). 

Perhaps the youth of today are turning to healthier alternatives but do they know how much tea has shaped the nation they live in today? Some historians would almost certainly agree with me that tea did indeed help to shape the World’s modern nations and put the once ‘Great‘ in Great Britain!

Our love for tea has existed since the 17th Century when Dutch and Portuguese traders began bringing it to the our shores. Thomas Garraway, a coffee house owner and merchant claimed in a pamphlet that tea made ‘the body active and lusty’. Soon  the working class started turning to drinking tea, instead of gin in the public houses which the government levied taxes on. As a direct result, tea taxes rose to 119% and tea smuggling became commonplace. Smuggling gangs in the south coast of England were notorious for their violence until William Pitt Younger introduced the Commutation Act in 1784, which reduced the tax and so ended smuggling. The East India Company capitalised on the booming trade in tea in the mid 18th  century, by creating a monopoly over all tea trade and drove the British Empire’s expansion in Asia. At it’s height the British Empire ruled about a third of the World’s people and half it’s wealth. For 5 generations, the sun never set on the Empire!

It is reasonable to argue that  the demand for tea and other spices was one of the biggest factors in the British Empire expanding territories in Asia, in particular India. The colonisation of India meant 1.3 million Indian soldiers fought for Britain in the 1st World War and after the 2nd World War, labour shortages opened the way for mass immigration. People from all over the Empire entered Britain under British passports, allowing them the right to work and settle in the UK. In the 1940’s non white immigrants were in their low thousands, by the 1970’s there were 1.4 million.

Not only has tea influenced the history of the British Isles but also of our friends across the pond. My knowledge of American history is limited, but tea certainly had a hand in the start of the American civil war and ultimately the declaration of independence. The Boston Tea Party, I believe was the destruction of a cargo of tea in protest against the British Government and the British monopolisation of the tea trade with the American colonies and acted as a catalyst for the revolutionary movement against the British.

Tea as we know it in the UK today or ‘Builder’s tea‘ is an English colloquial term used to refer to strong tea normally drunk by construction workers on their break, however most Brits drink this type of tea and to an extent where it is an integral part of every day life.  Tea break,  Elevensies and Afternoon Tea are just some of the times in the day when we reach for the kettle, but it is certainly not limited to this.

A ‘Proper‘ cup of tea consists of:

  1. one good sized mug; probably a bit stained and chipped but it all adds to the flavour and overall experience
  2. one tea bag (Tetleys, PG Tips, Yorkshire Tea, Typhoo etc); other brands are ok but these are the best cheap ‘non fancy’ ones
  3. boiling water to pour over the tea bag; the key thing here is not to put the milk in first because it clogs up the bag and doesn’t allow the tea to stew
  4. patience; ‘Good things come to those who wait‘. Much like you wait for a pint of Guinness to settle before you fill it to the top, you should allow the tea bag to stew allowing the tea flavour to permeate the water,
  5. Milk; Some people like it milky but a builders tea is traditionally strong without much milk. Powdered milk substitutes, long life or cream just will not do!
  6. Sugar; if we are sticking to tradition, a hefty tea spoonful or two of sugar is best.

Finally you remove the tea bag by straining it against the side of the cup and throwing it in the bin without dripping tea all over the floor or burning your fingers, and stir. Enjoy with a biscuit of your choice, however, I recommend a Hob Nob for its optimal dunking properties. To quote Peter Kay (Comedian) ‘Hob Nobs are the Marines of the biscuits world’. This is due to the fact that a they absolutely refuse to disentegrate no matter how long you keep dunking them for. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnC96tqyk5M

So next time you have a brew or a cup of char you should consider the impact that little cup of lovely-ness had on the world and pay respects to the drink that made Britain once Great!

The German Chapter

12 Jul

‘Once upon a time, in a land far, far away’  . . . .

Marienburg Castle

From the village I can see a Gothic style castle nestled in the hills and surrounded by pine forest that is reminiscent of a fairytale book castle complete with tower. I guess this is the beginning of my fairy tale, . . .  minus the fairies, but there will be some tales, and I hope to share some of my experiences of life in a new country, learning the language and starting my business.

As the title indicates, this is the German Chapter!

Much like historians divide particular periods of history into sections, I also recall my life in phases. Not that ‘The Renaissance’ and my years of teenage angst bare much relation or relative importance, but its a good way to categorise time. Prior to the German Chapter came the Qatar chapter, where I spent 6 months in the middle east, and prior to that was perhaps my ‘Dark Ages’ where I almost fossilised working for 2 and half years for the Welsh Government. My only saviours where a few good work colleagues and friends who helped make civil service seem less like a sentence.

Before this, there were many, many different stages, none that I remember that well or care to recall right now but no doubt I will in time to come.

Returning to ‘The German Chapter’ – Hildesheim in northern Germany is now my home for the next year at least. Once a fiercely independent ice maiden, I recently met a tall 22 year old Swedish handball player whilst in Qatar and followed him here and ‘shacked up’ after 3 months!! Ok, ok . . . I know what you’re thinking . . . . . . .

what the hell is handball!!!

To any sane rational person this sounds crazy and to me it does too, but the love bug got me and so here I am. As for handball,  . .  imagine you are playing football, . . but with your hands, and before you came on the court you accidently tripped on Dave the handyman’s ladder and as you stretched out your hands to break your fall you landed in a big pot of sticky glue that Dave had left out from his model making. Got it!

Its now day 4 in our apartment living in Germany and after a trip to IKEA to buy self assembly furniture and more cushions and throws than you can shake a stick at, it is starting to feel like home. IKEA has no doubt been the salvation of many a student and first time home buyer. For people like me who lack visual creativity and imagination, the top floor of IKEA is a god send. Hints and a few ideas on how to make a room look good are of no use to me, I need to blatantly copy Sven or Hans the uber cool Nordic designer latest room arrangements. After my recent trip to Sweden, I can actually confirm that Swedes are up there on the Cool o meter!  . . . and yes there is a gauge for measuring cool, Jeremy Clarkson, the Hamster and Captain Slow bicker about it on Top Gear quite often.


I will save my the Swedish experience and the meeting of the parents for the first time for another blog. It was however, for the most part painless and I believe a success.

Today, however we managed to lock ourselves in the apartment and had to be rescued by an old lady and managed to flood the downstairs apartment! Just an average day in paradise.

Good night all,  . . . you stay classy San Diego!

Hello world!

12 Jul

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