26th May 2022
Yesterday our new dishwasher was delivered. Today we ran the first wash.
The delivery guys were good: very punctual, efficient, polite and helpful.
It is such a relief not to have to wash everything up by hand.
We kept two of the drawers from the old machine, because, with the drawers that came with the new one, not all the plate-holding racks can be folded flat (useful when we have a dinner party and there are lots of pots).
20th May 2022
Today, like yesterday, Sheryl had vacation, so we went to the local outdoor swimming pool, the Prinzregentenbad.
We went fairly early, to avoid the worst of the heat (temperatures went up to 31°C in the afternoon) and took a picnic lunch.
We had two vouchers for free entry, so the only money that we had to spend was on drinks from the bar.
I saw many more swifts (definitely swifts, not swallows) catching insects above the swimming pool grounds, so I guess they really are here for the summer, rather than on the way to somewhere else.
20th May 2022
Yesterday we finally managed to order our replacement dishwasher.
In the morning we went to a couple of stores, and were very disappointed by the selection. Sheryl then spent the whole afternoon searching online for a machine which met our main requirements (not all our requirements), was deliverable now, and included options for installation and taking away the old machine.
Sheryl was not able to get exactly what she wanted: a machine which projects the remaining time for the program onto the floor.
We don't yet have confirmation of the delivery date, but we are hoping it will be early next week; I am sure the delivery guy(s) will be very annoyed when he/they discover(s) that there is no lift/elevator in our apartment building. In the meantime, I will have to continue washing up everything by hand.
I never expected it to be so difficult to buy a dishwasher.
17th May 2022
Tonight, on our way back from the beer garden, I saw my first swallows (actually more likely swifts, but they were too far away to tell) of the year.
I haven't seen any since, so they may well have been on the way to somewhere further north.
I was rather worried that they wouldn't show at all this year, because last year they were here for about two weeks and then moved on elsewhere.
17th May 2022
The dishwasher repair technician came today. He told me that our machine is not repairable, so we will need to get a replacement.
Sheryl and I spent time online finding a suitable replacement, but the one that Sheryl likes is not available at the moment (apparently due to the shortage of semiconductor chips), so it looks like we will have to compromise.
We need to get the replacement soon; I am getting thoroughly fed up with washing everything up by hand. Our sink and draining rack are small, meaning that washing up has to be done in several batches, and takes ages.
We plan to go shopping for a new dishwasher on Thursday this week, when Sheryl has vacation.
13th May 2022
Our neighbour Isabelle's kids are sick, and her husband is away for work, but Isabelle had two tickets for the opera (The Barber Of Seville) for tonight. Rather than waste them, she gave them to us.
Sheryl has long wanted to see an opera, to see whether she would enjoy it. We were expecting visitors to arrive this evening, but they cancelled this morning, so we were free to go to the opera.
The seats were excellent: near the front and in the centre.
We both read the plot synopsis beforehand, and luckily there we also subtitles in both German and English, so it didn't matter that neither of us understands Italian (and that one can't understand the words sung by Opera singers).
The Barber Of Seville is a fairly lightweight opera, and meant to be funny, but we didn't find the humour very good (some of it was very slapstick).
All in all, it was not an experience that we are in a hurry to repeat.
9th May 2022
Today we had a problem with our dishwasher, which I discovered as I was preparing to cook dinner.
The machine claims that it is getting no water, but is able to get water for a rinse. Even so, I removed the filter to clean it, but that had no effect.
We will have to get the technician out to fix it.
7th May 2022
Today we went to the Fruhlingsfest (spring beer festival) with Renato and Pilar. It is a much smaller and tamer affair than the Oktoberfest, although the tent was completely full (they were turning people away at the door) by the time we left.
We went to the Hippodrom tent.
Renato was surprised to notice that the band played some Italian songs that he recognised from his youth, interspersed with the usual Bavarian music and American pop songs.
After we had finished our beery lunch, Renato and Pilar went on a ride or two, and Sheryl and I went home (Sheryl had some shopping to do).
5th May 2022
Last night we met up for drinks and some food with Gunther and friends at the Augustiner Halle on Neuhauser Straß.
Gunther has been living in England for the last few years, so we haven't seen him for a while.
We had previously met everyone else in the group, a few years ago, and it was great to see them all again.
Our waitress was a little strange. She was great at serving our drinks and food, but not so good when it came to paying the bill. I decided that she was stoned.
14th March 2022
On Thursday (10th March) my new fibre-optic-based Internet connection from M-Net was finally connected. There were some delays because my apartment's DSL cable (used to connect the last few feet from the fibre-optic terminal to my apartment) was not connected; once that was sorted out, I had to book a new appointment to connect my Internet.
I ordered a business package including a static IP address. This package is described on M-Net's web-site as suitable for small businesses who have their own web-site(s).
Since the installation, although the IPv4 address has remained unchanged, the IPv6 address prefix has changed 3 times in 4 days, so I called M-Net's customer service line to complain. I was informed today that only the IPv4 address is static; the IPv6 address changes every time the Internet modem is restarted, plus in between, any time that M-Net feel like changing it. There are no plans to make the IPv6 static (unless customers have a much more expensive plan); even though IPv4 is gradually being phased out in favour of IPv6.
I do not see how such a service is suitable for small businesses with their own web-sites. Sounds like false advertising to me. The option of having static IP addresses is the main reason I changed my ISP, and I feel cheated.
In case any readers in Munich are thinking of changing ISP to M-Net, you should beware; you need to be sure that you can manage with only your IPv4 address being static.
25th February 2022
I had a pleasant surprise today. I went to a local fruit and vegetable store to buy Sheryl some flowers, and noticed that they had watercress, so I bought some and had some of my purchase in a sandwich for lunch.
When I was growing up in southern England, watercress was widely available, and we had it often at home. It is good in salads, and in sandwiches with cheese. In Germany, where it is called Brunnenkresse, I have never seen it in any shop, despite having tried to get it many times.
The last time I had watercress was in New Zealand; after mentioning to my sister Ann that I couldn't find it in Germany, she told me they had it growing in the garden, and served some for lunch. The problem is that she just grows it in soil, not in running water (its natural habitat), which makes it very bitter. The watercress that I bought today was grown in running water, and was perfect: crisp and peppery, but not bitter.
2nd February 2022
Today, after another phone call to the customer services at my ISP, they finally managed to fix the problem with my Internet connection (see the post, below, from the 29th of January).
This means that my web-sites are again reachable for visitors using IPv4, and my mail server can again receive emails from email providers who use IPv4.
I am not very impressed with my ISP (Pÿur, [pronounced "pure"] which used to be called Cablesurf). After a week of no progress, and them apparently forgetting about the referral of my problem to 2nd level support (because the CSR that I spoke to last week couldn't fix it himself), the CSR with whom I spoke today was able to fix the problem in just a few minutes, so obviously it wasn't that complicated.
We have been a customer for years, and Cablesurf used to be very good. Since the change to Pÿur service has been less good: more frequent changes of IP address (both IPv4 and IPv6), poor customer service and periods when they test new configurations on the live network (without warning to customers) and break the system.
I have had enough of these problems, and have ordered a connection from another ISP (M-Net). We may then cancel the subscription with Pÿur, although we might keep both.
30th January 2022
Sheryl and I decided to watch it. We both thought "how bad can it be, if it has Bruce Willis in it?" The answer is, very bad.
After watching it for a while, we reached the conclusion that the experience of the people involved (producers, director, script writers and stunt team) was entirely made up of porn movies; the same must be true of most of the actors. Nothing else can explain the wooden dialogue, the poor filming technique, the dire fight scenes and the dreadful acting.
I feel that this is probably the worst movie that Bruce Willis has every made, although Sheryl said that she has seen a couple of others that were similarly bad.
I do not recommend watching "Out of Death", especially as it is not free on Amazon Prime.
29th January 2022
On Monday my ISP (Internet Service Provider) allocated me a new IPv4 address. My ISP does not offer static IP addresses, so I have become used to occassional changes of address, and having to regularly check and update my DNS entries.
I changed the DNS settings for my web-sites and mail server to reflect the change of address. I eventually noticed some issues: I was receiving fewer emails on my fosberry.com address, and I had no web-site visitors using IPv4 (only on IPv6).
It turns out that the email problem was that only email providers who use IPv6 were able to send to my email server, and my web-site was only reachable over IPv6.
I phoned my ISP, who confirmed that I was using the correct IPv4 address, and that it was supposed to be reachable from the public Internet, although clearly it is not. My complaint had been passed to second-level support, and I was told a response probably won't happen until Monday the 31st of January.
In the meantime, visitors who have only IPv4 cannot reach my web-sites.
I am seriously considering changing to another ISP.
13th January 2022
Sheryl is still unhappy with the Roku "stick" that I got her for her birthday.
So, although Roku looks good on paper, I can't recommend it.
25th December 2021
We opened our presents mid-morning, before brunch. Mostly we bought each other things from our Amazon wish lists.
Sheryl bought me a lovely bottle of Jura Scotch whisky; one of the whiskys that I really liked from last year's whisky advent calendar. I opened it after dinner.
After opening the presents, we played a game that my son Brendan sent us. It was very hard, and took ages; the purpose is to investigate a murder, and we got the answer wrong!
19th December 2021
Yesterday we bought our Christmas tree; today we put in in the stand and decorated it.
As usual, Sheryl was over-ambitious regarding the tree size (although at least I was able to negotiate €30 off the price); we have very high ceilings, but even so there is less than a foot of clearance, and the door into the living room is almost blocked.
We had trouble with one set on lights, which has some unlit bulbs, despite changing several bulbs and using all our spares. Also, one set of lights is more yellow than the rest.
17th December 2021
This (right) is a photo of some mouthwash that Sheryl bought recently.
What struck me about it is how little effort was put into naming the product. A reasonable translation of "Dontodent" is toothy teeth (donto and dent are both derived from the same root word). Is that the best that the company can do?
11th December 2021
Yesterday I received my Covid-19 booster jab.
I was at the doctor's for something else, and was only trying to book an appointment for the booster, but they just did it immediately.
For jabs one and two, I was given the Pfizer/Biontech immunisation. I asked the doctor during my previous visit whether it was possible to have the Moderna injection for my booster, and she told me no. Since then, Germany has virtually run out of Pfizer/Biontech jabs, and has ordered more Moderna instead, so that is what I was given.
I have had no side-effected, apart from a sore arm.
Sheryl got her booster a couple of weeks ago, but because of her history of allergy problems, they managed to find a Pfizer/Biontech vaccine dose for her.
7th December 2021
I recently stopped using Googlemail as my primary email service (see the post below from the 23rd of November), and set up a mail server and IMAP server on my server.
I never liked the user Gmail user interface, neither the phone App nor the web-browser. I have over 10 GB of stored emails, in multilevel directories (directories containing subdirectories, containing sub-subdirectories, and so on) and Gmail presents these as a flattened list (one entry for each directory and subdirectory), which is a long list; it took ages to find anything.
I have just started using FairEmail on my Android phone, and am very happy with it. It works with Googlemail and my own IMAP server, and shows directories in a hierarchical way (like Outlook), so scrolling is greatly reduced. It has lots of features, and full security. It is so much better than the Gmail App, and I heartily recommend it.
7th December 2021
Sheryl finally decided on something that she wanted as a birthday present, so I bought her a Roku Express 4K TV stick (not actually a stick), and we have retired the Chromecast stick that my son Brendan gave us a few years ago. I thought we would be able to stop using the computer to watch videos on the TV, but sadly that will not be possible.
Whilst the Roku is good, for example it works well with Netflix and can be used to watch German TV channels, there are a couple of issues with it. Amazon Prime on the Roku only offers videos in German (on the computer, the web-browser interface lets you choose English). Also, you can only add known streaming services; I had planned to set up a private streaming service on my server, for watching videos that are stored on the server, but there is no way to add such a channel to the Roku.
We won't be able to completely retire Sheryl's clapped out laptop yet.
4th December 2021
I snapped this photo of a bird of prey in the gardens behind our apartment building today. As far as I can tell, it is a sparrowhawk.
It seemed largely unafraid of people; it is unusual to see any kind of bird of prey so close.
27th November 2021
After we discovered that the recycling bins had been removed from our nearest recycling point, Sheryl wrote an email to the AWM (Abfallwirtschaftsbetrieb München, the Munich waste disposal authority) to complain and to ask where they had been moved to.
Today she got an answer; a thoroughly unsatisfactory answer.
The bins were in front of the local Roman Catholic church, and the church have revoked permission for the bins to be there. The AWM said that they can't find anywhere else in our area to put the bins, so we should use the next nearest recycling point. Thanks for nothing!
27th November 2021
Today a Christmas tree appeared in the hallway of our apartment building, so it is getting hard to ignore that Christmas is coming.
26th November 2021
Yesterday I had my interview at the KVR (Kreisverwaltungsreferat) for my Aufenthaltserlaubnis (residence visa and work permit).
I have been waiting for months for this interview; the KVR is heavily overloaded, because of Brexit.
I saw a very nice Indian lady, who initially spoke to me in English (even though speaking German is a requirement for residence for non-EU nationals) until I switched her to German.
Everything was fine until she asked for my passport (which I had with me) and a passport photo (which I did not). Now I have another interview in January! The lady was sure that I had been requested to bring a photo, in my invitation letter, but I checked (in both the English and German versions), and there was no such request. Someone at the KVR screwed up!
26th November 2021
"Winter Is Coming": our first snow of the winter.
I am expecting much more snow before Christmas.
25th November 2021
A few days ago we found out that the ballet that we bought tickets to on the 12 of December had been cancelled due to Covid-19.
Today we found out that the some of the cancelled tickets had been put back on sale again; only some of the tickets, because new health regulations require more distance between audience members. By the time we heard about the reselling of tickets, they were all sold out.
I don't understand why they didn't deal with the need to reduce the audience size in the same way as airlines handle oversold flights, by offering a small incentive for people to accept a refund or tickets for a performance in a few weeks time.
mAs it stands the ballet is in breach of contract. We had a contract to see a performance of the ballet, for which we paid. They told us the performance was cancelled, and then resold our tickets to someone else. I rather feel we should sue, but it is a lot of hassle, and might make it impossible to buy tickets to future ballets.
23rd November 2021
I am not happy with googlemail. In the last few days I was forced to enable two-factor authentication on both my gmail accounts, after which I was not able to connect Outlook to gmail. The two-factor authentication simply doesn't work as advertised.
Because of the large number of stored emails that I have, in many directories (in most cases several directories deep), the gmail web-interface and the gmail phone app are unusable, so gmail simply doesn't meet my needs any more.
I will now be using my email@example.com address as my primary email account.
17th November 2021
Yesterday morning I had some vaccinations: a 4-in-1 shot (Diphtheria, Tetanus- Whooping Cough and Polio) in one arm, and another shot (pneumococcus - bacterial pneumonia) in the other arm. That is a lot of vaccinations in one go.
About 90 minutes later I began to suffer severe back pain (I wasn't able to clean up the kitchen or cook dinner). I am pretty certain that this is a side-effect of the vaccinations. Today the pain is slightly reduced, but still bad.
This might seem to some people to be an odd side-effect from vaccinations, but the symptoms are very similar to something that I get hit by often: whenever I get an viral infection, the first sign is usually pain from one or both of my nerve-pinches (I have one in my neck and another in my lumbar region). What seems to happen is that the virus (or in this case the vaccine) inflames the nerves at the site of damage, making the nerve pinch worse. It usually goes away within 48 hours.
13th November 2021
Sheryl went out with our recycling today, and came back very annoyed.
There was a lot of recycling because we didn't take it last weekend.
The reason for her annoyance was that the recycling bins at our local recycling point we gone; there was no sign explaining why.
In the end, she dumped the plastic and metal in the general waste bin at our apartment building (general waste in Munich is incinerated, so putting plastic in it doesn't case a problem), and brought the glass home again.
We take recycling seriously, but can do without such unnecessary obstacles being thrown in the way.
The next nearest recycling point is more than twice as far away, so we will not be taking our recycling there today.
I spent nearly an hour looking online for information about the missing recycling bins; there was nothing.
It is hard enough to get people to recycle, without removing the bins without notice.
14th October 2021
I finally managed to snap a photo of the squirrel (a red squirrel, although almost black in colour) that has been in the gardens behind our apartment recently.
The poor beast seems to be all alone. Also, I have no idea what it will eat over the winter, since there are no oak trees (for acorns) nor any nut trees in any of the gardens.
10th October 2021
This afternoon we went to the Cinema on Nymphenburger Straße to see the new James Bond movie: "No Time To Die".
It was great fun, and had all the standard James Bond elements: love interest, political machinations, chase scenes, fight scenes, ridiculous gadgets, thoroughly evil villains and a threat to the world.
We were both shocked by the ending, which was totally unexpected (I won't spoil it for you).
We had to wear masks, and show proof of vaccination. There were gaps between each group of customers, to provide social distancing, meaning that the movie theatre was only about half full.
We each had a beer, and shared a dish of nachos with jalapeños and hot cheese sauce.
23rd August 2021
On Friday I had another X-ray of my broken foot, and today I had a check-up appointment with my orthopaedist.
Finally, some good news. The break has healed enough that I can stop wearing the support-boot, which is a huge relief.
I need to continue to use the sticks for another two weeks, so that I don't put too much load on the foot.
19th August 2021
Yesterday my friend Jonathan had an accident while riding his motorcycle through Slovenia. He ended up in a Slovenian hospital with a badly broken lower leg, cracked ribs and general bumps and bruises.
He is now back in Munich, at a hospital near where we live, so we should probably go and visit him soon.
We wish him a speedy and full recovery.
16th August 2021
Due to a failed operating system upgrade (on the server which hosts all my web-server virtual machines) on Saturday, this web-site was out of service for about two days.
I had to install a fresh operating system, and install and configure the tools and infrastructure needed to run the web-servers.
It is now working again.
There are a few things still to do, so there will be no new posts to the food blog until until those are done, but all existing pages now work.
5th August 2021
Yesterday Sheryl flew to Chicago to visit her family for a couple of weeks.
The picture to the right is what her suitcase looked like on arrival in Chicago.
We spent quite a lot to get a rugged suitcase, but still the baggage handlers managed to break it, and very throughly.
It looks like the corner got badly ripped, and the piece that was then sticking out was trimmed off.
Luckily, none of the contents were broken (there were several bottles of wine in the suitcase).
It seems that Rimowa suitcases aren't as tough as in this advertisement.
25th July 2021
About 10 days ago I noticed that the ants were flying. Normally, the swallows, swifts and martins feast on the flying ants, and it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn't seen any of these species of bird yet this year; normally they arrive in Munich in May.
I became worried that these birds had suffered some kind of population collapse. Then, a few days later, I started to hear the distinctive screams of swallows, but still hadn't actually seen any.
Today, finally, I saw some swallows. At least that is one thing not yet destroyed by climate change.
23rd July 2021
Today I went for yet another X-ray of my broken foot, in preparation for my checkup with my orthopedist on Monday.
It seems to be healing nicely. The break is starting to knit together, although it is clearly not yet strong.
Hopefully I will soon be able to stop wearing the support boot.
12th July 2021
We are now have quite a collection of cooking wine, having had several bad bottles.
The bottle of La Feria (our everyday wine) on the right is simply corked, which happens very occasionally despite it having a plastic cork. The others are simply not good.
Our source for the La Feria was out of stock, so Sheryl bought some experimental wines to drink until we could get more La Feria. These alternative wines cost between 2 and three times as much, but even so, were not drinkable. I plan to discard the La Feria, and we plan to use the others for cooking and for Sangria.
What I don't understand is why it is so hard to find drinkable wine in Germany (unless you pay €15 or more, and even then, it is not always good).
An example is Nero D'Avola (like the bottle in the centre), which is a Sicilian wine. We have drunk it in Sicily and in Malta, and never had a bad bottle. In Germany, unless you drink it in an Italian restaurant, it is always rubbish. Similarly, St. Emilion (like the bottle on the left); in most countries I would consider it to be reliably good (I have never had an undrinkable bottle) but in Germany the shops seem to stock the dregs.
In Germany, the tax on wine (indeed all alcohol) is very low, but there is so much junk on the shelves. I think maybe German consumers and the shops' wine buyers have all had their taste buds ruined by German wine.
5th July 2021
With the warmer weather, there are lots more insects about. This is a moth which found its way into our kitchen.
Hopefully it will find its way out again. Normally I would catch it and throw it out, but that is a two handed job, which is hard when using a walking stick.
4th July 2021
Today my father would have been 91 years old.
He died last year on the 7th of October.
My sisters and mother scattered his ashes this morning on the Awhitu peninsula not far from Waiuku, in New Zealand, where my parents used to live before moving closer to my sisters.
2nd July 2021
Today I again spent hours at the hospital (the Rechts der Isar) for a checkup on my foot.
This was the second time this week, as I was also there on Tuesday, also for a checkup.
On Tuesday I was told that the X-ray showed no change, but today (only 3 days later) I was told that my foot "looked good", so obviously it is healing.
What I don't understand is why I had to see the doctor before getting the X-ray, which of course involved lots of waiting, since (this time, unlike on Tuesday) I had a letter stating that I was there for the X-ray. I arrived at the hospital at 08:00, and was finished with the X-ray at 09:40!
The doctor told me that I could now stop going to the hospital, and instead should go back to my orthopedist for further checkups, and that if all goes well, I will be able to stop wearing the support boot in another 4 weeks.
It will be a great relief to not have to wear the boot, as it is causing me serious back pain.
It will also save a huge amount of time, not going to the hospital. My orthopedist is a short walk from home, and the X-ray firm is a short bus ride away.
28th June 2021
Today I got my second shot of the Covid-19 vaccine (Pfizer/Biontech), which had to be postponed because I was originally scheduled to have the operation on my foot on the same day.
I am very pleased.
22nd June 2021
This week I went to the hospital (the Rechts der Isar) for the operation on my foot. The doctor at the OP Vorbereitung (operation preparation) decided to send me for yet another X-ray, after which he decided that I should not have an operation after all. He gave me a post-it note with another appointment for next week (I believe, for another X-ray to check on progress).
After telling me his decision (I was not allowed to make any input to this decision), and giving me the post-it note, this doctor ran away, giving me no opportunity to ask questions. I needed to ask whether I could now resume my diabetes medication (I had been told to stop taking the metformin tablets 2 days before my planned operation, because they interfere with the healing process), and whether I needed to continue with the anti-thrombosis injections.
In order to get the answers that I needed, I went to see my GP (Hausartz), who told me to restart the metformin and to continue with the injections, and gave me a prescription for more injections. When I phoned to make this appointment with my GP, I explained to the receptionist what it was all about, and she said "... but surely he gave you a report?"; she was completely gobsmacked that all I received was the post-it note.
This experience has reinforced my opinion that the Rechts der Isar is an utterly dreadful hospital, with some of the most unprofessional doctors I have had the misfortune to deal with.
17th June 2021
On Friday last week, while going shopping, I hurt my left foot.
Ever since injuring my back at the start of 2020, I have had numbness, lack of control and weakness in my left leg. As a result, sometimes, while walking, my left foot rolls over when I put weight on it (this happens once every 2 or 3 months). It happened on Friday, and this time I did some damage (and happened again today, while leaving the orthopedist's office).
By Tuesday morning it was clear that it wasn't getting any better, so I phoned my GP (Hausartz), only to find he was closed. I managed to get an appointment on Wednesday, and was referred to an orthopedist (who was closed on Wednesday!).
Today I spent all day visiting doctors: first the orthopedist, then getting an X-ray, then back to the orthopedist, then off to the hospital (the Rechts der Isar) where I was sent to the orthopedic department, the sports surgery department, and finally the emergency department. After waiting for several hours, I was seen by a doctor, who decided that he needed me to have a CT before making a decision. More waiting, for the CT and to talk to the doctor again, and he finally told me that I needed an operation. I got home after 8 pm.
I have a fracture in my foot, at the point where one of the tendons attaches to the bone (a Jones fracture). So until my operation next Wednesday, I have to wear a foot-brace, and use two sticks to keep the weight off of my foot (trouble is, I can't carry anything while using two sticks, not even a cup of coffee). I also have to give myself daily anti-thrombosis injections, and have been given a prescription for some serious pain-killers.
Once again, the Rechts der Isar have proven what a disorganised shambles they are. The very definition of an emergency is that one can't wait, but I, and dozens of others, spent almost a whole day waiting, with many (myself included) in serious pain. At least this time I am happy with the prescribed treatment, which has not always been the case at this hospital.
27th May 2021
I just found a way to post photos on facebook without uploading them, which means that there is no way that facebook can claim to own the copyright to my photos.
I put the photo on my own website, and included a link to it in my facebook post. The pic is displayed the same way as it would be if I had uploaded it (see the screenshot to the right).
If any of my friends want to have the ability to do this, using space on one of my web-servers, get in touch.
27th May 2021
Finally, I got my first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine today.
Hopefully, life will now start to go back to normal (at least more normal, if not completely normal).
After waiting 10 weeks for the central vaccination service to give me an appointment, I contacted my GP. After an hour, they phoned me back with an appointment.
Germany is one of the most bureaucratic countries in the world, but that bureaucracy is neither effective nor efficient. My vote for the most effective nor efficient bureaucracy goes to the Netherlands.
3rd May 2021
I received some sad news today. My friend, Samih Ibrahim, just died.
This is what his daughter Nancy posted on Facebook.
Samih was born in Egypt, and moved to the UK as an adult. He went to university in England.
About 30 years ago (not sure exactly when) he was given a heart transplant at Papworth hospital. Since then he was a great fan of the National Health Service.
Samih had two children, Nancy and Amir, when he was married to Aika (Aizada).
Samih believed in enjoying life: travelling, making friends, eating and drinking (not bothering with Moslem rules about diet and alcohol), and never held a grudge. He was one of the most patient and forgiving people I have ever met.
In the last few years Samih became rather ill (kidney failure and heart problems) but never resigned himself to despair.
He will be greatly missed.
6th April 2021
Well, so much for winter being over!
We woke up to a light covering of snow this morning.
30th March 2021
Spring finally seems to have arrived in Germany! The temperature yesterday went up to 19°C (66°F), and it was sunny all day.
The forecast is for more of the same for the next few days, with only two days predicted to be rainy.
The birds seem to be well pleased; they are finding it easier to find food, and are now mating.
It is about time!
30th March 2021
For the last few days we had a blocked drain in our apartment, meaning that water from the dishwasher, washing machine, the kitchen sink, and the washbasins in the bathroom flowed back into the bath, and took several hours to drain away, leaving the bath full of disgusting sludge, hair and bits of food waste.
We put Drano down the drain, without success. Then on Monday I tried to clear the blockage by rodding it, but the rod was not quite long enough to reach the blockage. Later on Monday I bought two more bottles of Drano, and put it down every affected drain, with very limited success.
We have always had problems with the drain, but previously we had always been able to clear it using either Drano or by rodding it clear.
Finally I ran the dishwasher with three dishwasher tablets in it, and that has finally cleared the blockage. The main ingredient in dishwasher tablets is caustic soda (NaOH), which is the same as what is in Drano, and the fact that the caustic soda solution from the dishwasher was hot (I put it on a 70°C wash) meant that it had a stronger effect.
I think that occasionally running the dishwasher with 3 tablets will be part of our preventative maintenance regime from now on; easier and cheaper than buying Drano.
21st March 2021
I am really ready for spring to really start!
Yesterday was the spring equinox, by when the weather normally warms up, but today it is snowing, as it has for pretty much every day for the last week.
We have had a few false starts to spring, with temperatures up to 15°C; enough to fool some of the plants and insects that spring was here, but each time it turned out to not be true.
14th March 2021
This evening Sheryl flooded the laundry room.
I discovered it while cooking dinner (the laundry room is off the kitchen), by stepping into the pool of water.
I had to put dinner on hold while we cleaned up the flood.
Sheryl was running the cleaning program on the washing machine, and had managed to put the pump cover back on cross-threaded, so that it didn't seal properly.
I have always felt that it shouldn't be necessary to clean a machine that cleans things (it seems to me that it should be self-cleaning), but the washing machine nags you if you don't do it, and our appliance insurance is conditional on us regularly running the cleaning programs on both the washing machine and the dishwasher.
Dinner was rather delayed, the sound absorbing mat that goes under the washing machine is still drying out in the shower, and we have a huge pile of damp towels which we used to mop up the leaked water.
6th March 2021
Last night Sheryl took part in an online "Pub Quiz", organised through her work.
I listened in, and provided a few answers.
Her team did not win; they came about halfway down the score list.
The music round had the worst selection of music imaginable, and was very hard.
There were a couple of science related questions that I got without effort, that most people had no idea about:
The whole event was surprisingly fun, and all the participants asked for another in the near future.
All the contestants were given a bottle of wine, and some snacks, to make it all more pub-like.
I am just looking forward to being able to go to a pub again, to take part in a real in-person pub quiz.
23rd January 2021
There was a bit of a commotion in the street outside today. Sheryl and I looked out of the window, and saw a cavalcade of cars, accompanied by enormous numbers of police vehicles.
It was a protest by Trump supporters, still whingeing about losing the election due to supposed election fraud.
I was frankly surprised to see this in Germany. At least the police were taking the risk of violence seriously.
20th January 2021
As reported here, on "I am Expat", a court in Regensburg ruled yesterday that, in banning alcohol consumption in all public places, the Bavarian government had exceeded its authority, and the ban is now rescinded.
The Bavarian government will now ask individual municipalities to impose their own local bans, meaning that alcohol consumption in public places will only be legal until these new local bans come into force.
I am not surprised that the ban was overturned. Alcohol, especially beer, is close to being a religion in Bavaria, and drinking it is almost considered a human right; beer, after all, is classified as food in Germany, not as an alcoholic beverage. In the USA people protest that having to wear a mask is a breach of their constitutional rights; here in Bavaria the equivalent is protesting about the right to drink beer.
The people hardest hit are homeless people, and building site workers who traditionally drink beer during their meal breaks. I have anyway never been completely comfortable with building workers operating heavy machinery after drinking their lunch-time beers.
Now that Christmas is over (when people traditionally drink mulled wine at Glühwein stands at Christmas markets), and given that Fasching (Mardi Gras) celebrations are cancelled, the risk of spreading Covid-19 by drinking in public are relatively low, until summer begins and, traditionally, people drink at beer gardens (beer gardens, bars and restaurants are anyway closed at the moment due to lockdown).
25th December 2020
One of my Christmas presents was a bottle of Glen Garioch whisky; one of the whiskies that I liked a lot from my advent calendar.
23rd December 2020
My whisky advent calendar tonight gave me a bottle of Laphroaig.
It tasted like turpentine; not at all to my taste (but I already knew that, having tried it before).
22nd December 2020
Tonight's whisky sample was Tomintoul.
It was a little sweet, but tasted more like a Schnapps than a whisky.
21st December 2020
Today we went to buy our Christmas tree; a little late, as we discovered.
First, Sheryl went to Toom, but found that they were closed, except for trade customers.
Then we went to Shakespeareplatz, because Sheryl had seen that they had some nice trees there. We found two that we liked: one cost €150; the other €170. We decided not to buy one there.
We then went to Prinzregentenplatz, where there are two businesses selling Christmas trees. At the first, we didn't like any of the trees; at the second we found a nice tree (tall enough for our high ceilings, even, and not too wide), for which we paid €60.
21st December 2020
Tonight my whisky advent calendar produced a bottle of Highland Park.
It was a little peaty, but otherwise without character; drinkable, but it would never be my first choice.
20th December 2020
Tonight's whisky from my advent calendar was Glenlossie.
It was a little sweet and fruity, and fairly spicy. I didn't really like it.
19th December 2020
Last night we were watching a movie (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) on Netflix. Near the end, our Internet service went down.
I restarted the Internet modem (several time), but the service wasn't restored. In the end we watched a TV episode from our server, and went to bed.
When I checked in the morning, the Internet had been down for a total of 1 hour and 40 minutes. I am not impressed with our Internet provider.
19th December 2020
Tonight's whisky sample was an Inchmurrin.
It was fairly sweet and a little fruity; drinkable, but nothing special.
18th December 2020
Tonight I got a miniature of Edradour from my advent calendar.
It was very sweet and fruity, and only slightly spicy.
It was easy to drink, but I prefer something with a little more bite.
17th December 2020
Tonight my whisky miniature was Auchentoshan.
The aroma was mainly peaty.
The taste was light: not sweet or fruity, and only lightly spicy and peaty.
It was not offensive, but was certainly nothing special.
16th December 2020
Tonight my whisky advent calendar disgorged a sample of Glen Garioch.
The aroma was slightly sweet and rather like vanilla.
The taste was also sweet, a little fruity, and quite spicy, but not so peaty.
I really enjoyed it; worth the €33 price.
15th December 2020
Tonight the Scotch miniature whisky from my advent calendar was an 18 year-old single cask malt from A.D. Rattray.
The aroma was very peaty, but the taste was only mildly peaty. It was a little sweet and fruity. Overall a pleasant tipple, although hardly worth the €60 price for a bottle.
14th December 2020
Tonight my advent calendar whisky was Mortlach.
I enjoyed it very much: sweet and a little fruity, spicy and lightly peaty.
13th December 2020
Tonight my whisky advent calendar produced a miniature bottle of Bowmore.
I have had Bowmore several times before. It is a very nice Scotch: a little sweet and fruity, and fairly strongly peaty (at about my limit for peat-taste).
12th December 2020
Today the German federal government announced that the country is going back into full lockdown from Wednesday the 16th December.
This is because the number of infections and hospitalisations is at its highest ever level; higher than during the peak of the first wave of Covid-19.
That means that all non-essential shops will be closed, so any Christmas presents not already bought will have to be ordered on-line.
Hair salons will be closed (of course, because I need another haircut); bars, restaurants and gyms were already closed.
No-one should be on the street or public transport without a reason; no-one should be out at all after 9pm (i.e. a curfew); I actually can't remember the last time I was out after 21:00.
Schools and kindergartens will be closed (except for children who cannot be cared for at home, which is a huge loophole!).
Bizarrely, churches can remain open; not a huge surprise in Bavaria, a very Roman Catholic part of Germany, although the majority of Germany is not catholic.
12th December 2020
Tonight my advent calendar whisky was a Deanston.
It was slightly peaty; drinkable, but nothing special.
11th December 2020
Tonight my advent calendar whisky was a Caol Ila.
It was slightly sweet and peaty, with an OK balance of flavours. Drinkable, but not worth the price.
10th December 2020
Tonight my advent calendar whisky was a Glen Elgin.
It was very sweet and fruity; not really like a whisky at all, but like a German fruit schnapps; more of a whisky for people who don't like whisky.
It wasn't offensive, but I would never choose to drink it.
9th December 2020
My whisky from the advent calendar tonight was a bottle of Benromach.
I found it very peaty; to much so for my taste. I didn't really enjoy it.
8th December 2020
For tonight, my whisky advent calendar contained a bottle of Tomatin.
It was drinkable, but nothing special.
7th December 2020
My whisky advent calendar gave me a bottle of Tobermory; even better than last night's: sweet, slightly smoky and gently peaty.
I thoroughly enjoyed it.
6th December 2020
My miniature of Scotch tonight was Jura.
This was the best so far: smooth and full of flavour.
5th December 2020
Tonight the Scotch from my whisky advent calendar was Spey, from the Speyside distillery.
It was very smooth and very drinkable, but without any real character. I certainly wouldn't turn down a free glass of it, but I wouldn't choose to buy it over any of my favourites.
5th December 2020
Today, being Saturday, Sheryl and I went to the local shopping mall: Das Einstein.
The photo to the right is of the mall cleaner. You might have noticed that he is not wearing a mask, despite the fact that you have to wear a mask at all times when in the mall. Apparently he is special, and the rules don't apply to him. I hope he gets fired.
4th December 2020
My advent calendar whisky today was Loch Lomond. It was utterly disgusting: the taste and smell were like it was made from fermented rotting compost; not an experience I wish to repeat.
3rd December 2020
Today's Scotch from my whisky advent calendar was an 18 year-old Singleton. It is a single malt with a medium-mild peaty taste: nice, but not so strong as to be offensive. I greatly enjoyed it.
I have had Singleton before: the normal-age version, not the 18 year-old. Jonathan and Tracy brought a bottle with them the last time they came to dinner; it is their regular everyday whisky.
2nd December 2020
The Scotch from my whisky advent calendar was Lagavulin.
Lagavulin is not one of my favourites: it tastes rather like turpentine.
1st December 2020
Since today was the first day of December we started on our Advent calendars.
We have the usual calendar, filled with sweets; Sheryl has a Rituals calendar, filled with health and beauty products; and I have a whisky calendar filled with miniature bottles of Scotch.
Today my whisky was Glenfarclas: a fairly smooth Scotch.
I went to the Glenfarclas distillery many years ago, during a business trip: an interesting experience.
1st December 2020
Today we had the first real snow of this winter.
It started around 08:30, and continued off and on for most of the daylight hours, although it didn't result in much of a covering of snow.
Strangely, Sheryl decided not to cycle to work today!
I am sure there will be more snow again soon.
29th November 2020
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, so we lit the first candle on our Advent Crown.
24th October 2020
I saw a display of extreme selfishness today, whilst shopping.
I saw a man get a shopping trolley/cart at Edeka. On discovering that it contained some paper (a paper bag and some receipts), he grabbed this garbage and dumped it in another trolley. He then proceeded into the shop, going past a garbage bin only 10 feet (3 meters) from where he collected the trolley.
Why couldn't he have just dumped the garbage from the trolley into the bin, on his way into the store?
The guy is clearly a total dick.
7th October 2020
I heard last night that my father just died (on Wednesday 7th, New Zealand time).
He had been very ill for the last year, with a bone marrow disease which meant that his body couldn't make enough red blood-cells. There is no known cure, but he was receiving regular blood transfusions to keep him going.
Despite the transfusions, he kept gradually worse, and had lost a huge amount of weight. He had no appetite, and was very weak; all he wanted to do was sleep. Nevertheless, he lasted a lot longer than anyone expected. He was already in hospital for another transfusion when he got a chest infection, and then fell out of bed, which may have been the last straw (the doctors think he got a brain-bleed from the fall, and with a low red blood-cell count, the bleed didn't clot).
He will be missed by many. No-one could wish for a better father. We all grew up with a strong sense of justice (we were never punished until we admitted that we deserved it).
He loved to tell jokes, something that I picked up from him. We (me and my sisters Ann and Janet) also inherited his love for cheese.
The photo is from 2007, when everyone was healthy: from left to right, my Mum, Dad, Ann, me and Janet.
10th August 2020
Today we had a day out at the Starnberger Sea (Bavaria's second largest lake).
We arrived in time to find a spot on the tiny patch of shingle beach; half an hour later it was packed, and we were surrounded by people who seemed unable to follow social distancing rules.
After some sunbathing, and eating our picnic, we got onto the tour ship for the castle tour. The tour was interesting (so many castles around the lake), although the PA system was not very loud, so it was difficult to follow the explanations of the history (also delivered with a Bavarian accent, just to make things interesting!).
After the tour, we got back on the train for the ride home.
All in all, it was a nice day out, but very hot. We both got a little sun-burnt, despite applying lots of sunblock.
4th August 2020
Over the last few days, I have been trying to get my new Jabra headset (an early birthday present from Sheryl) working with my laptop. Jabra certainly didn't make it easy.
I desperately needed a new headset: my other headset is very uncomfortable for long conversations, and the microphone volume is too low (many people have complained that they can't hear me properly in online meetings). Unfortunately, headsets became difficult to get, because everyone suddenly needed one, for working from home during the lockdown. This also meant that the prices went up quite a bit.
Sheryl bought me a Jabra Evolve2 65. It comes with a USB bluetooth adaptor, pre-paired with the headset; unfortunately it has a USB-C plug, and my laptop only has USB-A sockets. I thought that would be no problem, since my laptop has a built-in bluetooth adaptor, but I was unable to get the microphone to work with my Linux software using the built-in bluetooth. Eventually, I bought a USB-C to USB-A adaptor, connected the Jabra bluetooth adaptor and the headset to the Windows 7 virtual machine on my Linux laptop. I finally managed to get the microphone working, but the sound (on the headphones and microphone) was horribly distorted.
Sheryl was able to pair the headset with her Windows 10 laptop, using the built-in bluetooth, and it all worked fine, which made me fairly certain that I would eventually get it working.
I used the Jabra software (Jabra Direct, which only runs on Windows and Mac) to update the firmware on both the headset and bluetooth adaptor, and suddenly I was able to connect the headset to Linux, using the built-in bluetooth adaptor. With Linux, the microphone and headphones work fine (no noise or distortion), and I can select either Hi-Fi stereo playback, or Lo-Fi mono playback and microphone.
I assume that Jabra decided to remove the proprietary protocols that they had been using to interface to the headset, because of the large number of very bitter complaints from customers (one of the complaints that I read was very angry: Jabra had suggested all sorts of actions to fix the problem, all the while knowing that it was a design issue).
During this drama, I applied (on Jabra's own website) for access to Linux software for connecting to and managing the headset; this is offered by two partners of Jabra. After waiting a couple of days, I was told that my application for access to the software was refused! I think it is time that Jabra realised that a significant and growing number of PC users run Linux, and begin catering for them (this is a problem with products from many companies; Samsung is one example: their Kies software to connect their smart-phones to PCs is not available for Linux, and can only synchronise calendars and contacts with Outlook).
All these problems with Jabra came as a surprise to me. I have used their products before (their USB speaker phone plug-in is widely used), and generally they are plug-and-play for any operating system.
8th June 2020
Today, as part of my marathon kitchen cleaning, I cleaned the saucepan that Sheryl burnt at the weekend.
She was cooking some chickpeas (which we use for hummus, falafel and curries); they need to cook for about an hour and a half, and she forgot about them while preparing her US tax return.
The pan had a layer of burnt chickpeas about a quarter of an inch thick, and the scouring pad wouldn't shift it. In the end, I put water and a dishwasher tablet in the pan, and simmered it for a couple of hours, then left it to soak for a day. The burnt layer was then soft enough to clean, with detergent and baking soda, and it is now as good as new.
Sheryl was ready to throw the pan away!
Sadly, there is no way to repair the frying pan that has a warped base, which will be thrown away (recycled). We ordered a replacement at the weekend, which should arrive this week.
4th June 2020
I had an unpleasant surprise today. On our New Zealand trip over Christmas and New Year, on a trip with my sister Ann, we stopped off at The Cheese Barn at Matatoki. We were all very disappointed, and found nothing to buy, so I posted the following review on Google Maps:
"They had a limited selection of uninteresting cheeses. There was nothing I wanted to buy."
The owner of The Cheese Barn replied with:
"Hi David, sorry if the selection was not good when you came. Its been really busy and we are trying to catch up on our cheese production and packing after having Christmas week off. So there were most likely quite a few gaps in the fridge but I have caught up now so please don't think that is what our fridge looks like all the time :)"
That seemed to be fair comment. It was holiday season, and I can understand that the better cheeses had sold out. I was therefore surprised today when Google Maps notified me that the owner had edited their response by adding:
"Did you happen to glance at all the medals won over the last 23 years. The expert judges have rated our Cheese highly. Maybe you should learn more about Cheese".
Anyone who knows us knows that Sheryl and I are both cheese addicts, and although our tastes differ in some respects, we know our cheeses. My sister, like the rest of my family, is also a cheese addict and expert, with similar tastes to my own. I even made my own cheese, while I was farming in Ireland. I therefore decided to edit my review, by adding:
"Apparently, it is my fault that I was not interested in any of the cheeses available when I visited The Cheese Barn, because I don't know enough about cheese. I visited with my fiancée and my sister, and we are all cheese addicts and cheese experts. The fact that The Cheese Barn has won so many awards doesn't change the fact that, at least on the day that we visited, the cheese selection was limited and boring. I suggest that the owner learns more about customer service".
22nd May 2020
I am again very disappointed with the quality of medical care at the Rechts der Isar hospital in Munich.
I went to hospital on Friday 1st of May because I thought I had suffered a stroke. I was having serious problems with my eyesight (a large blind-spot in my left eye), and having awful migraine-like headaches (thankfully gone now).
I was given a CT, and then an MRI, after which the doctors confirmed that I had had a stroke. There was nothing they could do at this point: the window of opportunity for treating a stroke is about 4.5 hours, and I had been suffering the symptoms for 10 days before going to the hospital.
Strokes are one of the side-effects of Covid-19 infections, but despite pleading with the doctors, I was refused a Covid-19 test. Instead, the doctors insisted that my stroke was caused by diabetes. As a result, I have changed my diet: cutting out sweet food like desserts, and stopping eating breakfast (the 16/8 diet).
I was also suffering another problem: weakness and loss of control in the fingers of my right hand, and was subjected to almost a full day of very painful tests, which concluded that I had some kind of degeneration of the nerves.
In the last few days, I have noticed that the blind-spot is gone. If it had been caused by a stroke, this should be impossible. My eyesight is still not good, and this week I got some glasses, to make it easier to read my computer screen; it seems that the issue is lack of control of focus, which would also fit with nerve degeneration.
Of course, I could be wrong about whether I had a stroke. Blood clots and strokes are probably the nastiest symptoms of Covid-19, but the clots it causes are very small, and maybe my body was able to clear them; I was given anti-coagulants while in hospital, which may have helped. My eyesight problems were not consistently bad; if I rested my eyes, my sight improved (a symptom that my doctors chose to ignore), which could suggest an only partial blockage of the blood vessels in the brain.
Then today I read this National Geographic article, describing some of the lesser known symptoms of Covid-19. In the chapter "Brain Inflamed" is a description of Guillain-Barré syndrome, which causes "the immune system attacks the network of nerves and ganglia that run throughout your body. This disorder tends to show up weeks after a germ has cleared the body and can cause weakness and tingling in your extremities that can eventually lead to paralysis." This description fits my eyesight and hand symptoms exactly.
So that is why I am so disappointed with the Rechts der Isar. The doctors seem ill informed (were not aware of relevant recent research that I tried to discuss with them) and don't listen to their patients. In my case they seem to have made a demonstrably wrong diagnosis, failed to investigate possible root-causes of my symptoms, and made a clearly incorrect prognosis.
I will now be focusing on eye and hand exercises to deal with my symptoms, and will try to get a Covid-19 antibody test to determine if I was infected (because I would like to know what the root-cause actually was). At least now I can hope for at least a partial recovery, which would not be the case if I really had had a stroke. I don't think I will be making another trip to the Rechts der Isar to consult with the moronic doctors there.
14th March 2020
My post from the 1st of March described how the shops in Munich were out of stock of some items that we tried to buy, but I now realise that this is nothing compared to the USA.
I received an email from a friend who lives in Pensylvania, which describes his recent grocery shopping trip:
"On my way back home this evening (Friday) I stopped at a local supermarket to pick up a couple of things; bagels, cabbage, garlic etc Nothing beyond what I would normally get. When I entered the store I saw nothing but empty shelves. No eggs, milk products of all kinds, bread, paper towels, toilet tissue, cold medicines, meat, pasta, pasta sauce, potatoes... the list is longer than the pictures of empty shelves. I spoke to several of the staff who I know from shopping there regularly and their tales of mayhem and madness were multi-fold... couples shopping together with two carts each, people using the in-store shopping service AND shopping themselves, multiple trips in and out of the store, vehicles hopelessly overloaded with 'stuff'. As one staff member commented 'We will be restocking the shelves on Monday anyway. There is zero need for this. Additionally, the shoppers were doing what they should not have been doing, entering a building with a large number of people and being in close proximity to them.' I am still shaking my head."
I am so glad that I live in Munich, and not America!
13th March 2020
We had been looking forward to the show for weeks, but were obviously worried that it would be cancelled because of Covid-19 (the coronavirus). We kept checking online for a cancellation notice, but it seemed to be still on; until, that is, about 18:00 on Thursday (2 hours before the show was due to start).
Now we have to either hope that it will be rescheduled, or get a refund.
2nd March 2020
I have come to realise just how polluted the air is in Munich.
I have always had a rather runny nose, and had assumed that it was because (as my ENT doctor had told me) I have enlarged mucus glands in my nose. I even had laser surgery to reduce their size, which helped a bit.
I noticed, however, that while in New Zealand, where the air is clean, over Christmas and New Year, my nose was dry; I did not have to blow my nose constantly while there.
On my return to Munich, my nose went back to its normal state of constantly running.
I really need to consider moving somewhere less polluted.
1st March 2020
Yesterday Sheryl did our weekly grocery shopping (alone, because I still cannot walk far enough to reach the supermarket). Many of the items on her list were out of stock, because everyone is stocking up because of fears about the coronavirus (covid-19). Hand sanitizer was completely sold out in all the shops and water was sold out in the smaller shop nearer home.
Today she started to make an order for delivery (from bringmeister.de), and found the same problem.
I can understand people stocking up on essentials, given that there is a chance that they may need to self-quarantine for 21 days or more, if they get infected. I guess this is something that is happening all around the world, at the moment. We are doing the same, to some extent. We do now have enough food for 3 weeks (rice, pasta, tinned tomatoes, meat, etc.), but we also need to get more eggs and cheese..
One surprise was that the local Asian store (the i-Shop) was very busy. I had expected that they would have seen a drop in business, since much of their stock comes from China, and I thought people would be worried about the risk of infection from Asian groceries, but apparently I was wrong.
1st March 2020
After many weeks of extreme pain, due to my back injury, with inadequate treatment in New Zealand, and better but unsuccessful treatment by an orthopeadic doctor in Munich, I had an operation on my spine on the 20th of February.
The surgeon told me that my prolapsed disc was in the top 10 cases that they had seen, in terms of size.
The surgery sliced away the displaced parts of the disc, removing the cause of my crushed nerves.
I am now slowly starting to recover, but apparently it is likely to take a month or more.
I have some good days, and some not so good; it all seems to depend on how much I do. Last Wednesday I had to go to the hospital for a follow-up appointment (using the U-Bahn and tram), and then later had to go to the post office and the pharmacy; after that I had two days of stronger pain. The supermarket is still our of range for me. At least now I am usually able to sleep better, and to do most of the cooking.
22nd January 2020
Sheryl and I returned from our visit to New Zealand 11 days ago. We went to visit my family, mainly because my father is very ill.
We stayed with my sister Ann, who also lent us her car, so we could make some trips while there. Ann looked after us very well.
Ann's partner Johnny is into classic American cars, and we joined the tour, organised by the car club, to see the Christmas lights at people's private houses around Tauranga, which was fun, getting home at about 11 pm.
We had Christmas dinner with my family, at my sister Janet's new house. Everyone brought something to eat; I made bread rolls with malt and walnuts.
We went to Ann's bach (a caravan on a camping ground in the Coramandel Peninsula) for New Year. Ann had planned to fish from her kayak, but the weather messed up those plans, and she only managed one fishing trip, catching one snapper (only just large enough to be legal), which we ate that evening. The weather also snookered Sheryl's plans for swimming and sunbathing.
While at the bach, I hurt my back badly, which spoiled the rest of the trip (read more about my back problems here).
Nevertheless, Sheryl and I went ahead with our trip to Napier for a wine tour. Sheryl had to drive, because my medications made me unfit to drive. The wine tour was fun: we went to Mission Estates (very good wine, although rather overpriced, and a great lunch), Church Road Winery (not so impressive), and Linden Estate Winery. The man running the tastings at the Linden Estate was very entertaining. We went back the next day to Linden Estate to buy some wine.
While in Napier, Sheryl started having dental problems (an abscess), so we cancelled the second part of our trip: a visit to Wellington. We drove back to Ann's place near Tauranga, where Sheryl visited a dentist who put her on antibiotics.
Ann took us to the Tauranga Air Museum (Classic Flyers). Many of the exhibits have been restored to flying status, which is nice. We enjoyed the museum, and had a nice lunch there too.
Ann and Johnny hunt, so they always have game meat in the freezer. Ann cooked us venison, wild pig, and venison sausages, several times, which I enjoyed very much. I also cooked Chicken Badam Pasanda one evening. I had planned to cook more often, but after injuring my back, I was not really able to stand in the kitchen long enough to cook.
We took lunch (quiche and salad) to my parents one day, which everyone seemed to enjoy; normally I would have cooked the quiche, but we had to settle for mini-quiches that we bought in Tauranga.
A couple of days before our flight home, we went with Janet to Auckland, and stayed with Bex (Janet's older daughter) and Shay (Bex's husband). Shay was very helpful about my back problems; he got me an appointment with a chiropractor, which helped with my pain (for about 5 minutes), and later took me to a A&E clinic nearby.
The flights home were pure torture, partly because of the enormous amount of walking when changing planes in Bangkok, but mainly because Thai Airways were completely unsympathetic and unhelpful about my back pain. They would not put me in an exit row seat, because you have to be fully able-bodied to sit there, and refused a free upgrade to business class (they quoted a price of $2000 for a paid upgrade - for one person, for only one leg of the flight - which was simply too expensive). I also had an argument with two of the stewardesses about putting my seat-back in the upright position (which added to my pain significantly; we were sitting in the last seat row, and they lied to me, stating that this was for my own safety (it is actually for the safety of t he people sitting behind, of which there were none). I don't think I will be flying with Thai Airways again.
Despite all the issues, we enjoyed our trip. My family were very helpful about our health problems.
I will be adding a photo gallery over the next few days.
8th December 2019
This afternoon Pascale, one of the other tenants in our apartment building, had organised a get together in the garden, for Glühwein (mulled wine).
We took down some mini-cheese-cakes, with caramel sauce on top, which Sheryl baked earlier today. Other people also brought food: cookies, brownies, etc.
Pascale lit the barbecue to keep us warm.
It was nice to be able to chat with some of our neighbours; often we only say hello as we pass in the hallway.
The first topic of conversation for everyone, repeated as each new guest arrived, was who had rung everyone's doorbell at 4 in the morning. We still don't know whom it was, but we have, at least, eliminated a lot of possibilities,
6th December 2019
Today the Christmas tree appeared in the hallway of our apartment building, so obviously this has become a regular thing for the landlord to do.
It is especially convenient this year, as we don't have a tree of our own, because we will be away in New Zealand for Christmas and New Year.
2nd December 2019
This morning we woke to find that it had snowed a little in the night. That is after writing in several Christmas cards yesterday that it hadn't yet snowed, and that as a result I was not feeling in an Christmas mood.
It remained cold the whole day, and the snow hadn't melted by the the evening.
31st October 2019
Tonight is Halloween, and some neighbours knocked on our door for trick-or-treat.
Luckily, Sheryl had stocked up on sweets for them; our neighbours across the hallway were not prepared, and the trick-or-treaters left their apartment empty handed. I was hoping to see some kind of trick as punishment, but was disappointed (Germans are mostly too polite to play tricks on Halloween).
The keg of beer in Pascale's hand is not a treat from a trick-or-treat visit (Germans love their beer, but giving away beer on Halloween would mean a constant stream of drunken adults knocking on everyone's doors); it was left over from the summer garden party, probably no longer good, and she is taking it to the trash.
26th October 2019
We went with our neighbours Isabelle and Markus. We invited them for a snack beforehand.
Coppélie is a comic ballet, and was very entertaining.
The performance had traditional costumes; much better than modern ballets with normal street clothes.
This time we had seats in the middle of the front row front row, which gave us an excellent view; in the past we have sat further back.
The National Theatre is a beautiful building, and it is always a pleasure to go there.
19th October 2019
Tonight was the Long Night Of The Museums in Munich (several other German cities have the same). You can buy one ticket which gets you into all the participating museums (most of the city's museums) and covers public transport city-wide.
The museums stay open until 2 am, and there are several special shuttle-bus services to get you to and from the museums.
We had done the Long Night Of The Museums, and have been to most of the city's museums, so we wouldn't have bothered if Sheryl hadn't won tickets.
We first went to the beer museum (but there were no samples); it was rather boring. Then we had dinner, after which we went to the Jewish Museum, which was slightly more interesting. Then we made our way to the Glyptothek, because I love sculptures.
The Glyptothek was listed as a museum participating in the Long Night Of The Museums, so we were both surprised and disappointed to find it closed for renovations.
Instead, we went into the Staatlichen Antikensammlungen across the street. Most of the displays were of Greek pottery, decorated with scenes from history or mythology. In one section there were lots of items decorated very explicit pictures with Satyrs sporting erections, some of whom were actually ejaculating. Those ancient Greeks were very rude.
In the Staatlichen Antikensammlungen there was a male choir (more than a dozen singers) giving a small concert.
After we were done at the Staatlichen Antikensammlungen, we headed home.
If we had actually paid for the tickets, I would have been very upset that the one museum that I had wanted to see was closed.
3rd October 2019
In total, Sheryl and I went to the Oktoberfest three times this year:
Saturday 21st of September
On the first visit, our table was booked from 18:00 until closing time. The table was for 10 people, but we only had 8, which is one of the reasons why we had vouchers left over. We both had a snack (a sausage in a bun) before queuing to get into the tent. Once inside, beers arrived quickly (not always the case). I also ordered the cold snack platter for sharing (cold beef, pork, leberkäse, radishes and cheese) and a large pretzel (we had another later).
Later on, people ordered various meals (the vouchers cover the cost of a Hendl - rotisserie chicken - but you can order anything from the menu, and pay the difference).
I skipped the meal, as I was full after the sausage and my share of the cold platter; Sheryl had a Hendl.
The guests at our table were Peter and Georgina (from Prague), Petr (also from Prague) Klaus (originally from South Tyrol), Andi (from Munich>), Lynn (from Ireland).
The Armbrustschützenzelt (The crossbow shooting tent) is a nice tent: good lively music, good beer (Paulaner), and not as cramped as some tents. There is also a crossbow shooing range attached to the tent (for members only).
Everyone seemed to have a good time, although Peter got very drunk, and had to be steered home.
After leaving the tent, some of us took a turn at an air-rifle stand: I scored 10 out of 10, narrowly beating Klaus. Not bad after an evening of drinking.
Sunday 29th September
When we go to the Wiesn on a Sunday, we usually go to the Old Wiesn, to avoid the crowds. This year that strategy didn't work: there were huge queues to get in, and the tents were all packed (we ended up in a smaller tent, rather than the main one).
We eventually found seats (you have to be seated to order) in the Zur Schönheitskönigin tent. The music was a bit different: traditional Bavarian songs, often with funny lyrics. The food and beer, however, were good.
After our brunch, we wandered around. Sheryl, as always, had a go at crossbow shooting (not a good performance this time). and we stopped by the beer dray and stroked the horses.
The rest of Sunday, once we got home, was pretty much a write-off. Neither of us felt up to doing anything useful.
Thursday 3rd October
Because Thursday was a public holiday, we tried to get to the Wiesn fairly early, expecting it to be very crowded. In fact (apart from the queue to get into the Wiesn) it wasn't too bad.
We wanted to use up our vouchers, so we headed for the Armbrustschützenzelt, and found seats easily. The tent was so empty that it was cold, although 90 minutes later it was starting to fill up.
Service was a bit slow, but was at least friendly.
I was a bit surprised that the tent doesn't serve Wießbier (Wheat beer - Paulaner makes a nice one), so I drank Helles - lager beer).
We used up two food vouchers on our meals. We had another, which we gave to a family who were sharing our table (it can get very expensive if you take a family to the Oktoberfest).
After we left the tent we found a stall to get a coffee. I was thoroughly disappointed with my Irish Coffee, which was made with canned whipped cream, making it almost impossible to drink, and thoroughly unpleasant.
We also bought some roasted nuts for the journey home.
2nd October 2019
This movie theatre is much closer to home, smaller, and cheaper, than the Cinema, where wee usually go to see movies in original language. It used to be rather grotty and and grubby, but a few years ago it was renovated, and is now quite pleasant.
We shared some nachos while waiting for the movie to start, and had a beer each.
Although I would not have chose to see this movie (it doesn't meet any of my requirements for a movie: sex, violence and aliens), it was pretty good: well scripted, well acted, and with some gorgeous stately home locations.
1st September 2019
This evening Sheryl flew back to Munich after a weekend in the Netherlands to celebrate my birthday.
On Friday she arrived in Utrecht, late after boarding a sprinter train (which stops at all stations) at Schiphol, instead of the IC (Intercity). Instead of cooking at home, as planned, we ate at the Seafood Bar, and then went home.
On Saturday we headed for Amsterdam. First we went to the Albert Cuyp Market, where we got some lunch. We also bought some toothbrush heads for our electric toothbrush; when we asked the price, we were told a price which was not much of a deal; then he asked where we lived, and after hearing that we lived in Germany, gave us a much better deal, since he knew the store prices for the toothbrush heads are much lower in Germany.
Once we were finished with the market, we stopped at a bar for beers. Then we went to a cheese shop that we had visited last year, to stock up on cheese: some goat cheese with truffle, and some mature Komijnkaas (cheese with cumin seeds).
After buying the cheese, we headed back to the train station to try to get a boat tour that included the harbour. Last year we discovered only after taking a tour which didn't include the harbour, that there was one company which always included the harbour. Unfortunately, they don't do the harbour any more; we were shocked at how rude the ticket salesman was, not only to us, when we asked about the harbour, but also to the other Americans also asking questions.
Instead, we stopped for a coffee at the Melkmeisje, which is a great place for people watching. We ate lunch there last year, and it was very nice: lots of Dutch standards on the menu.
After our coffee we took a lazy walk in the direction of the restaurant we had booked for dinner. Sheryl was actually on the hunt for some more fridge magnets of building from the Herengracht. Sadly, the only ones she could find were those we already had.
As we stopped shopping and started towards the restaurant, it started to rain, and we had to take shelter for a while. There was eventually a lull in the rain, just long enough to get to the restaurant before it started raining again.
The restaurant, actually on the Herengracht (Gentlemen's Canal) is in a hotel, but has some really excellent reviews. The Brasserie Ambassade has a great menu, and a well deserved reputation. Our waiter was actually the Sommelier, and at first seemed a bit snooty, but he mellowed after a while. He was very well informed about all the wines on the menu, and actually taught us something about wine tasting (smell the wine before swirling it in the glass, otherwise the smell of fruit may overpower the smell of a corked wine - something not covered in our wine tasting in Paris). Dinner was really great, and for a change, Sheryl did not order steak tartar.
By the time we got back to Utrecht it was pretty late, and we went to bed.
The next morning we got up reasonable early, and took the train to Leiden. Leiden is where I used to live (1994 to 1996). We wandered around for a while, and had a coffee, and then went to meet Adam and Camilla for lunch. Camilla used to work on my project, and Adam used to work at ESTEC, where many of my colleagues at CRI worked. It was great to have a chance to catch up on each others' news.
After lunch, we caught the train again (Dutch trains are great), and went back to Utrecht so Sheryl could pack.
All in all, a lovely weekend.
11th August 2019
This evening Sheryl and I returned from a few days in Copenhagen.
Like our trip to Antwerp, this one was mainly paid for with loyalty card points. Even so, we spent quite a bit of money on meals, public transport and access to museums and the like.
We arrived in Copenhagen on Thursday evening, after a one hour stop-over in Oslo, and ate dinner in the Japanese restaurant at the hotel (the Radisson Scandinavia).
On Friday we took a boat tour around the harbour and canals (photo to the right).
After the boat tour, we had lunch at The Tinderbox. Then we walked to the Tivoli (photo left), which is amazing, although we didn't take any rides. We got our arms stamped when we left, in case we wanted to return after dinner.
After the Tivoli, we went back to the hotel to get ready for dinner, and headed for the restaurant (Le Pavé). Dinner was very slow, because one of the kitchen staff had called in sick, so we left at about midnight.
On Saturday we visited Rosenborg Castle, a royal palace (photos above and below left). I got a little annoyed with the ticket clerk, because she told me after we had bought tickets, rather than before, that my camera bag would have to be left in a locker while we toured the castle. The castle was quite impressive, although some of the rooms were very dark, and some of the "artwork" was unimpressive. After seeing all the above-ground rooms, we headed outside to go into the treasury in the basement. We found the changing of the guard in progress, and were made to wait; I was rather upset that the sergeant didn't speak, nor were there any signs, bollards or tape to tell tourists that they couldn't pass; he simply placed his hand firmly on my chest. I have a friend who would have put him on the ground, painfully, for doing that - where were you when we needed you, Adrian?
The treasury was very impressive, and is well worth a visit: several beautiful crowns, some enormous gems and many other gorgeous pieces.
After we finished looking around the treasury, we walked through the gardens (a public park - there was even someone camping there), to our lunch destination: a hot-dog stand which has fantastic reviews. The reviews are well deserved, and we enjoyed our lunch greatly.
After lunch we walked around Copenhagen for a while, and stopped to sample some beers: a beer sampler board.
After our beer break we decided to visit the Glyptotek: an art museum featuring mainly sculptures. We started with the Roman and Greek sculptures, but they were not so good, and mostly damaged. The French and Danish section was much better, and we saw some amazing pieces. There were also a few very nice paintings.
After the Glyptotek, we went back to the hotel and had dinner at their Italian restaurant: the Filini. Sadly, dinner was not so great. If we ever stay at that hotel again, we will certainly not be eating at the Filini again.
On Saturday, after a leisurely breakfast, packing and checking out, we went to the airport to check in our bags, and the headed to the aquarium, which is very close to the airport. The aquarium is pretty good, and has excellent electronic information panels in multiple languages: you can see a summary of the species in each tank, then click a species to see even more detailed information.
4th August 2019
This evening Sheryl and I returned to Utrecht after our short trip to Antwerp (Belgium).
We caught the train on Saturday morning from Utrecht to Antwerp, which involved a change at Rotterdam. The train ride was comfortable and the trains were punctual.
We were very impressed with Antwerp train station, which is beautiful outside and inside. It is built on many levels, with escalators and lifts connecting the floors.
Our hotel was a 2 minute walk from the station. It actually took longer to get from our arrival platform to the ground level, than from the station to the hotel (the Park Inn - part of the Radisson group). The hotel was not great, being in need of renovation.
After checking in and putting our suitcase in our room, we went to find lunch. We ended up at René, a café near the opera house.
After lunch we walked to the place where Trip Advisor said we should meet for our beer tour. Unfortunately, Trip Advisor was wrong, and we had to head back in the direction we came. While looking in the wrong place for our beer tour, we spotted a very nice looking restaurant, and booked a table for dinner. We arrived at the proper meeting point, near the cathedral, with 10 minutes to spare, and met Dimitri, our guide, and the other people taking the tour, a couple from Kiel in Germany.
Dimitri is, amongst other things, a brewer, and explained the basics of beer brewing to us, about the history of beer brewing in Antwerp, and the broader history of Antwerp. We started the tasting with a champagne beer, which Sheryl couldn't drink, and tried about 5 more beers on the walking tour. The tour was supposed to last 3 hours, but lasted more than 5, so that we had to hustle to get to our dinner reservation, because Dimitri and the customers were enjoying ourselves so much. Dimitri's wife even phoned him to ask when he was coming home for dinner.
Dinner was tremendous (see my food blog), but after an afternoon of beer, plus the wine with dinner, we were wrecked.
The next day, after breakfast at the hotel (actually at the neighbouring Radisson Blu) we packed and checked out, and went to find The Rubens House, which was recommended by Dimitri. It is well worth a visit: the house itself is gorgeous, and the art is excellent.
Sheryl had a hankering for Belgian waffles for lunch, but we were surprised at how hard it was to find a place (other than kiosks) to get them.
We then explored a little, and took some photos of some of the lovely buildings. We thought about going into the cathedral, but we didn't have much time and €6 per person seemed a waste for maybe 20 minutes.
On the way back to the station, Sheryl wanted to look in the windows of every diamond shop.
The train journey back was rather less pleasant, since the train from Antwerp was completely full: we were lucky enough to get seats, but not together.
19th July 2019
Further to my News Blog Post on 31st May, I am happy to report that I received a refund for the wine that was lost in transit. Vivino didn't bother to tell me that they had refunded me, until months after the event, which is why I didn't spot it when I checked my bank account.
As a result, I felt confident enough to order some more wine from them: 6 bottles of Nero D'Avola, which is a red wine from Sicily.
I ordered the wine on Tuesday, and it arrived on Thursday. That is the kind of service that I have come to expect from Vivino.
2nd July 2019
After several months of having to get temporary ID/Access cards for the office, the client manager decided to apply for a permanent pass for me; probably because he got tired of receiving calls to collect me from reception, since they changed the rules to require "visitors" to be collected from reception.
I had my photo taken at the security office on 14th June (I look dreadful in the picture, as I do in most photos). I was told that it would take about 6 working days to issue my card, but it didn't get issued.
Today I received an email reminding me to get my photo taken, so I went to the security office to find out what was going on. It turns out that I had been allocated two different reference numbers for my application for a card (I have confirmation emails for both numbers), and my photo had been put into the system under the incorrect number.
My photo has now been put into the system under the correct number, so I am hoping to finally get my card in about a week.
If only all my problems were that easy to solve.
28th June 2019
About a month ago I came down with a very heavy cold, which took about two weeks to get over. Even after I had recovered from the virus, my sinuses were badly blocked.
Eventually, a week ago, I came down with an ear infection ( an opportunistic infection) due to the blockages. I treated it with ibuprofen (not only a pain killer, but an NSAID - Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug) and an over the counter nasal spray.
After a weekend of being deaf and feeling awful, I was feeling OK by Monday. Yesterday I started to reduce the level of medication, but this morning I awoke to a completely blocked ear. I decided that I had reduced the medication by too much, too soon.
I noticed that I was getting low on my nasal spray, and went to a pharmacy to get more. I was told that, in the Netherlands it is only available on prescription. I was not happy.
I have run up against similar issues in other countries, in regard to other medicines. In Norway I discovered that 100mg aspirin tablets also require a prescription, while it is possible to buy 500mg aspiring over the counter; that makes no sense whatsoever.
27th June 2019
I noticed on Monday that there is a table football table in the canteen in the office. Today, after finishing work, I went upstairs to the canteen to see if I could play.
There were some people playing when I got there, and two more waiting for a game. I went hunting for another player, so that we had enough for a doubles game.
It is several years since I played, so I was rather rusty. This was not made better by the table itself: the players are heavy, the table was not level and also not completely flat. This meant that the ball kept running away from me while I was trying to set up shots.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed the game (we actually played two games). I definitely need to get some more practice in.
1st June 2019
Today Sheryl and I attended a "wedding"; actually not a formal wedding, as the groom's divorce papers were not yet finalised.
Meike (who used to be Sheryl's boss) and Basti (Sebastian) had a party, at which there were speeches and the exchange of rings, at the Gasthof Obermaier.
It started at 15:00, and when we left at 22:00 it was still going strong. There were unlimited drinks: prosecco, fruit juice, wine, and anything from the bar. There were cakes, and a buffet dinner. No-one had any excuse to leave hungry or sober.
The event started in the beer garden, and moved into an upstairs function room at about 17:00. Then there was a DJ, and after the speeches, dancing. There was also a baby-sitter who watched and played with the kids (of which there were quite a few). It was very well organised.
We had a great time, as, apparently, did the other guests.
Click the photo to the right to view the gallery of photos from the wedding.
31st May 2019
Today I wrote again to Customer Service at Vivino, about the wine I ordered on 21st February this year.
Some of you also have the Vivino app on your smart-phone. It will identify a wine from a photo, and tell you what it should cost. Also, of course, there are emails selling wine. I have bought wine three times, so far, that were promoted in such emails, but the last order has not been delivered in over 3 months.
The order tracking web-site has always shown the same status, since day one: "your order has been electronically transferred to our delivery company".
I wrote to Vivino's customer Services. They responded quickly, saying that they would investigate, which they did. The result was "Yes, something did go wrong at DHL". Since then, I received a couple more emails, but no change of status.
I am sure that some DHL employee has been enjoying my wine. I am resigned to having to order a replacement, but I would like a refund first.
27th May 2019
Today I flew with KLM to Schiphol Airport, for my job in Utrecht. As usual, the flight was delayed. Also, there was a problem with water (there wasn't any) so there was no tea or coffee, and passengers had to use bottle water to wash their hands in the toilets.
KLM are such rubbish. I only fly with then when their fares are cheaper than Lufthansa.
25th May 2019
Today we went to the Outlet Shopping Mall at Ingolstadt Village.
Both Sheryl and I needed to buy clothes, and Sheryl needed work-out shoes for the gym.
We bought a Bayern (Bavaria) ticket for two people; a cheaper ticket option, which doesn't allow you to travel on the ICE (Inter-City Express). Our train left Munich at 10:05, getting us to the mall at about 11:30.
Sheryl had a list of 5 or 6 items to buy, but only managed to get two things from her list. She did buy a pair of work-out shoes; she also bought lots of things at Rituals (scrubs and lotions). I bought a waterproof jacket, a new watch, and a few other items.
When we first stated going to the outlet mall, there were some good options for food there, but over the years the choices have become worse and worse. This time we ate at the Piccola Cucina; they don't serve beer or wine, although the food was OK. Next time we go there, we will probably eat at the Thai food stand, where the food looked and smelled lovely.
We noticed that, at some of the stores, discounts are getting better, more like at American stores. My watch, which I bought at Fossil, was discounted by 20%, with another 15% if you signed up to their loyalty programme (which I did).
Another change is that many more sales assistants now speak English, and quite a few also speak Russian (there were lots of Russians shopping there).
We got home a little after 8pm, by which time we were both very hungry.
24th May 2019
It was good, although both of us felt that the first John Wick movie was better.
From the ending, it is clear that another sequel is planned.
20th May 2019
JB is probably the best blues and rock guitarist alive today (even better than Eric Clapton), and it was definitely worth the money for the tickets.
There was no support act, only Joe and his band playing for over 2 hours.
JB believes in making his music accessible, so there are many of his official music videos on You Tube, so if you don't know his music, you can check out these links:
It was pouring rain all evening, so we got soaked on the way to the concert, and again on the way home, but it was so worth it.
This concert was concert 49 of a 50 date tour of Europe; after Munich they were heading for Warsaw for the last gig. That sounds like hard work.
18th May 2019
Today, after doing the recycling, and buying some groceries, we went into the city centre to do some other shopping: I needed more trousers, and Sheryl wanted to buy some new glasses.
Buying my trousers was quick (man-shopping): I bought 3 pairs in 20 minutes. Sheryl took rather longer to find glasses that she liked, after going to two different shops.
In the end she didn't buy any glasses, but at least found some that she liked. The first shop are going to try to order the frames that she liked in the colour that she wants; she found 3 pairs in the second shop, and plans to review the photos that I took, to decide which, if any, she wants.
We then went into the new cheese shop on Marienplatz: "Cheese & More by Henri Willig". It is a Dutch company, and much of the cheese they sell is Dutch. We bought some goat-cheese with truffles, and some cheese with fenugreek, to add to the Dutch cheese that I brought back from the Netherlands yesterday. The shop has only been open for a month. For cheese addicts like us, it is lovely, with samples of pretty much everything to taste.
After a beer break at the Schneider Bräuhaus on Im Tal, we stopped at another store to buy a birthday present for someone at Sheryl's work.
17th May 2019
Today (actually, most of the week) there was another work panic. I ended up rushing to finish something minutes before heading to the airport for my flight home.
My flight's departure was delayed, and while waiting for us to leave the gate, I got a message from the account manager asking me to do some updates. I told her it was not possible (my laptop is actually too large to use while sitting in economy class, and at that point I couldn't even access my laptop). She asked me to do it when I got home.
After the flight delays, time to eat dinner at the airport, and the journey back to our apartment, it was 22:35 by the time I started work again. I finished at 01:00 on Saturday morning.
I am not paid enough to put up with this kind of nonsense, which is mostly due to laziness, incompetence and poor organisation by my bosses and our subcontractor. If things don't change soon, I will be leaving (especially as I am losing money every week I work in Utrecht).
1st May 2019
Yesterday at 8.20 pm, while I was eating my dinner, the account manager for my project phoned me about an issue at work. The main reason she called was to tell me that I now had a meeting at 6.30 am.
I finished my dinner, paid the bill and headed back to my apartment-hotel. I set my alarm for 5.30, to give me some time to check some details before the meeting started.
When I connected to my work email, I discovered that the meeting had been postponed to 7 am, so I could have had another 30 minutes sleep.
Today is going to be a long day!
14th April 2019
This evening we went to the ballet to see "The Taming of the Shrew". We were joined by our neighbours Isabelle and Markus.
The National Theatre in Munich is beautiful, and it is always a pleasure to go there.
The ballet itself was very enjoyable. It is a funny story (although sexist by today's standards). The plot was crystal clear from the dancing (not always true with ballets), so there was no need to bone-up on the story line beforehand.
One of the male dancers looked like Tom Petty in tights; another looked like Mr. Bean.
We all had a great evening: Isabelle was laughing out loud a lot.
Photograph is banned during the performance, so I only took photos from the bowing afterwards, and they didn't come out well.
12th April 2019
I got home tonight just after mid-night (so technically the 13th, not the 12th) after a nightmare journey home, thanks to KLM.
I was booked on the 18:40 from Schiphol to Munich, and arrived at the airport, already with a boarding pass after checking in online, 35 minutes before the last time that I could check my luggage in: 17:59, which should have been plenty of time . My bag is too big for hand-luggage, and contained several toiletry items that exceeded the 100ml limit, so checking it in for transport in the hold was my only option.
It took about 4 minutes to reach the queue to check my bag. I then queued for 20 minutes, and the machine issued me a baggage tag at precisely 17:48 (confirmed by the woman at KLM's ticket desk). Unfortunately, the machine refused to take my bag, and with no explanation, told me to go to the service desk, where I queued for another 20 minutes, by when it was too late to check my bag. I was sent to the ticket desk to rebook my flight.
At the ticket desk, only 2 of the six desks were open, so I had to queue for another 25 minutes. The lady at the desk told me that it was all my fault, because I hadn't arrived at the airport 2 hours before my flight. She rebooked me onto the 21:00 flight to Munich. She also told me that, because, in her opinion, it was my fault, she should charge me a rebooking fee, and that she was doing me a favour my not doing so.
Firstly, the arrival 2 hours before the flight is only meant to be in cases where you still need to check-in and get your boarding pass, and I already had a boarding pass. 35 minutes should be plenty of time to check a bag which, although too big for hand-baggage, is actually small for hold luggage and requires no special handling. I checked my bag 11 minutes before the deadline, which proves that I was at the airport early enough.
Secondly, at the service desk, when I finally reached the front of the queue, there were still 30 minutes until departure: plenty of time to load a bag. At Munich airport, they would have phoned someone, and been granted an exception to accept a late bag.
Finally, the idea that I should have to pay, because of a failure of a machine checking in bags is outrageous. If there had been no other option to fly Friday night, then KLM would not have been prepared to pay for a hotel and dinner, and that would have been all at my expense.
As a result of this debacle, the plans that Sheryl and I had, for her to meet me at Munich airport and to have dinner together there, were trashed. My whole evening and my dinner were stolen from me by KLM. I was still raging angry when I got home, and it took quite a while for me to calm down enough to sleep.
The purser and once of the stewards on my 9pm flight were very sympathetic to my plight, but couldn't do anything to help; thanks for trying, though, guys.
I was forced to eat in Schiphol airport, and that food was disgusting (see my food blog).
When I lived in the Netherlands (from 1994 to 1996), I flew KLM often. They were a great airline, but since then things have changed: being taken over by Air France is the cause of much of the deterioration in service.
I will certainly be rethinking flying with KLM in future, and will be filing a complaint.
12th April 2019
I returned home on Friday night to find a package for me: a large envelope, in which we had sent thee Christmas cards for my family in New Zealand, for redistribution to my family by my sister.
The envelope had been ripped, and later resealed, presumably by the NZ postal service. It seems that at least one other package was similarly ripped open, because our envelope had been refilled with the contents of another package: cards for someone called Tom. Our Christmas cards were not there, and were probably delivered to someone else.
Our envelope was then delivered to the wrong address. The recipient then returned it to the sender, us.
What a dreadful service the NZ Post provides. I have heard a number of other horror stories about NZ Post, from my family.
Of course, other postal services around the world also screw up, often and badly:
This abominable service is bad enough, but despite it, the legal position in Germany is that proof of posting is considered proof of delivery. This applies to legal notices of all kinds, payments, bills, etc.
Is it any wonder that postal services everywhere are losing business to courier services?
10th April 2019
I have been searching for an apartment in Utrecht. Partly this is to reduce costs, but also because I need a permanent address in order to register with the government.
I saw something that looked ideal, except that the minimum rental period was 12 months, and my contract is initially only for 6 months. I saw another that had a maximum rental period of 21 months. When I asked for a viewing, I was told that a 6 to 12 month rental period was too short. Maybe they should have said "rental period exactly 21 months" instead, in the posting.
10th April 2019
I telephoned the Hotel Chao yesterday, to make sure that they knew about the heating and hot water not working; they did, and already had someone repairing it.
That meant that, this morning, I was able to shower. Such a relief!
9th April 2019
I am really not happy with the hotel Chao this morning.
I was cold all night, because the heating was not working. When I got up this morning, I discovered that there was no hot water, so I wasn't able to shower.
There was, of course, no-one to complain to this morning, so I will have to find a phone number for them, and call this morning.
8th April 2019
Today I am back at work in Utrecht.
Mondays are always tough, because I have to get up at 4am to catch my flight to Schiphol. By lunch time, I feel ready to knock off work, and get a beer. Unfortunately, I have a progress meeting with the client's project manager mid-afternoon every Monday, so no beer until after work.
This week I am staying at the Hotel Chao, again. It has poky little rooms, no storage space, no breakfasts and no coffee making facilities in the room (instant coffee is not coffee).
At least now I have managed to find some good places to eat. It was rather getting me down, having bad food day after day. All I now need to do is find good places to eat, which don't cost an arm and a leg.
At least the weather has improved. Currently it is 20°C and sunny. The sun is forecast to continue all week, although the temperatures will drop as the week progresses.
I am looking forward to Easter: two public holidays, plus I have a day of vacation booked, so next week I will only work 3 days.
27th March 2019
So far, I am not very impressed with Utrecht, the location of my new job.
The town is not very pretty (certainly not a tourist destination), and large parts of the centre of town are under reconstruction.
I have also not been impressed with the dining options. Since I am staying in hotels, I need to eat in restaurants. My current "hotel" has only a greasy fast-food joint, so going out to eat is my only option. Last week I got food poisoning from my first dinner in Utrecht, after looking at more than a dozen restaurant options, and was not impressed with my meals the rest of the week. This week has been a little better, but at a cost.
I am very surprised by the lack of good food. My previous experience of the Netherlands (living here for 2.5 years, and several visits since then) was that food here is good, but those meals were in different towns (Leiden, Den Haag and Amsterdam). In Utrecht I haven't even seen anywhere selling Loempias (a kind of spring roll), which are standard street food everywhere else that I have visited in the Netherlands.
The other thing that I noticed is that there is dog-poo all over. It seems that there is no requirement for dog-owners to pick up the poo their pets leave behind, or if there is such a requirement, it is largely ignored.
One of the things that I found bizarre, when living here (the Netherlands) previously was that most people do not seem to have curtains or blinds in their flats or apartments. This means that you can walk by and see people eating dinner, watching TV, playing games, and even having a kiss and cuddle. Apparently it is all about showing that you are not doing anything that you shouldn't. In Leiden, I had a neighbour who refused to talk to me because I closed my curtains (which I had because the owner/landlord was Indonesian, not Dutch). Well, in Utrecht many people have either glass with a frosted panel about 2 feet high, in the middle of the ground floor windows, or pieces of stick-on plastic, to obscure the view into their living/dining rooms, so apparently they are not quite so committed to proving that they are not up to "bad things".
27th March 2019
About three weeks ago, I spoke to our landlord, and he told me that "we needed to talk, soon, about the rent". Talking is no problem; agreeing might be harder.
During this short chat, he told me that our rent is the lowest in the building. I know for a fact that this is a lie: we know of three neighbours who pay less than us, for apartments which are the same size or larger.
Starting a conversation with a lie is not a good way to initiate a negotiation. My understanding of the law, and of our rental contract, is that he cannot put the rent up without our agreement, unless major renovations are done (and he needs our prior agreement to do those renovations). There have been no renovations, although there have been changes which have reduced the service which we receive.
We plan to have a chat with the other tenants whose rent hasn't been raised recently, and present a united front, with a lawyer involved. I understand that he would like to get higher rents (the market rate for our flat is about 50% more than we currently pay), but the law is designed to limit the opportunities for landlords to raise rents.
It seems like a good strategy to give him some extra rent. Otherwise he may make life intolerable for his undesirable tenants. I do not feel that we need to accept paying the current market rates.
It could be an interesting few weeks, once the negotiations get started.
27th March 2019
After several months of problems accessing this web-site, the problem seems to have resolved itself, and my web-site now seems to be reachable all the time, again.
It seems that the problem was with my ISP, and their routing set-up. They have a habit of testing new configurations on their live network, without telling their customers; this time, it looks like they were testing IPv6, running it simultaneously with IPv4; either they finally got it to work, or they have given up for now.
I apologise to anyone who was unable to access my web-site during the period of unreliable service.
26th March 2019
After spending a night at the hotel, I now feel qualified to complain about it.
I stayed at the Hotel Chao. When I first saw it, I thought that they had left the "s" off of the end of the name (chaos).
I chose the Hotel Chao because of the price. My fees for this job in Utrecht are significantly lower than the last job, and Dutch tax is tougher than German tax, with far less expenses able to be claimed against tax. I suppose that you get what you pay for.
The bedroom and the bathroom are both tiny (I tried to take some photos, but I can't get far enough away from anything to get a good photo. There is nowhere to hang my hanging suit bag. There is not enough space to store my socks, underpants and handkerchiefs. There is nowhere to hang my toiletries bag and nowhere to charge my electric toothbrush (the only socket in the baathroom is not near a flat surface where I can stand the charger, and the only flat space is above the toilet - not an ideal location) in the bathroom. There is no place to put my shampoo and shower gel in the shower (they are standing on the floor of the shower).
The hotel has no breakfast. There is a "cafeteria" under the hotel (part of the same business - check-in is at the counter of the cafeteria), but they are not open for breakfast, and anyway don't sell anything that I would want for breakfast.
On the up-side, the bed was comfortable, and the heating works well, so I had a good night's sleep. The staff are also friendly and helpful.
I have another reservation at the Hotel Chao, for the week after next. I am not looking forward to it.
25th March 2019
This morning's trip to Utrecht (for my new job) with KLM was a total nightmare!
The first issue, which I discovered yesterday, when checking in, was that my ticket didn't allow me to choose a seat, so I ended up in a middle seat: very cramped.
I also discovered, when checking in, that my flight only earns 50% points on the KLM frequent flier scheme.
Next, I checked my luggage. That cost me €40. I thought that I had booked a flight that included checked baggage, but when I checked it later, I hadn't.
Next, after getting through security, I went to the gate just as they were announcing a 2.5 hour delay, due to weather (wind) and the fact that one of the runways at Schiphol was under repair. We boarded after 8am (the flight was due to depart at 7am) and then sat at the gate for about an hour. We finally landed at about 11:15.
Also, the seats do not have a coat hook. You can hang your coat on the latch that holds the fold-up tray-table closed, but I needed to find somewhere else for my suit jacket when drinks were served.
After landing, and the long trek to the baggage hall (lots of walking at Schiphol), there was another 15 minutes to wait before luggage appeared.
Although I have complained plenty about Lufthansa, they are way better than KLM, although more expensive.
11th March 2019
This morning we had some significant snowfall. The wind was strong, blowing along the street, so the snow was going almost horizontally.
It is about the be spring: there are snowdrops in the garden, and various trees/bushes are opening buds; birds are nesting; I guess the sudden resurgence of winter surprised the plants and animals as much as it did us.
10th March 2019
This evening we returned from a long weekend in Prague. We flew there on Thursday afternoon.
We had a great time, and Peter and Georgina looked after us very well: Peter collected us from the airport, and returned us there for our flight home.
We stayed at a hotel (the Sofitel - paid for with loyalty card points) because Peter and Georgina don't have a guest room, and also have a cat (Sheryl is allergic to cats).
The hotel was not very impressive. I had booked a "superior room", and because I have gold status on the Accor Hotels loyalty programme, we got a free upgrade to an "executive room". Apparently their usual "executives" do not have luggage (very limited storage space, not big enough to hang my hanging suit case) nor a laptop (a tiny desk). The handle was falling off of the inside of the bathroom door. There were many other small issues which rather spoiled our hotel stay.
On Thursday evening we all went out to a Czech beer hall for dinner.
On Friday morning I came down with a sudden attack of food poisoning, so I stayed at the hotel and slept for several hours. Sheryl had bought tickets for the Jewish museum tour, so she went to that on her own. She got some amazing photos.
On Friday evening we went to a sushi restaurant. It is actually very close to where In used to live in Prague, and was open when I lived there, but I had never been there (it is on a small side street, hard to find unless you know it is there).
On Saturday I was feeling much better, and we went to the castle. The castle is a huge site, with very many buildings open to the public. Saint Vitus cathedral was very impressive, as was the main part of the castle. Sadly, the castle gardens were not yet open (they open in April).
On Saturday evening we went to a super Italian restaurant very close to out hotel.
On Sunday morning we went to Hamleys toy store (yes, a branch of the famous British store, although a little smaller), and did the Golem Virtual Reality experience, with Peter and Georgina's son Atanas, which was fun.
After the VR, we went to the Bistro Špejle (see the top photo) and had something to drink and a light lunch. You just go up to the counter and help yourself to what you want; everything comes with one or ore wooden sticks, which you save; the price is calculated from how many sticks you have accumulated.
We also found time to walk over the Charles Bridge, and to do some shopping.
Click the lower photo (or here) to open the photo gallery of our trip.
18th February 2019
This week is my last week of work at Unity Media. I arrived at the office in Cologne to find that my access card, which opens the secure doors (needed to reach most of the office) no longer works. It will probably take a couple of days to get it fixed, which hardly seems worth the effort.
I suppose, if the company wants to pay me for wasting time trying to get to meetings, that is their prerogative.
13th February 2019
Today I finally had to admit defeat, and take some time off because of a cold. I have been trying to work through it all week, but by Wednesday lunch time it was clear that I had to take some time to recover properly.
I went back to my hotel room and slept, after which I felt well enough to go out for some dinner.
12th February 2019
Today at a meeting with my line manager, I was told that my contract is being terminated, and my last day will be on Friday 22nd of February.
The reason given was budget problems. I find this odd, because my agency was still negotiating the details (start date in January) of my contract renewal, so these budget problems must have only just occurred. It makes me wonder exactly what kind of budget management the company does (if any).
In many ways, the news is a relief, as the job has been very frustrating: I was employed to make changes (e.g. to processes), but virtually every change that I proposed was blocked (due to political or budget issues, for example).
Later in the day, I received notice of the contract termination in writing (email). The company still doesn't understand that they have no contract with me, and that all contractual notices must me sent to my agency.
9th February 2019
Tonight Sheryl and I went to the English Comedy Club with Lynn.
This time it was at Schlachthof.
Overall, we were disappointed. The venue had seats really packed in. The seats and tables were mostly beer garden fold ups, set so that the audience were mostly facing 90° to the stage; we all had cricks in our necks and numb bums afterwards.
Also, several of the comedians revamped material that we had seen them do before.
The one advantage over the much nicer venue of Das Schloss was that the bar remained open during the show, but that is not enough to persuade me to go to Schlachthof again.
8th February 2019
What a fun 24 hours I have had! I just got home; it is 13:00 on Friday.
On Thursday at 15:00 I was informed that my Thursday 17:40 flight to Munich had been cancelled. The link sent by Lufthansa did not allow me to choose an alternate flight, as they promised. Instead, after 10 minutes, I was informed that I had been rebooked onto a flight at 16:25. That gave me, nominally, 15 minutes to pack away my laptop and get to the airport; a journey that takes between 20 minutes and an hour.
I grabbed a taxi. Traffic was horrible (loads of trucks, road works, a 3-car pile-up, and police stopping traffic on the autobahn), and the trip to the airport took a little over an hour, but I was not too stressed, because my new flight was already delayed. When I got to the Lufthansa desk to check my luggage in, I discovered that my new flight (and most of the later flights) was also cancelled, due to freezing rain in Munich; no flights were landing at or taking off from Munich. Later flights that were not yet cancelled, were expected to be.
I was offered the option of taking the train (meaning getting home at close to midnight), trying for a flight later on Thursday (but with no guarantees that it would fly) or flying the next day.
I chose to fly on Friday morning, and Lufthansa paid for a night in a hotel (a nice hotel: the Radisson Blu), €20 towards dinner, breakfast and taxi rides to the hotel and back to the airport. My Radisson loyalty card got me a free upgrade to a superior room.
The Friday morning flight was on-time and not crowded; a pleasant flight.
I suppose I can't blame Lufthansa: the weather was to blame. I was, however, a little annoyed that I had no choice about an alternate flight, and the short notice about which flight I had been automatically rebooked to; I would never have made the 16:25 if it had flown and been on-time. At least there were no arguments about compensation: hotel, meals and taxis. The big financial hit, for me, however, is the lost earnings: basically a whole day of wages.
28th January 2019
In my post on Friday I complained about the workers who are renovating the apartment next door. Today Sheryl sent me this photo, which is of our hall floor. Whilst doing something, they broke through into our apartment, leaving this hole in the floor. The location of the hole is where we have been getting building dust coming into our hallway, for weeks.
Sheryl had not yet left for work, and immediately went to them to complain. They promised that it would be repaired, from the other side (no need for access to our apartment); I am not convinced that they can fix it without coming into our flat.
What also bothers me is that the wood that has been exposed looks rotten.
We cleaned at the weekend, because we have guests arriving on Thursday; now it looks like we (Sheryl - I am away for work) will have to clean the hallway and my office again.
25th January 2019
There have been workmen renovating the apartment next door, for several weeks. Today they finished work for the weekend and left this trailer full of rubble in the downstairs hallway, making it difficult to get into and out of the building, especially with luggage or a push chair (baby buggy): the buggy in the foreground is locked in place, so the ones behind cannot be got out.
I am sure that this should be in breach of fire regulations, although in Germany maybe not (Germany has rather lax rules about fire escapes and the like).
13th January 2019
Today Sheryl and I went to the Kunsthalle: a gallery in a shopping mall in downtown Munich. We wanted to see an exhibition, and it was the last day.
When we got there, we found people queuing around the block; probably meaning at least an hour in the cold to get in. We turned around and came home.
11th January 2019
Today was, again, very stressful. I headed for the airport early, for my 10:15 flight; I arrived really early at the airport, and had lots of time to kill.
I was nervous because of the weather, since there had been lots of snow in Munich. My flight arrived a little late, and the journey to my flat took a bit longer than usual, so I arrived home about an hour later than I had hoped.
I also found out that the lady at Lufthansa Customer Care had lied to me yesterday: the flight cancellations on Thursday were due to a strike by security staff, and nothing to do with the weather, as she told me.
10th January 2019
What a totally shit day yesterday was! I received an SMS from Lufthansa informing me that my fight home to Munich was cancelled. That is two weeks in a row that they have cancelled my flight home.
The SMS included a link to select an alternative flight, which I used. I thought I had booked a flight earlier on Thursday. I checked in, and upon inspecting my boarding pass, realised that I had booked a flight on Wednesday. I was in the middle of a series of meetings when I noticed.
By the time I realised the problem, there was not enough time to go back to my hotel, pack, check out, and get to the airport; obviously I needed to change my flight again.
I received a confirmation email from Expedia.com, summarising the changes, with a link to accept them; there was no link to reject the change and request a new change! I had to phone the Expedia Customer Care number (in the USA). They couldn't help me, and transferred me to Lufthansa, but the call was disconnected, so I called again: another failed call (telephones in the USA are still steam-powered!).
Eventually I called a German Lufthansa number, and got rebooked onto a flight on Friday. I was told that all Lufthansa flights on Thursday from Cologne were cancelled, due to expected bad weather.
Well, now it is Thursday, and there is no sign of any bad weather, and yesterday the weather App on my mobile phone did not predict any, so I do not understand why my flight had to be cancelled.
Sheryl is not well pleased that I will not get home until Friday.
7th January 2019
Today Bex and Shay arrived, a day and a half earlier than originally planned. I am away in Cologne, for work, and Sheryl has meetings at work, so we had to leave a key for them.
Sheryl hopes to escape from work around lunch time, so that she can go home to greet them and get them settled.
7th January 2019
Another flight with problems caused by Lufthansa. They changed the aircraft to a smaller one, presumably because there were not enough passengers for a larger plane. That meant that my aisle seat was changed, first to another aisle seat, and then, at boarding, for a middle seat; very cramped.
There was no room in the overhead lockers for my computer bag and jacket, so I had to stash them in the seat row with me.
The fight was also a little late departing, although they managed to make up most of the delay.
Does anyone remember the days of airline service, is it only me?
3rd January 2019
Today I was informed by both Lufthansa and Expedia that my flight home on Friday had been cancelled. I was automatically rebooked onto an earlier flight (at 15:00). That means that I will get home earlier, but also means lost revenue due to reduced hours in the office.
2nd January 2019
My boss was very insistent that I be back at work on the 2nd of January, so I got up early and flew to Cologne (Köln).
During the course of the morning I discovered (from an out-of-office auto-reply) that my boss was on vacation, as was nearly everyone else at the company, so I really don't understand why I had to be here.
Because I have gold status on my Radisson Rewards card, I generally get a free upgrade to a "superior room". Today, however, the superior rooms were booked out, so I got a standard room, which has no coffee maker. I am going to miss my coffee in bed in the morning.
31st December 2018
For New Year's Eve, we stayed home for a change (we were both still very exhausted from the skiing). We watched our favourite Christmas movie, Love Actually. Then we watched some of the fireworks from our window, and lit the "sparklers" that Sheryl had bought. Turns out that she bought some heavy-duty outdoor sparklers, which are not safe to use indoors, so there was a bit of a panic.
27th December 2018
Today we had to head home.
Sheryl decided to ski in the morning (I didn't), and then we had lunch at the Tuxer-Ferner-Haus (half-way up the mountain, at the bottom of the glacier). Then we drove home.
After unpacking the car, we drove to the supermarket, and bought lots of heavy things, to avoid carrying them.
25th December 2018
Today we opened the Christmas presents that we had brought with us: gifts from family; we didn't get each other gifts, having already spent a fortune on the ski trip.
The skiing conditions were much better today: no fresh snow, so the pistes were all nicely groomed, which is more suited to our technique and skill level.
24th December 2018
Today was hard work. Neither of us were really skiing fit (I was not able to go to the gym unotil a week before we went to Austria, because my back was still in recovery). Also there had been lots of fresh snow, which continued throughout Monday, and neither of us can ski on powder snow.
In the morning, just as I started to get my rhythm back, I missed the signs for the piste, and ended up off-piste, waist-deep in snow. I was unable to get out of the snow, until a couple of nice Dutch guys stopped and rescued me. The whole thing took about 25 minutes, after which I was exhausted, and had totally lost my rhythm, so I fell most of the rest of the way down the mountain.
We then took a long lunch break, during which I noticed that one of my ski boots was disintegrating (understandable, since they were 20 years old). I decided that it was not safe to ski in the boots, and rented a replacement pair for the rest of the trip.
Today the German speaking world celebrates Christmas, so in the evening the hotel held a Gala evening (a speech, singing, and a harp) followed by Christmas dinner (really excellent).
23rd December 2018
Today we collected our hire car and drove down to Hintertux.
As usual, things were not straightforward collecting the rental car. We had booked something with 4-wheel drive, and had also booked ski-racks for our skis, because the car didn't seem big enough to fit the skis inside. In the event, we got a free upgrade to an Audi SQ7 (a really nice - and huge - SUV), which is large enough that we didn't need the ski racks; a good thing, as, despite having booked and paid for the ski racks, they were not provided. Now all we need to do is get back the money that we paid for the ski racks.
The drive down was uneventful, although there were temporary speed limits on most of the German Autobahn, and in Austria the Autobahn speed limit is 130 kph (80 mph).
Once we reached the mountain roads, Sheryl got really nervous: she hates narrow and steep roads.
By the time we had checked in to the Hohenhaus hotel, and unpacked the car, it was too late to go skiing, so we had a late lunch and went for a walk around the village, which took about 10 minutes.
15th December 2018
Today we went to collect our new skis, after the bindings had been fitted and sized for our boots. We also bought our ski helmets.
Sheryl had bought a new pair of ski trousers earlier in the week. She wasn't completely happy with them, as she had wanted a pair with vents that could be opened if it was too warm (apparently only men need them with vents).
Peter and Georgina went to a Christmas market.
In the evening I cooked dinner for us all.
14th December 2018
Today, whilst we were enjoying Nürnberg, I received a phone call from Peter, to say that he and his wife Georgina were already in Munich. This came as a surprise to us, as we thought they were arriving on Saturday 15th (and we told Peter that we were going to Nürnberg on the 14th).
We hadn't yet made up the guest bed, and had no groceries with which to cook an evening meal, because we thought we had until tomorrow.
We agreed with them that we would go to our local Japanese restaurant (Sushi Cent), and booked a table. When we got home, we hurriedly made the bed, and went for dinner.
As usual, Peter was disappointed that the Thai curry he ordered was not spicy. I was very happy with my hot dish, and the ladies enjoyed their sushi.
14th December 2018
Today we went to Nürnberg for the day, to see the Christmas market, which is supposed to be the best in Germany.
We took the train, which takes about an hour.
Much of Nürnberg was destroyed by bombing in WWII, but has been rebuilt in the original historical style, mostly with stone, rather than brick. It looks amazing.
The Christmas market was fun: lots of stalls selling food and drink, Christmas decorations, nic nacs etc. We bought a little candle-powered decorative Christmas carousel.
We had lunch at the market: sausages in a bun and Glühwein (mulled wine). Sheryl even found a type of Lebkuchen that she actually liked: Glühwein flavour.
Because we started with the market, it wasn't too busy, as most people go there later in the day; when we were on our way back to the train station, it was much busier.We both rubbed the good luck ring at the fountain in the Christmas market.
After the market, we went up to the Imperial Castle (also heavily rebuilt - renovation is still in progress), and visited the museum there. The castle was interesting, and gave us a better understanding of the history of the city.
After the castle, we had a short refreshment break (beer), and then went to the Albrecht Dürer House. Albrecht Dürer was Nürnberg's most famous artist. Some of his work is really amazing.
On the way back to the railway station, we stopped to have a last Glühwein; Sheryl tried the mulled rosé wine that we had spotted earlier, which she liked.
Click any of the photos to view the photo gallery.
11th December 2018
This afternoon/evening after Sheryl finished work we made one last attempt to buy skis for Sheryl. We went to Sport Bittl at Laim, because their web-shop said that they had the skis that she wanted in stock.
We managed to buy the skis, although it took a while as the shop was very busy. We also looked at ski helmets, and will probably buy helmets when we collect the skis on Saturday.
I was very impressed at how friendly and helpful all the staff were at Bittl. I was also impressed with their loyalty car scheme: with one purchase we qualified for 10% discount, which last for over a year.
Sheryl still needs to get new ski trousers, because she can't fit into her old pair.
11th December 2018
It is certainly feeling more like the Christmas season, today.
Last night and this morning there was some fairly heavy snow. It is a little too warm for it to settle, though.
Also, this year the landlord has put a Christmas tree in the hall downstairs. We are not buying a tree this year, because we will be away for Christmas, so it is nice for there be one that we see every day.
10th December 2018
This afternoon Sheryl got away early from work, so we went shopping for skis for both of us.
Sheryl's were not so easy. She found a pair that she liked, also Volkl skis, but they didn't have them in the right length, so we looked elsewhere. In the end we went to about 8 shops, but couldn't find what we were looking for. We are going to try one more shop tomorrow.
After we were finished shopping, we were ravenous, and went for a quick dinner at the Weisses Brauhaus (which everyone calls the Schneider Weiss).
8th December 2018
Tonight we went for dinner with Markus, Isabelle and Erik, at the ChuChin, a Vietnamese restaurant, which is a 10 minute walk from our apartment.
Luckily, our stomachs felt OK, fooling us into believing, incorrectly, that we were over the stomach bug.
The restaurant is actually very attractive, spacious, and classy, with an extensive wine menu. The food was all delicious. The service was also friendly and fast.We had a great evening.
Erik is a very calm and peaceful baby, and didn't disturb our meal at all. While we were eating, he mostly laid peacefully in his buggy; other times he sat cheerfully on someone's lap.
7th December 2018
Sheryl's Kindergarten has a couple of bugs going around. One of them is Streptococcus, which, luckily, we have been spared; the other is a stomach bug, which Sheryl caught, and gave to me.
It is a strange bug: normally I a fairly immune to stomach bugs, and they usually affect me for no more that 24 hours, but this one is hanging around for days. The effects are mild, but it is spoiling our appetites, and generally making us feel grotty.
5th December 2018
It is a really good thing that I am not working this week. On Sunday I hurt my back, and have been hobbling around like a cripple all week.
I wouldn't have been able to deal with packing and travelling, with my back in such a state.
It is getting a little better every day, but will take a few more days before I am back to normal.
1st December 2018
Last night we went to the ballet at the National Theatre (Opera House). We saw Alice in Wonderland, which is a modern ballet (only 2 years old).
The first act was not so great, and was rather dark. The other two acts were much better. There were some very clever scenery tricks to handle Alice getting larger and smaller, after she ate or drank something that changed her size.
Sheryl has never read the book, and so didn't know the plot, nor who some of the characters were.
The costumes were good. Sheryl especially liked the Caterpillar, whose upper body was bare, and was really ripped.
Overall, it was a good evening.
Sorry, but there are no photos, because they are very strict about not taking photos and videos.
Afterwards we got some food at Zum Franziskaner.
27th November 2018
This evening, after work, I went to Cologne's oldest Christmas market, the "Angel's Christmas Market" at Neumarkt. The stalls were selling the usual kinds of thing: candles, jewelery, "art", Christmas decorations, food and drink.
The only things I bought were food and drink. I also had a sample of some Cologne schnapps. It was very nice, but unfortunately I couldn't take any home, since I am flying back to Munich.
The market is very pretty, but small, and was very crowded.
One of the stalls was selling tools and parts (nuts and bolts, for example) all made from chocolate. They looked very realistic.
24th November 2018
This evening we met Kerstin for dinner at L'Angolo della Pizza.
As usual the restaurant was packed, but even so, service was fast, and the food was delicious.
After dinner, we went a short distance down the street to the Lisboa Bar, for cocktails. The ladies had Flying Kangaroos (they complained that they were too alcoholic), and I had a whiskey. The bar was also busy (not surprising for a Saturday, a month before Christmas).
We had plenty of time to catch up on each others' news.
22nd November 2018
Today the Christmas Market at Neumarkt in Cologne looked almost finished. The stalls seem complete, and there are now lights in most of the paper stars in the trees.
20th November 2018
To the right is a photo that I took in the office recently.
Those of you who speak German will realise immediately what it is. For those who don't, it is meant to say "Entschuldigung" (sorry, or excuse me, in German).
I suspect this might be Indian German.
18th November 2018
Tonight we had the first snow of this winter, in Munich (it didn't snow in Cologne).
It was not heavy enough to settle, except for the roofs of some cars, but it was still snowing in the morning when I left for the airport.
18th November 2018
This weekend we had visitors: Peter, his son Atanas, Rony and his son Rony arrived Friday evening. 4 guests is our limit, in terms of beds and bedding.
Peter had some business meetings in Munich. While here our guests sent to the BMW museum, including a tour round the factory.
Our visitors brought loads of presents with them: Czech pickles, Czech beer, honey, eggs, and much much more. They were all greatly appreciated.
We all went to the Tao Vietnamese restaurant for dinner on Friday. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.
On Saturday I did our grocery shopping. I bought large quantities of heavy and bulky stuff, because Rony drove us to the shops in his car. Peter and the two Ronys also bought lots, so the car, despite being huge, was completely packed.
For dinner on Saturday evening I cooked spaghetti and meat-balls, which was a great hit.
On Sunday morning Peter had his meetings, and so missed breakfast. The rest of us had eggs, bacon and cheese, cooked in the oven in a muffin tin.
We sent back some gifts for Peter's wife Georgina, who is still not well after her fall in the summer.
15th November 2018
Whilst travelling to the office today, I noticed that the Christmas market at Neumarkt is under construction, and there are paper stars in the trees around the squared.
11th November 2018
This evening Sheryl and I went to the Comedy Club at Das Schloss. Lynn joined us.
We arrived a little after 18:30, when the doors opened, so we had plenty of time to get drinks and food before the show started at 20:00. We also managed to get good seats: in the front row of tables, but seats far enough from the stage that we were not victims of the comedians.
The show was, as usual, a mixture of English and German comedy. The highlights of the show were Mel Kelly and Matt Devereux.
All in all, a good evening.
29th October 2018
This morning Sheryl and I returned to Germany at the end of our long weekend in England; Sheryl flew back to Munich and I flew back to Cologne for work.
The trip was to see family: my son Brendan, his wife Lauren, and their son Cormac were over from the USA to visit family, and were staying a few days with my daughter Eleanor.
We had a bad start to the trip on Thursday evening, taking much longer than expected to collect our rental car, due to an issue with the credit card that we needed to use (because the credit card includes insurance for hire-cars). Then we had some navigation issues (not sure whether to blame Sheryl or Google Maps), so ended up being a little late for dinner with Eleanor and Raymond at The Gandhi restaurant in Winchester.
Brendan and family arrived at Eleanor's Friday evening. Cormac went to sleep very soon thereafter, and the rest of us had a nice dinner.
On Saturday we went to a Science Museum in the South Downs National Park. Some of it was interesting. Cormac spent most of the time simply running, which he does for hours on end. There was a presentation about the science of fireworks, although it didn't really tell you how to actually make fireworks, and one of the demonstrations didn't work.
On Sunday we visited the wildlife centre. We saw many different species of otter, wolves, dear, a bison/buffalo, wild pigs, wallabies, butterflies, a fox, several species of owl, and much more.
Eleanor and Raymond cooked on Friday evening (Lasagna), and I (with excellent help from Brendan) cooked on Saturday (Butternut Squash Risotto).
After the wildlife park, it was time for Sheryl and me to drive back to Heathrow so that we would be able to catch our early flights home on Monday.
Eleanor's house was full, so we stayed at a nearby Holiday Inn, which is the worst hotel that I have stayed in for a long time: damp and dirty, with a strong smell of mildew (to which we are both allergic) throughout. It was so nice, after that, to stay one night in a nicer hotel (the Radisson Blu Edwardian at Heathrow).
22nd October 2018
I heard yesterday that a friend, Simon Husain, died at the weekend from lung cancer. The treatment that he received after his diagnosis didn't work: too little, to late.
Simon worked for me at ICE.Net in Oslo. He was popular with most of my team, and with the management.
He will be sorely missed.
Thanks, David Lawrence, for informing people who knew Simon about his passing.
8th October 2018
Yesterday was the last day of this year's Oktoberfest. Sheryl and I had food vouchers for the Armbrustschützenzelt left over from the first Saturday, so we went there for lunch.
The weather was nice, and we were able to sit outside.
Later we took a ride on a roller-coaster: the Olympia Looping. It was much less tame that the Wild Mouse that we rode on the first Saturday.
Now we will have to wait another year for the next Oktoberfest.
3rd October 2018
Today is a public holiday in Germany, to celebrate the reunification of Germany after the Berlin wall came down.
It is also the day that our central heating started working: it had been non-functional since Friday the week before. We got by by switching on the under-floor heating in the bathroom, and using a portable fan heater.
Unfortunately we will have the whole drama all over again the next week, as the boiler is to be replaced.
1st October 2018
I like The Old Wiesn: it is less crowded, and the beer is better (brewed to an old recipe).
We sat down at an outdoor table at 11:00. 20 minutes later we were still waiting for a chance to order, so we went indoors, where we were able to order within 30 seconds of finding our places.
We greatly enjoyed our Weißwurst. We don't eat them often; I don't know why, as we both love them.
The weather was great (which is why we wanted to sit outside the tent): a great day to be at the Oktoberfest.
After breakfast, we had a go on the cross-bow shooting range (Sheryl is still gloating about beating me), and then went for coffee outside the Marstall tent, so that we could get some new coffee mugs for home.
23rd September 2018
Yesterday, Saturday 22nd, was the first day of this year's Oktoberfest. We had a table at the Armbrustschützenzelt, as usual.
We had 3 guests from Prague (Peter, Petr and Ronnie), plus Lynn, Klaus, Rangoli and Pratik. Sadly Georgina injured her back while on vacation in Greece, and couldn't join us; get well soon, Georgina!
Everyone seemed to have a great time, and only two people at our table drank more than they could handle. Service was a little slow this year, so Sheryl and I didn't drink quite as much as we wanted to (2.5 litres is not much over 4 hours).
Peter got another photo of his face surrounded by 3 sets of boobs: his version of heaven.
Rangoli and Pratik (in the video to the left) did not seem very impressed with their vegetarian food; I recommended the Käsespätzle, but they chose something else. Next year, if they are still in Germany, we will try to get them into Trachtenmode (Lederhosen and a Dirndl) for the Oktoberfest.
After we left the beer tent, Klaus, Sheryl and I took a ride on a roller-coaster: The Wild Mouse. It was a little tame.
19th September 2018
Here is a funny video that I received at the weekend. It is only about a minute long. Remember to turn your sound on. Enjoy.
19th September 2018
Oktoberfest is almost upon us. Sheryl and I are looking forward to Saturday. We have a table next to Jonathan and Tracy's table on the first day.
I bought new Lederhosen at the weekend. Sheryl was able to fit into her Dirndl (only just!).
A lot of the people whom I invited this year said "Not possible this year, but next year for sure". If they are true to their word, there will nit be enough places for everyone.
28th August 2018
Working in Cologne (Köln) has some of the same disadvantages as I found when working in Düsseldorf in 2000.
Every so often there is an exhibition or conference, and then all the hotels fill up. If there are any hotels available during these events, they are exorbitantly expensive. Last week, instead of staying in Cologne for three nights, I was only able to get a hotel for one night, and had to work from home for the rest of the week; that one night cost more than three nights at the usual price.
This is not a problem with Cologne itself. Not only does this happen in Düsseldorf, but also in Munich (most especially during the Oktoberfest, when a €50 a night room costs €300 or more). I have heard that Hanover suffers the same issues; probably Berlin and Hamburg too.
I guess that I just need to get in the habit of booking further ahead, although that means paying further ahead, which is bad for cash-flow (I won't get paid for July until 3 weeks into September - the agency for this job is a month later in paying than my last few jobs).
28th August 2018
We are very disappointed with VLC Media Player.
Normally we use Sheryl's laptop, connected to the TV, to watch videos, which are stored on my server.
After the latest update, VLC is unable to handle the load of playing many of the videos (some it can play, but many show black screens, or the picture is frozen on the first frame). It seems that there are performance problems when using particular codecs.
Now I am forced to bring my laptop from my office to play videos, also using VLC. There are differences, though: my laptop runs Linux, which is more efficient than Windows, and the hardware is much more powerful, plus the version of VLC is different.
One other difference is that my laptop accesses shared files using NFS, whereas Sheryl's laptop uses Samba (Microsoft file sharing protocol). I do not think, however, that this is the issue. Sheryl can copy a video file from the server to her laptop in about 10 minutes, so there is more than enough bandwidth to play a file in real-time, but VLC cannot play the file even from the local disc on her laptop.
VLC used to be one of my favourite applications. It plays virtually all media types, allows you to display the video in a separate window from the controls, was always performant and generally bug free, can play at faster than or slower than real-time, and runs on many different platforms. Now, however, I am looking for an alternative.
28th August 2018
Sheryl had a full-on start to the new school year. She worked a very long day on Friday 17th August (before the school opened, which was on Monday 20th), another long day on Saturday, and at least half a day on Sunday, in order to be prepared with presentations and documents when the staff came back to work on Monday. The first week she worked loads of over-hours; despite plans to leave early to go to the gym, she didn't actually make it to the gym until the weekend.
Her new deputy doesn't start work until October, so she has no-one to delegate to.
13th August 2018
I had a surprise when I got up this morning at 04:45 for my flight to Cologne. I noticed that our toilet had several wasps in it. I went to warn Sheryl, who is allergic to them, and discovered that there were also lots of wasps in the kitchen, which hadn't been there when I made my coffee 10 minutes earlier. I think there is a nest somewhere near our windows, in the garden somewhere.
I wasn't able to stay to get rid of the wasps, as I had a flight to catch, but killed several and did my best to encourage the rest to leave. It is now 13:00, and Sheryl is still trying to deal with the wasps (hard work, as she is terrified of them because of her allergy).
Apparently, in Germany, it is illegal to kill wasps or destroy their nests, unless you are allergic to them.
This year wasps are a big problem, partly because of the hot weather.
I think that, despite the hot weather, we will be keeping the windows closed at the back of the apartment until either the nest is destroyed, or the wasp season is over.
13th August 2018
Last week Sheryl joined me in Cologne, where I am working.
Lufthansa were not very impressive. Sheryl booked her flights using her Lufthansa frequent flier miles. She was not able to get seats on the same flights as me. A few hours after she checked-in online, she was told that her flight was canceled. Amazingly, when she phoned to rebook, she was able to get onto the same flight as me. When we got to Cologne, we had to wait almost an hour for our luggage. I suspect that the machine that the baggage handlers use to break luggage was broken, so they had to break the luggage manually, which obviously takes longer. On Thursday, I was informed that my flight back to Munich was also canceled, and I hurriedly rebooked onto Sheryl's flight (it was either that flight, or one very late at night); I then had to rush to the airport to make the flight (for nothing, as the flight was delayed by an hour).
Sheryl went to the perfume museum, the chocolate museum (where she bought a bar of chocolate made to her specifications, which was good, some other off-the-shelf chocolate, and a bottle of chocolate beer, which was disgusting), and the mustard museum. She also climbed the 532 steps to the top of the cathedral, and visited the Roman museum.
On Monday we went to an Italian restaurant, where I had eaten a very nice dinner the week before, and had a very disappointing meal (although the complimentary olives were amazing). The next day we had dinner at a Greek restaurant, the Limani, and had an excellent tapas style dinner, and some lovely wine. On Wednesday we went to an Indian restaurant, the Ginti, which had great reviews on TripAdvisor, but was a let-down: the service was excellent, and the Onion Kulcha (bread) was great, but the curries were bland.
6th August 2018
On Saturday there was a garden party for the residents of our apartment building.
Everyone brought food, plus there were drinks (beer, water and soft drinks) paid for by the landlord. Pascale (who organised the event) had cooked two kinds of Samosas, which were very good. The landlords daughters brought a Tiramisu. I cooked a Turkey Badam Pasanda, which was very popular (there was a lot, but all of it was eaten). There was also lots of meat for barbecuing, plus a good selection of salads and breads.
Everyone seemed to have fun.
This year we at least managed to get to bed before midnight, still fairly sober, so no hangovers the next day.
28th May 2018
Yesterday evening Sheryl and I went to see the latest Star Wars movie: "Solo".
We saw it at the Cinema (yes, that is the name of the movie theatre). We shared some nachos before the movie, accompanied by a beer.
We both enjoyed the film a lot. I liked "Rogue One" better, but Sheryl thought "Solo" was better. It was full of action and typical Star Wars humour. Near the end, there is a short scene with Darth Maul. Woody Harrelson is excellent in the film, as is Emilia Clarke (famous as Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones) and Paul Bettany.
26th May 2018
Last night Sheryl and I went to the Food Truck "Hall of Taste" at a small site next to the Theresienwiese (the site where the Oktoberfest is held). It was fun.
There were 6 or 7 food trucks there, selling burgers (including pulled pork and pulled duck), Venezuelan food, Thai food, Mongolian food, crêpes, salads, etc. Each week there are different food trucks, so the food selection varies.
There was also a bar, and a live (2-piece) band, who were not bad.
I think I might go again soon.
15th May 2018
A week ago I was officially informed that my employer will be terminating my freelance contract in a month.
Leaving aside the fact that they forgot to inform my agency, with whom they actually have the contract, resulting in my notice period being extended, the whole story raises more questions than it answers.
I am the only German speaker on the Billing team, and I do occasionally have meetings and documents in German. My employer is being forced by the client to train all their on-site staff in German, at significant cost, at the same time as firing the only person who can speak and write German. This doesn‘t seem to make financial sense, despite my fee rate being higher than most of my colleagues.
The company were bullied into increasing the size of the team, by the client. Now we do not have enough work (and we can only invoice for time spent on approved projects), so my employer is losing money. It seems clear to me that the client is responsible for this issue, but they are not facing the consequences. My employer invested heavily in getting up to speed on this project, having to pay the service provider whom they supplanted to perform knowledge transfer and work for free through that period, and recouping that investment will take even longer with fewer staff.
Also, most companies operate a policy of first in, last out. I was the very first member of my team, but am nevertheless being let go.
Anyway, now I have started job hunting again, which is thoroughly depressing (most job agencies don‘t even reply, unless there is good news about an application).
15th May 2018
Here is a News Post that I wrote about 8 weeks ago, but didn't upload:
It is total chaos at work today. More than a dozen people from my company, myself included, could not get into the client‘s office today, because someone forgot to renew our access cards (in the end, we all received day-cards, but that technically means that we need to be accompanied in the office, and we cannot open any of the electronically locked doors). That also means that our computer accounts on the customer systems are disabled, so we have no access to documents and the customer email system.
This continued for about a month before being fully resolved, after which, of course, other infrastructure issues started to interfere with our ability to work.
8th March 2018
It was highly entertaining, with good special effects: a typical Marvel film.
Both of us were surprised, in that the plot was not about what we had expected.
Beforehand we went for a quick dinner at the Taj Mahal , which was excellent, as usual.
5th March 2018
On Sunday (4th March) I went with a group of colleagues to the butterfly exhibition at the Munich Botanical Gardens. Altogether, there were 6 of us.
The exhibition was good, although it is only one small room. This year I didn’t take so many photos, as I have hundreds from my last visit. Nikunj was not so restrained, and needed an extra 15 minutes to get all the snaps that he wanted.
After the butterflies, we looked at some of the plant rooms.
Then it was time to get a late lunch. We went to the Metzgerwirt, opposite the Nymphenburger Schloss. Despite there being a whole page of vegetarian options (all of the colleagues in the group are vegetarians), my friends were not excited by any of the choices. In the end we ordered 3 portions of Obatzda to share; it was not particularly good (not surprising, as the place specialises in meat).
21st February 2018
Sheryl and I returned on Sunday night from our 5 day trip to Paris. We had a great, if somewhat busy, time; Sheryl has a tendency to over-plan and over-schedule our trips.
Our hotel, the Louvre Montana, is in a great location, but has nothing else going for it. The staff are friendly, but incompetent, and the hotel itself is badly in need of renovation. We had problems with the heating in our room, the coffee maker was troublesome, and when we asked reception to order us a taxi on Wednesday evening, they ordered one for Sunday.
On Wednesday evening we had dinner at Vins Des Pyrénées . We both had the Valentine's Day special menu, accompanied by some very nice wine. Service was somewhat slow, but they were packed, so that was not surprising.
On Thursday we visited the Musée d'Orsay; we both love this museum. In the evening we met my friend Richard for dinner, and had another great meal and more delicious wine. We forgot, of course, to take the present that we brought for Richard, and had to drop it off at his office the next day.
Friday was scheduled for The Louvre; it is huge, and even a whole day is not enough to see even half of it. We spent a long time queuing to get through security. We took a break, to meet my friend Philippe for lunch (at Les Oreilles et La Queue); we all had steak tartar. Then we went back to The Louvre (luckily the queues were gone by then) until we were "museumed-out". That evening we explored the other side of the river, searching for a restaurant that was not a tourist trap (without success). We ended up sharing a cheese platter and a so-called Caesar Salad (the chicken tasted of fish, and the salad was dry and tasted rather odd). The wine, though, was great.
On Saturday Sheryl had booked us on a guided tour of the Opera House. It is a fantastic building, although not well lit, so hard to get full benefit from the beauty. After that we went up to the terrace on the top of the Galleries Lafayette, and took some photos. After that we walked up to the Sacré Coeur (lots of stairs), and the to the Moulin Rouge. On Saturday evening we discovered a street full of restaurants and cafés just 3 minutes’ walk from the hotel, and had a terrific seafood dinner.
On Sunday we bought some macarons, which Sheryl was keen to try, and walked to the wine and cheese tasting that we had pre-booked. It was very interesting; we learned some things, and got to taste some amazing wines.
Then it was time to collect our luggage and head to the airport. Charles De Gaul is such a rubbish airport, especially the shopping.
On the flight home on Air France we had the most boring sandwiches ever (cheese and butter). For a country famous for its cuisine, the national airline’s in-flight food is an embarrassment. We were glad that we grabbed a snack before flying.
There is a photo gallery for our Paris trip here.
13th February 2018
Today I went to the KVR (Kreisverwaltungsreferat - office for Federal Government Registration). It's been a while since I was there, but it hasn't improved.
It turns out that the reason I was sent there by my umbrella company was false: I didn't need to register my address as it was already registered.
I first went to the 1st floor, where Sheryl went yesterday. That was the wrong floor for me because I am an EU citizen, although the signs just say "citizens"; nothing about EU. The lady who saw me was very rude and wouldn't let me finish a sentence, and just wanted to send me down to the first floor, so I ended up leaving her office without something that I wanted, which she could have provided.
Then I went to the ground floor, only to find that the waiting zone for my part of the alphabet was closed, so I went, as instructed, to another zone. This is where I discovered that my address was already registered (from a very helpful lady).
I also wanted to find out my German tax number, so the nice lady sent me to another zone, where I was dealt with by another very helpful lady, and got (for €5) a letter with my tax number. This lady confirmed that I needed to return to the first floor for my identity card. That will be a job for another day.
I just find it hard to understand why the KVR, and indeed almost all such places, are so rude, inefficient and dehumanising. I know that it is even worse for non-EU citizens such as Sheryl and my Indian colleagues. Sheryl also complains bitterly about the treatment she receives at UK passport desks in airports; I have witnessed this first-hand and find it abominable.
12th February 2018
On Friday evening Sheryl and I went for dinner with Jonathan and Tracy. We went to Deeba (web-site only in German), a Pakistani restaurant near the Pinakotheken.
It was lovely to see Jonathan and Tracy (it's been a while), and they gave us some homemade biltong, which was delicious, if rather chewy.
The meal was excellent. The menu contains all the classics that you would expect at an Indian restaurant, plus a few Pakistani specialties. They have some really good beer (Erdinger, one of my favourites) and very good wines. The staff are very friendly and provide really great service.
We need to get in the habit of going there more often, as it is closer to home that our usual (the Taj Mahal), and the food is even better.
4th February 2018
Today Sheryl and I were supposed to visit the Butterfly Exhibition (at the Munich Botanical Gardens) with a colleague from work, and the wife of another colleague, but it didn't happen.
The colleague is sick, the wife of the other colleague has injured herself, and Sheryl is not feeling 100%; I am the only one of the group who is healthy.
We will try again in a few weeks, when everyone is recovered.
In the meantime, I added a photo gallery of our last trip to the Butterfly Exhibition (in 2011), here. When we visit this year, I will add another gallery.
27th January 2018
Today Sheryl and I were supposed to go to the Outlet Shopping Village in Ingolstadt; we didn't go because Sheryl is sick again.
Sheryl was off work sick from Monday to Thursday, due to a flu which has been going around the kindergarten, and only went back to work on Friday. Now she has a stomach bug, which is also doing the rounds at the kindergarten.
I left work early on Friday, so that we could do our weekly grocery shopping on Friday evening, instead of Saturday as we usually do, all for naught. This is the second time that we have tried and failed to go to the Shopping village; we both urgently need to get some new clothes.
14th January 2018
Last night Sheryl and I went to a ballet, "Don Quijote" (Don Quixote to most of us). It was at the Prinzregententheater, about 3 minutes walk from our apartment. We went with Isabelle and Markus, our neighbours downstairs.
We had an excellent view of the stage: we were 3 or 4 rows from the front, and there was no orchestra (because there is no orchestra pit, so the music was recorded), so we were very close to stage.
The ballet was good, although Don Quijote is not my favourite. Some of the dancers were simply fantastic, although there were a few who seemed to have trouble keeping in-time with the music (not any of the stars, though). I took a few photos of the ballet, but they are not very clear, so I haven't included them here.
After the ballet, we went to Thao, a Vietnamese restaurant on Lucile-Grahn-Straße, another 3 minute walk. The tables are really tightly packed into the restaurant, but the food is excellent. We have been meaning to eat there for a while, and now that we have tried it, we will definitely be going back.
9th January 2018
It took me a while to get around to it, but here is a posting about or New Year's Eve.
We started the day with a breakfast of home-made (by Sheryl) scones. We relaxed most of the day (a Sunday, so no possibility of shopping, and we weren't in the mood for cleaning).
In the evening, we went for dinner at The Masters Home. We started with cocktails at the bar, and then moved to our table in the restaurant.
The Masters Home does a 7 course surprise menu. Usually they ask if there is anything that you are allergic to, or just don't like, in which case they substitute another dish, although this time they forgot to ask, which resulted in Sheryl sending back one course.
We began with a complimentary cocktail. Then we were treated to a starter of tuna tartar (excellent), followed by a quiche lorraine (strange to eat French food in an Italian restaurant), then a pasta stuffed with Steipilzen (ceps/porcino), then a fish course (Dorado, I think), then a sorbet with mint and vodka (really good), then the main course of an adaptation of beef wellington, and finally a dessert (I can no longer remember what it was, but it was good). Click any of the photos to see the gallery from New Year's Eve.
The head waiter recommended an excellent red wine, with which we were happy enough to order a second bottle (probably a mistake, at least for Sheryl).
I then had an esspresso and a cognac.
When midnight arrived, we went up to the street to watch the fireworks. The Germans were doing their usual: lighting fireworks in the middle of the street, which the traffic then needed to drive around. Sheryl played it safe, and had brought some sparklers and party-poppers with her, which we usd up. About 15 minutes later, we went back to the restaurant so that I could finish my cognac.
Sheryl was feeling somewhat unwell the next day, so Monday was for her a total write-off. I had a slight headache, but was well enough to spend the whole day trying, and failing, to restore my laptop after replacing the hard-disc with and SSD; it took me several more days to get it working properly.
22nd December 2017
Christmas is almost here, and Sheryl and I are almost ready for it. We posted Christmas cards to a bunch of people, and I sent eCards to people for whom I couldn't find postal addresses. We have bought presents for lots of people on Amazon. We have a Christmas tree, although it is not yet decorated. We have most of the groceries for the holidays already, so we can avoid the shopping chaos on Saturday (when the is a holiday, Germans tend to shop as if the apocalypse is coming).
This year we are having a quiet Christmas at home: just the two of us. On Boxing Day we are going to see the new Star Wars movie, and going for an Indian dinner afterwards.
For Sheryl's birthday I ordered her a new mobile phone, a Galaxy S7, which has still not arrived (it's been a month already). My new phone (ordered at the same time) arrived on Tuesday this week, but I still can't use it, because I need to get a new SIM card. I arranged for the phones to be delivered to Sheryl's work, and they tried to deliver my phone on Saturday, when the school was closed. They will probably try to deliver Sheryl's over the holidays.
I have been sick this week, with a nasty cold. I am finally feeling a little better today, just in time for the holidays. Sheryl already had the cold, so I am hoping we are safe for a healthy Christmas, now.
I hope that all of you have a terrific Christmas and New Year.
12th November 2017
Today is Sheryl's birthday.
I bought her some red roses yesterday (because the shops are closed today), although I had to deal with some serious attitude from the two ladies in the flower shop. I also bought her some cheap jewellery: a pendant necklace, as she has recently broken a couple of her necklaces; this is just to tide her over until she gets her main present, which will be a new mobile phone.
Of course, buying anything for a woman can be complicated: she doesn't want the phone that I suggested (recommended by a colleague at work) because it is too big to fit in her handbags; she wants a dual-SIM phone so that she can use it with her own SIM card and the work SIM card at the same time; and she wants a "nice" colour (which probably mean white). We will have to see, later today, whether we can find something that meets all her requirements.
She has just finished baking a limoncello cake, to take to work. It is going to be difficult to transport it to work without damaging it.
Tonight we are going for dinner at the Rusticana, an excellent steak and ribs restaurant near our flat.
11th November 2017
We were joined by Lynn, who used to work with Sheryl at the kindergarten.
The doors opened at 18:30, but we arrived about 15 minutes late, because Sheryl had difficulty getting away from the Saint Martin's celebrations at the kindergarten. That still gave us plenty of time to eat, and get some drinks in, before the show started at 20:00.
The show was great. After an introduction by Mel Kelly, the main show kicked-off with Matt Devereaux, whom we have seen several times before, with a set in English; he is very funny. He was followed by Andreas Beckenbach, with a set in German; unusually for a Bavarian, he talks very fast, which can mean that he is hard to follow at times, but he was nevertheless hilarious. There was an improv. theatre set by "Bake This" (improv. is not really my cup of tea), and later on there were sessions by Mel Kelly (in English) and by Alex Profant (in German), both of which were excellent. After another couple of comedians, the show ended with "Mark 'n' Simon" doing a "MusiComedy auf Deutsch und Englisch (Dschinglisch). Mark and Simon's humour can be a little childish, but some of their set was hilarious, especially their Rolling Stones piece (I have never seen anyone do Mick Jagger so well).
All in all, we had a great time, and will definitely try to go next year.
5th November 2017
Today I am definitely not in good form; I have no idea why.
Sheryl and I had decided to have eggs benedict (description here, but it is not American, despite what Wikipedia thinks) for breakfast; something we developed a taste for on our last trip to New Zealand. I managed to mess it up in several ways: the Hollandaise Sauce curdled (something I have never had happen before), and I even had problems poaching the eggs.
In the end we had to give up on the sauce, and had poached eggs on home-made bread-rolls, with bacon.
30th October 2017
Last night we joined Karl and Tanja on the After Work Tram. It was fun, and a very large amount of Alcohol was consumed.
It was the Halloween special After Work Tram, so lots of people were in costume. Some were rather nominal costumes, but some people had really gone to town. One guy had spent 2 hours on his make-up (it was incredible); someone else had rented a morph-suit; there was also someone in a really good batman outfit.
Sheryl again got caught out by the fact that they serve wine in the same size glasses as they use for beer, so she was very much the worse for wear by the time we headed home.
The evening was a little different from our previous trips on the tram: it was a modern tram, so there was more space, which was all connected rather than being divided into two separate sections. The route was also different, so we got to see different parts of Munich.
21st October 2017
There was some drama today in Munich. Someone attacked a number of people with a knife at Rosenheimer platz, which is not so far from our apartment. Luckily, no-one was seriously injured, and the police have a suspect in custody.
We sometimes go to Rosenheimer platz for shopping, but had no plans to go there today. We did our main grocery shopping yesterday evening, so the police advice to stay indoors was no real inconvenience. Later, once it was declared safe to go out, we went in the opposite direction for some more shopping (wine, as our local store was sold-out of our usual wine).
There is a BBC new story about the attack here.
In general, this kind of thing does not happen often in Munich; it is a very safe and heavily policed city. The last such incident was the shooting at the Olympia Einkaufszentrum, in July 2016. Even so, the world is becoming much more dangerous, and not even Munich is completely safe nowadays.
12th October 2017
Last night, a while after I got home, I had a surprise. I heard a noise which I later realised was a bird in our apartment, flying into a window in its attempts to get out.
The bird was a blue tit. I found it in the living room, where it had been gorging itself on the leftovers from dinner the night before. It had left a large number of little bird-shits on the dining table. It had also been in the kitchen, and left a little message on the counter, and in our bedroom, where it had pooped on the black dress that Sheryl had left out to wear that evening. How can such a small bird create so much poop?
It took quite a while to get it to fly out of the window; small birds are pretty stupid, and don't really understand windows.
It also took me quite a while to clean up.
There's nothing like a bit of drama in the evening, when you are tired from work, and all you want to do is sit down and eat dinner.
10th October 2017
Yesterday our washing machine was repaired, which is quite a relief; the time wasted on trips to the laundromat was significant.
In true German fashion, the repair engineer would not come at any time convenient for people with jobs, and we were not even offered a choice of dates, or even times; we were promised that he would come between 10:15 and 13:15. One is simply expected to take time off work to be at home for any household repairs, meter readings, etc.
I had a video conference, scheduled to start at 10:30 (luckily the start was delayed, so I managed to make it in time), and Sheryl had a long-standing appointment at the gynaecologist, so I stayed at home until Sheryl returned from her check-up, and she was able, eventually, to get to work once the machine was repaired.
This is what it is like, living and working in Germany.
10th October 2017
I have been at my desk for over three quarters of an hour. In that time I have been using my own laptop: starting my Windows 7 virtual machine, reading and filing some private emails, updating my time-sheet, reading my work emails, editing some browser bookmarks, and reading a document. In all that time, my other laptop (issued by the end-client) has been starting, and doing updates; it is still not ready to use.
The reason for the wasted time is that the customer-laptop is running Windows 10. It is bloated software, plus users have no proper control over when/if updates are done (once Office 365 is installed, all your update settings are ignored). Yesterday it rebooted because of updates, while I was using it, and gave me a whole minute of warning, but no options to postpone the reboot.
I do not know why corporations are still using Windows 10; it is not fit for work-use.
30th September 2017
Yesterday Sheryl tried to do some laundry, to see if she had succeeded in fixing the washing machine; she had not, and we had more flooding.
There is a Service Desk telephone number on our Samsung washing machine. Sheryl dialled the number and got a recorded message saying that calls to that number were free, but for service please call another number. Sheryl called the other number, and got an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system, on which all the options were for sales and price information about products such as TVs; nothing about washing machines, nothing about a repair service, and no option to speak to a human being.
We paid for extended warranty: a contract between us and Samsung, which I believe entitles us to a documented and easy to use repair service. Legally, throughout the EU, companies who sell electrical and electronic goods must provide repair and spare parts services, which also require documented and easy to use access to that service. Samsung seems to have a different interpretation of the warranty contract between us, and the law governing repairs and spare parts. Do I really need to sue Samsung to get them to do what the law and my contract already obliges them to do?
Eventually, Sheryl called Media Markt, from whom we bought the machine. Their first question was to find out the serial number. This is on a label on the door-frame, which is covered when the door is closed, so Sheryl had to call back after the wash program finished and she could open the door. What a great piece of design, Samsung!
Now, at least, we have an appointment for the repair.
26th September 2017
I spent a large part of today trying to fix a problem with our washing machine, which caused a flood. I thought I had fixed it, and ran two successful test washes to check. Then, when Sheryl tried to do laundry in the evening, we had another flood, so clearly I didn't find the real problem.
We now think we know what the problem is: lime-scale (kalk) build-up on the water nozzles in the soap/fabric-softener tray (both of us came up with the same idea, independently), so I will probably have another go at repairing it tomorrow night. Lime-scale is a huge problem in Munich, making cleaning hard work and damaging household appliances. We regularly add Calgon to the washing machine to control lime-scale build-up, but where we think the problem is located is before (above) where the Calgon is added.
After having our dishwasher out of service for so long (due to poor construction, not lime-scale), and only recently finally repaired, I was rather disappointed to have problems with the washing machine too, especially as Sheryl religiously follows the instructions for regularly cleaning the machine (I find it rather bizarre that one needs to clean a machine which is designed to clean things).
18th September 2017
So far, it has not been a particularly auspicious start at my new job.
Just before I arrived at the office near the O2/Telefonica tower where I was asked to report for work, I received a phone call that I should go to a different office. It took me an hour to get there, although the guy I am supposed to report to is still not here.
The other worrying thing is that there were several people with our group at the Oktoberfest on Saturday who work for Telfonica, either directly, or through supplier companies like me. I heard that those who work for companies who provide services to Telefonica were all very relieved that they didn't win the Billing contract (the one that I am working on). Several contracts were competitively tendered, so many companies bid for everything; it seems like Cognizant, for whom I work, were awarded "the golden turd of enlightenment".
16th September 2017
Today was the start of the Oktoberfest. As usual, we had a table at the
Armbrustschützenzelt, with the Kinseys having the neighbouring table.
We were joined by Peter & Georgina, and Klaus & Stacy; Aldo & Paulina were sick, and canceled.
A good time was had by all. The band were especially good this year (they did an excellent cover of "Walking In Sunshine", one of my favourites).
There will soon be a photo gallery of the evening of fun (I will add a link to it, to this post).
8th September 2017
Today I had a face-to-face interview for a freelance role in Munich. I had a telephone interview with another manager at the client company on Friday last week. Both the interviews went very well, and they seem eager for me to start as soon as possible.
I got the impression that I could expect an offer in the next couple of working days (so, Monday or Tuesday). That will certainly improve my cash-flow.
7th September 2017
I have been having a bit of a battle with the project manager of my current project, due to the delays caused by the difficulties in getting documents from the end-client. It all came to a head today, and we had a chat about it on the phone.
I discovered some things about my contract which I had somehow missed: it is meant to be part-time (a budget of 18 days over 2 months). This means that I do not need to wait quite so intensively, and can do other things some days. It also means that I am making money at a lower rate than I was expecting, which is makes my cash-flow less comfortable.
7th September 2017
Today it is one week since our dishwasher was repaired again; we have used it every day since the repair, and it is still working. It finally looks like it really is fixed, at last: no more washing all the dishes by hand.
The repair engineer replaced and rebuilt the majority of the works of the machine, which took him a while. I am so glad that the cost was all covered by the insurance.
26th August 2017
Yet again, our dishwasher is broken. The Siemens repair engineer came on Thursday, and "repaired" it. We successfully washed two loads of dishes, and today, when I ran it a third time, it stopped mid-program with the same error code.
Now, again, I have to rinse and dry all the dishes that are in the machine, which are clean but coated with the (caustic soda based) cleaning tablet chemicals. Then we have to wash all our daily dishes until the machine can be repaired again.
I am getting thoroughly tired of this game. Maybe, next time they fix it, they could really fix it so that it stays fixed.
18th August 2017
Argh!!! Today our dishwasher has conked out, again. We have been without a working dishwasher for about 3 weeks. First, it broke, and we thought, wrongly, that we had repaired it ourselves; it worked for a few days and then died again. So we called the Siemens repair line, but had to wait a week for someone to come out; the repair-man didn't have the right part, and we had to wait another week. On Wednesday, it was finally repaired (luckily, it was covered by insurance, otherwise it would have cost €200). Since then, we have run it 3 times, and on the last of those it died again, with the same fault.
The problem is that there is a small water leak from the wash-chamber into the base of the machine, where most of the electrical and electronic stuff is located. There is a sensor to detect exactly these problems, which disables the machine. Now we have to get someone to come out to fix it again (Thursday next week).
In the meantime we are back to washing everything by hand. Since our kitchen is not designed for serious hand washing-up (a small sink, and not enough space to drain and dry the dishes), this is a real pain.
When it works, our Siemens dishwasher is good. It has a full sized cutlery shelf above the other shelves, and it gets things clean (none of that cleaning dishes before loading them into the dishwasher for us). It has, however, needed repair far too often.
When I first came to Munich 20 years ago, I bought an Ariston dishwasher, which worked without problem for 13 years. We left it behind when we moved out of our last apartment, and it is probably still there working today. It never needed repair, although it was not efficient in energy or water usage. Ariston is a low-cost basic brand, whereas Siemens is an up-market brand with much higher prices (luckily we were able to get the Siemens machine at 50% discount, through a friend), but that higher price doesn't buy one higher reliability. Maybe we are now into the designed-in obsolescence phase (it is, after all, 7 years old, although, personally, I think such household appliances should last at least 10 years). If we decide to replace it, I don't think the new machine will be a Siemens: we can't get the discount any more, and I want something that works without constant and expensive repair.
I need to stop writing this now: I have washing-up to do.
13th August 2017
Today I am a little the worse for wear (Sheryl is much worse). Yesterday was the Hoffest (garden party) at our apartment building, and I think that maybe we stayed up too late (bearing in mind that today, Sunday, is a working day for me) and drank a little too much.
The party was, nevertheless, very good. Everyone brought food to share: Seb made Obatzda, which was excellent; I made two kinds of bread rolls; Sheryl made brownies; someone (not sure who) made tomato and mozzarella salad, with cute little heart-shaped mozzarellas (the Germans love hearts for everything). A local restaurant donated beer (and maybe other drinks), plus everyone brought more to drink (we left the party with more in our cool-box than when we arrived!). Plus, of course, the grill was on for barbecuing: we took some sausages with cheese in them, which were great.
6th August 2017
Today (yes, really, on Sunday!) I started a new contract job.
I am working again for Detecon on a short-term contract for a company in Libya; that is the reason for my working on Sunday, since we have to align our working week with the typical Muslim working week of Sunday to Thursday. Luckily, I do not have to go to Libya; I can work from home. The project was supposed to be for 4 weeks, but already the scope has expanded, so I am expecting it to run for 6 to 8 weeks.
I have worked before for Detecon, in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Canada. They tend to use quite a few freelancers, since their workload is very variable, with lots of short-term projects, and a lot of their permanently employed staff do not want to go to some of the places where they win business (Libya, Namibia, or even Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada).
26th May 2017
Some of it was really good, and very clever; some was just boring (like the model train sets, with models of tagged trains and stations): some of the tagging is artistic, but much of it is not. Overall, though, it is definitely worth a visit.
There are a lot of exhibits which you can touch, and even stand in to be photographed (like the fish in the photo to the left).
You can save quite a bit of money on the tickets by buying them online beforehand.
30th April 2017
Today Sheryl and I went to the Auer Dult. Most people who live in Munich know it well (those who don't can read about it here).
We wandered around the various market stalls for about an hour, but didn't buy anything, although Sheryl will probably go to the shop of the map seller later, where it will be less crowded.
29th April 2017
One of my favourite Indian dishes is Badam Pasanda; I have been searching for years for a recipe for it, to cook at home, which resulted in a sequence of failed dinners. Even my friend Manu, who used to run an Indian restaurant, and who sometimes cooks a very good Chicken Badam Pasanda for us when he invites us to his place for dinner, would not give me his recipe.
Now, finally, I have an excellent recipe. Sheryl found this video on YouTube, for Lamb Badam Pasanda. I used it as a basis for a Turkey Badam Pasanda on Friday evening, and it was amazingly good.
The problem with the video is that it mostly doesn't give quantities for the ingredients, so I guessed. Once I have cooked it a couple more times, and worked out the right amounts of the spices, I will add the recipe to my Cooking/Recipes page.
18th April 2017
Yesterday Sheryl decided to pack away most of her winter clothes, and get out her summer outfits, because the weather has been so warm and sunny lately. So, of course, this morning it was snowing (surprisingly heavily). Most of the snow has now melted, but it is still snowing from time to time.
11th April 2017
Sheryl just came back from seeing her lung doctor, after yesterday's CT. She has been written off sick for the rest of the week, on the basis that she is anyway off work next week for vacation. The doctor seems worried that she may get another infection if she goes back to work too soon.
At least she now has some clarity about what the problem was: she got an infection, and then a secondary (opportunistic) infection.
We just had a look at the optical disc containing her CT results. It is a data disc with a Windows viewer-application on it. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to run the viewer application on my Linux server, using WINE (a Windows emulation program).
10th April 2017
Yesterday Sheryl and I went for a walk by the river (the Isar). This time she had rather better stamina than last weekend, although last time things were made worse by her wearing totally inappropriate shoes which gave her blisters within 5 minutes.
The weather was lovely. There were many people out on the beaches sunbathing.
We took some stale bread with us to feed the ducks, but ended up taking half of it home again; there were only boring mallard ducks to feed on the river (last weekend we went to a pond where there are quite a few mandarin ducks, which are much prettier and less aggressive than mallards). We also saw a fair few fish (large chub, barbel and trout) and tried feeding them too, but only the smaller of the trout seemed interested in the bread, and usually the ducks beat the fish to the food.
We spent some time browsing the gift shop in the Deutches Museum (Sheryl is always on the lookout for things for the kindergarten). The shop had some interesting stuff, but also quite a lot of complete junk. I spent some time looking at the posters, which covered aircraft, space-flight, lightning storms, and Albert Einstein: such a dismal collection of poor photography; the shop should be ashamed.
4th April 2017
Today someone was required (by our landlord) to be at home, in each of the apartments in the building, so that the heating meters could be read. This is part of life in Germany, where you are expected to be at home for various visits by meter readers, repair people, etc. It is viewed as normal by German employers that staff have to miss half a day, or even a whole day, for such events, and no-one gets disciplined, let alone fired, for it.
As it happens, it was no real inconvenience for us to be home: I am not working at the moment, and Sheryl is off sick, so we were both home.
If you make an appointment for someone to come to repair your washing machine, or install an Internet connection, for example, they are usually unwilling to specify a time; the best you are likely to get is "morning" or "afternoon"; if a more accurate time is agreed, they will be late. That give you an idea of who has the power in these relationships.
So, we were not especially surprised when the guy didn't arrive at 10:30, as specified, to read our heating meters. Eventually someone came round to tell all the residents that the meters would not be read that day, and that a new date (the 5th of May) had been set. That means that all those people who took time off work today will have to take another day. Welcome to Germany!
The annoying thing is that the notice about the meter-reading appointment included a warning: if you were not at home that day, so that another appointment had to be organised, there would be a fine (to cover the costs of the second visit). I am now wondering whether I should organise the residents to all request the same amount as the fine, to be paid to compensate us for our wasted time. The problem with that, of course, is that the landlord will somehow claw it back in increased fees (the Nebenkosten), so it won't really do any good, but it might make me feel better.
24th March 2017
Sheryl and I just had a very disappointing lunch! We stopped for a Döner Kebeb just down the street from our flat (here, although it may have a new name since the latest buy-out); it was terrible.
When we first moved into the area, the place was a very mediocre bakery which, unsurprisingly, closed down. It was bought by a nice Turkish couple who ran it as a bakery and kebab shop. They did Döner and Dürüm kebabs, some other Turkish specialities, pasta, spit-roast chicken (Hendl), baklava, and some regular bakery fare. It became very popular, because it was very good; at lunch time there were usually queues out of the door; it was the standard lunch place for the local police station on Prinzregentenplatz, and for any builders, plumbers or electricians who were working in the area.
Recently it was taken over again. It is still a kebab shop and bakery, but the queues have reduced. We decided we should try it before writing it off and taking our business elsewhere, so we stopped to get a Döner kebab to share, on the way home from our weekly grocery shopping.
The kebab was utterly dreadful! At first I was hopeful because we were asked whether we wanted chicken or veal, but it just went downhill from there. The meat was sliced way too thick, and was too chewy. There was very little salad in the bread, no spicy chilli powder sprinkled over, and worst of all, no sauce! There used to be a choice of sauces. I was momentarily distracted at about the sauce stage, otherwise I could have insisted on sauce (they did have some kind of sauce, although no choices). A kebab without sauce is like chips (fries) without ketchup, or beer without alcohol. Not an experience to be repeated. The local police must be well pissed-off.
5th March 2017
Today I am feeling a little hung-over. Last night we had Isabelle and Marcus, our neighbours from downstairs, over for dinner. I didn't drink very much, so I don't really understand why I feel so rough today.
I cooked green asparagus with hollandaise sauce and two kinds of home-made bread rolls, followed by lasagne. For dessert we had a sorbet (bought, not home-made) with raspberries and a dash of vodka, and finished off with cheese and crackers. Everything worked well, and everyone seemed to enjoy their food.
We finished fairly early, as Isabelle had an early flight to Tokyo the next morning.
8th February 2017
Here is a summary of what we did on our trip to New Zealand.
The clicking the photos will open the relevant photo gallery. There is an embedded video: just click to play.
On our way to New Zealand we spent 3 days in Singapore. On the first evening we had dinner in a Thai restaurant at Clarke Quay, with my friend Ankush and his wife Anita (photo to the right). The next day we took a "bum boat" tour on the river, down to the reservoir. We then walked down the river, and saw the Cloud Forest at the Gardens By The Bay.
Since Sheryl loves crab, we had dinner at a Chinese restaurant so she could sample a Singapore speciality, chilli crab (photo to the left).
The evening before we flew out, we were invited to dinner at Ankush and Anita's, and were treated to a sumptuous Indian meal. Even though they are both vegetarians, Anita cooked a meat dish for us. I enjoyed the dinner very much; Sheryl, sadly, was ill and was able to eat almost nothing.
Once we reached New Zealand, we stayed a couple of days in Auckland for the New Year's celebrations.
On New Year's Eve we did some sight-seeing and shopping (snacks and drinks for while we were watching the fireworks), and then went for dinner with Janet at a Tepenyaki (Japanese) restaurant on Quay Street. It was good, but not quite as fantastic as when we were there in 2007.
To pass the time before midnight, we took a ferry across the bay and back again, and then hung-put by the marina (photo above, of Janet and Sheryl on Quay Street). We then went to Janet's hotel room, which had an amazing view of Sky Tower, and had prosecco while we watched the fireworks (video to the right). The fireworks were very good.
Once the firework display was over, we headed back to our hotel, since we were wrecked (still suffering from jet-lag) and needed to be able to get up at a reasonable time the next day, to have breakfast, check out of the hotel, and drive down to Janet's house in Katikati (near Tauranga).
The day we arrived at Janet's, my parents came round for dinner: a mixed grill (photo to the left). A few days later we all (Janet, my parents, Sheryl and I) went for dinner at a restaurant in Katikati.
Sheryl and I drove up the Coromandel Peninsula to Hot Water Beach. Unfortunately, we did not know that the hot water springs on the beach are only active up to 2 hours either side of low tide, so we didn't get to enjoy sitting in a hot pool, but even so, it was nice, and very pretty.
We also drove in the opposite direction to visit the glowworm caves at Waitomo, only to find that all the tours were fully booked. We were a little annoyed, as we phoned before setting off, and were told that it was fine to just turn up. In the end we went later, having booked, and toured the Ruakuri cave and the Waitomo glowworm cave (photo to the right), while Eleanor and Raymond did the black-water rafting (going through the cave in a wet-suit). Everyone enjoyed the caves greatly.
Sheryl and I then took a trip to the Northland (photo to the left), and stayed several nights in Whangerei. We had a very nice hotel (the Quest, an apartment hotel). We had some lovely food: Indian, and a fantastic fish dinner at Split: excellent food and wine, and unbelievable service - I heartily recommend it.
While there, we visited some amazing beaches (Matapouri Bay and Whale Bay), and climbed Mount Manaia; from the top, there are some amazing views. There are a lot of stairs, and our legs were rather sore the next day. On the way down Mount Manaia, we encountered a German girl who had wrenched her knee on the climb, and was struggling down with a stick (I wanted to help her, but by then my legs were so wobbly from all the stairs that I thought I might fall and dump her off the track). We also visited the Whangarei waterfalls.
Strangely, we decided not to take the tour of the refinery (you can see part of it in some of my photos). The tourist board seems to think that the refinery is a tourist attraction!
Whangarei is not big, by European standards, but there are some lovely parts of town, e.g. by the Marina. There are also a few less salubrious parts of town, but nowhere that felt unsafe.
While in Whangarei, we greatly enjoyed the New Zealand breakfast speciality of eggs benedict, so much so that I have cooked it at home since our return to Munich.
On the way back from Whangarei we stayed a night in the Bridge House Hotel in Warkworth, so that we could visit the marine reserve at Goat Island. Goat Island was good, but nowhere near as good as when I was there before. We took the glass bottomed boat tour, and saw quite a few fish, but most of my photos of the fish, through the glass bottom, are rubbish. Sheryl had hoped to go snorkelling, but the weather turned nasty, windy and cold, so we gave that idea a miss. Nevertheless, we enjoyed Goat Island; the same cannot be said for the hotel: although the restaurant was very nice (good food and good service), our hotel room was disgusting (every towel was grubby, as were the bed-sheets). The first thing we did when we returned to Janet's house was to take a shower because we just felt dirty.
Of course, the main reason for going to New Zealand was Bex (my niece) and Shay's wedding (photo to the left). They had a fantastic venue, the Abel & Co Winery. There was a good turn-out by family and friends. The food and drink was excellent (and plenty of it - snacks outside, before the formal meal, and then a 3 course dinner). Everyone seemed to have fun. There were some good speeches, and some not so good.
A few days after the wedding we (Eleanor, Raymond, Sheryl and I) drove up the Coromandel again, to do some snorkelling at Onemana beach (photo to the right). The beach there is gorgeous; we had a great day. although everyone except Raymond got sunburnt.
One day we (Eleanor, Raymond, Janet, Sheryl and I) drove in to Tauranga, and walked around the base of Mount Maunganui (we walked to the peak with Ann on our previous visit in 2007). Mount Maunganui is an extinct volcano abutting Tauranga. After the walk, we had a nice lunch in a café near the beach.
All in all, we had a great time. It was lovely to see my family (ten years since the last time). We also did a lot of sightseeing and activities. There were other things that we wanted to do, but time and money would not allow. Sheryl says the she is quite OK with going to New Zealand every Christmas, to have some winter sun: in her dreams!
9th January 2017
Sheryl got totally freaked out when I parked on a grassy slope at Goat Island. When we left, she refused to get back into the car until I had backed it onto the road.
Our last 24 hours in the Northland was rather a washout. Yesterday we went on the "Glass Bottom [sic] Boat". We saw quite a wide variety of fish, but not in great quantity and not very well, due to the water being murky. Unlike when I was here many years ago, there were no fish to be seen when wading from the beach. This morning the plan was to rent fins and wet-suits and do some snorkeling, but the weather was just not good enough: cold, windy (which makes the water murky), heavily overcast, and raining. In the end we headed back to my sister's earlier than planned, having given up on the snorkeling.
Another great disappointment was our hotel room at The Bridgehouse Hotel. Unlike the hotel restaurant, which we were quite impressed with, the hotel room was nasty: it smelled musty; all the towels were stained (I dread to think what the stains were), as were the sheets on the bed.
8th January 2017
Sheryl and I are in The Northland, in Whangerei for a few days.
We were lucky to find a hotel at all, as the New Zealand holiday season is only just winding down. We actually found a rather nice hotel, the Quest (an apartment hotel - part of a chain), which is reasonably priced, very comfortable and clean.
Whangerei has quite a lot of places to eat: something to suit all tastes and budgets. The best place that we ate was Split, where we had gorgeous fish; the service was extraordinarily good. One word of warning: many restaurants and cafés are closed on Mondays, and most shops (except the supermarkets) close every day by 5 pm or earlier.
The Town Basin (marina) area of Whangerei is rather pretty, and so is the region around the town. We visited:
4th January 2017
Yesterday Sheryl and I drove up the Coramandel Peninsula to visit the Hot Beaches. There are hot springs under the sand, and people dig holes in the beach which fill with warm water.
What we didn't know is that the hot springs are only active 2 hours either side of low tide; we were there too early, and we couldn't wait around for low tide as we had a family dinner in the evening. The beach was just getting crowded when we left.
Nevertheless, it was very pretty on the drive, and at the beach. We got a little sun-burnt at the beach.
In the evening we (Sheryl, my sister Janet, her daughter Amy, my parents and I) went for dinner at Katikati. The waitress seemed to be new, and didn't know what was available nor what vegetables were served with what dish., so she made many unnecessary trips to the bar and kitchen to find out.
Yesterday the restaurant had no fish, and no pork; they don't stock sparkling water; what I ordered was not so great, and Amy felt sick when we got home.
2nd January 2017
Today we drove to the Waitomo Glowworm caves (about 2.5 hours drive). It was a wasted trip.
Before we left in the morning, we phoned to check that the caves were open despite the rain, and were told that it was OK to just turn up: no need to book. When we arrived, we found that all the tours were booked out.
Sheryl was very upset. She wanted to see the caves the last time we visited, in 2007, but we didn't manage it. We are going to book on-line for a later date.
30th December 2016
This morning we left Singapore, after 3 very good days.
We arrived from Munich on the morning of the 27th on a Singapore Airlines flight, which we were very happy with: comfortable seats, good service, good food, and good entertainment options.
We were a little jet-lagged after the trip, but were refreshed after a nap. In the evening we went to dinner with Ankush and Anita: Thai food at a place by the river in Clarke Quay.
The next day we took the "bum boat" tour, after which we walked down by the river and went to the "Gardens By The Bay". The gardens are too big to see everything in one day, so we chose to go into the Cloud Forest garden. In the evening we went for Chinese dinner, and Sheryl sampled the local specialty: Chili Crab.
Singapore has a reputation for shopping, so, of course, we had to spend a day shopping on Orchard Road. Sheryl was looking for some shoes; all we managed to buy were some postcards! In the evening we went for dinner at Ankush and Anita's: Anita had cooked a fantastic Indian meal (including meat, eve though they are vegetarians). Unfortunately, Sheryl was ill, and wasn't able to eat much.
We had to get up early on the 30th to get to the airport for our flight to Auckland. I wanted to enquire about using some of my Lufthansa air-miles to upgrade of flight home to business-class. It turns out that it is a complicated process, when it involves using air-miles from one airline for a flight with another, even if they are both members of Star Alliance. In the end, there were no business-class seats available for the longest leg of the flight hone, so we gave up. I will have to use up the air-miles on some trips within Europe.
The flight to Auckland was a code-share flight with Air New Zealand: they are definitely not the same class of airline as Singapore Airlines. There was no option for on-line check-in, The seats were uncomfortable (a 787, instead of a 777), the food was dreadful (we couldn't finish either of the meals), the selection of movies was not as good as Singapore Airlines, and the Air New Zealand cabin staff were more interested in chatting than in working.
23rd December 2016
Last night Sheryl and I went to Isabelle and Marcus' for dinner. The invitation was rescheduled so many times because of clashes with other commitments, on both our side and our hosts.
In the end, we made it, and had a great evening. We took some red wine and a bottle of pink prosecco that we have had in the fridge for months; the pink prosecco turned out to be very good: very dry and thoroughly enjoyable. Isabelle and Marcus had also ensured ample supplies of a nice Rioja, and an even nicer Brunello di Montalcino, so we never got to try the wine that we took.
Isabelle was fairly ambitious with the cooking, and served us roast goose (with apple stuffing), Knödel and red cabbage. Sometime I should show her how to make proper gravy, and then she will be set. There was a selection of cheeses, and then finally desert: a choice of Stollen or Lebküchen.
Today I am feeling just a little under-the-weather; not exactly hung-over, but also not really 100%. Sheryl is feeling utterly dreadful, and hasn't got out of bed at all except for trips to the bathroom. We are starting to wonder whether the pink prosecco might be the cause. Sheryl is allergic to champagne (something to do with the special yeast, and the méthode champenoise), which typically gives her a three-day hangover, but is normally OK with prosecco; there are exceptions, and this might be one.
29th November 2016
Sheryl is sick again: this time just a cold. She is feeling very sorry for herself (not the world's greatest patient). She is off work today, and my guess is that she will be off tomorrow too.
There is, however, some good news: the results of her Open University Masters course were published, and she passed. All that time and money had some result. Now we have to see whether the German government (not sure if it is Munich city, the Bavarian State, or the Federal government) recognises it for promotions and pay rises.
27th November 2016
Yesterday we had yet more infrastructure problems at our apartment building. Around mid-afternoon the power failed in all the communal areas, meaning no lights in the hall and on the staircase, no door-bell/entry-phone, and no central-heating/hot-water. Our Internet was also not working for several hours, so it may also depend on communal power.
Some organised neighbours lit candles on the staircase, which made it safer negotiating the stairs.
The power came back on before bedtime, so that the flat was not freezing cold when we got ready for bed.
20th November 2016
Yesterday we went to Klaus' birthday party.
The party was in Klaus' house near Michealibad, which is rather nice. The street looked very much like where I lived for about 3 months when I first came to Munich, which was a few streets away.
There was a buffet, with lots of unhealthy but very tasty nibbles. Klaus' girlfriend Stacey, had also made a selection of cup-cakes, as the birthday cake. Klaus managed to extinguish all the candles with one puff.
Once everyone had arrived, we were 8 people in total. Conversation was either in German or English, depending on who was participating.
13th November 2016
Yesterday was Sheryl's birthday. I made her crêpes with berries for breakfast. She opened her presents, and was pleasantly surprised that I had been paying attention to what she had said that she wanted.
6th November 2016
Winter is definitely coming in now, in Munich. Early on Friday I noticed some parked cars with thick frost on, and today it has been snowing since about midday. There seems little chance that the snow will settle, since the ground is very wet from rain earlier today.
I suppose that I shouldn't be surprised. For the last couple of weeks there have been ladybirds (lady-bugs, to those of you from the USA; Marienkäfer in German) coming in to my office from the garden, to hibernate for the winter.
23rd October 2016
Sheryl bought the tickets ages ago, and Jonathan and Tracy decided to come too. Unfortunately, Sheryl is still too sick, so I invited Karl to take her ticket.
The evening's entertainment was great. The first act was Matt Devereux, whom we have seen before, and is great fun. The was also Mel Kelly, who introduced the first half of the performers, and was also very funny; he does professional speaking as well as comedy. The rest of the evening was filled with various other stand-up comedians, mostly English, but also a few acts in German (Andreas Beckenbach, one of the German-language acts, was very good too).
The venue is actually very comfortable. It seats about 400 people, at tables (rather like a restaurant or a charity dinner in the USA). There is a bar next to the stage, and another bar (with a garden for the summer) by the lobby.
After the show was over, the four of us walked down to Dachauer Strasse, and went into "Leon's" for a drink.
21st October 2016
The heating finally seems to be fixed. The last semi-official news that we had was that there was still a problem, meaning that the boiler needed to be manually reset all the time, and that the landlord was looking for a permanent solution. Since then we have heard nothing, but the heating and hot water have been working, and I haven't seen the repair van again. Even so, it would be nice to have an official update (i.e. from the landlord himself, rather than another of the tenants).
18th October 2016
Today the heating is again out of order. I have sent another message to the landlord. Hopefully this time, the repair will last; colder weather is coming.
Sheryl is still sick, and is going to the doctor to get tested for streptococcus. She will probably end up getting signed off work for the rest of the week. Working at a Kindergarten is really unhealthy; I think the only place that is worse for catching illnesses is a hospital!
17th October 2016
Today the heating finally works; it started working at around 10 am. Yesterday, at about midday, the landlord sent a message that the problem with the heating had been found and fixed. The hot water started getting warm almost immediately, but there was no heat in the radiators. I waited fairly patiently until about 3 pm, but still no heating, so I messaged the landlord again to that effect. I was at least able to take a shower, as by about 4 pm the water was finally hot enough. Sheryl went to the gym, and after her work-out, she showered there; not prepared to risk another cold.
Yesterday evening Andrew came to dinner. He had phoned me on Saturday to invite himself to dinner that evening, saying that he had something to show us. In the end, he postponed until Sunday. Well, he has been and gone, and I still don't know what he wanted to show us. Anyway, I cooked Lasagne Bolognese, which turned out well. By the end of the meal, Andrew had 70% of a glass of beer, half a glass of wine, and a little whiskey in front of him (a not unusual situation for him).
By the end of the evening, Sheryl was starting to feel very unwell: a sore throat and other signs of a flu. Today she did not go to work, and it doesn't look as if she will be fit enough tomorrow either. She has had such a lot of sickness over the last year, but then so have very many of her colleagues at the Kindergarten.
16th October 2016
Yesterday, about mid-afternoon (it is difficult to be sure exactly when), the central heating in our apartment building conked out. That means no heating and no hot water for the entire building. I contacted the landlord yesterday at about 18:00. It is now about 11:00 on Sunday, and there is no sign of a repairman; this is, after all, Germany, where no-one works on a Sunday. I am guessing that the heating will not be fixed until Monday (later, if there is an issue with spare parts).
I had noticed that the hot tap was dispensing only warm water, earlier in the afternoon. That, however, is not that unusual in our apartment building, so it was no firm sign that the heating system had failed. I only knew for sure when I tried to take a bath at about 16:30. I had half a bath of luke-warm water by the time I realised that I had a problem. I spent the next hour or more heating water in the kettle and a saucepan, until I had warmed the bath enough to take a quick dunk.
Sheryl was at the gym, so I sent her a message that she should shower there rather than try to shower at home, but she didn't have a towel, shower gel, shampoo etc. with her, so that wasn't an option. She took a cold shower when she got home, and was not happy about it.
Isabelle, our neighbour downstairs, texted me to ask if we also had no heat. When I confirmed that we were in the same boat, she said "we are in the middle ages!!!! Bloody Europe. [I] want to move back to north America!!!" (she is from Canada). Sheryl has a different perspective, having many memories of power failures from her childhood on Chicago.
At least the weather is relatively warm, for this time of year. Otherwise I would be much more upset.
One thing that occurred to me is that we have a hot water meter. We pay for hot water by volume: every litre of water from the hot tap costs the same, irrespective of whether it is hot, warm or completely cold. All those luke-warm showers at 4 am, because the heating is shut-down between about 20:00 and 03:30, when I was flying somewhere early, were annoying enough anyway, but the knowledge that I was paying for the privilege made them even more annoying.
3rd October 2016
Today is a public holiday in Germany: Reunification Day, and Sheryl's last day off before going back to work. We decided to go out for a walk in the afternoon. We walked down to the Isar and headed upstream.
While walking by the river, we saw a man in waders fishing. He had a trout on the line, quite a good sized fish, and landed it as we watched. Up to that point I had been reasonably impressed with his technique: he took care to wear the fish out before trying to land it. He then waded onto a spit of shingle to unhook and kill the trout: he picked up a stone and proceeded to club the fish about a dozen times. I was shocked; I used to do quite a bit of angling, and know that it should take only one or two hits to kill a fish by hitting it at the correct spot at the base of the skull, but this guy clearly had no idea what he was doing.
After the angler had finished cruelly mutilating his fish, we carried on upstream and walked as far as the Volksbad; we went into the café there for a drink. I had never been to this café before; it was very nice, though small, with an interesting selection of food, nice wine, and good beer (I had a glass of Unertl Weißbier).
Our plan was to have salad for dinner, for which I was supposed to make bread rolls, but we stayed out too late (it takes a couple of hours to make bread). Instead we decided to go to our local Japanese restaurant (Sushi Cent) for sushi. It was lovely, as usual; there is nothing like going to a place where you are a regular, so that you get looked after extra well.
All in all, a really nice day.
2nd October 2016
As well as the occasional people on the street calling for help, we have another noise nuisance in our part of town. Anyone who lives in our area knows exactly whom I am talking about. There is a person (not even 100% certain if it is a man or a woman, since it dresses as both) who lives in an apartment block on Einsteinstrasse, about half a kilometre from our home, who likes to sing opera, loudly.
He/she is now banned from singing at his/her own apartment (used to sing out the window, so that we and everyone else could hear it down the whole street), so now he/she sings while walking around in the neighbourhood (spreading the "joy" I suppose). Some people like opera, but I do not, and it is made worse by the lack of an orchestral accompaniment, costumes, scenery and the simple fact that he/she is not actually any good.
This amateur opera singer is obviously rather thick-skinned: the singing continues despite all the verbal complaints and insults hurled at the singer on the street. Now, whenever I am at home when I hear the singing, I look for some water to hurl on this source of noise pollution, this audio assault; so far I have never been fast enough that he/she is still in range by the time I have some water to throw.
The strange thing is that I have had no opportunity to berate this singer face to face. He/she seems to know which passers-by are likely to have a go, and keeps quiet until I, and others, have gone past. Also, with the whole "today I am a woman - yesterday I was a man" thing, I typically don't recognise it as the singer until he/she is past.
One day, though!
2nd October 2016
Today, while sitting in our living room, Sheryl was disturbed by noises from the street: someone was calling "Help me!" over and over in German. Sheryl got up to look outside, to find out what was going on; she could not see the source nor the cause of the disturbance, but everyone on the street seemed to be going about their business as if nothing was wrong. A short while later, two policemen ran across the street at the corner of Prinzregentenplatz (right below the police station). Sheryl is not tall enough the see the pavement on our side of the street at that corner (unless she stands on a box), so she still doesn't know who was calling for help, and why, but the calling for help stopped as soon as the police arrived on the scene.
What is worrying is that no-one seemed to be bothered by the calls for help. Passers-by showed more interest once it was all over, posting stuff about it on social media, than they did while it was going on. What if that had been Sheryl on the street, yelling for help? We live in a nice area, right on the border between nice Haidhausen, and posh Bogenhausen (full of houses costing tens of millions, and embassies), and there is a police station (with video surveillance of the street) on the corner, which we can see from our windows. Good luck getting official help so quickly in the dodgier areas of the city; if members of the public are not willing to step in when people need help and when crimes are being committed, there is no hope for civilisation.
25th September 2016
Today Jonathan and Tracy celebrated their 100th: they were both 50 years old this September, and decided to celebrate both birthdays together in one big bash. They organised a brunch at the Alter Wirt in Moosach.
It was a big event: lots of guests, loads of food, and an open bar, all paid for by Jonathan and Tracy. It was great fun. We were able to catch up with old friends, and to make some new ones.
Two of Tracy's students read a nice poem to thank her for being such a great gym teacher.
I took a few photos Unfortunately some are not so good). Click the photo to the right to see the gallery.
23rd September 2016
Today Sheryl and I went to the Oktoberfest again; this time to the Berlitz table organised by Dean, at the Hacker Festzelt. We had had two guests with us: Peter and Georgina, from Prague.
Dean's table is not an official Berlitz table; it is a table with current and previous employees of Berlitz.
This year the Oktoberfest was very quiet, as a lot of people stayed away due to security concerns. This time we had no issues with service and tips: the vouchers for food and drink at the Hacker Festzelt clearly stated that tips were not included, and the waiters explained the situation up-front. We received good, friendly and fast service the whole afternoon.
Afterwards, we went home, and then went out for sushi at the Sushi Cent (close to our apartment). Afterwards, we played "Cards Against Humanity", which Peter and Georgina had never played before, and had a lot of fun. Peter also soundly beat me at Backgammon.
17th September 2016
This evening Sheryl and I went to the Oktoberfest. We had a table (inherited from Andrew), as did Jonathan and Tracy, at the Armbrustschützenzelt (Cross-Bow Shooting Tent).
Overall, we had a great time, as usual. The session was a little shorter than in previous years, since our reservations started later (18:15 instead of 16:00). I was very impressed with Dean's drinking capacity (Dean is my pension investment advisor); this was his first Oktoberfest, but he managed to drink 5 litres of beer, despite not managing to order any food.
There is a photo gallery of the evening's fun here (or click the photo to the right). There are also two videos which I posted on YouTube:
I did have a bit of a shock when getting dressed for the evening: I discovered that the seam in the crotch of my Lederhosen had come unstitched. I only bought them two years ago, so they haven't been worn often. I decided to wear them anyway; I don't think anyone noticed.
We had a little incident later in the evening: Andrew was rather rude to our waitress, although he had very good reason to be upset. He had been trying for a very long time to order food, and was unable to because of our waitress's long absences, and when he finally had an opportunity to order food, was told that it was too late, because the kitchen was now closed. I later found out that the waitress, Susan, was unhappy because we were not tipping in cash at the beginning, while we were paying for our food and drink with the pre-paid vouchers (which include a tip - it clearly states on the vouchers that you should not tip, because there is a tear-off tip voucher for the waitress). She said that she expected a cash tip too, and when she didn't get any, gave priority to other more gullible tables. I know for a fact, however, that several people, myself included, ordered food which cost less than the value of the food vouchers, and Susan pocketed the difference, and that several others ordered food which cost more than the value of the vouchers, supplementing with cash plus a good cash tip, so I don't think that Susan ended the evening poor.
If we had got service, we would have ordered much more beer, and after the vouchers were spent, would have tipped generously, as always. Susan's attempt at blackmail had the result of reducing our fun, reducing her total tips, reduced the amount of money that the Armbrustschützenzelt made from us, and also of pushing Andrew over the edge (security were called, but a quiet word with them smoothed things over, and Andrew was not expelled from the tent). We were all very apologetic about the trouble, and gave additional tips as a result, but not to Susan (her colleague Marion got the apology money instead). I do hope that we do not see Susan there next year, but if we do, I really hope her attitude has improved.
11th September 2016
Yesterday Sheryl and I went to the After-Work Tram Wies'n (Oktoberfest) Warm-Up, with Karl.
I haven't been on the After-Work Tram for 2 or 3 years, although I think Sheryl may have been more recently. Karl used to go almost every month, but also hasn't been recently.
We were all very restrained and well behaved this time: we made sure that we ate before boarding the tram; Karl and I drank Radler (shandy) for part of the evening; and we drank slowly.
The trip started at about 7 pm, and we finished at midnight. 5 hours is a long time to do just one thing: drink. Leaving part-way through trip is technically feasible (when the tram stops for a comfort-break) but far from easy, since the stops are always far from the centre of the city. The music is too loud for conversation to be easy. There is much more variety in 5 hours spent at the Oktoberfest.
2nd September 2016
Another day of celebrating my birthday, this time by going out to dinner at the Rusticana with Marcus and Isabelle. All of us had filet steak, which was fantastic, although Sheryl and I both thought that the tomato and onion salad wasn't quite a excellent as usual.
After dinner we went in search of another drink. We found one bar where people were packed in like sardines; another that had just closed, and finally ended up at a pavement table at an Italian bar, although for our second round we were required to move inside.
1st September 2016
Today is my birthday.
The first order of business was to open my main present from Sheryl; Active Speakers (speakers with built-in amplifiers) to use with my computer. I discovered that the package didn't include the headphone cable to connect from computer to speakers, and made a quick trip to Media Markt to buy one. I then listened to music the rest of the day while doing other stuff (mostly reading and responding to birthday wished from friends - thank you everyone).
Sheryl decided that it was unfair to make me cook on my birthday, so we went out to L'Angolo della Pizza for dinner, which was very good, as usual.
When we got home, I opened my other present: a bottle of Jameson Special Edition whiskey, which needed to be sampled (and it was lovely).
21st August 2016
Last night Klaus came to dinner. It was nice to see him without any drama (last time we went with Klaus to an Italian restaurant, and Sheryl had a flare-up of her allergies, and ended up in hospital).
This time we ate at home, without any medical complications, and had dim sum and Peking duck.
Klaus had one up on us: he has eaten Peking duck in Peking (Beijing).
19th August 2016
Yesterday Sheryl and I went to the Star Wars Identities exhibition.
The exhibition is billed as a way find out what kind of person you would be in the Star Wars universe, but it is a bit of a scam. You go through various stations, answering questions such as which Star Wars character is your role model, who is your friend (who did you attend the exhibition with), what your main personality traits are, and what you feel would be your ideal role in the Star Wars universe (senator, Jedi, bounty hunter, etc.). All this information is then packaged and fed back to you, pretty much unprocessed and unchanged.
The exhibition took quite a while; afterwards we had a light lunch by the lake in the Olympiapark (which was disgusting - not going to be eating there again).
Today our plan was to go to Andechs for a nice Bavarian lunch, since the weather forecast was "sunny and warm". Today, however, it is raining, so I guess we will have to go to Andechs another time. The weather forecast for Munich is "mostly cloudy", whereas the forecast for Au-Haidhausen (the part of Munich where we live) is sunny; none of the forecasts seem to have noticed that it is raining!
We had some bulky recycling to do, which we did before going to breakfast at a place around the corner: Konditorei Bäckerei Chocolatte. It always seems to be busy, so we thought it must be good; we were wrong. We can't wait for the Saphir (the best crossants that I have ever eaten) to re-open after their summer vacation.
11th August 2016
Today we went to see the new
Jason Bourne movie.
The movie was very good, although maybe not quite as good as the first one. Matt Damon is really good in the title role. He had said that he wouldn't do another Bourne movie; I am glad he changed his mind, although now I think it is time to put the story to bed.
6th August 2016
Sheryl and I saw this "special" scooter, while walking to the shops today. I just cannot fathom what went through the rider's mind, as that doesn't look more comfortable nor safer that the original design. What is especially bizarre is that the chair looks exactly the same as the ones I had on my balcony in Oslo.
This evening Andrew came for dinner. It was nice to see him again after so long (he was in England for a year, and then I have been working away in Oslo since before he returned). We had lots of news to catch up on, in both directions.
I cooked a Chicken Redang (a curry using coconut milk, from Malaysia), which turned out well. Sheryl insisted on papadums as starter, and we had mango sorbet with vodka and berries for dessert.
5th August 2016
Today we went to see the new Star Trek movie (Star Trek Beyond).
While we were waiting in the café at the cinema, the Rusticana restaurant phoned about our ribs order from the day before: it had finally popped out of their system, and they were confused about when it was for.
The movie was excellent, and I would happily watch it again.
At the Cinema (Nymphenburgerstrasse) Sheryl saw this sign (right) in the ladies toilet. I therefore assume that they have had some "incidents".
After the movie we went for dinner the Le Refuge, a supposed French restaurant in Schwabing. We have been searching for a good French restaurant since La Bouille closed down; we are still searching. My rabbit terrine was OK, but Sheryl wasn't impressed with her snails. Her entrecôte and my veal steak were both fatty, gristly and flavourless, as were most of the vegetables. The wine (a Bordeaux) was the only highlight of the evening. I don't think we will be visiting again.
4th August 2016
Tonight for dinner we planned salad with spare-ribs from the Rusticana Restaurant (the best ribs ever, and just down the road from home).
We were both very hungry, having skipped lunch, and had been very organised to ensure that dinner was quick: I made the salad before we went to collect the ribs, which were pre-ordered in the web for a specified time. WE were therefore less than pleased to find that the Rusticana knew nothing about our order, meaning a wait of about 30 minutes.
Despite the logistical problems, the dinner was excellent (although extremely messy).
4th August 2016
Just before I finished my time in Oslo, my server failed: no web-site, no other web-based services, and no media server.
One of my first jobs was to fix it; but this entailed buying a new PC and transferring all the disc from the old server.
The web-server was finally back in service on Thursday the 4th of August.
I am really please with my new PC. It is very fast and so quiet that I hardly know it is running.
7th July 2016
Last night I took these two photos from my balcony in Oslo: cloud and rain illuminated by the sunset. These are the actual colours; no editing or colour enhancements.
5th July 2016
I just returned to Oslo after a long weekend home in Munich. It was so nice to be home for a few days, and to sleep in my own bed (the bed in my Oslo apartment is so uncomfortable, and I miss my orthopedic pillow).
Sheryl asked me last week whether I wanted to meet any friends over the weekend, and if I wanted her to book any restaurants. I told her that I just wanted to chill at home, and to cook; that must be why we ended up eating at an Italian restaurant one evening, and our local sushi place the next.
Saturday was the evening when we went to the Italian, which also happened to be when Germany played Italy in the European Football Championships. It turned out to be a very good place to watch the football. We really noticed the difference between the locals and the Italian: the Germans would clap for about 3 seconds when something good happened; the Italians went wild!
On Sunday we walked into town to go to der Verϋkte Eismacher (the crazy ice-cream maker); they have an amazing selection of bizarre flavours. It was good.
On Monday I flew back to Oslo. I don’t know how, but my flight was business class (both ways, confirmed in the booking, so not a free upgrade due to overselling); it cost only €30 more than my next round trip, which is economy. It was very nice to fly business class, especially as we sat at the gate for an hour before departing because of air traffic problems in Oslo (the ATC radar had failed!).
28th May 2016
Today I had a lot to get done: shopping for groceries and wine, because I had invited dinner guests for the evening, and a leaving card for Kiran, who is leaving the project/company at the end of the month (which took hours as none of the shops had large format cards), plus all the usual weekend stuff like laundry.
While downtown I saw two marching bands, and a Canadian Busker called Mathew Lennox, and took some videos which I was going to embedd here, but the embedding code for YouTube seems not to be working, so here are links which open in another window:
20th May 2016
Sheryl is sick again (another swollen lip), and is currently waiting at the Skin and Allergy Clinic to see a doctor. She is rather stressed about it, as she is due to fly home to visit her family tomorrow. She will be so upset if she is not able to travel, but at least she has lots of travel insurance.
I am also sick. I came down with a bout of flu on Wednesday. Now it has progressed into an ear infection. I did not go into the office on Thursday, and am not going today either.
8th May 2016
Over the last few weeks I have been getting a lot of pressure from my boss about my team's working hours and time-keeping.
I typically work 9 to 10 hours per day, and my team mostly work similar hours, despite only being paid for 8 hours per day. Several of us are also working some days at weekends and public holidays (I am in the office right now, on Sunday, as I post this). Last week I collected detailed data on working hours: arrival times, leaving times, break times, and time worked when out of the office. The data showed that we were indeed all working the extra hours, even though last week, many of my team flew home for the weekend, and therefore left early on Friday.
I anonymised this data and gave it to my boss. I felt that it proved my point that we were all working more than hard enough, he felt that it proved his point that we weren't. I guess there is a serious mismatch of expectations.
I also explained to my boss that his recent attempts to push my team to work longer hours had actually had the opposite result, as he had upset and demotivated everyone. I told him that he was not a good people manager, and should leave that role to me. He expressed surprise: apparently, people always tell him that he is an excellent people manager.
I have also explained to him many times that my policy is to work smarter, not harder; I am not even sure that he knows what I mean.
Within my team, my boss is known as "Mr. three and a half days a week" because he flies home very weekend, leaving early on Friday, and travelling back on Mondays, so that he is never in the office on Mondays. Admittedly he works when he is at home and travelling, but even so, it is a bit rich to have him criticise us for our time-keeping and commitment to the project: I and my non-Norwegian consultants usually travel home only once per month, and so are usually in the office Monday to Friday, all day.
Within last last year, 3 project managers working for my boss have resigned, all citing his micro-management (i.e. exactly what he has been doing in trying to get my team to work longer hours) as part of the reason. This week I heard that another project manager is also leaving. People management skills, my arse!
4th May 2016
It was not such a great weekend for Sheryl and myself.
I arrived home from Oslo on Friday, but my flight was delayed, meaning that I got in about 11pm. Sheryl had already eaten; she couldn't hold off long enough to wait for me.
On Saturday Sheryl had to work, so I had some free time. I got my hair cut, bought some toiletries that I needed to take with me to Oslo, and worked on sorting out my new laptop. In the evening we had a reservation at an Italian restaurant, to meet Klaus. Dinner was very nice, and it was great to see Klaus again.
During dinner, Sheryl started having an allergic attack: her lip swelled up. After we went home, it started to spread to her throat, so in the end we went to the hospital (she already had a bag packed, just in case she needed to go into hospital).
The hospital decided that she needed to have intravenous cortisone, so she has to stay until Thursday. In addition, she has had X-rays of her stomach and lungs. At least, now that she is getting treatment, she is feeling much better, and her swelling has gone down.
Our next weekend together is the second weekend in June. Hopefully that will work out better than this weekend.
On the plus side, at least my new laptop, which I bought more than a month ago, is now working properly. I installed Ubuntu Linux. With versions 12.04 and 14.10, I had no sound, HDMI or WiFi; version 15.04 crashes on my laptop. Finally, version 16.04 is available; I upgraded to 16.04 and now everything works. Next, I need to set up a Windows virtual machine, and install MS-Office, but that won't happen until I have time.
27th April 2016
Today Sheryl had an appointment at the allergy clinic. As usual, she had to wait over an hour to see a doctor.
What was even worse was that the doctor (someone she hadn't seen before) did not read her file, nor the form that she was asked to complete and bring with her.
Sheryl was told to keep taking the tablets that another doctor at the same clinic told her to stop taking two weeks ago.
This all just reinforces our opinion, based on previous dealings with this clinic, that the doctors there are overloaded and are cutting corners. How can they prescribe medication without even reading a patient’s file; all sorts of things could go wrong?
25th April 2016
On Saturday evening I had a shock, as did all the people staying at the Radisson Blu Scandinavia Hotel; we were all told that the hotel was closing on Sunday due to a strike.
All guests were told that the hotel would close at midday on Sunday, and everyone had to check out by then. Breakfast was provided from 07:00 to 08:00, at which point all the breakfast staff left. The reception staff were very helpful in booking alternative accommodation for all guests, although they did not succeed in contacting all guests who were due to check in on Sunday, including some of my colleagues.
The staff union is in dispute with a large number of hotels about pay, and negotiations have not made much progress. The strike affects at least two Radisson Blu hotels, and several others, and is spreading. The last hotel strike, more than 10 years ago, lasted 5 weeks!
My new hotel is outside of Oslo. There are a few apartment buildings, a couple of furniture stores, a filling station, a McDonalds, and a train station. The choices for dinner are therefore a sandwich or hotdog from the gas station, McD, or the hotel restaurant. I will be very happy when the Scandinavia reopens.
17th April 2016
It's been a while since I posted anything, for which I apologise. I have been very busy at work, sick on and off, and the software I use to upload new pages keeps failing (someone is regularly trying to hack my server, which keeps crashing it).
Last night Samih, Renato and I went for dinner at the Café Christiana; the second time in 3 days. I had been looking forward to my venison steak all day, and was very disappointed to discover that it was no longer on the menu (maybe it is not the season for venison). I think Renato was also a little disappointed. He convinced Samih and I to share a bottle of white wine, but then couldn't find one on the menu that was any good.
Spring has started in Oslo. Leaves and flowers are starting to appear, and the birds are much more in evidence. There is still a pile of ice at the foot of the palace steps, where they used snow-blowers to create a snow fun-park in the winter, but that will be melted in a couple more days.
The pressure at work is starting to effect people's behaviour. On Thursday, in a meeting, my boss behaved thoroughly out of order in response to my request to add something to the risk list. Well, here's an idea: if you want to motivate people to bring the project in on time, unfounded insults (in this case, to me and my team) are not the way to go. I do my job, and expect and require that my boss does his, and some unexpected bad news (only unexpected because the first escalation was forgotten or ignored) is no excuse to descend to rudeness.
2nd March 2016
Last night I met up with Marcus, a friend and ex-colleague from my time at Vodafone in Düsseldorf. It is ages since I saw him.
We met at the Café Christiana (web-site only in Norwegian) in central Oslo. We had a great talk, catching up on each other's news.
Marcus was driving, so had to stick to alcohol-free beer. I had a few glasses of Leffe Bruin: one of my favourite beers.
Marcus told me that he had been in Norway for 7 years. He has gone native to some extent, after all that time.
2nd March 2016
Yesterday evening I tried to pay my hotel bill for February (covering the period from the 22nd of February to the 1st of March) at the Radisson Blu Scandinavia, so that I could get a receipt for my February expense claim. I was not able to, because my credit card was declined.
The thing is, the hotel authorises, but doesn't execute, charges against guests' credit cards, as a payment guarantee. Credit card companies adjust the available balance according to actual charges plus such authorised but not executed charges. The hotel increments the amount authorised as your stay progresses and charges mount. If this guarantee authorisation fails, they complain. They didn't complain recently, so I am sure that there are sufficient funds to cover the charges (I also checked my balance earlier that day, and my calculations also show that I have sufficient funds). I realised that the reason was that they didn't cancel the pre-authorised amount before I attempted to pay the bill (or they did, and the credit card company didn't process the cancellation fast enough, which seems less likely).
What all this means is that, in order to pay my bill, I needed to have enough available credit to pay the bill twice: once for the actual bill, and once for the pre-authorised guarantee. The receptionist said that she understood this, but I am not sure that she did, and certainly wasn't able to fix the problem.
The upshot is that I will not be able to file my February expense claim until I get more funds in my account, which means that the payment of that claim will also be delayed. I am not very happy with the hotel right now.
10th February 2016
This evening Sheryl flew back home to Munich. I had to work part of two of the days that she was here, but still managed to spend quite a bit of time with her.
Today we went to the Viking Ship Museum, which was good but could have been so much better. There are plans to enlarge the museum to house more ships and other exhibits, so maybe it will improve soon.
Yesterday Sheryl went to see the Opera House, which she seemed to enjoy (although the gift shop was closed), and got some great photos. In the evening we went for dinner at the Brasserie France and had a fantastic dinner.
On Monday she went to the National Gallery, which she enjoyed more than she had expected, even though it is very small. In the evening we went to the Mares restaurant (web-site only in Norwegian) for dinner. The food and service were excellent, although the menu was small, so one wouldn't want to go there too often.
Getting into the flat back in Munich was a bit of a drama for Sheryl. The lock for the door to the building was changed while she was away, due to some people breaking in and trying to steal the kids' pushchairs that are parked in the hallway. She had to get new keys from one of our neighbours; these are only temporary keys, and will be replaced again in a week or two.
8th February 2016
Sheryl arrived in Oslo on Friday evening; she cleared luggage at about 10:00. We were both hungry, neither of us having had dinner, and considered eating at the airport, but the choices are pretty limited. We managed to get into town, and into the Ophelia (web-site in Norwegian), just in time before the kitchen closed (being a regular helped with that).
Sunday we went to the Vigeland Park (link - also known as Frogner Park), a park filled with hundreds of sculptures by Gustav Vigeland. It is well worth a visit, especially if you like sculpture, as we both do. It is also worth going into the museum (not the city museum, but the Vigeland Museum), where you can see the models (many are full sized) from which many of the sculptures were made; you can get closer to these models than some of the actual sculptures, and from different viewpoints, and thus get a better view. The weather was horrible: wet and dark; not good for photography.
In the evening we went to Lorry, which is rather like a German beer hall. Sheryl had Reindeer burgers, and I had venison filet. We enjoyed dinner, and the waiter was very entertaining.
Today, Monday, I am at the office, even though I requested vacation, which was approved. I have done all the essential tasks for today, so I am hoping to get out of here shortly (it is currently 13:15). Tomorrow I have a couple of meetings that I have to attend, so I will be here again for at least part of the day.
31st January 2016
Today I flew back from Munich to Oslo. This time my flight was with KLM, via Amsterdam.
Having lived in the Netherlands, I have been through Amsterdam Schiphol many times, and always found it to be a nice airport. This time, however, I was not quite so impressed. I had about an hour and 20 minutes spare, and not far to walk between gates, so I decided to look for some lunch. I was sadly disappointed: the lunch selection at the several locations I tried was dire, and the choice of beer even worse (Heineken, or Amstel alcohol-free). In the end I passed on lunch and a drink, and instead had a beer on the plane (again Heineken - the Microsoft of beers - the victory of marketing over quality!).
29th January 2016
This evening I flew back from Oslo to Munich for the weekend. I travelled with SAS, with a short layover in Copenhagen.
SAS is not the same airline as in days of old, but then which airline is? Nowadays tea and coffee are free on the flight, but nothing else is (although I didn't have to pay to check-in luggage).
SAS, like most airlines, prefer payment for snack and refreshments by credit card (saves them the hassle of dealing with change, and multiple currencies). When I tried to pay with my main Master Card, they told me (after several failed attempts by two stewardesses) that they didn't accept Master Card, and did I have another card. I said I did, but that was also a Master Card (my Lufthansa credit card – SAS' own credit card is also a Master Card); but in fact the Lufthansa card worked fine. So, nothing to do with my first card being a Master Card; why did they have to lie to me about the reason?
18th January 2016
This weekend Sheryl visited me in Oslo: she managed to find a cheap flight from Munich.
The weather was very cold throughout the weekend, which interfered a little with our sightseeing.
On Saturday we went to the "Polar Ship Fram" museum. The Fram was the ship that Amundsen sailed to Antarctica for his expedition in which he was the first to reach the South Pole (beating the ill-fated Shackleton expedition by about 2 months). The ship was also used by Amundsen and Nansen in various North Polar expeditions. The museum was interesting, and well organised, with signs in English and Norwegian; more of the ship was accessible to visitors than I had expected.
On Saturday night we went to dinner at the Brasserie France, a French restaurant in downtown Oslo, which was recommended by a colleague. Dinner was excellent: gorgeous food, quality wines (expensive, as always in Norway) and great service. I would definitely like to go there again.
On Sunday we went to the Folk Museum, which is actually not far from the Fram museum which we visited on Saturday. That area seems to hold about half the museums in Oslo. Quite a few of the exhibits were closed for winter. Also, a lot of the things to see (buildings) can only be seen from outside, and it was too cold to spend much time on outdoor sightseeing. Parts of the museum were good; parts (like the section on the negotiation of the Norwegian constitution) were a little dull.
We had sunshine most of the weekend: great weather for taking photographs. The problem was that, although Sheryl brought her camera, she brought 2 empty batteries (the main, and the spare were completely dead, and she forgot the charger – the batteries are not standard, but special for that camera), so we only have photos taken with our mobile phones.
All in all, a good weekend, and there are still some things to see (and loads to photgraph!) when she returns in early February.
15th January 2016
Yesterday was clearly not a day for good news. On top of the news about the IS attacks in Jakarta, it was announced that Alan Rickman died.
He will be sadly missed. He was one of my favourite actors: tremendously versatile, and very funny.
They say that bad news come in threes. We have had the death of David Bowie, then Alan Rickman and the attacks in Jakarta, so hopefully we have had our quota for a while.
15th January 2016
I was very shocked to read, yesterday, about the terrorist attacks in Jakarta. I hope all my friends there are unhurt, and remain so.
As far as I can tell from the news stories, the attack was not on the Starbucks that I used, near the office, but in a different part of town, away from the office, the apartment hotel and the shopping malls that I used.
The Indonesian police go to great lengths to prevent terrorist attacks. In addition to a very strong police presence, most malls and hotels have private security personnel. Even so, there is always a risk, mostly, it seems, at American-owned businesses.
2nd January 2016
Today I flew back to Oslo, for my project. I wanted to fly on Sunday, but there were no good flight-times available.
This time I flew Norwegian Air. They are are real bucket-shop airline. The first clue is the location of their check-in desks in Munich airport: zone Z, with EasyJet, TUI and the like.
The aircraft was modern (a Boeing 737-800), but very cramped. Like with all budget airlines who charge most passengers for checked luggage, there was a rush for space in the overhead lockers; I was lucky that I boarded relatively early, and that I had checked my luggage (this time luggage was included in my Expedia ticket - or the check-in clerk made a mistake in not charging me), and so only had my jacket and laptop bag to stow on-board.
Norwegian have a policy of not including most extras in the price of the ticket, in order to keep prices low. That translates to charges for all drinks, snacks and food (as well as the luggage charge). I needed lunch, having already been travelling for close to 3 hours when I boarded for a 90 minute flight, so I ordered a beer and a sandwich (I thought that was a safe option - I was wrong). The sandwich was terrible; if it had been free I might have been less upset, but as I paid for it, I had expectations of a reasonable quality and freshness, which were far from met. Then there was the beer: Heineken. I hate Heineken, as do most Dutch people that I know (they think that Heineken gives their country a bad name - which is arguable).
The odd thing is that my "all corners cut" flight deal was not noticeably cheaper that my December flights (when I flew Swiss and Lufthansa), and the cost savings came not from Norwegian, but from the return flight with SAS.
1st January 2016
Happy New Year to all my friends and family.
The previous year we just went down to Prinzregentenplatz (30 feet from the door) for the fireworks, and were seriously disappointed (previous years there had always been excellent fireworks at Prinzregentenplatz, even though there is never an organised professional display), so this year we decided to go to the Friedensengel (about a 10 minute walk).
We got almost as far as the Friedensengel, and stopped opposite the Russian embassy. The fireworks, although still amateur, we quite good. The night was very foggy, and became much worse with all the smoke from the fireworks. We drank some prosecco, lit some sparklers, fired-off some "party poppers", and watched the display.
I like fireworks, and the Germans are mad for them (in contrast, Sheryl's family in Chicago cannot even buy them legally!), but I do realise that they are not very environmentally friendly, with all the burning, sulphur fumes and garbage that is created. I suspect that it won't be too many years before they are largely outlawed in order to save the planet.
At least this year we were not inundated with New Year's greetings by SMS and WhatsApp.
We read on the news, after getting back home, that the Munich police had issued a terror alert: two of the major railway stations had been closed, and people were advised to avoid crowds. It seems that nothing actually happened, though.
30th December 2015
Today we went on a day trip to Salzburg. We got a Bayernkarte (Bavarian Ticket), which is cheap, and covers the trip to Salzburg.
Sheryl had a plan for us to catch the first train that was allowed for the Bayernkarte, at 09:04 from the Ostbahnhof. The first problem with her plan was her snoozing her alarm without waking up, for about 40 minutes; this apparently gave us very little time to get out of the house and to the station, but we nevertheless managed it. We arrived at the Ostbahnhof with about 40 minutes to spare! I was a little annoyed.
Salzburg was fairly cold that day, with a thin layer of ice on the ponds, but sunny. We went through the gardens, only to find most of it closed for the winter (see the photo), which was a shame as there are nice sculptures even when there are no flowers.
This time we actually went up to the castle. Sheryl and I went on the funicular railway, and Eleanor and Raymond walked. As a result of the different modes of transport, we ended up seeing totally different parts of the castle.
Before going up to the castle, we had lunch, which was fairly lack-lustre. We also bought a couple of supplies for the kitchen.
One thing that I had forgotten about was that there are now identity checks for travel from Austria to Germany (because of the migrant crisis), so we were asked to show passports before boarding the train.Raymond took his camera to Salzburg and took a fair few photos; he has promised to send me copies once he has cleaned them up a bit; I will then add the to the photo-gallery (click any of the thumbnail photos in this post to navigate to the photo-gallery).
All in all, a good day.
29th December 2015
Today we went bowling at Olympia Bowling. Sheryl bought a voucher on GroupOn a few weeks ago, for 2 hours of bowling plus a finger-food platter.
I think almost everyone there for bowling also had a GroupOn voucher, as they all had the platter of dreadful greasy food (I am really surprised no-one got food poisoning).
The bowling was good fun. None of us had been bowling for quite a while, so we were all rubbish. Eleanor took a couple of videos; sadly they are rubbish, so I won't post them here.
26th December 2015
This morning, as soon as I had my morning coffee in my hand, I moved my laptop into the lounge to call my family. Everyone was supposed to be at my sister Janet's for a Boxing Day dinner. It was about 09:10 when I called, so about 21:10 in New Zealand. Janet was already in bed, as the guests had all gone home already. I guess I will have to call the others another day.
This evening we (Eleanor, Raymond, Sheryl and I) went to dinner at Manu's.
We got an invitation while we were out at the cinema on the 23rd, to ask whether we wanted to go for dinner on the 24th! Unfortunately it was way too short notice, so we agreed to go instead on Boxing Day. Oliver was there as well: he has lost a lot of weight since we saw him last.
Dinner was lovely: lobster soup, followed by murgh pallak and a chicken curry, accompanied by some excellent red wine.
Manu, Oliver and I finished off the bottle of Talisker whisky (there was only a little left), and had to start on the Johnny Walker, so I will need to buy another bottle of real whisky for Manu when I have the chance.
25th December 2015
Merry Christmas to all of you!
Today, being Christmas Day, we opened our presents, and performed our duties by eating way too much unhealthy food, and drinking too much alcohol (except for Raymond, who avoids alcohol because it doesn't agree with him).
Of course, the Germans eat Christmas dinner and open presents on the 24th December, but we continue to celebrate the Anglo-American way, despite living in Germany (the Germans also tell their kids that presents on 24th are brought by the baby Jesus, because Santa Claus is actually St. Nicholas, who brings gifts on the 6th of December).
This year, as usual, I cooked goose, with a small variation: it was stuffed with a pheasant lots of stuffing, rather than a chicken, a pigeon and less stuffing. Eleanor made some really amazing chocolate desserts. There are also some individual Christmas puddings, which the ladies don't like, but Raymond and I are saving them until we have more appetite.
Later, we chatted to my son Brendan and his wife Lauren in Texas; Sheryl also called her family in Chicago. I will try calling the New Zealand Fosberrys tomorrow morning.
23rd December 2015
Today we all went to see the new Star Wars movie: "The Force Awakens".
Don't worry: there are no spoilers here.
We all enjoyed the film. It was in 3D; like most movies, 3D doesn't really seem to add much to the experience.
I thought that the movie was quite well made. I didn't notice any new bad science, although they repeated some from the original (#4) film: using "parsec" as a unit of time, when it is in fact a measure of distance.
There were the usual slew of aliens who looked like humans in masks, and others looking like escapees from The Muppets, but the three alien monsters on board the freighter were excellent.
I am sure that I will have no problem watching it again, which I will probably do at least just before the next Star Wars film is released, if not sooner.
22nd December 2015
Today Eleanor and Raymond did some important preparatory work: they started re-watching the older Star Wars movies (4, 5 & 6), before going to see the new "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" tomorrow.
In the evening we went to the Rusticana for an excellent steak and ribs dinner (Sheryl had ribs; the rest of us had steak). It was, as usual, excellent. Sheryl brought half of her ribs home in a doggie-bag; she expects them to still be in the fridge when she gets home on Wednesday (fat chance)!
Almost all of the grocery shopping and present shopping is done. I need to get Sheryl one more gift (something she practically ordered me to get her); I also have some wrapping to do. We also need to buy a few more bottles of wine. Then we are all set; good thing, as here in Germany the shops close by 14:00 (some even at mid-day) on the 24th.
21st December 2015
Eleanor (my daughter) and Raymond arrived this evening. Sheryl and I went to the airport to collect them.
By the time we had cooked and eaten dinner, it was late, and everyone started heading to bed.
19th December 2015
Last night I got back from Oslo (at about 10 pm). It was so nice to be back home.
I had to pay again for my luggage (but SAS were cheaper than Lufthansa in that respect). It was very busy at the airport, and very christmassy. The flight home was at least direct, and therefore relatively quick; despite leaving a little late, we arrived in Munich 15 minutes early.
By the time that I left the office (mid-afternoon) the place was almost empty. Many people started their Christmas and New Year holidays on Friday, heading home to various countries or to family in Norway.
During my 2 weeks so far working at ICE.Net, I have gone from not knowing for sure what my job was and to whom I reported, to knowing, to discovering that there was more work that I hadn't been told about, being told that my boss was resigning (not my fault!), and then being told that the extra work (which I had started to plan) was not after all in my scope. It is certainly not boring.
One of the things that I needed to do after my return to Munich was to fix a problem on my server, which prevented me from updating this site while away from home. That is now fixed, and I will be able to add new pages without problem when I am back in Oslo.
7th December 2015
I wasn't awfully impressed with my flight yesterday, from Munich to Oslo, booked through Expedia.
When I arrived at the airport, I tried to get my boarding pass from the self-service machine, without success, even with help from a Lufthansa staff member. I had to check in at a counter. The lady at the counter also had great difficulty finding my flight. Then she informed me that the ticket did not cover luggage (there is not clearly stated on my ticket confirmation email), and I needed to pay €30 for my suitcase; she wrote information about the luggage charge on the stub of my boarding pass, and destroyed the main part of my boarding pass. I then went to the ticket desk to pay the charge; the ticket desk needed to re-issue my boarding pass, but guess what, they couldn't find my ticket/reservation. The whole process took quite a while.
The flight was long: a flight to Zurich, hanging around for nearly two hours (the second flight was delayed), and two and a half hours to Oslo.
7th December 2015
Today Sheryl was released from hospital. She went to the Skin and Allergy clinic on Wednesday after suffering from gradually worsening allergy problems for more than a week. The doctor insisted on keeping her in hospital, for treatment and observation, until today. Even now, she has a course of tablets to take (at least better than the IVs in hospital).
Sadly, I was not able to collect her, nor even to be there when she got home. Yesterday I flew to Oslo (Norway) to start my new project. I realised last night that I did not know the surnames of any of the contacts at the end-client (they only introduced themselves with their first names during the interviews, and I had nothing by email about their names), so I did not know for whom to ask at reception. I called my agent, who provided a list of names, none of whom were in the office this morning. Eventually someone collected me from reception, and installed me at a desk. I still do not know who my boss is, but at least my ID card and canteen card are now ready for collection.
I had forgotten how expensive Scandinavia is: food, drinks, taxis; everything is pricey here. I certainly won't be doing any fancy dining until I get my first month's fees.
22nd November 2015
Today winter has really started in Munich. Last night temperatures went down to 0°C and are not forecast to rise above 2°C again until Sunday next week. The snow has also started: only light snow flurries so far, which are not settling, with the same expected on and off for the next week.
I suspect that some of the refugees from Syria and Africa may be starting to question their decision to come to Germany, now that the weather is colder. Just wait until the real cold weather begins!
15th November 2015
Yesterday we gave a dinner party: Markus and Isabelle from downstairs, and Jonathan and Tracy, attended.
We have been watching a lot of cooking shows recently, and one ("The Worst Cooks in America") gave me the idea of cooking Roulade: mine were stuffed with onion, sausage meat, bacon, breadcrumbs, green beans, fresh figs and truffle oil. They were braised for almost two hours, so were very tender. With the roulade I served a butternut squash risotto; I noticed several people at the table cautiously taking a tiny portion, expecting not to like it, and then coming back for more (three more much larger portions, in the case of one guest). In the end, the risotto dish was all but empty.
My plan for dessert was a bread and butter pudding (recipe here, example - not mine - of how it looks, here), an English classic originally meant to be made with stale left-over bread. Sheryl insisted that the bread and butter pudding was simply too filling, after a fairly heavy main course; in the end we compromised by giving people a choice: bread and butter pudding or mango and raspberry ice-cream topped with fresh raspberries. All the ice-cream and raspberries are still in the freezer and the fridge, as everyone wanted bread and butter pudding.
After the dessert (of which every scrap was eaten) we managed some (actually quite a lot of) cheese and crackers. I had bought cheese, and Jonathan also brought several cheeses with him: the most popular cheese was a very mature (18 month) Gouda.
Both groups of guests brought wine, so we experimented: no two bottles the same. Some were good; some were only OK.
13th November 2015
I spent most of yesterday, and this morning, battling to get my server working again. On Thursday I upgraded the operating system on my main server, and several things got broken by the upgrade.
The main problem is that Canonical, who supply Ubuntu Linux, or their software suppliers, decided to make a number of applications obsolete, including my firewall program, Firestarter. That meant that I had firewall functionality only with the default settings, so my web-site and all the local services that we use from our Windows machines (file sharing, printing, etc.) didn't work.
Linux comes with built-in firewall functionality, but it is difficult to configure from the command-line interface. There used to be various GUI firewall front-ends to help set up the firewall, but all of these seem to now be obsolete. The only alternative that I had was to use a command-line program called ufw.
Since my networking set-up is complex, and the documentation for the ufw command is not very comprehensive, it took a great deal trial and error to get everything working. This was made worse by the fact that another command to restart services (which I use in a start-up script) was also made obsolete, so that when I tried to test my many attempts to apply the right firewall settings, some were not working even with the correct settings.
In addition to all the above, the program that I am using to edit this news item also has a bug. It starts, and then closes about half a second later. This bug has been widely reported, and has apparently been fixed, but the fixed version is not available for download from the software repository. I am using a very nasty work-around to run this editor, so I hope this issue is solved soon.
I am not happy with the Ubuntu Linux people right now. I shall certainly be much more cautious the next time I do an upgrade.
13th November 2015
Yesterday was Sheryl's birthday. She baked two cakes to take to work: one for her colleagues and one for the students in her kindergarten class. I helped her carry them to school in the morning. At the end of the day, every scrap of both cakes was gone, and Sheryl only got a thin sliver of her cake, so I guess they were successful.
After Sheryl finished work, we had planned to go to see the new James Bond movie: Spectre. After that we had dinner reservations. When I was buying the movie tickets we were told that the movie was starting 20 minutes later than we had expected, so Sheryl had to phone the restaurant to postpone our reservation.
The movie was very good: a typical James Bond film. We enjoyed it greatly.
We made it to the restaurant, L'Angolo della Pizza, just in time at 8 pm. The restaurant is very good, and is always busy, so you need to reserve a table. We shared a beef carpaccio, and then had a pasta quattro formaggi and a spicy salami pizza, which we also shared. Everything was excellent.
When we got home, it was time for Sheryl to open her presents. I had to drag her out of bed, where she had flaked out, for the presents.
24th October 2015
Today we went to see The Martian, the movie with Matt Damon, at the Cinema (on Nymphenburgerstrasse). It was pretty good (as are most films with Matt Damon). After making The Martian and Interstellar, Matt Damon must be thoroughly sick of acting in a space-suit. The movie itself is well made and well acted. The science and technology is also very accurate.
After the movie was finished, we went to the Taj Mahal for dinner. It is so nice to go to a restaurant where they know your name and treat you so well.
23rd October 2015
Today we went to the Auer Dult (this a big market, held 3 times a year in the part of Munich where we live). You can get all sorts of stuff there: kitchen stuff, clothes, especially Trachtenmode, antiques, food and general household goods.
We bought some new wine stoppers. The main thing that Sheryl wanted to buy was some cookie-cutters for the kindergarten, but we couldn't find exactly what she wanted.
While there we had some lunch: a spicy sausage in a bun for me, and a sausage with curry sauce (curry wurst) for Sheryl. Lunch was very tasty, and lined our stomachs for what came next.
After the Auer Dult, we headed off to the Praterinsel for a wine tasting. Sheryl had been careful to choose one which wasn't just for German wines (we are not great fans of German wine), but nevertheless most of the vendors were German. We found a couple of wines that we liked, but the prices were not great and the vendors were not local; there are better wines at better prices at our local supermarket. There were a lot of German and Austrian wines at the tasting, made with the Zweigelt grape, which we both agree we really do not like.
We really noticed the difference in taste. The German visitors to the tasting were virtually all trying white wines, whilst we were mainly interested in reds (we also tried a few rosés, but not a single white).
19th October 2015
Today we had a busy day. Sheryl has the week off work, using up vacation from last year's vacation allowance, due to a holiday that we had to cancel because she was sick.
In the morning we went to the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the Kunsthalle (in the Fünf Höfe). This is probably not something that I would go to on my own. It was good in parts, and extremely bizarre in other parts. One of the oddest things was the fact that most of the mannequins had videos of real human faces projected onto their faces: most just blinked and looked around (quite creepy enough!) but some spoke (sound as well as video).
In the evening we went to watch the FC Bayern basketball team playing the Mitteldeutscher Basketball Club. The matches are held at the Audi Dome, which is next to the Westpark, which we used to visit often when we lived in that part of town. I had never seen a basketball match live before (only watched on TV), but Sheryl was quite a fan when she lived in Chicago (in the days when Michael Jordan played), and she was able to explain anything that I was unsure about. The match was entertaining. FCBB beat MBC, although not by a huge margin. I think we will probably go again.
1st October 2015
This evening Sheryl and I made another visit to the Oktoberfest; probably the last for this year.
Again, it was very crowded. We tried a couple of the big tents, both inside and outside, and couldn't find a seat (you can't order a beer if you are not seated). Then we tried a couple of the smaller restaurant tents, but there was also no space: everything was reserved. In the end, we went into the Old Wiesn, where we managed to find places.
We splashed out on two plates of duck: half a roast duck, with Knödel and Blaukraut; it was lovely.
We ended up sharing our table with a whole series of different people. For a while, there were a couple of Asian ladies sitting across the table from us, who took photos of everything, but mostly dozens of selfies.
28th September 2015
This evening Richard, one of my ex-colleagues from my project at M-Net, arrived in Munich for a business trip. We decided to go to the Oktoberfest, as he had never been.
It was very crowded, and we couldn't find a seat in the tent that we tried (the Paulaner). We had a beer at one of their outdoor tables, but it was too cold to stay for a second. Instead we went to one of the small restaurant tents (the Heinz Wurst- und Huehnerbraterei) to get some food and another beer.
I was really surprised that the atmosphere in the restaurant tent was thoroughly Oktoberfest: music, people dancing on the benches and everyone in a party mood. Service was very good and fast. We both had Fleischpflanzerl with potato salad, which was good. Prices were very reasonable.
25th September 2015
Today Sheryl took a day of vacation and we went to the Oktoberfest for lunch. We went to the Old Wiesn, a kind of living Oktoberfest museum.
We were rather restrained, only having one beer (a Maß - a litre) each.
Before our lunch we had a go at the crossbow shooting range: our scores were quite dismal. After lunch we had another go: the beer improved our accuracy noticeably.
The lunch was really rather good. We shared a plate of sausages and sauerkraut, a dish of Obatzda and a giant pretzel. Normally I don't finish the sauerkraut, but this time we ate every scrap as it was so good.
Later we took a walk around the main Wiesn. It was surprisingly quiet; generally it only gets crowded in the evenings. We also went for a coffee at the Marstall tent (certainly wouldn't want to drink beer there, as they serve Spaten), which this year replaced the famous Hippodrom, and bought one of the coffee mugs.
Click either of the photos to view the photo gallery.
20th September 2015
Yesterday was the start of the Oktoberfest, and we were, of course, there. Click the photo to the right to see that (small) photo gallery.
Andrew arrived late on Friday night, having told me the day before that he was coming and needed to stay at our place, thus throwing all our planning into disarray. Peter and Georgina arrived from Prague on Saturday.
We actually arrived at the Wiesn in plenty of time (good thing, as we had all the entrance tickets and vouchers for the people at our table), and had time to do some souvenir shopping before we needed to find the other members of our group. Our party was all assembled when they started letting people in; Jonathan's was not (the Kinseys were still on the train when we went in).
We had a bit of trouble with some people without reservations trying to squat on the Kinsey's table, so some of our group sat there to discourage the strangers. As usual, because of the initial rush of orders, it took a while (about 30 minutes) to get our first beers.
As in previous years, Markus had made each of the guests a present: a beer mat with "No a Maß" (Noch ein Maß - another glass) on one side, and a strip of numbered holes and a magnetic ball for counting your beers, each printed with the person's name.
This year's party was a little different than in previous years, as the Kinseys, Sheryl and I, had created the invitation list (rather than Andrew). Everyone seemed to get on well, and to enjoy themselves, and we all had a great time. The one fly in the ointment was later in the evening when a free-loading stranger parked himself at one of our tables, and proceeded to steal some of the personalised beermats from Markus. When Tracy spotted what he was up to, and told him to stop it and leave, he threatened to hit her!
Mostly the Oktoberfest was not so crowded this year, and the train (U-Bahn) on the way there was also not so busy; on the way home, however, it was really busy, and we thought we had lost Andrew at one point, and did lose Peter for about 15 minutes (he went to find a toilet, and came back to the platform via the wrong stairs, meaning to the wrong platform, thought we had left without him and hopped on a train going in the wrong direction).
15th September 2015
Yesterday, after Sheryl finished work, we went into town to get her a new Dirndl. The one she already has has become too tight for her to wear (I guess it must have shrunk!), and has stains on it, which won't come out, where someone threw up on it.
She had already made a pre-shopping expedition a few days ago, to narrow down the options, so we only needed to visit two shops yesterday (two outlets of Angermaier). Even so, we were shopping until a few minutes before closing time! Now we are both all kitted-out for the Oktoberfest.
By the time we were finished shopping, we were hungry, so we decided to eat in town. We went to the Monaco Pizzeria in Reichenbachstrasse. The food is generally good, and so is the wine, but service is a little slow: they forgot our order for main courses, and came to ask if we were finished; we had to repeat our order; also, my starter (Insalate Caprese: mozarella, tomato and basil) came with parsley instead of basil which rather spoiled it.
11th September 2015
Yesterday afternoon Sheryl and I wemt shopping to get Lederhosen for me, for the Oktoberfest. I finally had to give in to the pressure from Sheryl and our friends to get the proper a Bavarian Trachenmode outfit. I managed to get a pair of Lederhosen and a traditional check-patterned shirt. My fingers are still sore from fastening and unfastening the buttons (the leather is very stiff when the leather shorts are new).
Afterwards we went for a Vietnamese meal at a restaurant near Rotkreuzplatz: the An Viet. We had walked past the restaurant many times, and agreed that we should try it; finally we did.
We were very disappointed with the restaurant. Service was OK, but the restaurant was not clean, the wine list was expensive and very limited, and the food was not that great. I would not recommend it. Next time we want Vietnamese, we will go somewhere closer to home. Near our apartment there is the Koriander Too, which we tried before and were pleased with, and another even closer to home.
7th September 2015
Janet flew to Köln (Cologne) today to stay with a friend. She will be back with us on Friday, and flies back to New Zealand on Saturday.
The original plan was that she would join us at the Oktoberfest, and also go with us to the ballet, but she brought her return flight forward because of a new job and will miss both events; shame.
6th September 2015
Today we (Janet and I - Sheryl had to study, as she has a paper due for her OU course in a couple of days) went to meet a new member of the family. My cousin's daughter Julia and her partner Christian had a baby girl, Lya (pronounced Lee-ah) about a month ago.
Lya is a lovely child, although crying a bit at the moment due to stomach ache. Christian is a doting father.
Janet really showed her experience as a mother, and quickly stopped Lya's crying (for a while).
The photo to the right shows Janet calming Lya by rubbing her tummy.
5th September 2015
This evening we (Sheryl, Janet and I) went to dinner with Isabelle and Markus. Luckily I realised that it was Markus' birthday yesterday, so we got him a present and a card; luckily, because they gave me a birthday present.
Dinner was actually very good (Isabelle doesn't really like to cook): we had slow-cooked salmon, cuscus and salad. I took a couple of bottles of red wine for the cheese course, one of which (a Margaux) turned out to be very good.
During dinner, we were talking about one of our neighbours who seems to have money, and keeps very strange hours, and the favourite theory was that she was a sex-worker. Then Markus googled her; turns out that she has a conventional job after all.
1st September 2015
Today is my birthday. Sixty years old today, but feeling more like 40.
Many thanks to everyone who sent me birthday wishes.
Later today we will go out for dinner (Sheryl, my sister Janet, and I).
17th August 2015
Today we had a proper Bavarian start to the day: we went for Frühschoppen (brunch of weisswurst, bretzen (pretzels) and weissbier) at the Schneiderweiss. This is not something that we do often, as it is difficult to get anything done during the rest of the day after starting the day with beer. Nevertheless it was very enjoyable, and not crowded on a Monday.
After that (seeing as we are both on vacation) we decided to continue the Bavarian theme by going to the Hunting and Fishing Museum. It was actually far better than I expected, and cheap (only €3.5 per person). The museum is a landmark in Munich (see the photos to the right), and everyone knows where it is, but I suspect that most people don't go in.
There was a special exhibition of porcelain pieces related to hunting (mostly just animal figures) which was rather boring, but the main exhibits were quite fun. There was a very clever floor, with a projected video of a river with fish, and when you walked across the floor it made ripples on the projection. The museum seems to have more emphasis on fishing than on hunting.
One apect of the museum that could be improved is the the signs. There are signs on most (not all) exhibits, but not only are these really only in German (I noticed only one sign with titles in two other languages, but the descriptive part was only in German), but also the descriptions/explanations are too brief.
7th August 2015
This evening Sheryl and I went out to test a new (new to us) French restaurant. Ever since La Bouille was taken over and ruined, we have been trying to find a new place to go for birthdays and other special occasions.
We went to the Rue Des Halles, apparently the oldest French restaurant in Munich, and recommended by some of Sheryl's colleagues. The location is OK: about 20 minutes walk from our home, on a quiet side street. It was not crowded when we were there, but even so, service was sometimes rather slow. I was, however, impressed that the waiters all spoke English, French and German.
The prices were impressive (high), which I don't mind if the quality matches, but it didn't: my veal paté in a pastry crust was reminiscent of a pork pie; the swordfish steak was overcooked, and the accompanying "Basque style" sauce was dull; the duck breast was also overcooked. Maybe the regular chef is on vacation, but I will need evidence of that before going back.
6th August 2015
Yesterday Sheryl and I went to Andechs.
Andechs is a monastery south of Munich, next to the Amersee, famous for its beer (the same beer as we usually have in the fridge, but it tastes better from the tap).
Getting to Andechs is relatively easy. There is am S-Bahn (suburban train - air-conditioned) which takes about 40 minutes to get to Herrsching; from there it is a 45 minute hike through the woods (mostly uphill) to get to Andechs (alternatively there is a bus from Herrsching, or you can rent bicycles). For the lazy and those of limited mobility, you can, of course, drive, but then someone misses out on the beer.
The walk seems much more strenuous in the hot weather, and I am usually more than ready for a cold beer when I arrive. The wasps also like the beer and the warm weather, and we were constantly swatting the little devils away (Sheryl is allergic to them). After we had cooled down, we were also ready for something to eat: we shared a plate of roast pork and potato salad.
If you are interested, you can take the brewery tour (free in German, but you have to pay for the English tour); you can also walk around the chapel and other public areas of the monastery.
We stopped off at the gift shop before leaving, and Sheryl bought a hat pin for her Oktoberfest hat.
Last night and this morning our stomachs were a little "lively"; probably a result of live (unpasteurised) beer, but that seems to have eased off now.
25th July 2015
Home at last!
Our flight back to Munich, with Lufthansa, was OK, apart from being delayed by about 30 minutes, and not being able to sit together on the plane. Being Lufthansa has some advantages: the sandwiches are usually edible, the drinks are free and the service staff are not so overworked.
When we got home, we had to rush out for groceries, not only for ourselves for the weekend, but for our contribution to the garden party (we prayed that it would be rained off, but no luck). The garden party was OK (the building has a friendly bunch of residents) but we had to give up early and go to bed (and unpack our luggage the next morning) because we were so exhausted. Sorry: no photos this year.
One of our neighbours shared this very funny video with me, at the garden party.
It was so nice to sleep in our own bed, and not to need air-conditioning to get to sleep.
24th July 2015
Today was our last full day in Malta. Sheryl wanted to go to Gozo, but I said that we didn't have time, as I had a huge amount to pack.
In the end she went to the beach for a while while I packed (and threw away the stuff that I didn't have room to take back, or that was worn out).
In the evening we went to my favourite restaurant in Malta, now also Sheryl's favourite, the Peperoncino.
That evening was the start of the local festival, so the seafront all around Saint Julian's Bay was full of food stalls and religious statues. As we were finishing our drinks after dinner, the fireworks started: pretty good (embedded video to the right).
23rd July 2015
Today Sheryl and I went to the Aviation Museum, after our previous failed attempt.
The museum was a bit of a disappointment. One of the main themes of the museum is the Siege of Malta, which is a really dramatic story, and resulted in the well deserved award of the George Cross to the island of Malta. Sadly, there are not so many exhibits, mostly in poor condition with pathetic information signs.
The weather was unbearably hot, and the hangars and museum buildings are not air-conditioned, which made it hard-going. Many of the airfield buildings have been given over to the Craft Village, and of course Sheryl had to visit many of them, and did buy something.
In the evening we went for dinner to the Fumia restaurant, which certainly lived up to its reputation. We shared tuna carpaccio marinaded in aceto balsamico as a starter; then Sheryl had the ravioli stuffed with ricotta and served in squid ink, and I had lobster with linguini. For dessert we had pear sorbet.
22nd July 2015
Today Sheryl and I are having an indoor day, after yesterday's day of too much sun and too much heat.
We took a short walk for a late breakfast, and the weather was already way too hot. We went back to the flat to cool down before venturing out again, this time by taxi, to watch Jurassic World.
After the movie, which was good (I had seen it already, but it was good even the second time around), we managed to get a table at the Charles Grech Bistro (normally booked out), just around the corner from the apartment. By then it had cooled down enough to sit outside for dinner.
21st July 2015
Today was very good fun.
Sheryl and I went on the Spirit of Malta, a catamaran operated by Captain Morgan Cruises. We sailed up Malta to the island of Comino. We spent a few hours at Comino, swimming and enjoying the view. A buffet lunch was served, and there was an open bar (beer, wine and soft drinks only) for the whole trip. On the way back to port we stopped at another beach somewhere near St. Paul's.
I saw a dolphin in the distance, on the way to Comino.
The only way off the boat at Comino and the other beach is via the water, so the trip is not for you if you can't swim.
We were a little disappointed about not getting our ride on the jet-boat. One of the catamaran crew came round and offered us tickets, but I think we may have been the only ones on that trip who took up the offer, so it was probably not worth their while to come to collect just two passengers. Later the crew gave us our money back, but I would have liked to see inside the caves (part of the jet-boat itinerary).
We did get rather sun-burnt, despite all our precautions: we put sunblock on before going out for the day, again when we settled on the boat, and again each time we came out of the water. We were using factor 50!
The blue lagoon at Comino is beautiful, and worth visiting once (but once you have seen it, you are done, as there is nothing there - the island has a very few houses and one hotel on the opposite side to where the boats stop, and in the summer it is far too hot to hike anywhere).
20th July 2015
Sheryl and I had a busy day in Malta.
The first part of the day was the worst. The bus from Sliema to Valletta was packed, and the air-conditioning was not able to cope.
After getting off the bus, Our first order of business was to go to an office in Valletta to get the insurance claim money for Sheryl's previous cancelled (due to sickness) trip to Malta. The agent that was handling her claim wanted her to sign and post a form that she had received payment, and had no further claims, before receiving payment. It seemed easier to deal with it face to face.
After that, we went looking for the Maltese-style restaurant that we found on Sheryl's last trip in November and December last year. We found it (Valletta is not so big), and had a very enjoyable lunch (duck paté, calamari stuffed with fish, and Maltese sausage) washed down with some more of the Odyssey rosé. We got chatting to the people on the neighbouring tables, and the time passed very quickly.
We took a short nap in the afternoon, and then went to the City of London pub for my farewell drink with colleagues from Melita. After an hour of waiting, I established with SMSes that non-one was coming: there was a crisis at work, and everyone in IT had been working over the weekend. We decided to move on, but of course, as soon as we did, someone from work arrived at the pub; Daniel managed to catch up with us and said a brief goodbye. We had a snack (the strangest nachos ever, which gave Sheryl an attack of food-poisoning in the night) and went home to bed.
19th July 2015
Today our plans did not work out so well. Sheryl planned a trip to the Aviation Museum. In principle that should have been fine. We caught the bus from near the apartment; the air-conditioning on the bus worked; the bus went in the right direction. The problem was that the indicator inside the bus was not working, so there was no information about which stop we were approaching. As the bus doesn't actually go all the way to the museum (a 5 minute walk is required at the other end), we missed the stop. We decided to stay on the bus to see where else it went.
On the way back to civilisation, we stopped at Mdina, and had a nice lunch in Ir-Rabbat. We discovered a very tasty local rosé wine (Odyssey). Of course, the bus we boarded to get back to Sliema had a working display, so we now know where the stop is for the museum. We may try again later in the week.
14th July 2015
I am leaving Malta. My last day of work at Melita is Thursday 16th July.
I found out on Monday that the company had rehired Maggie, the previous project manager (who was not on great terms with my boss when she left more than a year ago - apparently those bridges have been rebuilt). The main reason for hiring her seems to be that she is significantly cheaper than me (partly because she has now settled in Malta). I am spending the remainder of this week handing everything over to Maggie, which is not so complicated, as she knows most of the staff, and is familiar with the project and the vendor. I wish Maggie the best of luck with the project.
Sheryl arrives in Malta on Friday night, and we are flying back to Munich on Saturday 25th. Originally I thought I would have to work while she was here, but now we can spend the time together. Melita have told me that I can use the apartment until I depart Malta, which is convenient.
It looks like I have a new job starting at the beginning of August. It is still to be confirmed, but looks pretty hopeful.
2nd July 2015
Yesterday I arrived back in Malta.
We had a nice, but short time with Janet, Amy and Gilmore in Munich. We tried to go out to a beer garden for dinner, but failed; the beer garden was completely packed. We ended up eating indoors in a nearby Bavarian place.
When I arrived in my place in Malta I had a nice surprise: the water pump had been repaired. Now I can use the shower again, which will save some time in the mornings. The temperature in the flat was 30°C or more (the air-conditioner only reads up to 30°C), and took hours to cool down properly. I have heard that even the UK has had temperatures in the 30s this week.
I also managed to get a reservation for tonight at the Charles Grech Bistro. It is just around the corner from my apartment: so convenient that I would be there very often if it wasn't always booked (I am hoping that it will get easier to get a table once it has been open a while).
Today, at work, email traffic has been very light. Many people are on vacation. I am sure that it will get very busy when they all return.
30th June 2015
The weekend just past we had my son Brendan and his wife Lauren to stay.
Brendan just started a new job, and has three weeks of work at the Vienna office, so they hopped on a train and came for the weekend. We went for a long walk through the English Gardens, and then visited the BMW centre (museum and show centre) - all of us agreed that the BMW centre is not up to the hype. We had a nice dinner at The Master's Home on Saturday evening (although I feel that the restaurant's vegetarian options were not quite as good as their conventional fare). We also had a great breakfast at the Backspielhaus on Sunday morning. Then they headed back to Vienna. Sheryl and I are still trying to recover from the late nights (up 'till 02:00 two nights in a row talking and drinking).
Now we are waiting for my sister Janet, due to arrive later today with her daughter Amy and a Gilmore, a friend. On this visit they are just stopping for the night, before heading south to Italy to start their European tour. Janet will be back at the end of August, alone, in time for my birthday, and will be with us when the Oktoberfest starts.
25th June 2015
This morning I needed to do some laundry, in preparation for my trip home. It should have been simple enough, but my water pump is broken.
Maltese homes have a strange system: a header tank on the roof, and a booster pump (controlled by a switch in the water pipe) to ensure adequate water pressure. Mine is broken (the 5th time), only a week after the last repair. I think the repairs to date have consisted of hitting the pump with a large hammer, but finally the landlord has decided to replace the pump, which is taking a few days to organise. In the meantime, no showers; baths instead (I live on the top floor, so there is not enough water pressure without the pump).
With my laundry, I could see that the washing machine didn't have enough water, so I added more during each of the main phases of the wash program. It seems to have worked; I was expecting to see washing powder marks on my laundry when I hung it up to dry, but it was fine.
21st June 2015
Recently I was contacted by my son Jordan in South Africa. He is not very good at keeping in touch, so it was nice to receive a message.
I was really rather shocked by what Jordan told me. His mother Jackie, decided that she didn't like being a mother (she has 2 children: Jordan, who was unplanned, and a daughter, younger, who was apparently planned), so Jordan and his half-sister are now living with their aunt Janine.
At least, now, I know that Jordan is being well looked after. I also know that, now, when I send money, it will really be used for Jordan.
21st June 2015
This site, like all sites, is the target of a steady background of hack attacks: people are trying almost every day to gain remote administration access to the web-server, so far without success.
Whilst my server does not collect information about genuine visitors to my web-site, it does collect very comprehensive data about attempted unauthorised access (failed or successful). You have been warned.
24th May 2015
By now, Sheryl should have been here with me in Malta; she is not.
Most of the last week she has had really bad migraines, to the extent that her vision has been effected and she has been feeling nauseous. Finally, on Friday, she went to the hospital, where they decided that she should stay in overnight and have an MRI on Saturday. The overnight stay is a result of the oddities of the German medical insurance system: she could have had an MRI without staying in hospital overnight, but her insurance will only pay for the MRI is she stays overnight (and costs more money).
On the advice of the doctor, she postponed her Saturday flight until Sunday. They finally released her mid-afternoon on Saturday. Today she still wasn't feeling good, despite the medication, but anyway went to the airport before deciding to postpone her flights until Friday.
The good thing is that, at least in Germany, she can recover the lost vacation time this week, as long as she has a sick-note from her doctor.
21st May 2015
Last night I met a friend (Doug) at the Tarragon Restaurant It was great to see Doug; we haven't seen each other in years. Doug and I worked together in London, Stockholm and Munich. He was also working at 'du' in Dubai when I was there.
The Tarragon is one of Malta's top restaurants; you usually need to reserve a table to get in. The food was good, but rather pretentious: for example the smoked salmon carpaccio was smoked at the table using a special device attached via a pipe to a cover over the dish of salmon; there was also a fake olive (an olive-sized balloon made from olive flesh).
It was an interesting experience, but I am not sure that it was worth the price.
9th May 2015
Today I installed my new UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply). This is to keep my server running (for a while) if the power fails, usually because a circuit breaker has tripped. It finally arrived a few days ago.
I ordered the UPS from Dell, who were actually fine, but the delivery company were not so good. I originally placed the order so that I would be there on my previous trip home in April to accept delivery, but they missed that delivery window. They then tried several times to deliver it while Sheryl was at work. They didn't phone when they got no answer; there seems little point in asking for a phone number if they don't use it!
When I contacted Dell to find out where my purchase was, I was told that there was no option for delivery on a Saturday. Eventually I made an appointment for a weekday delivery, and Sheryl took the morning off work; on the day, she refused to accept delivery because they were only prepared to deliver it to the front door of the building, and expected her to carry 60Kg of UPS upstairs and into the apartment, alone. Their alternative suggestion was to leave it downstairs in the hallway until I returned home (a month later!).
Finally I managed to organise another delivery appointment, meaning another morning off work for Sheryl, for which they brought two people, and this time they actually brought it into our apartment and put it in my office (which they were not obliged to do, as their contract only requires them to bring it to the house door).
Oh yes, one more thing: they managed to drop the UPS off the trolley while unloading it from the truck, busting the packing open in the process. Luckily there was no damage to the UPS.
17th April 2015
This week my contract was extended by another 3 months, so I will be in Malta for the summer.
Malta is not a bad place to be. I feel more comfortable here than, for example, in Jakarta. That is partly because the climate suits me rather better. It is also closer to home, and I am able to have at least a weekend at home fairly often. Plus, of course, everyone speaks English.
Spring has definitely started in Malta, very suddenly, after the longest and hardest winter for several years. Flowers and trees are in bloom. The farmer across the street from the office has just made hay (in April! In the West of Ireland it was always in June). Last weekend there were people swimming in the bay (St. Julian's Bay).
The downside is that since Easter there are lots more tourists: the restaurants are getting full, and at the weekends it is now safest to book a table. At least the seasonal restaurants are now open again.
7th April 2015
Yesterday evening Sheryl and I went to the ballet. We saw Romeo & Juliet at the Munich National Theatre, a splendid building in the centre of the city.
Sheryl really loves the ballet, and we try to see at least one each year. Normally the ballet in Munich is very good; it should be, as it is not cheap.
This time, however, we were both very disappointed, both with the dancing and the choreography. I can't really understand how such wonderful story, with a rich set of dramatic content (love, sword fighting, family feuds etc.) could be presented by such a lacklustre show.
6th April 2015
I am home for a few days for Easter.
It is really nice to sleep in my own bed again (although there is someone in it who has become used to using the whole bed, and doesn't like sharing). It is also nice to use my own bathroom (in Malta there was another failure - the water pump, again, just before I flew to Germany): to have a bath where the bath is not so narrow that you are pinned the whole time, and a toilet that flushes properly.
I knew that it would not be all R&R while I was home, as Sheryl had dental surgery on the day I arrived, and had to be collected from the dentist's. She is not good with pain and blood, so I was expecting a tough couple of days. I also knew that she had a paper due for her Open University course, and would therefore be busy much of the time.
What I was not prepared for was that she had done no food shopping, except for herself. On Thursday she didn't want anything solid for dinner, just some soup, as expected. There was a one-person can of soup in the larder, for her, and hardly any ingredients with which to cook anything for myself; this scenario was repeated on several occasions over the next day: only one beer in the fridge, no cheese in the fridge, etc. (bear in mind that this is Germany, so absolutey no shops are open on Good Friday). At one point I sarcastically asked her whether she had known that I was coming home that weekend.
26th March 2015
Our washing machine has died, again. The motor has failed (again). Not only that, but it is leaking (despite having the "Water Stop" feature, which supposedly guarantees no leaks). This machine has been repaired so often now that it does not seem worth repairing it again, as it may only last another year or two until the next failure.
The washing machine is a Siemens product that we bought through a friend who works at Siemens (at a considerable discount), and there was a time when I was very pleased with it. I used to recommend Siemens to other people, because there was a way to get discount, they were reliable, and had lots of features. We equipped our new kitchen completely with Siemens appliances (at quite a significant cost, despite discount of around 50%).
Now, though, my attitude has changed, and I will not be recommending this brand to anyone. Siemens have now put a stop to the discount. Also, we have had lots of problems with some of the other Siemens kitchen appliances: the fridge/freezer, which we had repaired, and have had to repair ourselves several times since, and continues to cause problems; and the dishwasher, which the repairman wasn't even sure if he could fix, nor whether the repair would last.
We will be replacing the washing machine with another brand. We will also probably end up replacing the fridge/freezer and the dishwasher soon, too, also with another brand. Sheryl wants to get a tumble dryer: that too will not be Siemens.
Siemens markets itself as a feature-rich and reliable brand. That doesn't seem to be founded on fact. Partly, the reason for the lack of reliability is obvious: Siemens appliances are generally the same on the inside as Bosch equipment, but at a higher price. Paying more for something that has the same design as a cheaper model doesn't make it better, unless it is constructed and tested better. Based on our experience, the construction and testing are not good enough: much less reliable than the previous cheap washer/dryer that I owned. Regarding features, having been shopping around for a replacement, we see that many competitors have features that are at least as good as Siemens.
12th February 2015
After almost a month of living elsewhere (two nights in the Hilton, and nearly a month in a temporary apartment), on Tuesday this week I moved back into my original apartment in Malta.
The landlord organised the repair of the collapsing ceiling, water heater and booster pump, and the cleaning and repainting of the mildew-infested bathroom. I don't know if he did anything about the root cause of the mildew (damp leaking in from outside), but the ventilation grills have all been unblocked (they were largely painted over).
I also found a dehumidifier in the apartment, which I have been using, and which seems to help.
What caught me by surprise is that both toilet seats are broken, and one toilet brush is also broken. I think the workmen may have been practising their street-fighting moves in the apartment.
Anyway, it is nice to be in a place which feels almost like home. All I need now is for the weather to warm up a little.
15th January 2015
Yet more problems with my apartment in Malta. On Tuesday evening the water heater in the en-suite bathroom started leaking. I had to turn off the power and the water feed to the heater. Now I have to use the other bathroom: mildew city.
This morning, when trying to shower, I found that I had low water pressure. There is probably a problem with the pump which refills the water tank on the roof (there is a tank for each apartment) and the tank is now probably almost empty. This means no showers, no laundry, and soon no making coffee or flushing the toilets.
I am quite amazed how everything is failing all at once. I am sure that car and electronics manufacturers around the world would like to master the skills of designed-in obsolescence applied to my apartment.
13th January 2015
Yesterday I signed my contract extension, so I will be in Malta for at least another 3 months.
I am still enjoying Malta, although the weather has been cold here over the last month or so. Normally cold doesn't bother me, but when it is cold indoors as well as outdoors, it starts the get into your bones. Because the weather is warm (or even downright hot) most of the year, Maltese homes and offices generally have no central heating or double glazing, and the windows and doors don't keep the wind out.
I also recently found a really nice restaurant in Sliema (Malta), the Peperoncino. Good Italian food and excellent service. I recently took my testers there as a reward for working so hard in the run-up to Christmas.
I do have a few issues with the apartment where I am staying. I came back from my Christmas break to find a hug damp patch on the bedroom wall and ceiling. There is rampant mildew (to which I am allergic) and crumbling plaster in the second bathroom, a large part of the spare bedroom ceiling looks ready to collapse, the wiring and plumbing are extremely dodgy, and the washing machine keeps blowing fuses. The company have suggested that they will insist that the landlord renovates, and move me out to a hotel for a month while it is done. It's a hard life!
26th December 2014
Christmas Weather and Christmas Retards
As a child growing up in England, I remember that one of the things that almost every kid wished for for Christmas Day was snow. In Munich there is very often snow for Christmas: either it snows on Christmas Day, or there is already snow on the ground from a few days earlier. I don't really know that the difference in weather makes so much difference in what children wish for, though.
This year there was no snow in Munich on Christmas Day, but it snowed in the early hours of Boxing Day (26th Dec.), so that everyone woke up to a snowy view out of their window. The snow is mostly on trees and cars, not on the ground, so not good enough for building snowmen or for snowball fights. The forecast, however, is for more snow, and colder temperatures, over the next few days (-20°C on Tuesday-night/Wednesday-morning next week.), so there will be plenty of opportunity for proper winter fun.
One of the things that people do at Christmas in most households in affluent nations is to buy and prepare too much food; valiant efforts are made to consume the excess food, but inevitably much is thrown away. We did the same (although we have an excuse: our dinner guest did not turn up - hope you are OK, Manu). This morning I took the food that I wanted to dispose of down to the garbage bins, expecting the "bio tonne" (compost bin) to be full; it was empty except for some dead leaves. I thought this odd until I realised that the classification of waste for recycling is too complex for most Germans.
In Malta there are 3 kinds of garbage collected from households: glass, general waste and recyclable waste (plastic, cans, compost, paper - this is all seperated by the waste collectors). Some parts of Germany have the same system, but in Munich you have to separate the waste yourselves: general waste into the bins at the house (collected weekly), paper and cardboard into the bins at the house (also collected weekly), organic waste into the "bio tonne" (also collected weekly), and glass, metal and plastic waste separately into the bins at the local collection point. The solution used in Munich means lots of separate bins at home, and regular trips to the collection point. It also means people having enough common sense to recycle, and I am not sure that is generally true. Here are some examples of stupid things that we have seen and heard:
25th December 2014
Today is Christmas Day. Sheryl and I have had a fairly busy day so far. We got up latish, had a leisurely breakfast, opened our presents to each other, and the did some more "IKEA-ing".
I say more IKEA-ing because our major activity yesterday was assembling and installing the stuff from IKEA that was delivered that morning: the sofa-bed for my office, Sheryl's desk, and mirrors and posters on the walls in the guest bedroom and my office (guest bedroom number two).
Today we had some picture-shelves to fix to the wall in the kitchen.
The other major activity yesterday was tidying up my stuff in the office. This caused some drama: lots of things that I use only occasionally, but which are essential, like blank optical discs and my back-ups, were marked for disposal (or worse, actually disposed of) because I "never use them". I remember my Dad having exactly the same misunderstanding from my mother over the contents of his workshop.
The worst side effect of the tidying up was some damage to my server. One of the USB cables to a disc drive got damaged. It was bent at about 45°. I noticed that the mirrored disc did not start properly after some security updates, and was sure that the bent cable was the cause. It turned out that the damaged cable was still working; the other half of the mirror was what was damaged; probably jolted during tidying up.
I need to buy some new disc drives tomorrow to properly repair the mirrored data store. In the meantime the data (photos, personal files, web-content, etc.) is being stored on just a single drive. Of course, Sheryl has other ideas: going to IKEA!
I flew back from Malta to Munich on Monday, and have had a list of things to do since I arrived (I haven't even unpacked my suitcase yet).
Tonight I am cooking Christmas dinner for us and Manu (and maybe Oliver, Manu's son).
16th December 2014
On Sunday, after dinner, I went up onto the roof of the apartment building to see if I could see any meteors. I had been reminded by something on TV (a news report or a weather forecast) that the Geminid meteor shower was reaching its peak over the weekend. The peak was actually on Saturday night and Sunday morning; I was observing on Sunday night. Even so, I saw about three Geminids in about 40 minutes, all of them quite bright (the visibility was not great, with a hint of cloud, and street lights everywhere, so I probably wouldn't have been able to see any faint meteors). The maximum rate of the Geminids is close to 120 an hour (2 per minute); actually 120 is the ZHR (Zenith Hourly Rate - the rate that you could see if the radiant were directly overhead).
This experience was very different from what I used to do as a teenager. I used to cycle about 7 miles to a friend's house (where are you now, John Mason?), observe all night, then cycle home and sleep most of the next day. John lived out of town, so visibility was good (there was a street light right in front of his house, but strangely it was always broken - he had an air-gun). We used to record each meteor on a record sheet and plot the track on a star chart. In the winter, sometimes ice would form on the pages of the star chart as we observed.
If you are interested in seeing meteors, there is a nice summary of meteor showers through the year here on Wikipedia. Some showers are quite short and sharp, so you need to observe during the peak. One notable exception is the Perseid shower, which is fairly active for several weeks, and also quite bright. Some showers consist almost entirely of faint meteors; some are brighter and have a proportion of fireballs.
Your eyes take about 30 minutes to fully adjust to the dark, and until they do, you may not be able to see fainter meteors. Going indoors into the light (for a coffee, the toilet, or just to warm up) will ruin your night-vision instantly, and you will need another 30 minutes to adjust.
16th December 2014
At the weekend I went to the cinema to watch the final Hobbit movie: The Battle of the Five Armies.
I have to say, it was good. There was a lot that wasn't in the book: stuff that was mentioned in the Lord of the Rings as having happened during the period covered by the Hobbit, and other stuff that was quite simply made up by the screenwriters.
There was, of course, lots of action (as one would expect, given the title), which was generally well done.
12th December 2014
As usual, Christmas has managed to creep up on me. I have a flight back to Munich on the 22nd of December, and have just realised that is only ten days away.
So far I have bought no presents. Luckily Sheryl is taking care of most of the shopping and sending of Christmas cards.
I also have no idea how many people I am cooking for on Christmas Day.
We have some issues at work, so I will probably need to work from home at least some of the days that I am in Munich. I am certain to be in trouble for that, but it is better than not going home at all.
3rd December 2014
Yesterday Sheryl flew back to Munich. She arrived in Malta on Friday night.
For a while it looked like she was going to have to stay longer than planned, because Lufthansa went on strike, and her flight home was cancelled. She spent ages on the phone on Monday trying to find out if and how she could get home. Finally, on Tuesday morning, she got an answer, and they put her onto a Turkish Airlines flight via Istanbul to Munich. There were huge queues at check-in, and I was amazed that the flight left nearly on time. After that the journey seemed to be trouble-free, and she arrived home at about 11 pm.
While she was here, we didn't do as much as I had hoped, because I was ill, but we still managed to see quite a lot.
One day we went to Valletta. It is really rather impressive: such incredible fortifications, to keep the Moors out. We had a very nice lunch while there, and bought postcards for family.
Another day we went to Mdina (apparently it used to be the capital, before the Knights of St. John made Valletta the capital). It all looks like it has been recently renovated: all the limestone is clean, which makes it less dark and foreboding than Valletta). We had an abominably bad lunch while there (I will update this post with details, so that others can avoid the place, soon).
One of the things that Sheryl thought she might like to see was the Popeye film-set village, but once she read about it online, she decided it would just be boring, and we didn't go.
We also went to one of the Megalithic temples (the Tarxien Temples). It was interesting, but it could have been so much better if there had been good information at the site (to tell you what you are looking at, and how the described items relate to the random-looking jumble of stones in front of you).
On Monday we went to the cinema, and saw the latest Hunger Games movie (Mockingjay Part 1). It was OK, but I am getting the feeling that they are dragging out not very much plot to fill too many movies.
3rd December 2014
I have been sick again. At first I thought that I had simply torn a muscle in my stomach, from coughing. Then I went to the doctor, and it seems like I might have cracked a rib (from coughing - that is pretty extreme - but the X-ray is inconclusive), and I also have a gallstone (1.5 cm, according to the ultrasound).
Luckily the medical services in Malta are really excellent, and I was able to get tests and some treatment quickly. I have some medication for my rib, and for my gallstone, but at some point I will need to have it removed. The question is where?
21st November 2014
Looks like I spoke too soon. I was not getting over the bug: I just had one good morning.
On Wednesday I went to the doctor, who decided that I had bronchitis and put me on antibiotics for a week. I am now starting to improve, and am even starting to get my appetite back.
The doctor told me that I should take it easy, and stay home, for a few days. There is no chance of that: at work I have been in full crisis management mode all week.
17th November 2014
I have had a really nasty cold for the last 10 days. Today was the first day that, after waking up, I didn't cough up a lung, so I think I am finally getting over the bug. I saved loads of money from being sick, as I have not been out for dinner for ages, and survived on toast.
Malta had a period of rain and storms over the last couple of weeks. When it rains heavily here, some of the streets flood, so there are major traffic jams. Now it is back to sunny and warm weather: maximums of 22°C.
I was speaking with Anne, the CEO's secretary, today about my flat here. She organises all the details for the flat. She told me that she thinks a cleaning service is included in the rent!
Sheryl has her flights booked to come and visit me at the end of the month. That will be very nice. What with working away in Frankfurt, and now in Malta, we haven't spent much time together recently. I need to get organised, and work out what we can do while she is here.
Sheryl went to IKEA at the weekend, to choose a mattress for the guest bed, and a sofa bed to go into the office, so that we have enough beds for our New Year visitors. Apparently our house guest has now rationalised his belongings (disposed of, moved elsewhere, packed into boxes or whatever), so that it is again possible to get into the guest room and my office. Also, he is (supposedly) finally moving out, although to where is not entirely clear. Once the smell of cigarette smoke clears, life will be back to normal for a while.
15th October 2014
Yesterday I finished on my project in Frankfurt, working for IBM at Commerzbank.
I wish everyone on the project (IBM, customer, and other sub-contractors) every success on the project. The team has a really great atmosphere, and everyone is very committed.
I finished on the project mainly because IBM simply took too long to renew my contract. In the time between when I escalated about the lack of a contract renewal, and when they sent a draft contract, I was contacted by another agency about another job, had three interviews, and was offered the job. Since the new job is much more interesting and exciting, and much better paid, there really was no competition.
The other reason for the change was the horrific cash-flow. My contract with IBM was through an agency who pays 30 days after receipt of my monthly time-sheet and invoice. That means that I worked for 10 weeks, and have so far received pay for only three weeks. My next pay from this contract is due at the end of October. I simply could not afford to pay the hotel, meal, and travel costs for 10 weeks out of 3 weeks wages (the pay is good, but not that good!).
On Friday I start work at Melita, a telecoms operator in Malta. They are providing accommodation (which they pay directly) and a car, so the cash-flow is much better. On top of that, I get a daily rate almost exactly the same as I got with IBM. Malta has a very nice climate, is picturesque, has excellent seafood, and good scuba-diving.
21st September 2014
Yesterday was the start of the Okotoberfest, and we were there with the usual crowd.
Beforehand, for several weeks, Sheryl was worried that she would not fit into her dirndl. In the event, she did fit, although it was a little snug.
We stayed until closing time (actually until we were thrown out). Today Sheryl has a bit of a hangover, although not as bad as after some previous Oktoberfests.
I have a few photos of yesterday, which I will post later. If any of the other members of our group want their photos included in my on-line gallery, just email them to me.
3rd August 2014
Last night we had dinner with our neighbours, Isabelle and Markus.
The original plan was to eat in the garden, seeing as it is summer. It started to rain in the afternoon (although my weather forecast site was in denial) so we were all keeping our fingers crossed that it would clear up for the evening. It did, just long enough to get the table in the garden fully decked, and then it started to pour. We had to carry everything indoors, and ate dinner in their flat.
27th July 2014
The Auer Dult is a fun-fair and shopping fair in Au (next to Haidhausen, where we live). It is good for getting those hard to find things, and usually at good prices.
The first thing that we did when we arrived was to order a beer (Paulaner, excellent), a pretzel (stale) and some Obatzda (really good), which kept us busy while we waited for Kerstin.
The shopping wasn't such a great success this year: we got one thing from our list, but that is because we changed our minds about the other item on the list. Kerstin also didn't find what she was looking for. Sheryl did buy something else (a book about the history of Munich, in both English and German).
We nevertheless had fun. Afterwards we went to Kennedy's for dinner and some Guinness. I was thinking of ordering the Irish Breakfast, but it looked to be just an English Breakfast (there was no black pudding nor any white pudding, which are what makes it Irish).
19th July 2014
Today I joined Andrew and Boris to watch the Christopher Street Day parade. Sheryl stayed home to study.
The weather was very hot and sunny; a tough day to be in a costume parading in the streets.
Sadly, the parade was very much smaller than in previous years, and went by in less than half an hour. Also, although there were some incredible costumes, a lot of people were not dressed up, and the whole event was definitely less entertaining than I had hoped.
I did, nevertheless, take some photos: click the photo to the right to view the gallery.
After the parade had gone by, we went for some lunch at the Augustiner Am Dom, where we were joined by Jonathan, Tracy, Christopher and Devon. Service at the restaurant was surprisingly friendly, good and fast.
9th July 2014
Last night we watched the World Cup: Germany versus Brazil.
We were joined by our neighbour Markus (he has no TV).
We were all expecting a tough match. Markus said he expected it to go to penalty shoot-outs after a 0-0 draw.
We were all very surpised by how it actually turned out: 4-0 to Germany after 26 minutes, and the final score of 7-1 the highest scoring World Cup semi-final in history!
Even more surprised were the owners of this pub in Galway (Ireland), who had a promotion whereby the price of German or Brazilian beer was reduced by 50 cents for each goal which that nation scored. German beer was down to 50 cents by the end of the match.
1st July 2014
Today there has been upgrade work on the electricity supply in our building: replacing some of the older electricity meters.
There has been a notice displayed in the hallway for more than a week, warning that the power might be switched off between 09:30 and 11:00.
At about 9:30 one of the electricians came round to each apartment to tell everyone that the power would indeed be off until 11:00. Very nice of them to do that. I promptly shut down my server.
At about 11:50 the power finally came back on - for 12 minutes. It was then turned off again for about another hour.
Was it really so complicated and difficult to estimate?
There is other maintenance work being done in the building this week: repainting the window frames. Luckily the painter doesn't seem to need electricity for his work.
30th June 2014
We recently received an email from our landlord to inform us that the window frames would be painted, starting today. In preparation we (and the other affected tenants) were requested to clean the windows and frames, inside and out.
We have seven windows, and the frames are complicated to clean properly, so there was quite a bit of work: we started on Friday, and finished them on Sunday afternoon.
This morning the painter arrived at our apartment; he was done an hour later (including time for a coffee and a chat): the task turned out to be only to paint patches where needed, rather than the whole window frames.
It would have been nice to know what was actually planned.
23rd June 2014
I didn't have a great start to today. I woke up, and went to the kitchen to make myself a coffee. When I opened the fridge to get milk, the door fell off its hinges in my hand.
I am starting to get a little disillusioned with Siemens. Our kitchen is equipped with only Siemens appliances. This is partly due to the discount (better than 50%, in some cases) that used to be possible, and partly because Siemens used to make good appliances.
Now, however, the discount is no longer available, and I am not impressed with the reliability of recent Siemens appliances. Since we bought our Siemens washing machine, it has needed two new motors (which are about half the cost of the machine itself), and I think also a new door seal. The dishwasher had a problem with an leak into the tray under the wash chamber; the repair man fixed it, but was far from sure whether the repair would work. We have had a whole series of problems with our fridge/freezer (we still get a puddle of ice at the bottom of the freezer, which causes the bottom drawer to jam, if not cleaned regularly). The latest problem with the fridge door was due to the bottom hinge shaft slipping out of the hinge; it doesn't seem to be held in place by anything more than friction.
I really think that, next time I need household appliances, they will not be from Siemens.
6th June 2014
Sheryl has today flown to Chicago for a short visit to her family. It has been a hectic few days for her.
She had to finish off the report on her research project for her Open University course, due for submission on Thursday. This has meant some very late nights for her, including getting to bed at 5:30 on Thursday morning. I went to bed at about midnight, only to be woken up at 4:00 to help her with some technical problems with the documents, and the online submission process. After only 90 minutes of sleep, she got up and went to the kindergarten for a full day's work. I was really amazed that she was able to do that (bearing in mind that she had late nights for the whole of the week before).
On Thursday evening she tried to check-in for her flight, online. Seems easy, but not so. She had an email just days before, from Lufthansa, with her flight booking details, and a link for online check-in. The link takes you to the Lufthansa web-site, but the flight was a code-share flight operated by United: you can't check-in for a United flight on the Lufthansa site, even though the flight was booked through Lufthansa. The next step was to call Lufthansa customer service, who weren't much help, but she managed to find the United online check-in by searching on Google, but even then she wasn't able to get a boarding card. We already knew what rubbish service United provides, but it seems that Lufthansa is downgrading their service to the same abysmal level. I hope she remembers to file complaints with both airlines.
3rd June 2014
I have (again) just restarted this web-site, after another few days offline. It will be accessible as soon as the new IP address has propogated to your DNS servers.
It is now operating (almost trouble-free) with the new cable modem provided by our ISP. I am not completely happy with the ISP, for a number of reasons.
Firstly, we had a weekend of incredible trouble with our Internet connection, where it failed every few minutes, necessitating frequent power-off reboots of the modem. A few days later we received a letter from the ISP, and I realised that they had been experimenting with new protocols which were interfering with our connectivity. They didn't warn us that this was going to happen, which would have been polite.
The second reason that I am unhappy is due to the replacement cable modem. Our old Motorola device was replaced with a Technicolor TC7200 from Thomson. I made it clear that I needed a modem with NAT routing, DHCP, and port-forwarding (NAT and DHCP are standard for routers). Of course, the lady at the shop couldn't answer any technical questions, so she called a guy from technical support; I was on the phone with him for about half an hour, and he couldn't find out the answer (the problem is that the TC7200 is sold in many variants, each with different firmware and therefore different functionality).
Once I got the modem home, I quickly discovered that port-forwarding (whereby incoming connections, such as web connections, are forwarded to a specific IP address on my network) is supported. What is not supported is proper DHCP functionality. Although the modem will allocate addresses to computers on my network from a configurable pool of numbers (basic DHCP), it is not possible to reserve specified addressed for particular computers, meaning that my main server and my web-server keep getting different addresses, so that my other machines, and Internet connections for web pages, keep getting connected to the wrong machines. Reserving IP addresses in the DHCP server is really basic functionality, and I couldn't believe Thomson had not included it; the lack of it makes the port-forwarding useless.
I changed the configuration on my servers, so that their addresses are static (defined in the server, not by the DHCP server in the modem), only to discover that the TC7200 has a problem with statically defined addresses. I have managed to work around this, but none of this effort should have been necessary.
The bottom line: avoid routers and cable modems from Thomson!
23rd May 2014
I have just restarted this web-site, after a few days offline.
We had a problem with our Internet connection at the weekend, and I took the opportunity to restructure the server file systems. Everything is now fully functional, and I apologise for the site being offline.
At first I thought it might be a hack-attack, but this afternoon we received a letter from our ISP saying that we should exchange our cable-modem for a newer model (which they will provide free of charge), as they are going to upgrade their network soon, and that older models will no longer work. I then realised that they have been experimenting with the new cable protocols, and that caused the problems (including resetting our modem to factory default settings - so yes, technically a hack-attack by our ISP). I suspect that the complimentary cable modem provided by the ISP will not meet our requirements (I am sure it will include a NAT router, with a DHCP server, but I also need it to have port forwarding, e.g. for this web-site), so we might be making several trips to their shop. This web-site will be down again while the cable modem is being exchanged and the replacement properly configured (hopefully just a few hours, but who knows).
23rd May 2014
Last night we went to dinner at out local Japanese restaurant: Sushi Cent.
They have just moved location (by about 100 meters) to Grillparzerstrasse 38 (although the official address is Schneckenburgerstrasse 31): previously the local branch of the Poseidon Greek restaurant. They now have much more space, both inside and on the pavement, even closer to our flat.
We had a very nice dinner, with excellent service and fantastic food, as usual.
28th April 2014
Tonight we went to dinner with Andrew. We went to an Afghan restaurant close to Andrew's home, called Bamyam Narges (there seems to be a problem with their web-site, but sometimes it works).
We were very impressed with the restaurant: the food was nice, the service was fast and friendly, and the restaurant is not so cramped as the other Afghan restaurant that we go to. Of course, it is not haute cuisine, but good nevertheless good, and we will certainly go back again.
27th April 2014
Last night we met Karl and his friend Alex for a trip on the Afterwork Tram.
The theme for the evening was "Heimatabend" (Home Evening), the idea being that everyone dressed in the traditional outfit for their home town. Lots of Munich locals, including Alex, dressed in their Trachtenmode (Lederhosen and Dirndl); Sheryl dressed in her official Chicago White Sox gear. Karl dressed in his usual black suit, and I dressed in jeans and a T-shirt (I don't like fancy dress, and Sheryl's suggestion that I dress in a Morris Dancing outfit was not well received).
The tram does a number of loops through town, and out to various different outlying areas. There is music, a bar, dancing (for the very steady of foot) and even some snacks.
The night was good fun. The worst part of the evening was dinner beforehand at L'Osteria restaurant.
21st April 2014
Last night we went to Manu's for dinner. He cooked a chick-pea curry (one of Sheryl's favourites), and a chicken badam pasanda (one of my favourites). Both dishes were excellent.
I took a bottle of whisky for Manu. We made a big hole in that (just us guys - Sheryl hates whisky).
We left with all the left-over food packed in doggie bags.
Manu still won't give me the recipe for badam pasanda, but I found a promising recipe online, which I will try-out soon, and publish on my recipe pages if it is good.
20th April 2014
Andrew came to dinner yesterday.
I cooked a venison stew (which Andrew thought was lamb!) with English dumplings, and a rhubarb and strawberry crumble (cobbler).
Nowadays Andrew always has a good appetite, and he ate three portions of the stew (so did I). There wasn't enough stew left to freeze for later.
18th April 2014
You think your god is that gullible, and you worship anyway?
Sheryl told me a story she heard from a colleague. The colleague was at her mother's, and the mother was cooking dinner (Maultaschen, a kind of giant ravioli). Since it was Lent, the colleague had been feeding her family on vegetarian food on weekdays (meat only at the weekends), but the Maultaschen contained meat (as per tradition).
She mentioned to her mother that they had been eating vegetarian food on weekdays, and her mother replied "but it's Maultaschen".
"But inside, it is meat."
"Yes, but it's Maultaschen."
The explanation is that, apparently, Maultaschen were invented to allow good catholics to eat meat without their god knowing that they were doing so, because he can't see that it is meat when it is hidden inside the dough.
12th April 2014
Don't ask me what Bangkok is like, as I don't know. Had no spare time. I worked on Sunday; I worked on Monday (a public holiday in Thailand) until midnight, and I worked late every day except Friday (when I had to get to the airport).
I did have a nice green curry for dinner one day. I was not so impressed with the lobster that I had on my first night there.
I arrived back on Saturday morning. I took a nap for a couple of hours, to help with the jet-lag. In the evening Sheryl and I went to the ballet (A Midsummer Night's Dream) with Markus and Isabelle from downstairs. We had a light snack together beforehand.
The ballet was good, except for the tuneless modern "music" that they played each time the fairies were on stage.
Afterwards we went to Pussers for drinks and a light meal, until Isabelle (who arrived back in Munich at 05:00 that morning) and I suddenly ran out out energy, as the jet-lag caught up with us.
3rd April 2014
Tomorrow I am heading off to Bangkok for my next assignment. I hardly seem to have been home at all, and already I am leaving.
The other day I bought some pastrami and some coleslaw, which I have eaten in just one lunchtime sandwich. I guess that Sheryl will throw away what I don't finish (she won't eat it).
At least this time it is just for one week, so I will be back in time for the ballet.
25th March 2014
This morning a guy from the SWM (electricity supply company) came to the apartment to replace the meter-box in the cellar. It took him about 35 minutes in total- He was very polite and left things clean. I was generally impressed.
The meter box also contains the master circuit breaker. We have had some problems with it: if we turn on the washing machine and the dishwasher, the power for the whole apartment cuts out - this is how Sheryl crashed the server (as mentioned in the posting below). I am hoping that this issue is now fixed.
25th March 2014
Time to get my server working again.
While I was away Sheryl managed to crash it, and she doesn't know how to restart all the services (like this web-server).
Also, I have quite a backlog of posts to add to the web-site.
24th March 2014
Finally back home after 6 months in Jakarta.
There are some nice things about Jakarta (friendly people, and some nice restaurants and bars with German, Dutch and Belgian beer), but there are some bad things too (the weather is way too hot. alcohol is very expensive, food is rather variable, dreadful traffic jams, you need to brush your teeth with bottled water, floods, and the air is horribly polluted).
I have worked in worse places, but it is not a good tourist destination. Elsewhere in Indonesia there is lots to see, but not really in Jakarta.
I got sick a lot whilst there: every month I missed 2 or 3 days of work due to illness. It was caused by a combination of the bad air, lots of biting insects, the hot and humid weather, and some dreadful hygiene habits by some of the locals (you must wash your feet before payer, but apparently not your hands after taking a dump!).
Now that I am back, I am having trouble remembering where the light switches are, and how to use some of the appliances in the apartment.
Sheryl has a long list of things for me to cook, as she hasn't had any real food while I have been away.
There will be more about Jakarta in later news posts.
22nd March 2014
On my last evening in Jakarta I went with Ian and Rose to the Bacco restaurant.
I became a regular there; even the chef knew my name. They have excellent food (a mixture of a few local Indonesian dishes and western food, including wonderful thin pizzas and amazing steaks), only a short walk from my apartment at the Somerset. After a while they started giving me discount! It was one of the few places that I found where it was safe to drink the wine. They also have a selection of single-malt whiskies.
The funny thing is that the first time I went there, I didn't like it. I had something (pasta pesto) that wasn't good (they have since taken it off the menu) and swore that I woukd never go there again. I am now glad that I gave them a second chance.
At the end of my last meal there they brought a complimentary dessert: tiramisu (click the photo to open the small photo gallery - only four photos, so if anyone has any more, please send them and I will add them).
I will definitely miss the Bacco. Thanks for making my stay in Jakarta more enjoyable, and for making my last meal there special.
8th August 2013
This evening Sheryl and I went out for dinner with Jonathan and Tracy,
We went to the Rusticana, which specialises in steaks and spare-ribs.
Dinner was excellent, and we were lucky with the weather (we decided to sit outside).
Tracy passed her motorcycling test on Tuesday (congratulations!), and so has a licence. We talked for quite a while about motorcycling, but I don't think that Sheryl is persuaded to try it.
7th August 2013
Sheryl and I went to the Outlet Shopping Village in Ingolstadt (home of Audi, and birthplace of the Illuminati). We both desperately needed new clothes; I managed to get some of what I needed, but Sheryl got nothing that was on her list (she got other stuff, but no priority items).
The Ingolstadt Shopping Village is not like real outlet shopping (like in the USA); there are discounts, but not fantastic deals.
It takes a little over an hour on the train, plus a tube ride in Munich and a bus ride in Ingolstadt, bringing the total journey time close to 2 hours. You basically need to invest a whole day in the shopping trip.
20th July 2013
This evening Sheryl and I met Kerstin for dinner at the Augustiner Keller beer garden.
The nice thing about German beer gardens is that you can take your own food (unless you sit at a table which has waiter service). We took a tomato and onion salad, and some radishes; Kerstin brought olives and Obatzda, and crisps; we bought half a roast chicken (Hendl) and a giant pretzel to share.
All in all, it was a very pleasant evening.
15th July 2013
Today Sheryl and I went on a day-trip to Andechs (the Monastery where they make their own beer), and had a nice Bavarian lunch.
We did the usual walk through the woods, from the train station to the Monastery. By the time you have walked up hill in the heat for 45 minutes, you are really ready for your beer.
13th July 2013
Today Sheryl and I went to the ballet. We saw "La fille mal gardée" ("The Wayward Daughter", or "The Poorly Guarded Girl", a comic ballet) at the Prinzregententheater, which is just around the corner from our apartment.
Our neighnours Isabelle and Markus joined us. They seemed to enjoy themselves
I have to admit that I had trouble keeping awake: more a comment on how tired I was than any criticism of the ballet (which was actually quite good).
8th July 2013
I just returned from a business trip to Regina, in Canada.
Regina is the capital of Saskatchewan Province, and has a population of around 200,000 (the whole of Saskatchewan has around 1 million people, about the same as Munich).
The people of Regina are very helpful, friendly and open. The city itself leaves something to be desired.
I had some pretty good food there (you need to shop around, and to order the right things from the menu):
I also had some pretty bad food there. Unless you want food poisoning, I suggest you avoid "Table 10".
There is a nice park and lake (Wascana Park and Lake) on the south side of the city, with lots of paved walks and cycle paths.
I thought that Canada would at least be cooler than Malaysia, but whilst I was there temperatures went up to 35°C (and humid - unusual).
3rd June 2013
Back from my project in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia).
As usual, I didn't get much time for sightseeing, as I was working too much of the time.
Malaysia is a fairly easy place to be. It is relatively clean and cheap. The train system is not bad (as long as you want to go where the train goes to). There is a wide range of food (restaurants of most nationalities), and English is spoken by almost everyone.
For me the main disadvantage is the weather: temperatures frequently up to 35°C, and humidity sometimes 90% (never lower than 60%). I don't cope well with hot weather. Lots of people said "Ooh! You are so lucky!", but when you have to wear a suit to work every day, it is not so nice.
20th April 2013
When I looked out of the window this morning. I saw that all the Lombardi Poplars along the street had decided to drop all the dead leaves which they had been holding onto over the winter. The cars and the edge of the street are covered in dead leaves.
Some species of trees hold onto some of their dead leaves through the winter and drop them in the spring, once the weather has improved, so that the leaves fertilise the tree that dropped them, rather than some random wind-blown destination. Oak and Beech trees are well known for this, but I didn't know that Poplars also do it.
23rd June 2010
I received an email from a Fosberry in South Africa, asking if we might be related.
From the information that she sent me, it seems that we are not closely related, but there were some strange parallels: people with the same names in her family and mine.
It did, however, remind me to update and install the Genealogy page of this web-site.
21st June 2010
Today Samih started his new (permanent) job for Xing in Hamburg.
Once he can find an apartment for the family, Aika, Nancy and Amir will move to Hamburg. We will miss them. I suppose that we will just have to get around to visiting Hamburg; I have been promising to visit my friend Jason there for ages.
28th May 2010
Today Nancy (Samih & Aika's daughter) is 2 years old.
Sheryl & I went to the birthday party, which began in the garden and had to be rushed indoors when the thunderstorm and hail began.
As usual, Samih & Aika did a great job with the catering, and there was an excellent selection of food and drink for adults as well as children.
Nancy wasn't happy until Samih arrived, but then enjoyed herself playing with her friends and open her gifts.
27th May 2010
There were some stunning photos, even in the group for photographers 10 years old and under. The one to the right (Pike Reflections) is one of my favourites.
The exhibition is well worth a visit.
13th May 2010
Today was Andrew's birthday party, at The Master's Home, as usual.
As usual there was a great crowd (although Jonathan and Tracy were absent this year) and we had a good time and excellent food.
Since Andrew hasn't been working for a while, he told everyine that they would have to pay for their own dinner. He had, however, just accepted a job at O2, and so treated everyone.
The mobile phone that we and the Kinseys bought Andrew for his birthday last year (yes, 2009!), was still not in service (since then he has finally started using it)!
8th May 2010
Tonight we went out for Munich's Long Night of Music. This is the night when lots of bars, clubs and other venues have live music. You buy one ticket which gets you in at (almost) all the venues. The city provides lots of special busses and late night train services, and there is a guide-book showing what is on where, and how to get there.
We met some friends in town and, after some initial issues agreeing where to go, headed off to see the first band.
The first band were OK, but a little boring (all their songs sounded the same), so we went somewhere else. The second place had 1950s style Rock and Roll, with lots of people dressed up to suit the music and dancing. It was rather boring.
After that, we tried somewhere else (couldn't get in - too crowded), then somewhere else (same story, although the band sounded really good from outside). Eventually we just settled for a drink, and went home about midnight.
All in all, a great disappointment.
8th March 2010
I managed to rustle up 11 people to join us, so we were able to reserve a table (right in front of the stage). The show was excellent, and all our guests seemed to enjoy themselves.
The place we usually eat before the show was closed for renovation, so we ate at a kebab restaurant nearby. Then, when we went in to the club, we discovered that they now serve a small number of hot dishes (on Monday, but not on Sunday - strange), so we could have eaten there.
27th February 2010
Tonight we went to the Kelly Clarkson concert.
I hadn't realised how short and dumpy she is.
We were both really quite disappointed by Kelly Clarkson. Apart from the fact that Sheryl couldn't see the stage very well, all the songs sounded the same.
I suppose I should find something good to say about Kelly Clarkson. The best that I can come up with is: "She doesn't sweat much for a fat lass".
What saved the evening for me was the support band: Parachute. I decided to buy their CD, "Losing Sleep", which I got signed by the lead singer afterwards.
26th February 2010
There were lots of other guests that we knew, and we had a good chance to catch up on each others' news.
The food was OK, although the service was not great.
The band were quite surprising. They sang no original material, only covers of well known songs. The range of material that they performed was really awesome, and all very well done, right down to the accents. Although only a 3 piece band, they managed a number of songs that I would never expect a 3 piece band could do, although this was helped by the dual-purpose instrument played by the "guitarist": a combination synthesiser and self-strumming guitar.
23rd February 2010
Sometimes job agents really annoy me!
I have been looking for a new job since I finished my last contract at Billing Components. I have had lots of emails and phone calls from agents, and have responded to a number of online advertisments. This usually involves emailing the agent my CV. Over the last almost 4 months, I must have sent my CV out over 100 times.
Yesterday I sent my CV to an agent in relation to a job, and he called me back to tell me that he couldn't read my CV. He was able to open the file, and from the file size, it was clear that it contained lots of text, but apart from the page headers and footers, he couldn't see any content. I know why: I am using OpenOffice, even though the document is in MS-Word format (because I use Linux), and there is obviously a bug in that version of OpenOffice. I fixed the problem, and confirmed that the document can be read by MS-Word, and sent the agent the new version.
What really bugs me is that this problem has existed for a while, possibly for the whole time that I have been looking for a job. This is the first agent who has had the courtesy to tell me that there was a problem, rather than simply file my application under "Junk". Full marks to Mr. Rory Langford at Capital International IT Staffing Ltd; you are one in a million.
16th February 2010
Today, Sheryl is finally starting to feel very slightly better.
She got sick (some flu which she caught from Kindergarten) on Friday night. We had to cancel our dinner guests for Saturday night, and our restaurant reservations for Sunday night (Valentine's day).
She was given Monday and Tuesday off work, as compensatory leave, for some of her overtime. She will have lost those days, as she has no sick note for them. It doesn't seem like she will be fit for work on Wednesday either.
I hope she gets better soon, as we hope to go for a day of skiing on Sunday, with a friend whom we haven't seen for ages.
7th February 2010
Today we went bowling with Eileen & her husband Andy (Andreas), at Bavaria Bowling. We invited some other people too, but they couldn't make it; we gave up trying to find a time & date which suited everyone.
It was great fun. Sheryl won one game, and Andy won the other.
We plan to do it again, soon.
22nd January 2010
Today I finally got Sheryl's new iPod to work with Linux software.
Our laptop (3½ years old) developed a hardware fault, and Windows can no longer see the keyboard (not any keyboard). Linux has no such issues, and works fine on the laptop, so I wiped Windows and installed Linux.
Most of the functionality that Sheryl needs was no problem: web-browsing, office documents, email, media playing etc. are easy.
What was not so easy was finding some way to connect to Sheryl's new iPod (she got a new iPod nano with video for Christmas). The source of the problem is that Apple invests huge amounts to prevent their iPods & iPhones from working with third-party software, and iTunes will not run under Linux & Wine.
I finally got it working with a piece of software called gtkpod, after spending a huge amount of time trying many different approaches.
Apple will be going onto my blacklist, soon!
17th January 2010
Today my sister Janet & niece Bex left on the next leg of their grand European holiday. They flew to Rome; then they move on to Paris and then London.
It was so nice to have them stay. We managed to do quite a lot of things together, and it was great to catch up on so much news. Sheryl & I will miss them.
On the upside, now we don't have to worry about putting on a dressing gown before going to the toilet, and we can eat whatever we want without worrying whether our guests will like it.
4th January 2010
Today the ladies decided to go ice-skating at Stachus in Munich.
For dinner we went to the Taj Mahal for a nice Indian dinner. The we went to see the new 3D Disney movie "Avatar". The film started at 22:25; we didn't realise that it was a 3 hour marathon movie when we booked. When we emerged at 01:25 we all had headaches from 3 hours of wearing the 3D glasses.
The movie was OK, although I was the only one who thought the 3D effects were good, but it was a bit too Disney (love conquers all, good trumps evil in the end) and the end was rather predictable.
2nd January 2010
Arrived back from our week of skiing in Hintertux today, after a nightmare 5½ hour journey (due to traffic and snow). Sheryl was so freaked out about driving on the icy roads (as in the photo to the left) that we insisted that she sit in the back; Janet kept her occupied with conversation and suggestions of things to photograph.
The skiing was great. The snow and weather were excellent, and the slopes were not as crowded as we had experienced on recent trips.
In the evening we went out for pizza (too tired to cook). Bex said she had never seen such a big pizza (photo to the right)!
1st January 2010
A new year begins.
Last night we celebrated at the hotel. There was a party in one of the hotel lounges, with a DJ, which we eventually got bored with. Then we went to the night-club downstairs, where the music and the atmosphere were rather better.
Just before midnight we went outside (where there was also a DJ and a bar) to enjoy the fireworks, which were actually really good. Since our hotel is on high ground, we were also able to see the fireworks at all the other hotels, so we got a great show.
The next morning we saw this car. It wasn't us that wrote in the snow.
29th December 2009
Every morning on the breakfast table, the Hotel Hohenhaus provides a paper with the weather forecast, the menu for the coming evening meal, and information about interesting events. For English speaking guests, they provide this in something approximating English.
Today, the weather forecast in English was amusing:
Wheather on the mountains on Tuesday
The cloud screen of a warm front can wrap the high summits of the alpine north side occasionally, also more easily snow and/or under 1800m gradually small rain is particularly in the north alps possible. Mix from clouds and loosenings between them for dolomites one expects. Temperature in 2000m -3 to +1 degrees. Temperature in 3000m -8 to -4 degrees. Elevator wind.
Wheather forecast for the next few days
The year ends changeful and quite mildly. Occasionally falls something rain, cooling then of Friday on Saturday, then snow shower is again possible into deep situations.
It is amazing that the forecast was so accurate. I certainly did suffer from "elevator wind"; anyone sharing the elevator with me also suffered! After that, Sheryl made sure that I didn't get into any "deep situations".
25th December 2009
Christmas day. After a later start (due to the late night before), we opened our presents (after breakfast, which disappointed Bex, who didn't really want to wait).
That evening we were joined by Manu, his son Oliver, and after they had opened their presents, we sat down to a dinner of Christmas stuffed goose with a fig stuffing (although I forgot to cook the cauliflower that I had prepared specially for Bex).
We had Christmas crackers, with the usual dreadful jokes inside, and everyone wore their paper hats without complaint (but Sheryl had to use a stapler to reduce the size of hers).
After a couple of beers, Oliver became quite loquacious, and talked at great length about skiing, and how to know where crevasses would be on a glacier.
24th December 2009
Germans generally eat Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. Manu invited us all (Janet, Bex, Sheryl & me) over and cooked us a fantastic selection of Indian food. There was something to suit everyone's taste, including Sheryl's and my favourite dishes.
Manu, like me, enjoys a glass of whisky, and it seemed rude not to drink a glass or three (as in the photo to the right).
After midnight Manu insisted that we open his gifts to us (embarrassing, as our gifts to him were under our Christmas tree at home). He surprised and impressed us all with ideal gifts for everyone.
13th December 2009
My sister Janet & my niece Bex (Rebecca) arrived this morning (at some unearthly hour) from New Zealand. Manu was kind enough to drive me to the airport to collect them; much quicker and easier than taking the train.
Later in the day, we went for a walk, and saw these very hardy souls river surfing on a river in the English Gardens in sub-zero temperatures.
8th November 2009
On Sunday we had no time for anything more than an excellent breakfast and the trip back home.
7th November 2009
On Saturday we all (Eleanor, Raymond, Sheryl and I) went for a day out.
After Oxford, we drove to Blenheim Palace. The main reason for going there was because Sheryl wanted to see a real English hedge maze. Blenheim is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Marlborough; Winston Churchill was a member of that family (although not a Duke), and there is an excellent exhibition about him in the palace. You are not allowed to take photos inside the palace, but I took plenty of photos of the outside, of the grounds and of the Pleasure Gardens.
6th November 2009
Today we decided to do some quick grocery shopping for the evening meal, and then do some sight-seeing. It turned out that the grocery shopping was more complex than expected, and it took pretty much the whole day.
On one of our many trips to the shops in Southampton, I took these photos.
5th November 2009
Today Sheryl & I drove to Chichester, the town where I grew up.
Chichester is an old Roman city. Most of the Roman city walls are still intact, and you can still walk most of the way around the city on the walls. I took lots of photos of the cathedral & some of the old buildings.
Sheryl had her heart set on having scones and clotted cream. The scones turned out to be harder to find than we expected, but we finally found some at The Crypt.
4th November 2009
Today we flew to England for a short trip, to see my daughter Eleanor (and for shopping, of course).
We flew with EasyJet; not actually that cheap, once you pay the extra to check luggage. You don't get assigned seats, and you have to pay for absolutely everything whilst on the plane.
We had a nice pub lunch (although Sheryl didn't enjoy the English beer), and arrived in Southampton (where Eleanor & Raymond live) in plenty of time to do some shopping (yippee!). Sheryl managed to get the Ugg boots that she has wanted for such a long time.
In the evening we drove to Winchester for a real Indian meal, which was great.
31st October 2009
We went to Emily & Artur's Halloween party. It was really good. Emily did a fantastic job with the decorations and the food.
I hate dressing up in costume, but I did so this year; I got a clip-on nail-through-the-head. It didn't work out well; I broke it while trying to adjust it on the way to the party.
30th October 2009
My last day at Billing Components (at least, until next time). No more phone calls at 2 a.m.; no more working through the night.
Now I need to relax and get the stress out of my system, start getting ready for the visit at Christmas by my sister Janet & her daughter Bex, and start looking for a new contract.
1st April 2009
Over the last couple of months we have really been noticing the limitations of our Internet Service. Sheryl has been downloading episodes of her favourite German TV show, "Germany's Next Top model", from iTunes. The files are each bigger than 1GB, so our 5GB per month traffic limit has been used up about halfway through the month.
We decided that enough was enough, and ordered a DSL connection at the weekend. Then today we got a letter telling us that Cablesurf, the ISP that we had before we moved, was now available at our new address.
I wrote to Cablesurf several times, asking whether they could at least tell us a date when they might be able to offer service here, and they were unable to say. The service (price, bandwidth, customer service & lots of technical things) from Cablesurf is very good, so I would really like to use their service again.
We have now written to try to cancel our order for the DSL connection (they haven't even made an appointment for installation); I don't think we really need 3 Internet connections!
20th February 2009
It is still snowing! The last few weeks we have had more days with snow than not. There has been snow on the ground continuously for ages. The photo, right, was actually taken on Tuesday this week (today's photos didn't turn out so well), but is typical. When it stops snowing, it usually gets colder.
At least in Germany, everything doesn't stop for a few inches of snow. Most vehicles have snow tyres, and there are lots of snow ploughs and gritting trucks (even for the pavements & cycle paths).
My big regret is that we haven't been able to take advantage of the weather by going skiing. We have both been sick a lot lately (worse for me, I think because I got exhausted by too much working through the night). We are also trying to save our money for the rest of the furniture that we need. Also, Sheryl is very limited, in her new job, regarding when she can take vacation.
14th February 2009 (St. Valentine's Day)
We went to "The English Shop" today, to stock up on English groceries. The owner, Rodney Young, was talking about the origins of Valentine's Day. Apparently it is commonly described in England as the day the birds "get married". I had never heard that. He also told me several times that I should be nice to Sheryl today (what, all day?).
In the evening we went to the Austernkeller, a French style restaurant specialising in seafood. We hadn't been there for several years, but it hasn't changed. We had a lovely time, although Sheryl had great problems on the way there and back, walking in her new shoes on the snow and ice (she had to walk a total of 30 feet the whole evening, the maximum section being 10 feet (we got taxis).
28th January 2009
Our new sofa arrived today, along with the much needed bathroom cabinets. I am very pleased with both, although not so pleased with how the bathroom cabinets were installed.
23rd January 2009
Dinner with Samih & Aika at Sushi Cent, a Japanese restaurant just around the corner from home.
Neither Samih nor Aika had eaten Sushi before. I think Samih enjoyed it very much, but I suspect it was not so much to Aika's taste.
Afterwards, we all came back to our flat, and had Painkiller cocktails (like in Pussers Bar).
5th January 2009
We went with a group of friends to The English Comedy Club (at the Substanz Bar). We had great fun, as usual.
2nd January 2009
I took this photo today. This company has several shops around Munich.
Maybe German speakers don't find it funny, but as an English speaker, I think I would have changed my name if I was born as Herr Suckfüll (pronounced "Suckfool").
2nd January 2009
Sheryl & I went to see Swan Lake, performed by the Chinese Acrobatic Ballet, at the Deutsches Theater in Fröttmaning (north of Munich, near the new Allianz Arena football stadium.
I was thoroughly impressed. The performance was breathtaking. The story was told well by the performance, and the stunts were astounding. We had excellent seats, just 5 rows back from the stage near the centre. My only regret was that I didn't take my camera with me because, much to my surprise, we were told that we were welcome to take photos as long as we didn't use a flash.
31st December 2008 (New Year's Eve)
As we were going out with Samih, Aika & baby Nancy, we decided that we couldn't do the usual New Year's Eve thing. Instead we booked a table at the local Italian restaurant on Prinzregentenplatz.
We started the evening with some Champagne at home, then went to the restaurant, where they had a special New Year's Eve menu (plus DJ). The food was awesome; I don't think I have ever eaten so much truffle, in so many forms, in one sitting before. The restaurant staff were also excellent at dealing with Nancy (in the photo, right, at the restaurant table), when she became restive, as were some of the other guests.
Afterwards we watched the fireworks on Prinzregentenplatz. This was not a professional display, but just normal folk setting off fireworks they had bought. For those of you who live in places where it is illegal for private individuals to buy fireworks, it might have been shocking to see all of this going on in front of the police station.
26th December 2008 (Boxing Day/St. Stephen's Day)
Not to be outdone, Manu invited us to his place for dinner the day after Christmas. He cooked an excellent Indian meal. Manu's son Oliver arrived later (luckily there was still plenty of food left). Even after Oliver had eaten, there was food left over, so we came home with lots of food to put into the freezer (this has become a bit of a tradition, when we go to Manu's; arguing doesn't work, so we just give in).
25th December 2008 (Christmas Day)
Just a few days before Christmas, we were invited for Christmas dinner by Manu. I was, however, looking forward to doing some serious cooking in our new kitchen, so we invited him to come to us for dinner instead. There was, of course the usual confusion about dates, since the Germans usually eat Christmas dinner on the 24th (they also open their presents on the 24th).
I cooked roast duck, with a fig stuffing (which turned out really well, so I hope I can remember how I did it). We had, of course, way too much food. It was a nice day.
18th & 19th December 2008
After weeks of waiting, our kitchen was finally installed. There is a lot of stuff (furniture & equipment) in the kitchen, so it took 2 days.
I am glad I didn't have to do it myself; those granite work-tops are heavy!
Now we can eat properly at home, and get the fridge & freezer propely stocked. I am very pleased with the ice-maker built in to the freezer.
15th December 2008
Somehow or other, a company Christmas dinner was not organised for this year, until Roger & I made a fuss; not because they didn't want us to have a dinner, but simply that it wasn't clear whose responsibility it was this year.
Once attention was drawn to the problem, it was booked within 24 hours (impressive, so close to Chrismas).
We went to the Altes Hackerhaus, Sendlingerstraße 14. It is a traditional Bavarian restaurant, which means beer and lots of meat (a problem for Anh, who was eating no meat at the time). It was a pleasant evening (although they had a problem with the beer pumps, so we had to switch to bottled beer).
13th December 2008
Kath Murray (one of my colleagues from my time at Viag Interkom) & her man John are visiting Munich (from Melbourne) for a long weekend, to see some sights & catch up with friends. Andrew organised a full itinerary for them (I don't understand how they survived such a full-on schedule of partying).
On Saturday, Sheryl & I joined them at the Christmas market on Marienplatz, later for dinner at the Hofbräuhaus, & finishing the evening at Pussers. It was really nice to see everyone again. I was really impressed that so many people travelled so far to see them.
6th December 2008
Sheryl & I went to Rainer Stetter's birthday party, held at the Landgasthof Deutsche Eiche. It is a way out of town, on the S-Bahn, but worth the trip. There was a good mix of people there: friends, staff from his company, customers, etc.
The evening started outside with a Feuerzangenbowle: basically a kind of mulled wine made by pouring rum into the bowl (actually a huge metal pan), over a stick of raw sugar. Naturally, it gets stronger as you progress, and is very dangerous on an empty stomach. The waitress told us that she had never made one before, although it was excellent. Somehow, a tablecloth caught on fire (lucky we were outside); no, it wasn't me!
Next, we went inside for a meal based around what I assume is a traditional way of cooking meat in that area. You take some slices of meat and hang them on a big metal cone which is heated from underneath by little paraffin heaters (see the photo to the right). There was salad, bread & baked potatoes to go with the meat. It was good fun, and very tasty.
There were lots of speeches along with the presents. There was some excellent conversation, in both English & German. Of course, we missed the last train home, and had to take a taxi.
28th November 2008
Sheryl & I went to see the latest James Bond movie, "Quantum of Solace".
It was pretty good, although it is not going to be one of our favourites. There is too much close-up filming of action scenes (fights & chases), so that you get no perspective. This kind of movie making seems to be far too trendy recently.
27th November 2008
I joined Sheryl & her colleagues from work at the Hard Rock Cafe for Thanksgiving dinner.
The food was not great (and not that much of it), and the service was rather variable. The conversation was, however, good, although too much about the kindergarten, and we all enjoyed ourselves.
22nd November 2008
This evening we went to dinner at Samih & Aika's. Samih likes to cook for guests. Also he knows that we only have a tiny stove (see the news entry for 6th November, below, for a photo) and no dining chairs, and therefore can't return the favour yet; we will have a lot of catching up to do in terms of entertainment, once we are properly equipped.
The food was excellent, as usual. Not the kinds of things that I usually cook, so it was a nice change. Samih has found a supplier of some excellent humus, which everyone greatly enjoyed.
Andrew was also there, and his mother. We hadn't met Andrew's mother before; she is nice, and good fun; she claims to not know any English, and Samih doesn't know any German, so we spent a lot of time saying everything in both languages.
Andrew really seems to like Nancy, as you can see from the photo. He said that he would maybe like to have children too (not sure how that is going to happen!).
22nd November 2008
The snow arrived in Munich.
We went out to dinner yesterday evening, and when we came out of the restaurant there was snow on all the parked cars.
22nd November 2008
I am not happy. My new Internet service is not working as expected. This means that no-one can read this.
My server has been online, through Vodafone Germany, using the UMTS modem, for about 48 hours. I have my home network set up as needed: file sharing, Internet Connection Sharing (so that the laptops can get to the Internet via the server), etc. Unfortunately, it is not possible to access the server from the Internet, which means that the web-site and the email server are not working.
My guess is that Vodafone has a firewall on the UMTS access point, or have some limitations in the router configuration. I expect that they consider this to be "added value". I will have to contact someone to see if there is some work-around. If not, then I need a diferent solution.
19th November 2008
The fosberry.com server is on-line again. Welcome back.
Due to our move to a new apartment, we had to find a new ISP (Internet Service Provider). The server is now connected with a UMTS modem, providing 3.8 Mbps in each direction, so you should find that photos load faster.
As I write this, I have just set up the new IP address for the DNS servers. Typically it takes 24 to 48 hours for this information to be distributed around the Internet, so it may have taken a couple of days before you could read this.
Once you are able to read this posting, you will also be able to send emails to fosberry.com addresses.
12th November 2008
Sheryl's birthday. We went for dinner at La Bouille, an excellent French restaurant in Munich; one of our favourites.
6th November 2008
I hate moving, and this time only reinforced that feeling.
This time we got professional movers: Die Kräftigen Männer (The Powerful Men). Unfortunately there was some misunderstanding, and the guys (Fritz, Jimmy & David) arrived expecting us to have packed everything, which we hadn't (we had packed about half).
Nevertheless, they got us moved; we were done by about 18:00.
The moving service included a "carpenter" to disassemble furniture at the old place and reassemble it at the new place (well worth the money). Unfortunately they lost the pegs that hold the top on to our kitchen table; we are claiming that against their insurance.
Of course, there will be stuff in boxes around the new flat for a while. We may have to wait until January for our kitchen to be installed (we left the old kitchen behind), so we have a temporary kitchen on loan (see the photo, right). We also need to buy some more furniture so that we can store everything.
22nd October 2008
Today I had laser surgery on my nose. This is supposed to stop me getting ear infections every time I get a cold or flu, by reducing the amount of mucus that my larger than normal mucus glands produce (by chopping pieces off them).
It is supposed to be a simple outpatient operation, over in about 30 minutes or less, but not in this case. The first problem was when the nurse tried to numb my nose, by sticking cotton wool soaked in anaesthetic up my nostrils; on one side, it didn't fit (my nose is big on the outside, but not on the inside), and took several painful attempts to accomplish.
The next problem came when the doctor started zapping the glands with the laser; it hurt like mad. After the doctor reapplied anaesthetic (another 10 minutes waiting around), we had another go, with the same result. Next he tried a different anaesthetic, also with no effect. Apparently some people's mucus glands simply do not absorb the anaesthetic; he has experienced this only once before. In the end he did as much as I could bear without anaesthetic. We have to wait and see whether it is enough.