New book, new blog!

I realise that it is now seven years since I updated the Planet Germany blog. Much has happened in the intervening period, but I will only mention one thing here.

I’ve written another book! Here’s what the back cover blurb has to say:
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“A stunningly written, fast-paced, psychological horror story – disturbingly sexy…”

When Holda Weisel’s Cambridge professor sends her to Germany to investigate a recently discovered medieval diary written by a 14th century necromancer, she already suspects he knows more than he is letting on. The mysterious leather-bound volume exerts a diabolical influence on those who come into contact with it, including Rupert Keller, the attractive German archivist who now has care of it. Holda learns about a grisly murder two centuries earlier in the chapel where the manuscript had been concealed. As she begins to read the pages, she realises how closely that murder is linked to the occult contents of the book. She also learns that it is she who is now in acute danger. But does the menace come from without or within?

In this intelligently constructed psychological thriller, Cathy Dobson skilfully embeds the threads of a classic horror story into evocative settings over eight centuries and gives us glimpses into the terrifying history of witchcraft and sexual deviance through the ages, all under the oppressive shadow of a corrupted church.

“A cleverly conceived and executed plot…and very, very disturbing…”

“As the boundaries between reality and paranoia blur, we are confronted with our own darkest fears…”

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Given the shift of genre and the length of time that has elapsed since Planet Germany, I decided to award The Devil’s Missal a blog all of its own: The Devil’s Missal blog

Of course, I’d be delighted if any of my old followers would join me over there and I’d be delighted to hear from you. I really hope you all enjoy reading The Devil’s Missal as much as I enjoyed writing it for you.

Buy The Devil’s Missal on Amazon.de
Buy The Devil’s Missal on Amazon.co.uk
Buy The Devil’s Missal on Amazon.com
Buy The Devil’s Missal on Book Depository (free shipping worldwide)

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What do you do when you accidentally glue yourself to a crane?

I needed to buy some glue this week. And where better to buy it than in Germany? You see Germans know a thing or two about the characteristics and dangers of glue… even in the days of the Brothers Grimm, some terrible accidents with superglue were reported.

Never spread superglue on your golden goose...

Never spread superglue on your golden goose…

The local DIY store came up with what looked like a suitable product. The words strong and safe (written in English, especially to reassure expats) were enough to convince me!

Glue

Looks like glue

When I got it home though, I took a closer look. The cunning German glue-marketing-whizzos were pointing out the great product features of their glue. The picture in the background shows a car, hanging from a crane using this very same glue to stick the car to the crane-hook! Being sticklers for detail, not only were the specifics of this feat given (the car weighed 4.1 tonnes and was attached to a 7 centimetre surface) but also the event was certified by a notary.

Technical details of the test were certified by a notary, apparently

Technical details of the test were certified by a notary, apparently

This got me thinking.  I’m not sure how much an average German notary knows about glueing cars to cranes, but I personally would have felt happier if the thing had been certified by, say an engineer or a chemist. Also, I fail to see the usefulness of permanently attaching your car to a crane – maybe it’s the German answer to first-world parking problems.  However, assuming that the notary knew his stuff, it made me start thinking about the next potential ad-campaign for this particular glue…. this time using more obvious practical applications.

An obvious one would be to stick hyperactive toddlers to the wall … I think that would need to be pädagogisch beglaubigt (certified by educational experts).  Attaching moody teenagers to their school books might be another option.

A layer of glue spread on the doormat at night might be a great way to catch burglars… although the difficulty of removing them afterwards could prove problematic. You might have to turn your front porch into a prison cell… and hope it wasn’t an entire gang of robbers.   This advertisement could be kriminologisch beglaubigt by, say,  a high court judge.

Glueing my mobile phone to my ear would save the panicky turf-out of the contents of my handbag every time someone phones me. I guess that would be mobilfunktechnisch beglaubigt.

Meanwhile, having surveyed the product again, I felt less convinced that any notary could really certify this product as safe. I weigh considerably less than 4.1 tonnes, so the risk of me accidentally glueing myself to a crane must be quite high. The product instructions gave no hint about how to extricate myself from such a situation.

I did the only sensible thing I could.  I threw the glue away.

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When your child is ill in Germany

In all the years I’ve lived in Germany, probably the time when I felt the most acutely abroad … and by that I mean I felt like I’d been transmat-beamed to a different universe… was when I had a small baby. There is nothing childrearing, you’d think, for bringing people together in a shared experience common to all humankind.

Wrong.

There’s nothing like having a baby for highlighting the cultural differences between nations.

Compare, for instance, what happens when your child has a cold. In the UK, you’d carry on pretty much as normal, but as a concession to the situation, might carry a couple of extra packets of tissues with you in a futile attempt to stem (or at least spread around) the tidal wave of snot which will be flowing steadily down your toddler’s upper lip.

In Germany you will package your child up in a snow-suit, scarf, hat, mittens and a furry lining to the pushchair and hot-foot it to the Apotheke.  After handing over the best part of your annual salary, you will return triumphantly with assorted packets of malodorous chest-rubs, a herbal tea known as Erkältungstee (which your child will instantly regurgitate and refuse to touch again)… and a mysterious device which enables you to extract the snot from your offspring’s nose.

The Nasensauger… a medieval torture instrument for sucking the juices out of small children. Or something…

On the advice of the Apotheker, you will also have purchased a rectal thermometer and will be monitoring your child’s temperature hourly… in a manner which would probably have social services at the door in Blighty.

Fortunately the thermometer has pictorial instructions for usage on it… personally and exclusively modelled by Winnie the Pooh

If you attempt to send your child to kindergarten or school in the state of having a sniffle, you will immediately be phoned and told to come immediately and collect the invalid –  who in the meantime is being held in isolation.  If the teacher is a stickler, your sick child may not be allowed to return without having been cleared to do so by a paediatrician.
Needless to say, there is no German word for to soldier on….

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Movember in Germany… for those who want to be that little bit more Bavarian…

As men around the world stop shaving for the month of November and demonstrate their hirsute side to raise awareness of men’s health, the world’s hotbed of facial hair, Bavaria, must be bristling.

You see, Germans throughout the ages have excelled not only in growing moustaches, but also in sculpting them into veritable upper-lip-art-forms. Take Kaiser Willhelm II for example…he had a moustache which would make any fellow proud!

Kaiser Bill's killer tache

The tips of the moustache should point towards the corners of the eyes

Adolf Hitler, on the other hand, was a total cad.  But you only had to look at that stunted little tuft of lip-hair to know that.

You see, the mark of a good moustache is not so much the volume as the angle of ascent. A proper German moustache should  point upwards, quite unlike the Slavic model favoured by generations of Russians and Eastern Europeans, from Stalin to Lech Walesa, which most definitely pointed down.

A genuine hirsute German in Movember is aiming for something more adventurous than just a tuft or two of chin-fluff. The competition between hot-blooded Teutons is fierce when it comes to facial hair.  Beards and moustaches are pulled, twisted, curled and rollered to perfection at this time of the year when any old Johann, Fritz and Heinrich threatens to join the party.

So for those who are growing a Movember moustache, I can exclusively reveal the secret weapon of the Bavarian beard-wearer…  you need to buy a tube of proper Bavarian tache-wax. This is like hair-gel on steroids.  With this in your armoury, you too can sculpt your Movember-fluff into a replica model of the Forth Bridge… or an anatomically correct pushme-pullyou*

German moustache wax

Bavarian men… we know your secret!

*maybe

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Medieval town – straight out of the box

This week I was in Ochtrup – a town in the Münsterland, near the Dutch border.

The city fathers have just constructed a new “medieval” walled town in the centre of the village. Actually it’s one of those outlet-centres where eye-wateringly expensive brands are offered at merely wallet-flinching prices.

The entrance to the shopping-village is through a pseudo city-gate.

FOC Ochtrup

The city gate lacks only a portcullis and drawbridge.

Inside, despite the cute step gables and olde-worlde street lights, the place feels odd. The upper floor windows are all blanks. There is no sense of street-life or community. It’s all very Stepford-wives-ish.

Outlet centre Ochtrup

Sterile cuteness…

And of course the impression is exacerbated by the fact that nearly all the shops are selling designer labels. What the place really lacked was a greengrocer, a cheese shop, fishmonger, butcher…

I think I’ll stick to our high-street and local market.

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Mönchengladbach Pongs

I was out and about in Mönchengladbach yesterday when I saw a sight which filled me with that kind of joy which only a Brit in Germany can experience. That same jovial smile crossed my features as happens whenever a Teuton wishes me a Gute Fahrt, or when I pass the Autobahn exit to this place.

The reason for my delight was a bus emerging from a side-street to my right.  Not just any old bus.

This bus.

Mönchengladbach Pongs

Whiffy bus?

I have to admit that the sight of this splendidly labelled vehicle caused me a brief moment of dilemma. You see I was driving through Mönchengladbach on my way somewhere… at that very moment, Helga the satnav was commanding me in her brusque tones to drive straight on. I had a purpose.

But those who know me well will realise that this brief flash of doubt was quickly over. To Helga’s immense dismay (and trust me, no real person can spit out the word “Recalculating” as fiercely as she does), I did the only thing possible under the circumstances.

I followed the bus.

Within a few miles I found myself in downtown Pongs.  I quickly made sure my car windows were completely rolled up and the air vents closed… after all, surely a place doesn’t get a name like that for no reason.

Downtown Pongs

Downtown Pongs… move along, nothing to smell here…

Luckily the refuse collecters were out in Pongs at the time… presumably Pongs pongs less today.

The 024 to Pongs is now my second favourite German bus. My favourite still has to be the vehicle run by this company…

Fuecker

Another example of an amusingly named German bus

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Not every German vehicle has a lot of horsepower…

I saw this one in Aachen which only has half-a-horsepower.

Half horsepower

Half-horse half-car…

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