Monthly Archives: March 2008

Banging on about the war

One of the things that always annoys me about my fellow Brits is that they will keep banging on about the second world war. Any football international between England and Germany brings wartime references out in the tabloids. Several interviewers who talked to me recently about Planet Germany brought up questions about the second world war…. even though it’s barely even mentioned in the book.

So it wasn’t a surprise when someone reminded me today of one of those great ads from our youth. What did surprise me was that despite the fact that I’m the biggest critic of English people who constantly talk about the war…. it’s had me chuckling all afternoon.

Guess I’d better go and wash my mouth out with soap!


Filed under comedy, German video, World War 2

All grown up and ready to move house!

The kittens are all growing up now… and it’s utter, total mayhem in our house. Wherever you try to step….wherever you try to sit down, there’s a kitten there already. By the time you’re reading this post I’ll probably have broken my neck.

Even something as simple as putting a box on the floor with old newspapers for recycling seems to attract a horde of kittens… it’s like having a toddler’s birthday party in your home day-in-day-out. Here’s the scene in our living room earlier.

A few people have left messages asking whether any of the kittens are available for adoption… the answer is yes. We’ll keep two of them – but the other three are looking for good homes. They’re all males – and even I think five is too many tomcats for one house! Leave a message if you’re seriously interested in giving a home to one of them (and live somewhere around Düsseldorf).


Filed under cats

Snowy Easter

What has happened to our weather? Christmas was so mild… and then all of a sudden at Easter… this!

Our farmhouse was just starting to look Spring-like with all the daffodils… and suddenly we’re covered in a dusting of unexpected snow.


Filed under Life in Germany

Chocolate sculptures for Easter

It was a wonderful chocolatey Easter.

“Mum? And just what is the speckled hen meant to imply? Huh?”

Boy struggles to extract chocolate sculpture from box without being photographed…

A chocolate kitten for a cat-fan…

…but who got the biggest?

Dad’s egg turns out to have a surprise filling… wahey!

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Filed under German festivals

Would you recognise yourself described in a tabloid?

This is a new experience for me…. what with all the PR around Planet Germany, I’m used to the language of book reviews and Amazon blurb. But all of a sudden, I’ve started being written up in the popularist press.

Great PR! I’m really pleased of course.

But will I ever get used to the way I’m described in it? Mum of three Cathy Dobson. Excuse me? Isn’t the reason you’re writing the article that I’m an author? How about successful writer Cathy Dobson? Or even bestselling author Cathy Dobson?

But no… in the tabloid world I’m an appendage, apparently. Cathy moved to Frankfurt in 1991 with hubby Chris, who is from Birmingham and works as a sports journalist.

Hello! Can anyone see me? I have a career too! I run my own business! Hello….over here! Oh never mind….


Filed under books, Life in Germany

Getting ready for Easter in Germany

I have two confessions to make.

First, I am addicted to flea markets. I love them… I spend every other weekend rummaging around other people’s cast-offs looking for wonderful treasures that I can pick up for a couple of Euros. And my house is full of them. Ignorant Philistines (most of whom I am related to) would call it junk…. but I know it’s valuable treasure.

Second, I’m a chocoholic. I love chocolate – I love everything about chocolate – from the way it melts on your tongue to the last bittersweet lingering aftertaste….

So it won’t surprise anyone that I am in posession of a modest but growing collection of old chocolate moulds gleaned over the years from the detritis of German house-clearances and yard sales. Most of these have an Easter or Spring theme because in Germany (Oh joy! Oh joy!) Easter is celebrated in chocolate.

Now, before you get all excited and think that Hausfrauen all over Germany are putting on their pinnies and stirring vats of chocolate on the stove, I should point out what Birgit informs me on this subject.

“Making your own chocolate rabbits,” according to Birgit, glaring at me as though I’ve just stepped off the boat from Estonia, “is what our grandparents had to do before there were proper chocolate rabbits on sale in the shops. If God had wanted us to make our own, He wouldn’t have given us Lindt.”

But I know Birgit is wrong on this. Making your own chocolate rabbits for the children at Easter is pure unadulterated Motherhood. It will make me an Über-Mutter… a veritable Goddess in the eyes of my children. They will stop being recalcitrant adolescents and will see me in a new light….

Anyway – time to get started. I’m using milk chocolate this time – not my personal favourite (I’m a dark-choc-with-a-hint-of-grated-orange-peel person myself) but this is a sacrifice I can make for my offspring… willingly…. just a little taste then…mmmm….

Once the chocolate has melted, you have to get it into the moulds. This sounds easy… and in some cases it is pretty straightforward. I can tell instantly which moulds were designed for the German Hausfrau with a sense of Ordnung in her kitchen….

Some of the other ones are designed specifically for the chocoholic Mum…. they are all holes and no mould, so aiming the chocolate into the rabbit-shape is nigh on impossible without it dribbling all over your fingers and ensuring that you have to lick it off. Don’t you just love hate that?

Once the chocolate is in the moulds, they go into the freezer for a short time to set, while the chef licks out the bowl….

Then it’s time to check on the results…

Now… I’d better make some for the kids next….


Filed under German festivals, Life in Germany

Two reasons why Germans need to learn English…and one reason never to teach your children German

If Germans don’t learn English…. one day it’ll come back to bite them. (Okay – the first example comes from Holland… but it still applies).

…and , why you should never let your children learn German…


Filed under comedy, German language, German video, Life in Germany

International rivalries

Of course the eternal struggle for national dominance isn’t just restricted to Birgit and myself. It isn’t even just a German-British thing. It seems like everybody wants to get one up on the Germans.

Take the Dutch, for example.

Living, as I do, in the border area of Germany and the Netherlands, it’s impossible to ignore the intense enmity between the two nations.

The Germans refer to the Dutch language as a Halskrankheit (thoat infection), whereas the Dutch have never quite recovered from wartime occupation and are prone to lock up their bicycles whenever they see a German car coming over the border, lest their sole means of transport should be commandeered again.

The Germans refer to their Dutch neighbours as Käseköpfe (cheese heads). The Dutch get their own back by towing their caravans at a snail’s pace down the German Autobahn in convoys of several thousand every Summer, thus ensuring that the Germans never have chance to switch their Porsches and Mercedes out of second gear.

But at no time is the rivalry between the two nations more fierce than when sport is at stake. And by sport I mean, of course, football.

Remember when the Netherlands failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup in Japan/Korea, and the Germans released a hit single “Ohne Holland fahr’n wir zur WM“?

Or what about the Euro 2004? Remember this video?

With the Euro 2008 coming up and both teams going to Austria/Switzerland… and with the Dutch driving all the way across Germany to get there, it should make for an exciting Summer on the roads.

I might have to buy a Bahncard.

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Filed under comedy, German video, Life in Germany

Meet the Katzenbabies!

Our cat Sooty gave birth to five beautiful kittens four weeks ago.

For anyone who hasn’t had this experience… I thought I’d tell the story of a month in kittens.

When they’re first born they look like this – sort of blind mouse-creatures with claws and whiskers.

By three weeks of full-fat mother’s milk, they’re more like fat little guineau pigs – and spend most of their time climbing over each other to get at one of Mum’s teats

Then at four weeks, suddenly they’re miniature cats, their eyes are open and they’re learning to walk…

“C’mon guys… there’s a whole suite of furniture out here for us to test our claws on….”

“What do I do with the right paw again?”

“….and now you lift the left and put your weight on the right….”

Today… the kitchen floor.

Tomorrow… the curtains! Muhahahahaha!


Filed under cats

Tap wars

It’s nearly a week now since Birgit and I had our little international altercation on the merits of Teutonic versus Anglo-Saxon plumbing.

Of course in the meantime we’ve talked about some of Birgit’s other favourite topics. Like how the British are entirely responsible for global warming, world poverty and losing socks in the washing machine. How the NHS isn’t really a health service, A’ levels not genuine qualifications and English cottage gardening is actually throwing everything together into one flowerbed and going back to the pub.

But ever since that plumbing discussion, whenever there’s a lull in the conversation (which happens if I, say, take a moment to sip my coffee) somehow the subject of bathroom fittings rears its ugly head again.

Yesterday morning, for example.

It was my fault of course. I was just trying to explain something about the audience profile of a minor German TV station and I made the mistake of pausing mid sentence to draw breath. Birgit leapt on the opportunity.

Taps.” She said accusingly.

I’m used to this sudden switch in topics by now, otherwise I might have toppled backwards off my chair and through a windowpane.

“The British don’t have proper taps in their bathrooms.”

Fortunately there is no need for me to speak. I already know that Birgit is about to provide me with a lengthy and caustic explanation of exactly how the British have failed in the provision of German-standard running water in their homes.

“In an English bathroom at the sink or in the bath you always find two taps. About thirty centimetres apart. One for the cold and one for the hot water.”

“Yes. What’s so wrong with that?”

“When you want to wash your hands, you have to choose either hot water or cold water. You either scald yourself or freeze your fingers. Or you have to turn on both taps and wash in first hot, then cold, then hot…. you can’t get proper temperature water unless you fill up the entire sink and waste ten litres of water on something you only needed one splash for.”

I am speechless. Which is fortunate as Birgit is just starting to warm to her subject so I wouldn’t have got a word in anyway.

“You British have never heard of the German Mischbatterie… the mixer tap, which brings the hot and cold water together and provides it at the perfect temperature into the basin or the bath. No, instead you faff about with your silly cold and silly hot taps.”

For once I remain silent. This is because I have an enormous guilty secret. A secret so terrible, that if she ever finds out….it will be the end of everything. Brigit will have won forever.

You see, when I was growing up in the 1960s. We had an English version of a Mischbatterie. It was a device which looked like a cross between a milking machine and a garden hose. You stuck one “teat-holder” onto each tap… and the mixed water came out of a watering-can-style sprinkler on the end. It was made of rubber and was pink.

If Birgit ever finds out about the very existence of such a contraption, I am doomed. I will never be able to look her in the eye again. I can already visualise the look of triumph on her face. The British answer to the Mischbatterie will come up during every discussion on each and any subject as the trump card, the conclusive argument which proves once and for all that the English are inferior to the Germans in every respect.

“Pass me the phone book,” I blurt out eventually. “I need to look for a doctor who can re-attach the tip of my tongue.”


Filed under Life in Germany