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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:

“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…”


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
Buy The Devil’s Missal on
Buy The Devil’s Missal on
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!


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.


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!



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A retro police car spotted on the Autobahn

I was on the Autobahn to Köln this morning when I was overtaken by what appeared to be a pretty ancient police vehicle. Still in the old green livery, although most of the police vehicles around us have been converted to blue.

old police car

Left over from the 1980s?

It’s hard to believe that an old banger like this is still in service for the police – although the licence plate looks real enough. Maybe there’s a veterans’ reunion taking place? A secret policemen’s ball? Or was it a film shoot for a retro episode of Tatort?

Best guesses in the comments please!


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Electric bobby-cars in Düsseldorf

I was out and about in Düsseldorf this week when I spotted a rather funky little vehicle parked in the multi-storey car-park on the Carlsplatz.

Electric car

From the nation which brought you the Porsche 911….

Now obviously Germans are usually a bit picky about their cars. Brands like Audi, Mercedes, Daimler-Benz, Porsche… all tend to head into the territory which marketers like to call “aspirational.”

So I was a bit flummoxed by the appearance of what looked like a complete Noddy-car in the midst of all the serious looking black prestige vehicles.  A three-wheel one-seater, designed to look more like a grasshopper than a limousine.

On closer inspection, all became clear. This was a green car.  It runs on electricity rather than fossil fuel.  This little chap was docked into the re-charging station, getting its batteries ready for its next trip.

Green vehicle

Electro-car recharging station

There are a handful of these docking stations scattered around Düsseldorf these days.  With petrol prices where they are, maybe we’ll start to see people swapping the Mercedes for one of these little bobby-cars.


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German Mother’s Day

Today is Muttertag in Germany. This is not to be confused with the British Mothering Sunday, which falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent.  Mothering Sunday most likely dates from the 16th century custom of visiting one’s mother church annually on Laetare Sunday which meant that mothers would be reunited with their children on this day.

German Mother’s day has a completely different origin. Back in the 1920s, Germany had the lowest birthrate in Europe, and politicians, churches and women’s groups were concerned with promoting the value of motherhood. In 1923 the Association of German Florists decided to introduce Muttertag – the Mother’s Day holiday celebrated in America and Norway.

The greatest champions of Muttertag were the Nazis, who declared it an official public holiday and awarded varying levels of the Mutterkreuz to women who had large numbers of children.  To count the children also had to be genetically healthy, of Germanic blood, politically reliable and have no obvious vices.  A minimum of four such Aryan children was required for a Mutterkreuz – and at least eight for a gold one.

Nowadays in Germany Muttertag is celebrated on the second Sunday of May – and has largely gone back to its origins – the tills of the German florists will be ringing with everyone’s pocket money this week!

Look what my lovely (non-Aryan, politically incorrect, vice-riddled) children have bought me!

Mothers Day

German florists will be rubbing their hands

Who wants a gold Mutterkreuz anyway?


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What to buy the German who has everything…

I was scouring the internet this week in search of the perfect gift for a German friend. Gift in German means poison by the way… but fortunately I knew this, or the entire exercise could have ended very badly. I’d probably have bought gift-wrapped cyanide by mistake.

Of course it may still end badly. Here is a shortlist of the extraordinary German present ideas I found:

Yodelling mug

Yes, it yodels, apparently, whenever you pick it up from a flat surface. According to the blurb you can delight your work colleagues with the cheerful sound of yodelling while you drink your coffee. I wonder whether this wouldn’t be a more effective way of getting someone killed than giving them cyanide.

Nose-shaped shower gel dispenser

We all know that being ill is a national hobby in Germany. Ask after a German’s health only if you have a good half hour to spare and don’t mind listening to tales about haemorrhoids, pustules or embarassing itching. So what could be more fun for a Teuton than to start the day by squirting gloopy jets of snot out of an oversized nose. That way, even if they’re inadvertently well, they’ll have something to regale their co-workers with:  This morning I produced a very fine stream of green goo from my nose…

Angela Merkel lemon juicer

When buying a gift for the German who genuinely has everything, I’d still be prepared to take a punt that they don’t already have an Angela Merkel lemon juicer. Though I’m prepared to be proved wrong…

Whistling garden gnome

As we know, no German garden is complete without at least one gnome. Preferably a whole cluster of them (what is the collective of gnome anyway?). This gnome comes equipped with a sensor and whistles whenever someone goes past. It’s the perfect gift for anyone with a grudge against their postman…

An inflatable  penis outfit

Whether it’s carnival, or just a normal day, surely no German can resist the urge to dress up as a penis?

Hmmm…. gift-wrapped cyanide is looking ever more like the best choice….


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Altweiberfastnacht in Germany

This morning just before 11 a strange crowd of German women will be assembling in front of our town hall… this is Altweiberfastnacht, one of the most important dates in the local calendar for Jecken (fools), and these are the Altweiber (old women) or Möhne (hags) as they are known locally . At exactly 11 minutes past 11 o’clock, the Möhne will storm the town hall, oust the mayor from office and install their carnival prince in his place. They will “emasculate” the mayor symbolically by snipping off his tie. Every other male in Germany is liable to suffer the same fate… so not a day to put on the best Hermes in your wardrobe…

Altweiber or Möhne as they are known locally


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I visited Moers this week. When I was there I came across the ruins of a synagogue in the shopping centre. There was not a lot left – it had been destroyed during the war. Actually, even the doorway which appeared to remain was a replica, rebuilt as a memorial on the site of the old synagogue, with the names of all the murdered jews from Moers inscribed on the inside of the doorway. A permanent reminder of what happened here back in the 1940s.

The site of the former Moers Synagogue

Names of the dead


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