Tag Archives: cathy dobson

Blogging away from home

I just wanted to point regular readers here to Birds on the Blog where I have signed up as one of the team of regular bloggers. My first piece is out over there. Obviously this will not affect Planet Germany.

Working on a Different Planet

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Teatime and Cellos in Düsseldorf

Just a quick alert for anyone in Düsseldorf on October 3rd. I will be appearing at Teatime and Cellos on Planet Germany.

The event is organised by Rhinebuzz. It will be an afternoon of fabulous classical music interspersed with me reading funny passages from Planet Germany . It starts at 5 p.m. (that’s 17.00 if you’re German) and will be at  Kwadrat, Blücherstrasse 51, Düsseldorf.

I really hope to meet some of my regular readers there!

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Filed under About Germany, books, comedy, german art, German language, Life in Germany

Amusing the Germans

This week the very excellent Christoph Driessen wrote an article for dpa which was syndicated to news sites all over Germany, including Bild, Welt Online, T-Online, Web.de, Focus Online… to name but a few.

His article looks  at the unusual portrayal of Germans by various travel guides and other books – including Planet Germany. Of course for a gripping article it was essential to pick up on some of the quirky or even downright insulting descriptions of teutonic habits and characteristics which are picked up by the authors – myself included. The parts praising teutonic qualities and virtues don’t make good news copy.

But what really struck me was how the different headline writers have had a field day. There seems to have been a competition to see who can sensationalise this story most.

This got me into thinking what I would expect each of these articles to be about if I’d only read the headline, not the article…

Britische Reiseführer warnen vor Deutschland

announces T-Online… conjuring images of the imminent collapse of a German tourist industry, dependent on beer swilling Brits to keep the Oktoberfest in business.

Vom Horror in der deutschen Sauna

screams the Nürnberger Zeitung. I’m expecting an article about a gruesome chainsaw massacre here…

Behaarte Wesen ohne Lederhosen

suggests News.de.  I guess an alien invasion has started…

Rechnen Sie mit gedüngten Körperregionen!

suggests the Sueddeutsche. Good grief! This must be about mud wrestling gone mad!

If anyone else spotted any other good ones out there, please let me know! I love German humour!

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Filed under About Germany, books, Life in Germany

Planet Germany is Comic Read of 2008!

I’ve been so distracted by frozen pipes, snow shovelling and trying to keep warm that I hadn’t had time to keep up with Lizzie’s blog. Lizzie’s Literary Life is a fantastic book review blog which never fails to provide great tips on excellent authors, old and new.

Anyway… when I logged in today to catch up, I was excited to find Lizzie has published her list of top recommendations from her (very extensive) 2008 reading. And there at the very top of the list is none other than…*drumroll*… my very own Planet Germany – recommended as Comic Read of the Year!

Many thanks to Lizzie! And as soon as I’ve finished writing this, I shall be straight off to Amazon to pick up her very top recommendation …. The Chocolate War.

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The only thing worse than being talked about…

…is not being talked about.

I nearly fell off my chair this morning when I checked into the Book Depository website. Falling off my chair is generally a bad idea, first because my desk is strategically positioned next to an open window with a thorny rosebush just the other side of it, and second because it involves cats scattering in all directions, usually taking coffee mugs, papers, laptops and other items with them.

Fortunately so far, I have managed to hang onto my seat… just.

Anyway, I digress. The Book Depository is one of the big online booksellers in the UK – and the section of its website called “Editor’s corner” is actually a blog by a very cunning man called Mark Thwaite. I say cunning, because he manages to get everyone else to write his blog in the form of so-called interviews, while he, presumably sits around drinking coffee and sells thousands of books online with one occasional flick of the mouse.

This time, his chosen blogger is Marcia Jarnell aka Lizzy Siddall – author of the very wonderful book-blog: Lizzy’s Literary Life.

Now… here’s the bit that nearly caused my death by a thousand rose-thorns…

It turns out that Lizzy is a secret admirer of this very blog! She says:

Germany is also the subject of my favourite non-bookish blog Planet Germany. It brings back many good memories.

At this point, I’ll take a pause to wave at my screen and say hello to Lizzy!

But wait… it gets better. When asked what books she would recommend to other readers (Mr. Thwaite has not yet managed to outsource the questioning… but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time…), Lizzy’s reply includes:

On a less controversial note, I shall recommend Cathy Dobson’s Planet Germany, the book of the blog, to all British expatriates and to all British ex-expatriates for that matter. No, in fact to everyone. It’s hilarious.

This is why this morning, you find me teetering on the very edge of my windowsill in a state of excitement, with a cat approaching ….about to push me over the edge.

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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….

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Plumbing the depths in Germany

My German collegue Birgit and I have argued over many things over the years. Birgit – for those who haven’t read Planet Germany – is the one who thinks that all things English are inferior and the British are dysfunctional and poorly nourished. And she should know – she’s married to an Englishman.

Things we have argued about include:

  • the best way to seal an envelope
  • the correct way round to hang a toilet roll
  • the best corner on which to staple two pages together ( apparently I do it on the right just to annoy her)

But the greatest bone of contention between us has to revolve around the differences in English and German plumbing.

It all started this morning when I was complaining about a particularly unsatisfactory shower I’d just taken.

“The problem is with the stupid German boiler,” I explain. “In the winter it’s also trying to run the central heating, so whenever it has to send some warm water into the radiators, it diverts it from my shower and I get two minutes of freezing water.”

I can see Birgit bristle at the inference that a German boiler could be inferior to a British one.

“English showers are the worst in the world,” states Birgit with that tone of voice that turns lesser mortals into granite. “To start with you use immersion heaters which need to be on for hours before you get half a bucket of lukewarm water. And there is no such thing as water pressure in Britain. You have these ridiculous little tanks in the loft, full of rats’ droppings and pigeon shit. All that comes out in the bathroom is a trickle, which is alternately hot or cold. And usually it gives out altogether the minute you’ve put shampoo or hair dye on your head.”

I jolt upwards with a horrible thought. Could it be that Birgit in fact studied at the same college as I did and endured the indignity of the shower in my old student digs? Surely not! But how else can she know about that shower? And, worryingly, what else might she know about from my student days?

But she’s already warming to her subject before I can check her sources.
“The English are the only nation who actually refer to a normally functioning shower as a power shower. That says it all, doesn’t it? You don’t have proper plumbing. And you can’t be trusted to use other utilities either. English bathrooms don’t even have light switches. You have silly little bits of string hanging from the ceiling with a plastic bobble. Because if you had a light switch you’d electrocute yourselves.”

Now it’s my turn to bristle. National honour is at stake here.

“German bathrooms are the worst by a long chalk,” I counter. “The toilets are badly designed – with the hole in the wrong place. You have that stupid ledge about an inch below your arse that everything lands on and stinks out the bathroom. And you have to flush about fifteen times before the thing is actually clean. The morning after a decent lentil curry you could actually be pushed off the toilet seat by your own turds. It’s downright unhygienic.”

“The hole is not in the wrong place,”Birgit stamps her foot. “You Brits are probably sitting the wrong way round on the seat for all I know! I wouldn’t put it past you. The shelf is there so you can check the health of your bowels in the morning. You English will probably all die of tapeworms and bowel cancers because you are too prudish and stupid to take care of your own health!”

“We don’t need to inspect our turds every morning because we don’t live on a diet of minced raw pig and undercooked sausages full of parasites.”

“German pork meat is not full of parasites. Just because your boggy island can’t provide good enough quality meat to eat safely without incinerating it first, doesn’t mean our food is unsafe. At least we don’t live on a diet of pre-processed over-salted, packaged polystyrene with artificial flavourings and added cancer-causing agents.”

“I sometimes wish you did,” I yell. About half an hour after Birgit has left the building.

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