Tag Archives: weather

So what do dachshunds do in this weather, huh?

I’ve been watching the cats struggling through the snow (and we have had plenty of new snow overnight), and I am yet again struck by the sheer impracticality of those Germans who choose to keep a dachshund as a pet.

Not too bad under the trees...

If you only have the odd inch or two of snow it’s not too bad.  For a cat that’s sort of ankle-deep. For a dachshund that’s already over the knees.

I'm getting ice in my armpits Mum!

But we’re talking serious snow here… well up to a cat’s shoulders. So what do dachshunds do? Tunnel through it?



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Snowscape in Germany

Yet another load of snow has dumped over our region overnight. In the last couple of weeks I have acquired an Umlaut. I used to say: “Ooooh! Snow!” Now it’s more of a: “Öööööh Snow!”

I can tell that I am becoming German though, because this morning, I found myself outside with a shovel clearing paths between all the various doors on our farmhouse. What on earth has got into me?

Here are a few pictures of our latest snowscape.

Planet Germany

View up the lane

Digging the paths

(Minimal) Germanic snow shovelling has taken place.

It's cold up the garden

Probably where Santa lives...

Strangely enough, I can’t seem to interest the cats in this natural beauty at all!

Wake me when it's spring....


Filed under About Germany, cats, Life in Germany

A Summer storm in the Rhineland

We’ve been having a heatwave for the past few days… glorious sunshine, tropical heat, still heavy air… and ingrates that we are, we’ve been cowering in the cool shade of the house, only occasionally stirring ourselves to shuffle over to the fridge in search of a cold drink.

Last night the heatwave came to an abrupt end. Black clouds bubbled up over from behind the barn and the late afternoon sunshine gave way to near darkness. The sirens, which are flood warnings for those who live close to the Rhine, started sounding… it was eerie against the hot, damp, leaden evening sky.

And then the rain started. A few thudding drops at first – then it was like turning on a shower. Water streamed from the heavens. It was like standing under a waterfall. Great claps of thunder and flashes of lightening. Within minutes our courtyard had turned into a lake.

I spend the next half hour admiring our new garden “water feature” and wondering, should the weather continue like this for long, whether my next hours would be best spent building an ark or ordering some koi carp for the courtyard. But then I discovered that we also had a puddle forming in the entrance hall… so I stopped dreaming of ornamental lakes and started fetching buckets, mops and checking the cellar and upstairs rooms for unexpected dampness.

Meanwhile the ominous sound of many police and fire engine sirens started to echo all around us.

The scariest thing of all was that the toilet in our downstairs bathroom started bubbling and making weird noises… as though some krakan from the depths would appear from it. At the same time the electricity in that part of the house suffered a short circuit… which led to smoke appearing from a lightswitch in the bathroom. We turned off the mains power, just in case. My youngest daughter created a helpful sign which she stuck on the mirror to warn everyone of our certain impending death.

This morning the sun is out, the courtyard is dry and it’s as though nothing happened. The news, though, is full of reports of damage and flooding and even deaths from the storm. I guess we got off lightly after all!


Filed under Life in Germany

Weather, health and social grooming

I realise that for most of the month of January so far I have blogged almost incessantly about the weather. Don’t blame me… it’s my cultural heritage talking.

The weather is, of course, the most important topic of conversation for Brits. Whenever we meet other people, the first five minutes of social interaction are inevitably weather related.

My father phones me every week from the English Peak District and his opening question is always an enquiry about the weather in Germany. He then gives me pretty much a blow by blow account of the weather in the Peak District… not just today’s weather, but also yesterday’s, the day before’s and a general forecast for the coming week. The account is punctuated only to ask for the same detailed information about the weather in the Rhineland.

Of course neither of us needs to know what the weather is like in each other’s part of the world. He will not be visiting the Rhineland this week and I won’t be in the Peak District. But exchange of useful information is not the point of the British weather conversation.

Talking about the weather serves an altogether deeper purpose. It is the way British people settle into a conversation. It is a form of “breaking the ice”. It is an acknowledgement of the other person, a form of social communing. It’s a bit like monkeys grooming each other. Weather is a perfect subject for this mutual back-scratching, because it is non-contentious and everyone can agree.

“It’s very cold today, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is.”

“It’s forecast to warm up later in the week though.”

“It’d be about time.”

Nobody ever disagrees about the weather. In fact to do so would be socially akin to dealing the other person a slap in the face. It’s not a discussion, so much as a gentle stroking of the other person’s head, a wagging tail, a warm pat on the shoulder.

Of course the Germans do not approach the “weather conversation” in the same way at all. Whenever Birgit arrives in the office and I instinctively open a morning weather-conversation-ritual, she sees it as a golden opportunity to prove the superiority of the Swabian nation.

So our morning ritual would go more like this:

“It’s very cold today, isn’t it?”

“Pah! The Rhineland doesn’t know the meaning of winter. Down in Baden-Württemberg we have proper winters every year. Up here there’s nearly never snow or ice. And now that they’ve finally got some, the whole state has broken down and nobody is prepared to clear the roads or get the trains running on time.”

“Well it feels cold to me.”

“You British live on a foggy island – you don’t have proper winters or summers either. You just have perpetual drizzle. No wonder you feel the cold – you don’t have a robust enough constitution to deal with proper weather. It’s amazing you haven’t all already died out.”

You see what I mean. By the end of a weather discussion with Birgit, I don’t feel hugged or stroked or tail-wagged-at. I feel like I’ve done ten rounds in the ring with Mike Tyson. This is what is called culture shock.

Of course the same applies equally the other way around. The Germans don’t have the weather to assist their “social grooming,” but for that they have their health. By the time Birgit and I are sipping the first coffee of the morning, Birgit will be waiting for me to inquire how she is. Asking after a German’s health is equivalent to a primate offering to pick fleas from another ape’s head.

Before you start turning to Germans sitting next to you in the office and asking how they’re feeling though, a word of caution. This is not an exercise to be undertaken lightly by squeamish Brits. Remember, if we tried this in Britain, the conversation would not go any further than:

“How are you?”

“Much better thank you. I really mustn’t grumble.”

The latter sentence could be uttered by anyone with a mild cold through to a range of nasty terminal diseases.

The German, however, will take your enquiry very literally as a deep seated interest in his or her state of health. The response will include a level of detail that a Brit would share only reluctantly even with their doctor. From a German, the simple phrase: “How are you?” may elicit all manner of details about the other party’s digestive system, bowel movements, internal organs or worse (Germans are aided by their inspection-shelf model toilets which allow them to observe and recount the minutiae to you). Not only that, you will be expected to sympathise and probe for even more details as part of the social ritual of “stroking” or “tail wagging” to the German. Try to suppress your gag reflex if you can.

So, when Birgit arrives for work this morning, I shall have to decide whether to spark a fight for national supremacy by commenting on the imminent thaw… or whether to risk her having contracted a tapeworm over the weekend and having to enquire about the symptoms. Which is it to be?


Filed under German language, Life in Germany

The big freeze continues….

Following Monday’s snowfall it’s been exceptionally cold here. I don’t just mean freezing… I mean mindbogglingly cold. The sort of cold that makes icicles form on the end of your nose.

Not that this worries our cats, of course. They’re staying indoors draped over every radiator which is still valiently struggling to pump out heat into the arctic vault of our house.

Last night the temperature here fell to -19°c and the night before it was -23°c.  Welcome to Meerbusch, Siberia!

As a result the snow hasn’t melted one jot. Even putting salt down doesn’t help in this sort of weather – the salt water freezes too. The view up our road looks like this (that’s our car at the bottom – we haven’t even attempted to get it out).

Meanwhile, our pipes have frozen. Turning on taps in the bathroom produces… well, nothing at all actually. Zero. Zilch.

I’ve been exploring parts of the house which I’d previously abandoned to the spiders…. trying to track down where water pipes run… and work out whether they are likely to burst when the thaw finally comes.

Sadly… a very cold and dusty hour later, I have to say I’m none the wiser! Ho hum….


Filed under cats, Life in Germany