Max.

So basically, when I began writing this blog, I decided not to follow advice and focus on one specific topic / theme. I figured I’d just write, for me, for fun, and see what common thread emerges. Turns out, I like to write about (brace yourselves): stuff I like (rocket science like no other, right?). And that means that today, I get to write about Max.

Max is awesome. Max is sitting next to me right now, probably unable to comprehend why I’m chilling with this white thing on my lap and making soft tapping noises, instead of galloping wildly along the Promenade with him. But Max has many interests to tide him over in the meanwhile. And once you come to know Max in this light, my guess is you will develop a soft and fluffy Max shaped hole in your heart. Just as I have.

And so, I present to you: A character sketch of Maxwell Oliver Peter (aka Maximus; aka Mr Fluffy Pants).

Max has few inhibitions. Coupled with a slightly skewed self-image, and a somewhat unusual love of chairs, Max’s family members have, at times, found themselves suddenly buried under 50kgs of blond fluff with very little warning.

But then how do you get mad at this?

Max is not a big believer in personal space. So when there are 7 empty deckchairs by the pool on a lazy summer’s day, Max WILL join you. On yours.

And will be thoroughly pleased with himself for doing so.

Max is also a relatively pampered pooch. And while his usual bi-monthly shampoo, blow-dry and purfum leave him looking (and smelling) rather dashing, he has been known (at times) to demonstrate an alternative style streak. (Yes, that is his tail. And yes, it is purple).

On occasion, Max also presents some slightly obsessive compulsive tendencies. Like when he insists on sleeping with his head ON the pillow (and thinks you are not looking). On your pillow.

Max, like most four-legged furies, loves food. And playing.

Turns out, however, that he is not a fan of playing with his food. And, after standard protocol toy initiation, decided this chicken – needed to go.

And while Max is decidedly rather, uh, special, he is also decidedly one of my favorite large blond bundles of fluff ever (in the history of large blonde fluff bundles). So in keeping with the ‘theme’ of this blog (if such a thing even exists), I thought it only appropriate to share.

P.s. For autographs and meet-and-greets, please contact Max’s agent (true story). And his people will get back to your people. Eventually.

You do WHAT with your Christmas trees?

Ok, so due to popular demand (admittedly, the fact that I can say that makes me giggle like a school girl), I’ve decided to take a break from my little “writing sabbatical” and send forth another blog entry, bound for the inter-webz (all of them). To be completely honest, I ummed, and I ahhed. And then realised I should really read my post-grad coursework introductory tutorial.

So here’s the next blog.

I was lucky enough to be in Berlin last year as Christmas rolled around. In Germany, Christmas is a really, really big deal.

One of the biggest hype inducers here is the Christmas tree. In Germany, fake Christmas trees out of boxes cower in shame. It’s authentic, fresh pine trees that rule the Christmas tree kingdom. The bigger, the better.

Like this one. This one is good.

Traditionally, a family takes a trip down to the Christmas tree “park” or stall a few days before Christmas. They roam the park, meticulously inspecting and analysing each and every Christmas tree on offer, in an attempt to find “the one”. The trees, optimistically standing to attention and all spruced up, are slowly adopted one by one. Once chosen, they are snugly wrapped up with funny netting stuff, by a rather neat little machine.

And you realise even Spiderman has employment options.

Later, they embark on what will be the most important journey of their lives; delivery.

The Christmas tree shop. Aircon was useless.

And then we saw it and knew. That was the one.

As the much anticipated tree arrives at it’s new home, shrieks of joy and laughter burst forth from little ones. And silent shrieks of dismay are kept, well, silent, by the slightly older one’s, whose job it then is to place this ceiling scraping monster upright, and get it to stay there (preferably at a 90 degree angle).

Because you want to avoid this.

The tree is then decorated. Out come the ladders, the tree mats (to keep the tree comfy… or to catch the pine needles, still undecided), and a mountain of boxes, inside which the craziest Christmas related things you have ever seen sit and wait to be re-discovered.

Like a Santa from Joburg.

And Reindeer accessories for your Polo.

Out come waist high, light up Santa’s (because every house needs a life size, light up Santa in their hallway), sparkly festive window display’s, and that wonderful carol singing wind-up thingy you were so sure you had finally gotten rid of last year.

That's him. That's the relentless little wind-up, carol singing critter. Right flippin' there.

Out come’s Rudolph and his five million friends, aquaintences, relatives, bells and whistles (excuse the pun). And out come the candles and candle holders. For the tree.

Yes. In Germany, electrical Christmas lights (fairy lights) on the tree are about as taboo as trees in a box. Here, real candles (with flames, that are made of real fire, that burns) are tentatively placed on top of the branches of the by now fully adorned (and highly flammable) 2.5 meter tall tree (which is made predominantly of wood, which is flammable). These candles are carefully positioned so as to avoid having their flames come into contact with the branches directly above these ridiculous fire hazards,… I mean pretty little candles. Then the candles, on the flammable tree (usually standing in a somewhat precarious position), on the flammable wooden floor, of the flammable apartment, on the second floor of the flammable apartment block, are lit. And all logic is replaced by a sense of mesmerization (real word, true story, I checked), while the tree twinkles like it’s nobody’s business.

What our finished tree looked like.

But perhaps the most absurd part of the whole Christmas experience is what happens when the festive season ends. On January 12th, I realised that it’s not the three day meal and gift giving saga that steals the “absurdest part of Christmas in Germany” award. Nor is it the sunset at 3:30pm. And it isn’t spending insane amounts of money on a dead tree, only to lug it up 4 flights of stairs, look at it for the next 16 days, and then be rid of it either. No.

The most absurd part of the entire experience is, hands down, what happens with the previously celebrated tree. This beautiful part of the furniture, this extension of the family, is stripped naked (if it hasn’t already burnt down), dethroned… and is then tossed out the second or third story living room window. Yup. The window.

The final destination. Out. And down.

The idea of citizens known for being characteristically uptight and civilized (with the exception of two world wars) tossing this beloved, pricey, eight foot giant out of the window was just too much to digest. I had no choice but to put this notion down to my bosses sense of humor and my gullible nature.

Until I was leaving the apartment some time around mid-January with my little German charge. As I stepped out the building and onto the path, I heard a shout, followed by an unusually loud “swooshing” sound. I turned to my left, and low and behold, there was Oupa Mi (pronounced: Me) leaning out of his second story window, while his tree was in mid-flight and on it’s way down.

Without warning.

A split second later it landed, loudly. It then simply lay in a big solid heap on the ground, in front of the apartment building, looking rather forlorn.

My jaw, by this point, was on the floor right along with Oupa Mi’s Christmas tree.  “Did anybody SEE that?!” my “what’s normal” internal barometer yelled.

And I probably looked like this. Only less Tarsier-ish.

Clearly, people had. Only their expressions showed no sign of witnessing this outrageous event. Neighbors nonchalantly glanced over their shoulders but didn’t raise and eyebrow. People walking their dogs politely stepped out of the southbound tree’s way and continued along with their business. And my charge, who had just witnessed my near “death by Christmas tree” experience, hadn’t even stopped walking, and by this point was already on the other side of the street.

The only concerned witness.

By the end of the day, Oupa Mi’s tree had company. Naked Christmas trees of all shapes and sizes lay hopelessly on the ground in front of our apartment block, each waiting to meet their maker.

I have a strange urge to tag each tree with their respective apartment number. You get the idea.

That, my friends, is decidedly the oddest Christmas ritual I’ve experienced thus far.

Generally, following this final life threatening festive tradition in Germany, the season is wrapped up (so to speak). The following few hours see the disappearance of all lights, decor, life size Santa’s and annoying carol singing wind-up-thingy’s, as they are packed up and buried in the basement, along with all the socially acceptable absurdities and crazy traditions of the past few days. And civilization and logic rule supreme once more.

At least, that is, until the next time they pull Rudolph and his friend’s out of the box.

Because sometimes you just need a flippin’ good laugh.

Some mornings are great.

Some mornings you wake up on time. You see the sunrise and appreciate its beautiful rays flooding your bedroom. You hear the birds chirping away merrily. You eat a healthy, balanced breakfast and only need one sugar in your coffee. Some mornings traffic somehow doesn’t seem that bad. And if you’re really lucky, some mornings, that new song you were dying to hear starts playing on the radio JUST as you tune into your station of choice.

And this is how you feel.

But I think it’s safe to say that most mornings usually pan out somewhat more, uh, realistically. You abuse the snooze button one too many times. By the time you eventually do throw yourself out of bed, you realize you’re going to be at least 5 minutes late for work, again, even though you swore to yourself (and your boss) only yesterday that you were turning over a new leaf.

And then you remember it’s day one of your new diet.

And it's as if the alarm is seeking revenge for what you did to it yesterday.

You miss the weather forecast on the radio compliments of the annoying pigeon cooing relentlessly (and loudly, very loudly) right outside your flippin’ window. You fantisize about about stuffing a pair of black socks down it’s throat, until you realize you only have one pair of black socks left, and one sock is missing. You wish you knew the directions to lonely sock land, but you don’t. You grab a bowl of cereal, drown it in milk, and in a last attempt to have at least one enjoyable moment before you leave the house to tackle the mountain of endless impossible feats your boss expects you to achieve by 5pm that day, you take one big mouthful of breakfast, only to discover… the milk is off.

Or maybe I’m the only one this ever happens too.

Either way, some mornings we just need that extra sugar in our coffee. Or milk chocolate Lindor balls for breakfast (if you are so inclined). Or our “fat pants” and a kind friend. And if you had one of those mornings today, I though I might share with you something I found. Something that rendered me useless for a good three minutes due to of a serious case of the giggles.

Behold.

Click on it and read all the way to the bottom. Just do it.

The best part is, if your boss catches you helplessly snorting with laughter under your breath while you are “doing research”, you have a really good reason.

Especially if you are not a Megalosaurus, and your cat is in fact healthy.

Happy weekday y’all.

The pick-me-up.

This week was not a great one for me on a personal level. But I’ve decided I’m not going to dwell on the fact that this week saw an almost four year, on again, off again, relationship breathe it’s very last, fairly agonizing breath. I’ve made a point of deciding not to meditate on the gut-wrenching, heart breaking, guilt inducing, shame invoking, or immensely frustrating negatives. No. I’m not going to focus on how this was no Romeo and Juliette ending either. I’m not going to harp to myself repeatedly about how it resembled more like a gory, slasher, horror movie type ending. Nor am I going to imagine how the scene would play out were it creatively transposed into a murder scene in an old Hitchcock film, the relationship playing the part of the helpless victim.

No. No melodramatic ranting or raving to myself at 3am in the kitchen over multiple tubs of choc-chip Haagen Dazs.

Like this. This is what I will not be drowning my sorrows with. Nope. Definitely not.

No crying pools of tears on the light wooden and completely impractically unsealed wooden floors; pools deep enough to drown a small rat. (No thinking about drowning small rats either for that matter). And absolutely no, under any circumstances, NO staying in on Friday night’s in my remarkably sexy over sized moo-cow PJ’s and fuzzy slippers to play pick-up-sticks with the 12 year old kid I watch. No. I have decided to engage in absolutely none of the fore-mentioned activities whatsoever.

Almost as sexy as this guys PJ's. Jealous.

What I have decided to focus on instead, are the many little blessings that are sent my way each day. And the wonderful family I work for and live with at the moment have done a really, really fantastic job of helping me out with this.

Bare with me.

As each horror film tends to have one pinnacle scene, one really gruesome, memorable climax that makes the viewer squirm and grimace in disgust, so did the horror of this past week. That scene’s title: “Wednesday”.  And let me tell you, Wednesday, for lack of a more eloquent word that better captures the essence of what I felt, Sucked. (Yes, with a capital S). It really Sucked. If fact, it Sucked so much, that I (much to my embarrassment) ended up bawling like a baby – at work. (My points on the professional scale continue to soar to new heights). My poor 12 year old, being quite taken back (I try not to make a habit of this, for obvious reasons), didn’t quite know what to do with herself. She did however do a wonderful job in the hugging and “there there” departments – her scrawny little arms trying to assume a safe and assuring position around my violently shaking shoulders. In true 12 year old style, out came the sweeties and blankets, girlie preteen hate music, and puzzles (I wasn’t sure, but I went with it).

My kid's idea of an emotional band aid. And surprisingly, fairly effective.

That evening we fetched her father  (my boss; middle aged, German, high profile and type A) from work. My dear kid proceeded (in true, excited, child like style) to tell my boss just how upset I’d been, and how I’d spent the entire afternoon sobbing (she meticulously left out no details, which thrilled me). Mortified as I was, as I drove us all back to our apartment, I was met with only empathy and understanding. Unexpected, undeserved, but extremely welcome.

However, my greatest surprise greeted me the following day. After  horribly oversleeping, completely missing my morning work shift, I stumbled out of bed at 2pm and aimed for the kitchen. Now not only was I feeling painfully sorry for myself, I was feeling very guilty too. Great.

As I approached the entrance to the kitchen, I noticed something odd. The kitchen table was… clean. No used cutlery or dirty napkins creatively sprawled across the surface. No half empty coffee mug or bowl of soggy Nestle Clusters. No crumbs? No cold, hard, barely touched baguette either. Just one clean, almost empty table. But what was equally as confusing to me was what WAS on the table. One side plate, in my spot, with something on it.

Uh. Where's the mess?

As I approached I realised that on this plate was one banana, one boiled egg in an eggcup, and a one small cherry tomato, also in an eggcup. My little, tired brain was doing it’s best. Confusion was still in the lead.

Um. Whats that?

And then I saw it. As I took one final step right up to the subject in question, standing directly above this cause for bewilderment, a broad, somewhat goofy smile broke out almost contagiously across my face. The subject smiled back.

Oh! Ok, I get it! I get it!

Turns out, my poor boss was obviously more concerned about me and my emotional hiccup the previous day than I’d realised. Also turns out he has a more varied sense of humor than I’d realised. Staring back at me was breakfast. And today breakfast had two eyes (one larger, one, well, not quite there but trying) and an unmistakably large grin.

Convinced that this was my kid’s doing, I pounced on her as she walked through the door that afternoon. Nope. I was wrong. She had no part in any of it. It was my boss. It was all my boss. They didn’t oversleep and skip breakfast. No. They woke on time (even though I didn’t) and ate breakfast. They then left the kitchen spotless (I usually do the cleaning bit after my breakfast at a more civil hour). And apparently my boss decided I needed to have a better day after the previous one, and that one egg, one cherry tomato, and one banana, all strategically placed on a side plate was JUST what I needed. Funny enough, he was right. It cracked me up (excuse the pun). I was in hysterics. I was also rather moved by the very sweet, unexpected and strangely thoughtful gesture. But mostly, I was in hysterics.

Like this. But cuter.

Naturally, I grabbed the camera. Way I saw it, something that was able to put a smile on my face when the corners of my mouth were fighting a loosing battle against gravity, would hopefully put a smile on yours too.

Have a great week all!

P.S… Sebastian, for your Hitchcock DVD’s, try next to the projector – top shelf. Just a hunch. Also. Um. There’s a very small chance we may be out of ice-cream.

Fervent Optimism.

I like to write about things that make me happy. Be it just a little happy. Or be it a lot. Last week I discovered something that makes me “a lot” happy. Virtual world – meet Polyvore.

A general idea of what users can do.

Polyvore is like a socially acceptable version of dress-up paper dolls for those of us older than six. Only more environmentally friendly (less paper, more bandwidth). It provides you with an online user profile and allows the user to mix and match different (and very current) items of clothing from real stores all over the world. You can create sets of clothing (like an outfit), whole collections, templates, find contacts, and join or create a group. And all your creations get saved in a nifty little album for others to drool over and wish they had thought of that. Neat right?

A snapshot of my latest "set".

My little album of created "sets".

Feel free to pour over my profile as an example, or browse http://www.polyvore.com in general. Or hey, even create your own profile. But be warned, it’s addictive. And probably not one of the top 10 most constructive ways to spend your time. Unless of course you’re in the fashion industry. In which case, welcome to guilt free procrastination.

Not just your Same Same…

Home for the next short while is Berlin. Berlin in Winter is rad. Berlin is white. Berlin has legendary shops and bakeries. And Berlin has Starbucks. Which is all very good for Berliners, because Berlin in Winter is also very, very  dark.

White like this.

H&M FTW.

An epic sight. And the Brandenburg Gate.

But there is a plus side to these rather lengthy winter evenings (at least in our apartment). One cool perk to my boss being a big-shot film dude as well as a complete techno gadgets geek, are the uber snazzy, efficient thingamajigs  we have in the house. Exhibit one: The film projector and complete high def surround sound – in our lounge. It seems my camera has PMS at the moment, but here is a picture I found on Le Google to give you and idea.

Our little guy looks something like this.

This is great in winter as it’s pitch dark by 4pm. This seemingly ever-present darkness could be depressing and pretty inconvenient (if you tend to be nocturnal and wake up around midday, that leaves you with 4 hours of sunlight at most – usually only 3 after fighting for the shower, then fighting with the shower  – if it happens to have something against you personally). But when when kettle corn comes in 3 liter buckets and DVDs are actually available in English (Yes – in Germany they dub EVERYTHING – including American series… Desperate Housewives in German = funniest thing ever), “sunset” becomes an event to be embraced.

1 - 0, to the shower.

Out come the blankets, the mugs of hot frothy milk and honey, the chocolates and sugar coated popcorn (you can tell the ladies call the shots in this house, ja?) and whichever DVD we grab from the home library or my bosses hand as he walks through the door. The down side: again, he is actually IN the industry. And: he’s, well, male. This combination translates pretty directly into limited poorly written yet very satisfying Hollywood Rom Com’s being screened. Dilemma.

A first hand education in film history is always great. The publicly hushed stories of actors personal lives being  spilled too you by someone who knows them personally, as their famous image flickers across our living wall is also a pretty interesting experience. But let’s be honest, watching a pack of grown men running around and blowing stuff up, or middle-aged German spies solving violent Russian assassination mysteries = not necessarily always my first choice (sorry Sebastian!).

The point I’m getting to with this long winded story has arrived. Last night my boss arrived home with a DVD. I was told it was set in Cambodia. Yup. I thought I knew exactly what to expect, but that it might be cool to learn a bit about Cambodia.

I was wrong. So very, very wrong. It was brilliant.

The lead isn't tough on the eyes either. Always helps.

The film was called “Same Same But Different”. I won’t give the whole film away because I would HIGHLY recommend it to pretty much anyone older that 12. But here is the basic plot in a nutshell:

European boy and brother go to Asia (Cambodia) to get wasted. Boy meets Cambodian hooker by fluke. Misunderstandings occur. Boy and Hooker fall in love. Girl has bad cough. Boy takes girl to doctor for the first time in her life. Girl is told she had Bronchitis. Boy then has to go back to Europe to work and make money to send her to keep her from selling her body. Boy misses girl horribly. Girl misses boy and while tempted to go back to selling herself stays true to her word. Girl still sounds sick over the phone when she chats to boy. Boy send more money for second visit to doctor. Then girl finds out she has HIV. Girl tells boy. And just to make the film a million times better, it’s (fairly precisely) based on a true story.

One of the many moving scenes.

The film is very artsy. It’s extremely real. Its extremely unglamorous. It’s extremely good. It also leaves you with a warm fuzzy feeling. More than this I won’t say… Except for – go hire it.

More reports on strange, cool, and downright funny things to follow.

Chuus.

P.S. Sincerest apologies to the elderly gentleman living upstairs who “like’s movies too, but not at this volume, or at 3am”. If you are reading this please know you have an open invitation to join us. Also, you might want to bring a chair. Just saying.