I’ve been to Amsterdam a couple of times before, but never on a „girls weekend“. 11 women from different corners of Germany, different fields of work and different styles brought together in the city of canals and bicycles on a very nearly sunny weekend.
Lie-ins, lazy brunches, attempted visits to museums, crawling from vintage shop to vintage shop, getting dressed up and dancing.
I saw less of Amsterdam this time than on my previous visits, but it was filled with laughter, silliness and well, a lot of girliness.
What a ride the last 6 months has been. Getting my little one settled into nursery and adjusting back into my working life again has been the hardest challenge of motherhood so far.
And here we are celebrating the end of the nursery year and the start of the first ’summer holidays‘ together at nursery. And my baby is no longer really my baby. But a toddler with a world of his own away from me. With wonderful nursery nurses, creative spaces and well, sort of friends. I’m full of thanks for the people who have done their job daily with such patience, care and above all almost always with a smile on their face. Something we could all learn from. I’m proud of my little man for adjusting to his new surroundings and I’m ever so slightly proud of myself too.
It’s the age of terrorism. And it won’t stop us from how we live our lives. We all know that we are more in danger of losing our lives in a road traffic accident than through an act of terror.
And yet it feels different when a shooting takes place in a local shopping centre, rather than say an American mall.
It’s unnerving when you are left stranded in the city because public transport has suddenly come to a halt.
It feels unsettling to see heavily armed policemen on the streets and dozens of police cars and emergency service vehicles on a short ride home.
It feels reassuring when concerned messages from all over the world start coming in to ask if you are ok. And it feels safe to be at home and finally put my little one in his bed.
There was a strange feeling on the streets this evening. There is a good reason for why we call it terrorism.
After the shock and disbelief of waking up to Brexit last week, I’m left with a mixture of feelings.
Disappointment, that the country I grew up in has chosen to take this direction. Because I never really thought it would come to this.
Stunned, that the democratic system can leave you feeling so wronged and cheated.
Dismay, when I read of the number of race-related hate attacks which have taken place since the vote. Because I really thought Great Britain was past this.
Dread, when I imagine what sort of a Europe my olive-skinned son will grow up in. Because I had the privilege of never feeling disadvantaged growing up in Britain and assumed the same would be true for him.
Vaguely unsettled, when I think of my status as a UK citizen living in Germany even though I know nothing has changed in my life or is likely to in the very near future.
Luck, that my own move to Germany almost 7 years ago was made so seamless through my status as a European citizen.
Incredulity at the shape of British politics and the slow rise of the right.
Maybe it’s not all as bad or as dramatic as I imagine. But it certainly feels as if the wheels have been set in motion without anyone really knowing where the journey will take us.
After 6 months away from home, I was finally back for a break. The longer I live in Germany, the more the UK seems like a completely different world to me.
If it votes to leave the EU in a few weeks, it truly will be a different world for me and my family.
All the same, I get a ‚it’s so good to be home feeling‘ every time I set foot on UK soil.
And absence makes me want to explore the country even more.
Time is always short, but we had the chance to make a couple of day trips – both funnily enough to Welsh towns this time.
We spent a wonderful family day at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival. Bill Clinton famously called it „the Woodstock for the mind“.
Well, this time we visited with my niece and nephews and all in all our pack of 4 under 3-year olds. Our consumption of the literary content on offer might have been minimal but we did meet writer Julia Donaldson of ‚Gruffalo‘ fame. And the bunting-clad tents and make-shift stages, lawns scattered with sun-loungers and wooden walkways made for the best playground for the kids.
There was an opportunity for putting on my walking boots too, with a beautiful walk up ‚table mountain‘ (all 451 meters of it) in the Breacon Beacons from the little village Crickhowell.
Despite having become almost accustomed to the breathtaking Southern German landscape, it was a pleasure to be surrounded by fields of green, wander through quaint market towns, eat supper in a pub and to revel in the Britishness of it all.
Having spent plenty of time pondering over the prospect of motherhood, I have given little thought to the other perspective – boyhood. And what a whirlwind that is.
At the end of Erik’s first birthday, we – the exhausted parents and grandparents – landed on the sofa to watch Richard Linklater’s ‚Boyhood‘. We couldn’t have picked a better time to watch this wonderful film.
A life of adventures on bicycles, sibling fights, adults and their constant advice and comments, emotional mothers, upheavals, disappointments, success and failure and a world getting bigger and bigger.
The film reminds you just how fleeting, painful and precious the passage of time is.
As our little one embarks on his boyhood, I pledge to celebrate the joy of all those everyday moments with him, and to take pleasure in his increasing independence as he takes his place in the world.
We could have been lying on white sand under palm trees on a Thai beach resort soaking up the sun…
Instead we have chosen to spend a few days at the Baltic coast or ‚Ostsee‘.
We were prepared for a choppy sea and a moody atmosphere. We were prepared for rain. We were prepared for snow.
What we weren’t prepared for was sun and a beautiful light. And the freezing cold. The world is an icebox and our hotel room is our refuge. Literally. At -10 degrees and with an added wind-chill factor, it’s hard to be out for more than 15 minutes at a time. All the warm clothing and layering doesn’t really seem to help. Which explains why I choose to look like a strange eskimo.
But when we make it out, it’s beautiful. Bright, wintry days. Just as it should be. Short promenade walks with the sound of waves crashing to shore. The call of seagulls. The sight of ships in the harbour. Old lighthouses. Ice-cream shops closed up for the season. Warming up over steaming cups of tea.
The lighthouse at Warnemünde
There is a sense of romance to the place and a slowness to time. The perfect setting for some precious time together as a family of 3 at the start of what promises to be an eventful year.
What can I say? It was the year of love.
Love that came so suddenly and enveloped our lives.
Love that softened me from all sides.
A ringside view of my husband falling just as instantly in love with our child.
A love that seems to grow with every strengthened muscle, each new expression and each turn of the head.
A love that looks on with wonder at the little feet clambering around, and which swells as a tired head seeks its rest against my chest.
Whatever challenges and sorrows in store ahead, it feels like there was enough love this year to last us a lifetime.
And just like that, the advent time has come to an end. The neighborhood christmas market which has decorated my doorstep for the last 4 weeks closed its shutters for the last time last night and is packing up to leave this morning.
The very last envelope of my advent calendar will be opened.
And the last few Plätzchen will be eaten.
My German friends will decorating Christmas trees and celebrating later today and my family and friends in the UK will be eagerly awaiting Christmas morning. Whatever the differences in customs, a lot will be the same across the Channel. A time to sit back, a time to eat, a time for wintry walks, a time for party hats and silly jokes (in the UK anyway), a time for stories by candlelight, a time for old-fashioned games and above all, a time spent with loved ones.
However you are celebrating, Merry Christmas one and all.
3 years ago my husband got me to start using a social network called ‚Path‘. Path a is friends network like Facebook, but its appeal is the closed circle it provides for close friends and family. It has a pretty layout and its own photo filters which makes it nicer than a what’s app chat group to look back on. Self-congratulatory posts, constant baby updates and compromising pictures belong on Path.
This week I noticed that I had shared 1000 ‚moments‘ on Path. Round numbers always give me a sense of achievement. And flicking back through some of the many photos and comments did put a smile on my face.