Archive for Dezember, 2014

Looking back on the year 2014

My blogger friend over at has been filling out a short but telling ‚end of year questionnaire‘ for many years. I’m hoping she won’t mind if I use her format to start my own end of year analysis. Here I go:

Gained or lost weight?

Gained weight recognisably for the first time in my adult life, and a copious amount of it!

Hair shorter or longer?

More or less the same.

Short-sighted or long-sighted?

Still short-sighted, but with a rather great new pair of  hipster glasses.

Spent more or less? 

Definitely more. Moving home is an expensive business.

The nuttiest plan? 

I believe I am as sensible as ever.

The most dangerous undertaking? 

Probably getting back on my bicycle. But Munich is a city which lends itself to cycling and there’s no better feeling than arriving at work on your bike fresh-faced and ready to go.

The most expensive purchase? 

Furniture for the new flat. Worth every penny.

The tastiest food? 

My mum’s cooking (sadly don’t get to eat it as much as I would like). Anniversary dinner in Mallorca. And every  invitation to eat at the table of the talented @thorstenfirlus.

The most impressive book?

Alice Munro’s ‚Dear Life‘. I don’t normally read short stories, but this collection blew me away.  And ‚Love in a Cold Climate‘ from Nancy Mitford – when not exactly the most impressive, a wonderful present and such a pleasurable read, with more than a few lessons in life and love.

The most moving film?

The Broken Circle on itunes. Heartbreakingly beautiful.

The best song?The best concert? 

Lots of nice ones from the Munich Symphony orchestra and the Bayerischer Rundfunk orchestra in lovely new concert halls.

The most time spent at…? 

The hospital.

The best time spent with…? 

So many wonderful days spent with family and friends, in the company of @smatthes.

Predominant feeling from 2014?

The year started with a sense of unpredictability, brought lots of newness and comes to a close with a feeling that everything is just as it was meant to be.

The first time in 2014?

Being a resident of Munich. Becoming pregnant. Taking a long walk in the snow. Eating a Germknödel and Leberkäse. Living in a country that won the world cup.

Done again after a long time in 2014? 

Moving home, after 5 great years in Düsseldorf. Making music regularly again – with our lovely piano at home and my new choir.

3 things, I could have done without?

The year wasn’t so bad, but at a push: unpacking boxes, early-pregnancy tiredness (even if it could have been a lot worse), spending a part of almost every holiday on my dissertation.

The most important thing that I wanted to convince someone of?

This year, probably to give me a job. It worked.

2014 in one word?


Merry Christmas

Somehow Christmas sneaks up on me too quickly every year. For a while it seems too early to think about Christmas, and suddenly it’s there.

Perhaps that’s why it helps to have traditions. Things you do every December. The Brits have some wonderful ones: carols by candlelight, Christmas caroling at all, baking mince pies, open houses with mulled wine, nativity plays and the diligent sending of Christmas cards.


IMG_1216-0.JPGThe Germans are not without their traditions either. The Advent season is celebrated with the advent wreath, baking Plätzchen (take a look here if you are not sure what that is), numerous renditions of Bach’s Weihnachtsoratorium and regular visits to the Christmas markets for mugs of Glühwein and a cheeky Wurst.



What could be better than being in the position to mix-and-match all these traditions. And even if it went quickly, it’s been a wonderful December.

I hope that your advent season was just as bright and wish you all a merry Christmas and a time of rest and peace, as the year comes to a close.

Munich with toddlers

There seems to be something about Munich. The number of visits from family and friends to see us have steeply increased since our move down south. Which has been a great way to get to know the city better. The city has such a mix of activities on offer, that it’s possible to tailor the weekend programme for each individual guest, without a sense of repetition. Fine dining and cocktail drinking, old-town tours, long strolls along the English gardens, day-trips to the surrounding lakes and mountains, rainy day museums and galleries – all in all have made for some wonderful weekends with treasured people.

This weekend was something extra special though. Our visitors came in the additional form of 2 pint-sized toddlers (my little nephew and niece). My usual programme of sleeping-in followed by a leisurely breakfast was not going to cut-it. And my inexperience with hanging out with little kids meant that I was initially a bit stumped in my planning.

photo (38)

But now on a Sunday evening, the clatter of tiny feet, the clunk-clunk of the wooden bee and caterpillar being pulled across the kitchen floor and the occasional inexplicable bursts of tears are gone and I’m left with a feeling that the weekend was a success (and also that the flat is a little quiet). And the conclusion that as far as big cities go, Munich seems to be a child-friendly one.

The pavements were wide enough for our double buggy, the underground was not so crowded as to make it unbearable, and there were patches of green close at hand to allow the kids to run around when they needed to. The weekend was full of simple pleasures –  breakfasts greeted by happy and playful faces (which more than made up for the slightly earlier start to the day), picnicking in the garden, playing in parks and afternoon naps. Not to mention that it also gave us an opportunity to visit the excellent zoo in Munich. With the highlight being another couple of toddlers: of the polar bear variety.

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Protecting pregnant women

Aside from spending time googling an assortment of words (cycling, herbal tea, flying…) in combination with the word  ‚pregnancy‘, visiting the doctor more times than in the last 5 years put together and observing daily with marvel as my belly swells up, I’m pretty busy at work. Which to my friends in England is no news, but to many Germans appears to come as a surprise. Surprised that I am at work at all.

Because pregnancy in Germany is extremely protected. In fact there is a law enforcing this protection. The ‚Mutterschutzgesetz‚ (quite literally mother-protection law) is a law protecting expectant and new mothers from dangers and excessiveness at the workplace as well as protecting against unfair dismissal and financial loss.

Each employer is required to identify potential hazards at the workplace. And it turns out the hospital has many potential hazards. From infectious patients to radiation exposition and general stress from night-shifts and on-calls. Thus, while my compatriots in the UK trudge on through their weeks of nights through the stages of pregnancy, battling with tiredness, crazy hormones and various physical complaints, pregnant women in Germany are not supposed to work night-shifts, not supposed to work on Sundays or to clock-in overtime.  After 9 years of life being dictated by an on-call rota, this is a somewhat strange but not altogether unpleasant time for me.

Furthermore, the law forbids expectant mothers to work from 6 weeks before their due date and for the 8 weeks following delivery. To me it seems like a lot of the rules verge on being more than a little overprotective,  because I tend to compare every aspect of my life in Germany with what I know of the UK. And I can’t help but think of my good friend in Ireland who (no joke) started labour in the middle of her leaving-day lunch at her place of work at the beginning of maternity leave and went from there directly to the delivery ward.

Pregnancy is after all a perfectly normal state and not an illness. But nevertheless it doesn’t change the fact that it comes with emotional and physical changes (that are brand new and unsettling to first time mothers) and which presumably affect each individual differently. And looking at it that way, I’m starting to appreciate what a privilege it is to be an expectant mother in Germany. And even if I find some of the rules a little over-the-top, I’m wondering how many of my UK colleagues and friends would have said no to a little bit of special treatment at work during pregnancy.

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