With only 16 days to my next trip to Munich, expect a little more Germania than usual around here. I’ve been pacing myself with just a smattering of German literature so far this year. However, I reckon that now is the time for full-scale indulgence. Aldi stocking my favourite German beer is a great aid to the prerequisite training program … and, on a more cerebral note, I have no less than 3 German novels on the go ….
If you’ve been paying attention recently, you’ll have noticed Cathy Dobson’s Planet Germany placed at the top of the current reading widget for a number of weeks. The length of time there, not a negative reflection on the book. It was making me irritable with longing and envy, and so I needed to read it in very short sections for a while. But now that the gloves are off so to speak, I raced through the remaining 3/4’s in just two evenings last week.
After a decade of living in Germany, Cathy and her ex-pat British family finally decided to fully integrate, adopt German tradition and participate fully in its customs. Planet Germany details their (mis)adventures during that year of total immersion in all things Germanic. Chaos rules in Cathy’s rambling farmhouse and converted pigsty as she deals with the manic cocktail of three school-age children, a herd of cats, including one megalomaniac tom, and the multitude of German bylaws. However, for every bylaw imposing Ordnung, such as one that prevents disposal of bottles in a bottle bank during lunchtime and another that imposes a maximum height on pine trees, there is a good excuse for a party: New Year, Karneval (when the whole of Germany dresses up in fancy dress), May Day, St Martin’s Day …..
Woven between the parties, beer and Glühwein, the fabric of German life is observed with the sardonic humour of a benign foreign eye. The madness of the autobahn, the dangers of the slug and the dachshund on the bicycle paths and, of course, gas-generating German cuisine. I think Cathy is just a little unfair in that latter section. However, a little bitterness is understandable given her valiant attempts in serving British food to her German friends. Roast beef and yorkshire pudding, traditional Christmas turkey with all the trimmings both meeting with derision. Nothing compared though to what happened when she tried feeding curry to the Germans. My own faux-pas in this respect was steak and kidney pie. Lots of wrinkled Teutonic noses there! Trifle, too, in my experience generated initial suspicion. Not for long though. In fact, it became the de rigeur dessert at my table once I’d added the secret ingredient – a generous dash of Himbeerschnaps (raspberry schnaps) – to the sponge!)
Many thanks to Cathy for sending me a copy of her book. It brought back many, many memories …. including one of a Fasching (fancy-dress) party in which everyone from the office turned up dressed as me ……… fortunately for the guilty, that was in the era prior to the advent of digital photography!