Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Clemintine's Day

Sometimes other people's blogs - the ones written by people I don't know - make me feel bad about my life. They are often filled with beautifully lit shots of their organised homes, their possessions and the delicious-looking batch of something they've just whipped up using all organic ingredients. Their blog lives seem so perfect, so effortlessly dirt-free, so full of gorgeous stuff and there is this suggestion of limitless time.

But then yesterday I thought 'to hell with it, I can pretend to be like that too.' So observe above: my artfully arranged tulip (a Valentine's Day gift from Thieu) laid over some clemintines, because Mads gets 'valentines' and 'clemintines' confused and presented me with one in the morning. Isn't that adorable?

What you can't see is that just out of frame the entire contents of our cupboards is laid out on the floor because Mads wanted to make a house for the bottle opener, that she has named 'Spanner.' And you also can't see the bags under my eyes because she'd been sick for three days and Thieu and I had undergone some sort of sleep-deprivation torture where every half an hour during the night she'd woken up yelling 'I need to blow my nose!' or 'I'm thirsty!' and then, later 'I need to go to the toilet!' In this photo you also can't hear Mads getting upset every time I tried to thank Thieu for the beautiful necklace he most unexpectedly gave me in the morning, saying that I just wasn't praising her gift enough - a set of pen drawings on individual squares of toilet paper (as well as the clemintine, of course). And you also can't see that I'm at that point with my latest draft of my latest project where I hate every word I've written, even the 'ands'. Especially the 'ands'.

But now of course I remind myself that there are plenty of 'bare my soul' and 'rip my guts out' blogs I could be reading, if I so chose, but I'd actually much rather read the ones that show people's enviable homes and perfect lives and sigh a little sigh of envious pleasure.

Have another look at my photo. Nice, isn't it?

Anyway. Hope you had a Happy Clemintines Day.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


On the whole I'm not really big on dogs. They smell damp, I'm irritated by their blind devotion and I don't like the little plastic bags of poo that seem to go with dog ownership. But having said that, if I had to have a dog, I'd choose a dachshund. It's the ridiculous proportions, I think. Long body. Stumpy legs. It's funny. I pass this sign when I'm dropping M off at kinder and I always admire it. I like the way it's so specific: No dachshunds on this grass - any other type of dog ok. I also love the way the dachshund has just skillfully slid out from underneath the red line, like it's saying 'yeah, well just you try to stop me. My stumpy legs and ridiculously long body makes it easy for me to escape your stupid sign.'

Further down the same path is this sign:

I don't know what kind of dog this one is, but it's not nearly as sneaky as the dachshund. It's just standing there passively, letting that red line hold it back.

Another favourite sign of mine belongs to a chain of health food shops:

I noticed this sign first because I have a second cousin called Freya. Then the more I noticed it, the more I realised there was to love about it. Firstly, how great is it to have a health food shop called a reformhaus. It sounds so severe and punitive. Reformhaus Freya sounds even better - it makes me think of the title of a cheap paperback from the 50s with a lurid cover.

Here's another shop sign I love:

Doesn't Schrumpf sound exactly like the noise of biting into an apple?

This one is good too:

I would love to meet Herr Schlapp - or maybe view him from a distance. I can picture him so clearly. He'd be some leering, red-faced middle-aged man with large hands and a cheap suit. I'm always on the lookout for names that would hyphenate well with Badger and I think Schlapp-Badger is pretty much perfect. I bet he causes poor old Herr Habel no end of grief.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

This is Not a Kindergarten

The big blockbuster art exhibition at the Frankfurt gallery this winter was Botticelli. I wasn't going to see it, especially after going to the Uffizi in January and seeing a room full of Botticellis there. But then one of the German mothers from the kindergarten invited me and as I knew I'd get in for free with my gallery card I decided I would.

My friend was bringing along her sister and also her child - an incredibly well-behaved, perfect little three year old who always makes me doubt my parenting skills. I decided against bringing Mads as Botticelli isn't her favourite. Too decorative, not enough substance, she reckons.

It was the right decision, for the moment we walked in with V's little girl the gallery guards were on our case.
'Don't let her touch anything,' they said - like we were going to let her start rubbing her hands all over the Birth of Venus (which wasn't there anyway - it was at the Uffizi). 'Don't get too close.' 'Don't stand there.' etc etc. I started getting a little jumpy.

The worst incident was when we were standing in front of a wall of information reading the notes - there wasn't a single painting anywhere nearby at all. V noticed that there was quite a strong backlight - the whole space had been set up in this very reverential, church-like way with dim rooms and spot lights - and she started making a shadow-puppet bird on the wall to amuse her daughter. The aunt joined in, making her hand into a dog. Straight away, one of the guards rushed over and said something in German and the puppet show abruptly ended.
'What did he say?' I asked.
'He said "This is not a kindergarten. You have to be respectful",' said V.

'This is very typical of art galleries in Germany,' said the aunt. 'You are not supposed to enjoy yourself. You are supposed to take it very seriously.' I looked around and saw exactly what she meant. People looked like they were in pain - solemn, gloomy faces, clutching their gallery guides and frowning at the paintings, like somehow they weren't giving them what they'd hoped for.

When I told Thieu about it later he said 'let's go in tomorrow with Mads. That will make them appreciate the next well-behaved, quiet German child that goes in.'