Saturday, 23 June 2012


Today's post is all about Home - what does it mean to you - me - or others around you....

I asked No1 Son (almost 8) what 'home' was - "that's easy, it's England.  No wait a minute - it's Germany 'cos that's where you were born".  So that's nice and easy then - home is where you were born.

But is it so?  We're preparing for a trip home.... oops back to the UK.  Is it going home?  Well that all depends on what you mean by home.... and indeed it's a tricky and delicate topic for expats - actually, probably anybody who's moved away from their parents and where they grew up - but is that just me assuming a definition of 'home'.......

So where to begin?  Let's take a look at the OED defines it principally as "the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household" so for us then that would suggest that 'home' is where we currently reside - given that we are with our families (immediate at any rate) and it's where we are permanently (we've no plans to go home back to the UK permanently any time soon.)

If the definition is so straightforward, why then do many expats - me included - often refer to 'going home' - meaning a trip back to the motherland?  We're planning our next trip - indeed, I'm off on Monday with the Kindling to visit various friends and relatives, and I often say  we're 'going home', I suppose it's the easiest way to describe it.  But equally, on our return trip, I won't say 'we're going back to Germany', but that we're 'going home'.  Is it possible to have more than one home?

Does how long you've been away make any difference to what you refer to as home?  We're fortunate in that at the moment we're not very itinerant - in that we've moved here to Germany but not gone anywhere else (yet.  We're reserving judgement on that one!) So we've been settled in one place now for four years and it very definitely feels like home.

There is of course the (very) trashy saying ...."home is where the heart is".... but what does that actually mean?  Is my heart left behind with my family in the UK, and my childhood home (not that I had one as we moved around lots as a services family) or is my heart here with my Husband and children?  

Too many questions - and definitely not enough wine.  But home... well as Paul Young said, it's wherever you lay your hat.....!  Is that not so - home is where you make it and what you make it.  As an expat, we may use the phrase 'going home' as a convenient descriptor, rather than launching into a full scale explanation - perhaps we should just say going on holiday?  Only, it's often far from that!


Friday, 22 June 2012

We're jamming!

This time last year I was over run with soft fruit from my garden: strawberries, raspberries, redcurrants and gooseberries all did really well.  SO well in fact that I was struggling with ideas of how to use them all up.  We had lots of jam, Rote Grutze - a sort of summer fruit compote - almost like the inside of a sumer pudding, and plenty in the freezer left over too.

Roll on 12 months, and the garden hasn't been so productive.  The raspberries are nowhere near ripe, the strawberries are going mouldy on the plant and the redcurrants not so prolific as last year so the 'bird toll' seems a lot dearer.  Still, spurred on by a post I read in Recipe Junkie's blog, I felt compelled to do something at least with what I could salvage.  So cue more jamming here yesterday.  I managed to pick about 600g of strawberries and redcurrants and then added 300ml of sour cherry juice I happened to have in the fridge to make the fruit up to a kilo.

Pureed fruit and sugar pre-cooking

I use Diamant Gelierzucker mixes as they're very easy to use and as they contain extra pectin you're guaranteed a well set jam!  Yesterday's was the 2:1 version - so that's 2 lots of fruit to 1 bag of sugar.  I pureed the fruit from the garden and then mixed in the sugar, heated and boiled for the requisite 4 minutes and decanted into jars - as simple as that!  For less than an hours' work from deciding to pick some fruit here's the result:

three and half jars of deep red jam!

I find that jamming here is a lot easier than in the UK.  During the soft fruit season, the gelling sugar mixes are easily available.  Last year there was a 'flavoured' on too - we had Elderflower and vanilla flavoured strawberry jam which was very fragrant!  You also tend to find in the supermarkets all the equipment on offer too - packs of jars (which don't cost the earth!), muslins, thermometers and so forth.  I think there is still much more of a tradition of using the fruits of the season and stocking the larder here than we have in the UK now, although there seems to be a bit of a comeback of these crafts due to the current fiscal climate. For me, well it's a therapeutic, thrifty exercise - I love to make things from scratch and I hate wasting anything from the garden - the pots also make great little gifts with a personal touch - a couple of them will certainly be coming back to the UK with me next week!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Cultural misunderstandings......saying what we mean and meaning what we say!

I'm very aware that my German skills are not what they ought to be - to be honest I've not done much to improve them and really do need to get something proper organised by way of classes or tutoring.  Once the Wee Girlie goes to Kindergarten in August, I will after eight years have some 'me time' and some free time which I can commit to something such as German lessons, regular exercise and so on.

I know I misunderstand a lot of things - quite often because I'm a sentence or 2 behind when others are speaking and I never quite catch up - whilst I will often ask people to repeat things or use a different word, I do sometimes get the wrong end of the stick.  If I'm in a social situation with a group of people - rather than a one on one conversation - I have no hope as I get too easily distracted by what's being said around me.

So perhaps I do what a lot of expats do an have looked to the expat and English speaking community for a social scene, and I've been very lucky in finding a good group of like minded ladies and we have a fairly full social diary!!  Whilst we are predominantly English speakers, we do hail from all over the place and even in our native language there is space for misunderstanding.

I want to share this chart with you as I think it demonstrates so well what I'm trying (badly) to say here - that what we mean when we say something isn't always apparent to the other party and even when you're speaking in your mother tongue, wires can still be crossed!

It has apparently been a complete eye-opener to some of my American friends that us Brits speak in such an oblique way but I have to say the translations here are spot on!  Have a read and let me know what you think.....

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Teatime Treats

The baking bug has bitten me well and truly and following on from last week's fairy cake fest, this week we've been having something home baked as a treat at teatime.

The first concoction arose following a request for pancakes for tea from Son No2 - but as no-one else wanted them he didn't get them - but aha I had a brainwave and so quickly knocked up a batch of Scotch Pancakes for pudding - the Kindling had them warm with nutella on and we grown ups had them a more traditional cold with lashings of butter later on.

Thank you Good Housekeeping* for an easy, foolproof recipe which I'll share here:

125g SR Flour
2 tbsp sugar (would use less next time as they were quite sweet)
1 egg (beaten)
150ml milk.

  • Mix all ingredients till smooth and consistency of thick cream.
  • Heat greased frying pan/griddle and drop spoonfuls onto the pan
  • Turn pancakes when bubbles rise to the surface
  • Keep the cooked pancakes warm in a clean tea towel.

They didn't last long - so I was left with an empty biscuit tin to fill.... so yesterday's offering was dark chocolate covered flapjacks.  Very moreish - and perfect with a cup of coffee!

 So the trusty family recipe comes out - handwritten in an old book (aren't those always the best type of recipe?)

Well it's no top secret formula - so here you are:

225g Oats
150g SR Flour
100g Sugar
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
150g Butter
150g Golden Syrup

The method is super simple.
  • Mix all dry ingredients together
  • Melt butter and syrup - easiest in the microwave for a couple of minutes
  • Combine oat mix and syrup mix - make sure they're well mixed and you've no dry patches.
  • Press into a baking tin / make small rounds and flatten slightly on baking tray.
  • Bake at 180c for about 15mins
I had some leftover dark chocolate so melted that and liberally coated the flapjacks once they'd cooled - scrummy!!

* The Good Housekeeping Cookery Book is one of my failsafe cookery books - always good for checking a recipe or method.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Developmental checks - the 'U' appointments

Another birthday approaches (or flies by in our case) and so looms the next 'U' appointment.  These appointments are regular developmental checks of children six in the first year, then annually up to the age of five - and then a few more up to 16. 

So Son No2 turned five in May and today we had the U9 just to make sure he's hitting his developmental targets, his basic health is OK and so on.  We were there in all for just over an hour - if nothing else, the German health care system isn't rushed!!

On arrival he had a hearing test (and would have had a sight test too - but as he wears glasses this is done by the Augenarzt or eye-doctor), had his blood pressure and urine checked and was asked to draw a picture of a man.  All was going swimmingly until he was asked to draw...... We don't like to draw/write/colour - oh dear well that's a cross on the box - I'm sure little Fritz would have been much more compliant  as it was I managed to coerce him into an 'H' and that was all he'd put to paper.  Whilst this was all going on I had a questionnaire to fill in asking about what he can and can't do for example:

  • draw a man (clearly not)
  • catch a ball from a distance of 3-4m
  • ride a bike - with or without stabilisers and for how long
  • understand others' emotions
  • get dressed/undressed alone
  • play well in small groups
And so on - there were three sections here analysing physical competence, social competence and their speech/language development.  The first two were filled in fairly easily (once I'd checked the meaning of a couple of words - my German is still not as good as it ought to be....)

Speech and Language  development is a whole other kettle of fish.  We're currently having speech therapy with him in order to improve both his German vocabulary and also his pronunciation.  As far as I can make out, this seems to be a right of passage for German children - we see a good few Kindergarten friends at the Speech Therapist's office.  The German approach here seems to be to get it right as early as possible when the children are still learning and adaptable so as not to have any problems speaking or being understood once they hit proper school. We went through this process with No1 Son and he had about two years' worth of extra help.  It's interesting to note that there seem to be some sounds we we as an English family just can't say right - 'ch' sounds and the 'r' sounds in particular.  In the same way that most Germans cannot pronounce 'th' in the correct way in English.

Anyway back to No2 son, being brought up in a bilingual environment has meant his speech and language development has been slightly behind the usual milestones - this is apparently completely usual in children learning 2 languages, and in the last couple of years, it has been amazing to watch the way the second language develops.  He is in German kindergarten and so if he wants to communicate with staff and friends, must speak German.  We speak English at home and so he has had to adapt to switching between the two languages.  There are a couple of things which strike me as worth mentioning in regard to this dual learning.  Firstly, the German seems to be semi-dominant in that whilst the boys speak English at home and with me their word order or choice of word is often very German and this does sound odd to my English ear.  Secondly, as their vocab develops, certain things they know first in German and then 'translate' to English - for example No1 son always says 'overtomorrow' for the day after tomorrow - which is a literal translation of Übermorgen.  No2 son was talking about 'loading people in' to his birthday party - again from the German 'Einladung'.  None of these small issues are quite so weird as the two of them playing together in German....that seems just plain wrong to me - but I think they do it subconsciously (either that or it's so I can't understand what they're saying.  Now if that's not an incentive to sort my lessons out I don't know what is!)

Anyway, I digress..... We still haven't actually seen the Doctor at this point.  We still have to be weighed and measured and then we hang around for the Doctor to come and talk to us about the questionnaire and if we have any other concerns and also for them to do a bit more of a physical exam - heart and lungs listened to, stomach palpated, ENT check and then some physical tasks - can you hop....and so on.  She was particularly concerned with our lack of drawing and somehow managed to get him to draw her a passable man (well more a humpty-dumpty but that sufficed!).  An hour later and there are no major concerns - he's in good shape and nothing to worry about!!

So that would have been him done and dusted, but there have been some more 'U' appointments introduced so his next is in about three years time.  We have all this fun to come with No1 son in two months time.....  I'm sure you can probably opt out of them....but then again, this is Germany so who knows!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Project Sunday

So in an attempt to be a bit more constructive and actually achieve something on a Sunday for a change, this week we decided to rebuild the climbing frame.  We have a 'Quadro' climbing frame which is a modular system which you can build/unbuild/redesign to your heart's content.  In reality, it only happens once or twice a year - and today was the big build!  We bought it off EBay a couple of years ago and has given us great value for money since - almost like having a new climbing frame every year!

Son No1 got to choose today's design - and went for a 'treehouse' despite the fact we have no suitable trees in the garden....

We have the design and first we need to dismantle the previous incarnation - so lots of unscrewing/uncoupling/brute force later and we are left with the raw materials - somehow this pile of poles and joints will be transformed into our most adventurous build yet!

Fortunately the weather gods are in a favourable mood today, so armed with a magic key (for securing the joints) and a cold beer to keep the master builder on good form, we begin......

Then as our design doesn't come with a slide we need to factor that in and work out how to build it into the design - it's the Wee Girlie's favourite bit so despite the boys' protestations we can't leave it out.

It gets added to the side of the build where it won't interfere with the height and strength of the platform.

WE then encounter the first of two minor design flaws which need tweaking for the Kindling - firstly, the Wee Girlie can't climb up to the slide so we need to build in another step to help her get up by herself - otherwise someone would be lifting her to the slide five million times a day.......

Secondly, we found that once all three of them were up on the platform level (about 1.2m up), the whole structure was a bit too wobbly for my liking (presumably because it was not built with a supporting tree...) so we added a second stabilising part to the side to help it balance.

So the (un)treehouse is complete - no major barneys, only minor snapping at children who have to climb on it before it's finished, and more snapping because they're tyring to help....., one broken nail (not mine!)and we're there all done and dusted in about three hours in all - not too bad for what will be the summers climber!

And - here it is.....

Hopefully, it will keep the little monkeys occupied for a long summer of fun in the sun!!

Now - where did I put my wine?

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Kindergarten Sommerfest

As I said last time, we're coming to the end of the academic year and as you'd find in the UK we're into summer fairs and plays, but no sports day.  I think the lack of sports day is down to the fact that there is limited (or no) sports in schools.  As primary school only lasts a few hours in the mornings (you can have your little darlings home any time from 10.30 onwards depending on the school and day of the week) there is little curriculum time for extras such as sport.  This, along with music, tends to be done outside of school hours in specialist clubs and institutions.  My town for example has a music school for children which runs several afternoons a week and there are numerous sports clubs which also offer training for children on weekday afternoons.

Anyway, I digress, today was Kindergarten's turn.  Here, Kindergarten (Kiga) has children between 2 and 6 years of age and in our case has them in mixed age group classes.  The Kiga hours are much longer than primary school, we have a 35hour contract which runs from 7.30 am until 2.30pm five days a week.  Well, they have spent the last few weeks practising for the grand 'Sommerfest' which entails a 'theaterstuck' or play, a selection of games/activities for the children to complete - and of course lots to eat and drink. A fully stocked cake sale with as many varieties of cupcake as you could think of - my offering were chocolate cakes with peppermint icing on top, topped off with a small chocolate football in a nod towards the European championships - this of course went down particularly well with the football mad Germans!! Furthermore, like any self respecting German fest there is of course a grillstand for Bratwurst etc and also the chance to partake of some beer - now beer on offer at a UK nursery party would just not happen!!  But when in Rome and all that, we threw ourselves in with gusto!!

So No2 son (5) had  his starring role as a fish today and was beautifully clad in blue with coloured scales, he spoke his lines well with the other fish and sang along all very tunelessly.....if you can imagine 20 3-5 year olds singing you'll get the general picture!  Still he had fun and was proud to participate, I had to forcefully restrain his little sister from joining him on stage - it'll be her turn next year as she starts Kiga after the summer break (so actually at the beginning of August as even the Kiga holidays are shorter than school....)

It was a chance to meet other parents socially and we found another native English-speaking parent will be joining the Kiga in August, which given that we live in a small village is quite surprising - even more so when I tell you that there are at least 5 native English speakers in our village (8 if you include the kindling) and it's not all that big really.  It was also fun for No1 son to meet his old teachers and some of his old friends from Kiga as a few of them still have siblings there - so all in all a rather lovely day out - save of course for the one thing we couldn't plan for, the weather!  Whilst it wasn't torrential we did have a couple of showers and it's been a generally grey and dismal day.  Well that's summer for you!!

Friday, 15 June 2012

To boldly go....

The end of term is nigh - and fortunately, school seems to have survived the term thank goodness.  we'll soon be saying our cheerios or rather our Auf Wiedersehens - though it seems most of the school are moving to the same new school next year so it won't be too much of an upheaval hopefully, as we'll see most of our friends again next term.

The long summer therefore looms ahead - G doesn't start school again until the end of August, so how am I going to fill the next two months?  Well, we've a couple of trips planned - back to family in the UK and then a summer holiday in Mèze in the Languedoc (wine country here we come.....) oh and add to that some visitors and the Thyssen Krupp Ideas Park which is coming to Essen this year we should hopefully have it covered.

So, in the interests of space preservation for the bringing back of vast quantities of wine from France, we are contemplating getting rid of the pushchair.  L hasn't really been in it for a couple of months now (- she's almost 2 and a half now) and then only under duress, so the question is do we bin the buggy and risk dragging and carrying about a grumpy 2 year old - and getting rid of all the useful carrying/storage a pushchair provides - are we completely crazy to even contemplate such a move?

Well, in the interests of not completely messing up the main summer holiday, I will be doing a trial run over the next couple of weeks on my annual pilgrimage to Blighty - safe in the knowledge that should it be a complete disaster, I can beg/borrow/buy one cheaply and easily there.

It seems like a big step forward, leaving behind the 'baby years' and moving on to the next stage of parenthood.  Indeed, come the end of the summer L will be starting kindergarten, then I'm sure I'll not really know what's hit me - home alone for the first time in 8 years.  A new start for everyone this Autumn - boldly going into the unknown....

Monday, 11 June 2012

Wine of the Month - June 2012

Sorry folks, I know pink wine was supposed to be on the menu this month - but despite some (not as extensive as I'd have liked) tasting I've not found anything really worth recommending.  So despite it being June, summer apparently, I've plumped for a rather fabulous red to share with you this month.

Château de Montrabech - a Corbières from the Languedoc region of France. This is a small AOC area in the South-West of France, running from Montpellier to Perpignan and the Pyrenees.  It encompasses the Aude, Hérault, Minervois and Corbières regions and is in fact the largest wine region in France - although you'd be pushed to name any 'grands vins' which hail from the Languedoc.

Our wine is from Corbières - bang in the middle of the Languedoc region. It is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan and the resulting wine is full bodied and smooth - you can definitely taste the warm sunny weather these grapes were grown under.  As with most French wine, this one does improve with food - something gutsy - red meats, good cheese etc.

And the real surprise about this one - it's a complete steal at EUR2,99 from my local supermarket.  Can't beat it!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Consolation cake

Last night was Expat's Quiz - we play once a month in a local bar and much fun is had by all.  Of course, we don't take it very seriously at all.....

Well, I have to admit that last night broke my duck.....

I didn't win.  I always win.

Not only that, but I was beaten on a Jubilee themed quiz by a team of natives.  Not my finest hour. In fact, none of the truly British teams performed very well....perhaps we'd all been Jubileed out and were suffering from over exposure.

So I had to settle for joint second place (with about four other teams) and quite frankly it's just not good enough.

KM and I scored 19. How would you have fared?  Here is the quiz....

1 Who barged into her own party last Sunday?
2 Which club holds a grass court tennis championship in West Kensington used by many players as a warm up for Wimbledon?
3 Which borough of New York City did the character, Fran Fine in the TV show the Nanny grow up in?
4 What is the most powerful piece in the game of chess?
5 Today is the official birthday of which Australian State?
Royal scandal
6 Who was involved in public toe sucking?
7 Who was photographed in Nazi uniform?
8 Who wanted to be a tampon?
9 Who drives without having ever done a driving test and prefers not to wear a seatbelt?
10 Who said of his daughter “If it doesn't fart or eat hay then she isn't interested"? 
11-15 were the Music questions - all Queen hits!
Royal general knowledge
16 What animal makes Royal jelly?
17 Who received an Academy award for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth the second?
18 Which state of the USA was named after a ruling queen of England?
19 Who is the richest, Elizabeth II or Hans Adam II of Liechtenstein?
20 True or false? When the RSPCA decided not to charge Prince Philip over the death of a fox, a protester demonstrated against it by eating a corgi.

Royal Multiple Choice
21 Every royal palace has a brushing room. What is it used for? A polishing tableware. B cleaning military uniforms. C headquarters for domestic organisation of the palace D extramarital royal rendezvous
22 Where was Phillip Duke of Edinburgh born? A In Zurich, Switzerland in a private hospital B In Corfu, Greece on a kitchen table. C In Hessen, Germany on the family estate. D In Denmark in a hunting lodge during a shoot.
23 What gift did the princess Elizabeth receive on her 18th birthday? A koala B a coronet C a corgi D Cornwall
24 Where does Queen Elizabeth keep her mace? A In her handbag, just in case B In the Royal Kitchen, for curries C In Parliament, to show who is boss D In the lodge at Balmoral to make kindling at family barbecues
25 Who is the current “Keeper of the Queen's Conscience”? A Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall B Kenneth Clarke MP C Rupert Murdoch D Lord Voldemort
Thanks must go to our friendly antipodean quiz master - another great event!!  

So today I consoled myself with cake.  I've been getting back into home baking as I'm trying to stop buying so much rubbish for the kindling and provide them with more wholesome treats!  Cue homemade cakes and biscuits, fresh popcorn instead of crisps and that sort of thing.  So I've been using up my precious supply of self-raising flour.

Today's cake followed my usual kitchen practises of not wanting to waste anything left in the fridge and being a bit adventurous on flavour combinations....  So we had coconut and lemon loaf cake with buttercream icing.

A simple sponge

125g Butter
175g Sugar
2 Eggs
175g SR Flour
pinch salt
3-4 tbsps Milk (I used leftover coconut milk from a curry earlier in the week!)

I added some lemon zest too.

Beat the whole lot with an electric whisk, put in a well greased loaf tin and bake at 180c for 45mins.


2:1 ratio of icing sugar to butter.  Then a few drops of flavouring (lemon juice today but usually vanilla extract) and a couple of tablespoons of milk (coconut milk today!)

The secret of a good butter cream is to really really beat the butter first on its own until it is really pale and fluffy, then pop the icing sugar in and beat, beat, beat some more!

Yummy!  I can report that coconut and lemon is a winning combination - more than can be said for KM and I last night!

Monday, 4 June 2012


I alluded to the fact that our ongoing school traumas were only part of a wider picture with schooling here in Germany and our experiences of it.  So I thought I'd try to put pen to paper as it were and explain how we have found the system here and what we have done.

Formal learning in school doesn't begin in Germany until you are at least six.  Unlike the UK where you would go into reception the year you turn five, here you enter the 'first class' the year you turn seven.  Until then, there is Kindergarten, this is predominantly a 'daycare/nursery' type establishment rather than a learning place.  So, at the beginning of the school year before you go to school, you apply to your preferred schools for a place.  In our case, we applied to our village school and were asked to come to meet the headteacher - as is fairly standard I believe.  Well, that was when our problems started.  Number 1 son you see was apparently completely incomprehensible, no-one could understand a word he said and so, said the headteacher, he would need further investigation.

We duly relayed this information to our kindergarten and they couldn't understand what the school were talking about.  Neither could the Doctor at his pre-school medical, in fact everyone we spoke to thought we were blowing the matter up out of all proportion and misunderstanding what the school were saying to us.  The school however, were still not happy and asked for an assessment by a specialist in speech development.  This was duly undertaken - at which point we (and she) were amazed to discover that the matter that this was not our son's first language had not been made clear.  But, despite the fact that he was learning a second language and despite of the supporting evidence from kindergarten, they felt it best that he be enrolled in a 'special school for the speech impaired'. 

Well as you can well imagine, we were somewhat poleaxed by this decision - as was everyone else we spoke to or asked their opinion, even our own paediatrician who had prescribed us speech therapy sessions for some minor tweaking felt it was a gross over reaction.  So we decided that we would not do this - if anything, being around other children with speech problems would not help in correcting some of the pronunciation issues we had.  What he needed was complete immersion in a proper German speaking environment, as he was experiencing in Kindergarten.  However, as the village school was so anti him joining them, we decided therefore to do our own thing and withdrew our application from the village school and told them where to stick their recommendations for the special school. 

Well, you'd have thought we'd have lit the fuse and retired at that point.  The headmistress from the village school told us that we couldn't withdraw our application - and that if we didn't go to the special school, then we would have to go to her school and she would have to take us.....

It would seem that as we didn't fit any of their existing support programmes, they were unable to see how we could fit into their school.  We have since heard from other parents at the school that the fact we are English was also another problem as the English teaching at the school is not strong and they felt we would be a hindrance here - you'd have though having a native speaker in the class would help and having a mother who would be able to help out with reading etc, but oh no, this is too much of a threat to the status quo of teachers who have been there for eons and are somewhat stuck in their ways.

Anyway, we decided that we would look at other options.  These are not many in Germany. You cannot home school as it is illegal (and I don't think I'm committed and motivated enough to make it work anyway) so that leaves the private system, which is not very big.  We were fortunate to have an International School in the next town - however, this was itself not without issue.

Being the good middle class parents we are, we researched the school online as well as visiting it and allowing our son to have a trial week there.  He was a different boy during that week, much more engaged and involved.  I don't know if this was due to the fact that most of the lessons were conducted in English - or whether it had just caught his imagination and away he went.  This left us with a difficult dilemma - for what we had read online was not particularly supportive of the school and more than hinted at a lot of problems in the school.  However, we felt we had no other option, and duly signed him up for the International school. 

Despite our misgivings, he has had two very good and successful years there.  He has come on fantastically and in the two years he has been there has been learning Chinese as well as English and German, has learnt the violin and his reading and writing and maths skills are unrecognisable from before.  It was definitely the right decision at the time.

So after a stressful time at the beginning of school we were fairly settled and things were going well.  We had a new and very proactive headmaster in place at our school and the whole school was buzzing with promise and enthusiasm.  Unfortunately, due to a series of personality clashes, broken promises and financial problems, the school is now on the brink of closure.  We are unsure from day to day as to whether we will have a school to go back to the next day.  It is a very sorry state of affairs and given the promise at the beginning of the year has been a very swift downfall. At Easter, we made the difficult decision to look for a new school and found a place at an English school a bit further away.  At that point, we were not aware how serious the problems we were facing were and are pleased that we acted when we did.  We were fortunate to have secured a place before this latest crisis came to light.  I dread to think how much more stressful this time would have been without a confirmed place for next year.  All we need to do now is hope that the current school limps on for the next three weeks until the end of the year.

If we don't make it that far, then a potential issue raises its head.  After the age of 7 you become 'Schulpflichtig' which means that you must attend school.  It is a legal requirement.  As stated above, you cannot home school, so that would leave us needing to find a school spot for the last four weeks of the German year (- our school dates were slightly different).  No-one can seem to tell us what that means in practice for us - and fingers crossed we wont need to know - but potentially it would mean us needing to go back to the village school to ask for/demand a place for the remaining few weeks.  Now that is not something I want to contemplate....

Friday, 1 June 2012

Jubilee weekend celebrations

Today marks a very special day for us - 10 years since we got married!

Golden Jubilee weekend was a glorious, hot, sunny weekend following what seemed like a whole month of rain.  I'd had words with him upstairs to say I didn't mind how much it rained up to the day, but on June 1 2002 the weather had to be perfect.....and He didn't disappoint.

Friends and family had all gathered at All Saint's Church in High Wycombe to share our big day - and it was very important to us that we could share it with so many, and make our promises in front of those who matter dearly to us.

Following the service, we made our way to Old Luxter's Barn for the reception - this is situated in an English Vineyard (of course you'd expect nothing less from us!) where we partied with those gathered until the early hours.  We drank the 'house white' made on the premises and it did remind us of how good (surprisingly) English wine can be - in fact there are a couple of gems in the English wine world and I'll share them later. We ate some fantastic food - in fact the meal took up so much of the evening that we were left with little time afterwards for mingling and dancing - but those who know us best will appreciate that that's what we're about - good food and wine!

We had a couple of extra bank holidays again that year and were able to extend the celebrations to cover most of the weekend, how lucky we were!  So to today - the Diamond Jubilee weekend, and you know what another wedding in the family - let's hope that the day is as auspicious for them as it was for us.  Good luck JoJo and Tata - and here's to a very successful married life.

So back to wine..... that recurring theme of my blog!  My tip for some good English wine is here.  Chapel Down is a winery in Kent and their whites and sparkling wines are top notch.  Our favourites are the Bacchus  (white) and the Vintage Reserve Brut (sparkling).  So why not give it a go and celebrate the Jubilee with some English wine.