Archive | December, 2017

The arrival of winter

9 Dec

Winter has finally arrived and not just because real Christmas trees are now being sold on every corner that you turn. It has snowed. I did snow a few weeks ago but only a light covering that started to come down early in the evening and had disappeared almost as quickly as it arrived. But it looks like the snow has finally decided it is going to stay.

Last night we were working in the office until late to hit our deadline for the last month of the year. I had had a bad feeling about it all week and when, on Thursday we had a technical issue that brought a 10 hour delay, I was fearing the worst.

However, we caught up and apart from a few hiccups on the way, we were finished around 10pm on Friday evening. I was over the moon, as I had expected to be working until about midnight or later. We had finally done it. The last month end close of 2017. Home before the witching hour. Yes!

But oh no! Having been firmly fixed on our computer screens for 15 hours, we had failed to notice that the snow had come down. I’m not sure if there is such a thing as torrential snow but this was something like it. Ok, I have my hat, boots and a big winter jacket (I actually call it my football manager’s jacket because can be found in the wardrobe of any self-respecting Premier League coaching staff member), I thought. I can do snow.

Then news somehow filtered into the office – I still have no idea how, as there were only 10 of us left in a building for eight thousand –  that there had been a accident and none of the trams were running from our offices into town. Great. This was not in the script. I was meant to be home in an hour. This was looking increasingly unlikely.

I left with the plan to walk to the nearest train station, get a train from there to the main station and then get my usual train home. I start walking and I see a tram drive past. Hang on, didn’t someone say that the trains weren’t running? But that was a tram and it was definitely running.

I jogged to the next stop to get the next tram that was making its way down the hill. I looked like Bambi on ice. I had to get a bit of speed up to make the next tram but I wanted to avoid falling flat on my face even though no one would be around to see my embarrassment. I made it! Great not long and I would be at the main station and I just have to wait for the train.

The tram didn’t move for about 5 minutes. Then the driver said that there were two other tram stuck in front of him and he didn’t know when we would be able to get moving again. He left the doors open so that anyone who wanted to get off could do.

I decided it could be ages before we set off again so I got out and headed on foot to the train station that would take me to the main station. I was glad that I did. Not only had 2 cars collided just next to the train station but there was also a bus that had managed to crash into a lamp post and was blocking all trams going up and down.

Luckily, the train arrived just as I was climbing up the steps to the station. I had to wait for half an hour at the main station but at least I knew I wasn’t too far from home.

By the time, I got home the snow was really deep. As most people were inside or already asleep, I had the privilege of being the first one to walk through the newly fallen snow. I love that crunch sound that comes from under foot and being able to look behind me to see the footsteps in the snow. It was clear that this snow was here to stay.

Today it has continued to snow. I’m happy that I don’t have to work or use public transport and I can watch the winter wonderland from the comfort of my home.

#40 Before 40: Challenge #8

4 Dec

As part of my #40Before40 Challenge #8, I am attempting to watch all of the Top 250 Films of all time as listed on iMDB.

Below are the films that I have watched in the past two months.

25. Life is Beautiful

I don’t know what I was expecting with this film but I wasn’t expecting it to be set in a concentration camp. A feckless but charming Jewish waiter woos a well-to-do lady, who is very much out of his league, and settles down to have a son with her. His bookshop is targeted by the Nazis and eventually he and his son are taken to the concentration camp. The wife also demands to go with them but they are separated when they arrive. Although the subject matter of the film is tragic, there are lighter sizes to the story that provide comic relief and also highlights the importance of love and hope. When arriving at the camp, the husband offers to translate from German to tell the new arrivals what the rules are. So that his son isn’t scared, he sets out the rules of a game so that his son will behave himself and life will be easier for him in the camp. It’s an interesting story with a happy ending which is tinged with sadness. The film is originally in Italian. As my Italian is not great, I watch the dubbed English version.

46. Gladiator

I am being honest here. I have started to watch this film a number of time but I have always fallen asleep in the middle of it. My general rule is that if you can’t tell me a story in two and a half hours maximum, I am not interested. This is almost 3 hours long. Essentially, the film starts with the lead character just wanting to go home after he has done his days work. This is most people’s lives from Monday to Friday. After the new Emperor kills his wife and son to punish him for his defiance, he ends up being found and becomes a gladiator. In the end, the length of the film didn’t bother me too much. It did get be wondering why Russell Crowe has managed to be in so many of the Top 250. I’ve never really rated him so highly but he must be doing something right.

65. Alien

I don’t think I had ever seen this film because I thought it would be too scary. It was made in 1979. I can imagine at the time that this film was scary to the audience but in 2017, the special effects look dated and a bit laughable. Perhaps the funniest part was when one of the crew members was being attacked by the alien and the camera cut to a shot of the ship’s cat’s shocked face. Also I was a bit disappointed that Sigorny Weaver’s character, at a pivotal moment in the story, feels the need to abandon her crew members to go and find her cat. I wonder if this is where the phrase “crazy cat lady” comes from? Being Hollywood, of course, her and cat manage to get away safely or so it would appear…

85. Taxi Driver

Oh, so this is the film where Robert De Niro says “You talking to me? Of course, you’re talking to me. Nobody else is here” or words to that effect. Basically, De Niro is an ex-marine who served in Vietnam, who arrives back in America and, presumably because of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, isn’t able to sleep so he gets a job driving a taxi. While watching the film I wasn’t 100% what parts of his life he was delusional about. At one point, he is telling women that he works for the secret service. He then starts training with guns and at one point he is ready to assassinate a candidate for the Presidential Primary. In the end, he uses his shooting skills for good and rescues a very young Jodie Foster from a life of prostitution. It also features a foul-mouthed Harvey Keitel as a pimp who gets his comeuppance. As the film is move 40 years old, I found some of the scene were unintentionally funny. Overall, a really good film.

103. L.A Confidental

A brutal murder is investigated by the highly-corrupt LAPD. A new detective with high morals is put in charge but none of his colleagues think that he has the stomach to solve the case. The film is very old school, Hollywood glamour. I’m actually not so sure that I enjoyed this film. Also I did get a bit confused because there was a character called Pierce but the actor playing the rookie detective was Guy Pearce and I got confused about who people were referring to.

 

120. Downfall

A film about the last few days of Hitler’s life and the downfall of the Third Reich. The film was actually in German with English subtitles. The story was based on one of Hitler’s private secretaries diary. It was an interesting story and well acted and it was no surprise to me that it was in the Top 250 films.

I have now watched 85 of the films on the list. Just 165 more to go!

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How informal is too informal?

1 Dec

I have encountered many problems on my journey to learn German. The grammar is hard and nothing like English and the words are so long that sometimes I need to take a breath in the middle of a word just to make it to the end of it without going purple due to lack of oxygen.

One thing that I may never get my head round is the use of Sie and Du. In English, we just say You to everyone. A high court judge is You. Your neighbour is You. Your best friend is You. The Queen, however, is One (which just proves that there is always an exception to a rule)

In German, it’s not so straight forward. You have to use Sie for polite and formal situations and only Du for situations where you have a pre-existing and familiar relationship.

I always forget this. I say Du to my doctor and to the lady at the pharmacy. It just comes out. I don’t even really realise I am saying it and five minutes after the conversation, I think “Oh no! I’ve done it again!”

My argument is that I just want to be friendly and get on with everyone. This doesn’t wash in German speaking countries. It’s considered impolite to use Du when you mean Sie. However, in my defence, I think I have every right to use Du when addressing my doctor. After all she probably knows me on a more intimate level than some of my closest friends. So let’s stop pretending that there is not some degree of familiarity about our relationship.

Also, the “rule” of deciding when a relationship moves from the Sie to the Du form is unclear to me. I have always been told that when a German speaker uses Du to speak to me then, and only then, I can say it back to them.

Excuse me? I’m an intelligent (on occasion) individual so do I get no say at all in the decision about when we switch to Sie or Du to refer to one another? Perhaps you want to be on more familiar terms that I do with you! Why don’t I get a say in this?

I will continue to struggle with this for a long time I think. My strategy for phoning the doctor now includes a 10 minute pacing around repeating loudly “Könnten Sie bitte…” to get me mentally prepared for the right pronouns.

If you ask me, English is far simpler. But then I shouldn’t have to tell you that.