"Life is too important to be taken seriously."

-Oscar Wilde

Thursday, July 31, 2008


Seriously, I'm beginning to doubt Olli's sanity. What self-respecting cat would, by choice, hang around the bathroom while two young boys take a bath?

Needless to say - things (and fur) eventually got soaked. But even that wasn't enough to deter Olli...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Genealogy and a sense of national identity.

I love the term "Antipodean" because it seems to best cover my sense of national identity. ..

I was actually born in New Zealand. Am 6th Generation Kiwi- infact- on my father's father's side. (My grandmother was of French stock.) I suspect I may only be 5th generation - but dad insists that it's 6th and it has been a long time since I've seen a family tree to be able to correct him. Not that this stops me, of course. Constantly correcting my father was a vital component of my up-bringing.

But mum is definitely Australian- and we moved to Oz when I was 9. After a few years of copping heaps at school because I spoke funny, I learnt to assimilate, and identify as Australian. (Even now, I, apparently still speak 'funny', with most strangers guessing I'm South African.) I'm definately more likely to back Australia in international sporting events.

My mother's family is actually of Greek origin, coming from a tiny, idyllic island -that is geographically located at the very bottom point of Europe - on the Turkish Coast. (The locals actually do their shopping on the Turkish mainland - and many also own land and homes there.) Because of its location, the island has been a strategic land-hold in pretty much every war - and has been occupied at one point or another by just about every European warring nation you can think of. (My Great-great grandmother was shot & killed, aged 90 something, while defending the church containing all the island's woman folk when -I think- the Germans invaded during WW1.) . Even these days, the Greeks and Turks use the island's waters as a posturing point for their respective war ships, while all the locals get on with business as usual.

So while I'm technically 'Antipodean' - the Caspi-Man has no Grandma or Nana, but rather a 'Yia Yia' in Sydney (& here in Germany, an 'Oma'). And of course, a 'Grandad', who these days - lives once more where he was bred- in New Zealand.

All in all, like many people, I'm a bit genealogically confused. (Yes, I am a mutt.) Therefore, I'm glad to hear that there may be plans afoot to help simplify matters for me- view here for the a proposed Australian strategy to invade new Zealand (and, afterwards -maybe- create one Antipodean territory ?)

But, really, what side would I be on????

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Some random snippits from the Sunday that just was...

* I blew up our hairdryer. Not intentionally, mind. I was using it in the regular way -when it made a strange pop and then a whirring noise - so I immediately turned it off - and then it started spewing dense black fog that left a lingering, toxic, chemical aroma in the bathroom.

* There is a 2 foot long x 1 and a half foot tall, multi-coloured, pyramid-shaped, lego structure, inconveniently located on my bedroom floor. (It is apparently housing -not 1 but 2 helicopters. Not everyone has 2 helicopters in their bedroom - I'll have you know.) I have been told - in the strictest of terms - that it MUST NOT be moved. Or even touched. Not even to relocate it to a more practical place.

* I discovered (eeeuuwww) that the newest member of our household has taken to drinking from the toilet bowl. (I repeat - eeeuuwww!) I swear he gets fresh water twice a day. But it seems fresh water is not what he's after... EEEUWWW. I just hope that he is the only one doing this.

* I also just discovered how to make text move back and forth on my blog! And, how annoying to read is that?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

And what is Art?

A family portrait?

Or, could it be Olli?

Or, perhap the Caspi-Man & Olli?

OK, maybe these aren't really "Art" as such, but still .... this site that allows you to put your pictures in a gallery is lots of fun!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sleep Delay Tatic No. 374

Bath, then:

3 books + chat-time + several extensions of "lie with me a bit longer" time (extending to 2 full listens of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra's Lullaby CD vol.2) ...

-"Now, Caspi-Man. It really is very, very late. You must go to sleep now."

-"But ... but the sun is still up!"

-"Yes, but it really is actually very late. You know that the sun stays up much later in summer."

"But why? Why does the sun stay up longer?"

Uuuuuuggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh... (!)

"When you're a bit older - you will learn all about that at school. Now, sweet dreams Caspi-Man."

"...but... but if you were Caspi-Man ... and you were 3 [holding up 3 fingers] and I was the mama... I'd tell you why."

Sssssssssssshhhhhheeeeeeeezzzzzzz ... (!)

So not only was sleep-time delayed- but he also got to play with balls as well.

alternative uses for bed socks - # 17 & 18

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Most Livable Cities...

I was chatting on the phone today with a Brisvagas-based friend and he brought it to my attention that the results are out for the 2008 Mercer's Quality of Living Survey.

This list is often used to determine the world's "Most Livable Cities".

( According to Wikipedia:
"Mercer's Quality of Life Survey is released annually, comparing 215 cities based on 39 criteria. Important criteria are safety, education, hygiene, recreation, political-economic stability and public transportation. The importance of the list lies primarily in that internationally operating companies use it to determine where they will open offices or plants and how much they pay the employees.")

I seem to recall that in the mid-90's - Brisbane used to rate quite highly on this list (and was usually the highest ranked Australian city). Not any more. This year it has fallen to number 34 (down from 31 last year) and has been surpassed by Sydney (10), Melbourne (17), Perth (21), and Adelaide (29).

This year, Dusseldorf has made it to place 6, and is the highest ranked German city.*

Now, just have to figure out how I can go about claiming some credit for this turn of events... ;)

*But really, haven't these Mercer people heard about the bloody Wehrhahn Line?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Rainy Sunday antics...

Sometimes, on rainy Sunday mornings, the Ger-Man and the Caspi-Man like to spend quality hours constructing the "ultimate" in railway systems.

This can be both complex and time intensive, as they have quite a collection of bridges, tunnels, and alarmed crossings that HAVE to be incorporated into the overall design. The systems have been known to encompass our entire living room, and are often not allowed to be dismantled until photographic evidence of their constructual brilliance has been obtained.

Um, yeah, must be a boy thing...

This morning, we didn't have plans, it was raining, and so Olli was introduced to this ritual. And, to be honest, he didn't need much encouragement. Little engines, propelling themselves along the track? Well, what cat wouldn't be intrigued?

Then, either the Caspi-man or the Ger-Man (and I can only but speculate who) decided that Olli's involvement could be enhanced (for their joint enjoyment) by placing some dried cat food into one of the train wagons... and then I was called to witness the promised entertainment.

I watched as Olli stalked the train... I saw Olli's ears point forward towards the prey... then, Olli's nose twitched as he sniffed the scent... I swear I saw him raise an eyebrow ... and I'm sure I glimpsed a light bulb flash on above his head... and then his muscles tensed ... preparing... and with great power he leaped .... high ...up... and then ... sprung OVER the train.... and then at full speed - he ran into the kitchen -to his food bowl - where he then proceeded to gorge himself...

And, in doing so - proved himself, by far, to be the cleverest member of our household.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I am a compulsive reader of messages on people's T-shirts. (& it annoys me when the messages are long and the people walk past too quickly for me to finish reading them.)

Notable recently sightings:

"I'm not really useless - I can be used as a bad example."- Altstadt

"Every time you masturbate - God kills a kitten."- Ok, this one wasn't actually on someone's chest but was hanging in a shop, &, I did actually buy it as a gift for a dear friend who appreciates warped humour.

And seen @ the Kermis last weekend - blazoned on the (somewhat ample) chest of a pretty young thing (she really could not have been more than 17 years old!) was the proclamation:

"You can't be the first - but you can be next!"

(I can't help but wonder if she understood English. And if she did - what her parents thought about it...)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

It is never ever a good idea to peak too soon

in your disapproval of something/somebody.

It leaves you with absolutely nowhere to go if the situation happens to get worse.

This is one lesson I've learnt vicariously. (Strange for me -as I tend to usually learn most effectively through making my own mistakes...)


This lesson is courtesy of our downstairs neighbours - who I shall call Herr & Frau Grumpy-Pants.

Herr & Frau Grumpy-Pants moved in directly under us when the Caspi-Man was 6 months old. Our relationship started out cordially enough - in that reserved, stilted fashion that Germanic neighbours are famed for - and after a few months of polite "Guten Tag"s in the stairwell, Frau Grumpy-Pants initiated a conversation.

The chat went something along the lines of: "What a lovely baby. We do really, really like children. We have 3 ourselves. And we have 5 grandchildren." (Interestingly enough - to this day none of the 3 "children" nor their off-spring have ever been sighted on the premises.)

As the Caspi-Man began to crawl, an afternoon coffee was scheduled. Flowers were exchanged. Requests that we lay thick carpet over the fake wood floor were imparted. Hmmmm...

As the Caspi-Man began to toddle, these requests were repeated. And concessions were made. Toys designed to aide walking were rationed and many gifts were relegated to "decorative" status. (Including: the Fischer Price rolling balls, the beautiful Haba solid wood building blocks, the pull along "Buzzy bee" sent from NZ, and countless others.)

Our landlord, in the early days, made a few token visits to share Herr & Frau Grumpy-Pants' desire for us to lay thick shag pile throughout. He passed on this message in an empathetic, apologetic manner and with a weary, defeated look in his eye that led me to believe that we were far from the only matter that the Grumpy-Pants' had been bringing to his attention.

However, compromises were again made and runner carpets were purchased.

Things deteriorated after returning from a 6 week trip downunder with a jet-lagged toddler. The Caspi-Man is, overall, an unbelievably good sleeper - and in his infancy we were fortunate to experience less than a handful of disturbed nights. But for several days - 3 am CET is well and truly morning - for a toddler set to Antipodean time. Not mollified by 6 weeks silence from above - the Grumpy-Pants took to airing their grievances in open letters posted in our building's communal entrance. This was rather heartening - as we soon learnt how popular the Caspi-Man was with the rest of the "Haus"hold, who tut-tutted their disapproval on the stairwell at the strongly worded public notices.

Then followed a number of increasingly unpleasant encounters- too many and too petty- to chronical here.

About 18 months ago, the situation took a dire turn, when the Caspi-Man fell ill in the wee small hours with a 39.8 degree temperature. He was inconsolable, in pain, and howling. The Grumpy-Pants chose to bang on their ceiling in protest (a move which actually woke our beloved Monika who lives directly below them). Outraged beyond belief, I did what any self-respecting mother would and dug out my highest heels and tap-danced my indignation above their bed.

After that, all pretense of neighbourly politeness ceased completely, and we became "invisible" in the stair-well. (It is quite heart wrenching to have to explain to a 3 year-old to not take it personally when his cheerful "Guten Morgan"s are so blatantly ignored.) Never before (at least to the best of my knowledge), have I been so openly despised.

And then came Olli...

Olli, the 4 month old kitten, who has in the past fortnight decided that midnight to 2 am is his preferred 'active' play-time. The hours in which he will leap and jump - chasing mice (both toy and imaginary), when he will stalk and lunge (often from great heights), the time to frolic and drag around the Ger-Man's shoes by the laces, and during which he has (at least 5 times- very loudly) sent my bedside lamp crashing dramatically to the floor.

Oh yeah... Herr & Frau Grumpy-Pants peaked way, WAY TOO SOON....

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Brilliant things about Germany no.221.

The abundance of Summer festivals in all their incarnations. There is not a weekend that goes by without some public celebration to be attended.

There are shooting festivals (not many guns - but plenty of traditional costumes and beer drinking), street festivals (lots of music and beer drinking), book festivals (books and beer drinking), cultural festivals (this weekend French in honour of Bastille Day- only a bit of beer drinking - but lots of French wine!) and, here in Duesseldorf for the next fortnight it's also the Kirmes am Rhein - which is basically just an enormous side show alley (plenty of rides and yep- you guessed it - beer drinking!).

The flip-side of these festivals is their notable absence in the winter months. November boasts St Martin's Day, December has Christmas, but then it is pretty much a public-celebration wasteland through to Karneval...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Children's books for the new millenia...

Perhaps these would be good for my Wednesday afternoon English sessions at the Caspi-Man's Kindergarten?

Or perhaps not...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The things you can randomly stumble apon on the internet...

and then, somehow, lose great chunks of time.

But I did have lots of fun with this 'Wordle' site ...

I wanna dance with Matt.

If you happen to have 4 minutes and 29 seconds to spare - I urge you to click on this link - and press play to watch this video. (It has been featured on quite a number of websites over the last week or so...)

It's by a guy called Matt Harding and I can honestly say that it is the single most beautiful and uplifting thing I've ever seen on the internet.

(I watched it smiling - with tears streaming down my face. More than once.... The Caspi-Man loves it too.)

Brisbane is featured. As is Sydney, Cologne, Auckland, - and far, far too many other places to mention. And the music is lovely.

I defy you to watch it and not feel a greater sense of hope for humanity!

Monday, July 7, 2008

For the Negative.

My child can now say "no" in no less than 7 languages.

I guess part of me should be proud. Should be - but isn't. I'd actually prefer it if "No" wasn't really part of his vocabulary at all. Or, even better, was replaced by "Of course, Mummy." or "Yes, mummy." or "I'd love to, mummy." or even "I'll do it straight away, mummy."

Blame can be probably laid at the (admittedly still small) feet of his Posse. You see, pretty much all of the Caspi-Man's close friends seem to be bi-lingual. (And they are all - without exception -talented in saying "No!" to their parents.) Amongst the languages he hears frequently are: Polish, French, Persian, Portuguese, Chinese, and of course German and English. And so it transpires that he can now say "NO!" in every bloody one of them.

Over the past week or so, though, the Caspi-Man's use of the word "No!" (in all its incarnations) has taken a new and disturbingly dictatorial turn. He has appointed himself as Olli's primary disciplinarian.

We've only - so far - two rules for Olli: 1) He is not allowed on the table, and 2) he is not allowed to scratch the furniture. (We've made him special wall-mounted "scratching pictures" for this purpose.)

Unfortunately, both hopping on the table and scratching the couch, seem to be activities that Olli enjoys - so he is finding himself subjected to the Caspi-Man's self-appointed authority with alarming frequency.

While being a wee bit disturbed by my son's aptitude for chastisement (transference issues perhaps?) - I have also been more than a tad amused to witness - that the Caspi-Man is gravitating towards the exclusive use of the German "NEIN!" for his Olli-disciplining-purposes.

It appears it is evident, even to one so young, that no other language sounds quite as authoritative. (Point of fact:- even my non-German speaking family all say "Nein!" when the Caspi-Man is doing something he shouldn't be. And, an Antipodean friend, who visited us for 3 weeks way back when the Caspi-Man was still a baby, returned to Australia fluent in just 2 German phrases: "Ich liebe es" [gleaned from the MacDonald's commercials on TV and used to tell the locals how he was enjoying just about everything - from the beer to the ice-hockey] and "Nein! Nicht in dem Mund, Caspi-Man!")

So, while "No!" is unfortunately becoming ever further entrenched in his vocabulary - I am taking some comfort in the evidential development that the Caspi-Man is no "Dobber" (he's not once run to me or the Ger-Man to "tell on" Olli).

No, he is quite happy to take to matters into his own hands, (which are planted firmly on his tiny hips), as he bellows at the top of lungs: "NEIN! Olli- NEIN!"

A Picture.

In which Olli can be seen admiring his gorgeous caramel eyes, reflected in an exquisite pill-box that my darlink- sister sent me for my birthday (which was a few months ago).
The pill-box is beautifully inscribed with the rather scary question:

"What if there is no PMS and this is
my personality?"

What if, Indeed?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Who knew?

Having never before had a cat AND a transparent-doored, front-load washing machine, I never knew there was so much fun to be had in watching a cat watch the washing...

A retraction.

Did I really say that the Caspi-Man has always been extremely respectful of all animals?

Perhaps I’d better now be changing that to read –‘HAD always been extremely respectful of all animals’, as Olli’s arrival in our household last Saturday is definitely amending that notion…

But on the up-side, following are a few things that I fully expected to have to say to the Caspi-Man, but (surprisingly) have not (as yet) needed to:

1. “Please don’t eat the cat’s food.”

2. “Please do not chase Olli with your water pistol.”

3. “Don’t tell fibs. Olli did not go to the fridge and eat the chocolate/cheery/ice-cream.”

On the other hand, here are a few things that I never- in a million years- dreamt I’d be saying – but, in the last few days have:

1. “Olli, get your paw out of the washing-up water!”

2. “No, Caspi-Man, Olli really does not want to play with mummy’s lipstick.”

3. “I said NO, Caspi-Man, DEFINITELY NOT. You are not, under ANY
circumstances, allowed to make piddles in Olli’s litter box.”

And two of these- would you believe- I’ve said more than once!
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