Sauna, So What?

Germany.  Germany.  Germany.  Germany.  Germany.  Germany.  Germany.  Germany.

What do you think of when when you think of Germany?

  • Wurst
  • Beer
  • A pretty successful national football team
  • That bloke with a funny-looking moustache and haircut… cough, cough
  • Come on now, admit it… Nudity

Germany is famous/notorious for “everyone getting their kit off at the first opportunity.”  Actually, that’s not quite the truth.  Walk down any German high street, and everyone is fully clothed.  Sit on any German train, and they are all fully clothed, even during a heatwave like we have today, temperatures of 30+ degrees c.

Whereas Germany does have the FKK (Freikörperkultur – “free body culture”) beaches and sections of the park, it’s still the minority of Germans who do go there.  (Well, as far as I am aware.  I admit, I have not done a scientific survey of my colleagues and neighbours.)  Most Germans will still wear their swimming costume, bikini or trunks on when they go sunbathing.

There is, however, one exception.  Woe betide you if you break this rule.  Germans go au naturel when they sit in the sauna.  Now it’s time for me to answer all the FAQ’s that I get from Brits.

  1. Phew phoar!  No, I have never got, cough, cough, “excited” in the sauna.
  2. No, it is not at all erotic.
  3. No, after my first visit to a German sauna, I did not rush out to buy a season ticket.
  4. Sex gods and goddesses do not visit the sauna.  Most German sauna-goers are not by any means salad-dodgers.  However, they tend to eat those salads on top of their cheeseburger, large Pommis mit weiss, bratwurst, and washed down with a few gallons of beer, followed by a large piece of Black Forest gateau.  Most of them make me look slightly anorexic.
  5. No, I have never met my bank manager/next-door neighbour/that lady who works down the local cafe, while sitting minding my own business down the sauna.
  6. No, I do not make sure I have a good look, phoar…

What impressese me is how businesslike, practical and logical Germans are about the whole business of sitting in the sauna:

  • in the buff
  • in your birthday suit
  • in the nip (Irish English expression)
  • au naturel
  • starkers
  • insert your favourite euphemism

My favourite sauna is the infra-red sauna at mine and Schatz’ favourite health farm.  45 degrees warmth and the infrared warms those sore joints.  Next to it is the Tecaldarium, with tiles rather than wooden slats.  Ideal if you have back or joint pains.

So what happens if you do enter the sauna in clothes, eg bikini or swim shorts?

Answer: One of the workers will rush into the sauna at the speed of a thousand leaping gazelles, shout at you, double you out of the sauna and tell you that you are to:

  • Undress immediately
  • Shower
  • Re-enter the sauna

…which has to be much more embarrassing than being seen naked in the sauna would have been.

Oh yes, once you do enter the sauna, you must-  by tradition – call out a mighty, cheery “Halloooooooooo!” to all the gathered textilfreie people on the slats (or tiles).

I have to say I find the German attitude to be a lot more mature than the British, rather giggly-girl, attitude towards people taking all their clothes off.  And believe me, after the first three nanoseconds, you really, really don’t bat an eyelid.  You just end up sitting in silence if everyone else is silent, or you join in the conversation about the weather, Brexit, Helmut Kohl, etc.

Have a textilfreier day, won’t you!

sauna-sign

Blood sugar diet: day 39 of 56

Today’s statistics:

  • Starting weight: 122.4kg
  • One week ago: 120.2kg
  • Today: 118.3kg

That’s 4.1kg off in four weeks.  I am happy.

So what had happened?  A week ago I had blipped upwards due to a slack weekend.  I had had food porn – Irish English breakfast – down the Irish pub in the city centre, bread rolls and a few cocktails.  No regrets.  It’s a way of eating, not a diet.  I now know after several weeks on this diet/WoE, that as soon as I get back on track without making anny big fuss, the weight comes off, generally within 3-5 days.

On a positive point, friends have started noticing my weight loss, asking what diet I am trying.  Two of them have ordered the book and have started within the last fortnight.

“If Ginge in Germany can manage it, so can I.”

And my new Marmite cycling top fits me just nicely.  It even has a nice jar-like shape.  Not long now till the Tour de France starts in Düsseldorf.  Los!

marmite

Have a love it-or-hate-it day, won’t you!

 

When the debt collector just will not leave you in peace…

Vocab point for native German-speakers: debt collector = der Inkassobeauftragte or der Schuldeneintreiber.  They are people whose job it is to knock on your door and get the debtor to pay their debts.  I think you get the idea, especially if one these people hass ever paid you a visit.

What I wonder is this:

  • Train driver
  • Army officer
  • Policeman
  • Doctor
  • Nurse
  • Bricklayer

I can understand why youngsters will tell the careers adviser that they would like to, would love to, would dream of becoming one.  But has any careers adviser ever had a year 11 student ever say:

Please, Sir, my career ambition is to become a debt collector.

My first experience of dealing with a debt collector hammering on the door was back in 2003.

The place: a village in North Yorkshire, England.

The time: tea-time on a Friday evening.

Boom, boom, boom, tap, tap, tap, thump, thump, rattle, rattle on letter box.

I leave the sofa and the ITV news to head to the door, while my Dad enjoys his tea, for I was visiting him for the weekend  NB: Chain is on door.  Old HM Forces habits of being security-conscious.

At the door – a man looking like a stereotypical night club doorman.

Good evening, sir.  Are you John Barleycorn?

Who?

John Barleycorn.

An unfriendly scowl from the visitor, holding his clipboard.

Never heard of him, I’m afraid.

Yeah, yeah, everyone tells me that.  Are you Mr John Barleycorn?

Nope.

Well, who are you?

Well, who are you, first of all.  Can I see some form of ID, please?

Tut and humph and sigh, and ID badge with name, Nick H***, on it.  Acme Recovery Services.  “Recovery” being a euphemism for “debt collectors.”

Can you produce some form of ID then?

No.  I don’t have to.

Well, do you know where John Barleycorn has moved to? 

Time for a bit of fun (for me, at least)…

Actually, I do know where he lives.  John Barleycorn, you say?  Now, hang on a minute.  He did leave a note, giving a forwarding address.  Now, I had a tidy-up yesterday.  I can’t find the piece of paper right now, but it’ll be somewhere in my study.  Tell you what, I don’t want to have people knocking on my door again, wasting my time and their time.  If you could give me your mobile number, I can give you a bell and give you his new address.  I think it’s somewhere in Northallerton.

Would you?  That would be much appreciated, mate.  Here’s my calling card, with my mobile on.

Conversation ends.  Our man walks off back to his 4WD.

Two minutes later a quick phone call to my old boss.

Mike, you’re not exactly interested in the opposite sex.  Can you give me an address of a good gay dating website, please,?  Oh, and some good buzzwords to use.  I’ll explain later.

Er, yeah, whatever.  Try www….

Thanks!

Within ten minutes I have registered a profile for our visitor on the website, including his mobile number.

25 year old bi-curious guy in London seeks new adventures, etc etc.

Fast forward two weeks.  A payphone in a Yorkshire village.  Insert coins of the realm.  Dial 07… etc, the debt collector’s mobile.

I get voicemail.  A gem.  Ein Knaller.

A grumpy, annoyed and altogether unhappy-sounding voice announces:

This is Nick H.  Unfortunately I have had to change my mobile number.  Please leave me your number, and I will ring you back from my new number.

(I wonder why he changed his mobile number…)

anger-management1

Have a mischievious day, won’t you!

 

Blood sugar diet: day 15 of 56

So, the past weekend.  I allowed the shackles to come off a bit.  Over the weekend, I ate white bread rolls, and I also had curry twice.  Oh, and a couple of bottles of beer.  I probably blipped up a bit on weight, but on Monday I was back in the groove today.  I tend to think of it as being analogous to a prisoner going on weekend leave and returning to HMP Wherever.  (Vocab note: HMP – Her Majesty’s Prison.)

Since the weekend I have been as good as gold, albeit with about ten Haribo sweets altogether.  I had been tempted to eat a Halbeshänchen (half a rotisserie chicken) on the way to a meeting yesterday evening, but instead chose to enjoy a nice home-made omelette (mushroom, ham and sliced gouda cheese – most pleasing to the palate).

Yesterday I cycled to a church meeting in glorious sunshine.  I cycled back in the dark.  I wore my Union Jack Flag cycling top and Union Flag helmet.  The rationale was not patriotism, but somewhat more prosaic.  One month ago, I could not get that top on.  Well, maybe I could have, but I would have done a very good impression of Doctor David Banner turning into the Incredible Hulk, with the slow rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr-rip sound of shirt material slowly tearing.

Yesterday evening the top fitted me, albeit slightly tightly, but it certainly came down below my belly button.  I shall keep wearing the top every time I go cycling to measure progress in terms of looser clothes, as well as scales being friendlier.

Here I am in Union Flab Flag clothing.  It turned a few heads as joggers and cyclists headed past me along the banks of the River Rhine…

UnionFlagPic

Have a patriotic day, won’t you!

What did Greta Garbo actually say?

What did Greta Garbo actually say?  I want to be left alone.  The “left” makes a big semantic difference.

What prompted me to think of that quotation?  This Huffington Post article did.

I sometimes go to my local cafe.  I nickname it “Das Wartezimmer” (“the Waiting Room”).  Why?  Let me tell you.  [Rant mode on]

The local cafe is full of people sitting in their cliques round each table.

Fair enough so far.

But once you’ve drunk up your cup of coffee, is it not time to either order another one or to vacate your table so other paying customers can enjoy a coffee/tea/brunch etc in peace and quiet?  After all, you have been sitting there, hogging that table for over an hour.

Last week, and not for the first time, I called into the Wartezimmer at 16:50L after work.  Not a single spare table for me to sit on my own.  Each table has one empty cup of coffee, surrounded by three or for people standing guard over each cup.  By the time I had left at 18:20L, having:

  • Eaten two cheese and ham rolls and a piece of apple pie
  • Drunk two large cups of coffee
  • Written a week’s worth of diary notes (for I was in catch-up mode)
  • Scanned through the latest edition of Private Eye.

For us Brits, to have a table to oneself if sacrosanct.  Never mind “me” time.  We Brits also need “me space.”  No need to wish me, a stranger, Guten Appetit/Guten Hunger/Mahlzeit.  Just leave me alonePunkt.

I am reasonably empathetic.  But as per the Huffington Past article, even though I am not eye candy, I just want my space.  Yet every time I writing my diary or reading my book or magazine, I get one of my enforced neighbours trying to help me out of my loneliness.

Man standing guard over empty coffee cup:

Is that book interesting?

Ginge in Germany:

Yes.  I’m halfway through it.

(I’d be three-quarters through it, matey, if you’d just kindly go and hold court elsewhere, preferably in another city.)

MSGOECC:

I saw you a few minutes ago writing in a book.  Is that your diary?

G in G:

It is.

(I’m tempted to say, “No.  I’m doing another forgery of Hitler’s diaries, to see if I can fool the historians again.”  But I decide that passive-aggressive tutting, curt replies and absence of eye contact should be sufficient hint that I have come here to eat, drink, be merry, read and write in peace.)

MSGOECC:

Are you left-handed?

G in G:

I am.

(What I wanted to say: “You should know.  You’ve been watching me for the past 20 minutes, writing my diary, using my left hand.”)

All I can think is, thank goodness I did that interrogator’s course nearly two decades ago.

Come on, I dare you, ask me more questions.  I’m so itching to give you the ICATQ treatment.

I think MSGOECC finally got the message.  He finally stands up, pays for his coffee and wishes me, “Schönen Tag noch,” and heads out to… wherever.

Have an aloof day, won’t you!

What a weekend!

Normally Schatz and I spend the weekend together, either I spend the weekend at Schloss Schatz, or she spends the weekend at Schloss Ginge in Germany.

Last weekend was different.  I spent the weekend from Friday lunchtime till Sunday teatime with eighty members from church at a youth hostel on the German-Dutch border.  The theme of the weekend: Pleasing God.

What a weekend!

A core team had spent hours organising the weekend.  Think of a duck seemingly flaoting across the water.  We, the core team, were the duck’s webbed feet, unseen below the water.

What activities to put on?  In what order?  What if it rains?  What if someone falls ill?  Ah, yes, we have a nurse.  Who should be the guest speaker?  Should it be family service?  Communion service? Etc etc etc.

The Seven P’s came to my head from the days of helping plan Territorial Army exercises.

  • Proper
  • Preparation and
  • Planning
  • Prevent
  • Piss-Poor
  • Performance

And that preparation paid off.  No fights among the children.  No arguments among the adults.  Blessed with so much.

  • Fascinating, informatives talks by an engaging speaker, Lee Gatiss
  • Beautiful weather
  • Great fellowship
  • Walks through beautiful woods
  • Inspiring preaching
  • Bible quiz
  • Teach-in sessions on how to do skipping, using the skipping rope I had brought
  • Finally, the chance to watch people learning how to ride a unicycle (“Einrad”)

Will we do it again next year?  You betcha we will!

Have a hostelling day, won’t you!

I love to travel (2)

I love to travel, even if only on the local-stopping train round England.

June 1998.  I’d been to Gavin’s leaving do.  I’d had a few drinks.  I was merry, slightly drunk.  I board the last train back to Bracknell from Reading.

I sit in one carriage.  It’s nearly empty, with just me and a couple of other men.  I start to flick through the newspaper for a few minutes.  Meantime, I listen in on the two other men sitting opposite me.

Foreigners…

Slavonic…

Ah, Russian.

I decide to spend the next few minutes listening to them.  Time to kill before I reach Bracknell.

One fancies a girl off his course.  The other had had a McDonalds for breakfast.  Interesting stuff.  A good chance for me to practise my language schools.  (Three years at sixth form college and four years at university.)

Three minutes before Bracknell, I put the newspaper down.

One minute before Bracknell, Our Boris says to Our Ivan:

Попроси газету у этого толстого козла.

(For those not fluent in Russian: “Ask that fat bloke if you can have his paper.”)

Ginge in Germany, holding his copy of the Evening Standard replies very nonchalantly:

Почему ты сам не спросишь?

Translation: “Why don’t you ask him yourself?”

Suddenly two very embarrassed and surprised Russians, their faces now as red as the old hammer and sickle flag.

My train stops.  I get off.

One word: satisfaction.

Have a multi-lingual day, won’t you!