Barney’s Birthday Bonanza.



It’s always good to start with a quote, this one is from one of my favourite songs. Don’t worry I haven’t set up a tumblr account and gone vegan, it just started playing on my iPod as I left Berlin on Sunday afternoon and I thought it would be a good way to start this post which will describe the people and events from last weekend.

No persuasion whatsoever has ever been needed to get me travelling to Berlin, a city that I can now boast to have visited just under ten times since I first went with Ludo in 2009. Notably, my mate Simon even managed to persuade me to go on a whim one Sunday evening following a lunch at the Royal Park Pub. As soon as I received the call from Barney, it was on. Swanky restaurants, meeting new people and lots of birthday celebration was in order. Over the weekend our leader set a cracking pace, both in terms of walking speed and event management. After two nights in Berlin I woke up with more stamps on my hands than there are days in the week. It is true; Berlin never disappoints, but for that you pay a physical price. In spite of this, a week on, you start to miss the relaxed lifestyle they have in the Wild Wild East. This story begins Friday 15th March or Independence Day, for the Hungarians amongst you.


Thanks to a hiccup from Nath, I took the ICE (Inter-City-Express train) from Munich to Berlin. As cliché as it sounds, trains here in Germany run more smoothly and are just generally more efficient, which I admit is an obvious and boring fact to state, especially given the poor (albeit improving) state of affairs in the UK. As Inglorious Ingo always used to say, the best thing about travelling with the Deutsche Bahn is that they make occasional announcements in English. These consist of polite greetings such as: “Lädies end Gentellmen, velcom on board zee I-C-E to Stralsund, vee vish you a pläsent journey”. Other than that, not much happened on the journey, other than some fairly attractive girls got on at Augsburg. For the time being, we’ll refer to them as Augsbabes. In my experience these girls are all foam and no Weißbier. Having said that, my experience is based almost exclusively on a volleyball player of Lithuanian origin, but still. They overheard me speaking British English on the phone and had a huge debate about which British actors sounded the best. Predictably, Hugh Grant came out on top.

I won’t bother translating the title. You’re better off not knowing.

But my sense of flattery was about to come to an abrupt halt when we stopped at Nuremberg. The seat next to me suddenly became occupied by a portly lady and things took a turn for the worse. For a short while everything appeared to be normal. She poured herself into her seat, took out a book and began to read. Perfectly legit, I thought to myself, nothing wrong with that. This was until she started getting slightly too interactive with the book, stroking the pages as she read, caressing them as she breathlessly soared through the novel. When she took a break to catch her breath, I realised from the title and strange picture of the author that it was a curious sort of book (see right).

The journey continued. After a few more hours of gorgeous fields, we started to ascend and suddenly the trees became increasingly coniferous and a few pretty inches of snow covered the rocky outcrops. Having spotted a Netto with both SCHEISSE and FREIHEIT carefully spray-painted onto it, followed by two youths stood next to a tractor watching a bonfire, I presumed we had arrived in the former East Germany and as it turned out I was right. We weren’t far from Leipzig.

Berliner Barney.

Eventually I arrived in the country’s capital and marvelled at the architecture of Hauptbahnhof as I took about seven escalators up to find the S-Bahn. How can one station have so many levels, I wondered. I have clearly turned into a small town mouse during my time in Munich. As I tried to get over my initial astonishment, I began to think of which train station the Germans would have converted into their extravagant Londoner Hauptbahnhof, had they been successful seventy years ago. Waterloo seems like the obvious choice? Or perhaps Victoria? King’s Cross seems unlikely, though , whereas Stratford seems like a clear contenter for Ostbahnhof. Or would they have just started from scratch? These were all questions that sprang to mind as I took my seat on the S-Bahn to Charlottenburg, West Berlin, home to Prosecco Barney. Gloriously, this part of town also happens to be twinned with Lewisham in South London. This dawned upon me after I read that two streets away from the flat ran a long thoroughfare called Lewishamstraße. Initially, I reckoned I was either experiencing some kind of optical illusion or last night’s Jäger was still talking. However, it was the real deal: the areas are twinned! Citing the infallible wikipedia as my source, let’s take a moment to appreciate the London borough’s other other international ties; namely with Antony, France and Matagalpa, Nicaragua. Fascinating stuff, I think you’ll agree.

Having rang Barney upon my arrival I was given a slightly worrying set of orders. I was told to meet him in LIDL, near the Russian Supermarket – the sort of directions that would make even urban heavyweights such as Liam Neeson take a second look at Google Maps. Having eventually found a sufficiently suspicious Russian cafe, I cleverly put two and two together, rounded the corner to find the gangster grocery. Clearly every Mafia boss’ wife had sent out her hubby and son to fetch groceries in a Mercedes M-Class, the perfect midsize SUV for the family mobster. I looked marginally out of place as I waited outside. If this was some sort of Oxford initiation then it wasn’t very funny.

Barney and two friends Josh & Ed kindly came to pick me up as I had resorted to asking passers-by if they knew where LIDL was. One clueless Frenchwoman had no intention of helping me and also made no attempt to hide that she was offended that I’d asked her. We then did a quick shop at said budget supermarket to get a few essentials in. Beer and crisps seemed to be fairly high on the agenda, as well as some outrageously cheap wine which would soon unimpress the girls. After brief introductions and a few drinks it was time to head off to one of Berlin’s most exclusive restaurants, Spindler & Klatt. We ate fantastically, I personally opted for Sushi which was good and the whole group seemed to enjoy the food. The coolest thing (literally) about this eaterie were a) the DJ whose unfortunate choice of T-shirt meant that he looked both serious and naked and b) the loos. They were large walk-in boxes made out of corrugated iron, and in the gents the urinal was full to the brim with kilos upon kilos of ice. I think this says it all, really. As well as being strangely satisfying, pissing on ice makes you feel quite important. That was my first time pissing on ice and I can definitely recommend it. Although, sadly I don’t think Phillip Schofield would feel comfortable presenting such a show. Perhaps on Channel 5, but it certainly wouldn’t be up to ITV’s standard.

We then headed to Warschauer Straße, in East Berlin and where the word “edgy” was thrown around almost without justification. The bar we were heading to happened to be having a Hungarian Folk Dancing evening and we sort of just joined in with it as if it was the most normal thing in the world. It appeared to be a sort of Hungarian flash mob, but it transpired that the 15th of March is an annual celebration commemorating the revolution of 1848. After a round of shots which didn’t taste like any of the flavours they had promised to reflect, Ella and I agreed it was time to kick off the dancing. A few minutes later and we were hands on shoulders dancing round in circles with some friendly Hungarians. Eventually everyone came over to our way of thinking, and the whole team were all dancing some form of jig involving turning and simultaneously stamping whilst holding hands and moving round in circles. By the time we’d stamped our last stamp, we were on our way to the club opposite, the infamous Cassiopeia. This is a club which brought back many memories for me. After all, Berlin was the city in which I experienced the concept of clubbing for the first time. It has a simple layout, two dancefloors up- and downstairs, complete with table football and a large outside area which increases the capacity five-fold during the warm summer evenings.

By this stage in the evening I started to feel as if I had a good enough rapport with the group and I was honoured that I had been accepted into their midst, despite being a martyr and insisting on taking photos of “the real team”. It sort of felt like I knew them quite well, as if I had started as a Fresher at Somerville in 2010 and was one of those basket cases you hear about who takes a load of drugs and ends up in a coma, having woken up missing both first, second and most of third year (buddy). It was sort of like I’d known the group for ages even though I couldn’t relate to any of the stories they were telling or any of the characters that featured. It occurred to me that it is perhaps a good exercise to join a tight-knit friendship group, it offers perspective which you wouldn’t normally be able to experience when surrounded by the comfort of your own friends. Sort of like a documentary by Louis Theroux. The team included Katy, Sam, Liv, Ed, Molly, Ella, Josh and of course the man of the moment: Barney. And I think they were some of the most charming people I ever met, there must be an compulsory charm seminar that you take at Oxford. To them I was effectively a complete outsider to the group, because they all studied together at university but in spite of this they made a big effort to include me, explaining different terminology specific to Oxford: including “Crew dates” where they would end up “sconcing” their friends. The most spoken of whom was Stephane, German by blood by British in his heart. Story after story was told about him, without end. More on him later – now back to the content.

After a good stint at Cassiopeia, we then proceeded to an inconspicuous club round the corner in the same complex, but alas our platoon had been decimated and only a mere section remained. All the rest had made the sensible decision and retreated before dawn. Casualties that remained included Barney, Katy, Liv and myself. The day after we were all so shattered we got nothing done, but it was good to just have a lazy day. I think if I hadn’t already done Berlin 100 times I would have been keen to get about but otherwise we were good to vegetate in the flat, only to step out blinking into the daylight to eat currywurst, withdraw more cash and nip into the Jaguar-Land Rover Showroom.

The big event.

Saturday night was the main event, the moment we had all been waiting for. With a bit of help from pop star Finn Martin (a contender to be Germany’s entry for the Eurovision song contest, if I understood him correctly) Barney had managed to organise a series of visits to the city’s most exclusive restaurants and clubs. The highlight of which, unanimously agreed, was the official Birthday Meal; a private dining function at member’s club, Soho House Berlin. Interesting to comment here, is that although the Kaufhaus Jonaß is now occupied by the club, previous tenants included The Hitler Youth and later the Institute for Marxism & Leninism. But I still like to think we made history, to an extent. We were almost certainly better behaved than both parties. Well, definitely no worse than the Hitler Youth, but yet not quite as dull the Marxists must have been.

It was a shame that Nonie couldn’t make it, because she was in Budapest but there was still much to talk about as we got to know her friend Alice. It was really interesting to hear from her about her experience at St. Andrew’s and their crazy Harry Potter-style traditions (for want of a less coarse phrase) in contrast to her life as a language assistant in Europe’s second largest city. The meal was of course extravagant and everyone seemed very impressed with the dining indeed. We enjoyed five-star food, wine and of course vibrant and captivating company. Ed also confirmed it was a successful evening, announcing at one point that he “didn’t feel stressed”, so I guess it was a success all round, despite Josh’s best efforts to send crockery flying in all directions.

Barney then co-ordinated a perfectly smooth transition to our next destination. A convoy of taxis to Cookiesthe Schicki-Micki club in the capital) where we would meet Finn the German pop star. People were more excited for the arrival of the infamous Stephane and, after a hectic day of voyaging back from a skiing holiday via Hamburg, the chap eventually managed to meet us outside the club. After a good spell of dancing and drinking, I ended the time in the club randomly winning a porcelain camel as part of a promotion. Camel in hand, we set off to a bar near Moritzplatz, Kreuzberg and despite pumping ourselves full of complex carbohydrates en route, the alcohol meant that some members of the team were starting to show signs of fatigue. But Berlin refused to let us sleep. Once we were done in the “edgy bar”, we set off to our third event of the evening/morning. After a quick tour of a nearby roundabout in arctic conditions, we found ourselves stood outside the club in Ritterstraße at around 5.30am. On the walk there Sam felt it was time to voice his concerns, understandably referring to the sketchy area as being akin to “some sort of dystopian nightmare”.

“Camel, camel on the wall. Who is the edgiest of them all?”

At 8am on a Sunday morning, you really need to summon up all the motivation you possibly can, in order to party on. I’m not sure what’s more ridiculous, taking a camel into a club or the someone actually offered to buy my camel for 11€. I seem to remember having a couple of shots of Jägermeister with Ed and then fist pumping my camel at randomers in the club. Who’s edgy now, Mr. East Berlin?


Berlin taxi drivers understandably didn’t want to lose their licences just because we wanted to get home, so I manned up and took one for the team, taking the U-Bahn and S-Bahn home solo, and getting some disapproving looks from roughly 84% of people I came into contact with. All too soon the weekend was over and despite The Bank of Fabian losing it’s AAA rating I’m of course overjoyed that I was invited to such a prestigious and key event in Barney’s calender. Thanks to everyone who made it a fab weekend, especially to Barney for a fantastic weekend of unbeatable generosity and hospitality, I am confident he enjoyed it, too which is of course the main thing. Now I need to start thinking about my own 21st.


Arsenal Expects.



Arsenal 2 – 0 Bayern (agg 3-3)*

Arsenal expected every player will do his duty. Just like Admiral Lord Nelson coughing out his last breaths after being brought down by a firearm, the Gunners kept their promise until the dying minutes.

Wednesday 13th March 2013

Here is a brief run-down of Wednesday’s events, a match report and of course a lash report. Also included are photos and a brief summary from Bavarian Ben. On the Wednesday, Sam flew down from Hamburg in the morning and by the afternoon he was in the office. He met my boss and a colleague and we got the expensive coffees in, which I pretended was completely standard even though it’s only my second nice coffee. Said colleague, namely Jan, had a car spare and offered to take Sam for a spin in the BMW 3 Series Touring Sport Line Edition, kitted out with all M accessories. We got up to 240kmph on the Autobahn Richtung Freising, impressed to see that it accelerated smoothly up to 80kmph. We were able to enjoy that Sheer Driving Pleasure that comes only from driving a BMW and show Sam  a bit about the features that our cars have. It’s only two litres though so it does struggle to accelerate upwards from 130kmph. My boss gave me the nod and I was allowed to leave work early. Then the magic key began to glow…

At the Hofbräuhaus our livers were about to take a battering and little did we know FC Bayern would also be subjected to a football-shaped battering of their own. What the Arsenal support may have lacked in manners, they more than made up for in queuing performance. It’s true, we Brits know how to queue and in London we have our most seasoned queuers and queueees.

Despite being a massive Palace fan, I was happy to associate with the boys from North London. All it took was to pull Sam’s scarf over my shoulders and like that I had pulled the wool over their eyes. It was great to fulfil the Germans view of us as being 80% hooligans. If you’ve been keeping fairly up to date with the blog, then you might have noticed a pattern that fulfilling stereotypes seems to be becoming a somewhat worryingly regular occurrence in my life now.


My favourite quote of the night came from an unsightly ruffian stood behind me who, not afraid to voice his frustration, spontaneously declared:

Fa two years he’s dan nuffin. Naaffin! Give it ta Gervinho“.~ Anonymous yet charismatic Arsenal Fan.

If there was any logic connecting these two concepts, then I was blissfully unaware of any and began to do what all well-to-do South Londoners know how to do: blend in with the Great Unwashed. I turned round and nodded vigorously at the man, desperately trying to give us some common ground in the hope that he would think I was saying “I was just thinking that myself” and subsequently wouldn’t growl at me. However, it was as if the poor man’s shouts fell on deaf ears as he struggled to make himself understood. Wenger didn’t bat an eyelid and play continued.

There was a mutual respect between the fans of the two teams after the game, in line with UEFA’s campaign. But I guess Bayern were just so shocked to be beaten at home. And rightly so. It was unanimously appreciated that Arsenal had earned their consolation win, yet real celebration couldn’t be justified as on paper they had technically been knocked out another team brought low by the bloody away goal. Although I think more factors need to be taken into account. Any goals that Brits score away should take into account a) how much stronger our currency is than theirs and b) how much atmosphere a team creates. Still, at least they managed to wipe off any smug grins off precious Bavarian faces.

I spent my lunch break with Jan and his mate Eddy. Eddy happened to have got hold of a BMW 7 Series which is a great car because the seats have a back massage mode. This year I’ve become akin to some sort of Saudi Prince you is shocked when his translator informs him that some people drive cars without being simultaneously massaged by a robot. We have some new cars at work soon after my test in April so we shall see, in the meantime I still need to pass my theory test next week before I even have a shot at the practical part. Wish me luck!

After the match.

Yesterday morning, I was getting funny looks in the office and I was told I had a suspiciously happy air about me, for a Thursday morning. Have I mentioned the Germans are poignantly observant? I had what I can only describe as that “je ne sais quoi”  that one can only acquire when one’s team has been victorious the day before. To watch Arsenal soar to victory was really the stuff of dreams and we couldn’t have hoped for any better for the boys from North London. Obviously, it would have been ideal for them to slot another goal and progress to the quarter final, but it wasn’t meant to be.

I’m not sure who I hate more, Bayern or United. Bavarian Ben of course supports both teams which makes him a crime to football. In response to my inquiry about the outcome he writes with bias, understatement and condescension about  how Bayern didn’t deliver the best performance and that he was disappointed with the result. He went on to express how I should be glad that I saw the most beautiful stadium in the world, and at least I got to see a game. He concludes with slightly barbed wishes hoping that I enjoy the rest of my time in Germany.

“Servus, naja also gestern hat Bayern nicht gerade die beste Leistung abgeliefert. Ich war eher enttäuscht. Na dann hast du wenigstens mal das schönste Stadion der Welt von sehen können und auch ein Spiel erleben dürfen Mir geht es gut danke. Hoffe bei dir ist auch alles bestens und du geniesst noch deine Zeit hier in Deutschland” ~Bayerischer Ben

Arsenal are fantastic away supporters, they never gave up. Da Boiz, vey dun us praad, san. I wish Sam and Natalie a great trip to Barcelona and look forward now to Simon’s 21st at the Frühlingsfest in Stuttgart. Time to sleep, Berlin calls!

Starkbierfest and the Autobahn.



Starkbierfest is what it says on the Stein.

I don’t want to start off by saying it was better than Oktoberfest, but it was certainly a contender for second-best beer festival. Remi and I planned to go to the Fest as our last big night together in Munich and all was set for the big day when we began to queue outside Paulaner am Nockherberg in the afternoon. Admittedly there were aspects of it that were better than the frankly overcrowded Wies’n. Firstly, I would just like to say a massive thank you to all the absolute babes that turned up. I have honestly never seen more beautiful women in one place. And that’s coming from someone who’s been to Tequila on a Thursday. But as opposed to Tequila’s remarkably low marriage rates, 80% these gorgeous Bavarian princesses were fit to marry, seeming to walk straight out of a fairytale. But it wouldn’t be a fairytale without a few trolls and a couple of ugly sisters to make up the last fifth.

With the exception of the first day, beer can be ordered from 9am onwards at the Oktoberfest. At the Starkbierfest, however, doors don’t even open until the early afternoon. Most beer at Oktoberfest was around the 5% mark, whereas the “Strong-beer-festival” beer is not really beer, it’s almost a wine, with its alcohol concentration hovering dangerously around the 11% mark, this is because it traditionally is the cooked remains of the Oktoberfestbier. Do the maths. If people started drinking this through the morning, they would be more than twice as drunk as at Oktoberfest, for twice as long. That’s fairly annihilated indeed. Thank God then that doors opened at two in the afternoon. Presumably there is some sort of correlation between how many world wars your country has started and what time you let people start drinking. Now I don’t claim to be Bavaria’s answer to Nostradamus, but I’m guessing that shortly after World War III people will get let in perhaps at 1500hrs. And rightly so.

Bavarian Speaking Cash machine.

The day was great, much singing and drinking and cheering etc. The highlight of which was when I took advantage of a quiet crowd to coerce them into singing “Country Roads by John Denver” managing to get enough people to sing along with me such that the and changed their schedule and decided to join in. Having realised our wallets were empty, we embarked on a mission to get cash. There was only one cash machine and of course charged an extortionate rate, but at least it had a language option of Bavarian German (Boarisch) which made me and David (another colleague) chuckle for probably a bit too long. Shortly after this, David and I agreed that heaven would be some form of Bavarian Beer festival. Think about it, what more could you possibly need? Friendly and approachable people to talk to, gorgeous women dancing around in a tasteful fashion. All the beer you could drink in a lifetime. It would  never get boring. It couldn’t. It wouldn’t even be possible. Having sank four Steins, it was pushing eleven o’clock. And with that in mind, Julia (a rather attractive au pair from New York) and I headed to Jan’s house party which was taking place at Theresienwiese, exactly where Oktoberfest takes place. Myself dressed in Lederhosen and my accomplice dressed in a full dirndl, we looked like we had fallen out of a faulty time-machine, arriving at Oktoberfest at the dead of night but at least we were within six months. Not bad time-travelling. After a few drinks with Jan and co it was home time.

The rest of the weekend was spent recovering from Friday and Saturday nights and preparing for the week ahead.

On the evening of Monday the 11th March I had my first driving lesson on the Autobahn. After a nice spell on the country roads (Landstraße), we drove to the airport and onto the Autobahn back to Munich. This system contrasts with the English driving schools where I believe you aren’t permitted to drive on the motorway with a learner plate, however in Germany this is not only encouraged but it is an obligatory part of learning to drive. No speed limits, rapid overtaking and unmarked police cars equipped with cameras are all part of the fun. You just have to strap in a get ready for the ride. I settled into Richgeschwindigkeit of 130kmph pretty comfortably and I took the BMW One Series up to 160kmh which was a great feeling. Forget fifth gear, I though to myself as I shot straight from fourth into sixth. The lesson went well and I only made a couple of mistakes, mainly entering built up areas at twice the speed allowed. Note to self: decelerate to 50kmph before the yellow signs appear. Some of the signposts were hidden by trees though, in my defence. I do need to make sure I don’t get carried away going from 50-60 kmph even though the difference really is minute.

Unfortunately, we have had to say goodbye to some friends of ours. Philip is going off to start his masters, but also bravely starting a three week trip to Coventry to visit his girlfriend. Lisa is leaving us to go and study in Australia and Rémi is off to join Euan in Wolfsburg at the Automotive Giant that is Volkswagen.

In other news, Sam is preparing for his trip to Munich tomorrow and we are both going to watch the last British team in the Champions League as Arsenal come to the Allianz Arena in a clash against the dominant Bayern Munich. On Friday, the Berlin trip begins along with Barney’s Birthday Bonanza.

Sex, Saufen und Skifahren.

mimIt’s been a while since the last post, because I have been pretty busy. Apologies to anyone who has been sitting on the edge of their seats. Here is the update of the past three weeks or so.

Let’s start from the beginning. I’m back in Munich where I belong and I’m not wasting any time. First item on the agenda: single-handedly sorting out the economy, trying desperately to give it that kick it needs, like a mad surgeon thrusting a shot of adrenaline into Europe’s economic heart. As you may be aware from the news, there’s still a long way to go. Thanks for shaking things by the way up Dave, I’m getting a lot of stick because of you. “Marcus vot ees heppaning viz zee European Union. Vot did vee do rong zis time?”  The question remains: will Great Britain choose to go it alone? Anyway let’s immediately put that on the backburner and think about it again in 2015. Let’s just hope that there aren’t any ancient civilisations predicting our demise this year. That’s enough Mayan practical jokes for the time being, thank you very much.

This blog covers the period of time from present day all the way back to Wednesday the 9th January 2013 AD. Wednesday before last, Niklas organized a cheeky few drinks at the swanky Vanilla Lounge at Münchner Freiheit. A quiet evening was had and we learnt that Niklas’ great-grandfather was a Brit who immigrated to Finland and created the “Domino” a biscuit similar to the “Oreo” and a successful biscuit business which still runs to this day. Also it means that one of his names is “Domino”. I suppose, at the end of the day, there are worse things you could be named after.

After a hard working week, the young professionals of Munich want to let their hair down. On Friday evening it was time to tuck in dinner with colleagues. Of course, Planne-Charlotte made the reservation. What would we do without her? The reservation was at Ocui, an Italian restaurant at Sendlinger Tor similar to Vapiano’s (German version of Pizza Express) but far superior because Vapiano’ (whoever he is) is in my opinion overrated. Discussions about traffic, parking and other amazingly interesting topics were covered as well as a lot of talk about London from Espa, who met her boyfriend on her Year Abroad.

12.01.2013 Skiing Saturday @ Bayrischzell

There aren’t many things that get me up at 5am on a Saturday morning. Skiing, however, is one of the few things that can. Our resort of choice was Bayrischzell which is about an hour from Munich on the train (Bayerische Oberlandsbahn). Some of us brought skis, some of us didn’t, those who didn’t were able rent skis from the Skischule Bayrischzell for the very reasonable price of 20€. As an extra option you could rent sunglasses, goggles or helmets for 3€ each. It was really good value and undoubtedly a good deal overall. Then we got down to the actual skiing. Sudelfeld isn’t the biggest of resorts, but it did make for an interesting day of navigation as the visibility wasn’t great. I’ve been very privileged to have learnt to ski at a young age. I’ve skied as far north as Norway and as far south as Italy, as well as a lot in France (Puy Saint-Vincent). This snow, however, was like nothing I had ever experienced. Pure Bavarian snowflakes settled on the piste and created a fresh layer of sheer velocity. When pressing down on your skis, you could enjoy a smooth descent and as you turned them, they didn’t dig in or complain as you rounded the piste. The blades simply sliced through the snow like a knife through whipped cream. A few pushy Bavarian parents shouted at their children for not skiing fast enough or with sufficient technique, keen to make them professional skiers by the age of eight. Achtung – petrified kids with tunnel vision hurtling down the mountain for the next 200 metres!

Despite Maciek giving it the big talk on the train (or “givin’ it the large one” as Tom Margetson would say) he basically panicked at the idea of skiing off piste. He expressed a reasonable concern of danger so we decided to follow the piste down. Surprised by this change of tune, we continued down to the lift. As we sat on the two-man chair, the cliff face beyond the trees came into view and where I had pointed out a fun bit of skiing, we would have both surely disappeared down the side of the mountain, our backs broken on the rocks below and we would never have been seen again. From then on Maciek was trusted with the decision making. Late in the afternoon the visibility began to get even worse. Knackered from the skiing, Maciek and I felt like a snack was in order. Low on supplies, we sought out an eatery that we had seen on the map. As I once again led Maciek off into the abyss, trudging through snow, I felt like the great OA, Sir Ernest Shackleton. Unlike Captain Scott who reached the pole, but in doing so doomed his men to certain death, I decided to take more of an Ernie angle and put the safety of my men first. The map turned out to be useless, but our desperation to resupply was so overwhelming that we started to imagine figures walking in front of us towards a hut which would appear suddenly vivid and then promptly disappear in a cloud of snow.

The weather eventually cleared and we found ourselves a wooden panelled pub where we could shelter from the elements. We ordered bread and sausage, so we weren’t exactly expecting miracles, but when we got a mouldy crust of bread and two Frankfurters you could say we were downhearted. Still, the mustard masked all flavour, thank God. Also with us on the trip was a lovey dovey couple who didn’t make too much of an impression on us. There was a British girl and a Norwegian guy who were both horrendously smiley people. They kept on bizarrely grinning at each other and dramatically embracing each other. When we tried to make conversation, Maciek didn’t exactly help by starting literally every sentence with “So”.

Couple: “Are you a student?”
Maciek: “So I am studying at LMU.”
Couple: “Oh, right, what do you study?”
Maciek: “So I am studying medicine.”
Couple: “That’s great do you enjoy it?”
Maciek: “So I like it very much. Yes.”

Having polished off our disappointing meal, we opted to get back on the slopes as the weather cleared up. The resort wasn’t huge, but we all know it’s not size that matters. It seemed great for young families, lots of drag-lifts and shallow gradients. And for a day of skiing you certainly couldn’t complain. On a clear day the view from the top of the mountain is apparently fantastic. By the evening we were back in Munich and tucked up in our beds. Here are a few things I learnt along the way from my polish friend.

The world according to Medical Maciek. (Pole Position)

  • “The British love to make these ‘stag parties’ in Krakow, you know these parties, Marcus?”
  • “Belvedere is best vodka in world but very expensive.”
  • “Polish girls are most beautiful in world.” ~ Eastern European girls in Munich have been a letdown so far for the boy.
  • “These English and Irish football fans were very very well-behaved during UEFA Euro 2012.” ~ Well done boys.  You’re a credit to us all.

On Thursday it was Nath’s 21st and he opted for some quiet drinks at Kennedy’s Irish Pub. If you’ve been reading the blog from the start, you’ll know that Nath is a fellow Leeds student. Not only that though, he happens to be the newly appointed Match Reporter for 1860 München, the second biggest football club in Munich. As part of his job he gets to interview players and managers. Unfortunately, it won’t be possible to get former England manager Sven Goran-Eriksson out for a few beers as he is longer running for the job of manager. As the evening progressed, so did the propensity to sing. Yes, there was Karaoke services available and yes, we did partake. I lead the charge with a hearty rendition of Country Roads – West Yorkshire. As I approached the stage, I shot past a waitress a bit too enthusiastically and rather embarrassingly smashed an entire tray of empty pint glasses onto the floor. This dramatic introduction spurred me on to even greater things and after I had finished this world première I had an Irishman and a Yorkshireman approach me. The latter gentleman, claiming to hail from Wakefield, approached me and had incorrectly but understandably assumed I was from God’s own county and cut to the chase: “So wha’ parta Yarkshire ya fram?” Thinking that “London” would be too cheeky an answer, I refrained. Instead, I politely explained how I had studied the past two years in Leeds. Having exposed me for the Southerner I am and with that unable to hide his disappointment, the man in question gave me a brief synopsis of his current employment in a software company and soon after was on his way. The highlight of the night was yet to come: it turns out Nath does a great “Wherever you will go” by The Calling. I remember shouting: “Don’t forget to start off low!” Needless to say he did start stir the crowd with his husky recitation: “So lately, I’ve been wonderin'”.

20.01.2013 Skiing Sunday @ Garmisch-Partenkirchen

On Sunday, I travelled faster than the speed of leather to GarmischPartenkirchen alongside colleagues Snowball Sascha and Teutonic Tilman for my second skiing experience of 2013. Sascha works for BMW Bank and Tilman is an expert on the motorbikes we sell, how they are put together etc. Two great lads. We left from our Wohnheim at around 9am and we were on the slopes by 10am. This is because in Germany, instead of having a maximum speed limit, on some roads they actually have a minimum speed limit, some sections of road where you must travel at least 80km/h for example. This was perfect as Tilly had rented a BMW 330d which ripped down the Autobahn at 160km/h leaving nothing but a few grams of CO2 and a thin trail of diesel in its wake. I love how this country has stretches of road with literally no limit on the speed. Think about that for a minute. Limitless speed. What does it feel like? Well I don’t know exactly but I can tell you whatever it feels like it is made more comfortable nestled in the leather of a premium Bavarian automobile.

We arrived at Garmisch and we needed to rent skis. Everyone knows the standard German stereotypes, but do they hold any truth at all? Yes. Yes they do. The Germans have an airport-style system when it comes to ski rental. Why? Because “skiing iz no laughing matter”. It must be “so efficient like possible”.

  • Step 1: Rental check-in.
  • Step 2: Payment and Identification
  • Step 3: Ski fitting and collection

Lunch is expensive at these sort of resorts so naturally for our lunch break we ate our packed-lunches and listened to Schläger (German hits) outside a cafe on the slopes: “Da wo früher mein Leber war ist jetzt ein Minibar” being a personal lyrical highlight. After a few beers and we were skiing even better in the afternoon.

I wasn’t in the most international of moods and grew weary of overhearing Americans regaling stories among their friends, a significant proportion of whom were invariably called Brett. I bumped into Bilingual Brian who I went skiing with the week before with Maciek and the Erasmus lot and who acts as an antidote to the poisonous American stereotypes. He was there with Ludo, very randomly. At the end of the day, we met at the Schwegelift. A few people turned up late including an out of breath Peruvian snowboarder who was desperately searching for his friend. When he found that his mate was settling down ready to sip a warm hot chocolate he started shouting:

“Why did you left me alone, man. I almost died”. (sic)

On our return journey the sun did that thing it usually does and sank beneath the mountain, leaving only a dark silhouette of the jagged peak visible. Our BMW xDrive day out was brilliant, utilising the features of the car and just sitting back and relaxing. To see the dynamic lighting system Fernlicht (full beam) is an amazing step forward in technology. The motion sensor allows the adaptive LED headlights to automatically follow the curve in the road and turns a section of the light off when it senses a car is coming in the other direction. Thus the oncoming vehicle isn’t affected by your beam, enhancing the comfort of your own vehicle whilst improving the safety of other road users. In a decade or so this feature will likely be standard across the board in the automotive industry and may even be obligatory, but it really is fascinating to be witnessing the cutting edge technology of tomorrow, today. On our journey back I spotted that the village of Oberammergau is in possession of one of our beloved red phone boxes. They either stole it or it was yet another object that fell out of the sky during WWII. Either way, they now keep it outside their pub, perhaps as a sort of trophy.

One evening in the week I was cycling to the driving school when I bumped into a Ghostly Greggers who had been sent on a mission by one of his housemates. The objective being to replenish the supply of washing liquid which he had plundered (presumably without the neccessary permissions), or else. I pointed him in the direction of Lidl and Aldi and wished him the best of luck. I really hope he found what he was looking for. On Thursday evening we all headed to Lardy in Münchner Freiheit for a couple of drinks with the team. It was time to decide, are you a Praktikant, or a Prakti-can?

25.01.-27.01.2013. Skiing Weekend @ Lenggries.

This past weekend has to be one of the highlights of my Year Abroad so far. We were very lucky to be invited to a skiing trip with the university. We boarded the coach at Universität and withing minutes we were on our way into the mountains. During the journey Good Deal came on twice so I took that as a good omen that the weather would be great. The group leaders were swigging Augustiners on the bus to the resort.

Hostile Hostel. We arrived at the hostel which was clean, well built, I’d even go so far as to say it was pleasant. The only thing was that we were ordered to remove our footwear as we came in. Only the Germans amongst us had remembered to bring their house shoes, the rest of us were left barefoot or in damp socks for the rest of the weekend. The first evening was spent night skiing after which we  used a snowboard as a minibar on top of a

Maciek, Marcus and Nath @ Lenggries 2013.

A stunning view from the top.

Here are the boys, up to no good as usual.

Sandwiched by Joe and Nath.

A little bit of dancing did take place.

Ludo’s moves.

Apres ski on the slopes.

“Do you know who’s a great dancer, Marcus? Kirstie Boulton. She is a cracking dancer, she’s got some unreal moves.” ~ Nath Thorpe

A good deal of apres ski was fitted in, sometimes paradoxically even before any skiing had been done.

OAs on tour.

Korean man hit the dancefloor so enthusiastically when Gangnam Style came on I cannot even explain.

The Team.

In the club, I decided despite being dressed in a loose shirt, jeans and snow boots, it would be a good idea to approach a table of Germans, to see how long I could last, so to speak. The aim was to have a chat, you know. Since 90% of countries in the world have been invaded by the British party due to our determination to seek out good weather, I was quietly confident in my task. I took a deep breath. And I plucked up the courage to go up to the table. Three blondes, one brunette and two serious and “cool” chaps. I assumed a seat next to what my agreed to be the most attractive of the pack but I was dealt the “boyfriend card” all too soon in the conversation, little did she mention that he was on his way to the club. “He plays for the German national Ice-hockey team, you know”, she explained and as I looked up, the guy was stood right in front of me. Feeling a bit like an extra in Wheatus’ Teenage Dirtbag, I tried to plan an exit so I could scuttle away. But it was far too late. Having imagined him to be big through word of mouth, he turned out rather disappointingly small but he did have a scary tatoo on his neck which I thought might make him more the fighting type. I could see his girlfriend desperately trying to explain that I was just some guy who had randomly come up to her. The ice-hockey player was clearly angry and confused, but thankfully he wasn’t at the time in possession of any sticks or blades. He was completely unarmed apart from the cap on his head. Time for plan B: neutralise the target. I extended a friendly handshake for what felt like an eternity but alas, it was completely overlooked. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Nath and the others keeling over with laughter as they watched the painful drama unfold from the balcony seats. When champagne arrived and I noticed there weren’t enough glasses for me, I knew then that I had been officially rejected from the group. An Englishman knows when he isn’t welcome as soon as he stops being offered drink. There was only one option left : I had to get out of there. Still managed to defy Nath and Co. Half an hour on the clock, though. Not bad.

In the duration of the evening, Nath and Phil somehow managed to fall out with a fairly dangerous Estonian man who claimed he had a gun and the morning after we awoke to a rather biblical message on our door threatening to do nasty things to the “British guy with glasses”. You might think that the description fits me but it was actually referring to Phil the Canadaian who ahd been wearing glasses that evening, but been unfortunately mistaken for a Brit. This story is made all the more confusing because I am a Brit and a Canadian who wears glasses. Anyway, no Canadians or Brits were harmed in the making of this low-budget Estonian horror film. The trip was well organised, although it was worrying to see that most of the organisers seemed to have some form of alcohol problem. I suppose that’s what made the trip such a success. Apart from the occasional mishap, a great weekend was had by all. We were back in Munich by dark and looked forward to resting after the hectic weekend of drinking and skiing.

Workwise, I have the unfortunate news of announcing that Ingo, Anne-Charlotte and Prince Charming are leaving us this month. Such sad times. but we will always have the memories from Oktoberfest, Austria, Hamburg and other trips around the city. Ingo will be remembered for his fabulous idiomatic phrases (Sprüche/Sprichwörter). We will try to plan as well just like Anne-Charlotte did, in the process earning herself the nickname Planne-Charlotte. Prince Charming will be remembered for his love of partying, princesses and Porsches. I look forward to making a trip to see how he’s getting on in Prague in the coming months.

Why am I learning to drive…

  • in a foreign country
  • on the right hand side
  • in the snow
  • where they have no speed limit

…I’m not quite sure. Maybe this will all become apparent in the future. I have now had my first driving lesson. I’m being taught by a Jäger on a Mini Cooper. His title translates roughly as rifleman or fighter but literally he is one of the elite German “hunter” troops. He was stationed in Northern Afghanistan for 4.5 months and he seems to be quite a good teacher.

In other news, Far-Eastern Felix has a new Chinese friend (aww Chinese friend) is called Tschi Bing (what like the search engine? Yes, just like the search engine). Rémi le Roi is back in Munich this week, returning to destroy some job interviews and we have very big things planned for the weekend. That said, a big week lies ahead in Bavaria starting with a reservation for fourteen at Cosmogrill, voted Munich’s best burger house by American Airlines.

Festivities with the Fabulous Fabian Four.


It seems a while since I fell asleep at Franz-Josef Flughafen before making my flight back to London Heathrow for the Christmas break. The holiday was unfortunately just a measly eight days long, but luckily it didn’t fly past. I put this down to what they call in the army “concurrent activity”. In spite of my “kein Urlaubsanspruch” (German: “no right to question why you have zero holiday”) we managed to fit a lot in, despite  constantly ticking of the clock. This post is a summary of the past two weeks of fun in which I stay in London and the Isle of Wight but travel to unknown territories including as far afield as the international towns of Windsor, Henley, Reading and Acton. Put on your reading glasses, you’ll need them. This post is ridiculously long. By the end of it you will be well and truly updated on 16 days of Marcus Fabian.

So this story begins by being abandoned by Greggers on a bench at Terminal 2 Munich Airport, so he could connect to the flight from Singapore to Manchester (that well travelled route). We had decided to go up on the Friday night, because neither of us trusted ourselves to wake up in time to catch the train to the airport. Instead we thought, go the night before, get a few beers in etc. I managed to wake up with plenty of time to board my early morning flight and as I settled down in my seat and listened to the sweet British accents of the flight attendants. As I touched down in London I was looking forward to making use of a private luxury service, namely the Terminal 5/Dulwich shuttle. The USS Land Cruiser Amazon has already undertaken many lunar landings in its time and completed many successful return missions, so I was confident when I stepped into the Toyota. Somewhat co-incidentally it is driven by my Dad!

A truly unbeatable car.

Upon arrival in the British Isles, I was expecting a sea of unhappy faces, kids with cauliflower ears, a faint but sweet waft of BO in the air and of course the dismal dismal weather. I was only right about the latter of these. That’s when I knew I was home. The familiar weather did not disappoint, in the sense that it did, of course, disappoint. I thought gloomy and miserable was bad, but jokes aside, the country had been brought to a standstill due to flooding. The sort of convenient standstill that happened to coincide with the festive season. This weather does seem to be following me wherever I go at the moment. Meanwhile they had the warmest Christmas on record in Munich, it was 21 degrees on Christmas Eve.

Once I was back, I seemed to be out every night with the Fabians. Not your average student house parties, where everyone inexplicably wants to either drink cheap vodka mixed with batter-acid or inhale nitrous-oxide from balloons like annoying clowns. No, this was something très chic, sophisticated: les parties à la Champagne. The first festivity was on the 22nd – it was party time at the Elliott’s!

The Elliott’s. Winners of Putney’s Best Looking Family, four years running!

There was of course much good cheer to be shared around as well as a fantastic and professional Indian-style buffet dinner. Here is a picture of me and my brothers, to prove how fun it was. Apologies for how odd we all look, and thanks to Milo for keeping it together.

The Fabulous Fabian Four. From the left: myself (20) , Ned (14), Alfie (18) and Milo (16).

We managed to do the religious version of a pub crawl; visiting church thrice in two days. Consider my sins well and truly forgiven. I should have made the cut for purgatory now. It was worth it to Thanks to the Kötterings we had another superb Xmas eve. Then the big day came. I was looking forward to the promise of chunky chicken soup, but we had to make do with a brilliant turkey put on by Aunties Sue and Jill. It really was a feast. The turkey was about the size of a Ford Fiesta, except with more birdpower and less horse. It was great to see Grandpa & Eryll, Auntie Sue, Auntie Jill, Gwen, William, Tiffany and all at Granny’s in the gorgeous suburb of Penge-sur-Mer. Many presents were shared around and it was indeed a logistical triumph. Good to catch up with everyone.

During the morning of Boxing Day, the hearty footballing tradition was honoured. This year was an especially muddy occasion. With all the flooding etc, it was an absolute mud bath. I have long since forgotten the score but it was an evenly matched game and fair play was maintained, well refereed by Dad. In the evening, we made our pilgrimage to the Mecca of Hampshire: an island just south of England. When we arrived at the cottage, we discovered that our house had been broken into! My brothers and I unfortunately saw the funny side of the situation, which is that our technology is so far behind the times, that it wasn’t worth stealing. After a few more slightly insensitive jokes e.g. “Wait! Shall we check if they remembered to write in the visitors’ book?” Before we knew what had hit us, we had Hampshire Police in and the whole place was crawling with detectives within a matter of hours. And by crawling I mean , someone even came off a tea break to come and take a “closer look”. And by detectives, I mean one officer. The thing is, at Isle of Wight Police Training college they take most of their classes are mainly accustomed to dealing with toaster fires. Anything more and it’s frankly escalated quickly up to MI5.

If you’re waiting for a series of CSI Seaview, you could be waiting a while.  With utmost professionalism, the police informed us that we could clear up the mess left by the criminal “if we wanted to”. Great advice. Anyway, once that malarkey was sorted (footprints photographed, fingerprints scanned) we could finally enjoy the white Isle. No I’m not referring to Ibiza, but the infamous Isle of Wight, just south of Portsmouth. My parents are very lucky to have a house down there. It means when someone asks you where you summer you can immediately respond in a casual manner: “yar, we usually summer in Seaview”.

The Isle of Wight

An interesting fact about Seaview is that it is the part of the British Isles most recently invaded by the French. I bet you didn’t know that Adam Shaw. Obviously, the French clearly didn’t put up too much of a fight. They landed their ships, started trying to set fire to stuff, at which point the Islanders started wearily opening shutters and wandering out of various drinking holes presumably dressed in grubby brown clothes and throwing “all manner of objects” at the French forces. You can imagine tipsy old men waddling away from their casks of ale hurling pots and pans and peanuts at the French whilst swearing a lot. Fortunately for Britain, the French hadn’t experienced such barbaric fighting for a while and consequently had no idea how to react. As a result, they naturally ended up scarpering back to the land of brioche and brie. Or perhaps a rogue messenger had rushed to them shaking his head and explaining that there were still “no plans to set up a Waitrose par excellence” on the island. Presumably due to this lack of European food, they vanished. Either way, to this day Seaviewers are proud that, whilst the Mary Rose admittedly took a turn for the worse (#awkward, considering how much it costed), they fought off the second sly invasion of the frogs.

A plaque in the village reads:

“During the last invasion of this country hundreds of French troops landed on the foreshore nearby. This armed invasion was bloodily defeated and repulsed by local militia 21st July 1545”.

We watched a few films over the festive period including The Holiday, Blade Runner and Titanic. I would like to share with you Ned’s thought for the day at the time. He grinned at us, completely out of the blue: “There’s a guy at my school who can whistle whilst smiling”. Thanks for that Ned. Now we understand why your nickname at school is Nutty Ned.

On the 28th I travelled up to London to witness 21 years of Brogan O’Neill! She has had such an impact on the universe despite only being alive for a fraction of its existence. Amazing. The location of Bar Rumba did not disappoint. It was a sort of massive basement in Piccadilly Circus with a bar attached to it. Although initially the extravagant London prices took some getting used to, it was great to see all the old housemates and their friends again, especially the girls who I hadn’t seen for ages. It was a good turnout indeed. One memory that sticks in the mind is the look on Angus’ face when he was told that the two sambucas he had spontaneously ordered came to nine pounds and fifty English pence. His reaction was definitely worth more than he paid for the drinks. Shortly after eleven, Angus and I found ourselves a bit strapped for cash (the £19.95 Woo Woos had taken us a bit by surprise) so we ventured outside the club in search of a banking corporation, with which we could negotiate an increased cash injection to fuel the rest of our night. We struggled to find a cash point initially, to our immediate disgust. Then  it dawned upon us. We were near Chinatown. Angus and I looked at each other. Pretty much in unison, we realized we must be just a chopstick’s throw from a branch of HSBC. After all it is the world’s local bank, we thought to ourselves. So we trotted on down to the Far-Eastern themed part of town (Felix would be proud). We punched in our pins and withdrew copious amounts of sterling. You’d have thought that was that. But it wasn’t. By this time, our walking had got the better of us and we both wanted to make use of the “lavatorial facilities” available nearby.

It was the restaurant above the bank that tempted us inside as we stood in a waterfall of wafting ginger. Our sole objective was to utilize the toilet facilities. When Angus suggested a small sit-down, I thought nothing of it. But once we were both sat down and menus were placed into our hands… we shrugged at each other and wrinkled our noses, for we both knew: it was Game Over. Ten hot pancakes, six chicken skewers and a half of duck later (no, that’s not the Chinese version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”) and we had filled our boots. Half an hour later and we were back in the club. What’s more, it wasn’t even midnight yet! You shall go to the ball Cinderella! But the London ladies inside were no fairytale princesses. After a few more hours of tiresome Gangnam style (how can one video make so many idiots think that they can dance?) a punctual minibus convoy back to Windsor was organized, where a kebab and a hotel room would await us. You know you’ve made it into the big time when you wake up in  Travelodge overlooking Windsor & Eton Central Railway Station. Living the dream! Again, many thanks to beautiful Brogan and her great parents, a fab night was had by all. On Saturday morning, I was lucky enough to be able to accompany Angus to Henley to see Mother Wooding and all the hilarious birds that she keeps. Twit twoo!

Indeed. The steaks were high.

Indeed. And they were also delicious. (Image: courtesy of Angus’ Lumia 920)

By the afternoon we were ready to take the train to London from Reading. Of course we ate at Aberdeen Angus Steak House in Leicester Square. After a witty check-in, within minutes our incisors were chomping through delicious Scottish-reared red meat. The only downside being that unfortunately, they missed the vital ingredient to garlic butter, namely the garlic. But the butter was good. It even had green stuff in it, to distinguish it from normal butter.

Actin’ up in Acton Town

During the day we had been in touch with Alex and Robbie (aka the Kittler Youth) and we were privileged enough to be invited along to one of their mate’s houses for pre-drinks. Just a nice, casual pre-drinks. It of course wasn’t long before drinking games started and absolute chaos ensued. After agreeing that the Russian Vodka was in fact fairly Standard, I could tell we were well on our way. We took the tube somewhere. We weren’t lost, but we just didn’t know where we were at the time. Until our knight in Pakistani armour arrived, that is. A rickshaw driver appeared out of nowhere and just in the nick of time. Long story short, we took a rickshaw to tigertiger. Definitely one of the best touristy things I have ever done in London.

Myself, the Kittler Youth and Sir Angus Wooding of Henley-upon-Thames.

Wooding dusting off his French skills and became the eleventh Englishman to approach a French girl in the history of time. He had a French girlfriend so it comes fairly easily to him. But I didn’t let Angus show the rest of us up. Keen to butt in and shake up the dynamic (no change there then), I opted for a joke which is always a risk when it comes to the French.

“Est-ce qu’il y a des tigres dans l’interieure?” ~Marcus.

And it worked an absolute dream. Within seconds the French girls were giggling away. They loved it. After a good night of unleashing balloons on people and paying £33.20 for two double vodka cranberries and two Jägerbombs (yes, I have got the receipt) we eventually staggered out of the club onto the Circus and did the standard post-club, pre-crib fast food run. Our chain of choice was McDonald’s in this case. Robbie and co finished the night very relaxed indeed and we were all glad for those that came. So the weekend drew to a close as we woke up a bit hungover in Acton Town. I still owe John for the taxi, but I have promised to get the first drinks in when he comes to Leeds next academic year. A tube, a train, a ferry and a lift and I was back on the Isle of Wight.

It was during this train journey that I started to wonder: what made Britain great? The tea, the sugar, the Indians, the double-decker buses, the fox-hunting, the industrial revolution, the slaves, the sandwich, Bond? All of those things. But what stands out for me, having not been around for the past four months, is that we British are unrivalled when it comes to Customer Service. Now whether that’s because we’re basically polite or because we actually care about people or both – remains to be debated. But people selling you things will actively seek to help you out. They will try to get you the best deal, even though they don’t get paid extra for it. Nine times out of ten, they will be genuine and friendly. Of course the Germans have lots to learn when it comes to being nice. This aspect of British culture is something that really stood out when I returned over the Christmas period. No bloody wonder then, that we took over the world. We probably charmed our way into anchoring up in the world’s harbors. Once we’d made clear it was “an imperial thing”, we then started to give people helpful directions in their own countries. Making them do everything on the left, so that we could raise our swords on the right hand side. This management, it’s in our blood. When people look back at the various empires throughout history, I bet the British one will get the best score on TripAdvisor. Oh the great sea-faring, peace-keeping and directional-assisting nation we are.

I realised that when I’ve been in Munich, I’ve missed apologising to people all the time, regardless of whether I am actually sorry or not. I have missed walking in a straight line through crowds. I have missed desperately trying not to make eye contact with people on the tube (and if you accidentally do make contact, you are both shamed into looking away immediately again). I love Britain and I love being a Londoner. What a fabulous multi-cultural city we are privileged to live in. But sometimes the city does get a bit too much. It’s at this point that one retreats to one’s hobbit hole. I was back on the train to Portsmouth Harbour calling at Woking, Guildford, Haslemere, Petersfield, Havant, Fratton, Portsmouth and Southsea and Portsmouth Harbour. A family outing had been planned, we went to watch the The Hobbit in Ryde Cinema.

Martin Freeman captured Bilbo’s split personality perfectly.

So one of the main characters is Thorin Oakenshield (pictured below). He is essentially Middle-Earth’s answer to Spencer from Made in Chelsea (only with Olly’s former haircut). Thorin son of Thráin, son of Thrór, King Under the Mountain is reported to be auditioning for Season 2 of Made in Mordor. His only discredit being he needed to be airlifted out of battle by eagles. You can’t always rely on Ctrl+Alt+Gandalf to bail you out. Come on Thorin, you’re better than that.

Made in Mordor

Thorin son of Thráin, son of Thrór (King Under the Mountain)

After a nice relaxing New Year’s Eve, it was time to plod on back to Munich. The route from the Isle of Wight to Germany is a well trodden one. It is essentially a competition of how many different types of transport you can use in under 12 hours. Ferry > Train > Coach > Shuttle > Plane >S-Bahn > U-Bahn > Walk. And you’re home. It’s as easy as that. You whack on some Jason Derülo, sit back and enjoy the journey. I have to admit, a tear rolled down my cheek as I watched the English countryside rush past before my eyes. The pastures green, the Guildford golfers. Pomp and Circumstance started to play as I watched the quaint cottages, the private schools and the sheep fly past. The journey went well and I eventually made it back to Bavaria.

Since being back in Munich, I have registered at the driving school and started learning the theory. All in German. Went for an Afghani (doesn’t sound great does it) and I was half expecting to read Road-Side orders of potato, spinach or semtex. Hattie and I discussed a potential Double Date at Dachau (not a blog title anyone wants to be subjected to, however convenient its alliteration). And I spent the best part of Sunday 6th Jan performing CPR on a massive black man as part of a first-aid course.

Munich is of course not the same without Rémi and without Jean-Rémy. Or as I call them, “One and a Half Rémys” (the French version of Two and a Half Men). Nevertheless, Monday morning came and the new interns arrived. And what do new interns mean? They mean new nicknames. Guillame is Jean-Rémy’s successor. It didn’t take long to work this one out. He has invaded and his name is the French version of William. Can you hazard a guess as to what it might be? The nickname Guillaume le Conquérant sprang immediately to mind. That’s that sorted then. Guillame le Premier d’Angleterre aka William the Conqueror aka William the Bastard. Not sure how he will respond to this as of yet. I’m sure it will be fine though. The French know how to take a joke, right?

In the meantime I have set Far-Eastern Felix up with a hot Chinese. And I’m not talking about a take-away. I’m talking about a Chinese woman who I met in Starbucks. Having spoken to her briefly I assumed she’d know him in some way. Yes that’s right Marcus. All Chinese people know each other. Just because there’s lots of them does not necessarily make them more sociable. I’m an international matchmaker! Although I may have had a shocker because as Felix explained, Chinese women seem younger than they actually are. She turns out to be a manager of some kind. Oops!

A big thanks to everyone who has helped me out in the past year, it would be unrealistic to hope for a more exciting year than 2012, but let’s just cross our fingers that 2013 is above average rather than below. Even though, the core few were seen, there were a few people I didn’t get to see at the end of December.

All the better to Leeds you with.

There are so many people I look forward to seeing when I’m next back. It was really nice to be reunited with parents, brothers, grandparents, godparents, aunties and friends. If you made it this far down then – thanks for reading. And also get back to what you should be doing.