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Caveat Emptor

The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

RIP Leonard Nimoy

So, farewell then Mr Spock.
You were always boldly going,
To the final frontier.
And now you've reached it.

Captain E. J. Kirk (retired)

Thursday, 12 February 2015


Throughout the Rhineland it is (and has been since the 11th of November) the Karneval season. This involves dressing up in silly clothes, singing, listening to awful jokes, Karneval Princes and Princesses (plus Bauer and Jungfrau in Cologne),  Tanzmariechen (you don't want to know) and, of course, drinking prodigious amounts of beer (if you are taking it seriously). And this is before you even get to the street parades just before Easter when officially and unofficially people bunk off work and school. We have German TV at home so can follow the main events on WDR from Dusseldorf, Cologne and Mainz that are a staple of the programming at this time of year.

What is really amazing is how noncommercial most of it is. Karneval doesn't have particularly long historical roots - at least in its present form - but it is a genuinely popular form of civic action mainly sustained by local voluntary Karneval associations in which ordinary people spend enormous amounts of time planning and organizing events (OK and drinking a lot of beer too). There is also a tremendous amount of good natured civic pride in putting on a good show. For many people it is the highlight of the year and a Rhinelander will proudly tell you that South German Fastnacht or Fasching is nothing like the real deal. Kölle Alaaf!

To get into the spirit here's Brings. Un mie Hätz, dat litt mer op d'r Zung.

Monday, 2 February 2015

How many Syrian refugees have you met?

I met two Syrian refugees last week, quite by chance, on a train from Dusseldorf  to Aachen. The man had gone to the airport to collect his daughter - she looked 5 or 6 years old  and had just flown in. He explained to me in German far better than mine that they were from Aleppo and had fled from the carnage across the border to Turkey. They had no proper housing there and the man had somehow managed to get to Germany. He'd been struggling with the German bureaucracy for six months to reassemble his family  - a wife and 4 kids. Finally he had got residence papers that would allow them to stay. 

He was a quietly spoken dignified man and wanted nothing except the right to live in peace, something that was denied him in his home country. His little girl slept on his knee. She'd been traveling overnight to be reunited with her father. They got off the train at a small nondescript town and  walked off in the grey winter half-light. I wondered what their new life would be like. For the father perhaps not so great, though still better than waiting for a bomb to fall on your head. For the daughter, a chance of a new start, to put behind her the horror she must have endured. I thought of my own daughter, just a couple of years older, and was grateful that we have been immensely lucky in the lottery of life.

I wonder how many Syrian refugees you have met? Probably not very many if you are British. According to today's Guardian, 90 have been given asylum in the UK. Germany has made a commitment to accept up to 30,000.