Kunst des Krimis in Nippes

Andrea’s sister has a small gallery in deepest darkest Nippes. A cosy space where Jana’s pictures adorn the walls. Bright and abstract and at the moment, mostly red. Then there’s the one depicting flowers that Bernd, my Tischnachbar, is totally smitten with. It’s that ganze Blau apparently. He’s got this blue thing going on. And then the bursts of yellow jumping out of the florals. It screams lilac floral and grapes to me, but to Bernd, it is a masterpiece in oils (or acrylic?) and he is still unable to decide if it would look better in that empty wall space in his living room, alongside the piano. We ponder the idea a little longer, waiting for it to start…

It being the Book Reading. Wait, I’m not sure you fully understand. This book reading has spoiled any future book reading I may ever go to. And with lit.cologne coming up, there will be a few. The book reading where Isabella took us on a journey into the mind of a serial killer. With every sentence she transforms into one of her characters. Be it the unwitting Opfer or the savage Jäger (say it, Yay-Ga) out in search of innocent and maybe not so innocent prey, and then what about the police detective searching for a new case to get her teeth stuck into, suddenly getting that call from Europol “a woman’s mutilated corpse found on a balcony in Cologne”? Where her lover from the night before lay still in bed and was oblivious to the soft steps stealing across the carpet in pitch darkness. Or was he? We sit there enthralled by the theatrics that unfolded before our very eyes. Pupils wide, nails a little gnawed, and wondering – how many personalities are still rattling about inside the head of that sweet sandy-haired wordsmith. It must be getting awfully cramped in there…fortunately there is always another book, a fresh Leiche and new plot for all those characters to live out their morbid little interplay. My personal favourite is Anton Zaubert Wieder, but a brief word of warning: Don’t read it before bed, and Keep Out of Reach of Children and/or small animals (the ones that can read, the others may just chew on the corners and leave you with frustrating half-sentences).

Post-It Notes: Call for partners…

…ist jemand da?

Look at all this empty space.

A counter with a dedicated and friendly Deutsche Post employee processing packages at his own pace.

Does life get any more exciting than this!

Waiting in the post office queue. Watching the world go by. I make that common Thursday-morning shopping mistake – the Wochenmarkt is out in the Zentrum and so is half of the Bocklemünd und Mengenicher population.

The Schlange is practically out of the door. Moving steadily across the scuffed tiled floor, passed the once white, woodchip Tapete.

Empty walls where there once stood shelves full of folders, and paper and pens and glue-sticks. A dream if you love foraging for stationery supplies.

And now? Not a shelf in sight. Komplett empty. I could probably hear an echo if I shouted loudly enough.

Hallo Hallo Hallo Hallo Hallo

Ist anybody da…anybody da…anybody da…da….

Apparently not (aside from the queue of course). And why not?

Why doesn’t anybody want to come into Görlinger (pronounced Girl-in-ga) Zentrum and set up shop with the post office? You only have to apply and on acceptance complete a week-long training to expand your retail expertise…

And there are thousands of people in the village! A community to serve…elderly folk and families who need relevant amenities…

How about a children’s shoe shop with professional consultation to get the right size booties for your infants?

Or an organic supermarket with GM-free, fair-trade produce?

Or a family business, like a gift shop to replace the Schreibwarengeschäft and Firma Althaus?

How about an Alarmanlage provider? You know, the type of shop that would help you secure your apartment from burglaries? (Come on, that is a super Idee.)

Or why rent it to one of the local clubs like DJK, so they have a direct presence and space is being put to good use?

Surely I am not the only one who would prefer to see business flourish here instead of empty shop windows?

Surely nicht.

How about ein Bisschen decoration then? Get the local kids from the Kunterbunt Grundschule to design postage stamps and the top 10 get exhibited on the bare walls of the post office? An artist’s dream! (I cannot take credit for that idea, but it is a great one!)

I’m wondering who’s in charge hier…the local branch manager? The Bundesgesetz? The Deutsche Post? Is it an issue for our local councillor?

Fragen über Fragen, and who is there to answer them all…

What would you like to see fill the empty walls of the Post Office?

Two more people in front of me and then it’s finally my turn. On the plus side ‘Hunde müssen draussen warten’ and zum Glück there is room to park my bike in the corner of the shop. Bonus.

Spielplatz Schande…Playground Blues

Have any of you been to the playground on the Ecke Kurt-Weill-Weg? You know the one with the two huge hills that are perfect for sledging down on the one sacred day of annual snowfall in Bocklahoma? Where Birgit found a discarded black String-Tanga next to the kids’ scooters by the bench?

Well it was a bit of a Baustelle for a while. They pulled out the graffiti-ed climbing frame at the back and the huge blue spinning disc- Drehscheibe of death as we affectionately call it – that launches you into Weltall if you have one kid running on it schnell enough.

For ages there was a fence and some gravel, and the promise of something shiny and paedogogisch sinnvoll to replace the old climbing frame. But…Big Bad Blue is back. That’s right. They dug up half the playground, left it bare for what seemed like an eternity (am I even allowed to write that without asking Calvin Klein?) for the children, and they put back old Big Bad Blue.

Is it part of a conspiracy to make parks and playgrounds less attractive in Cologne so people don’t use them? (Not that much of a conspiracy, as it did make the radio news.) Get rid of swings and climbing frames so people don’t loiter and use the playground as a boozing Zwischenstop on the way nach Hause?

I don’t know about y’all, but were you expecting something a little more pizzazz? Perhaps the Drehscheibe with a new customised paint job would have been a good start? Did Stadt Köln dept. of parks and recreation do their rounds, smell the weedy ambience of the teenagers kiffen im Gebüsch and think: Yes! Let’s put the old roundabout back in place because the youth in the Bock are so doped up they won’t even notice. Let the kids suffer because some young people and boozers have nowhere else to drink alcohol in public… sounds like a plan. Chuckle, chuckle, chortle.

Well we noticed. And you are just lucky that the sober kids love that danger disc and getting sand and gravel in their hair and jumping off but not clearing the edge in time to avoid getting some spinning child’s trainer straight in the face. Yeah. Love it they do.

It appears some locals took pity and dropped off a supermarket Einkaufs trolley! Yay!


Putz putz wieder putz…munter

You know sometimes you see old mattresses and sodden sofas and bed springs and broken drawers from an old chest of drawers and a skanky old toilet seat just piled up on the edge of the Wald? And it’s not even AWB Spermüll collection day? That is the Putz Munterers at work.

On those two days a year when all the dedicated preservers of wholesome living get out and collect litter in the Bock. They meet up at 10am on a Saturday morning in Springtime and forage through the forests for rubbish anyone has dumped, pile it together ready for the AWB to get rid of.

And thank the Universe they do!

The schools start on the Friday. Lots of little first and second years, out with bin-bags, learning to respect the environment. In small groups picking up syringes and disused mobile phones from the outskirts of the playground: NEIN! LASS DAS! DA IST NOCH BIER IN DER FLASCHE! You hear one scream across the lush green Wiese. How do you know that little Jona? Oh, because Daddy drinks Bier and that is EXACTLY what he says when your Mum is taking the empties back to TrinkGut…

I see two of the Putz Munter team as I cycle back from the post office on a Saturday morning, ready for my shift down at the Kindergarten Trödelmarkt. Two ladies busily filling Müllsäcke with extendable litter grabbers.

How is it going? Many people helping out this year? Apparently not. No one can be bothered.

I ponder this statement for a moment. Why am I not out surrendering my Saturday morning for the good of the nation -er village? I should be. I reassure my conscience with that perfect excuse: Yes, you are helping at the boot sale for the Kindergarten and have a party to organise and work to do. And I often get fed-up with tidying up after other people…

Moment mal, it’s not like the Putz Munter volunteers don’t have other ways to spend their weekend either…I mean, they have families and friends and shopping to do and still find three hours to de-litter the forest.

Sorry. I can’t help this time, I offer weakly. But am hugely grateful for your Einsatz and dedication. Is there vielleicht another day in the year?

No. Why should we plan another day in the year to tidy up other people’s Müll? The best thing would be if people just used the Mülleimer and stopped dumping their rubbish in the forest. And there it is. Laid bare by the sack-wielding lady in the red coat.

She makes a very valid Punkt.

for more details on the Putz Munter events in the Bock: http://www.awbkoeln.de/private-haushalte/koelle-putzmunter/aktion/titel/bocklemuend-

and: http://buergerverein-bocklemuend.de/termine/


Fairytales can come true if you believe…

Strangers at the door. Unannounced. Unexpected. I get the feeling it happens noch häufiger hier in Bocklehoma than anywhere else (other than perhaps in the Coggeshall Triangle where curious goings on are said to happen and if you have ever been to a boot sale in and around Coggeshall, I know, you know, what I’m talking about).

The bell rings. It’s one of those loud ones which sings its shrill song through the Haus on every floor and brings you out in a rash after 19hoo because you’re in the middle of the kids’ bedtime routine.

Who could it be? Surely the Postbote with a parcel for the Müllers? Maybe that eBay parcel is early? A lost old lady looking for Kutschgasse and urgently needing the toilet at a rather inconvenient 7.45 in the A.M. (it happened)? Zeugen Jehova’s leaving a Kopie of the Wachtturm on Das Wort Gottes? How about that lady that comes around in Frühling und Herbst collecting for the poor hungrige animals that are in the Zirkus up on Ollenhauerring? Or the man offering a hand-written Zettel requesting money for a sick child?

No. Not today. None of the above.

Today there is a nice lady beside an unmarked white van selling Obst and vegetables from a nearby Bauernhof. She smiles sweetly and wears a bandana pulling her soft curls back from her ruddy-sun weathered cheeks. Her eyes are friendly and in her hand she holds a frischen Apfel. And a knife.

Would I like to try some? I briefly wonder if it’s organic. Then politely decline.

Perhaps I should be making a few enquiries of my own, for example…  So you’ve tried it first then, from the green side? The not-poisoned half? And now I can try a piece from the red half? Just out of interest…

Niemals could I lay claim to being the fairest im Lande and I don’t have an entire seven dwarves to tidy up after, nor do I have blue birds that help me hang out the Wäsche…

No apples thanks. (Smile) Thanks, anyway. (Smile – not a smiley, just a sweet smile).

Here’s a coincidental Wiki Link to Coggeshall in case you are interested: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coggeshall

What happens when you get out a bit more?

Just cycling back from Longerich and miss my turning down Buschweg, through the forest. I pass a small conspicuous, red and white barrier and come face to face with a large wired fence on the cycle path with a perfectly functional cycle path behind it. Curious and it would seem, pointless.  I signal to the Baggerfahrer who is busy shifting felled tree stumps with a huge bucket scooper claw thing into the bareness of the culled forest.

Can I cycle through? No. He points to the road behind me. The Militärring affectionately called the Mili in these parts.

What? He must be joking. Cars are tearing down at 70kmh. Not to be messed with. What to do?

I could turn round and see if there is another way (to Grandma’s house). Perhaps through the forest. But I am a little disoriented …

I can see the tram stop from here. It is a mere 300m. I wait. And as luck would have it (combined with savvy German road planning, having featured several sets of safety-forward – if otherwise irritating and speed-inhibiting – traffic lights on the Mili) the road is clear in both directions. Not a car in sight. I mount my wheels and peddle as fast as my legs and semi-flats allow and make it the safety of the pedestrian crossing.

Nerves a little frayed. Hair a little frazzled. I make it. And I’m still alive. Yeah.

I pass the bus stop where the 127 pulls in from Ebertplatz.  In front of me is a cyclist’s nightmare (neither a dawdling pigeon nor a pile of dog poopidoop on this occasion). The floor is carpeted in miniature cubes of mint coloured safety glass, like Elsa had a major row with Anna after a few sneaky teenage-the-pressure-of-ruling-the-kingdom-is-getting-to-me Grogs and instead of firing Nordic ice from her delicate regal fingers…Glass.

A man from the KVB is evaluating the damage.

What’s going on? Und vor allem Why? How is he supposed to know? Also a gute question.

So he’s calling in the City’s Reinigungsdienst to clean the area before he takes next steps. Stick to protocol. Efficiently German. And swiftly managed.

I cycled on the Mili. Not sure that is entirely legal. All this glass. What would CSI say to the criminal mastermind behind the vandalism of public property? Despite our inherent connection on this otherwise normal day I still find myself asking: What is the point of smashing in a bus stop?

Ideas anyone?

Feuer und Flamme

So here we are walking home and enjoying a Kugel of Zitoneneis in a Waffel not a Becher from Eis Café Campo. The sun is shining and it is truly an inspiring spring afternoon. Dog walkers scolding dogs for doing what dogs do in springtime (not messing on the pavement – that’s apparently ok in these parts). The odd couple of youths hanging out, dribbling around shards of broken glass on the basketball court in the kleinen Wald on the way into the Zentrum. Children’s laughter like birdsong in the air. We’re wearing t-shirts for goodness sake, what could be better than that? Like I say, an inspiring afternoon.

Inspiring it would seem for…arson!

I know.

Low and behold there is smoke billowing on the breeze and not a single sausage in sight. Not even the faintest whiff of a Würstchen detectable. No plastic in there either, well nothing apparently toxic (if you’ve ever inadvertently melted plastic spoons in a saucepan because the sterilisation unit was kaput then you’ll now the toxic stench I’m referring to). It’s blowing down across the village over to the garden centre. As if that wasn’t drama enough there are flames wilding away in the forest and a group of surprisingly amiable folk observing from a safe distance on the path. What’s going on? Has anyone reported the incident?

Yes! Someone called 112.

The fire brigade is on its way. We have long since finished ice cream and waiting with baited breath for the shrill of sirens screaming from the Mili across the Dorf.

And there it is. A green and white police van pulls up in the village. And a young man sprints from the scene to greet the two uniformed officers and leads them to the action. One of them radios (but not for back-up – this is not Tatort) and they gently trot past the barrier and control the amassing crowd of what must be, let’s say around 12 people, back over the dog poop onto the lush green Wiese.


More Sirens.

Out comes Frau Müller and inspects the drama from her porch.

Then silence as majestic and luminous, shiny red, water-extinguishing beasts glide – one, two, three, four and a fifth! direkt an the children’s noses vorbei. Mara is with us today. A spontaneous playdate like no other. Drawing pictures and playing in the garden? Not today. Is her Mum going to be thrilled at the prospect of her hanging round the local streets watching the drama instead of painting her nails? Not likely. Because you don’t get drama of this calibre in Pesch. Keine Nagellackieren today Mara. Today there is a forest fire that must be dealt with at the end of our street and the Feuerwehr im Einsatz. Action a go-go.

The long neon hose is drawn out and connected to a Wasserhydrant. Feuerwehrmann Sam extending the hose along the road at super-speed. We watch it inflate like a feeding python and then as water gushes through the tops of the trees and rains down on that ring of fire stretching over metres through the forest.  No drug rings and helicopters this time – dafür a ring of fire and five engines from the brigade!

Phew. Excitement over for one day. And I wonder whether these guys happen to do kids’ birthday parties…

Bocklemündlich just got schriftlich…

From a German suburban in Bocklehoma

Hi – nice to see you at my blog. Life here is so…exciting, funny, exhausting, draining, exasperating, hysterical, dull, wild…that I feel compelled to write about it.

No I’m not German but I do live in German suburbia…where the grass is a little greener. Where the aroma of a Sunday afternoon Grillfest wafts through the air and where I often get a feeling that I am certainly not in Kansas anymore (admittedly, I’ve never been and I don’t have a dog named Toto and I don’t where my hair in Dorothy plaits, because that is just plain off for a grown woman of my age, looking my age to walk around like that, maybe even at Karneval). And where I decided to make the Bocklemündlich a little schriftlicher…

Read on for adventures and tales of woe and wonder in deepest, darkest Bocklehoma…