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Sunday 8 December 2019

The ties that bind

Despite the risk of being called “gullible” we had to do another German Christmas market before the UK succumbs to a status and leader it apparently wants and, I suppose, it deserves.

This time we chose Aachen (see the view of the Dom from our apartment window).

I wanted us to wear tee-shirts carrying our views scribbled in idiomatic German but had to make do with pin badges (see inset pic).

Dinner at the Aachener Brauhaus had come to an end. My Nurnberger bratwursts were a memory as were my hot cherries with ice cream. The wooden interior of the restaurant hummed with lively “engaged” conversation, our kind of place. As we got up a German man turned towards us from a nearby table and addressed our daughter, Occasional Speeder. Said how pleasant it was to hear English spoken with “a good accent”.

I pointed to my pin-badge and he nodded with approval. I thought about what lay ahead. If I was able to risk being thought gullible perhaps I might also risk acting cornily. I said : “Wir lieben Deutschland.” Some smiled, some waved unshowily.

Outside it was cold – literally and metaphorically.


  1. "a good accent"!!! I guess I know where he was going with that, ha! Sounds like you had a wonderful trip. I admire you for wearing your pin-badge and sticking up for your beliefs.

  2. How fitting that you chose the city of Charlemagne, the first emperor who United Europe (over one thousand years ago) for your visit.
    Germans only express their love of Germany during the football world cup and/ or when completely drunk. Every other occasion is highly suspicious. But we don't mind foreigners saying it.

  3. Colette: I don't think there was any hidden meaning; my reaction was that only a German (or possibly an American much travelled in Europe) would have said it. A French person in France might have uttered something similar but only if what he'd overheard was a Brit trying to speak French. The French regularly say I speak French well; their insincerity being completely transparent.

    Sabine: In Germany you and I run on different rails: you seem unhappy about your neighbours whereas I no doubt enjoy their company to excess. Both of us prone to the sin of generality. Ironically some years ago in a bar in Cologne a youngish German whose English was even worse than my pitiful German strove to communicate what was a genuine love for his local soccer team (Dortmund, as I recall). I have no interest in soccer but I hope I respond well to bared emotion at war with an inadequate grasp of a foreign language; after all it is central to my being.

    In France I seek out conversation with the natives and am inured to their compulsion to correct my grammar defects before resuming the conversation proper. In Germany people are so pleased to meet a Brit attempting even the most banal pronouncements in German (eg, what I said in the Brauhaus) that they ignore the grossest errors.

  4. I sincerely hope our eventual departure from the EU gravy machine will not affect your enjoyment of travel in Germany and France RR.

  5. Avus: A rhetorical wish if ever there was one. I didn't realise you were anti-gravy. Careful with your mashed potatoes - you could die from Brexit. Cursing Mercedes as the source of your wilful isolationism.

  6. I'm so overwhelmed with the insanity in my country that I sometimes forget the insanity sweeping the globe. Ah yes, you have the Brexit craziness there. I like the pin you wore.

  7. I love these Christmas Market posts every year ... Aachen I've not been to; however, I hear they are quite pragmatic there.

    I am really sorry the email connection failed. But the button worked!!

  8. Robin Andrea: It's worse than you could imagine. There's a general election the day after tomorrow and a Trumpian figure called Johnson, presently our prime minister on sufferance, seems likely to make the job permanent. The herd wants Brexit to be over whatever the cost; singing and my family sustains me,

    RW (zS): Not your fault. It may be something to do with newly installed Windows 10. I find the markets welcoming, not pragmatic at all. But at heart I go there to be among Germans. I have another post coming up about a visit to a German greengrocer where we spent quite a lot of dough on vegetable rarities.

  9. You could have sung to them in German. That would surely have impressed them all.

  10. Natalie: It crossed my mind. In the last year my singing has improved and the beautifully simplified recording/playback app that comes with Windows 10 seems to confirm this. I've recorded and listened to about a dozen of my favourites and I was able to recognise a genuine singing voice at the heart of what I heard. But the more one progresses the more one becomes aware of the distance ahead. I am still a student and can only expect to die one. Those who hear me sing won't see the progress (they can't, bless them), they'll hear the shortcomings.

    I am presently struggling with Schubert's Du bist die Ruh. In estate-agent language it is "deceptively simple". In musician's language it is "damnably hard". With songs the sentiment isn't enough, the notes need to be accurately pitched and to occupy the designated length of time. Even so, I ached to be able to stand up in the Brauhaus and express these feelings:

    You are repose
    and gentle peace.
    You are longing
    and what stills it.

    Full of joy and grief
    I consecrate to you
    my eyes and my heart
    as a dwelling place.

    Come in to me
    and softly close
    the gate
    behind you.

    Instead I sing them to myself and for V's judgment. I make allowances that others can't and weep invisible tears of joy.