Thursday, April 07, 2005

Welcome to my blog/ The Germans

Me kissing Sharon. She seems to be enjoying it.

Yes, this is a self-indulgent wannabe-publisher news page for the Victorian chapter of Athertons. Consisting of Patrick (Husband, father, hunter, provider, complainer of trivial things and collector of exotic skin diseases), Sharon (Wife, mother, cleaner, cross-stitcher, nurse and general goo-enthusiast) who still doesn't look half bad despite three difficult births and 12 years of marriage. Or is that three births and 12 difficult years of....Anyhow, joining us are the offspring; Naomi the Bookworm, Samuel the Destroyer and Rebekah the Klingon.

That's right, since we are too lazy or antisocial to actually contact our beloved friends and family individually this is a good way to get some news out. Keep watching these riveting pages for more Atherton news.

This week saw a rare occurrence; we changed our minds about something. Despite renting for three years and having no intention to buy a house over here in Victoria, we have, um, decided to buy a house. Well, who could possibly ignore 5 (say it with me....F-I-V-E) bedrooms (PLUS a study) for a reasonable price. I say reasonable, but of course I mean it will send us broke enough to only buy junk food every fortnight instead of every week. And who can be expected to live in a tiny rented dogbox with three (say it with me T-H-R-E-E) children who are hell bent on seeing that we NEVER get our security bond back. Honestly, I do not understand why landlords favour families with kids. Angry feral people with bobcats and pyromaniacs do less damage to houses than three children. I
would rather rent my investment property to a family of motorcycle stuntmen than to people with children or anyone under the age age.

Where was I? Oh this space!! I'm off to force Sharon to watch another episode of The Super Nanny. Bye for now!

The Germans are Coming...
I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it...
Flashback to August 2003

Of all the nice pleasant things to happen to me, this is probably one of the strangest. I never tire of telling this story. Which is just a conceited way of ignoring the fact that countless friends and rellies got utterly fed up with me re-telling it ages ago. Well bugger the lot of you. I'm going to write it down on my blog.

It all started on a fateful night following a long, exhausting trade expo. You know those trade expos where you display lots of floor sanding machines and stinky floor coatings and talk to tradespeople about grain raise, rejection and buffing. In that order. You know, that kind of thing. Following these trade shows is usually an exercise in corporate schmoozing where different suppliers try and out-do eachother by spending oodles of money on entertaining their customers. "I took my customers out on a yacht and got them drunk". "Really!? Well I took my customers bungee jumping...and got them drunk"..."Well that's nothing, we shouted our customers a weekend in detox. And got them drunk"...and so on and so forth.

A trade expo, not unlike the one I am carrying on about, pictured here relaxing with friends.

In our case, we got a corporate box at the MCG for an inconsequential game of football (i.e. Carlton v Hawthorn) which included getting drunk. Naturally.

Trouble was, for reasons beyond the scope of this blog, we ended up with seven of these lavish tickets unclaimed. That's seven seats empty at the 3 course meal, not to mention a small king's ransom in paid corporate tickets gone to waste. Eventually we resorted to trying to GIVE them away to unsuspecting groups of general admission ticket holders in the car park. It felt so dirty, making unsolicited advances, and perhaps we would have been more believable dressed in large trenchcoats and beanies. Naturally most people assumed we were evil scammers so nobody took advantage of the amazing offer. It took a different culture and a language barrier to convince a group to join us. They were seven German university students. We didn't know they were German at the time we attempted to explain the impossible offer of FREE corporate box admission, free meals and booze all night with no strings attached. They held a small, efficient and brief conference and decided to join us.

Apparently there was a football game in progress. Most of the conversation ended with me saying "Don't ask me...I don't understand the game either "

There's a lesson in that. We offered these priceless tickets to locals, and they assumed we were psychopaths who obviously wanted to kill them. After all, everybody knows if you want to commit a hideous murder and chop the bodies up into little pieces, the ideal place to do this is in the MCG during an AFL game. Yet we offer them to a bunch of young, clear thinking and efficient Germans and they decide- the tickets are unclaimed and these nice gentlemen clearly don't want them to go to waste. Yes, there is logic in that. Let's go. Simple. How refreshing.

Now, I digress...believe it or not, I do not like strip clubs. Yet for some reason, corporate schmooze-fests invariably end up in a smoky underground cavern with lots of young naked women who are in love with a silver pole bolted to the floor and ceiling. I hate those places, because I am afraid that one day I will think aloud and say "Hey, you are not sophisticated businessmen just having a bit of fun, you are masogonistic, pathetic, porn-addicted zombies who act like you have never seen a beautiful woman before".

Had our evening ended like this, I would have gotten into trouble for saying that to customers, suppliers, and my boss. BUT, with six of these seven students being intelligent, polite and somewhat svelt young ladies, it looked unlikely to happen. Hah!! Foiled by fate! We may have to resort to intelligent conversation.

Assorted industry boffins having intelligent conversation. I love trade shows.

I gotta say these young folks were fabbo. Great company. Most of them came from Dresden, in the former East Germany. I felt like apologising for the possibilty that some distant grand uncle of mine was probably one of the people who firebombed the crap out of poor Dresden in 1945. It has been a while since I have enjoyed such charm, intelligence, and good clean fun.

The ringleader (namely the most extroverted one) was Claudia, a delightful, smiley and chatty blonde with a propensity for getting parties going. There was Sophie, Jana, Katja, and Marko (the token male). Marko looked like a cross betwee Dolph Lungren and Michael Schumacher but smiled more often, had more personality and was actually likeable. In fact they all had movie star looks and seemed to have no trouble listening politely to a bunch of middle aged businessmen attempting to make conversation. I later saw some photos of them doing touristy things. They looked like a pop band posing for an album cover.

The German version of ABBA. With more girls.

Two Germans being touristy. There's something perversely funny about taking pictures of people taking pictures

We were a little confused, however, as to why these kids didn't just blow us off after the corporate box to find some people closer to their own age. Instead they took us out to a pub and drank us under the table until 3am.

Claudia politely tolerating industry boffins

What I found even more confusing was, that when we swapped email addresses, they actually used them. As well as thanking us for the evening they insisted on catching up again. So we did the decent thing of throwing on a family bbq at the bosses place two months later. This was so that the wives/ girlfriends etc could meet them and be assured that we didn't just make them up as a figment of some oppressed, male-driven fantasy...or, to prove that we DIDN'T go to a sleazy strip club. Even Marko kept in touch via email. The irony. Guys just don't do things like that. I hear less from good friends of 20 years, email or otherwise.

Nice people, those Germans. I honestly don't know where all the stereotypes come from. Although they have acknowledged, in various conversations, that efficiency is the key in Germany regardless of the human cost, long days are normal and marriage is usually to a job. They do, contrary to popular belief, have a sense of humour. It's just not the same as ours.

Some of the sights in Germany...standing in front of a really old building

So, that's why we're going to Germany in September or October this year. Because, as pretentious as this sounds, we have friends there. Oh, and apparently it's a really nice place with lots of history and old buildings and castles and huge glasses of beer and...


Steve said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Steve said...

Well done of offically being Victorian - do you know if you are now welcome in your home state again?