Well, the apartment viewing went pretty well. The first one I went to see was very close to work and I liked it quite a lot but the big problem there was that they wouldn't allow a dog at all so that pretty much ruled it out for me. It was a shame really as the location was great and it was pretty big. Still, the disappointment in the first one was quickly overshadowed by the elation after the second apartment viewing. Although the second apartment is a little further from work at 2.5km it is also a pretty decent size and, best of all, the lady said that I am welcome to bring Roman! I explained that he is a Rottweiler and described his temperament and she said it was no problem as a relative of hers had owned a Rottweiler and she had looked after it when they went away once so she was already familiar with the breed. A massive stroke of luck I think!
I am tied into the current apartment until 30th November so we negotiated for me to move in on the 1st December. The rent is slightly more at €700 per month but a lot of that difference will be saved on bus fares anyway and the location is so much better. There is a supermarket about 200 yards away so this is much better for me as I don't drive. It's a little awkward doing shopping where I live at the moment as a taxi is about €10 or €11 so it means that I have to buy little bits at a time and take it home from work each day. It's hardly ideal so I am made up that I will be in an apartment so close to a supermarket. Another big advantage of this apartment is the washing machine. You don't realise how valuable those things are!
I had a bit of a nightmare this week trying to find a launderette to do my washing in. I had got to the point where I literally had one more day's worth of clothes so it was imperative that I got my clothes washed. There is a new laundry service in Heppenheim but I had seen a price list and they wanted €1.50 per jumper, €2 per pair of jeans, etc... so it would have worked out to be very expensive. One of my new friends, Steffen, drove me around a few local towns here to see if we could find a launderette but the only things available were washing services and the cheapest price I could get was €24! I didn't want to pay that much - at that price I might as well get a train to Frankfurt and have a day there and then get the train back as there wouldn't be much difference. Luckily, Steffen's mum offered to do the washing for me and I now have enough to last me until I move into the new apartment.
I have made some big strides here socially now and have a pretty good collection of friends. I was in the pub one night and got talking to a lad called Daniel who was about to leave to go to the restaurant up the street so I asked if I could go with him. When we got there there were about 12 of his friends who were very welcoming to me. In particular I get along very well with two brothers, Timo and Steffen, but the rest are all very nice and I am happy that I have managed to make so many friends here so quickly.
It turned out that Timo plays for SV Kirschhausen so I asked him if I would be able to go along to training and see if I could get a game. I currently have no football boots or shin pads so he lent me both and we went last Thursday. I think the training session went well and some of the remarks that got back to me included "he's aggressive"! I think this was said in a good way but it certainly typifies the way in which I play the game quite well. After the training session I filled out some forms to sign up for them and the following day I made a copy of my passport to accompany the registration form. With any luck it will all be sorted in time for the game this weekend but should certainly be back in time for the one the weekend after.
Over the weekend I did a fair bit of partying again - it's becoming a bit of a theme really! On Friday Steffen picked me up from work and we went to get me a mobile phone as it is difficult for anyone to get in touch with me otherwise. We managed to find a pretty decent contract on O2 that gives unlimited minutes to other O2 phones for €20 per month. I am pretty pleased with this as all of my new friends are on O2 and I even managed to get a pretty nice phone from the deal. The phone is a Nokia 6700 and is packed with decent features. It has been a few years since I owned a Nokia but I have had only bad luck with other brands so I am hoping that Nokia's reliability is still what it was.
On Friday night I ended up going to Apfelbaum with Daniel and Tobias (another one of my new friends) and I got home very late into the night, I think around 6am but can't remember fully! On Saturday morning I got woke up at 11am by Steffen who had come to take me back to pick my phone up as there had been some online fault when they were trying to put the application through. I was still pretty drunk from the night before and this made for quite a bit of comedy in MediaMarkt!
Saturday was a day dominated by the local table tennis championship and this ran from around 1pm until about 7.30pm in the hall just up the street from my apartment. I abstained from drinking in the day in the knowledge that there would be a big party at the restaurant where I had met all of my new friends, Alfredo's. Timo came third in the championships after losing to another of my new friends, Marc. Marc ended up finishing second after being beaten by a very consistant Hajo who goes by the slogan "Hard to Kill"!
After the championships we headed off to the restaurant and the drinking games began, German style! After a few rounds the 3 litre beer jugs started coming out and this proved to be quite amusing. The game here was that whoever had drunk from the glass before the person who finished it had to pay for the beer. I managed to finish four of these jugs off - I was determined not to pay for it! On one occasion I was handed a jug that was half full and I looked at it wondering whether I could finish it - I knew if I didn't that the next person would. Anyway, I managed to down the lot to the surprise of a few people!
We drank there into the early hours of the morning and there was a real party atmosphere all night. Once people had become a little innebriated the songs started and the noise level went up a few decibals. I am learning some of the German songs from them but I am also teaching them a few English ones including Steve Gerrard, Fernando Torres and You'll Never Walk Alone! After most people had left there a few of us decided to get a cab into Heppenheim to go the the Hexenkessel (a pub in the centre that stays open very late). Whilst there we engaged in a few tequilas and got even more drunk before heading home.
I got to bed some time between 5 and 6 feeling pretty drunk and dreading getting up. Sunday is football day but they don't play until 3pm over here (whereas in England they play at 11am) so at least I didn't have to be up ridiculously early. Steffen came round and woke me up at about 1pm and we headed off to the football to watch Timo play. They game finished 3-1 to the opposition but Timo again managed to get on the scoresheet - it seems that drinking with an Englishman helps his game as he now has 3 goals in his last 2 games and he had only scored a couple all season before that!
This week has been pretty busy with work and I have a lot on right now. I have been looking at the reports that are currently used here and looking at ways in which to improve the reporting dramatically. Everything is done manually and in some cases it is quite basic so I am looking to overhaul everything using automated queries through VBA to provide dashboard style reports that need very little work to maintain and update. I think that people here are impressed with the work I have done so far and also with the ideas that I have put forward.
I mentioned last week to some of the IT department that I would benefit from more RAM as some of the calculations I have been performing are very RAM intensive and yesterday I got given a new PC that is much better and was also told that they are looking to order me a brand new laptop! Even after such a short period of time I feel very welcome and valued here and am looking forward to staying here for quite a while. Ideally for me I think I would like to stay maybe 2 or 3 years but I will have to see how things work out really.
Last night I had football training and the weather was typically English. Everybody looks at me like I am crazy when I turn up in shorts and t shirt for training - they all wear full training tracksuits but you won't catch me doing that! Ich bin Englander!! I keep telling them that the weather here (despite being fairly cold) is actually fairly mild from what I am used to at this time of year but I am not sure that they believe me. Training went fairly well and, although I gave the ball away a few times, I managed to clear the ball off the line 3 or 4 times and make some last ditch tackles. I am looking forward to our next training session tomorrow and can feel my fitness returning slightly already. I think I might have to give up smoking though...