Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Breed Specific Legislation? What An Absolute Crock Of Shit!

Well last week was a bit of a shit week for me if I am honest. Not much really happened in the early part of the week as I readjusted after the weekend’s exploits – the normal cycle of work, walking Roman and watching episodes of The Wire whilst playing Football Manager. Then, on Wednesday, I woke up feeling positively awful – the bloody flu, again! In England I never got ill very often at all but already since I have been here in Germany I have had the flu twice. I think it is probably down to the extreme weather we have been experiencing here of late. In England we might get a week of sub zero temperatures but here it has been like that for about 2 months solid. I guess my body is not quite used to it and, coupled with a little too much drinking and a little too little sleep, I guess something had to give.

As a result I only worked for a short period of time on Wednesday – I had some important work I had to do so knew I had to go in and it also meant I could collect my work laptop so that I could provide support from home if needed. By midday I was on my way back home feeling pretty rotten but at least I could just lounge about on the sofa! The attitudes to illness in Germany seem to be a lot better than in England – in England you have to pretty much be dying for your boss to allow you to have a day off and, even then, if you have more than a few in a short period of time they usually bang on about verbal warnings over attendance. Over here it is totally different; each time I have been ill they have insisted that I go home and have told me not to come in for the rest of the week. I guess it is a more sensible approach really as it protects the rest of the workforce and it certainly helps with staff morale – it’s nice to not have to worry what might happen if you have to take some time off for illness.

I didn’t go to work on Thursday or Friday either and, apart from a telephone conference call and another couple of phone calls, I didn’t really have to do much whilst I was at home. Instead I spent my spare time watching the rest of The Wire and playing Football Manager. I hardly ventured out of the house at all, in fact the only times I went out were when I needed to walk Roman. Roman behaved really well for me too; I think he knew I was ill so he walked right by my side even though I wasn’t walking very quickly and he didn’t pull me or mess me about once. It’s mad how dogs can pick up on things like that and change their behaviour accordingly; dogs are a lot smarter than most people give them credit for!

On Saturday I was expecting my new internet connection to be activated and waited in for a technician to come and activate the line. Well, he didn’t come and I still don’t have a new internet connection. I rang o2 to find out what was happening on Saturday afternoon and they said sometimes they don’t need to come to the house so my connection might come up in the next 24 hours. By Sunday evening it was still not on so I called them back again to enquire as to what was happening but there was nobody available who spoke English. They called me back yesterday morning to arrange a new appointment for next Monday; apparently the technicians don’t attend at weekends so why they booked a weekend slot I have no idea!

It’s a bit of a pain in the arse that I didn’t get connected over the weekend for a couple of reasons. Now I have to take a day’s holiday just to sit in and wait for them to come out next Monday and it’s not like I can actually do anything with the day (unless they turn up at 8am of course but I am sure I am not that lucky!). The thing that bothered me the most, though, was that I was looking forward to being able to call a few people in England for a chat. As part of the deal I got I get a shit hot connection to the internet with unlimited downloads but they also provide the phone line so I managed to get unlimited calls to the UK for 4€ per month (landlines only).

I was looking forward to hearing people’s voices again after so long – MSN and Facebook chat are good but it’s not the same as actually speaking with people. Hopefully the technician will come out though next Monday and I will be all set to spend the next three weeks on the phone with people catching up! It’s funny because when I was in the UK I used to hate phones and rarely had longer conversations than a couple of minutes but I think being so far away from people I grew up with has made me think about things slightly differently. I wouldn’t say I was home sick or anything but I do miss being able to just call people up for a chat. I never thought I would be saying that twelve months ago!

At the weekend I didn’t really get up to much other than walking Roman up to the pub in Kirschhausen to watch the football. I didn’t feel 100% well but I thought it would be nice for him to have a decent walk after the last few days of last week. I can’t wait for the evenings to stay light until late as I will be able to take him to the fields each evening and let him run. I can tell at the moment that he just wants to run – I could walk him 20 miles and I swear he would still be the same. There is nothing quite like running for a big powerful dog like Roman and I can’t wait to be able to let him run. He just seems so restless at the moment and has quite obviously got a lot of excess energy that he needs to burn off.

At home things have taken a little bit of a turn for the worse. The lady who I rent the apartment off also has a dog and I was looking forward to Roman making a new friend when I first arranged to bring him here. It transpires, though, that my landlady’s dog is a bloody psycho intent on winding Roman up. I am really not happy about it at the moment and am actually seriously considering looking for a new place to live. At first I thought it was just a natural reaction for her to be a little defensive with a new dog being introduced into her “territory” and I was convinced that things would improve over time as they saw each other more and more but it has been the exact opposite.

From around 8am until around 6pm my landlady leaves her dog outside and I think she has actually given up on trying to train her. The dog is left there all day free to bark at anyone who walks past and, although a lot of dogs do this, the owner would normally try to correct this type of behaviour. This is not the case where I live and none of the bad behaviour that this dog exhibits is ever corrected and, as a result, the dog thinks that what it is doing is correct. A couple of weeks ago there were some heating workmen who needed access to my apartment whilst I was out at work so I agreed to put Roman in my landlady’s garage for a few hours. As I was walking him through the garden with my landlady her dog was jumping up at Roman trying to bite him, baring her teeth and barking quite aggressively.

It was clear that there was a problem but my landlady’s reaction was merely to sigh and apologise to me. I would much rather she didn’t apologise to me but rather deal with the dog’s behaviour. Luckily for me, and for her and her dog for that matter, Roman is a pretty well behaved chap and he has a very good nature. As a result I have been able to control him whenever these things have happened and he has responded very well to my commands. It actually frightens me, though, that one day he might simply have enough of this rogue dog constantly snapping at his face and behaving aggressively towards him and we all know what the outcome of that would be.

It is a really difficult situation to be in really as I don’t want to complain to her as she might just tell me to sling my hook; after all, it is her property and her dog was there first regardless of how it behaves. At the same time, though, I know I can’t just leave the situation to continue as it will undoubtedly just get worse and worse until the point when something serious happens. I actually feel sorry for her dog as it has quite clearly been let down, and badly. It is really infuriating and unnerving but I try my best not to get annoyed at her dog as I know it is not really her fault but her owner’s. I think the best thing for everyone will be for me to find somewhere else to live but I am sure this is not going to be easy with Roman.

This situation also makes a bit of a mockery of Germany’s laws on owning dogs with regards to character tests, taxation, insurance policies and permits. Roman, who to everyone he has ever met, is quite clearly a very well mannered, albeit very enthusiastic, dog and has a very good character yet he is subjected to ridiculous scrutiny and extortionate taxation. On the other hand you have my landlady’s dog that quite clearly has problems yet never has to be subjected to the same treatment. Breed specific legislation? What an absolute crock of shit! It’s the owners that are the problem and I think that my current situation highlights this quite well.

Monday, 22 February 2010

I'm Gonna Drink One More Than You.....

Well it has been another busy fortnight hence me not updating my blog for so long. With working full time, walking Roman so much and general constant partying it can sometimes be difficult to find the time to spend to update so I must apologise to anyone who is reading and hoping for more regular updates. These last two weeks, especially, have been full of parties including a big carnival called Fasching and a pretty much all weekend session in Hamburg.

Two weekends ago it was Fasching here in Germany and this generally means that everyone takes extra days off work around the weekend to dress up like idiots and get completely and utterly wasted. I didn’t dress up as I don’t really have any costumes to wear but I did adhere to the second rule quite spectacularly! On the Saturday I headed up to the pub as usual with Roman to watch the football before taking him home for his tea. Once Roman was sorted I had to walk back to Kirschhausen (I did some walking that day!) to meet up with all of my friends and head to the restaurant in the village for a crazy night of partying.

There were some really cool outfits on display and I managed to get a few of my friends to let me try on some of their props so there are now some really stupid photos of me on there for you all to laugh at in the Deutschland album. The partying went on pretty much all the night and I headed off home at about 3am as I was offered a lift and thought that was a better prospect than having to walk home! Once home, as I often do, I took Roman for a 3km walk as I hate leaving him for so long and him not being able to go out to the toilet. Yes, I am selfish for going out and leaving him whilst I party but at least I have the decency to walk him when I get back – even if it is sideways!

I finally got to bed sometime around 4am but wasn’t there for that long as the Sunday would be the main day of partying over the whole weekend. I got up at around 10am and arranged to meet Steffen and the others at around lunchtime in Heppenheim. I decided to take Roman for a walk before I went out so that he didn’t go crazy and then joined the others for the drinking to commence. To be fair, I still felt a little drunk from the night before after having drunk countless shots of spirits – don’t ask me what they were as I have no idea! – so I decided to pace myself a little in the first half of the day. The parade that came through the town was quite fun and they chucked loads of free treats into the crowd. At one point they even fired beer out of a hose over everybody and I got soaked – if I had known I would have opened my mouth to try and catch some!

After the parade had finished we all went to a couple of bars but everywhere was so busy so I decided to head home for a couple of hours so that I could have something to eat and freshen up. I also wanted to give Roman another decent walk so he didn’t feel like he had been abandoned. I do feel guilty for leaving him at times but if I walk him plenty I suppose its ok, right? I think I am lucky to be fair though as he is such an easy dog to own in that respect. When I am not walking him he pretty much sleeps constantly. Sometimes I think he has the perfect life – no stress, plenty of exercise, no job, free food and copious amounts of sleep. Sounds like bliss doesn’t it?

I headed out to meet up with Steffen and Nathalie just before 8pm and they were already in Apfelbaum so I went straight there. It was really busy there, as expected, and I had to queue up for about ten minutes to get in. By 9pm Steffen was pretty much ready to go home as he had not paced himself at all throughout the day and was completely and utterly smashed! He bought 10 glasses of cola apfelwein (you get it cheaper like that) and by the time he had drunk one Nathalie had drunk two and I had finished the rest off! We decided to get some food in the restaurant upstairs and that proved to be a pretty amusing experience.

When we got up to the restaurant it was pretty full and there was nowhere really for us to sit. Steffen decided to sit down with a table of girls whilst myself and Nathalie managed to get a couple of seats by the bar. We ordered our food and then proceeded to laugh at Steffen’s drunkenness. He had one of the girls sat on his lap, although he didn’t know them as far as I could see, and was singing Frankfurt football songs quite loudly – not exactly what you want if you are sitting down to eat! The food came for me and Nathalie and Steffen hadn’t even ordered his. He was trying to get us to go and sit down by a table but there wasn’t enough space there as there was already a couple sat eating. He decided to sit down with them anyway and started singing his football songs again!

I found the whole thing quite amusing and there were a couple of lads by the bar who were also laughing but the staff there didn’t seem to happy and I can’t even imagine what the poor couple who he had plonked himself down by were thinking – all I can say is that I hope they weren’t trying to eat in a romantic atmosphere as it would have been completely spoilt! Steffen eventually came back to the bar and ordered himself a pizza – it’s probably worth mentioning that before we had headed into the restaurant Steffen had just been to the toilets to be sick as he was so drunk. Whilst he was waiting for his pizza he decided to have a little sleep on the bar, much to the annoyance of the staff.

When his pizza did eventually come he managed to eat one slice before falling asleep on the bar again and I had to finish it off for him as he said he wanted to be sick again. After falling asleep again he finally realized that he had had far too much to drink and said that he was going to go home. Steffen is a top lad, I would say my best mate here in Germany by a long way, but he can be hard work when he is so drunk! At least he helps to provide an atmosphere though – much better than standing by a speaker looking at your feet!

Once he had gone my drinking session started and boy did I do a good job! After another round of cola apfelweins I decided to start on the Jack Daniels and tequila. Anyone who goes drinking with me knows what I am like on spirits – especially tequila and sambuca – but I really did myself proud that night. By the time I left at about 5am I had spent over 150€ on alcohol and was a little bit tipsy to say the least. I lost count of the number of drinks I had but in the three separate bars about five or six of the staff knew exactly what I was drinking every time I headed back to the bar so I must have had a lot!

Once more I walked Roman when I got home although I don’t really remember doing it but my Facebook status update told me I did and there was a 30 minute gap in activity – it normally takes me about 25 minutes to walk him so this seemed feasible! I was very glad that I had decided to book the Monday off work as, when I woke up, I felt a little delicate. It’s times like these that owning a Rottweiler really becomes difficult – if I had a small dog then a two minute walk around the block at a gentle pace would be quite enough but Roman needs about an hour a day at a quick pace so it makes it really hard when you have a major hangover. Still, that’s the responsibility I took on when I got him so it’s just something I have to do.

The rest of the week was pretty much just all work as I didn’t really go out through the week. It took me until Wednesday to really recover from the exploits of that weekend and before I knew it the week was over and another weekend was upon me. On Friday I finished at 1pm and Steffen picked me up from work so we could pop to the bookies and put a couple of bets on. I decided to stay home after that though as another friend, Leonard, had called me on the Thursday night to say he had a spare ticket for the Hamburg – Frankfurt game for the Saturday if I was interested in going. Hamburg is about 600km away from Heppenheim so we had to be picked up by a coach at 6.15am on Saturday so I wanted to get as early a night as possible.

The Saturday this weekend was all sorts of crazy and was something that I don’t think I could do every weekend – even if I am not far off that anyway at the moment! Steffen had kindly agreed to look after Roman for me whilst I was in Hamburg so, after feeding and walking him at 5.30am, I headed off to meet up with the coach. By 6.22am I was already drinking cola apfelwein and by 10am both myself and Leonard had already put seven or eight cans away. We stopped at a motorway service station to get a bite to eat so I bought a small bottle of J├Ągermeister to spice things up a little. By the time we got to the stadium in Hamburg just before 3pm I think a fair few of us were quite drunk!

On the journey they were playing all kinds of crap music – Germans seem to love crap music! – so I managed to get them to hook my iPod up to the stereo so I could give them a lesson in the merits of Dizzee Rascal. It went down quite well and there was certainly a bit of a party taking place on the back of the coach! I got on really well with everybody on the coach and I think I have made a fair few more friends this weekend. I am not sure when I will be able to go to an away game again – it’s not fair to ask other people to look after Roman too often and I would feel bad on him too – but I think it will certainly be another enjoyable experience.

The game itself wasn’t exactly the most exciting as the two teams played out a 0-0 draw but this was a good result for Frankfurt as Hamburg are flying high in the league and are in the top 4. I wasn’t really too impressed with Hamburg as they didn’t create many chances and Frankfurt looked to be the better side if anything. During the game we goaded a few of the home fans through the fence which was quite funny as about five or six of them got thrown out for trying to climb over the fence to get to us – idiots! There is only ever going to be one outcome when things like that happen but it was funny to see them behaving like that!

After the game we had to get a bus, then a train then another train to get into St Pauli’s party district. Luckily, the St Pauli firm had agreed to let Frankfurt have their pub and they had ordered in a load of apfelwein to keep the party going. We partied in there until almost 1am before we had to head back to the coach to go home. Leonard was completely smashed and turned down all my offers of tequila, apart from when we found a 99 cent bar, and he was sick when we were walking back to the coach. The youth of today, they just can’t keep up! We managed to find the coach – don’t ask me how! – and had about ten minutes to spare before we had to leave.

The journey home took about 9 hours and I managed to sleep from about 2am until about 6am before we started drinking again. More apfelwein flowed and Leonard cracked out his bottle of Vodka schnapps – I don’t know why but I was the only one who seemed prepared to drink it! By the time we got back to Heppenheim just after 9am I was pretty drunk again and also pretty tired but I had a massive craving for a McDonald’s breakfast – I haven’t had one in months and there’s nothing like a crazed drinking session to make you want crap food! After we had eaten some breakfast – I had a sausage and egg muffin meal and a bacon and egg muffin (bacon ones are crap but I hadn’t had one for years so thought I would remind myself what they were like) – we all went our separate ways home.

I arrived home at 10am and was yet again greeted by a very happy Roman. I decided to not even sit down after feeding him and instead put his lead on him so that I could take him for a walk. It was bloody hard work although Roman was really good and walked right by my side all the way without really needing to be told. I think he picks up on my general wellbeing quite well as he never seems to give me problems when I am a little worse for wear! It was no fun picking his poo up yesterday morning either but that’s another one of the responsibilities you must take on when owning a dog!

Once I was home I decided to have a bit of a mong day and put The Wire on using my iMac. I managed to watch three episodes before falling asleep for a few hours until 6pm. Once I woke up I fed Roman again and took him for another walk before deciding to cook myself some tea to help my stomach to not feel so empty! I managed to eat a full meal then a yoghurt and then a bowl of cereal too. After that I couldn’t really be bothered cooking again so I left it at that. I watched another five or six episodes of The Wire before deciding to go to bed at around 2am. I had to be in work this morning and had already decided I wouldn’t start until about 10am so I didn’t get up until about 9am today. It was harder work than normal…..

Monday, 8 February 2010

I Ordered A Guitar This Week

Well I failed miserably this weekend at the not smoking thing – yes, Saturday night saw me smoking again although I have not smoked since. I am a little disappointed to be honest and this was partly the reason I wanted to not drink for a month but I couldn’t really say no to a friend’s birthday party! Next week there is a big carnival type party going on in Heppenheim but I am hoping that I will be able to get through next weekend a little better. Still, it is not a bad effort so far – if you ignore Saturday night’s indiscretion then I have now gone a full two weeks. It is important than I somehow manage to break through the barrier when drinking though as if I smoke every time I drink then I will never ever fully quit.

Last week was a little boring to be honest and not a lot really happened as I had locked myself away in an effort to avoid cigarettes as much as possible. The evenings were all spent at home with Roman and, apart from our walks, I never went out at all really. On Friday I finished at 1pm again as I had worked longer hours in the week and I had a few things to do on Friday. Steffen came to the MediaMarkt with me next to where I work so that I could try and get an internet deal sorted. I have the dongle from work but sometimes it can be a little slow.

I managed to find a pretty good deal with a fast connection. For 30€ a month I will get the internet connection, phone line connection, free calls to landlines, free calls to o2 mobile phones and I can cancel at any time by giving one month’s notice. I was also delighted to see that there was a bolt on for unlimited international calls to certain countries for just 4€ per month so I have asked them to put that on too. When you compare the price I got to the original conversion rate between pounds and Euros it works out to be about 20 quid a month for the lot so it is pretty cheap really. I think it will be a week or two before I am connected with them so I will have to stick to using the dongle for the mean time.

On Friday evening I was invited to the pub again to watch the football but I decided not to go again. It is nice to just relax on a Friday evening after the week at work. On Saturday, as always, I took Roman up to the pub to watch all the football and then we jogged home afterwards so that I could get ready to go to Domi’s birthday party. I only had about an hour to spare but that was enough time to get showered, shaved and iron some clothes to wear for the night. It turned out in the end that Domi’s party was a fancy dress party – I think Steffen had told me ages ago but I hadn’t remembered and nobody had mentioned it since. Luckily I wasn’t the only one there who was not in fancy dress so it wasn’t too bad.

I met Domi’s girlfriend for the first time on Saturday – I said to him at the time that I had been in Germany for 3 months now and was only just meeting his girlfriend now! I had never really thought about it before but he has a pretty decent social life really as he is constantly out with all the lads and he never brings his girlfriend. I guess they prefer to spend time together away from everyone else. I am not sure whether this is the norm here in Germany but most of my friends here seem to be single so there is not really a lot for me to compare them to!

Steffen rang the dog training place for me on Friday to see if there was any way I could get in there with Roman and hopefully save on some of the fees but they seemed to want him to have had his character test and suchlike done before we go to the club! It looks like I may well have to pay the full whack to keep Roman here but I am hoping to get around the permit issue as this is only in place for dogs born after the law came into place. Roman was born before but I am not sure whether there are different rules for imported dogs. I am hoping to speak with the relevant people sometime this week, probably Friday, so that I can get it sorted once and for all. I just hope it doesn’t cost me as much as I think it is going to cost!

I will also be looking for cheap flights back to the UK for April this week as I want to come back for a few days to see everyone. It looks like it will be the end of April at the moment but there are a couple of bank holidays at the start of April which would give me the same amount of time in the UK but with fewer holidays taken. I have a feeling I won’t be able to do it then but I will have to speak with Steffen first to see when he is available to look after Roman – yes, he agreed to look after him while I come back to the UK! I have fallen lucky with the friends I have made here I think.

I finally ordered a guitar last week too! It turns out that I can order things off the internet but things work a little differently here if you don’t have a debit or credit card. I had to select the pre payment option and then take the bank account details of the company with me to the bank and make a payment to them using the cash machines! It is a bit of a pain that I can’t simply make the payment online but at least now I know I can order things off the internet.

I am really looking forward to having a guitar again and can’t wait to get practising! Hopefully it might have arrived today but it is more likely I will get it tomorrow or the day after. It would probably be better if it arrived either tomorrow or Wednesday though as I need to do some cleaning tonight and if the guitar had arrived then I wouldn’t want to do it! I could also do with an early night tonight as I only got about 6 hours sleep again last night. Weekends are so bad for me…

Monday, 1 February 2010

A Quiet Weekend, For A Change

Well, I will start off with the good news today – it has been a whole week and I still have not touched a cigarette! It has actually been a lot easier than I had expected it to be but I think the decision that I made to steer clear of alcohol for a while has certainly had a big influence. Although I have had several urges and cravings for cigarettes whilst in the vicinity of people smoking I have been much better equipped to deal with it this time as I have been completely in control of myself mentally and have therefore not dropped my guard at any time. I must admit though that I have probably not been as good conversation as usual at times!

Thursday night was indeed a later finish than usual so, as predicted, I could not make it to training again. I must admit I am a little frustrated to have not been to training in almost two weeks and there is a chance that I might not train tomorrow – I was told today that there is a really bad weather front coming again from Siberia and the snow will be at its worst since a really bad storm back in 1978! If this is the case then I think it would be very difficult for me to make it to training, if it is even on. Before Christmas I could just get a lift but now that Roman is here I have to take him into consideration. If the weather is as bad as predicted then it would take me forever to walk to Kirschhausen and then the same to get back!

This weekend has been a pretty quiet one for me really due to my decision to not drink. I am going to try not to drink through the whole of February as I think that it will really help me to quit smoking once and for all. I was invited up to the pub on Friday night to watch Hamburg play against Wolfsburg, which finished 1-1 incidentally. I decided to say no as the match didn’t kick off until 8.30pm which would have meant that I would have been walking home with Roman at about 10.30pm. I have to walk through some very dark stretches of road to get home and, given the icy conditions, I prefer not to be out too late – it can be treacherous enough when I can see where I am going!

I finished work pretty early on Friday at about 1.30pm and, as promised, I went home to collect Roman and walked him back to where I work so some of my colleagues could meet him. I think they all liked him although a couple of people were obviously a little intimidated by his size! Roman loves the attention though and, once more, behaved really well for the new crowd. We stuck around for about 10 minutes before heading off back home and I think Roman was pleased with his unexpected 5km mid afternoon walk.

I used the majority of my Friday evening in to catch up on some Football Manager. I have been so busy since I have been back in Germany that I had hardly touched the game since I got back – not like me at all! It was a nice quiet evening really although I spent the majority of it, strangely, craving a cigarette. I have no idea where it came from but I couldn’t shift it from my mind all night! My dad has a theory about associations – when you finish a meal, when you take the dog for a walk and other times you would typically smoke. He reckons the key is to alter the routine slightly so that you no longer have the association. Easier said than done! Still, I didn’t give in so another small battle in the mental war was won!

Saturday was the first real test for me with regards to giving up smoking. I had spent the majority of the week either working, walking Roman or locked away at home. As a result I had come into very little contact with cigarettes. On Saturday, as we do every weekend now, we went to the pub to watch the football for the afternoon. It was my first chance to test my resolve around people who would be smoking. I have to say, it was pretty difficult and I felt pretty tense for the whole of the time we were there. I was originally going to stay for the evening match but decided that I would go home so that I could get away from the smoke as I didn’t feel like I was very good company – I hardly said a word all afternoon as I battled away with my own mind!

To take my mind off it on Saturday evening I decided to cook a massive Bolognese. It is said that keeping your hands busy is very important when giving up smoking so the preparation and cooking certainly helped to pass a little time. I cooked loads so I had some left over for yesterday too – I always do this as it makes it so much simpler for the following day! I am going to try and get hold of some plastic tubs this week so that I can cook huge pans full and then freeze portions separately to make life easier. It would also help on days when I have football training as I would be able to have a proper meal for lunch as I don’t normally get to eat until about 10pm when I train.

I took a few photos on my way back from the pub using my camera phone so that I could upload them to Facebook so there are now some more shots of Heppenheim and Kirschhausen covered in snow. It is such a pretty place, especially in the snow. As we were watching the football it had begun to snow and by the time we left the pub there had been another few inches of snow fall. It seems like there will be no end to the snow this winter here in Germany and I for one am making the most of it and really enjoying it. I have been assured it’s not always like this so I guess I have fallen pretty lucky in my first winter here!

I also had some fun with Roman as we walked back making snow balls and throwing them in the air for him to catch. I am sure the motorists passing by thought I was crazy! It must have taken almost an hour to get home on Saturday when it usually only takes 35 minutes! Roman really enjoyed himself and was very excited; he almost pulled me over a few times when I was throwing snow balls – if only we could have been in a field so that I could have let him off the lead! I reckon he would have a brilliant time in the snow if he could run around but I just don’t know any fields where I can take him and let him off.

I now have an even bigger urge to buy a guitar and am determined to sort something out this week. I think the nearest place to buy one is in the next town but I can only get there if I catch a train or if one of my friends drives me there. I have managed to find a website though where I can get an acoustic cheap enough so I will ask one of my friends to order it for me and I will pay them. It is a pain in the arse not having a card that I can pay for things on the internet with and I will have to get that sorted out at some point in the future.

One of my Facebook friends has recently acquired a guitar so a lot of their statuses this weekend have been about that. I have been sending a few links to her of guitar tutorials on YouTube for songs I reckon she would like (and she has so far) and she has sent me a couple back. Even though we only communicate through text over the internet I can tell how excited she is to be learning to play and it has made me want to get back into it even more. I reckon that it could really help me to avoid cigarettes too as my fingers will be constantly busy if I take it up again!

Yesterday we spent the majority of the afternoon in the pub again as there were two matches that I wanted to watch. The first, at 3.30pm, was Stuttgart against Dortmund. Dortmund have been excellent this season and Stuttgart recently sacked Markus Babbel after an awful start to the season. I said as soon as he was sacked that they would immediately go on a good run and they have; they followed it up yesterday with a 4-1 victory. The 5.30pm kick off was Leverkusen against Freiburg. Leverkusen have looked really good this season and currently sit at the top of the Bundesliga whilst Freiburg have really been struggling and look like they could well go down. Leverkusen won 3-1 and Hyypia managed to bag a goal!

Yesterday evening was a pretty quiet one really. I was going to play a bit more Football Manager but decided to watch a film instead. I watched This Is England and thoroughly enjoyed it. I had seen it before but only once and I always find that a second viewing of a film, especially one like this, often makes you think about things a little more deeply. The first time I saw it I felt that it all seemed a little awkward in terms of the acting but this time I enjoyed it more. It’s a very powerful film really and bears a lot of relevance to current events in England I think.

I had a bit of a lie in this morning and didn’t start work until about 10am so I will be working until at least 6pm this evening. If I can do enough hours each week from Monday to Thursday then it means I can have an early finish on a Friday and have more of a weekend with Roman so that is what I am trying to do. It also makes it easier to do things as the shops are all shut on a Sunday here so I only have Saturday to sort stuff out if I work all day on a Friday. Hopefully I will be able to get up at 6am for the rest of this week so that I don’t have to work later.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

More Snow and Quitting Smoking Again

This week has been much busier for me at work and I have not made it out before 6pm all week. I have still been having problems getting out of bed in the morning but this is more due to the fact that I am still struggling to sleep at night more than anything. Things are getting better, slowly, but it might be a while yet before I am into a really good routine. I actually managed to get up fairly early this morning and was in work for 8am but then I had a conference call with my boss and some other people so it was pretty important I was here for that! It just goes to show though that I can do it when I put my mind to it!

Having said that, I went to bed much earlier than normal last night and I was in bed shortly after 10pm. I felt tired before I went to bed but then felt awake again within five minutes! Luckily it didn’t take me too long to get to sleep and I think I must have been asleep by about 11pm. I have decided that I am not going out on the lash this weekend so I will be trying my best to be consistent in the times I am going to bed and getting up over the weekend. Hopefully by doing this it will make it easier for me next week and will help to establish a proper routine.

When I woke up this morning I was greeted by quite a lot of snow outside – it had snowed at the start of the week but it snowed again quite a bit overnight. As I was up so early when I took Roman for his morning walk most people had not been out to clear the paths so it was all snow where we were walking. It was nice to not have to worry about whether I would slip over or not and there is nothing quite so satisfying as the crunching of fresh snow underfoot! Roman seemed to enjoy it too and it seems to be so much better for his paw than normal.

I have not managed to get to football training this week as I have had to work late and I have a feeling that I am not going to make it tonight either. It’s a little frustrating to be honest but this is the nature of the work I do. One week I will have pretty much nothing to do yet the following week it will seem to be never ending! I think there is a training session or a match on Sunday morning though so I will definitely be there. I think I will walk Roman up to Kirschhausen for that so that he gets plenty of exercise over the weekend. He really gets spoilt for exercise on the weekends with our visits to the pub!

One of my work colleagues is trying to help me out at the moment in finding a way to pay less fees for Roman to be here. Apparently the colleague who originally called to enquire had spoken to someone in office here and they were given all of the official fees. I sit next to someone in work who has a Rhodesian ridgeback and her parents owned Rottweilers in the past so she has been trying to get some information for me. It turns out that there is a clause in the law about the permits that discounts dogs born before the legislation came in (January 2008) and Roman was born before this. Hopefully this will mean that I don’t have to have a permit, which would save me €275, but because he has been imported I might not be able to get around it.

Also, the character test might not be needed if I sign up for a dog club. At the dog clubs they meet weekly for dog training sessions and, after a period of time, the dogs are entered into an obedience contest. After this contest you are awarded a certificate depending on the number of points you score. As a part of the dog club membership (which I think is as little as €40 per year) I think you get the character test built in as such so that might also save me a lot of money. Fingers crossed on that one too but I guess I will find out for definite on these things once I find a dog club.

I stopped smoking again on Monday (my last cigarette was at about midday) and I have just passed the 72 hour mark. I am feeling a little more confident about it this time for a number of reasons. Having discovered I may have to pay extortionate amounts to keep Roman here I am aware that I might not have much disposable income so have a financial incentive. Also, I can’t afford to go and get wasted every weekend so I have decided to stick to coffee or cola when I go to the pub. Hopefully by not drinking alcohol I will not drop my guard as it is so easy to do after a few pints.

I have not really noticed any massive cravings so far but I have noticed from time to time that my jaw is extremely tightly shut – feel the tension!
I have also been thinking about coming back to England sometime in April and have managed to find flights from as little as €40 each way from Frankfurt to Manchester. As I will also need money to pay for that I have even more incentive not to smoke.

I would also like to go back to Rome either in July or August, more likely July though, so I will also need to be saving for that. I think if I can have enough incentives then maybe quitting smoking will be easier. When I have tried in the past I have not been able to see anything at the end of the tunnel, these things give me a tangible reason to quit

Monday, 25 January 2010

The Snow Is Back!

The snow is back here in Germany and I think Roman is delighted – he loves the snow! I woke up this morning to find a layer of about two inches of snow covering my garden. It’s quite surprising how well it has stuck as it had only been light snow throughout the night but it is much drier here in general than in England so maybe that is why. I am always a little tentative when walking Roman when there has been fresh snowfall as he is so strong and the slightest pull from him at the wrong time could well result in me going over and looking like a complete tool! I’m glad to say that this morning we had no such problems.

A work colleague had told me last week that the snow was on its way back but it just didn’t look likely until yesterday. I woke up pretty late (again), awoken by my new friend, Leonard, calling to ask if I wanted a lift to the pub because of the weather. I said no as I wanted to walk there with Roman so that he had plenty of exercise. We have been to the pub twice again this weekend and, each time we go, I am more and more impressed with him. He is such a friendly dog and I think most people have been surprised at how good natured he is. I hope that people who have a bad view of the breed alter their way of thinking after meeting Roman. I am sure that they do – he has an infectious enthusiasm that even the most stubborn, hard-faced person would struggle to discount.

Football training started again this week after the winter break so I walked Roman to Kirschhausen on Tuesday evening after work. It’s about three and a half kilometres to where we train so he had plenty of exercise that night. I had to tie him to a post next to the pitch whilst we trained and he was pretty funny. He barked a lot as we were running around the pitch. I think that he thought that I was going to leave him there! Hopefully, the more times we go the calmer he will become. All of the lads at football seemed to love him too which was good.

Football training was a little difficult after so many weeks of indulgence but I managed to get through the session alright. We ran for about 90 minutes so we must have done a fair amount of miles. I would guess that we had run close to 10 miles but it’s hard to say. After we had finished jogging we had a match for about 30 minutes. Roman went a bit barmy once the footballs came out – I always used to play football with him in England so I think he wanted to join in! Once football had finished we then had to walk the three and a half kilometres home.

By the time we got home I felt pretty knackered but it was hardly surprising really – I must have covered about 20 miles on Tuesday when you take into account the 2 and a half kilometre walk I have to work and back each day plus Roman’s morning walk of about 2 kilometres. When I woke up on Wednesday morning I was aching quite a bit and the walk to work was slightly less pleasant than normal! Still, no pain no gain as the saying goes. I should have had another training session on Thursday evening but I couldn’t make it due to work commitments.

Work has been pretty good since I got back and I have now been given some projects to work on which definitely helps me. It has been difficult to integrate properly here as I feel a little awkward approaching people at times. There is no employee map, if you like, so I am not sure what jobs everyone does and, furthermore, I am not sure who speaks English and who doesn’t which only serves to compact the difficulty. I feel that now I am being involved a bit more than I was before Christmas and it is looking extremely likely that I will be offered a more permanent contract soon.

I had to give a presentation to some of the senior management last week on a major project that I wanted to implement here and that seemed to go really well. Everyone was really impressed with the way that I spoke and the ideas that I had. I was quite nervous before it but once I got started it was pretty straightforward. The funny thing is that I never prepared in any way for it; I merely relied on what I knew and my natural charm! I have not really done this type of thing before but I found it much easier than I thought I would.

This week a lot of my friends here went to Mallorca for a few days from Thursday until Saturday so Friday was a pretty quiet affair. One of my friends, Guido, called me to ask if I wanted to meet him in the pub to watch the Freiburg – Stuttgart match but I had to decline. Roman’s paw has gone a little bad again so I wanted to take it easy with him for a few days. I can’t work out why it keeps happening but I have a feeling that the shape of his pads may mean that they rub against each other when he walks. I had a look to compare his paws and one definitely seems to have more of a protruding pad so maybe this is the reason. It may be that longer walks will always cause this to happen but I will keep my eye on it.

On Saturday I decided to take Roman up to the pub so that I could watch the football with my friends. Again he behaved impeccably whilst there and again he got absolutely spoilt with biscuits. I think it is fast becoming one of his favourite places to go! We were back there again yesterday evening to watch the Hoffenheim – Leverkusen match and there were a few funny occurrences! Mariana, the landlady, said that I didn’t have to make him lie down all the time and he could walk around freely. It’s nice to find such accepting people. Roman was in his element then constantly going between people for treats and strokes.

Mariana let him into the pool room for a few minutes so that he could have a sniff around and I made a joke saying that I hoped nobody came into the pub through that entrance. Yes, you guessed it, two minutes later somebody did in fact come in that way! I think the guy got a bit of a shock to be greeted by a 60kg Rottweiler on the loose but, once again, Roman was superb. He was excited to have a new friend and greeted him with the same enthusiasm he seems to show everybody! He followed the guy back into the main bar and, once again, resumed going up to everyone for strokes.

After the match had finished we had to walk all the way home again and it was still snowing and starting to stick a little. By the time we got home I was feeling a little tired so decided to run a nice hot bath and get something to eat before thinking about bed. I have been struggling to sleep recently and I think a lot of it is down to the exploits of the weekends. I was reading something on the internet that had loads of suggestions of how to make it easier to sleep so have been trying a few methods out. I went through the list of suggestions and found that I only do five of the things that it recommends but out of the other seven I think there are six that I can put into practice.

Saturday night was a bit of a crazy night, especially given the fact that I wanted to have a relatively quiet weekend! It was a friend’s birthday last week so he had organized a birthday party in Kirschhausen. The thing I love about birthday parties over here is that they lay on free booze and free food. Socially, it seems to be so much better over here than in England! I ended up drinking until about six in the morning with about six or seven of my friends and then headed home feeling a lot more drunk that I had planned on being!

When I got home I took Roman out for a three kilometre walk – I knew I would be asleep for a while and it is not fair on him to not be exercised and taken out to go to the toilet. I eventually got to bed at about half seven which is definitely not a good move when I am trying to establish a good sleep pattern! Still, I knew that the Saturday would be a wild one even if I had tried to deny it. I have decided that I want to cut down on the drinking and partying a fair bit; it seems a waste to spend all of my spare money like this and I know I could build up a nice pot of savings if I just chilled out a bit.

I had a bit of bad news this week also regarding Roman and the dog tax. I had been hoping to get away with paying about €70 per year but it turns out that this area of Germany classes Rottweilers as dangerous dogs so it becomes much more complex. I got a colleague to call the local authorities to get some information for me and have found out that it will cost me a lot more than that. It will cost me €72 per year for the license which is pretty much what I had expected but I will also need to do a few other things.

I have to apply for a permit for him which could cost as much as €275. Luckily this will last for four years so I will probably not even be in Germany when it comes to renewal time. Furthermore, Roman must also undergo a character test which, depending where I get it from, could cost anywhere between €150 and €300 but this must be approved by an expert here. I am hoping I can get it as cheaply as possible but if it costs me €300 then so be it. I will only have to get this done once but it is still a lot of money. I will also have to take a proficiency exam to demonstrate that I am capable of controlling him but I have been told that this will not cost very much at all.

In total I might have to spend as much as €700 in order for Roman to stay here! I wasn’t expecting the figure to be anywhere near that but if that’s the way it is then so be it. He is worth every penny and more so, whilst it is frustrating that such a friendly dog is subject to all this, I can grudgingly accept it and I guess measures such as these ensure that the rogues of society are less likely to try and keep a dangerous dog. I will also need to get a liability insurance policy for him but I have no idea how much this might cost.

So, given all of this unexpected expense I think that February will definitely be a tight month. If I have to pay out all of this in one go (I am hoping that some of it can be paid for at the end of February but I am not holding my breath) then I will probably have about €300 to live on for the month but I will also need to buy Roman’s food out of that. Even if I wanted to go out and get wasted I am pretty sure that I won’t have the finances to support it so it may be a blessing in disguise really.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Another Mad Weekend

Another weekend down, another beer fest! I think if I carry on at the rate I have been going during my time so far in Germany then I will end up needing a new liver at some point! On Friday evening Roman and I made our first trip to the Trio pub to watch the FC Bayern / Hoffenheim game. I’m delighted to say that Bayern won (pretty much everyone here hates Hoffenheim as they are a club solely based on finance and have effectively bought promotion from a much lower status). I was a little nervous about taking Roman to the pub to be honest as it is a totally new environment and the pub is normally quite rowdy when the football is on.

To be fair though I could not have been more impressed with him. He tried to run around the pub a couple of times but generally he behaved brilliantly. All of the locals seemed to take to him very quickly and he really enjoyed being the centre of attention. Ringo and Mariana (the owners) took to him very well and gave him several biscuits so he now watches them intently every time they move in the hope that they are going to get him more treats! He was a little excitable when the goals were scored but that has to be expected when a pub full of grown men are jumping around and cheering.

I am glad that it went so well at the pub as it is 3 miles from where I live so means that Roman has plenty of exercise whenever we go there. We went back on Saturday afternoon to watch the Bundesliga matches too - Germany’s equivalent of Soccer Saturday on Sky Sports is to flick between all of the games being played so you get to watch all of the matches in part. The crowds always seem to be packed at the games too so it seems that live screening in this way doesn’t have the negative effect on attendances that we seem to expect in England.

On Thursday evening I decided to put a few bets on but altered my strategy slightly. In the weeks leading up to Christmas I had been putting accumulators and trebles on but I was finding that the majority were losing. I was about €40 up at Christmas but there is something disenchanting about losing the majority of your bets even if you are in profit. I decided to start betting on single matches instead but at a slightly higher stake. Previously I was betting €3 or €5 on each accumulator but I decided to up the stake to €10.

I am pleased to say that all 4 of my bets from Thursday evening came in so my €40 outlay earned me just shy of €70. I used the winnings from Thursday and picked seven matches that were being played over the weekend, again laying €10 per match. I managed to pick 4 winners from the 7 so got back what I had laid out so I am currently about €30 in profit for the year. I am thinking that when the pot rises a little more I will focus on one or two games at a time and bet a higher stake, maybe €20 per match. If the pot diminishes then I will return to lower stakes. As long as I am in profit there is no ‘real’ loss so I can afford to be more liberal with the stakes although I will be careful to keep the betting money totally separate from my everyday finances.

I found a really useful thread on a forum where I post that focuses on betting. Some of the members there are extremely good at it and are already into thousands of pounds of profit for the year. Having said that though some of them lay up to 500 quid at a time so I am definitely small fish compared to that! There have been some pretty good tips flying about on there though and 2 of my original bets on Thursday came from these tips.
I made two trips to Apfelbaum again this week but I am thinking that I might start toning it down a little. I can afford the lifestyle I have quite comfortably – despite liberal spending over the festive period I still have about €500 of last month’s wages left and I get paid in about a week. However, I am not sure that continuing to live like this in the long term will be good and I am sure that there will come a point soon when I stop enjoying the nights out so much – moderation is key! It really doesn’t help when you are trying to adjust your routine so that you are up early every day in the week – I need 2 hours now before work really as I like to walk Roman a couple of miles before I start and by the time I have a shower and some breakfast then walk to work the 2 hours flies by.

On Saturday I headed up to Frankfurt to meet the lads as they had been to watch Frankfurt play. It was an enjoyable evening there and we got the last train back around midnight. The atmosphere around Frankfurt is actually pretty good and there were several decent pubs and bars. We were drinking around Sachsenhausen, an area I had been trying to find with my stepmother and her sister when they came to visit me last year. It seemed that we had been walking down the street that ran parallel to where all the activity was – bloody typical!

There was one bar that wasn’t such a great experience but I didn’t actually know until we had left – it seems that some people in there had been singing Hitler songs but I hadn’t noticed as I didn’t understand what they were singing. It’s a shame that there are still people like that around but this is certainly not reflective of my experiences of Germany as a whole. I have actually been impressed with the attitudes of people here in general. I find that German people tend to be very welcoming, friendly people and this is the first time I have experienced this kind of thing.

Sunday ended up being an extremely lazy day for me – I only ever seem to get about 5 or 6 hours sleep after a night out at Apfelbaum so I am usually pretty tired on Sundays. I didn’t feel ill or hungover but I had a distinct lack of energy all day long. Roman is such a perfect dog at times like this – he immediately knows that I am tired and just sleeps all day long. He didn’t get a walk until just after 5pm so he had been in the apartment for 24 hours without going out. I was pretty knackered last night so he didn’t get his usual pre bedtime walk either but he didn’t seem too bothered by it.

I managed to get up a little earlier today than last week – I got up shortly after 8am – but I want to start getting up at 6am so that I can be in work by 8am every day. If I can get into a good routine then I can work until 5pm Monday to Thursday and then only have to do 5 hours on a Friday so can finish at lunchtime. If I can do things this way then it will mean that I have more time with Roman over the weekend and he can get out and have plenty of exercise – I am sure he would be happy if I could manage to do it!

I should have had my first training session after Christmas with SV Kirschhausen yesterday morning but I didn’t get to sleep until about 7am yesterday so there was never any hope of me making that! There is a training session tomorrow evening at 7pm and another one Thursday so I will definitely be there for them. I think I need to cut out the partying at weekends though so that I am ready for the football each weekend! I am not sure how much fitness I have lost over the festive period but I am confident that I can regain it pretty quickly and I have been thinking about trying to quit smoking again – yes, I failed…….again!