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Everything that starts with K ... 29/06/2015

'The Queen's' Fifth Visit To Germany

Everything that starts with K ... 'The Queen' visited Germany from 23rd to 26th June. It's not necessary to add her name as nearly everybody will think immediately of Elizabeth II. There's only one other reigning queen in the world, namely Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. As Denmark has never been as important in world politics as The United Kingdom, she doesn't come to mind when 'The Queen' is mentioned. All other queens are the wives of kings. Poor Prince Philip! The wife of a king is a queen, but the husband of a queen isn't a king. Whatever. The question is why she came at all? I haven't found a satisfying explanation. Taking into consideration that she's 89 years old, this visit may be part of a farewell tour. Maybe it's also a political statement. Her function is a purely representative one and she isn't allowed to utter a political statements. Yet, by choosing the most important European country for a visit she may have wanted to stress the connection and interdependence between the UK and the EU in an indirect way. It may also be seen as a placatory gesture against the widespread German bashing so many Brits engage in with a vengeance - clearly to take their minds off their own unsatisfactory economic and political situation. Lacking royalty many Germans go crazy about the royal families of other countries. Why? Search me. I'm so not royalist as you can be. What are kings and queens and their offspring to me? I only see them as human beings like everybody else. Are they more intelligent, more stupid, ...

Weleda Pomegranate Firming Face Serum 24/06/2014

Fresh & Firming

Weleda Pomegranate Firming Face Serum I'm sure no representative of a cosmetics range will be happy if they hear that a customer doesn't use the whole range but has a patchwork assortment of goods on their shelves. Who can one ask if it's good or bad if one combines products from different brands? One can just do it and then ask the mirror, "Do I look better, the same or worse?" Some time ago I switched from WALA to WELEDA products, to the Pomegranate Firming Care to be precise. It's aimed at customers in their 40s and 50s. Although the population is getting older and older, there's no range for older wrinklies. Does that mean that if I go on using these products, I'll stay forever young? I found the day cream and the night cream very good but too expensive for my liking and after some time switched over to a cream based on olive oil which can be used for day and night and costs a lot less. It can only be bought in German pharmacies and is therefore of no interest to British customers. I kept the Pomegranate Firming Serum, though. I wash my face with soap and a flannel. After experimenting with other methods I've decided to stick to this one because I like it best. Then I apply a cleansing liquid which WELEDA recommend for all skin types. After that comes the WELEDA Pomegranate Firming Face Serum and then the olive face cream. I've used this combination for quite some time now and am happy with it. I can't say if I'd look better/younger if I used different products because I don't. What I can say is that ...

Skios - Michael Frayn 15/06/2014

Blond Blagger

Skios - Michael Frayn If you've ever flown to a travel destination, you'll know the people standing at the exit gate holding up placards with the names of the passengers they're to meet and take to their respective resorts. Have you ever felt the urge to approach one of them and claim to be the person whose name they've got on their placard? Playwright and novelist Michael Frayn confesses in an interview that the idea has struck him. "It had been in my mind for a while," says Frayn. "Every time I arrived at an airport and saw the line of people holding up cards, I thought: what would happen if I went up to one of them? How far would I get?" He hasn't done it, however, but used it as the core of a plot for a novel. "I haven’t got the courage to do it myself but the nice thing about writing fiction is you’ve got a lot of assistants who are braver than I am." One of the characteristics of literature is that it allows us to live imaginary parallel lives different from our actual ones. Oliver Fox, a young Brit - thick blond hair falling into his eye, soft brown eyes that make women melt - has come to the Greek island of Skios to spend a week in a cottage with a woman he's chatted up in a bar in England. The cottage belongs to friends of his on-and-off girlfriend. He and his new conquest are to meet at the airport in Skios. While waiting for his luggage he gets a message from her that she's delayed. He realises that he's forgotten the address of the cottage and sees himself camping in the airport for ...

Iden, Stuttgart 12/06/2014

Very Veggie

Iden, Stuttgart If you're a veggie, Germany isn't your dream destination. Germany is roast pork and sausage country. Once we had a visitor from Italy who begged to be fed only sausages. I succeeded in giving him different kinds prepared in different ways for several days. Restaurant menus do have a section 'meals for vegetarians', but it's usually small. After some days of travelling around you'll know what's on offer. It's mostly some egg dish, noodles and salads. Truth be told, however, things are getting better. But a 100% vegetarian restaurant is still an exception. I know only one, the IDEN (pronounced eeden) in Stuttgart. Should you ever visit the home of Mercedes, Porsche and Bosch and feel like eating good veggie food, go there. I can recommend it. It's right in the centre, two minutes on foot from the market square and the city hall, two minutes from Breuninger, the biggest and best department store of Stuttgart. Exiting the S-Bahn (underground) station Rathaus, you find yourself at the entrance. Nine tables with four chairs each and two for two are outside between the windows of the restaurant - the overhanging first floor of the building serves as a kind of roof - and a wall belonging to the exit of the S-Bahn. Some people use it to put their trays on when eating. In contrast to other eateries the furniture is never taken in and no matter what the weather is like, there's always someone sitting outside and eating. Winter temperatures? Bah! A committed veggie is tough (don't ...

Nine Months (DVD) 08/06/2014

Baby Blues

Nine Months (DVD) Samuel and Rebecca, two thirty-somethings, are celebrating the fifth anniversary of their relationship with a picnic on the beach. Rebecca catches sight of a toddler building a sand castle, gets dreamy eyes and asks Samuel if he doesn't think that something is missing. He hasn't got the foggiest what she's talking about. Haven't they got everything? They love each other, have good jobs - he's a child psychiatrist, she a ballet teacher - he's got a beautiful flat overlooking the skyline of San Francisco and an open-top convertible Porsche. What more can a man want? Fate is on Rebecca's side and soon afterwards she becomes pregnant although she takes the pill. Samuel freaks out, has nightmares, sees Rebecca transmogrifying into a giant praying mantis about to devour him alive. When he remains unsympathetic and even forgets an appointment at the gynaecologist's, she moves to the house of friends who have a different attitude. They're expecting their fourth child and are happy about it. When writing a film or book review, the reviewer should never retell the whole plot up to the end. That's a no-no on opinionating sites. Yet, in the case of Nine Months the ending is clear from the beginning. Something will change Samuel's opinion and there will be a Happy Ever After. In the words of film critic Roger Elbert, "Nine Months is one of those movies where the outcome is abundantly clear to everyone but the hero, who remains in the hapless position of playing dumb because if he ...

Weleda Refining Toner 07/06/2014

Top Toner

Weleda Refining Toner Does the package influence our opinion on a product? Of course, it does. If it didn't, we wouldn't have advertising, would we? "Don't judge a book by its cover" sounds sensible, but only extremely rational people with a lot of self-control can act according to this wise saying. What does this have to do with Weleda Refining Toner? Well, I've used it for many years but I've got it in a container from Body Shop. One filling lasts a long time and by and by I always forget that I use a toner from Weleda and not from Body Shop. As my cosmetic products don't all come from the same range, this would be understandable. Why do I pour the Weleda toner into an old container from Body Shop at all? The minor reason is that the dark blue glass bottle is unattractive in my opinion. Weleda also produce medicine. If they sold their cough syrup in such bottles, I wouldn't complain. But facial toner! I don't want to see such an ugly item early in the morning. The major reason is that there is no nozzle with which I can spray the liquid on my face. One star off for this. The opening of the bottle is covered with a plastic disk with a small hole in the middle. The instructions tell me to take a cotton pad, pour some facial toner on it and distribute it on the face. I don't like using cotton pads, so I poured some liquid into the palm of my hand and then distributed it. It's difficult to get the right amount in this way and, above all, to distribute it evenly. The idea to use an empty container ...

Tesa Transparent Adhesive Tape 02/06/2014

Tacky Tape

Tesa Transparent Adhesive Tape You can ask a group of Germans if anyone has got tesa with them and nearly everyone will know what you're talking about and hand you any kind of adhesive tape in case they've got some with them. Tesa, aka tesafilm, has reached the pinnacle in the world of products, higher is not possible. The brand name has become the generic name for the product. Nowadays there are about 6.500 different tesa products which are sold in more than 100 countries - from China to the Vatican - , yet brand awareness seems to be restricted to its homeland. At least in the UK the name tesa doesn't seem to ring any bells although tesa products are sold there as well. Surprising! Maybe I can change that. It often happens, doesn't it, that after hearing or reading about something, you suddenly notice it. About 300 products are on offer for the office, home and garden, for affixing, mounting, packaging, renovating, repairing, insulating, and protection from insects, dust and drafts. That means it's nearly impossible to avoid contact with a tesa product. I'm going to restrict myself to the tesa transparent adhesive tape. Firstly, it was the first tesa product, secondly, it's the most widely known and thirdly the most impressive statistics wise. - It was 'discovered' in 1936 when it transpired that an adhesive bandage wasn't as good as it was supposed to be. It irritated the skin and so the scientist in charge made a virtue of necessity and launched the first technical adhesive tape. - 98% of the ...

Tourist , The(DVD) 01/06/2014

Depp Depp

Tourist , The(DVD) Paris. Good-looking, elegantly dressed Elise Clifton-Ward, a British woman, (Angelina Jolie) leaves her house and high-heels* to a street café to have breakfast. A passing cyclist puts a letter on her table. She reads it, burns it and goes to the train station to board the next train to Venice. No going home and packing a suitcase like any ordinary woman would do. The letter is signed by a certain Alexander Pierce. He tells her to look for a male passenger who resembles him physically and befriend him during the train ride. She picks a Mr Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp), an American maths teacher, as her decoy. Venice. Elise invites Frank to stay with her in her expensive hotel room. Standing at the window they kiss. They're photographed by a bunch of men who then set an operation in motion to find out who Frank really is. It turns out that he's an American maths teacher. Now, what is all this about? By and by we learn that Alexander Pierce is a criminal who owes the British government 744 million GBP in taxes. Elise is an Interpol agent who was ordered to find Pierce and hand him over. She did find him two years before but fell in love with him and didn't help her employers in any way. They've suspended her and keep her under constant surveillance hoping Pierce will contact her again one day. Interpol is not the only party interested in the man. There's also the gangster Reginald Shaw from whom Pierce stole 2.3 billion $. Yes, this Pierce plays it big. The rest of the story ...

The Hairdresser of Harare - Tendai Huchu 12/12/2013

Harare Haare

The Hairdresser of Harare - Tendai Huchu Vimbai is the best hairdresser in the hair salon where she works. As it is the best in Harare, it means that she's the best of all Zimbabwe. Her success comes from her conviction that 'Your client should leave the salon feeling like a white woman.' Her status as queen-be is challenged when a vacancy comes up and a young man applies for the job. Dumisani is good-looking, charming and, as Vimbai has to admit reluctantly, extremely talented. Instead of doing what the clients want he talks them into hairstyles which suit them best. First they're shocked, then pleased because he's always right. Of course, Vimbai is jealous but she can't hold his talent against him, can she? When he tells her that he has no place to stay because of familial trouble, she takes him in as a lodger. She's inherited a house from one of her brothers in which she lives with her daughter. The girl is the result of an affair with a good-for-nothing, rich sugar daddy who cruises the streets of Harare looking for beautiful, naive girls to seduce. When they become pregnant, he leaves them. Vimbai and Dumisani get closer - as is to be expected. He asks her to accompany him to his brother's wedding. She's overwhelmed by the reception of his extremely rich family. Why are they so friendly to her and her daughter? Why do they thank her? She starts dreaming that something good and lasting may develop between her and Dumisani. But she's repeatedly irritated by his friendly yet distant behaviour. I'll leave it ...

Schneider Schirme Monza 606-11 Rectangular Sun Parasol 27/11/2013

Parasol & Parapluie

Schneider Schirme Monza 606-11 Rectangular Sun Parasol Our house has a small, rectangular balcony sitting on top of a bay. Its railing is a row of short columns and slabs of sandstone. The house was built in the Art Nouveaux Style about 120 years ago and is rather attractive from the outside (living in such an old building is a different matter). It can only be used by one person because of its size and also because I'm afraid it may fall off together with the bay if there's too much weight on it. It faces west and when the sun is shining in summer it becomes too hot there. I use it only in late afternoon and then with a parasol. The parasol covers the whole balcony and sort of closes it off. If I use it earlier in the day, it's unbearably hot underneath. There's room only for a deckchair, a small table and the stand of a parasol. This thingy is a nuisance, it occupies space which one could use otherwise. The best solution would be to have a blind fixed to the facade. A craftsman told me, however, that if a nail were hammered into the plaster covering it the whole layer of plaster would fall off it. It has to be a rectangular parasol. I've already ruined some over the years. It can happen that they get stuck at one of the iron hooks sticking out of the wall (from the former blind construction). I can't get them off without tearing the cloth which means an untimely end. The last specimen was too light. It had about twenty thin and light stretchers and the gentlest breeze would bend them up. I had to constantly get up and turn ...

Restaurant of Love Regained - Ito Ogawa 23/11/2013

Pampered Pig

Restaurant of Love Regained - Ito Ogawa Women! Imagine this: You come home from work and find the place where you've lived with your man for some years empty. Without any advance warning. Cleared of everything. Looking as it did when you first saw it with the estate agent. He hasn't only taken his own things but everything you possess, too, including your savings hidden in a mattress. This is what happens to 25-year-old Rinko, a Japanese woman who's lived together with her Indian boyfriend. She works as a cook in a Japanese restaurant, he as a maître d' in a Turkish one. Their plan for the future was to open a restaurant of their own. No nervous breakdown for Rinko, no hysterical fits. Matter-of-factly, she takes her only remaining possession, a pot of vegetable pickles her grandmother prepared years ago. Her boyfriend overlooked it because she kept it outside the flat. She buys a bus ticket with the money she's got in her purse and returns to her mother who she hasn't been in contact with for ten years. The shock has made Rinko mute, she communicates with people in writing. Her mother who runs a bar leases her a shed in the garden where she establishes a very original restaurant. She only accepts one booking a day, takes only single guests, couples or families but never several guest who don't know each other. She invites the guests before the meal, gets to know their characters, their problems, their dreams and tastes and then composes a meal especially for them. As she's got a wide experience from the ...

Ikea Lack Side Table 19/11/2013

Tiny Table

Ikea Lack Side Table I had contemplated for a while to dispose of the small plastic table I had for many years on my balcony. It had served me well day in, day out. I never took it inside, so it had become shabby. When a recent hailstorm with hailstones the size of walnuts smashed several holes in its surface (besides causing damages for 1 billion Euros in the region), its fate was sealed. I didn't want to spend much money and turned to IKEA. Unfortunately, they don't have rain proof plastic tables of the size I needed. The nearest I got to the old one was a side table called Lack (which is Swedish for lacquer). I ordered it online and assembled it. I did this alone because I think this is advisable with regard to marital peace. Obviously I can do it properly, the three other pieces of furniture I assembled in the past have been standing and doing their duty for many years. Besides, in the case of Lack I wouldn't know what a second person should do. The assembly of the table is so simple that even someone with a two digit IQ can do it. The package weighs 4.2 kg. I couldn't find anywhere how much the table proper weighs and don't have big enough scales to weigh it. I guess around 3.8 kg, not much anyway. The package contains the square table top (55 x 55 cm), four legs (40 cm high) and four metal screws. There's no instruction leaflet. The screws lie in a cardboard box on whose bottom are some drawings as to how to assemble the table. I only looked at them cursorily, took a screw and began to ...

The Taint of Midas - Anne Zouroudi 17/11/2013

Greek Greed

The Taint of Midas - Anne Zouroudi Gabrilis Kaloyeros is a very old man, it's very likely that he doesn't know himself how old he is. He's got a patch of land near the ruins of the Temple of Apollo on the Greek island of Arcadia where he grows melons and keeps bees. All could be well if there weren't a crooked developer who, despite being one of the richest men already, had set his mind on building holiday chalets for foreign tourists at just this spot because of the wonderful view of the Mediterranean Sea. One of his equally crooked sons persuades the old man to sign away the land to them by telling him a tall tale he doesn't understand. A short time later when transporting melons on his tricycle to his stall at the harbour Gabrilis is killed in a hit-and-run accident. The person to find him beside the road is Hermes Diaktoros, an Athenian who's known and liked the old man for many years. He's got a house on the island and visits occasionally. The two policemen, Sergeant Gazis and rookie assistant Petridis suspect him of the deed, not because they've got proof but because they don't know where else to look. Hermes isn't troubled by this, however, he tells them he's going to help them find the culprit. He hints at having 'access to facts the constabulary doesn't have'. So this is a thriller set on a Greek island. The thriller aspect is good. The old man's death leads the reader into a maze of greed and corruption. The solution is satisfying. The Greek island aspect is done as is to be expected. It's summer, ...

Rhinomer 10/11/2013

Schnozzle Spray

Rhinomer I have a confession to make: I'm a recovered drug addict. Now you're gawking, aren't you? I know that you're bursting with curiosity as to which drug I was addicted to. It was nose spray! Oh yes, indeed, and I'm not pulling your leg. Many years ago I had my annual cold - a cough and a running nose - which I expected to last for about a week as usual. The cough subsided, the snot became less but instead of returning back to normal my nose became blocked. I couldn't breathe properly any more. I went to a pharmacy and bought a medical nasal spray. I'm not mentioning the name here because it's a German product and you wouldn't know it anyway. It brought me immediate relief but only for some hours. Well, I didn't expect that spraying the stuff into my nose only once would unblock it for good. I sprayed again, I could breathe again until my nose was blocked again. And so on. The periods between spraying and blocking became shorter and shorter. I had the spray always with me wherever I went. This went on for two weeks. I had never had problems with my nose for such a long time, so I decided to see an ear, nose and throat specialist. He told me that I didn't suffer from cold related nose problems but had become addicted to the spray, an affliction *which happens rather often*! He prescribed tablets to get off the spray and gave me a receipt for a liquid the pharmacist had to prepare especially for me - the only time that this happened and that I didn't get a prefabricated medicine - ...

The Woman And The Ape - Peter Hoeg 07/11/2013

Underdog ---> Ubermensch*

The Woman And The Ape - Peter Hoeg Madelene is the young Danish trophy wife of upper-crust English behavioural scientist Adam Burden. Every day she prepares her face for the day. Every day she's 'resurrected'. She intends to show society the face it expects from her. When she's done, she fills herself up with booze to get through the day. "Then she did as she always did. She took a pipette from a wire shelf, a Pyrex flask from a cupboard, a little measuring glass from a drying rack...and drew off eight ounces of 99.6 percent alcohol for hospital and laboratory use. She then tapped up the flask with distilled water...the resulting liquid was 55 percent alcohol. She knocked back the first half glass." One day Adam has an ape brought to the lab he's got at home. It was found when it came steering a boat up the Thames, the victim of an animal smuggling expedition gone awry. It puzzles the scientists because it obviously belongs to a hitherto unknown species. Adam intends to do all possible research work on him - short of killing it - hoping that the results will help him become famous and Director of London Zoo. When Madelene notices what's going on, she decides to help Erasmus, as the ape is called. She sympathises with the creature that's as imprisoned in societal bonds as she is. He in a physical, she in a psychological way. At her first visit he hands her a peach. Not an apple and the wrong way round from what we know, not woman to man, but man to woman, but we see a sign flashing 'Beware, symbols at ...
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