Saturday, 26 January 2008

Modehaus Ermuth

Went into this shop - one of Weil's rare fashion stores - this afternoon to see if there were any decent winter coats. I suspect it's already almost the end of the season for proper winter fashion, but the winter coat I bought from the same shop over seven years ago is past its sell-by date and starting to look slightly shabby. What I was simply looking for was something warm and, if possible, waterproof. As expected, they had a good collection of other clothes, but coats that caught my eye were few and far between. And the ones that did were more suited for milder weather. On two separate occasions, respective friendly sales assistants asked me whether I required any help, and - as is my wont when looking for clothes - I bottled it and applied the conventional blocking tactic: "Danke, nein, ich schaue nur.." ["No, I'm just looking, thanks."]. My attention span when buying clothes is minimal at the best of times, and I quickly felt the urge to leave the store. By the way, this isn't meant as a critique of Modehaus Ermuth, but just as a way of illustrating how all my motivation evaporates as soon as I enter a clothes shop. It's not that I don't want to cut a sartorially impressive figure - it's just that I'm too choosy and can't be bothered unless I have drawn up a point-by-point plan of what I want beforehand.

And the reason why I'm telling you this...? No idea!

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

A couple of random photos

Taken on a short walk a couple of days ago (without my crutches). I can manage on my own two feet now but I still have to be very careful, and the knee aches a lot if it gets tired. But anyway, I got out and enjoyed one or two late afternoon rays of sun and took these pics. One of them is of a train. It's not that I've turned into a trainspotter, but the picture is notable because it is a Swiss train on the line between Weil and Lörrach - which must be one of the few dedicated, self-containing train lines in the world that runs exclusively within the borders of one country but with the national trains of another country. To liven up the picture, there's also some teenage graffiti if you look more closely. The other photo is of one of the artistic remnants of the Landesgartenschau (Baden-Württemberg garden show) that took place here in 1999.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

The sound of drums

I'm doing a spot of work at home this Saturday afternoon and have the window open, what with the outside temperature being a very mild 15C today. And I can hear drum beats in the distance! I assume the sound is being made by Swiss Fasnacht groups practicing down in the woody meadows along the River Wiese where the German/Swiss border runs. They tend to rehearse their repertoire down there as it's a fair distance from any built-up areas. It still makes a heck of a racket though, and can usually be heard clearly by anyone walking up Tüllinger Hill in Weil this time of the year.

Friday, 18 January 2008

I must say, I felt quite smug when I opened the envelope containing my annual electricity statement today to learn that I'd saved 482 kg of CO2 during the past year. No idea how you can quantify such things in weight, given that CO2 is a colourless, odourless gas. Anyway, the block of flats I moved into four and a half years ago apparently uses electricity from renewable sources, i.e. hydroelectric plants situated relatively nearby. Not that I had any say in the matter, but it's nice to know.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Our OB's New Year interview

Our revered Oberbürgermeister Herr Dietz gave a series of e-mail interviews to the Badische Zeitung recently. Here's the first one he gave (in German, of course). The remaining three interviews (dated 9, 10 and 11 January) can be located in the Aktuell section of the website. I must say, he seems to be doing an alright job, our Herr Dietz. He's due to stand for re-election this coming April, though I'm not sure whether anyone will bother to stand against him. At least no one has thrown their hat into the ring so far.

Anyway, that reminds me: one of my pet hates as translator is when German speakers complain when I use the word "current" as the English for the German adjective "aktuell". It's because they mistakenly think that "aktuell" must mean "actual" (which, in German, is usually translated with the adjectives "effektiv", "eigentlich" or "tatsächlich"). It's just another example of what the French call faux amis ("false friends"), but it's one that particularly irritates.

Sunday, 13 January 2008


I got back home on Thursday 10th Jan after having spent somewhat of a rollercoaster 24 hours and a bit at the Praxisklinik Rennbahn in Muttenz, where Dr Joneleit performed an arthroscopy on my left knee. On arrival there just before 8 in the morning, I was then led to my room where my blood pressure was measured and other formalities completed. A nurse then shaved the hair on and around my knee, while I talked briefly with Dr Joneleit about the operation and agreed that I would stay conscious during the procedure so that he could explain to me what he was doing. The head anaesthetist finally give me a sedative pill and I was led into the operating theatre.

My anaesthetic - called an SDA - was administered via a spinal injection. It's similar to an epidural, but the injection point is slightly lower down the spine. Electrodes were attached to my chest and arms and then one of the nurses put a heated blanket over my chest. Before I knew it, Dr Joneleit had punctured two holes in my knee and I could follow the operation on the screen. He explained what he was doing as he went along. I was conscious of what he was saying, but I didn't register fully. Maybe this was because of the sedative and also because my upper body was shivering uncontrollably during the whole course of the operation, despite the warm blanket.

After the operation, I was trolleyed back into my room, where I lay for much of the remainder of the day and night with a couple of drips (pain-killers and such like) hanging above me and a thin pipe leading out of my knee siphoning off blood into a small plastic receptacle dangling below my bed.

The effects of the anaesthetic - mostly drowsiness - didn't fully wear off until the early evening. I then ate a pizza for tea, which I had chosen quickly from a menu shown to me just before my operation that morning. Fully sated, I settled down in bed and watched Bundesliga Klassiker 1996/97 on DSF. At that point, the nurse on the night shift, Bianca from Schopfheim (D), made her first appearance and - looking up at the DSF footage on television - mentioned to me that Erik Meijer, erstwhile Liverpool benchwarmer and Alemannia Aachen 2nd Division legend but who was a real star for Leverkusen with Ulf Kirsten back then in 1997, had spent the night after an operation in the very same bed I was now in. She said he was a laugh a minute. I raised a weary yet wry smile in response.

Early next morning, the doctor came in and removed the drips and pulled the blood siphon out. After breakfast with half a dozen other patients, I had physio, where I tentatively tested out my left knee and found that I could already put some weight on it. I then collected my belongings and left for home.

It's now been four days since the operation and I'm feeling fine. I have to take various tablets and inject myself once a day with some anti-thrombosis medication, but I think I may be able to discard the crutches sooner rather than later.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Outlook for 2008

So, what does 2008 hold in store for Weil?

Well, firstly we will have a decision being taken one way or the other next month as to whether Weil wishes to give the go-ahead to Basle's tram no. 8 being extended from its current terminus at Kleinhüningen to the centre of Weil. The argument for approving such a project is that this is a unique opportunity to improve Weil's public transport infrastructure. On the other hand, the costs of extending the line could turn out to be too prohibitive for the town, despite the fact that Basle has agreed to fund the lion's share. Some people also believe that the benefits of such an extension are weighed disproportionately towards Basle, in that it would relieve the Swiss city - and especially Kleinhüningen - but wouldn't solve the daily traffic problems in Weil, Haltingen and towards Eimeldingen, Binzen and the hinterland of the Kandertal. Their argument is that the town should work, first and foremost, to improve the local S-Bahn infrastructure and bus services. Personally, though, I'm in favour of the tram line. If they don't approve it next month, then the Swiss funds which have been set aside for the project will be used for something else.

Then we have the ongoing debate about Sunday shopping. "Weil-aktiv", the local association entrusted with representing Weil's commerical and advertising interests, has proposed a number of Sundays this year on which shops in the centre of Weil could conceivably take place. However, a considerable number of shop-owners are supposedly against the plans and want to "keep Sunday special". This issue came to a head late in 2007 when Weil-aktiv's chairwoman Antje Lambert was openly criticised by a prominent Weil shop-owner for acting in the interests of the big supermarkets and not bothering to consult the owners of the smaller shops (* see below). Frau Lambert then surprisingly announced that she would be leaving her post to pursue a new career in Karlsruhe, so it's now very unclear what's going to happen.

This summer of course sees Euro 2008 taking place in Switzerland and Austria, with Basle one of the major venues. I'm looking forward to watching some of the matches at the public viewing area down at Grün 99/Laguna. I'm looking forward to the Czechs coming here. And the banter with the Portuguese could be interesting. And maybe even Jogi Löw's team will be in Basle come quarter-final time. That could also be interesting. As will the Switzerland-Turkey match.

I can't think of anything else of note concerning the town, but from a personal point of view, I would like to perhaps attend one or two of the local tours which people from the town hall organise every so often. It could be an interesting way to learn new things about Weil and meet new people at the same time.

[Edit *: I translated this roughly from a report in the Weiler Zeitung on 19 December 2007.]

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

At my local supermarket, items such as toiletries or stationery are situated in separate areas with their own dedicated cash desks. A pain in the neck, if you ask me, because it means extra queuing (don't worry, I'll tackle the issue of German "queues" at a later date). Whenever I buy something in the toiletries (& cosmetics) section in particular - e.g. toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, shower gel - I thank the woman at the cash till and, by way of bidding farewell, say either "tschüß", "adje/ade" (like adieu but pronounced in the local manner), "auf Wiedersehen" or even "uf Widerluege" - though I only say the latter if the sun is shining and I've a skip in my step and feel like a native. Why does the woman then always insist on saying something different? For example, I say adje one day and she counters with tschüß. The next time, I say tschüß but she reverts to adje. Then the third time, I try to be more formal and say auf Wiedersehen and get an uf Widerluege in return. This is what dialect does to people, I suspect.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Happy New Year

Let's hope 2008 is a good year for everyone.

I saw the new year in with my friends Pete and Nicole, their two children Vincent and Lewis, plus Pete's parents, at their house in Blansingen. They also kindly let me stay the night. Owing to the icy weather this morning, Nicole advised me not to walk down the steep hill to the station in Kleinkems and instead dropped me off by car at Efringen-Kirchen Bf. I stayed on the train until Basle because I needed to buy some food at the station.

If you include my year abroad in the Südpfalz in 1996/97, I've lived in this country for nearly nine years, yet there are certain local peculiarities I'm still learning about. For example, I went to Basle yesterday to renew my public transport ticket for 2008 and had to queue for over an hour to do so. No problem, I thought, the shops in Weil will probably still be open until at least 5 p.m. Wrong. They closed at 2 p.m. By the time I had returned home and eaten lunch, it was already too late. It's funny because I did notice at the time how busy with shoppers the Hauptstraße was yesterday morning and then how quiet it suddenly became from early afternoon onwards.... Yours truly left the flat at around 4 p.m. with the aim of getting some provisions in, blithely unaware that the supermarket was already closed. On New Year's Eve I've always either been in the UK or visiting friends in Heidelberg, so I had never really clocked that the shops closed so early on Silvester in Germany. I should really have known, given that it was New Year's Eve. It would have saved me an unscheduled trip to Switzerland this morning.