This is a girl who wouldn’t wear gloves to work some days because they did not go with her shoes, or nose ring - or something.
I think the average Austrian woman worries more about keeping warm than looking elegant and I like this sense of practicality. But being who I am I really don’t care much about what I look like in winter.
Fortunately Cate keeps me from committing really atrocious fashion faux pas but I can still usually manage to look like a hobo no matter where I go. Cate hates it when I wear my Siberian Elk Hunters hat but I would rather have warm ears than look good.
We have had the fire roaring away every night since Christmas Eve and do feel a bit guilty about this – but we don’t have any other heating in the living area so don’t have much choice. It won’t be long before I have to visit Hornbach for another load of wood – which will be more difficult now because we no longer have a station wagon – or an estate as they are called these days.
Cate has been driving Bill Benz everywhere we go so that she gets accustomed to it. She is very worried about scratching it so drives very slowly and very carefully. Any slower and there would be a man walking in front of us carrying a red flag.
She doesn’t want to be the first one to scratch it so I have the task of getting it in and out of the garage. Of course as soon as I do scratch it she will be off the hook. She will call me a clumsy clot and then drive like a lunatic again.
No matter what we do Muffin can usually manage to find a sock at about 4:00 AM which she then drags about the bedroom yowling. Neither of us ever has the strength to get out of bed to stop this atrocity so we bury our heads and wait for her to collapse from exhaustion. This can sometimes take a while. She has always done this and it doesn't get any easier.
After much diligence Muffin has finally loosened a couple of threads in the rug and has been triumphantly pulling at these for the last few days. She is confident that she will be able to burrow through the rug to bare floor boards by Easter but I may trick her by putting another rug underneath – or even a steel plate.
I asked Rozalin for instructions about the tree and she says we can take it down any time we like. Apparently there are places out there where you can take trees but I simply cannot imagine how we could get a very large dead tree in full flight down the stairs without making such a colossal mess that Frau Schlumberger would throw a total wobbly.
I also don’t like the idea that a tree that has given us such faithful service over Christmas will just get dumped in a big pile along with many other trees and be left to go mouldy. I think we will end up giving it a Viking funeral by cutting it up and putting it in the fire.
We are still not sure about New Years Eve and were planning on going into the city but have been advised by many people not to do this because of the crowds and the boisterous behavior of revelers.
We will certainly visit Café Malipop which is a tiny little bar in Ungargasse. It opens from 1900 to 0200 and the woman who runs it plays vinyl records – loudly. I walk past it most days but we went there for the first time a few nights ago and had a Schnapps.
Well I thought Schnapps was Austrian firewater but it turns out that in Austria Schnapps is a generic term for any liquor. So when I asked for Schnapps – in my very best German – I ended up in one of those dreadful conversations where I am made to look like a complete fool. Fortunately I am well accustomed to this and take it in my stride.
We eventually ended up with Austrian Schnapps – which is what I was looking for in the first place. I explained to the woman that I was not in fact an escapee from an asylum but was from Australia and lived just around the corner. She warmed up considerably and has decided to allow me back into the bar if I don’t attempt to further mutilate the German language.
I have downloaded an iPhone application to translate German words and phrases. Now when I am out and about I can punch in a German word and get a result immediately. This is greatly enhancing my knowledge but I have such a long way to go that it is depressing. I know that I will just have to keep plugging away and that one day I will be able to pick up a newspaper in German and read it. Some of the pronunciations are really quite surprising and there are many strange variations and aberrations. All of these should guarantee that I will always speak German like a half wit with a golf ball in his mouth.
The Air Con man arrived today and after some investigation pronounced the system kaputt! It will need some extensive work and this will involve quotes being prepared, the approval of the landlord being obtained, parts being requisitioned, a team of experts being flown from Germany and a major job of logistics and coordination. Who knows how many forms will need to be completed before anything can happen so we are not planning on having heating any time soon.
You will have realized by now that we are made of stern stuff and having survived everything that Australia can throw at us including droughts, bushfires, Irukandji, Crocodiles, Redback Spiders, Tiger Snakes, John Howard and Brendan Nelson we are not about to be daunted by a minor setback like this.