Nic and the City

 At the dawn of human existence, when humanity was an unknown concept, a bold fish type creature decided to take it upon themselves to go for a walk. As its astonished companions looked on, Mr. or Ms. fish thing popped its head out of the water and took the first steps on the long road of evolution. Ever since that fateful sojourn, humanity has always sought to adapt to the ever changing world around them. I personally like to think of myself as an adaptable, chameleon type who blends seamlessly into whatever environment I find myself in. Sadly, reality is a cruel bastard and more often than not I stick out like the proverbial a saw thumb. This was certainly the case when I first arrived in Germany, and even more so when I lived in a small village. Being the only British national for thirty or so km tends to put a lot of pressure on a person. I have a responsibility to maintain all the important elements of being English, such as continually apologising for imagined insults, wearing tweed and insuring a correct level of social awkwardness at all times. Now that I live in the city, I have found the weight lifted from my shoulders. It’s not that I’m any better at blending in, but I’m simply one of many slightly eccentric British people wandering around saying sorry. What’s more, my long awaited return to the urban sprawl brings with it a number of other forgotten luxuries.


Corner Shops

Bergkamen Tante Emma 4

 The importance of corner shops may be lost on many, but that’s probably because you have one within a few metres of you right now. Go on, look out the window, I’ll wait. Exactly, there’s at least two. I had thought the corner shop was a purely British phenomenon, then I moved to the city. You may be asking what is so important about corner shops? If you have to ask that question, I truly pity you. First and foremost, where the hell else to absent minded grandparents buy those awful birthday cards? Corner shops. What if I felt the need to buy a plate that doubled as a clock? Corner shop. How about those long car journeys? Where will I get hold of a Disney themed crossword puzzle book, that mysteriously seem to be so popular in central Europe. Corner shop. Not only do they supply these fine items, but also an eclectic assortment of romance novels that no one except grannies ever buy. I’m not going to purchase any of these things, but far be it from me to get between geriatrics and their insatiable desire for smut.


Street lighting


 In fairness, many of my problems with street lighting in villages are based on returning home after a night on the rocket sauce. Although I was occasionally not fit for purpose, my many overly long walks home were further complicated by a distinct lack of lighting. This is especially unhelpful when you not entirely sure where you actually are. In 2013, no one should be navigating by the stars, unless you happen to be a pirate. Incidentally, I’m not a pirate, but I do like rum.


Public Transport


 Lines of communication are not just important for the military, they are the life blood of any up and coming conurbation. This seems to have been forgotten during the construction of some villages. Two buses a day and an irregular train schedule can hardly be considered a shining example of modern infrastructure. When your daily commute is constantly interrupted by sheep crossings and enraged locals attempting to slay the horseless carriage you happen to be sitting in, it can become slightly tiresome. Thankfully I now live within walking distance of a metro, although I do sometimes miss hitching a lift on a combine harvester.


Hooded Teenagers


 As you get older, it becomes increasingly important to have the occasional brush with terror. Thankfully my area of town comes with angry hooded teenagers fully installed. They sit around on street corners in carefully maintained packs, eyeing you the same way I imagine wolves eye up a tasty looking deer. Late at night, if you listen carefully, you can hear their woops of delight as they finally get some one older to buy them alcohol.


One Way Streets


 Urban planning in Germany can often seem confusing and slapdash to any newcomer. However, once you understand the motivations for the design of German cities, things begin to become a little clearer. Somewhere in the past, there was a decision made to create a continuous scheme of brain training to keep all residents on their toes. In order to implement this, cities are designed to have as many one way streets as possible. If a one way street isn’t feasible, then a complicated series of road works must be put in place. Should these prove to be too easy a test, the local councils send out employees to park their cars around every tight corner and leave the hazard lights on. If you manage to avoid all the obstacles, you are rewarded with a chance to parallel park in a space no bigger than a chihuahuas toe nail. This is why so many people in German cities drive stupidly big cars. It’s not, as I first thought, because they are morons. It’s actually because they have advanced to such a high level of skill, they are no longer being tested and have pro-actively made things more difficult.


With all these delights on my doorstep, it’s hard to believe that I didn’t move here sooner. Now, I must go, I believe there is a sale on plate clocks at the shop and I don’t want to miss out to a smut laden octogenarian.  

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