Harry Potter and the German Dissertation

As I believe I’ve mentioned, I’m graduating soon. All I need now is a) my final results and b) a day of wearing a cap and gown, and I will officially be done with my undergraduate degree. Like a lot of people, I had to do a dissertation to get to this point. I really liked my dissertation, so I’m going to nerd out about it here. Warning: much nerdery ahead.

My dissertation began about this time last year in a bar in Bruges. While on holiday with my friends, which you can read about here, I realised that despite my best efforts I would probably have to do a dissertation, and I had no idea what I would write about. A drunken-ish discussion ensued, and the next day I discovered notes on my phone about what I should write about. It turned out I’d been really insistent about wanting to write about Harry Potter.

I think it’s fairly obvious that I am a huge fan of Harry Potter, but trying to come up with a dissertation that included that was difficult. But I eventually made it work. I was going to look at neologisms (made up words) in the Harry Potter series and how they were translated into German. At this juncture, I’d like to point out that my main motivation to write about Harry Potter was so that it would be interesting, rather than necessarily being nerdy enough to write about Harry Potter. Simply put, I desperately didn’t want to write a 4000-7000 word essay on Hitler and the Third Reich.

So I wrote about Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I also wrote about a book called Die 13½  Lebens des Käpt’n Blaubär by Walter Moers, which in English is The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear. (It’s an excellent book. You should go read it.) And somehow I muddled through and handed in a dissertation entitled ‘From Albus Dumbledore to Zamonia: A comparison of the impact of neologisms in fantasy novels and their translations between English and German, focusing on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K Rowling and Die 13½ Leben des Käpt’n Blaubär by Walter Moers’. Yeah, it’s a mouthful.

Basically, I looked at four different theories of translation and how they could be applied to the translations of made-up words in Harry Potter and Bluebear. And while it took a really long time to do, not least because the first thing I had to do was write out all the made up words in each book (in English and German) and Bluebear is 700 pages long, it was a really enjoyable experience. I mean, as far as writing an essay can be enjoyable.


Undergraduate research posters. Mine’s the one with the Harry Potter writing.

And while I was doing my dissertation, the Department of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies (aka CLAS aka my uni department) had a post graduate symposium which included an undergraduate poster competition. You could submit a poster of any research you’d done and so, as procrastination, I made a poster of my dissertation. And somehow I won. So that was pretty cool. Especially as when I made my poster, I hadn’t actually written my dissertation.

I had to explain my research to a bunch a postgraduates. I basically said I’m looking at made up words.

I’m not sure if there’s a point to this blog post aside from me going ‘I got to write an essay on this thing and that was super cool, because Harry Potter and linguistics and yes’, but if there were to be another point it would be this: try and do your dissertation on something that interests you. I was terrified that I’d have to write mine on something that I didn’t really care about, that I wasn’t really interested in and that I wouldn’t do very well in. Instead, I wrote about two books that I love with regards to a part of language study that I find fascinating (aka translation with a focus on linguistics). And I got my second highest mark of my university career for it, which was so unexpected. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that Harry Potter got me a first, and if that isn’t magic, I’m not sure what is.


To graduate will be an awfully big adventure.

This time four years ago, I think I was still doing my A-levels. And then there was to be a long summer of friends and holidays and then, then there would be results day. After that, as long as I’d reached Nottingham’s requirements, I’d be off to university in September.

I’ve been trying to think back to remember how I felt, which is difficult. Not only was it four years ago, but my Mom was seriously ill, which took precedent over what I was going to get in my A-levels. I mean, I must have been excited. Since I was about 15, all I wanted was to go to university. I’m not sure why. Perhaps I’d watched too many films, read too many books, but my heart was set on university.

Originally I was going to do English Literature. Then it was German and English Lit. And by the time AS level English Lit had finished bashing me over the head, I knew I didn’t want to spend three years at university studying it. So German it was. I made lists of universities. Compared them by what grades they wanted, how far away from home they were, even if I’d ever been to the city they were in. I was excited. Anxious to leave home, be an adult, learn something about Germany that wasn’t just the language.

And now it’s all over. My four years are at an end. It’s very anti-climatic. No-one warned me about that. My last lectures were exam prep that basically no-one turned up for. My last exam was a translation exam, so it involved lots of vocab learning but no heavy duty, practice essay writing, notecards filled with dates type revision. If I can paraphrase T.S. Eliot, this is the way uni ends. Not with a bang but a …huh.

University has been pretty great. I’ve learnt to cook, to motivate myself, to actually clean a house. I’ve learnt how to play Quidditch and how to swing dance. I’ve made friends and lived abroad for 9 months. I’m even basically fluent in German. And while I still ended up studying some literature, I didn’t hate it like I thought I would. Except Brecht. I do not understand Brecht.

Now what? It’s a time for making plans and moving forward with life. Which is terrifying. I mean, I like moving forward, I like the fact that in theory the world is open for me to do whatever I want. But the job hunt is not going spectacularly well, I have no idea where I’m going to be in a month, two month, three months time, and I’m not really sure what I’m doing with my life.

But I’m sure it’ll be fine. I’m scared, yes, but that’s not going to stop life happening. So I just have to get on with it. And if I can move by myself to Germany to a town so in the middle of nowhere that even Google street view hasn’t made it there yet, I’m sure I can cope with whatever is about to happen. So graduation is an awfully big adventure, but unlike Peter Pan, I’m ready to grow up.


All in a Week’s Work

Last week was a whirlwind. I had an essay due in, a translation exam, two days work experience in London* and then a swing weekend. But rather than do this like a diary I’m going to tell you 6 things I learnt over the week**.

1. I’m a massive nerd

Somewhere between getting excited over words and getting far too excited over ‘Shake Your Tailfeather’, I remembered that I’m a huge huge nerd. I guess my blog post about punctuation should have given that away.

2. Professionals do it differently

Our translation exam had an extract from a German book which we had to, shockingly enough, we translate. Cue after the exam a professional translation of the book circulating round the year group. It is super different. I mean, if we had translated some parts of it the way the professional has, we’d fail the exam.

3. People are great

I spent a lot of last week meeting new people and I’m coming to the conclusion that people are generally great. They’re interesting and funny and get stuff done. Course, there are those that are the exception to the rule, but they weren’t the people I met last week. And networking’s an awful lot easier when you assume people are great.

4. If in doubt, pun

Not only will puns help you make friends, but they’ll also make an entire company groan/laugh. At work experience we had to create five pieces of writing for a made up business. So me and my group went for a fake moustache company and let me tell you, the results were fan-tashtic.

5. The last song is never the last song

Whether it was going to the pub with my fellow work experiences or my fellow swingateers, when the last hour or song is called, people do everything they can to stretch the experience out. Unless they hate the experience like the translation exam. Then no-one can get out of there fast enough.

6. Somehow I’m old and young all at once.

I met people who are proper adults and I felt really young. And I met people who are 18 years old and I felt really old. To misquote Perks of Being a Wallflower, I am both old and young at the same time, and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.

* I was on Word Experience for The Writer, to be specific.

** I promise my next blog post won’t be in list form.


Why I cared about Star Wars for an Hour

4th February 2015 marked the beginning of the popular culture lectures at the University of Nottingham and I went because what else am I gonna do with my spare time other than go to non-compulsory lectures?


Look how pretty the poster is

Open to the public, the physics lecture hall was full, even with some people sitting on the stairs. I’m gonna hazard a guess that the vast majority of people there were students at the university, but one should never underestimate the pull of Star Wars. I feel like I should take a moment to explain that, personally, I am ambivalent towards Star Wars. I’ve seen Episodes I-IV (feel free to rage about how I’ve missed out the best two in the comments) and of course it’s a part of popular culture, so I know a fair bit. Let’s be honest, to not know anything about Star Wars would be impressive. So why did I go? Well, the lecture was entitled “It’s a trope!”: ‘Star Wars’ and/in translation and I’m a sucker for translation, especially when applied to fiction. If anyone wants to link me to articles about how Dothraki and Elvish are constructed, I’d be a very happy Kat. So yes. There I was, in a lecture theatre about to be lectured on the importance of translation in a fictional world I don’t care that much about.

Thankfully, Dr Pierre-Alexis Mével is very engaging and knows his stuff. With an introduction video that was an homage to the opening of A New Hope, the lecture started well and when it became a more standard lecture it was still interesting. Leastways I thought it was. But as previously stated, I am a translation nerd.

Starting with the translation of the films into foreign languages, the problems of translating anything into a foreign language were quickly raised, with Han Solo becoming Yan Solo in French so that it wasn’t pronounced ‘An and thus a girl’s name. Chinese bootleg subtitles were covered, where it was well and truly proven that machines shouldn’t be completely trusted with translation. Then there was a brief discussion on how alien languages are tackled in TV and films, which boils down to either 1) everyone speaks the same language (usually English), 2) there are different languages and it’s subtitled, or 3) there are different language and there is no translation. Fairly standard stuff. Still interesting.

Moving on from general issues of translation, we turned to the topic of translation within the Star Wars films and looked at the various languages spoken within the films, like Galatic Basic, Huttese and Shyriiwook. Which human languages these were based on was covered, including the fact that Shyriiwook is a combination of various animal noises. Then there was discussion on C-3PO’s role as a translator, and whether he is a machine performing what he’s coded for or if he is a self-aware translator. Spoilers: he’s at least semi aware.

All in all it was a good lecture on translation applied to fiction, and I really enjoyed it. Still not racing home to watch Episodes V & VI though. If lectures on popular culture sound like something you’d be interested in and you’re in Notts, the schedule can be found here. There’s vegan ethics in Doctor Who, zombie genomics and even more Star Wars. Happy geeking.


Great European adventure: Part Három & Vier – Budapest and Brussels

At the end of the last post about the Great European Adventure, me and Beth were still in Poland. To get Budapest, which is in Hungary for you geography scholars, we had to get to the airport. There’s a train to the airport, so we packed up our stuff and made it to the railway station in plenty of time. And that’s when the fun started.

When we got to the railway station, we had no idea what train we needed to get other than the fact it went to the airport. So we duly went to the ticket office to ask for tickets to the airport. Turned out the woman working the desk was the first person we talked to in Warsaw who didn’t speak any English. She directed us, or so we thought, to a taxi help centre across the main concourse of the station. We hurry over, and ask the lovely people there if they could help us. They did speak English, and told us to go to the newsagents in the middle of the railway station. At this point, me and Beth were pretty sure something had got lost in translation, but we went across and lo and behold, to buy tickets to get to the airport you have to go to the newsagents. Perfect sense when there’s at least a dozen ticket desks… But the woman behind the counter was very lovely and helpful, even when I confused her. So yes, we eventually managed to get tickets and get on to the train and get to the airport and yes. The Polish section of the Great European Adventure had been successfully completed – onto Budapest!


The Hungarian parliament, side on.

When we got to Budapest, we picked up our Budapest cards. The Budapest card, for a mere 30 ish  euros, let us use all public transport free for 72 hours, as well as get us into some of the museums and Baths for free/reduced rate. Basically, it was great. Definitely worth it. After we’d picked up our magic cards, we headed towards our hostel. We were staying at the Bebop Apartments and after thoroughly confusing the guy who checked us in because he couldn’t decide if me and Beth were a couple, we were in Budapest, in a beautiful hostel, which had the most ridiculous bunk beds.


Beth proving she could stand up on the top of the upper bunkbed and not hit her head.

With the rest of our day, we decided to head into the city centre, because any time you’re not exploring the new city you’re in is just wasted, right? And we were in Budapest centre for about, ooh, twenty minutes and decided we didn’t ever want to leave.


St Stephens, looking beautiful in the setting sun

We spent a long while wandering round the outside of St Stephens Basilica, which was beautiful and then we ended up at the Danube, listening to a band, which included a washboard, play jazz. As the sun started to set. It was just…pure magic. I swear there were sparkles in the air.


Music in the streets is the best.

We had a wander along the chain bridge, marvelled at the parliament building, and just generally soaked up the city. We ended up at a place called Lizt Square for food, which is an area that has roughly a bazillion and one restaurants. It’s right next to a hexagonal traffic light system. I know this, because we walked all round it until we found where we were looking for.


Me on the chain bridge. We did not cross it as many times as me and Maddie crossed the Charles Bridge in Prague.

The second day, the first thing we did was head for the Baths. Budapest is famous for its baths. My last experience of public baths was in Japan and that was segregated by gender and involved a lot of nudity. Budapest baths, on the other hand, are non segregated and swimming costumes are required.  We went to the Lukacs Baths which we got into free thanks to our Budapest cards. Once inside, we headed straight for the thermal baths. If there’s a special order to which pools you go in, we didn’t crack it. It was really chill, just hanging out. There were a lot of OAPs there, but we weren’t the only young people. It was awesome.


Anywhere that signposts wifi is my kind of place.

Leaving was a wrench, but when you’ve basically become a prune, what’re you going to do? We headed back to the hostel to dump our stuff, before combing the streets to find somewhere to buy food. It took us longer than you would have thought, but we managed it, then headed to the Buda side of Budapest (we were staying in Pest). We hit up a park for a picnic and finally, when Beth persuaded me to move, we walked up to the castle.


Look at the pretties.

I am not the fittest of people. And I hate stairs. And I’m sure Beth will happily tell you just how long it took me to get up to the castle (Answer: far too long). But, it was worth it. Despite there being tons of roadworks going on within the castle complex, it was amazing. It looked like Hogwarts. And they had an icecream shop. And did I mention how beautiful it was?


See? Hogwarts.

That evening we ended up back at Lizt Square for food, because as I mentioned it has a billion restaurants. And after that we went to one of the coolest pubs I’ve ever been to.


Fairy lights, glitterballs and washing lines. An weirdly good mix.

Szimpla Kert is one of many ruin bars in Budapest. Essentially, it’s a pub in an abandoned warehouse. But it’s a warehouse strung with fairy lights, decorated with random furniture and junk. I mean, one of the seats was a bath.  It was a lot of fun hanging out there.


And I thought trees were meant to grow upwards.

On the third day we decided we were gonna get up at a time that allowed us to outside while it was relatively cool, because with the temperature pushing 40 degrees, we were finding it a little difficult to function by the time midday hit. That’s 40 Celsius for anyone who’s think 40F doesn’t sound warm at all. So we headed to Heroes Square, a place that had been described to us as the most beautiful place in Budapest.


Heroes Square is perfectly fine.

No offense to whoever thinks that but I disagree. I mean, it’s not ugly, but if I wanted monuments and pillars I’d go to Trafalgar Square. And when the rest of Budapest is so beautiful, why pick Heroes Square as the best?

We had a wander, but our main purpose for being there was the art museum at the side. But when we got there, all exhibitions were closed except for the one you had to pay for. So we turned tail and headed to the other side of the city in search of the contemporary art gallery.

I have to take a moment here, and if Beth’s reading this, she knows what I’m about to rant about. The guide to the city we had was in Hungarian and English. Which was super useful as we don’t speak Hungarian. And it labelled this Gallery as being in the “Whale” shopping centre. Which we couldn’t find. Wandering in the midday heat had been exactly what we’d been hoping to avoid. And there we were. Searching for this gallery. It turns out that the Shopping centre is the “Balna” shopping centre. Which was prominently displayed on the outside. Balna means whale. Whatever translator thought translating the name of a shopping centre was a good idea, was wrong. So very wrong. Grrr.


Two very happy, slightly sunburnt, friends.

But we had a lovely time in the air conditioned gallery and then we headed to the Kiraly Baths, which were exponentially fancier than the Lukacs baths the day before. Of course, they weren’t free, but it was definitely worth the whole five ish pounds. There were the standard different heated pools, including the main one that was under a dome with holes in the ceiling so that through the steam (and my steamed up glasses) it looked like stars. Beth made me go in the cold pool. Word to the wise: don’t go from a 40 ish degree pool to a 15/25 isg degree pool. Don’t do it. There was also a hot tub and a Jacuzzi and at least two saunas. It was so good.

After lounging at the Baths for hours, we went back to the hostel, ‘cause thanks to the temperature pushing 40 degrees, we both felt a bit weird. So we hung out at the hostel till I got cooler and Beth learnt to juggle. And then we headed out for food. We ended up eating right next to St Stephans basilica and it was a lovely way to end our time in Budapest.

Budapest was amazing. Beth described it as “A city men would go to war for”, and I feel like that’s fairly accurate. I’ve yet to meet anyone who’s been and didn’t love it. It was amazing, and I’d really recommend going if you get the chance. Because it’s just…magical. And you’re basically obliged to lounge in warm water for long amounts of time – what could be better?

The next day we were meant to be undertaking a 13 hour train journey from Budapest to Ilmenau, via Dresden and Erfurt. Unfortunately, while we were on a train for over 13 hours, it was massively delayed and the first train that should have taken us 9 hours to get to Dresden, in fact took 13+. We managed to get on a train to Leipzig but that was where we had to stop because there were no more trains until the morning.


By the time we’d been on the train for 8 hours, we put all of the seats down to make a giant bed.

It wasn’t so bad. We had a compartment to ourselves, and even though for this train journey it was a second class compartment, it was actually a first class, so it was super comfortable. Staying in Leipzig wasn’t exactly my idea of ideal, but we found a hotel and the lady on the front desk complimented my German and we had a chat about Ilmenau because her best friend lives there.


Always time for one last Spaghetti Eis.

The next day we made it back to Ilmenau and had a wander. Then my Dad turned up to drive us back to the UK. Have I mentioned that my Dad’s lovely? And we didn’t go straight back to England though. We had a day in Brussels.


On my last night there, I made it to the Robot Bar in Ilmenau.

One thing I would say about Brussels is that their tourist attractions all have mascots. Who insist you have photos taken with them. It was a little unnerving. We went to the Atominum which was pretty cool, even if me and Beth can’t say it’s name. At all. If you’re at school in Brussels, or I assume anywhere, you can have a sleepover in one of the balls. Me and Beth were pretty sad to find out we weren’t eligible.


The Atominuimiumium.

We also went to Mini Europe, which has mini representations of important landmarks of the members of the EU. That was pretty cool, especially when I got to see landmarks from the countries I’d been in the previous two weeks.


Mini Berlin! Complete with Berlin Wall…

The next day we walked to see the EU building, which is quite shiny. Unfortunately, we were a day early for the opening of the visitor’s centre, so we got in the car and finished the drive home. Which marked not only the end of the Great European Adventure but my Year Abroad as well. At the time I was too tired for that to really sink in. But now, writing this six months later, it seems so surreal to think that I lived in Germany for 9 months. It seems so long ago now! But that is a post for another time. Hope you enjoyed the Great European Adventure. I know I did.


We’re the coolest.


Pottering Around

I am a huge Harry Potter fan. So much so that at Nottingham, I’m a member of the Quidditch and Harry Potter society and was even on the committee during my second year. Despite this, last summer I realised I hadn’t actually read the books in a very long time. So the month before I moved to Germany I reread books 1-3. However, I didn’t bring the others with me. This led to me buying Harry Potter und der Feuerkelch in my first few weeks in Ilmenau. I have finally finished it. (Considering I read Deathly Hallows in roughly four hours, six months for the Goblet of Fire is somewhat impressive.)

Obviously, the majority of the world knows about Harry Potter, so I’m not going to review it or anything like that. I am, however, going to talk about certain things that tickled my fancy whilst reading it in German. There are probably spoilers. Beware.

1. Hermione is called Hermine in German. I’m not entirely sure why it’s changed, maybe Hermine is German for Hermione. All I know is that every time I read it, I hear the part from A Very Potter Sequel where Ron and Harry are searching for Hermione in the shrieking shack and cannot get her name right. (You can find it here, at about 4:02-4.20)

2. Buckbeck is called Seidenschnabel, which is a fantastic sounding word. According to Google translate it means silken beak, so is not a direct translation. But awesome sounding nonetheless.

3. The German for remembrall is erinnermich, which means remind me/remember me. Pretty accurate translation of remembrall if you ask me.

4. I always wondered how punny names got translated into other languages. For example, The Knight Bus. Turns out in German, The Knight Bus is the Fahrender Ritter, which means the travelling Knight. Guess that pun didn’t really translate so well.

5.  One of the important parts of Harry Potter are the fantastic beasts (and where to find them). I always figured most mythological creatures were called the same in every language, but I am an idiot. I did, however, realise that some creatures would have to have new names because JK Rowling made them up. Like, Boggart. [Edit: I’ve been reliably informed that Boggarts existed in folklore before Harry Potter. Apologies for my mistake.] I did some googling and Irrlicht means will o’ the wisp in German. I feel like that’s probably the route of the German for Irrwicht, which is Boggart.

6. Die Kammer des Schreckens is the Chamber of Secrets. Seeing as secrets is Geheimnisse, I was surprised, but I feel like Chamber of Horrors makes more sense for a place that is home to a giant, terrifying snake. (If the Basilisk didn’t scare you, you’re probably a Gryffindor.)

7. Die Karte des Rumtreibers is the Marauders‘ map. According to my favourite dictionary site, Rumtreibers is not a word that exists in German. So yes.

8. Speaking of the marauders, Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs are Moony, Wurmschwanz, Tatze and Krone. Which is Moony, Wormtail, Paw and Crown. Don’t tell James Potter. His head’s big enough as it is.

9. Whilst on the subject of nicknames, Sirius Black is often referred to as snuffles in Book 4. In German this is Schnuffel. Which sounds way more cutsey and amuses me greatly.

9. So seeing as Tom Marvolo Riddle spells out I am Lord Voldemort (seriously, how bored was Voldemort when he figured that out?), his name has to change in other languages. In German, he becomes Tom Vorlost Riddle. Still sounds pretty made up bad ass to me.

10. Mudblood becomes Schlammblut as a direct translation.

11. Schuleulen means school owls and Eulerei means owlery. Nothing remarkable about this except they are fantastic sounding words in German.

12. Talking of fantastic words, wizards pack of cards becomes Zauberschnippschnappacken in German. Gotta love the German compound nouns.

13. Goblet of Fire begins to show the Wizarding community as an international world, which means reading dialogue by Krum and Fleur, as accented German. It’s fantastic. Reading French and Bulgarian accented German is super odd, but amazing as well.

14. Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans are Bertie Botts bohnen jeder Geschmacksrichtung, which makes me want to bemoan the lack of alliteration, but they’re not exactly fully alliterative in English either.

15. Pensieve is German is das Denkarium. Personally, I prefer the German, but I think that’s mainly because I can say it. Unlike the English which has me tripping over the knots in my tongue.


When I Grow Up

I wanna be famous, I wanna be a star, I wanna be in movies… Wait, no, that’s The Pussycat Dolls. When I grow up, I want… Well, I don’t know.
When I was a kid I wanted to be a teacher. That was the plan. Then I realised I never ever want to work in a secondary school and that there were a plethora of jobs out there that I’d never heard of. That realisation came when I was about 16/17, Just in time to start applying for university. Skipping over the myriad of reasons that led to me applying for straight honours German (that’s a blog post for another time), I am now in my third year at university with no better idea of what I want to do. Except not teaching.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my current job. I like working with kids and I enjoy standing at the front, talking about different things. But I don’t want to go from school to university and then straight back to school. And a PGCE would mean another year at university, which I have no interest in. Also, the fact that everyone assumes I want to teach because I study a language has put me off somewhat. Why not assume I want to be a spy? Language skills, check. Being able to bluff your way through conversations without knowing anything, check. Ginger hair, check. I’m practically Black Widow already.

I’d like to work with words – English, German, Elvish, I don’t care. Every language has its own complexities and if I could spend my professional life grappling with that in any capacity, I would be a happy Kat. I guess the obvious place to start is publishing. Or translation. Or both. I mean, one of my favourite books (The Thirteen and a Half lives of Captain Blue Bear by Walter Moers) is German in origin.

Ah well, we shall see. For now, when people ask me what I want to do with my life I guess I’ll just have to go with the spy thing. Or singing Pussycat Dolls. One of the two.


The Cosmopolitan Life

Today we went to Ikea. And just so you know, Ikea in Germany is exactly the same as Ikea in England. Even down to the menu in the restaurant. So if you ever decide to go to Germany because you think the Ikeas will be different, don’t bother.

This means my huge room (I promise to do a dedicated blog about my room when I have internet in my flat, which at the moment I am sorely lacking) is now full of stuff. And also packing from the stuff.

But shopping aside, the other thing I did today was hang out with my headteacher and her family. We went to a tower in the middle of the forest in order to have the sweetest cola I have ever had (yes, I wrote cola. No coke in Deutschland.) and to climb the tower for the view.


And then once we’d exhausted ourselves climbing to the top of the tower, we headed to the headteacher’s house for the evening. Thüringen bratwurst and brötchen were the order of the day, and much talking with the headteacher and her family (husband, son and daughter), the next door neighbour, and the school secretary and her husband.

Now to explain, my family don’t speak any German and most of the people round the table didn’t speak English. But somehow we muddled through, and I ended up doing an awful lot of translation, German to English and English to German. But it was fun, and it was a really nice evening. So this year’s not looking too scary now.