Fast cars

Nurburgring_lap Yesterday evening we popped over to a friends house for a birthday party. The trip to the party involved a drive on one of Germany’s autobahns, a wonderful motorway system where speed limits do not exist. There is something fairly frightening about this - high spec vehicles whizz pass like fighter jets at over 200km/h. You are veritably encouraged to perform any overtaking manoeuvres rapidly and to scurry out of the fast lane as fast as you possibly can so people with real cars can get to their destinations on time, whilst you bobble along at a pedestrian 130km/h, wheel shaking with the effort.

Surviving the autobahn aside, I can also report that my German is not massively improving, in fact some would suggest it has not improved at all. I was responsible for navigating us the sixty or so kilometres to the party location, a bit of a challenge what with the Google Maps instructions being printed out in German, but I did learn on the way that we live pretty close to the Nürburgring. Which was nice. Legendary race tracks and minor diversions down tiny side roads aside (in the name of exploration, naturally), we succeeded in our mission to get to the party, mostly on time. Hurrah.

At the party, I learnt that there are some advantages to being a non native speaker of the local language. For example, you can happily avoid that bug bear of mine, largely involving small talk. I think I’ve mentioned it (well, whined about it) before, what with the travelling thing, and the scenario is the same when you meet new people at a social event, it’s just that the questions change slightly. Instead of the travellers favourite of where have you been / where are you going, small talk in more polite society involves quizzes about what you do and where you are from. The problem currently is that my answers to both of those questions are largely empty of helpful meaning, and the result is that the conversation can often rapidly tail away if desperate measures to steer it on a correct course are not taken. Still, I am able to share a top tip - if you want to avoid small talk, put an unsurpassable language barrier in the way.

Don’t, however, get the impression that I am no longer my usual sociable self. The party we attended last night was certainly good. The food and beer in particular were of the highest quality, and I made friends with a chap for whom the punk movement was clearly still very much au fait. I want you to think bright pink mohawk and multiple piercings. He seemed incredibly bored, and as I had complemented his hair, we chatted. Admittedly as neither of us could really speak the others language, the conversation was largely sign based, but I learnt how you achieve that spikey mohawk look (sugar water it turns out). Sadly the conversation stalled after I enquired about football, he didn’t have an interest, and I had run out of hair based conversation.

Speaking of football, I managed to miss the first half of the England / USA game. I did find a TV set at around the half way mark, where I discovered that the game was a 1-1 tie, and therefore I had to watch the second half, party be damned. The party was not full of people who were overly interested in watching England play terribly, in fact only one other person took a passing interest, and he watched bemused as the chaps in white all failed in the primary mission of getting the ball thing into the net thing. I think perhaps the most interesting part of the game was the facial hair on one of the American players.

Tonight is the Germany / Australia game, and having concluded that England are unlikely to be raising the cup anytime soon, I have decided I may as well expand my support to other nations for whom the queen’s birthday is still an important day. So I expect to be lynched later on tonight as I cheer Australia on to an inevitable victory. Football punditry is not going to be a career move for me I suspect.

Finally, if you have made it this far through my ramblings, here is your reward. It’s not much of a reward, some in fact would not see it as that at all, but what can you do. Anyway, if for some reason you are sitting at home with a peculiar hankering for a surreal journey through the Nevada desert with guitar playing samurais and Death, check this out. As always, continue to enjoy yourselves.

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