But how would you know happiness if you’d never known misery?

It’s nearly enough to make me never want to go on holiday again – the spike in misery that signals return to work. A mean – if a didn’t stop working there’d just be this eternal, low level disgruntlement. Not this wee smiling holiday happiness that gets the big Glasgow kiss of reality.

A jist feel trauchled. Trammeled. Tuckered.

Germany was familiar enough to feel like ‘real life’. If I’m honest, the red brick was more English than my home. But there was a straightforwardness that felt honest and refreshing. Aside from my shame that I have no German – felt intensely when forced to ask in fucking English (not Scots – but that is a whole other ragin’ big rammie I’ve been having with my thrawn 4th wain – something that I need to write out at another time) if they could speak English (of course they could ffs – only us island English-speaking folk think bilingualism is a waste of our valuable time) – the interactions were genuine. Folk went out of their way to be kind and thoughtful. They were curious. They asked where we came from. They loved the accent. But then, M says it’s the accent that secured her the Tindr conquests – she was seen as exotic. And that makes me laugh so loud. Us! Exotic! No way!

Who would want to leave a city (Hannover) where the streets are clean and ordinary folk just use ordinary bikes as a means of transport (not a fucking specialist sport involving showing off and lycra and ludicrous arse-padding)? Where public transport actually takes you where you want to go – and does it easily, smoothly, without fuss, trusting you to have bought your ticket? Where the Rathaus looks like this  (and we walked to it most days we were there – and sat on the grass in front and ooohed and aaahed over baby ducks and soaked up the sun)? And the Sprengel simply exists? And the Maschsee – ahhhh, the Maschsee…in the sun and with the Festival in full throw and the long beautiful walk around its perimeter…

I drove to Hamburg – and was overwhelmed by its size and the beauty of it and the diversity of its people and the political marches and demonstrations and the canals! The canals! Who’d have thought a city could have so many waterways – without being called Venice. Plus the shopping and the city style (peculiarly mainly of the men) made Meg and me salivate. They had a Cos store. A huge beautiful Cos store. And it was sale time in the Cos store.

I drove to Lüneburg (exquisite) and Celle (compact and bijoux and pretty) and Goslar (ahhhh Goslar…nestled down in the Hartz mountains like a Nicolas Roeg set from a flashback scene in The Witches) and Braunschweig (with the pretty rebuilt ‘old town’) and Bückeburg with its castle and…

If this is the product of a mindful, very conscious repentance then that repentance has worked. It continues to work. For folk my age there is the ever present memory of a Nazi past. It’s in the names of the towns we visited and loved. It’s in the quiet, solemn unsentimental dignity of the Bergen-Belsen memorial. It’s in the occasional Rathaus architecture; the Nazi art of the fackelträger and it’s in the guilt (yes, guilt) that the clearly rebuilt cities trigger with memories of the (surely illegal) carpet firebombing aimed at obliterating German culture.

Dresden is a city still suffering reconstruction. Gap sites advertise allied bombing raids – and Communist poverty and underinvestment. Leipzig looks more affluent – but is nowhere near as wealthy looking as Hamburg or Hannover.

In Leipzig we stayed at the Steigenberger  in a Junior Suite that was so luxurious we didn’t want to leave. In Dresden we were in the Bayerischer Hof. In between we were in a variety of airbnbs. Some feeling more familiar than others. So in Praha 4 (familiar) we had almost-Glaswegian corporation concrete – with burnt out Ford Ka parked outside. And in Hannover we had upper-middleclass Jugendstil.

We were wined and dined by M’s flatmate’s parents. We ate out every night – sampling every conceivable cuisine. We enjoyed (loved) the wheat beer. We walked everywhere – and couldn’t believe the Eilenreide – oh lucky lucky Hanoverians…

Yes. It was a good summer.

So why the fuck am I surprised to be feeling like I’ve one big fat dark holiday hangover? You’d need to be one masochistic nutjob to be wholly happy to be back here. With the immersion in the never-ending misery of folks’ problems and the legal solution seeking that accompanies it. And the litany of family funerals and new cancers.

Dad goes in on Thursday for his skin cancer op. He’ll be fine. I think. I hope. I don’t know. But he better be. Be fine.

Evan’s going to drive him – Dad wants ‘no fuss’.

I’m worried about Mum. Though she’ll be fine too. I know she will.

In the meantime I’ve identified the big hoose I want for my 50th next year – and I’ve sent the booking request for 3 nights in June. It sleeps 16. My whole beautiful mad infuriating family can come. They’ve all said they will be there. The kids and my Maw n Paw and my Bro and sister-in-law and their two wee ones. And a couple of the kids’ partners.

Best present ever – to have us all together: fighting and laughing and being really really noisy all together. I’m wishing my life away – but I really am looking forward to it.


3 thoughts on “But how would you know happiness if you’d never known misery?

    • Thanks. I will definitely have a look. It’s where R and I had got ourselves to – that there might be a working life elsewhere. I suspect the greater difficulty would be R’s – a combo of his awkward age (54) and the fact that he is a Headteacher of a secondary school and has the good salary and big pension that would be hard to match. He could likely freeze his pension – or, if the Council was offering early packages to go, perhaps take something like that. There are English speaking/International schools – he’s got French but no German. I’ve just sent an application for Spanish language courses at Strathclyde Uni – accelerated degree modules that should get me to B1 language fluency. I reckon it’s best to build on existing language knowledge before trying another… though I have some French I could also improve (and would probably be more helpful if it’s Brussels).
      I think you are right – Germany really is the best country (if you’re white etc). I am feeling very positive about Megan living/working there.
      Re Mum and Dad – they are soaking up the sun today and seem very relaxed. What more can I ask 🙂

      • There are public bilingual schools in Germany that operate mostly in English as far as the language of tuition goes, but I can tell you already that he would need to be teaching at a private school, despite all his qualifications and experience, unless he has C2 German. Otherwise the states won’t even consider it.

        The way the system works here, though, is that there are private bilingual schools that are not really international schools – the tuition is way less so they aren’t so economically rarified, and don’t have that weird cult-y shit around them that demands sacrificing evenings and weekends to the glory of the expat children.

        A lot of the international organizations here operate almost completely in English . . . German is a nice bonus, like other languages, but not necessarily expected or requested.

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