Not just for leaplings and not marrying five year olds revisited

  
Although it’s not a holiday, Leap Day is one of my favourite days of the year. Call it scarcity. Point your accusatory finger at me and remind me that it’s just another day of drudgery…nothing to get excited about.

Go ahead. You won’t temper my exuberance. It’s not that easy to do so anyway.

First let’s talk about why we even have Leap Day, and I’m going to let The Straight Dope do the honours when it comes to explaining this one in Why do we have leap years? The simplest explanation I can offer? A year isn’t actually 365 days, but roughly 365 1/4 days. If you didn’t add that day every four years, Christmas would inch earlier toward the solstice…in 200 or so years Yuletide would be in the middle of autumn, which come to think of it is when retail establishments already start celebrating it.

My friend Denise sent me a link about Leap Day traditions. Though I knew about the tradition of women asking men to marry them on this day, I didn’t know the history. And I quote:

‘According to an old Irish legend, or possibly history, St Bridget struck a deal with St Patrick to allow women to propose to men – and not just the other way around – every 4 years. This is believed to have been introduced to balance the traditional roles of men and women in a similar way to how Leap Day balances the calendar.’

Doubt that one day’s going to balance anything much less traditional gender roles, but I suppose this isn’t hurting anyone. Well, except the poor schmucks who get cornered by their ladies. Here’s what I think about all of this (that is why you come here, after all):

If you really need to rely on such a convoluted tradition to get up the nerve to ask your man, you might be much more clueless than even you realised. Look, I know gender roles aren’t always easy to manoeuvre. And some women would never dream of asking a man out on a date – much less to ‘do me the honour’ and all that.

But if that’s your position, why does this one day every four years suspend the normal rules? That’s illogical.

Nevertheless, there is something alluring about one day somehow suspended outside of convention. And to go back to how I started all of this, maybe it’s the scarcity. The fact that this day only comes every four years. It does feel like something extraordinary. Even without the perfunctory marriage proposals.

What about people born on this day? What’s to be done with them? They have a name, you know? They’re called Leaplings. Nice, eh? Sounds so celebratory.

I knew a girl in school who was born on 29 February. We were all 20, while she was celebrating her fifth birthday. You’d think the jokes about liquoring up a minor would get old that night. You’d be absolutely right. The jokes were dreadful. But make them we did. Had she known about the tradition of proposing marriage on Leap Day, I’m sure she would’ve had her revenge then and there.

I know what I would’ve said.

‘I don’t care how well she holds her liquor, I’m not marrying a five-year old.’

Missives from this corner of Old Europe

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Light on the River Isar that runs through Munich

For quite some time, I’ve intended to change the tagline on this personal blog. I’m not certain how long it’s been, but it might’ve been from back when I started that if you clicked on my site, you’d see:

pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

It was an allusion to the Wizard of Oz, as well as a commentary on the way in which each of us creates our persona online. Essentially, I was saying: read my thoughts here, but please don’t expend any energy looking backstage.

I’ve chosen to live in a country that takes privacy very seriously. Because of Germany’s complicated history with the government surreptitiously observing its citizens, there is a genuine desire to ensure users ability to control how much of their private lives they display. It’s easy to be cynical about such a position, and my friends who work in cyber security would quickly insist that most of what we think of as online privacy is an illusion. However, I continue to respect the lengths to which they go to keep fighting the proverbial good fight. Europeans in general and Germans in particular are earnest about this. Quite commendable, if you were to ask me.

Yet the above tagline no longer works for me. It’s no longer the message I want to get across here. Not remotely. Instead, I’ve decided to take on an entirely new position. Frequently some event will happen hereabouts and I’ll receive queries along the lines of, ‘What in the world is going on over there?

My response is to write this blog as a meta answer to that exact question. The new tagline:

Missives from this corner of Old Europe

Implied in this is my eagerness to take on whatever questions you might have. If you read something here that you’d like to know more about, say something in the comments or drop me a line via email.

Hope you enjoy the new direction, and I’m already looking forward to some lively exchanges.

Happy Eleventh Birthday Ella and Louis…there’s a celebratory Schweinsohr in it for you

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Is this really what eleven looks like?

Well aware that this isn’t the best photo I have of Ella and Louis, I’m  bit pressed for time. See, it’s their birthday and I’ve been rattling on about these exquisite hounds via social media and responding to queries about them from people who haven’t been following them for years. Which is hard to believe if you think about it.

Numerous people have told me they started reading my stuff only after getting pulled in by images of those two red dogs.

If I wrote a blogpost about them every time they touched my heart, this would be a blog devoted entirely to the smart one and her less than bright brother. That’s all I’d talk about, and there could even be a number of you who’d prefer that anyway.

Here’s the thing, though: how do you get across just how important these two are to me? How might I adequately express why I get choked up at the thought of anything happening to either one of them? The people who are already nuts about dogs already get it. I could write this for them, and they’d nod their heads and insist this is a perfectly reasonable passion for nonhuman beings.

That’s too easy for the likes of me. Instead, I’d love to find the right words to even win over those who shake their heads and say, ‘Why would anyone devote so much time and attention to such creatures? It’s just a dog, after all.

Just a dog? I know. Why would I want to reach such a person in the first place? Good point. I often say to myself that these two give so much more than they take. Once again, that’s only going to make sense to the already converted. Preaching to the proverbial choir, as it were.

I even want to persuade cat people about these two. I know, I’m mad. Truly off my rocker.

So, Ella’s sitting behind me as I sit at my desk writing about them, and she just gave me a look that said, ‘You see the irony of blathering on about how much you love us, but here we are NOT GOING OUTSIDE, which is all we really want. You do see that, right?

Yes, Ella. I get it. It’s time to go out. Has been for a while.

For those of you who see a photo of Ella and Louis and insist that you want MOAR photos in addition to the one I just shared, today’s for you too. I’ll stumble over to other platforms and do some unrepentant spreading of the canine adoration.

Happy Eleventh Birthday, you two. There’s a celebratory Schweinsohr in it for you.

Avoiding the Dancing Plague while in Strasbourg

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A quick jaunt through Strasbourg on the way home with my mother in tow, and this was one of the nicer shots I got. What a beautiful city that due to its history has all the trappings of a French metropolis while still heavily influenced by its German past.

Oh, and I found something curious on the Wikipedia page, which I thought I’d share here:

‘In July 1518, an incident known as the Dancing Plague of 1518 struck residents of Strasbourg. Around 400 people were afflicted with dancing mania and danced constantly for weeks, most of them eventually dying from heart attack, stroke or exhaustion.

That doesn’t sound very good, does it? We were somehow able to avoid just such a predicament while we were in Strasbourg. Somehow.

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Goethe’s dapper collection of well trimmed bums

 
Have walked by this statue countless times, normally at night, and never paid much attention to who it was. 

Sure enough it’s Goethe. Who?

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. You know him, right? 

I associate him with Weimar. I’ve written about him elsewhere, and I’m sure I could riff on him here if I put my mind to it. 

But here in Munich? There is a Goethe Platz, but this statue is nowhere near that. And Goethe Straße cuts right through the Bahnhofviertel (train station quarter)…so there are things here named after the guy, but why his statue looking over this little park right off of Sonnenstraße?  
Wonder what the old guy would have thought were he actually looking down upon the park on this unseasonably warm day in Munich. 

There were a few people sleeping rough in the middle of the day. That was less than inspiring. 

One or two suits were taking a break from their nearby office jobs. 

And the most curious thing on display at the feet of Uncle Johann? There was a barber offering free shaves to the homeless. No, I’m not making this up.

I watched him saunter up to a park bench full of ne’er-do-wells and he politely introduced himself as a professional of the hair cutting arts. The disdain that they’d first greeted him with quickly disappeared. 

Without hearing their exact words, one ragamuffin spoke for the whole bench. ‘Let me get this straight,’ his body language communicated. ‘You want to give each of us a shave? Free of charge? Just out of the kindness of your heart?’

That was it. 

No tricks. No bait and switch. 

What only a short time before had been a motley crew was oddly transformed. I imagined Goethe smiling wryly as I walked away from his dapper collection of well trimmed bums. 

On the lookout for just such a thing

 

St. Christopher with the blessing of the Christ child

As long as I’ve lived here, I still regularly turn a corner and see something that I’d not noticed before. For example, this sculpture outside of the Scheidplatz U- Bahn station looked completely new to me when I passed it the other day. Grizzly guy with some sort of little person sitting on his shoulder. Wonder where they’re off to. 

One of the curious aspects of living in a place where so many tourists regularly visit is that it can be rather easy to take the city’s beauty for granted. Someone comes to visit & you think, ‘What on earth am I going to show them?‘ 

Soon enough, you remind yourself that a walk through your daily routine would be interesting for someone who’s not here year round. Something I’ve enjoyed about getting this blog back off the ground is that I can introduce some of you to places you might not otherwise see or experience. 

Perhaps the locals reading can even be reintroduced to a few gems hiding right under our noses. I’m always on the lookout for just such a thing. 

no matter what wanderlust comes upon me

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Ella at Vogelsang above Bayrischzell

The sun has made an appearance after a long winter, and it’s time to go outside.

If you know anything about my dogs Ella and Louis, you know that means we’ll be going up up up. They love to hike in the Alps, and I don’t blame them.

In the last few days, I’ve heard multiple people remark on how fortunate we are to live when and where we do. Although I know not all of you are situated in the Bavarian capital, I can assure you that part of the point of this blog is to give you a glimpse of what it’s like here.

Having recounted it many times, I almost feel it’s unnecessary. However, some of my readers are new, and others haven’t been here for a long while, so here goes:

I lived here as a small child and as far back as I can remember, I desperately wanted to return. There are plenty of other beautiful places here in Germany, but no matter what wanderlust comes upon me, it’s back home in Munich that I find myself.

'A Hund ist er scho...'

‘A Hund ist er scho…’