Before the battle at work went into full swing this week, Mr Esther, two college friends of ours and I went away for the weekend. We do this every year, we visit a Christmas market somewhere in Germany, sometimes we’ll spend a night in a hotel there as well. Last year we went to Trier (we had snow then, no sign of snow this year). This year Mr Esther thought Paderborn would be nice. We booked a hotel and off we went on Saturday morning.
Paderborn turned out to be smaller than we had expected it to be. It was nice, but most of the Christmas market seemed to be food and drink stalls, with too few arts and crafts and Christmas stuff stalls. It was fine but not really worth the 3.5 hour drive. Still, we had a nice time…
After walking around there in the afternoon we checked into our hotel, freshened up and then went out for a dinner (found a Mexican place) before tasting the evening atmosphere of the Christmas market…
We got some Gühwein (a warm red wine served in cups) at the market (my one friend who barely ever drinks alcohol got a little tipsy from that which cracked the rest of us up) and spent a little time in a café before heading back to the hotel again. We decided that the next day we would travel on to the German town of Soest (not to be confused with the Dutch town of the same name) and see if the Christmas market there was more cosy.
Soest turned out to be a really nice little place, we liked it better than Paderborn. It had some lovely restored half-timbered (Fachwerk) houses…
One such house had apparently been restored during World War II after (as it said on the plaque) it had been destroyed by enemy aircraft (“durch feindliche Flieger zerstört”) in 1940.
The house still had some Nazi symbolism on it (a swastika and the “Reichsadler” – an eagle – used a lot by the Nazis), probably put there during the restoration in the early 1940s. Unlike the other symbols on the house, there was no colour on them to highlight them, but they were definitely there if you looked closely…
History, even dark history, not erased but preserved.
This Christmas market was a very nice cosy one, you could even follow Christmas trees to get to a part of it!
There were enough Christmas stuff stalls…
Inside one of the churches they had set up this huge tableau for Christmas that you could walk around and look at from all angles…
And one shop even sold some Dinner for One merchandise!
For those outside Germany, Dinner forOne will probably not be known. It’s a 10 minute funny sketch originally performed on German TV in the 1960s and it’s (I think still) shown every year on TV for New Year’s Eve:
When I lived in Germany as a teenager we used to watch this (and love this) as a family every year. Every year we celebrate Christmas together with my mother and those siblings of mine who happen to be in the country. This year I’m bringing Dinner for One themed napkins to the family Christmas party. 🙂
Anyway, Soest was lovely…
In the afternoon we stopped for hot chocolate and cheescake and waffles… … and on our way home we stopped in a Dutch city for a sushi dinner (blurry pic, sorry! We were more focussed on eating than taking pictures)…
… arriving home again at around 10 pm.
The kids went shopping with my mom and had dinner with her on Saturday but insisted on being at home alone for the rest of the weekend. First time we ever left them alone like that (they’re 17 and almost 1 5 now) and it went well. They ordered pizza on Sunday evening and were almost sorry to see us come home again and disturb their peace.
After two days of war at work, I make myself think back to this past fun weekend. It makes me realize there are more important things in the world than work and I’m thankful that I have that!
I think I may have to watch Star Trek Nemesis once again, I barely remember what it’s exactly about, but while thinking about work, Jean-Luc Picard’s “All hands battle stations” and “Brace for impact” echoed in my head. While searching those keywords this morning I came across the two clips above and I find they illustrate perfectly what’s been going on at work these past few days.
The micro-manager battle has commenced and is in full swing. I just wish I had as much command of my emotions as Captain Picard has (I tear up easily). Today I have the day off. We’ll see what tomorrow brings!
So, new selfie from Richard. He’s recording (yet another) audio book… lacklustre sigh… the smile in the selfie is a little forced.. another lacklustre sigh… but a much more a positive sigh escaped me when I saw him wearing another turtleneck sweater! I’m quite partial to turtlenecks, gushed once before about Richard wearing one, looking like this…
Yeah, he looked a little pale and tired but I still loved the look. Then a few months ago we got this turtleneck picture that was to die for…
… and then yesterday he shared this one on Twitter…
So yeah, the smile looks off but oh my goodness, he looks so nice in a turtleneck! I can never get Mr Esther to wear turtlenecks (he hates them), so I just have to gush extra over Richard now. 🙂
So, Berlin Station season 3 is here. I haven’t watched it myself yet, but I know a few other fans already have (Servetus’s first impressions including spoilers here, I haven’t read it yet). I am curious to watch it, as I know that Richard Armitage is looking impossibly handsome in season 3….
I tend to dream… a lot. I don’t always remember my dreams but I remember them often enough. A few years ago I even blogged about a vivid one I had involving my dad and Richard Armitage. Mr Esther is often surprised at how much I seem to remember from my dreams. When a month ago the newest ‘Mach was’ theme was announced as ‘Do something with dreams’, I figured that by the time the deadline came around I’d probably have some silly dream or dreams to blog about. I was right. Herba sent a reminder for the ‘Mach was’ theme and I read that reminder right after a very eventful dream night. Thus the idea for this post was born.
In times of troubles, I tend to escape to easy fare now and again and find myself watching Hallmark movies. I have blogged about them before and while I don’t binge them like I did two years ago when I posted about them, I do see a fair share of them. Now that Christmas is edging closer, the Hallmark Channel is screening Christmas movies (oh my goodness, Hallmark completely adores Christmas!) and after watching one of those last weekend, I had that dream. In the dream I was stuck in one such Hallmark movie and it went something like this (I will be embellishing somewhat, not all of this actually happened in my dream, but I was inspired)…
It is the end of the afternoon, the sun is just setting, and Esther is driving alone in her car somewhere in rural middle of America. The landscape is covered with beautiful snow. She passes through a lovely town called Mistletoe and everywhere she looks there are homes covered in Christmas lights, with santas and sleighs and deer gracing the front lawns and many houses also sporting American flags or symbols…
“Trump country,” Esther finds herself thinking and, “wow, this is a Christmas-lights-rush, not unlike a sugar rush! A bit over the top but fascinating nonetheless.”
She drives through this overly-decorated world and turns into a quiet road just as she is leaving the town again. Suddenly the car skids, she tries to control it by wildly turning her steering wheel and braking but it doesn’t help. The car slides off the road and as she lands full stop in a ditch on the side of the road, the airbag opens, she feels her head snap forward and backward and she hears something crack underneath her. That doesn’t sound good. She is stranded and her neck hurts. She takes a few moments to control her shaking and her ragged breathing.
After the first shock, she figures she needs to get out of there and find help but luckily help isn’t far away. Just as she gets out of the car, she finds that a pick up truck has stopped behind her and a tall man is getting out. He’s not only tall, also dark and handsome. Instead of immediately thinking that he’s completely her type, she’s thinking, “Is this why there are so many trucks in America? So they can rescue stranded women in the snow? We don’t have many of those where I live in my Dutch city. Then again, we barely have snow.”
Things happen quickly. The handsome man, let’s call him Joe (as in Joseph and Mary – befitting a Christmas story), is concerned about Esther who insists she is fine. She doesn’t wait for introductions (rude big city girl that she is) and asks him take her to the nearest garage so she can arrange for her car to be towed and repaired.
“I’m afraid the garage is closed for the day,” Joe says, “but you can call them tomorrow. The car will be alright here.”
“Could you point me in the direction of the nearest inn, then?” Esther asks, walking to the back of the car to get her suitcase out of the boot.
“Our inn is closed for refurbishment, the nearest inn is 20 miles away,” Joe says.
Esther, feeling a little overwhelmed and still shaky from the crash, stumbles a little, rubbing her neck and Joe is quickly at her side to steady her.
“Listen, you may have a concussion or whiplash. I’m Joe, the town doctor, why don’t you let me take a look at you in my practice which is close by.”
If there is one thing Esther hates it’s being poked and prodded. She doesn’t even like beauty spas and wellness centers, even going to the hairdressers is a chore she prefers to not do more often than once every 3 or 4 months. Letting a doctor poke and prod her really isn’t what she wants right now but in the end Joe is persuasive enough and she drives with him to his practice. He looks her over, pronounces her fine enough but also says that he would like her to not sleep alone that night, just in case. He offers her a guest room in his large house, where his recently divorced sister and niece are also staying for the time being. With nowhere else to go, Esther accepts.
Of course, Joe’s sister Mary and her daughter Eve (as in Christmas Eve) are lovely. They all share dinner and get to know each other. Mary and Eve talk about getting their Christmas nails done and won’t Esther like to join them. She smiles sweetly and declines as she doesn’t enjoy beauty treatments either. “You’re an unusual woman,” Mary says, trying to make sense of the fact that it is possible that there are women on this earth who would not enjoy having their nails done. Joe is starting to be intrigued by this charming stranger from a city abroad with her odd out-of-town ways.
The next morning is a Saturday morning and as there are no weekend calls, Joe accompanies Esther to the garage. The car is towed to the garage and Esther is told that it will be at least a week before the car is repaired, which means she will be stranded in the small town of Mistletoe over Christmas. Oh no! But Joe doesn’t seem to mind.
“Come, help us bake Christmas cookies!” Joe says cheerfully. Esther smiles half-heartedly. She hates cooking and baking. Why does everyone in a Hallmark movie always love to cook and bake? Maybe, like all the women in Hallmark movies, she will end up loving baking after all? She agrees to join in, and Joe, Mary and Eve spend a few hours baking with Esther while they listen to Christmas songs.
Final verdict? The company is fun, and of course it’s sweet when Joe removes some flower from her face and if he’d lean in only a little further, they could be kissing. Other than that, baking in itself still sucks.
“Oh, we need to still set up a Christmas tree in my practice!” Joe then says and Esther and Joe go to the Christmas Tree Lot to pick a Christmas tree. It needs to be just the right tree and Joe educates Esther on how to pick the right one. Admittedly, it’s a nice tree but it really is huge. They set it up (it takes a while to get the tree standing straight) and decorate together. Joe takes ages to get all the Christmas lights placed ‘just right’ and the tree is very prickly as they decorate… and decorate… and decorate. A few lingering looks and smiles are exchanged, which is really the highlight of all of this. The tree is so huge it takes ages to decorate. “No wonder they only ever show couples in Hallmark movies hanging up the last few ornaments. This is only marginally more fun than baking,” Esther thinks. “At least the mess of tidying up the boxes is his and not mine to deal with.”
“Shall we all go to the Christmas Line Dance this evening?” Mary later asks when they get back to the house.
“Really?” Esther thinks, “Country music?” but sure, she’s game. It’s always good to try new things, right? Yep, line dancing doesn’t turn out to be her thing. She has fun and a lot of laughs, especially when she lands in bemused Joe’s arms a few times because of missteps, but this will never be her music.
“How would these people like ‘Assassin’ by Muse? Not so much, I bet,” Esther thinks, starting to play that song in her head…
The next morning Esther is up early and when she goes downstairs for breakfast she is cordially invited to come to church with Joe, Mary and Eve.
“Oh no!” she thinks, “Just because I told them my father was a minister, they think I am religious too! Must set things straight.” So, she tells them, “Sorry, I am an atheist…”
Their mouths fall open in amazement, Joe doesn’t seem to comprehend that statement. She can almost hear the wheels in his mind churning, saying, “Not Christian… not possible… does not compute…”
But, Esther doesn’t want to be rude to her kind hosts and comes with them. “I bet they think they’ll convert me. They won’t.” And she’s right, nothing in that church service, especially the sermon, has any remote attraction for her. “If anything, I’d rather be Jewish,” she thinks.
Joe and Esther go for a walk in the snow in the afternoon and talk about life. Joe gave up big city life and a high-flying career as a promising surgeon for a small country practice.
“Doesn’t it get too quiet and isolated? What about going to an arthouse movie or to a rock concert or a museum? Shopping somewhere where there’s actual choice, the joy of people watching while sitting in a café in a busy city? And how do you deal with everyone interfering with everyone’s business? Doesn’t small town gossip get very annoying? There is joy to be had in a little more anonymity.” But all of that doesn’t seem to be an issue with Joe. He can’t imagine ever living anywhere else than in this little Christmassy town of Mistletoe.
“People here have family values,” he says.
“They have family values in the city where I live as well,” Esther counters.
Admittedly, the scenery in and around the town is beautiful.
On Monday Joe is back at work in his practice. Esther accompanies Eve to school and while she’s there she is introduced to the very kind headmaster (the token kind Hallmark African-American). They talk and she finds they are looking to replace an English teacher who just quit and Esther (oh miracle of miracles) happens to be an English teacher. She subs for a few days and of course she does well…
Here the dream starts working overtime… Christmas… Christmas… Christmas all around! Joe works to awaken Esther’s “Christmas spirit” which has remained dormant in protest: they listen to carolers… build snowmen… go ice skating… go Christmas shopping… help with more decorating at the church… more baking… always more baking… everyone is shiny and smiley… the magic of Christmas… Joe’s here… there’s a job here… small town Mistletoe is the only place to be… America is the best place in the world… MAGA… now I start to sweat (or is this menopause coming through in my dream?)… forget the outside world… stay here… wholesomeness forever… live for baking… and a few classes at school… and home making for Joe… and church (but I’m an atheist!)… forget your family and friends in the outside big bad world… oh no, everyone always has dead parents and family in these Hallmark movies… Is my family gone?… Is this the place to be?… With Christmas decorations… and Christmas stories…. and Hallmark Christmas movies…. and cheesy Christmas songs… stay here in this one small place forever… I am being sucked into a small town Christmas vortex… MAGA… Joe… Christmas… decorations… baking… no more outside world… stuck here… HELP!
I wake up with a start and sit up straight in bed, heart beating in my throat. Wow, that was beautiful and terrifying at the same time! I look to my right and see Mr Esther breathing deeply, sleeping beside me. Hallmark small town Christmas is pretty and all, but I think I prefer where I am with the husband I have… where I feel I can be myself… where I don’t have to bake or go to church… where Christmas decorating isn’t a constant thing… where I feel I can breathe and be different… I plant a careful, light kiss on Mr Esther’s head so that I won’t wake him and I lie down again, beside him. Hallmark is very pretty, Joe was very pretty and sweet, but that is not my world. This is my world and I am very content here.