Who are Helen and Steven?

It’s Twelfth night today and as tradition dictates, time to take down the Christmas decorations.

We had numerous Christmas cards and as we were gathering them for recycling we noticed one from Helen and Steven. A nice seasonal card, with snow, robins and a picture perfect cottage in the woods with roaring log fire. One problem…nobody in our household knows a Helen & Steven.

Even visiting offspring and accompanying partners denied all knowledge of said pair. So we remain perplexed. Who are these people and how did a card from them arrive at our house (and get a place on the fireside)?

So now we have an extreme feeling a of guilt…there will be family somewhere saying…”wonder what’s happened to Helen and Steven? We have had a card from them every year since 1983 but nothing this year ..we must have upset them somehow, so if thats how they feel, wish we hadn’t sent them one, certainly won’t send them one in future.”

So in one fell swoop we have upset the intended recipient of Helen and Steven card….and also the mysterious Helen and Steven!

Happy Twelfth night everyone!

BMW, Mercedes or Porsche?

Ask someone about what is a really great German export and if they are ‘into cars’ they may well name one of the above…with apologies to Audi who I really should also have included on the list.

But cars are not unique and any proud Italian will counter this and reel off the names Ferrari, Lamborghini or Alfa Romeo and so on.

What Germany has cornered and no other country can match for both home markets and to export is the Christmas Market

And now in so many other European cities too with the warmth and ambience that is unique to these events. But they are at their best in their country of birth!

My first Christmas Market of this year was a couple of weeks ago in Dortmund.

..and it us hard to beat this one with its amazing centrepiece tree…made of 1000 individual trees!

However earlier this week I was in Dusseldorf and had the chance to visit their Weinachsmarket, spread across a large part of the Altstadt (Old Town).

And there amongst the Gluhwein, Bratwurst and beer……

..a new treat for me.

Crepes with Marzipan…

For someone who loves marzipan (as well as pancakes) Christmas really has arrived early for me 😁

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Fishtanks, Maccaroni cheese and Christmas Trees

Let me explain……

Yesterday we bought our Christmas Tree. We are fortunate that we have a National Trust site near us (for those from outside the UK and not familiar with it read more here about what this is click here ) and in spring and summer they do plant sales, but in winter just for a few weeks, Christmas trees.

They sell amazing trees, from sustainable forests and all proceeds get fed back into the trust. Our tree smells wonderful and evocative of Christmas celebrations over the years.

Sadly I do always suffer a bit of environmental guilt having this amazing tree in my house that has been felled for no reason other than to adorn our house. Not withstanding the fact that in reality it only ever came into existence for this very purpose and in its early life it has been busy absorbing co2 and helping the planet.

However what struck me as strange in a way in that as much as I am so delighted to have a tree in my house, I have a fairly general disdain for house or office indoor plants. Not so much the kind of things you see in various botanical gardens that bring amazing experiences to us, but the plants you find in the average house and even more so planters with miserable greenery found in offices.

A few jobs ago I was responsible to run a small HQ of a well known hotel brand. Like many contact centres or corporate buildings it had office plants fitted around the building.

I was so convinced they were almost invisible to people, I removed some of them and then a few days later asked if anyone noticed anything different or changed!

Surprise, surprise – nobody noticed they were gone at all. And these plants had a cost – we paid an external contractor to come in to tidy them, trim them and water them.

The irony as well is that I do love plants and like design and display features in buildings…but somehow for me …in the same way that I like pasta and like cheese…but nothing will ever make me like Maccaroni Cheese! , the same goes for house plants.

Anyway it struck me that this was a easy cost saving but should be replaced with something better …but what? So we got fish. Huge cylindrical glass tanks with goldfish.

Well not surprisingly the fish were a big hit and soon I was inundated with internal requests to swap the plants throughout the building so that each area had its own fish tank!

I probably won’t be remembered for much in my 5 years as Director of Operations…but my fish tank legacy lives on!