One of the first practical indications of ability in a language is menu reading capability. This is an indicator that you have enough grammar and enough food words to get by. This ability places you on a scale of language sophistication. Unfortunately, the scale is like a wobbly ladder: you’re liable to fall off.

But this is egal – a word that means “all the same” but sort of acts as a noun form of “who cares” in German – because I had the speciality today.

We were at a “simple” restaurant, that was how it was described to me, for a lunch. The restaurant is located on the edge of the Black Forest and is at the foot of a hill that has a ruin of a Snow Castle from something like 500 years ago. From this ruin at the top of the hill you can see France.

The speciality is called Maultaschen – translates, according to the boffins at Google, to ravioli, but this wasn’t the ravioli that I knew. This was a layered pasta and pesto-esque creation that was rich, think and extraordinarily filling.

There will be other opportunities, I hope, to have a proper German schnitzel.

The Black Forest at the moment has no leaves, except the ones on the ground, and the paths are muddy. Moss grows on most still, rarely disturbed surfaces, and has covered the entrance to an old silver mine. I was told camping is verboten, which I thought was a shame, because I can imagine that morning there would be something special: light breaking through the twiggy trees and barely hitting the cold, rotting leaves. It would be a juxtaposition of grotesqueness and beauty.

Later in the afternoon, I was told a story about economics – in German. This gentlemen was in Spain as a young chap and bought two bags full of matches. Proper matches. The old fashioned, strike ‘em on the sole of your boot kind. He sold them astronomically above cost and made some ridiculous profit. He then bought a Quartz watch that he told everyone about. It was then pinched. Moral: Don’t tell everyone about the spoils of your brilliant employment of economics.

This afternoon I read a few more pages of The Guardian Weekly – I like to make the joy of the printed English word last for as long as possible into the week – and had a bit of a snooze. Shame I can’t really still blame it on jetlag, not that I had much. Not sleeping on the plane was to my advantage, I think.

The weekend is drawing to a close now. Dinner will be light – we’ve been eating all day – and then it might be followed by a BBC World News bulletin on satellite television. Or, if a business programme is on, I’ll flick over to al Jazeera English. And then a bit of sleep. School can be put off for a few hours still.

I now have maths homework direct from Australia. I haven’t rushed into it, and will contemplate its beginning tomorrow afternoon. There are a few things I have to do hausaufgarben-wise, but that too can wait.

Already my eyelids are droopy because it feels like it is very late here – actually only 6.41pm – thanks to the early setting sun and the enveloping darkness, punctured only by the sodium-vapour glow of the streetlights, and the undefined, white and red shining of dynamo bike lamps.


  1. Why on earth do you have maths homework from Australia?

    1. Because there's a man called M.N. who's very hard to say no to.