Parenthood, Travel

Eine kleine deutsche Maus

First passport

Katja certainly is the international baby. She’s Scottish on account of her place of birth, British also on account of place of birth but also through descent from her Mum, Australian through descent from her Mum and German through descent from her Dad. So you’d think with all of these options getting a passport turned around in a hurry would be a piece of cake, right?

Not so fast!

Scotland doesn’t give passports – Scottish = British, at least at the moment. This may change if Scotland votes for independence, but I doubt they’ll do that.

Australia – we have to first apply to have her citizenship recognised (£80 1-4 weeks processing time) before we can the apply for the passport itself (£85). Turn around time of 10-15 working days unless you pay for priority 2 day turnaround at £65

United Kingdom – application costs £54 and takes a minimum of 6 weeks. Fast track is a 1 week turn around but you’ll pay another £50

Germany – £32 and we were issued with a temporary passport within an hour. A note was attached to the effect that her name is undetermined, we need to fill in some more paperwork when we get to Germany and will get her a German birth certificate as they don’t have to recognise the British one(!) Talk about German efficiency!

So, there we have it – our little girl’s first passport is her German one and we’re off to see her German grandparents, great-grandmother and uncle.

Secret smiles
News & Updates

The Scourge of Migraines

Migraine is a relatively common affliction, one that affects more than 10% of people worldwide according to WHO, although studies in Europe show that it affects 6–15% of adult men and from 14–35% of adult women over the course of a year. Diagnosis is patchy for many as well, so it is difficult to say just how widespread it really is. What I do know for sure is that I suffer from them, so when I read Kirstie’s post over on the Beaut.ie blog this morning I thought I would share my own experiences with dealing with these monsters.

I’ve had migraines since I was about 11, although they were generally regarded as just bad headaches for many years. They began with puberty and untreated they would last up to 4 days at a time. My mother also suffered and in time my youngest sister would start to suffer with them as well. For me, they start with a smaller tension style headache and turn into a full blown migraine – with unilateral pain accompanied by intense tension in my neck and shoulder and often my stomach would stop. A strange sensation that, your stomach is normally moving about constantly as it digests and stops acid from pooling so when it stops it feels rather uncomfortable!

After diagnosis I would take caffergot – an ergotomine and caffeine mix. Ergotomine is a mould that grows on wheat and is a hallucinogen, thought to be responsible for the visions that ended in the Slalom Witch Trials! No hallucinations for me though, just stopping the migraine which was fabulous. Interestingly I did find out over the years that the version without caffeine was useless and even taking the non-caffeine pills with a cup of coffee didn’t work, shows how important those extras in pills can sometimes be.

When I was about 20 I finally was sent to a neurologist who worked through various triggers with me, and with his help I was able to better understand my migraines and start working towards minimising their occurrence – really the best that can be hoped for. Some we were able to get rid of, such as some foods – MSG is a particular culprit although I can have a little every now and then. We also identified lavender as a particularly bad trigger for me, so I do avoid that. Unfortunately some of my triggers are harder to get rid of – weather patterns and sudden weather changes which I would only really stop by moving (see, I really did move to Ireland for the weather!) and hormones. No getting rid of those! We found that I had the joy of hormone related migraines every two weeks, at both ends of my cycle. The only way to minimise it is to be on the pill, but eventually my body breaks through and that becomes less useful.

When I moved to Ireland I found that my beloved Ergotomine was nolonger available. It had been deprecated (to use a geeky programming term) in favour of the new Triptans. I was duly moved onto Zomig.

Now for the part that I can really relate to with Kirstie’s post. Because doctors were afraid to give too many repeat scripts, or perhaps because they knew a cash cow when they saw one this was my monthly bill to manage migraines (remember I get them twice a month guaranteed plus maybe 1 or 2 other attacks):

– Doctor’s visit €50
– 10 x Zomig €100

Over 12 months that works out to €1800. After a few months I found out about the drug payment scheme in Ireland, so I effectively got 2 of those Zomigs for free, saving me €240 a year. The doctors never did anything exciting by the way – just write me another script and maybe take my blood pressure from time to time. Easy money for them! Luckily I was in a position to be able to afford this – if I were less well off it would have been a real problem.

Eventually I discovered that I could get Immigran without a script over the order in Northern Ireland. The only catch was I was limited to one box in each pharmacy, so I would need to go up and spend an entire day traipsing around Belfast. I could generally get myself up to 2 months supply this way.

– Train ticket €40
– 20 x immigran tablets €64

Over 12 months that’s down to €960. What a difference! That’s 2 pair of designer shoes difference in a year!

Finally after I started seeing Christian and regularly going to Germany I discovered that there I could buy them online, have them delivered to the house and get 6 months supply in one hit. Cost over 12 months was down to less than €500. With that much savings I could start to look at alternative ways to lessen the number of migraines, such as regular massage.

Some of you may be worried about this, but I’ve had migraine for a long time. I’ve tried preventatives and found that they weren’t suitable for me. I’m also first to a doctor if there’s a change of pattern or anything unusual (twice I’ve been blinded by migraine – straight to the doc!). There’s no point in overdosing – the pain goes away within 2 hours or it’s not a migraine. An interesting side-effect of having the bulk drugs from Germany is that I’m less stressed about whether or not I have drugs to cope with a migraine, and this has reduced the number that I have!

Of course pregnancy put a major damper in all of this. As soon as I became pregnant I knew I had to stop them, or so I kept being told. Paracetemol does nothing at all, and the hormone surges meant migraines every second day in first trimester. After a while I prescribed immigran by the doctors here as the benefit of me taking them was deemed to outweigh the potential (and unknown) risks. According to the drugs board here, the risk in first and second trimester are very small – it’s the third trimester they’re more worried about. Thankfully frequency has dropped considerably down to one a week in second trimester.

So that’s my experiences with migraines, and also with the drugs/prescription system in Ireland, the UK and Germany.

Travel

The Big Adventure aka Spot the Difference

So there we are at Frankfurt am Main HBF – the main railway station in Frankfurt. We’ve just had a quick bite to eat and it’s time to head to our train. I’m largely in the dark as Christian is chatting to his parents in German, and while I can follow the gist of the conversation the details elude me. I’ve learnt not to worry about that and generally go with the flow.

But there’s a Haagen-Daaz stand and boy I could kill for an ice-cream right now. So, with Christian telling me to be quick cos the train is going to leave soon I dash to the shop, grab my Belgian chocolate scoop in wafer cone and race back to the platform. The sign says this train is going to Fulda, it’s platform 7 – which is the platform we generally catch the train to Fulda from, but there’s no sign of Christian nor of his parents.

Remembering that they tend to go towards the front of the train I race along beside, checking the carriages – I can’t see them at all. I go up and back before I hear the announcement that the train is about to leave – there’s nothing for it, I jump on board and pull out my phone. Roaming charges be damned! As the train doors close I call Christian and he finally picks up – he’s waiting outside the train on the platform he says. But the train is leaving! I say. No it’s not. Yes it is!

I’m on the wrong train. I’ve no ticket, no identification – Christian has my bags. All I have is my iphone and some change. We agree that I’ll get off at the first stop and try to explain things to the ticket inspector if he comes around. I can then meet them on the later train at Hanau towards the front of the train. So I wander up towards the front of the train and sit in the first class area (why not?) while I wait to be confronted by a ticket inspector. By the time I reach Hanau, none have turned up, so I jump off the train.

A quick scan of the timetable to confirm that the next train to Fulda will indeed be waiting at this platform, a 10 minute wait in the cold and I’m reunited with the others.

Apparently I should have realised that the train we normally catch is not the ICE but the bog-standard train (takes longer but is cheaper and is therefore better). Honestly I was just worried about the leaving now thing and getting left behind!

Craft

Aubergclean

Finished Project – Set of 2 crocheted dishcloths.

I started these in January with some gorgeous coloured cotton yarn I’d picked up in the yarn shop in Fulda, Germany. After a bit of a break, I finally finished the second one today.

The pattern is from Lion Brand Yarn but I did alter it slightly – I made it considerably smaller, only 29 stitches across and roughly square shaped and only two lines of contrast. They’re the perfect size for a quick cleaning cloth.

The yarn I used is Wolle Rödel’s Cotton Universal which comes in a stunning array of colours. It’s quite splitty, but the fibres look like they’ll hold a good amount of water – vital in a cleaning cloth! I have some creamy white, might just make up something that’ll match in with these. And at some point I’m thinking that bright red and turquoise would look great too…

Travel

German Holiday

Had an absolutely lovely long weekend in Fulda, Germany. I left work at lunchtime and headed to the airport where I met up with Christian who had flown in from Edinburgh. We then grabbed a flight out to Frankfurt. Sounds rather silly, but it was actually cheaper to do this than for Christian to fly out directly from Edinburgh, plus we got the added bonus of an extra few hours together which is pretty precious at the moment.

At Frankfurt airport Inge and Helmut were there to greet us, so lovely to see them again 🙂 It was then off to Vapiano for dinner, I was quite chuffed with myself for remembering the address of the place too. Vapiano is a great concept – a pizza/pasta/salad place where you get a card on your way in and then head to the appropriate counter. They then make the food up for you on the spot and swipe your card – and it’s gorgeous food. Pasta is all freshly handmade and the pizzas are lovely – Christian always gets one with parma ham, figs and honey. Their coffee is good, being Illy. The only thing they don’t do well is the desserts. The first Vapiano I went to was in Antwerp. Since then I’ve visited them in Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich. I know they’re in London and Brisbane too – so get yourself there! I digress…

Friday was a day of shopping and setting up the fabulous canteen in Helmut’s school for the party on Saturday night. We spent a good two hours getting it all organised and it looked fabulous. Inge had organised sheets of thick red paper, with rose-print serviettes, candles and vases on the tables. The vases would be filled with white tulips. With the red walls of the room and the bright green chairs it all went together very well. Later that night as we were waiting for Julia and Florian to arrive it started to snow. About 4 inches of it in two hours. I knew it had been cold!

The party itself on Saturday night was lovely. Inge and Helmut had gathered 70 of their friends and they introduced every one of the guests to the crowd with anecdotes of how they had met or with stories about them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a large crowd of people so attentive for such a long time! Christian was translating where he could, but I’m getting better at understanding and a couple of the stories I understood pretty much in their entirety. We had a lovely buffet dinner (no sauerkraut) and the band played some great tracks (mainly in English). At the end of the night I drove us home….

Yes, I drove on the wrong side of the road. Granted it was 3am so the streets were pretty much deserted, however, the road was covered in ice which I’ve never driven on before and I had to make two trips – one to take Christian’s grandmother home and then the trip to take Christian, Flo and Juli home. The adrenaline was pumping pretty hard by the time I pulled up into the driveway but noone was hurt and no scratches on the car so I’d say a resounding success there.

Sunday was spent relaxing and Monday afternoon came around far too quickly. We were soon on the flights back to Dublin having had a wonderful weekend and a great celebration. Hope we can get back soon!

Stuff, Travel

Hofbräuhaus Dinner and a Surprise

This evening I met up with Christian at Munich airport, which was just lovely after a couple of weeks of skyping. We headed to town, dumped our things in a hotel room and then went on to the Hofbräuhaus. Inge had been expecting to spend a weekend with Florian and was quite surprised to see Juli who had travelled up from Barcelona. Imagine her surprise then to see Christian and myself 🙂

The beer was poured, the food delivered (I had the schnitzal), the music played and we all had a lovely evening. On the way out we popped downstairs to look at the beer hall – the roof decorations used to include swashtikas which have since been painted over with Bavarian flags.
There’s also a Hofbräuhaus in Melbourne – must add it to my todo list for when I’m next back home.  http://www.hofbrauhaus.com.au/
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