Let the Christmas shopping begin...!

Yesterday was the first advent, and tomorrow it will be December already! Time really flies!
With only 24 or 25 days to go until Christmas (depending on whether you celebrate on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day), the hectic shopping season has well and truly begun.
Personally, I am still working on a present for my other half - but it will be the only present I create myself this year, as it is more time-consuming than I thought it would be.

However, just like every year, the question remains: What to get everyone? Especially since this is the first year that I will celebrate Christmas with my boyfriend's family (and repeat it all once we get to Germany to celebrate New Year's with my folks).

A Cecil Street Christmas

The Cecil Street Project opened its doors for a fun Christmas Market. Next to the existing shops at the Project, which obviously did a good job of promoting themselves, artists, jewellers and fashion designers from further afield were also invited to showcase their work.

Those of you who have been inside the Cecil Street Project's home know that the entire inside of the old, Cecil Hall has been made to look like an old market street, with individual shopfronts and working clocktower.
For the Christmas Market, those from further afield put their stalls up in the "thoroughfare", which gave the entire affair a busy and market-like feeling and you could stroll around and take it all in. And after some Christmas shopping and running around, you could even freshen up with a coffee, tea or cupcake at the café inside the CSP.
Even if you missed the Christmas Market - the Cecil Street Project is well worth checking out of you want that special, unique Christmas gift or a little something for yourself. Whether its Allsorts-shaped jewellery, or Pimpfish's funky T-shirts, there's bound to be something for everyone! They also offer workshops like jewellery-making and knitting, so if you're the crafty type, look them up!

Informer is out!

Today, our last, proper Informer came out! So go aorund one of the Carlisle campuses (although your best bet is the Brampton Road Newsroom) to pick your copy up!

And I am proud to report, that all six stories I submitted were published as well!
They were:

  • Wild Wolf Publishing
  • "When the Wall came tumbling down" about the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall's demise and my personal experience
  • Former student David Simister met the Prime Minister
  • Former student Rashid Adamson - from writer to PR Manager
  • Former student Claire Lewis published her first novel "A sick work of Art"
  • and former student Kirsty Wood was crowned the first-ever Spirit-Catch European Women's Wrestling Champion

I actually got Kirsty's story on the backpage - the main Sports page, which is almost as important as the front page! And the other success stories are all on centre spread!!

Flood update

Although the rivers in Carlisle are still high and it continues to rain, the water level is actually lower than it was yesterday.

Large parts of Rickerby Park were submerged today at noon, and the parking lot at the Stonyholme golf course was being shut off with a massive (flood) gate. The road through the park was still passable with care, but the fields and smaller walking paths were flooded. With the right footwear (wellies) you could still walk through, though, but expect to be at least ankle-deep in water in some places along the path. At the foot bridge near the Stonyholme car park, the water stood up to the cattle fence.

However, the heavy rain and winds are expected to continue, and severe flood warning are still in place in Cumbria and Dumfries & Galloway, with towns Cockermouth and Keswick being most at risk.

Keswick, in the Lake District, is roughly waist-high under water after the river Greta broke its banks. The surrounding Cumbrian fells received around 170mm of rain last night.

Cumbrian Bursary

Finally some good news!

I've just got a letter from the University of Cumbria, informing me, that I am going to receive a small bursary in form of their Cumbria Bursary for EU students!

This is the first response I've had from the university, since I wrote a letter of complaint to their Finance Department last month, after they tried to take out my tuition fee without warning or approval.

I discovered in October (embarrassingly when I wanted to pay for Sunday Lunch), that all my money was gone, although I had just paid money into my account. It turned out, that after two years of me paying my tuition fees myself, the UoC had decided to take two payments (a total of more than GBP 1,070) out in one go, without sending me a letter informing me of payments amounts and dates. I therefore decided to cancel the direct debit, and informed the university, that I am still in the process of applying for my student loan (which I still haven't heard from - all I know is they're assessing it) and I will therefore not make payments, until I have heard back from Student Finance.

Up until today, I still haven't received a letter about tuition fee payments, or an official response to my complaint. But I will count awarding me this bursary towards it - after all, why else would they all of a sudden send money my way?

Flood warning

Flood alerts have been issued for Carlisle and the county of Cumbria today, as the heavy rains, that have been hitting us since Monday, continue.

The Stoneyholme Golf Course is already under water, and warnings have been issued for all three of Carlisle's rivers: Eden, Petteril and Caldew. Rickerby Park, (above) is a swamp, but the cycle path and road were still passable today. The picture shows river Eden (top right corner shows its usual width) and Rickerby Park seen from the Eden Bridge on Scotland Road, looking towards Brampton.

After the severe floods of 2005, flood gates and flood warning systems have been installed along the shores of the rivers. Flood alerts have been issued to mostly residential areas in the vicinities of the rivers, including my street. Although we are right on the edge of the flood warning area, our house DID get flooded in 2005! And our daily route to university leads across Rickerby Park. Check the Environment Agency for a bigger map and advice!

The purple area has been issued with flood warnings. The red line shows the daily route to and from university through the flood zone.

The rains are expected to continue until the weekend with up to 100mm of rain in low-lying areas and 200mm on the Cumbrian fells, and a 112kmh-storm has been forecast as well. Residents are advised to keep emergency packs (including battery powered radios, torches, candles, matches and wellies) as well as to keep their pets indoors. Cars should be moved to higher ground and leaves removed from drains around houses.

The flood warnings cover Cumbria, Dumfries & Galloway, as well as party of Yorkshire and Lancashire. North Wales has also been hit by floods. The main West Coast railway line had delays between Penrith and Oxenholme (Lake District) due to the rising water levels.

According to the News & Star, "Floodwatch" warning are in place for:
Middle River Eden
Rivers Lowther and Eamont
Lower River Eden
Rivers Caldew and Petteril
Rivers Wampool and Ellen
Upper River Eden
Rivers Kent and Bela
Rivers Duddon, Crake & Mill Beck
Rivers Cocker, Marron and Derwent
Rivers Brathay, Rothay and Winster
Upper River Derwent, Stonethwaite Beck and Derwent Water
Rivers Greta, St Johns Beck and Bassenthwaite Lake
Rivers Esk and Irthing
Rivers Ehen, Calder, Irt & Esk, as well as Keswick Campsite.

Farmers with grazing livestock on the banks of the rivers, especially Eden and Derwent, should move the animals. Rickerby Park, usually a public pasture for sheep and cattle has been sheepless and cattleless for days.

The town of Appleby (which lies on the river Eden) was already flooded by 2pm today.

Although the water level of the Eden levelled at around 3pm today, it is expected that the worst is to come overnight.

For some reason the joked proposal of getting an inflatable raft doesn't seem so funny now. We might well need it to get to university, which is located on the other side of Eden. Let's just hope we won't need sandbags!!

The Informer

We are finally putting the finishing touches on the 53rd edition of our university paper "The Informer."

It is the last Informer that we third year journalism students will work on. It is weird, in a way. But then again: We only have two Informers per year, the other two issues are a "Words by the Water" magazine and a magazine we can choose ourselves.

But with all of us now focussing on dissertations and final projects, the second year's now have to replace us as sub-editors, page designers and proof-readers.

Production days are always mental, and I am glad, this was our last one!

Love advice

"Love the man who thinks you're "beautiful", not "sexy".
Who calls you back even though you hung up.
Who stays awake to see you sleep.
Who kisses your forehead.
Who wants to show you to the world, even though you've just gotten up.
Who doesn't care whether you gained or lost weight over the years.
The one who says "What do you want to eat tonight, I'll cook."
Who takes your hand in front of his friends.
Wait for the one, who keeps telling you how much you mean to him and how glad he is to have you.
And who introduces you to his friends with the words: "She's the One!"

Love him, because he loves you and will probably love you forever!"

I am glad that I found such a man 10 months ago, today!
I love you, Schatz!

The Big Switch-On

Tonight, Ladies and Gentlemen, was the Big Switch-On for the Carlisle Christmas Lights 2009... and I don't get it. Christmas is still 5 1/2 weeks away! "Adventszeit" or Christmas-time for that matter, doesn't really start until December 1.

However, the big switch-on gathered quite a crowd in Carlisle's market square. There was ABBA karaoke and a duo singing songs everyone knew. Oh yeah, and a half-heartedly sung "Jingle Bells" in which Carlisle's Mayor was supposed to sing along - but didn't. And then there was a countdown for the lights to be switched on.

Wow. Somebody's old and clever enough to turn a switch. How exciting! It all looks the same every year, with the blue and gold lights, some of which I understand are meant to represent snow. Oh - and the best thing is: half of them (the ones right above the gathered crowd!) didn't even work properly! Although I have to say, turning the lights on in Carlisle during the winter made more sense then the Christmas lights switch-on I witnessed in Cape Town in 2006 - in the middle of summer (southern hemisphere summer). Back then, it hadn't even gone dark!

Where I come from, the Christmas lights are not celebrated. One day they're off, the next night they're on and except for illuminating the street a little more, it doesn't make a difference to anyone. Big deal.

But since everyone over here on the island seems to be into this sort of thing, I want to extend an invitation to you! Tomorrow, at 5pm, I will switch on the lights in my room! (It'll have to be tomorrow, because the bulb on my desklamp blew and I have to replace it first). And I will call it: "Conny's Big Room-Lights Switch-On 16/11/2009!!" You can either stand right in the room when I make light appear out of nowhere, or, for a more authentic experience, you might gather in the back alley and watch my window illuminate!! I'll even put on some ABBA for you, and the microphone I'll use will not work properly!

So be there or be square! It's gonna be one hell of a party!

Duden Open, Round Two

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about a journalism competition called "Duden Open".
In Round One, all you have to do is answer a multiple-choice general knowledge quiz. I gave it a go, and just had word that I passed Round One, and can proceed to Round Two!!

I will have to write an article about the Football World Cup 2010 in South Africa, but it doesn't need to be about sports. I could also look at it from a historical, economical, cultural etc. angle, as long as I show creativity!

My deadline is 31st December, so wish me luck!!!

PS.: Feel free to leave article suggestions ;)

When the Wall came tumbling down

My first trip to the German Democratic Republic was not the nicest one I’ve ever been on. It was the summer of 1988, and it took my parents all the way from Solingen to the border to lull one-year-old me to sleep. We were on the way to visit friends in East-German city Dresden. “When we got to the border at Herleshausen, I was hoping they’d wave us right through, with you sleeping away on the backseat”, my mum Marion recalls. However, the border guard was not sympathetic. “We had to place you, in your car seat, on the street, they woke you up and then they completely took the back seat of our new car apart.”

The border they guarded is long gone by now. 20 years, to be exact. Communism came to an end in Germany on the night of 9th November 1989, when a slip of the tongue by Günter Schabowski, one of East Germany’s high ranking officials, opened the borders with immediate effect, and allowed East Germans to travel freely into the West.

When the Berlin Wall fell and the borders were opened, many Germans could not believe it. “I first saw it on the news that night, around 7pm. I saw the people pushing through the checkpoints, walking through the death zone and claiming onto the Wall. And all I thought was ‘Thank God! Finally! The border is open and they are free again’”, 82-year-old Hanna Kaufmann remembers. “I was surprised how peacefully it all happened! People were breaking through the barriers, and the East German border guards didn’t shoot!” Marion adds, reflecting on the guards’ order to open fire on everyone who was caught fleeing the state. Although East Germany was in a transition, due to Hungary letting German refugees escape to the West, nobody would have dared to dream that the Wall would fall. “It was unbelievable, the sheer mass of people coming through, taking their Trabis across into the West” 54-year-old Marion explains. Hanna adds “We’d been granted visas seven times, and knew what it was like over there. One time, our friends asked us to bring strawberries and a roast, because you couldn’t get these things over there. But newspapers and books were confiscated.”

News about the new travel arrangements and the opening of the border spread like a fire across both sides of the divide. Mario Ständer was working the late shift when he heard the news. “I planned to take my chance and flee into the West right after clocking off. At that time, all I knew was that those willing to leave could do so – but never return.” However, his mate refused to drive him to the border. “Fortunately, the borders stayed upon, and I eventually made it into the West”, he says.

Bernadette Hartmann was living in Lucerne, Switzerland, when the Berlin Wall fell. “Back then, although I knew something big was happening, it was too far away, in a different country, to really concern me. But now that I live in Germany, I can grasp just how big it was and how good it was for Germany to reunite.”

However, this sentiment is not shared by everyone. “Reuniting with the East only cost the West a lot of money, and we’re still spending more. They should have made the Wall 10m higher, if you ask me”, says one of Marion Kaufmann’s neighbours, who wishes to remain anonymous.

But on the 20th anniversary of the Wall’s demise, especially Berlin is celebrating with thousands of Germans gathering in front of the Brandenburg Gate. A flash-mob had been organised to form a chain of people along the former route of the Wall throughout Berlin. And Moritz van Dülmen spent one and a half years recreating pieces of the Wall out of Styrofoam for a city-wide Domino campaign. “We wanted people to really comprehend what happened back then”, 38-year-old initiator van Dülmen says. “Like a domino-effect, the opening of the Wall changed the world. And that is what we want to show by toppling these 1000 domino pieces that represent the wall over a length of 1,5 km along the former border between Reichstagufer and Potsdamer Platz.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was joined by former Polish president Lech Walesa and former leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev for the celebrations and a walk across the bridge at Bornholmer Strasse. The checkpoint Bornholmer Strasse was the first to open in 1989 and Merkel, who herself was a citizen of the GDR, thanked Gorbachev for ultimately making a German re-unification possible.

But Berlin resident Karima Wenner says that you can still tell East and West apart – at least in the capital. “The way they talk about each other and still use stereotypes is very apparent.” However, 23-year-old Karima claims that you can even see and feel it in Berlin’s entire cityscape. “The eastern part of Berlin has this trendy vibe to it, even more so than West Berlin. Sub cultures thrive there, probably because they had a lot to catch up on. And they still have events and spontaneous street festivals everywhere, that make the East a really cool place to be.” And then there are the Plattenbausiedlungen”, of course, the high-rise blocks of flats that still dominate East Berlin’s landscape.

“I was only three when the Wall fell, so I didn’t notice much”, says 23-year-old Chris Gramke. Born in the GDR, his family finally moved to the West when he was seven. “In my new West German primary school, the kids pointed at me, and shouted ‘There’s the Ossi!’” His parents told him, that their lives are now much better, than they were on the other side of the Wall. “Apparently, you always knew when there were Stasi spies around. They’d sit in a bar all day and would be the only ones not drinking anything.” However, Chris’ parents also mentioned, that the way of life might have been a little easier in the GDR, because they didn’t know the concepts of debt or unemployment. “These things just didn’t exist in a communist state.”


Have you ever tried booking plane tickets online? Were you near a nervous breakdown? Yes? Then welcome to the club!!

Last night, my other half and I decided to finally book our flights to go to Germany over New Year's. It took him 3 attempts and me 4 attempts to book our respective tickets via Lufthansa.com.

We found the cheapest flights for our travel dates, and wanted to book via their website. However, since neither of us has a credit card, we had to ask our parents to provide their card details. The only problem with that was: We were meant to use that credit card as proof of identity at check-in. Since when is a credit card, without photo, birthdate or nationality on it sufficient ID? Try going down to the liquor store and use that as ID and I can guarantee it'll be refused!

We then tried to phone the booking hotline, and the "nice" operator wanted to charge an extra 20GBP for the privilege of talking to him. I declined - especially since my boyfriend managed to book his tickets via a hotline that refused to help me minutes later and he didn't have to pay for the privilege either.

I then tried to make a third party booking, which didn't work either. So I called them up again, and again was told to try what I'd just done. Somebody calls you and outlines a problem to you, and all the things they've already done to make that problem go away, and the only advice you can give them is to do the exact same thing again?? Honestly, I was so angry at one point, that I was shaking, and that doesn't happen very often!! If that's what they call good customer service, I think they've got it wrong!!

We'll be in Germany from 29th December to 6th January (my boyfriend) and 16th January (me - I'll be working over there), but I'm sorry to say Lufthansa have just lost a quite loyal customer. I guess I'll just fly with someone else from now on - preferably an airline, that has decent costumer service and easy online booking forms.

Dissertation? Read this first!

If you're in your final year at university, you probably stress out about having to write a dissertation just as much as I am at the moment.

Because I have no clue, really, how to actually produce said epic of 10,000 words, I tried to get a little help and inspiration from books. Three books, to be exact. Joan Bolker's "Writing your dissertation in 15 minutes a day" seemed like a good idea, but didn't really help me. Swetnam's "Writing your dissertation" is better and would have been my favourite, if I hadn't found this: "Excellent Dissertations" by Peter Levin!

Honestly, for writing my dissertation, Levin's book is rapidly turning into my bible! Written in a personal style, constantly addressing the reader and explaining everything in simple language, this book makes you feel like you've got your personal tutor sitting right next to you! It has definitely helped me already,to sort out a timescale for my dissertation, as well as organising my thoughts and outlining a draft contents list!

As a former lecturer at London School of Economics, Dr. Peter Levin has seen thousands of students attempting their dissertations and given advice to them to see them through. The chapters are short and don't contain any "academic speak". I can only recommend this book! Trust me, it will help you realise that a good dissertation is achievable!

Solinger Tageblatt on iPhone

After 200 years, the Solinger Tageblatt, the local paper I write for when I'm in Germany, just went digital! It has officially become Germany's first newspaper to be fully accessible via an Apple application.

"mein ST" is an application for the iPhone and iPod Touch and offers all of the Solinger Tageblatt's content - including latest news, photo galleries, ST TV and sport news - for you to enjoy wherever you are. It has really gone pocket-size!

JCS in Solingen's Clemens Galerien will load the new application onto its Apple products on Saturday, so you can see first hand how this innovative application from Medienhaus B. Boll works and looks.

Advice for next Halloween

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