I have been toying with the idea of buying an e-reader for a while now. Initially I wanted one to help me manage and annote research papers, but the internet tells me that e-readers are not great for that kind of thing.  So I came off the idea. Still,  I almost, almost bought one last week. I did not do it in the end, because I am reluctant to read on screen. I spend too much time in front of the computer as it is and an e-reader would not help matters. I am also a person who literally likes to stick there nose in a book and take in the smell of cheap paper, glossy paper, old faded paper, fresh ink, remnants of solvents (oh, I go for those 🙂  ). Another argument against it is that in my experience electronic gadgets have a shelf life of a few years. Does it make sense to fork out 100+Euros for a thing that might only work for four years?  And there is the tying yourself to a company like Amazon and giving them access to your device… So as yet no e-reader in the Heckemann household.

But the thought sticks in my head. How on earth did it get to be so obstinate, persistent and hard to eradicate? I always thought that I don’t easily fall prey to lifestyle products, but on the contrary, my case is worse: Easy prey, yet late adopter. How uncool is that?

So I am still undecided, but I thought that I should at least give e-readers a try. So at the weekend I bought my first e-book which I am now reading on my Mac. Quite aptly  it’s Mr Penumbra’s 24 hour bookstore, a book about real books, old books, e-readers, Google and a secret cult. This is a novel that I have been wanting to stick my nose into for a few months.

Now I am just reading it, not smelling it. So far the experience is ok. I can read easily on screen, the print is nice, obviously I can fiddle with the background and font size. Turning pages by pressing buttons feels odd, but it’s just a matter of getting used to, I guess.

This experience has again fed the “e-read-weed” in my head.  My cunning brain  has now convinced me that an e-reader could be of use to me after all: To store those novels that I like, consume and that, as hard copies, afterwards occupy shelf space waiting to be passed on to someone else. Alas, they often do not get passed on. So basically  I am (yet again) responding to the argument that by buying a product I can make my life and living space less cluttered and more organized. This is just like Ikea catalogues work!!! (And yes, just think about the imminent move! All those boxes full of books that could be avoided). So much for my free will that somewhat does not feel too free at present :). I’ll keep on pondering for a few days and see if the “e-read-weed” shrivels up and dies a natural death or whether the only cure is to buy yet another gadget to simplify my life.

Enjoy whatever you’re reading!

PS: If you are planning to read Mr Penumbra’s 24 hour bookstore, do it within the next couple of years! It is a cool book and it provides a snapshot of the current state of art in computing as well as on social interaction and a few other things. It will read weird and dated though in ten years time… and our grand-children will marvel at the funny things they did back in the second decade of this millenium  🙂


I have a number of ‘firsts’ lined up. Knowing that we will be leaving this friendly town soon has led me to come up with a number of projects and plans that I absolutely need to accomplish before we’ve gone.

The first one was going to the beauty salon for a mid-winter treatment of my sun-deprived skin — a quick facial and tinting of my eyelashes. What an adventure!

Let me tell you, I came out looking worse than I did when I set foot into this oasis of beauty: My hair was an absolute mess because the beautician had spread the facial stuff – whatever it was, it smelled lovely – not just over my face, but she had also managed to give my hair a nourishing mask… But greasy looking hair aside, the worst was that I left the salon with dark panda eyes (the lady had not covered the skin round my eyes sufficiently before colouring my lashes).

Knowing that I looked as if had just cried in a public toilet wearing full non-tear-proof eye make-up , I kept my eyes down and made my way home as quickly as my old legs would carry me….

Back in the safety of our den, I turned to the almighty internet, which did not disappoint and swiftly provided several strategies to deal with my panda eyes. The treatment was oh so painful, but I managed to remove most of the colour that had seeped into the skin around my eyes. I also washed my hair and lo and behold, today I can look in the mirror without feeling like a tramp. Hoorah.

You might ask yourself: “Why did she not complain?” I tell you, normally I would have thrown a tantrum, but I was honestly too shocked, I had not expected this kind of outcome at all. I just wanted to get out of that place, and will never, ever return.

Lessons learned:

  1. My natural looks aren’t all that bad! If I stay as far away as possible from beauticians I might look just fine for another decade.
  2. If there should be a next time (the face massage was nice after all): Ask a friend for a recommendation.
  3. A visit at a beauty salon is potentially a lot more dangerous than I thought it would be: In their everyday working practice, beauticians handle chemicals which might be harmful. If the stinging the colouring lotion caused is anything to go by, it might potentially do quite a bit of harm to your eyesight. And that was just a teeny-tiny treatment, I have no idea what else they do for their customers. So I wonder:
  • Does a lot of stuff go wrong in these beauty places?
  • Would beauticians actually know how to deal with incidents such as allergic reactions?

This would make a really interesting bit of research into a market that is supposed to enhance your beauty and wellbeing. I really wonder if it does most of the time….It  did the trick for me though, because if I look in the mirror today, I feel like I look great! :).

So if you, dear reader, are currently looking for a beauty place in Lyon, contact me. I can tell you where NOT to go 🙂

Ch- ch- ch- changes…

8 January 2013

So here it is, 2013. We welcomed it amongst friends, delicious food and drink here in Lyon. And now, as always this early in January, I wonder what this year will bring. It’s still so new, crisp, and shiny! Something to marvel at.

If anything I think, it will be change, change and more change. And not just for us. We have a number of friends who consider, or already have concrete plans, to leave Lyon, Europe, or the Northern Hemisphere altogether, who want to change jobs or are just starting new jobs, who have big changes looming in their family lives… it seems to me that  we are currently floating around in a ‘cloud of mobile people’ whose lives are in constant flux. (I don’t want to call it  “expat community”, as this “cloud” is most certainly not made up of well-to-do, company sponsored employees or diplomats that may be associated with the term). Despite all the work and logistical challenges associated with big changes (uarghh moving!!! I am so over it…), these people, just like us, realize and enjoy the positive aspect of a fresh start. When changing countries, there is hardly anything as invigorating (and at the same time exhausting 🙂 ) as experiencing a new culture, seeing your own culture from a different perspective and letting this change who you are along the way.

Recently, I realized that this “cloud of mobile people”  is a most incredible resource to facilitate our impending move. One very distinct feature of the “cloud” is the ease with which people, who may be mere acquaintances, network, help, and support each other. So we’re preparing to leave Lyon for  that cold, but apparently friendly, country way up North knowing that we’re by no means on our own with this. The other day, for example, I met a mum with whom I had run the primary school library a couple of years ago. When I told her about our planned move to Sweden, she immediately offered to put me in touch with a lovely family that recently moved from Lyon to Gothenburg. Their children used to go to our local school in Lyon and are apparently now happily settled at  the school in Gothenburg that we have (tentatively) picked for Lucy. Another acquaintance of mine actually spent 30 years in Gothenburg, so has in-depth local knowledge that she is happy to share with me. I have thus already recommendations for an excellent family doctor, massage therapist, swimming pool, food hall… I think there is more information to come my way over coffees and lunches in the next few months :). She also managed to put my worries about Swedish food to rest: Apparently there is more to eat than fish and rye bread up North. Thank goodness! Just to be on the safe side I have still booked myself in for a special “fish cooking class” here in Lyon. One has to prepare …

I am starting this year curious as to the challenges, opportunities, and experiences it will bring, knowing that it is not going to be plain sailing all the way. There is so much more happening in our lives than just our move and, as usual, fate may serve you a big, fat plateful of worry and pain when you least need it. But still: We hope and wish for all of you dears out there that life will be exciting and full of goodness and health in the next 12 months! Enjoy!

This year's Hexenhäuschen (gingerbread house)

The architecture may be questionable, but the aroma makes up for it 🙂

The trash project

9 December 2012

We have a trashy little family project going on which is actively endorsed by roughly 75% of our family. I unashamedly admit that I am the one who initiated it. All the more so since I watched Daniel Craig in Skyfall — a classy piece of trash that totally blew me away when I watched it for the first time.

I guess now you know what this project is about. Yes! The plan is to watch ALL JAMES BOND films since 1962 (those by Eon Productions). We actually started watching the films back in September, I think, a few weeks before the release of ‘Skyfall’ and swiftly worked our way through the films produced between 1962 and 1971 — I loved those films bar the one from 1969 which starrs George Lazenby. I didn’t make it through that one and dropped out after 2/3 of the film had finished. Then came one more “Sean Connery Bond ” (Diamonds Are Forever) and since then things have become VERY challenging.

We’re now trying to get through seven Roger Moore films (1973 – 1985) and I find it tough. It’s not just because Moore is less easy on the eye than Sean Connery  (although he definitely is 🙂  ). Having watched a couple of films from the 70s I think it’s mostly down to a change in the producers’/ director’s attitude towards the character.  The producers took the Bond character seriously in the 60s, despite (or because) all those crazy gadgets and weird villains. The 60s Bond character seems to be in line with an age where there was a strong belief in plastic, space travel, and generally technology being just a fab thing. But the 60s Bond character does not fit so snugly  into the 70s. How on earth does a martini-slurping macho guy in tailored suits who does nothing but save the world in the planet’s most scenic locations fit into an age of massive social unrest and cultural change? For example, Women’s Lib, hippie culture and the anti-war movement only became mass movements in the 70s. So as a producer you have few choices, one of which is to make Bond a caricature of the somewhat stylish 60s character, take him less seriously and leave the viewer to wonder what all this is supposed to mean. I struggle with the 70s Bond (so far anyway) because he seems so anachronistic and the slight references I have seen to women’s lib (a female scientist with a PhD working for the villain in “Moonraker”) is swiftly cancelled out by all those girls in short skirts who topple over backwards as soon as lay eyes on Bond.

Enough rambling done! I know that there is light at the end of the tunnel with Daniel Craig playing Bond from 2006 onwards. In Skyfall Bond seems to finally have caught up with his time. Although he still does stuff that is just not humanly possible, the troubled character he has become is a lot more gripping, convincing and congruent than Roger Moore’s Bond.

Yet there are eleven films to go… But I am certain I’ll stick to the project, because first and foremost it’s a really nice thing to do as a family. It’s so easy to get everybody to get together for a trashy night with a tv dinner and James Bond on the screen: The children love the car chases and fantastic explosions. (Just for the record: they hate the snogging scenes and would prefer them edited out. 🙂  ) Doing this as a family is what makes it bearable to suffer through the 70s, 80s and 90s to my personal light at the end of the tunnel — and who knows, maybe Pierce Brosnan or Timothy Dalton will surprise me after all?




You may have noticed that this blog has become a bit quiet over the last few months. Fewer posts, less stuff to write about. This is mostly due to the fact that we feel settled and rooted in Lyon. Everyday life is ticking over nicely and I think that you get to a point where you run out of interesting things to say: Everybody, no matter where they live, have similar stuff happening to them. The growing pains of their children, their little and major successes or setbacks, inspiring or difficult encounters with shopkeepers, neighbours, family, friends, teachers… you name it. The internet is full of these things and I think we don’t need to add to this.

So it was time to decide whether to let this blog die quietly or whether to take some action and spice things up. We opted for the latter. Thus we  will be leaving France and moving to Sweden next summer.

… Look! We’ll be right by the sea…

Bear in mind, dear reader, we’re doing this for you, in order to keep you entertained with new episodes and a fresh perspective on culture shock, schooling, house hunting and 1000  little things that are interesting, fascinating, and oh so tiring when you move to a new country :).

We are excited about  the new opportunity this move presents! I am not only talking about job opportunities — Rolf is very pleased with his new and challenging post and I have much better chance to find employment in my field.  It’s also living by the sea, learning to sail a boat, getting fit with nordic skiing in the winter.

We will also be reversing traditional family patterns: Instead of the rebellious teenager leaving the nest, we will be leaving our eldest  in Lyon to finish school and grow up while  the rest of the family move on to pastures new. So stick with us, I think the next couple of years will be interesting.

We will probably have to rename this blog in the coming months. “Franglish for Germans” will not do anymore. We’re not sure what to do about this.  “Swenglish for Germans”? I don’t like it.  I am sure we’ll come up with a snazzy name for the blog in good time. Have a great day, keep visiting us and…  I am so excited. 🙂

Going somewhere else….

2 October 2012

We’re still in Lyon. But we’re also getting in the frame of mind of moving away, in a couple of years at the latest. In a way this seems odd, as we love living here. It’s mostly due to the limitations to develop professionally, that we don’t see our future lying in this country. (Yet, I don’t know where exactly we see our future …). Thus faced with difficulty to find a job that offers the right opportunities, I am doing things differently career-wise here than in England, where I stuck with my job, my studies and the rest of it. (I have to emphasize that it made perfect sense at the time as well as in retrospect to work like that, because I was in a job that inspired and challenged me at the same time.)

But, the French labour market being what it is, I now find myself with my finger in multiple pies: I have

  • a job in Lyon, 
  • a job in Switzerland,
  • a job in Australia,
  • and I study for my PhD in a European PhD college.

… Mind you, these are all part-time jobs :).

But when I look at this array, I think it weird and wonderful at the same time. I also wonder how long I can juggle my commitments and at which point I will start spreading myself too thinly. It is somewhat a stretch to focus on completely different tasks every day of the working week. On the other hand, I am aware that a change of country is definitely looming in the future, so I am trying to prepare myself for job hunting elsewhere by enriching my skill profile with these very diverse job experiences.

Maybe this kind of ‘patch-working’ is not even uncommon nowadays, theoretically, one can work from any remote corner of the world and just email the results to a respective employer…

My problem is more that I have grown up with the belief that one has to have ONE steady and secure job at a time (or even for life…). My current employment status is somewhat challenging these convictions. But I am sure I’ll square things up in good time, in fact, I am half way there, because I also have to admit that I am not at all unhappy with the current situation. Despite being challenging in terms of organization, my working life leaves me a lot of freedom. There are deadlines, of course, but I have no one organizing when and how to work and how to meet those deadlines. I can work in cafés, (which I do frequently) I can work from home, or on a train…  This freedom is wonderful and, as I am slowly getting used to having various jobs instead of ‘only’ one, I am really starting to enjoy it. This might actually ‘my’ future working model for me – at least until something better comes along …