Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006


Join the Club

Germans love their clubs. If you want to play football, raise canaries or walk Nordically, and you live in Germany, you automatically join a club, known as a Verein. That gives you instant friends, a place to go on a Saturday night if you’re feeling lonely, and it adds meaning and purpose to your life.

As parents, we have already joined an athletics club so that our children can run around a track with other kids and attend gymnastics classes. We believe that we will be joining a football club in the next year so that our small fellow can run aimlessly after a ball with others of his ilk. If any of our kids wanted to play tennis, hockey, rugby or netball we would have to join a club. This means paying a modest yearly fee, and getting involved on some level, whether it’s tending the herbaceous borders at the tennis club, lift-clubbing small hockey players to away games or turning up at various fests and ordering alcohol (my speciality).

We are broken, though, that there are no cricket clubs in Germany, except the casual one that takes place in our garden most weekends. It’s fairly relaxed, and closely tied to our regular weekend barbeque. There is no joining fee, no pruning involved and the requirement is the ability to hold a bat, however badly, and occasionally make contact with a ball. We are a small island of cricket in the large German sea of football.

Today, after a long bike ride, we stopped at a restaurant for a bit of lunch. We were lucky enough to be sitting next to the Sunday meeting of an unusual club.

The facial hair Verein. Twirly moustaches everywhere. We giggled, tried not to stare or do this:

We have to be careful. People take their clubs – and their facial hair – very seriously here.


Charlotte With An “E”

Six months ago, I was Siddartha, but now I am:

You’re Anne of Green Gables!
by L.M. Montgomery
Bright, chipper, vivid, but with the emotional fortitude of cottage
cheese, you make quite an impression on everyone you meet. You’re impulsive, rash,
honest, and probably don’t have a great relationship with your parents. People hurt
your feelings constantly, but your brazen honestly doesn’t exactly treat others with
kid gloves. Ultimately, though, you win the hearts and minds of everyone that matters.
You spell your name with an E and you want everyone to know about it.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Actually, I have a great relationship with my parents and my emotional fortitude is steely, but I’m still thrilled to be Anne. The entire Anne of Green Gables series is up there with Girl of the Limberlost as the books I drowned in as an 11-year-old when my life as I knew it was falling apart. Anne’s loving nature, her madness and her ability to get lost in books just like me were all comforting and inspirational. And Gilbert Blake, as Susan pointed out, was hot.

The novel itself is 100 years old this year, and to celebrate, Puffin have released a prequel called Before Green Gables. This seeks to uncover Anne’s early upbringing and how she was passed from foster home to foster home. I don’t imagine I’ll be reading it, but I enjoyed hearing the author’s interview on Radio 4. You can listen to it here, on Women’s Hour, source of 90% of my information.

I’m sure Anne would have listened to Women’s Hour.

Wouldn’t she?


Thrilled To Be A …

You Are a Semi-Colon

You are elegant, understated, and subtle in your communication.
You’re very smart (and you know it), but you don’t often showcase your brilliance.
Instead, you carefully construct your arguments, ideas, and theories – until they are bulletproof.
You see your words as an expression of yourself, and you are careful not to waste them.

You friends see you as enlightened, logical, and shrewd.
(But what you’re saying often goes right over their heads.)

You excel in: The Arts

You get along best with: The Colon

Thanks to Jade and Susan for pointing me to this!


Bloat, Wretches!

I found a link to the Internet Anagram Server (or I, Rearrangement Servant) on Smiler’s blog and have spent a happy half-hour browsing the anagrams for Charlotte’s Web. (Actually it was longer; there were 16457 of them.)

After some agonising, my top fifteen are:

1. Bloat, Wretches
2. Cable the Worst
3. Crab Hotel Stew
4. The Crow Bleats
5. Chatter’s Elbow
6. Lab Chews Otter
7. Hot Secret Bawl
8. We Rob Chattels
9. The Scarlet Bow
10. The Rectal Swob
11. We Latch Sorbet
12. We Chat Lobster
13. The Scrotal Web
14. To Claw Sherbet
15. Chatter’s Bowel

I think my favourite for its sheer random lunacy is “We Chat Lobster.” What’s yours?

Then, because that wasn’t enough, I tried anagramming my name. These were my favourites:

1. Tattler Cheroot
2. Treacle Hot Trot
3. Chalet Retro Tot
4. Chatter Re Lotto
5. Carrot Teeth Lot
6. Cattle Hero Tort
7. Cattle Retort, Ho!
8. To Race Throttle
9. Retract The Loot
10. Lac Hotter Otter

If you are tempted to play anagrams, please let me know and come back and tell me your favourites. Anagram Weekend = Meander Weak Nag!


Welcome to the Tea-Party

My grandmother was a milliner, and I have inherited her love of hats. I thought I’d share some of my favourites with you.

The Mad Fluffy Hat, or The One Liam Gallagher Most Wants to Borrow

The Doek, or The One That Cost Far Too Much But Was Too Adorable To Leave in the Shop

The Sparkly Beanie, aka Last Year’s Favourite

The Navy Stalker’s Hat, or The One on Which The Jury is Still Out

The Tea Cosy, or This Year’s Favourite

My love of hats means that my children have to leave the house wearing silly head-gear. Since I don’t post photos of them, here I bravely model their hats:

Hey, this one fits! Watch out, Mummy may be borrowing your hat.

Starting to feel a little coy in ill-fitting hat …

Mummy, I’ve been a good boy. Promise.

Which one is your favourite?


The Tale of the Perfect Slipper

Once upon a time, not very long ago, there lived a Princess. The Princess was a happy person, for she had everything in her life that she needed: food, a loving family, the odd glass of champagne. However, there was one thing that was missing in the Princess’s life. She needed the perfect slipper.

The Princess searched high and low in the shops of Germany – for it was in Germany that she lived – to find the perfect slipper. And indeed, Germany was a good place to search, for the good burgers of Germany were mostly very fond of the shoe that can be worn inside, namely the Hausschuh. However, despite searching for many long years for the perfect slipper, the Princess was unable to find it. She grew sad and listless, and sat around picking her bare, cold toenails. Her family became worried. How could they restore the Princess to her former happy and joyous mien? Where could they find the perfect slipper that would meet the Princess’s rigorous conditions of (a) comfort, (b) attractiveness and (c) substantial sparkliness fitting to one of royal birth?

Things appeared to be desperate. The Princess decided to make one last last-ditch attempt to find the perfect slipper. She went out, to the lovely Geschaeften of Germany. There she tried on 101 pairs of the famous Birkenstocks. Every citizen of the land (and many from other lands, including fair California) had told her that Birkenstocks were of the highest comfort and attractiveness. But, nay, the Princess could not. She could not purchase a Birkenstock to place upon her daintly footlets. That would never do. They were too crass, too sordid; the kind of shoe her vegan friend Oatmeal Baobab might wear, but not good enough for the feet of a Princess.

The Princess believed that she would never find the perfect slipper. Her heart was sad. She became mightily depressed. She lost her appetite, becoming quite unable to eat chocolate. The only good thing on her horizon was the pending visit of her mother, the Queen. At least the dear Queen might be able to cheer her up a little, cook some delectable morsels and take the children off her hands so that she could waft around morosely being really sad.

The day the Queen arrived was a very low one for the Princess. She embraced her mother listlessly. With a glint in her royal eye, the Queen said, “Darling. Have you managed to find the perfect slipper yet?”

“Oh no, dear Queen, I have not,” whispered the Princess tremulously. She plucked tragically at her gown.

“Well, darling, there is no need to mourn any longer!” the Queen announced. “I believe I may found the perfect slipper, far far away in the shopping portals of Pietermaritzburg.”

“Pietermaritzburg,” muttered the Princess, “What good is that to me, here in the lovely land of Germany?”

“But darling, I have transported it with me in the flying machine!” cried the Queen triumphantly. “I have it in my trunk.”

“Oh, Mother,” said the Princess, “Dig it out immediately.”

“Please,” she added, for she was a well brought-up girl.

And so the Queen set to digging about in her trunk and came upon a parcel wrapped in tissue paper. Proudly, with beating heart, she presented it to her child.

The Princess tore open the package with unseemly haste and there they lay. Not one, but two of the most perfect slippers she had ever seen. One for each foot! They were silver, they were sparkly, they reeked of Chanel (tho’ they were not, coming as they did from the shopping portals of Pietermaritzburg).

“Mother, how can I thank you?” the Princess cried, flinging her arms about her mother’s neck and sinking slightly, with relief.

Disentangling her daughter, the Queen said, “Well, I do have very good taste. Look here.”

And she lifted her own gown, just a couple of millimetres to reveal the identical pair adorning her own little Queenly toelets.

The Princess placed the exquisite silver slippers on her feet, and announced, “We must celebrate. A party! We shall have a party!”

And the Queen, the Princess, her husband – the well-shod Prince, and the little Princesses and Princeling, danced all night, happy in the knowledge that there would never be sadness in the kingdom again.

The Princess loves her slippers so much, so very very much, that sometimes she wears them on her head.




Do you know which game is sold in 121 countries in 29 different language versions? Which game has sold one hundred million sets worldwide, and is found in one out of every three American homes? It’s Scrabble. Otherwise known as that bloody game.

I’ve been playing a game of online Scrabble with my brother-in-law in South Africa, thanks to Scrabulous. He’s the acknowledged family champion, king of those irritating little words that score many extra points. At one point I mailed him to say it was getting embarrassing how he was thrashing me, and couldn’t we just stop, and he mailed back to say he’d play left-handed. He’s funny like that.

The final score of the inaugural Oxford (he) – Cambridge (me) match was 611 to 239. I am utterly humiliated. Appropriately enough, his last word was “ta”.

I have only one thing to say, “Tidy up your clonisms, you raddled taupe snotting. In future matches, I will ape your squares, dive-boil your hajis, make mana of your flinty eloge and become a maxi biter who will aye your wiz till it boils.”

See, he might be the Scrabble champ, but I’m still the wordsmith of the family.


The Name Game

In the story I am busy plotting, names are very significant. Some of the characters have intense relationships with their names. So when I woke up and found this fabulous meme at Kate’s blog, well, I felt it was a worthy exercise. And since I have never knowingly ignored a great meme, let me get to it:

1. My rock star name (first pet and current car)

Muffin Renault

2. My gangsta name (ice cream flavour plus cookie, or biscuit)

Peppermint Choc

3. My fly girl name (first letter of first name, first three letters of last name)

C-Ott (That is singularly lacking in attitude, isn’t it? And with my birth name it’s no better: C-Jam)

4. My detective name (favourite colour, favourite animal)

Turquoise Dolphin

5. My soap opera name (middle name, city of birth)

Elise Pietermaritzburg

6. My Star Wars name (first three letters of your last name, first two of your first name)


7. My superhero name (second favourite colour, favourite drink, add “the”)

The Purple Gin and Tonic

8. My Nascar name (first two names of my two grandfathers)

Neville David

9. My stripper name (favourite perfume, favourite sweet)

Crystalle Fudge (this one is my best)

10. My witness protection name (mother’s and father’s middle names)

Antonia William

11. My weather anchor name (fifth grade teacher’s name, a major city beginning with the same letter)

Stephen St Petersburg

12. My spy name (favourite season/flower)

Summer Peony

13. Cartoon name (favourite fruit plus garment you’re wearing, with an “ie” or “y” added)

Lychee Knickery

14 Hippie name (what you ate for breakfast plus favourite tree)

Oatmeal Baobab

15. Your rockstar tour name (favourite hobby plus weather element, with “the”)

The Baking Sunshine Tour, featuring none other than Muffin Renault.

Feel free to play too. It’s fun.


Little Match-Girl of Memes

If Emily is the Queen o’ Memes, then her brother, Ian, must the Knight of Memes. He has just tagged me for Why I Blog, which I shall try to address below, and Emily recently tagged me for the 10 Best Compliments meme, which I have been avoiding for a while (because compliments are hard things for me) but which I now attempt to tackle. I don’t make ten, though.

Ian and Emily have two other siblings, Forsyth who blogs at Froshty Mugs (I beg you to read this post of hers) and Lindsay who is an artist. I have a slight bloggy crush on the whole family: one, because they are funny and I love funny; two, because they are all patently so fond of each other; three, because they are using their blogs to keep in touch and four, because they are not scared of words. Their posts are all wonderfully wordy. I love that. Ian and Emily even have a joint blog where they revisit events in their past separately but together.

I also come from a large family, but unlike theirs, there are no sisters and nobody blogs. Ideally, until someone in my family gets married, starts blogging or at least reading mine more than once every six months (you’d THINK, you really would), I would like Ian and Emily and Froshty and Lindsay to adopt me as a member of their family. I can provide charming nieces and a nephew, an outpost in Germany, a nifty line in cakes, a lackadaisical attitude to housework, an appreciation of wine and the ability to talk and laugh late into the night with no care for what tomorrow brings.

So, here is my adoption application, in the form of a double meme.

Knight o’ Memes, this is why I blog:

1. I love words.

2. I am addicted to the Publish button. When I first started blogging, I used to shake with adrenaline each time I clicked Publish. Now, I chase that initial high, but tragically for me it’s never been as good as those first few hits. I’ve gone cold turkey a few times, but I can’t resist its seductive charms.

3. I like being part of an avant-garde. I know that every Pam, Sue and Ally has a blog now, but even so, as a stay-at-home mother living in provincial Germany, being part of the blog-o-sphere gives me a thrill. I’m not on Facebook though, and I don’t have an avatar playing me in Second Life yet. But you never know.

4. It’s a bit silly. It’s like a playground for grown-ups, where we can have a bit of fun, make some new friends and not harm anyone. And it’s a wonderful way to avoid housework.

5. I have to blog in order to keep my English intact. I have English-speaking friends whose world has become so eingedeustched that they struggle to tell the two languages from einander. I want to avoid that. I want to keep my English pure, pure as the driven Schnee.

6. Oh, and I’m a stark raving narcissist, so in love with the content of my own navel that I like to share it with all the world. That too.

Queen o’ Memes, here are some compliments that I recall:

1. Today Lily told me that, unlike some ladies of my great age, I have managed to “keep my beauty”.

2. Yesterday, Ollie called me Papa. Today he ate four slices of an apple and almond cake baked by Papa – the selfsame cake rejected outright by his sisters for being “too nutty”.

3. I recently acquired a freelance job to ghost-write a book, with my blog serving as the writing sample.

4. I have German friends who speak far better English than I speak German, but I regard it as a compliment that German is the language of our friendship.

5. My best friend at school once told me I had high cheekbones (we were reading a lot of romance literature at the time, so that sounded like a great compliment, but when I told my grandmother, who was British and not into effusive floweriness, she said, “What’s good about having high cheekbones?”). Around that time, still in the romance-reading phase, I asked my mother what my best feature was. I was hoping I’d hear something along the lines of your beautiful eyes that reflect your soul, your Cupid’s bow lips, the delicate whorls of your ears. She replied, “Your hair.”

That’s all I can think of now. I hope you will consider my application.

Sincerely yours,


*smiles winningly*


Charlotte Needs

Last night we went to another 40th birthday party (oh, how we age) and once again successfully proved the rule “While South Africans dance, Germans hog the walls”. We believe ourselves to be the sole providers of Stimmung (high spirits, mood) in the entire Rhine-Neckar delta. Perhaps this is another reason why we must move to Berlin – in Berlin, Germans dance. So even though the music was unrecognisable remixes of remixes over a techno beat, we three South Africans gave it welly while 42 Germans sipped their Weizenbier and watched us with the same species antipathy as giraffe might watch warthogs having a loud mudfight in the only clean waterhole within 100 square kilometres. Why play when you can chew on acacia leaves?

We tried. Then we gave up. We left the 42 Germans sipping their beers, tapping their feet and watching the empty dance-floor. I think they were asking themselves where the warthogs had gone.

In the same vein of silliness, I picked up this meme from Badger. What you do is type your Web name into your Google search engine plus the word “needs” and see what absurdities Google offers. It’s better than astrology. According to Google:

Charlotte Needs You

Charlotte needs to go to the East Coast this fall

Charlotte needs to take action to develop a fan following

Charlotte needs to look beyond banks

Charlotte needs help finding words

Charlotte needs more spending on roads

Charlotte needs a firm but loving hand, encouraging her self-esteem (husband, take note)

Charlotte needs donations from people like you

Charlotte needs protection from Charlotte

Charlotte needs to craft a new vision

Charlotte needs someone to take over the daily tasks (ahem)

Charlotte needs a rich mix

Charlotte needs to turn to Blues Rock or R&B (last night’s DJ, take note)

But my best of all, really the all-out favourite is:

Who needs Kate Moss when there’s Charlotte?

Yeah. My point exactly.