Houses and planning, Germany vs. UK


In the UK, we lived in a 1940s, semi-detached, pebble-dashed, ex-council house. All the houses on the street were identical -and all equally ugly. A neighbour wanted to make some changes to his house and applied for planning permission. It was denied; the reason: it would be out-of-character with the street. Now, call me stupid, but to my mind any change to this spectacularly ugly street could only improve it. But that’s not how planning works in the UK. Common sense and aesthetics have been sidelined – why?

In Germany almost every house is different; there is not a single mindlessly-designed, profit-maximizing, identikit, wimpy estate to be seen. Most people build their house on a vacant plot to a design of their choice, resulting in diverse and pretty streets full of interesting looking houses.

There is one thing which detracts from this however: garden fences. For some reason metal and chain-link fences are hugely popular. These metal fences imbue a disproportionate and depressingly negative effect on their surroundings relevant to their actual size – and it would be so easy to use wood-panel fencing instead. It’s probably even cheaper. Suburban garden fences are one place where normally excellent and purposeful German over-engineering completely trample any aesthetic sensibilities.

Whilst I’m on a rant anyway… Ireland’s planning has historically been just as bad, but in reverse, by allowing ugly, ostentatious “Dallas” style houses to be built in the middle of the Irish countryside it has destroyed many a historically beautiful landscape. I hate to say it, but this is the reason that Welsh landscapes beats Irish landscapes, hands down. The countryside is one place UK planning has got it right.



No school assembly and an argument about God stumped by a 7 year old

The 7 year old arrives home from school to announce that there are some things about the school he does like, such as no assemblies.

“Why didn’t you like school assemblies in Wales?”

“They always talk about God and stuff like that”

“Whats wrong with talking about God?”

“Well they always try to make you think there is a God at assembly, that’s why all the other children think there is a God.”

“No, maybe they think that because their parents believe in God.”

“No, your parents believed in God and you don’t.”

“Well maybe I’m agnostic and don’t know if there is one.”

“That means you believe in God.”

“Huh ? ! ”

“What makes you say that?”

“Whats the opposite of not believing?”


“Right, and since you don’t not believe, that means you believe.”

He is seven years old, how the hell has he learned to bend logic and argue like George Bush Jr? -actually I’ll just look at it from the other perspective: bush has the mentality of a seven year old…


It’s not just a sneeze

Sneezing, what a useful and enjoyable function. In the English speaking world, we make the noise “Ahh-choo” when we sneeze, presumably because that’s what our parents did. This noise has a useful social purpose. We are conditioned from childhod to expect a (potentially loud) “CHOO”  if anybody makes an “Ahh-” sound.

On the other hand…
Often Germs don’t say ‘ahh. Sneezing is accompanied by a loud ‘KAH’ sound from the back of the throat.  It always makes me jump. It’s probably my paranoia, but I suspect many are secretly looking out of the corner of their eye to see if they made you jump;-)

Realistically, I am sure there is an valid social purpose for the this; maybe there is less snot mist from a KA than a CHOO? Maybe you don’t need a hanky?

*culture clash*

Manipulative children

its the first really nice day here, 21c and sunny, -it was -5 last week.

Tons more garden birds than where we lived in Wales. Lots of sparrows, woodpeckers in tree next door, jays. A pack of Cranes riding thermals overhead -really nice.

Kids cycling in the garden teasing and winding each other up on their (ebay) new bikes. The youngest was around the side of the house and didn’t see me watching as he carefully put his bike down and lay on the ground beside it, then started calling out in apparent distress that his brother had crashed into him.

I just had to spray gold xmas decoration paint on his bike since he refused to ride a bike with pink highlights to school. He obviously hasn’t cottoned on that two down tubes make it a girl’s bike -the joke’s on him (yes, I am a mean, cruel dad).

Update: he now has a new bike:-)


Stylized image

Whilst explaining the meaning of stylized images to the kids at bedtime, the ten year old announced excitedly that the symbol on a box of kellogs cornflakes was a COCKHEAD!

The two of them them burst into fits of uncontrollable giggling for the next half hour.

I suppose since they hear the phrase at least once every drive -but it was funny:-)