Autumn Means Beer, Bratwurt & Break-ins

I was wrong.  It’s not often that one hears me say this.  (Mostly because I’m ridiculously stubborn.)  I was wrong.  It just feels funny saying it, let along putting it in writing.  I may need to practice.  (Oh, who’s kidding who?  It’s such a rare occurrence, why practice?!)

What was I so wrong about, you ask?  Autumn in London, I respond.  I believe that in a previous entry I wrote that the leaves here don’t change colors with the seasons.  I wrote that they simply turn brown and fall.  I may have been mistaken.  (See how quickly I back away from the whole “I was wrong” thing?)  Forgetting greater London and all of its many parks, our street alone is a riot of color and drifting fall foliage.  There is a wall of ivy that has turned the most brilliant red I’ve ever seen on leaves.  There are yellows so bright they look like sunshine in the middle of some very gray days.  There are peaches and oranges and pale, pale greens.  Yesterday I spent time in the currently inappropriately-named Green Park.  No longer green, that park, like all others in London right now, is blazingly, brilliantly orange.  It’s incredible.  Walking through the trees, I felt as if I was walking through golden light, even though it was cloudy above the leaves.  I saw something you will never, ever see in Los Angeles – families chasing the falling leaves.  It was amazing the rate at which the leaves were falling, almost like a soft rain.  And the game was to catch the leaves before they hit the ground.  Had I not been in heels I would have jumped right in.  Hell, looking back I probably should have anyway, ankle sprain be damned.

This month I’ve been lucky enough to experience autumn not only here in London, but in Dusseldorf, Germany as well.  Byron has family there, some whom I know, others whom I was just meeting for the first time.  They’re great.  They took such good care of us, fed us magnificently, made sure we had plenty of German beer and gave us a wonderful tour of the city.  Dusseldorf is lovely, particularly the old town, along the Rhine River.  We wandered its cobbled streets, ate Bratwurst (some of the best I’ve had), met amazing people and drank more beer than I thought was strictly necessary.  But, you know what they say … “when in … um … Dusseldorf” …  We also ate something called Doner Kebab, a Turkish dish.  Delicious.  Apparently Germany has an enormous Turkish population.  I wouldn’t have thought I’d end up eating Doner Kebab during my two days in Dusseldorf, but hey, when I’m offered something yummy to eat, the answer will inevitably be yes.  The best thing we ate while we were there (besides the bratwurst – because, really, how can you top bratwurst?) is something called Speckpfannkuchen.  And no I did not make up that word.  It’s basically an enormous German pancake covered in bacon and the bacon grease.  Think that sounds like heart disease on a (very large) plate?  Yeah, that’s what I thought.  But, again, when in … Dusseldorf.  So I ate it.  With my fantastic German beer (because, although I know that the words ‘pancake’ and ‘bacon’ automatically indicate breakfast for us Americans, in Germany they translate to a hearty dinner – which, in Germany, translates to beer).  And I really, really liked it.  It’s one of those things that you end up craving at two in the morning.  Its comfort food and beer drinking food and hang-over food all wrapped up in one.  I’m craving it right now, in fact.  (And no, I’m not hung-over.  Or drunk.)

But all that beer drinking and bacon eating had to come to an end sometime.  So we headed back home (only an hour flight!) and right back into another adventure.  This one involved the downstairs kitten, Tallulah.  She’s adorable and feisty and … recently spayed.  Immediately after the spaying, her owners had to go out of town for the night.  They asked us to look in on her.  She was wearing a cone over her head to keep her from bothering the surgery site but they were concerned that she’d end up hurting herself.  Did I mention she’s feisty?  We were to check on her once in the evening and once the next morning.  No problem, right?  Uh-huh.  So the evening check-in was uneventful.  We used the two keys we had been given to unlock the upper and then the lower locks on the front door.  We went in, read our neighbors instructions, found Tallulah, oohed and aahed over her amazing cuteness (she really is sweet), admired her airplane-engine purr, gave her food and water, left one of the keys on the kitchen counter, carefully closed the front door, locked the deadbolt and headed upstairs for bed.  Yeah, you read me right.  I left one of the keys on the kitchen counter.  Mensa, anyone?

So the next morning we woke up bright and early, had a relaxing breakfast, casually mentioned to each other that we should wander down and check on Tallulah, realized we were missing a key … and started an all out panic-fueled search of our flat.  So much for our relaxing morning.  The search turned up nothing.  We were SO upset with ourselves.  Okay, actually we were SO upset with me.  I was the jackass who left the key on the counter, distracted as I was by Tallulah’s cuteness.  Did I tell you how cute she is?

At this point I just needed to know that she was okay.  If I could hear her meow or maybe even see her through a window, I would feel better.  A-ha!  We figured out that if we hung out our windows we could see into their atrium, where Tallulah usually hangs out.  We peered over the ledge, we strained our eyes.  Is that her?  Over by the ficus plant?  Nope, not her.  Just the litterbox.  In my defense, the litter is roughly the same color as the cat.  Maybe there?  By the couch?  No, that’s a pillow.  (An entirely different color from the cat, but I could hope, right?)  Finally, Byron hit on a solution.  We would gently toss a few pieces of kibble down onto the atrium ceiling.  Being a kitten, Tallulah would come running to see what the pitter patter was and, voila, we’d see that she was okay.  So we tossed a few kibble.  And waited.  We tossed a few more.  Nothing.  A few more went down.  Nope.  Tallulah never appeared.  We were intensely disappointed.  One who was not disappointed, however, was Poppy, the neighbors’ other, older and chubbier cat.  The next time we looked out our windows we found Poppy on the lawn below, happily hunting kibble pieces in the grass and munching away.  She glanced up at us for a split second with mild gratitude before going back to her lawn buffet.

Sigh.  We had given up.  We called our neighbors, apologized for our deficiency as cat-sitters and admitted defeat.  I prepared to spend the rest of the day worried about Tallulah and mentally self-flagellating.  But no!  Not five minutes later, Byron stalked purposefully into the kitchen holding a wire hanger and wearing a determined frown.  “We’re getting in there,” he said with feeling.  I got tingles.  I love it when he gets all tough-guy.  It’s very exciting.  But now I’m getting side-tracked.  Anyhoo.  So we headed downstairs with our one key and the wire hanger.  We tried valiantly to work the very British never-seen-in-America style door handle through the mail slot for a good ten minutes.  (Quality house robbers we are not.)  Finally, I had an idea.  I ran upstairs and found a rubber kitchen glove.  We placed that over the hanger for grip.  We then put the contraption through the mail slot.  Looking through the glass of the front door, we watched the rubber glove waver precariously on its wire perch.

“What if the glove falls off the hanger in their front hall and they come home to a bright yellow rubber glove on the floor?  Won’t they think that’s a bit odd?”  Byron looked at me as if I had an acceptable answer to this potentially embarrassing situation.

I did.  “Don’t drop it.”

Sure enough, not 30 seconds later we heard a click and the door swung open.  Success!  I raced to the back to find Tallulah sleeping peacefully on one of the sofas, completely unaware of the ruckus that had surrounded her all morning.  And I’m happy to report that she was fine and continues to be fine.  Our neighbors were less than thrilled at our break-in (understandably), but they did seem to admire our resourcefulness.  So all’s well that ends well, right?

Although, come to think of it, I don’t remember having seen that yellow rubber glove since.

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