Friday, September 18, 2009

Postscriptum Hermense

Home again.

Funny, how reality just washes over you like a big wave and you're thrust into the usual torrent of life again after a relaxing swim in a calm distributary: I left Herm in tears one day and was picked up from Vienna International Airport by my dad the next. An hour later I was home. And how did I spend the evening? By virtually searching the university's library for useful books for my seminar paper that's due in 2 weeks. The next day I enrolled for some uni courses for the term that is about to start, drafted my timetable and visited my grandparents, and with the start of next week I'll take to studying again. My eyes are already losing their sparkle from simply being trapped in this town with a heap of work in front of me. Papers, exams, lectures and my whole life framed by concrete. This won't go down easily... (Right, that was a bit melodramatic.)

But let's not get depressive (yet) and rather think about the last week on Herm. Random rambling and running on Herm, often interrupted by an urge to indulge in the blackberries that frame every path (N.B. to go blackberrying is my new favourite phrase) or to suck up the landscape, the sea and all of the island's beauty like a sponge and commit it to memory. (I would have taken loads of helpful pictures if my (fairly new!) camera hadn't failed me 2 weeks earlier. )

I finally also managed to explore one of Herm's caves: It is only accessible by scrambling over the rocks at low tide, so Vicky checked out the tide-table and we got up at 7 o' clock Monday morning, equipped with torch and camera (the batteries of the latter we also used in turns for the former), and set out for a pre-breakfast adventure. The cave we aimed for was rather an incomplete tunnel system that wound it's way into the rock for about 50 metres (or more).
After admiring the funny, big, stone-age woodlice (no idea what these animals that clung to the walls and took rapid flight when we shone light on them really were) we climbed a huge rocky step into the man-made tunnel. To protrude further we had to wade through ankle-deep water repeatedly - Vicky kept taking off and putting on her trainers whereas I was just happy that I had chosen indestructible sandals. The tunnel took 2 bends to the left and suddenly we found ourselves at a dead end. A plastik box sat there, patiently waiting for visitors to open it and unleash the deadly, I mean: sign the visitors' book that is not really a book anymore but rather a lump of limp, damp pieces of paper. We signed it anyway (with some difficulty) and made our way back into the cruelly bright sunlight.

Here are some of the pics Vicky took:

The Team

Yep, in there we wanted to go

Me staging a scene from Lion King... We did not really
feel like walking back the long way we'd come, so we
just climbed up the cliffs to get to the path.

--> Cave: done.

After walking back and staining our hands with blackberry juice we went to the canteen for proper breakfast. After this early-morning adventure (talking about the cave, not breakfast) I felt brave enough for a new challenge: I went into the backstore and illegally helped myself to a small, heart shaped
(why??) pack of Marmite. Though having spent a considerable amount of time in the UK I'd never before gathered the courage to try this British speciality, but on this special morning I felt the time had come. I buttered my toast and spread a tiny dollop of the brown, gloopy (can I say that, Vicky?) substance as thinly as possible on same slice and took a tiny bite. To Vicky's question whether I loved or hated it (apparently you have to choose either; there's no in-between) I had to admit that it wasn't as awful as I had expected. I finished my toast and even had a second one (white bread this time - to better appreciate the yeasty flavour). I would not declare myself a lover of Marmite, though. Especially after trying a little bit WITHOUT toast. Yuck!

--> trying Marmite:

One last thing remained to be enjoyed before saying Farewell to Herm and so I asked wine-waiter (and former Ship-mate) Adrian to go for lunch with me on my last day on the island. He readily agreed and so we entered Ship where we found Vicky who had surprisingly got the afternoon off and decided to join us :-).
And so it happened that I finally had one of these highly-praised Beef Patties with cheese. (An American customer once assured me that the burger tasted like
"at home"). And it was damn good! Especially, because my extra wish for handcut chips was granted (Chef usually refuses).

This delicious meal was followed by an expertly done Irish Coffee which tasted really nice, even though Zuzi spilt half the cream when serving it--.
It was a perfect last meal and I skipped dinner that evening (I was too sad to be hungry, anyway).

My attempt at an Irish Coffee at home.
Unfortunately, Austrian cream is not as fat
as Guernsey cream, which makes it harder.

--> Burger: done. Irish coffee: likewise.

Finally, I wanted to make use of my last lonely evening on Guernsey (stayed at a hotel because my flight was early in the morning) by visiting the cinema. This place of entertainment is well hidden and almost impossible to find if nobody tells you where to go. It is part of the Mallard Hotel complex and in order to get there you have to cross the parking lot and walk around the hotel. Hardly any signs to show you the way. I walked there (took me about 20 mins), only to discover that they didn't play anything remotely interesting and consequently spent the evening in my room watching Pointless and Eggheads, 2 British quiz shows, before finishing Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: This is a spoof of the well-known classic and was given to me by Andy (our barman). In this version of the story a lady is truly accomplished if she masters the oriental martial arts and devotes her life to protecting the UK by fighting the ever increasing unmentionables. I had my doubts at first, but it turned out to be hilarious! ([Elizabeth] remembered the lead ammunition in her pocket and offered it to him. "Your balls, Mr. Darcy?" He reached out and closed her hand around them, and offered, "They belong to you, Miss Bennet.")

I left this book, left the hotel and kindly got a lift to the airport because two guys who stayed at the hotel were working there. They were Austrian and somehow found out that I was too (I still haven't worked out how... and it annoys me.) and started talking to me. The only thing they did was to complain about the island and to tell me how everything was soooo much better in Austria. Really pissed me off and made me even more reluctant to go back home to a place that's full of people like that.

But home I went. And I miss the island. I miss the lifestyle. And I miss my new friends. A lot.
But, fortunately, I am going to see most of them again :-).

Sunday, September 06, 2009


Sadness overcame me today, when Iris, my Austrian co-mate, left Herm. Two days later Ina will depart as well and then it's my turn to abandon ship. (The coming week will see a great many tears and I think I will stop wearing mascara for economical reasons.) Summer has raced past and September has come far too quickly: In 10 days I will bid good-bye to so many people that I got to know and like really well: I will leave my temporary island home for my beloved Austria.
Anyways, summer is almost over and it's time to recap: I came to this beautiful spot in the English Channel with certain plans and here are some things I managed to accomplish:

  1. went to La Valette Underground Museum : crap; don't ever go there - it's not worth the money. They don't even have toilets...
  2. swam to Caquorobert (rocky little islet about 200m off Belvoir Bay) and climbed to the top
  3. went for a spontaneous midnight/moonlight swim in same bay
  4. went to Lihou Island: a small island with ruins of a monastery (12th century) that can only be reached during 2 hours of low tide every day
  5. went to two of Guernseys many neolithic tombs
  6. dined in TDH (see last entry)
  7. tried scallops - I can't decide whether I like them... they taste.... weird.
  8. spent a nice day off at the beach - swimming and sunbathing
  9. took a walk along all the beaches at low tide and climbed from Shell Beach to Belvoir
  10. visited the weekly farmers' market on GY -- not really spectacular, but at least I got strawberries that actually tasted of something
  11. went to the Guernsey Museum and Art Gallery
  12. walked the beautiful Princess Radziwill's Path that's reserved for hotel guests: Ina and I sneaked past the little round prison, climbed over the wall and rushed past the marquee unseen in order to get there
  13. went for a run at least once a week (to combat the effects of the not achieved point 4 of the following list)

In short I think I made very good use of the 10 offdays I've had so far and it makes me happy to think back, but there are also some things I did not manage to do - for different reasons:

I didn't...

  1. keep away from books entirely in order to use the time for socialising: Our Ex-KP (Kitchen Porter) Mick left me his book as a present and I haven't managed to finish the almost 1000 page novel yet (because I socialise too much).
  2. walk the whole length of the cliff paths framing the southern coast of Guernsey: I did a bit with my parents - that has to be enough.
  3. explore Herm's caves: my stupid shifts and/or the weather have prohibited me from doing that, but it's still on my list and I'm determined to squeeze a short trip into next week's rota somehow
  4. lose weight: some things are not possible with pastry chefs like Tino and Chris: temptation lurks everywhere, ready to jump on you when you enter the kitchen: a plate of brownies or chocolate coated strawberries will sit there, innocently smiling at the passer-by and whisper "Eat me! I taste really nice! Go for it!". NO-ONE escapes that trap! (This is especially true for female staff members.) Kitchen is a dangerous place: Full of food...
  5. go to Jersey for a few days: I want to get my holidays paid and I decided against going after my contract terminates because I'd rather save the money for my term in Wales next year
  6. have a cheese burger in The Ship (ideally followed by an Irish Coffee - just to piss off our barman :D): I had no time for that yet but it's on my schedule for my last day. Can't leave here without having had a decent meal.
So, 10 days of island life still lie ahead of me and I will be careful to make very good use of the little bit of leisure time I've got left before returning to reality. To think about leaving doesn't give me as much pain as last year, but my happiness about seeing my family and all my friends again soon is tainted with sadness and the knowledge that I will miss the island and people here extremely. But I'm determined not to let this oncoming sadness spoil my last week :).

Friday, September 04, 2009

Dinieren am Table D'Hote

Auf Herm gibt es 3 Etablissements in denen man gutes und frisch gekochtes Essen bekommt: Mermaid Tavern, Ship Inn und das Hotel Restaurant - kurz auch TDH genannt (siehe Titel). In letzterem wird den hochgeschätzten (und meist auch -betagten) Hotelgästen allabendlich ein viergängiges Dinner vorgesetzt, auf welches man allerdings auch als Normalsterblicher für 25 Pfund ein Recht hat.

Da ich letztes Jahr schon die Abendspecials von Ship (Captain's Table: Starters - Roast - Dessertbuffet) und Mermaid (Blackrock Grill: Man kriegt einen heißen Stein und grillt sich sein Fleisch selber nach Geschmack) ausprobiert habe, war auf meiner Liste nur mehr das Hotelrestaurant abzuhaken und nach monatelangen Versuchen, einen Tisch zu bekommen (bei einem einzigen freien Tag in der Woche und einem relativ guten Zustrom an Gästen ist das nicht so leicht) hat Ben es schlussendlich geschafft, uns an Inas letztem freien Tag auf der Insel einzubuchen.

Ina, Iris und ich - ein österreichisches Trio - haben uns also neu eingekleidet (wörtlich) und -geschuht und sind zuerst einmal zur Monks Bar, die sonst den Hotelgästen vorbehalten ist, spaziert, wo wir uns einen Aperitiv geholt haben, mit dem wir auf die bequemen Ledersofas am offenen Kamin der Lounge niedergesunken sind. Man hat uns danach das Abendmenü gebracht, aus dem wir gewählt haben.

Etwas später wurden wir an unseren Tisch geführt, wo uns Weinkellner Adrian die vorbestellten Achterl gebracht hat (Sancerre Rosé, 5,50 das Glas - aber wenn man schon einmal essen geht...). Seltsame Situation, irgendwie, von Freunden bedient zu werden. Aber noch eigenartiger war von Kollegen die Stoffserviette auf den Schoß gelegt zu bekommen. Als wäre man unfähig, das selber zu machen. Da schämt man sich ja fast dafür.

Und dann ging es los: Zuerst mal die obligaten kleinen, noch warmen Weckerl mit kalter Butter. (Mal was anderes, wenn man die frisch bekommt und nicht am Ende des Abends die schon hartwerdenden Brötchen mit angeschmolzener, gelber Butter...). Ein halbes Weckerl wollte nicht stillhalten, als Ina es mit Butter bestrich und sprang wagemutig vom Tisch, woraufhin ein alleine sitzender Mann am Nebentisch sich sichtlich bemühen musste, nicht in lautes Gelächter auszubrechen. Er hat sich damit begnügt, seinen Mund zu einem dünnen Grinsen zusammenzukneifen und vor Anstrengung rot anzulaufen. :D

Ina und ich haben uns beide für gegrillte Scallops (Jakobsmuscheln) in Erbsenpüree mit Rosinen und knusprigem Speck als Starter entschieden, obwohl man dafür einen Aufpreis zahlen muss. Keine schlechte Wahl, denn obwohl die Kombi von Muscheln, Erbsen und Rosinen komisch klingt, passt das Ganze wunderbar zusammen.

Als Seconds standen uns Selleriesuppe und Apfelsorbet zur Auswahl - beides nicht schlecht.

Danach kamen die Mains - in meinem Fall ein gegrilltes Thunfischfilet auf Fisolen, Cherrytomaten und Erdäpfeln, serviert mit Broccoli, Karfiol und Carrots and Sweets (Süßkartoffeln). Sooooo gut! Der Thunfisch war medium-well gebraten und daher noch ganz leicht roh in der Mitte und das Gemüse war nicht im typisch englischen Stil zerkocht sondern al dente - so richtig knackig. (Ina und Iris hatten Lammbraten mit Couscous - auch sehr lecker.)

Interessanterweise fühlten wir uns nach diesen drei Gängen immer noch nicht ganz voll, aber wir waren ja noch nicht fertig. Als ich das Dessertmenü sah, machte mein kleines Herz einen Luftsprung, denn es gab tatsächlich Pecan Nut Tart: Diese, letztes Jahr oftmals gestohlene, kleine Tart, die eigentlich nur aus einem dünnen Mürbteig und einer dicken Schicht Pekannuss-Treacle-Masse besteht ist mein absoluter all-time favourite und war somit die perfekte Abrundung dieses Abendessens in stimmungsvoller Atmosphäre. (Die Entscheidung war dennoch nicht leicht, denn das Apple-Blueberry Crumble mit Zimteiscreme hat auch interessant geklungen.)

Nach den Desserts waren wir dann doch ziemlich voll und haben uns zurück zum Ausgangspunkt dieses Abends - in die Hotellounge - geschleppt (Nein, wir sind natürlich aufrecht hinspaziert.) und haben uns dort noch ein Häferl Kaffee geholt und uns am Kaminfeuer erfreut, bis die Rezeptionistin Amy (im Juli selber noch Hotelgast, nun aus romantischen Gründen member of staff) uns gebeten hat, dann langsam mal zu zahlen.

Fazit: Obwohl ich für dieses Abendessen mit allen Getränken 31 Pfund abgelegt habe (75, wenn man Kleid und Schuhe einrechnet), war es jeden Penny wert mal auf die andere Seite zu wechseln und sich bedienen zu lassen. Und das Essen ist in der Qualität dem täglichen Staff Tea (=Dinner) allemal zu vorzuziehen, wenn auch nicht täglich.