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me, myself and I - a tentative autobiography  

 

I was born on 13 February 1975 - not on a Friday, as some of my friends suspect - in Celle, a small and boring (average age: 62) town in Northern Germany.

The first years of my life, I lived in Hohne, a tiny north-German farming village in the middle of nowhere which counts more cows than human inhabitants.

 

wathlingen

When I was three, we - that is, my parents, my brother and me - moved to Wathlingen, a negligibly larger village, where my mum got a job as teacher. Wathlingen is a mining village which was dominated by cooling and winding towers and an incredibly large slag heap known to locals as 'potash mountain' - until the mine closed and everything but the spoil pile disappeared. Including the jobs.

Soon after we moved to Wathlingen, I went to the local nursery for two, and to the local primary and middle schools for another six years. 

I grew up in between three farms. Wherever the wind came from, one could smell a dung hill. My neighbours’ pastime was driving around on tractors, but as my parents didn’t own one, I decided to join the local football-team. For some reason, my coach failed to see that I was a natural.

As there was no chance of becoming a football star, I had to continue school. After finishing middle school, I went to the Hermann Billung School in nearby Celle.

 

grammar school

Both my uncle and my brother had been students at the school previously, and both were known for their disobedience (funnily enough, my brother subsequently became an officer with the German army). I managed to keep this familial tradition alive -  I saw the head teacher's office from the inside more than once. 

During my time at grammar-school, I took part in several school-exchanges - two to Villeparisis just outside Paris, where many of us made first personal encounters with alcohol and girls, and one each to Hameenlinna (Finland) and the US, where I stayed at Westtown School, an old Boarding School near the East-coast.

For eight years, I was student at Hermann Billung, until I passed my A levels (Maths and Physics - bad idea...) in 1995. During those years, I somehow managed to become head boy, despite my notorious insubordination, which really was setting a thief to catch a thief.

 

social service

After School, I was a nurse for one year for the Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund, the German equivalent of the St John Ambulance, as social service is the only way to avoid military service (still compulsory in Germany). My brother, who worked for the federal army for 14 years, couldn't understand that I didn't fancy crawling through mud and living in nissen huts for a year...

13 months later, after changing about 1500 nappies, I finally embarked upon my university-career. By that time, the single good club in my town boarded up its windows, and one of the few nice aspects of Celle vanished. It was time to leave. 

 

university

I began my studies at the University of Goettingen where I stayed for two years. At the time, Goettingen seemed like a huge town to me. The town has about 130,000 inhabitants – during term-time. Goettingen is basically a university with a town, not vice versa.  I stayed there for two years during which I worked at the Centre for European and North-American Studies as research assistant.

 

going abroad

After those two years, I decided it was time to escape the plains of Lower Saxony, and went to Bristol, a great university town in the South-West of England. Despite a lot of partying, I somehow managed to get my BA from the University of the West of England after a year. 

Soon after, in October 1999, I started my MA at the University of Warwick in Coventry, in the Midlands, which should rather be called wetlands. I got my Masters degree in Industrial Relations after another year, but actually, I only spent half a year in Warwick, as I went to France for almost half a year

I first went to Toulouse, where I studied at the University for four months, after which I spent another month with my then girlfriend Enza in Paris, in the middle of the summer. Very nice!

After that, I went back to the UK, wrote my MA-dissertation in three weeks, and started my PhD at the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2000, where I'm still trying to find out what German and British Trade Unions are up to. If anyone has a clue, let me know.

 

written in London, August 2001      


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