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
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
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
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.
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.
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
I began my studies at the University
of Goettingen where I stayed for two years. At the time,
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.
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
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
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
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