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Long-suffering readers of this blog will have noticed that I’ve been trying to get an apprenticeship or other qualification for a couple of years now.

It turns out that working with young people is a great job, but doesn’t bring in a vast amount of money. This is because everyone thinks it is a wonderful thing to do, but considerably less people think it’s wonderful enough to pay for. We also have some long term goals, and being a carpenter will help us reach these. I’ll say more about this another time.

Well, after two years of false starts, next week I’ll start an apprenticeship as a cabinet maker/carpenter, having managed to convince a local company that I’m not too much of a liability, and filled in a small bale of forms to persuade the government that no, I’m not attempting to get money for nothing but I would like to eat. The system here is that although I’ve got an employer, I’ll spend most of the first year in college learning the basics.

Assuming I actually manage to pass the intermediate exams in a years time, I’ll be working with the company that took me on as an apprentice until 2015. Then I have to pass the final exams, including a German and Maths exam* and then make something out of wood that looks good and doesn’t collapse when the judges poke it.

But that’s in three years time. This week I need to get my feet used to holding my weight all the time again, and then next week I’ll start commuting to college. Which starts at seven fifteen in the morning…

*Guess what my worst school subjects were.

Grandma’s purple Pashley bike being pressed into service for a shopping run in York. Notice Big Red Lock, damp weather, saddle set to silly height and pannier bag on the ground. After wrestling this bag off and on the bike I saved a total of zero minutes compared to walking on the same journey.

Middle Son is out to get the full British Holiday Experience, so this week we took him paddling in the cold North Sea, and followed that up with ice cream in a biting wind.

Warm summer afternoon, three boys relaxing on the only vaguely grassy part of the Very Smallholding.

The Boys have created a double deck downhill transportation device. It got pretty fast on the steeper bits of the hill. Notice use of fork as handbrake.

Try replicating that with an X-Box.

Beautiful Wife asked me to get some emergency pizza when I picked Youngest Son up from Kindergarten. No problem, I thought, we can swing past the shop on the way.

Except that Youngest Son likes to cycle home on his bike these days, and the only shop in the village is directly on the main road, which happens to be one of the routes into the Stuttgart/Neckar valley industrial region. There’s no way he can ride there with all the cars and trucks and buses rushing into Germany’s sixth city, and of course, we can’t remove the right to choose your transport mode by say, slowing people down or stopping through traffic: then there would only be three fast roads, and imagine the pain and hardship that would cause.

On top of this a child under seven has to ride on the pavements/sidewalks in Germany. The idea, as I understand it, is to get them used to things like a high curb whenever they have to cross a side road; pedestrians appearing from buildings; and how to jump out-of-the-way* of Very Important Drivers coming out of driveways, opening car doors or just using the pavement as their own private parking space.

In this way children quickly learn that ‘cycling’ is what you do on a Sunday afternoon, and if you want to go more than twenty metres from the front door, get Mummy or Daddy to drive you there.

I’m being cynical: It’s probably just a cheap way to avoid building proper cycle lanes.

Either way, it’s surprisingly difficult to ride down a busy road and keep contact with a small person cycling on the other side of parked cars while Mercedes man leans on his horn because I’m delaying him in his Very Important Journey and distracting him from his Very Important Conversation on his mobile phone.

Now I’m sure some people (probably the people leaning on their car horn) would say I should get off the bike and walk along the pavement, thus getting out-of-the-way** of the Very Important Drivers, which would be fine except that because we are ever-so-special tree huggy types we are usually trying to get somewhere on our bikes.

Which makes it even more annoying that having made an extra trip to get the pizza, and riding all over the village to find quieter traffic calmed streets, we still ended up with an SUV behind us revving his engine and generally expressing his annoyance at our presence on the road.

*WordPress is convinced I need these hyphens. Do I? or is WordPress being nannyish?
** See previous footnote.

It was Beautiful Wife’s birthday recently. Flower delivery by Bakfiets.

Grandma and Grandpa came to visit last month, and stayed with friends in another part of the village.

It turns out that you can, with some effort, make a hole in ‘puncture proof’ tyres. I do not recommend this, of course, and it does take a surprising amount of work and incompetence, but I have managed it as follows:

Pump tyres up to 4 bar, (one bar under the maximum, but the person who worked this out probably thought the tyres would be used as they were meant to be: on flat roads. Under a lighter bike).

Take Xtracycle to garden for family picnic.

Before going home, load Xtracycle with remains of picnic, a bag of compost, several gardening tools, a large plant pot and some work boots.

Decide Youngest Son is too tired to ride home on his own.

Put youngest son on already overloaded Xtracycle. Strap his bike on to tow it home as well.

Consider leaving some things but then realise that means coming back to get them in half an hour. Decide you can’t be bothered.

On the way home, drive up a very steep, badly surfaced road, putting entire weight of (overloaded) Xtracycle, Youngest Son, and and a rider that is ‘cough’ kilogrammes heavier than strictly necessary, onto the back wheel.

Mash pedals to get up hill.

Fail to notice one particularly sharp bit of gravel embed itself into the thickest part of the back tyre under the pressure.

Continue riding (and probably overloading) the bike for the next two days.

Result: one unscheduled visit to the bike shop for a replacement tyre and inner tube.

I guess that’s why the tyres are sold as ‘puncture proof’ rather than ‘idiot proof’.

Trying to defy physics a couple of weeks ago by making support for the french beans that won’t collapse as soon as the wind blows, despite not having anything like enough poles to support it.

The supports are still standing and the garden has moved on a lot since. I really need to take some photographs.

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