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Trying to keep three hyperactive boys occupied on weekends can be difficult: there is only so much imaginative fun to be gained from our garden.
One of our favourite alternative places is a local play area which thankfully has more than the usual swings and roundabouts, but things like towers to climb and trampolines to bounce on. It also has a big water play area where Youngest Son is turning a water wheel and hiding from the camera.
Meanwhile downstream, the older brothers are working on some serious water management and mud pie construction.
The last days of college before the Christmas break were spent frantically trying to finish a walnut picture frame. The trouble with a complete frame is that it only takes one mistake and the whole thing is a mess, and you only find out after you’ve put all the parts together. Compared to this, making one tenon join is easy.
As I’d messed up my practice attempts that wasn’t exactly comforting.
Making one of the joins with a 6mm chisel and mallet. The other half of the join is is on hand for testing purposes.
Frame assembled, showing some quite hideous wonkiness on the nearest corner. Fortunately these vanished during the gluing stage. There were a disturbing number of cracks in the joints as well, but it’s remarkable what can be hidden using a mix of sawdust and glue. The finished frame was just straight enough to become a Christmas present for Beautiful Wife.
My Japanese saws: these cut on the pull, not the push which allows them to be finer because even I am less likely to break the blade when cutting. For the picture frame I used my Dozuki (nearest the camera) which has especially fine teeth for cutting tenon joints.
Notice friend and hideously competent carpenter B in the background, working hard with the Raubank while I’m messing about with a camera. This explains why he got a higher grade than me.
Or: Advantages of being a carpenter #1: Christmas presents are easy.
Our local Christmas market is full of “hand crafted” wooden ornaments and utensils, some of which I realised I can now make myself, so last week I spent a couple of hours in our workshop sorting our our Christmas presents for this year.
The wood came from the pile of ‘waste’ beech wood that was left over after we made our first project a few weeks ago. It had knot holes or splits and as such was destined to be burnt, but now it is a lot of interestingly shaped tea light holders and I don’t have to worry about what I’ll get people for Christmas.
Anyway, about the Elm.
In college, we’re all supposed to get a piece of wood and do a small presentation on it. I was away on the day the varieties were given out which I think is why I got Elm. Elm is pretty hard to find in Germany since many were killed by disease, but as far as I know it is a little bit easier to get a hold of in the UK and USA.
If anyone is willing to send me a piece of Elm (of any variety) by the tenth of January, I’d be more than happy to swap it for a tea light holder, made in a genuine German workshop by a genuine British apprentice using sustainable beechwood.
The brief asks for a piece of Elm wood 24cm by 16cm by 5cm (about 10 in by 6 in by 2in) but given that the chances of getting hold of anything at all is pretty slim, the school isn’t going to be fussy about the dimensions.
Any offers, let me know in the comments or the contact form and I’ll email you.
Just over a fortnight ago we quietly passed the eighth anniversary of our moving to Ostfildern, so I’ve now lived here sixteen days longer than I lived anywhere else.
People occasionally ask us if we’ll ever move back ‘home’, meaning the UK. This rather misses the point that Beautiful Wife is Japanese, and even if we decided to go to the UK, it isn’t like we’ve got roots in a certain place anyway. Theoretically our family name comes from Wales but I think we’d have to go back a few hundred years to find that connection, and at that time the other side of the family was apparently living in Dundee with a German name, so it looks like we’ve a long tradition of making things complicated.
I occasionally have daydreams about moving to Wales or Scotland and living off grid, but unless we have a total collapse of the Euro or fall off the end of the Mayan calender, our boys have a much better chance of getting a decent education if we stay in Germany. And as much as I whine about it, our cycle provision and public transport is far ahead of anything in the Motherland, even here in Mercedesville.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t really have a ‘home’ in the normal sense. And that I’ve probably spent far too long thinking about it.
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.
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.