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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.
There are many reasons our neighbours think we are strange. One is that occasionally when they bring their car out for a clean, we are lining up our bikes.* I’m not sure if the looks are because of the unusual nature of the bikes we ride or just because, they’re bikes, as in, Not Cars. And that’s just weird.
I’m a bit obsessive about cleaning my bike, probably he result of dealing with mud encrusted machines at the bike shop. I’m especially fussy about the front forks or the main bar, where mud collects easily. Fortunately the mudguards take care of most of the mud, cow poo, horse poo and assorted other semi-liquid matter that covers the cycleways around here, and the long frame of the Xtracycle makes cleaning much more pleasant as the area around the front gears doesn’t get spattered all the time, and you can get at it to clean much easier with the back wheel out of the way.
My goodness but I’m boring. As it is now spring there’s a slightly higher chance that the roads will be dry most of the time, and that I can relax on the cleaning. The bike still gets some dirt, of course, but it’s a grey-brown patina of fine road dust which makes it clear that this is a working bike, and is therefore very cool, whereas mud just looks mucky.
I think I should get out more.
Of course the real advantage of cleaning a bike is that even after I’ve taken the deck off the back, unfastened and removed the luggage carriers, cleaned the frame down, replaced the luggage carriers, removed the three kilos of rubbish I’ve been carrying about for weeks and wheeled the shiny bike into the garage, my neighbours are probably only half way through cleaning their car.
*Currently seven bikes, for a five-member family. And your point is?
Youngest Son suddenly decided that pedals are the future and got his big brothers to teach him to ride a bike.. The first we knew about it was when Beautiful Wife saw him racing past the kitchen. He’s spent most of the week giving demonstrations and finding any excuse to ride anywhere (except up hills: still working on that). It’s great to see him happy, growing, more independent and mobile etc, but I’ll miss having a small person on my bike. The Kindergarten pickup has changed from carrying Eldest Son and as many of his friends as can fit into the Bakfiets, to towing a small bike up the hill using the Xtracycle, unhitching, and riding home together. That’s fun too, even if we have to follow a rather indirect route to avoid the main road, because people in cars are obviously more important than families who merely live here.
Anyway, Beautiful wife had mentioned that chocolate supplies were going down. This is a serious problem, so Youngest and I decided that we’d go to on the almost entirely traffic free route to the next town and resupply before things got dangerous: the sun was shining, and it would be a chance for Youngest to go out on a bike ride with a purpose. We decided on a plan: on the uphill bits I’d tow Youngest Son’s bike and he’d ride the Xtracycle, and if it rained (which of course it wouldn’t, as it was so sunny and bright) I could tow us home.
I really should have looked at the weather report closely, or taken more notice of those clouds behind us, especially as we had a tailwind. As we came out of the shop the weather caught up with us and my suspicions were confirmed that Youngest Son’s ‘waterproof’ coat wasn’t.
Fortunately there was a longer but less windy route through various housing estates and along the most expensive cycle lane in the world. By the time we’d made it to the top of the hill the rain had given up so Youngest Son got to ride the last bit and still seemed to be smiling when we got home. Of course the question is if he’s smiling because of the ride or smiling because it was over.
Ah, well, chocolate supplies restored…
I was wondering if the natural order of the universe had changed this weekend. I’d decided to build a temporary cold frame from three windows we’d found in the Very Smallholding. No allotment is complete without at least one ramshackle cold frame made from old windows, and it would give the more delicate seedlings a chance to get acclimatised before being thrown out into the great outdoors.
The first shock was that I found all the tools, which I think deserves to be recorded for posterity. I weeded the small veggie bed we (ie: ‘Grandma’) had dug last year, and decided to make it a bit wider to fit the foundations in, foundations sounding much better than three old bits of paving slab and a plank. More surprises: the spade -found within three minutes- went in with little trouble, and the old paving slabs were where I’d left them, along with a solid piece of wood that fitted in the gap with minimal grunting and kicking at the edges, and even turned out to be just the right size to support the half-sized pallets I wanted to use for the back supports.
By now I could do anything: even find a sharp saw and cut another pallet to make the supports for the front. I refitted the anti-slug fence with help from the boys who know a good chance to dig stuff up when they see one, laid the windows over the construction and was feeling pretty pleased with myself that nothing had been broken yet, when I decided the front needed to be a few centimetres higher to for the seed trays under. No problem I thought. I got some wood blocks, lifted the first window, and the whole construction toppled sedately downhill.
The plan (skip this if you’re read it before) was to go off to north Germany for just under a month and learn how to be an ambulance driver, come home in June, get eight weeks experience and go back for exams in the beginning of August. The plan worked, despite certain practical problems, right up to arriving at the school. Unfortunately that’s where things began to unravel.
The problem was not the many-headed monster, the language or any of the other stuff I was concerned about. It was decibels, specifically coming from our teacher.
He started shouting in the first lesson: this school wasn’t going to be ‘average’; it would be the best; we were going to be pushed to the limit; he’d make us stressed as far as we could bear and then some; his students scored an average of 1.2* and he would make sure we did the same, apparently by shouting. Everything taught each day would have to be learned in its entirety by the next morning. It would be tested by pulling people up to the front and grilling them, and woe betide any student that was not Good Enough.
Quite what this was meant to achieve I don’t know: all it did for me was stop my brain working.
I held out until Monday: the teacher did deal with some of us more carefully than others, but in the end it dawned on me that to stay I’d have to spend the next three weeks trying to make myself fit into the ethos of the school, and that wasn’t the sort of person I am or want to be, and wouldn’t have made me a better ambulance driver either. My identity didn’t need to be wrapped up in being Good Enough for this particular teacher, nor in becoming an ambulance driver by August, so after watching five people get shouted at for an entire lesson I packed my bags and came home.
When I wasn’t avoiding the teacher I was having a great time and enjoying the work, so I’m trying to find another way to get to the same place, maybe by working with the local Red Cross and then applying to a school nearby with more relaxed lessons and less decibles; we’ll see.
In the meantime it’s planting season, and I still want to ride a century this year, I’ve a carpentry apprenticeship to start in September, something fell off Middle Son’s bike, (It is a mystery to me how the boys manage to lose obscure fittings on their bikes, but they do) so I need to get fixing it, and I’ve just realised it’s mothers day in Germany tomorrow.
More normal (ie: Bike and garden related) posts from next week.
*Exams in Germany are typically graded from 1.0 (perfection) down to 4.9 or 5. Britain as usual has to be different so my grades are all in letters, which causes no end of confusion.
We (me and the bike) are ready: the bags have finally arrived, and I’ve (almost) packed everything in them, the paperwork is (almost) sorted, I’ve had half a dozen holes poked in my arm to immunise me from various ailments, including a couple so obscure the nurse had to read up on the details before she injected me, but that just serves me right for wanting to work in a children’s ward; the tickets are here, I have a placement at an ambulance station in Stuttgart when I get back and I’ve finally got a mobile phone, which has just enough technology in its little grey case that I can call people and send texts: I’ve embraced mobile technology, albeit from the 1990′s. It also has a torch, which I assume is for morse code.
All I have to do is get on a train at silly O’clock on Monday and go off to north Germany for 21 days. Which means I have to deal with the problem at the back of my mind since I applied.*
I am an introvert: quite an extreme introvert in fact, I really don’t do new places or people very well. I like people, but I don’t like dealing with people I haven’t met, in big groups, and in places I’ve never been before.
I think you can see the problem here.
I’m being stupid of course: this time next week we’ll all have got to know each other and I’ll be fine, and the other people are probably more nervous because they’re all a lot younger than me, so they’ll have teenage angst to deal with as well. I just have to get through the first couple of days and then I can relax.
That sounds good, I’ll stick with that.
Time to stop whining and get packing, methinks.
The internet connection in the school may be a bit awkward at first, so if the next posts have a feel of having been written some time ago and posted automatically it’s because they were. Or rather they will have been.
*Apart from it being a self-catering course and I can’t cook: anyone have some very, very simple recipes before I have to live on Salad for a month?
I’m busy getting my last-minute panicking started nice and early, and incidentally doing a few other things, which unfortunately aren’t very interesting when written down:
- I’ve been fixing Bike N + 1, which went fine until the seat post broke: I have no idea how I managed that.
- I spent some time buying a pannier/bag luggage set which when delivered was missing the panniers, so I’m trying to contact the company and see if they’d like to send me the rest of it.
- I filled in paperwork informing the Job Centre I wouldn’t be at home, so they sent me more forms, and then had a hissy fit and said I’m showing dangerous levels of initiative and I’ll be away longer than paupers are allowed, so they will reduce my unemployment payments while I’m in north Germany. They then demanded a different form which has to be delivered a week after I leave.
- I spent a day applying to thirty different hospitals and ambulance stations trying to get an internship, and several more days being inundated with refusals and worrying that I’ll have to go somewhere else for that part of the course which would mean (a) Not being with family, and (b) either losing all my unemployment benefit, or being naughty and not telling the Job Centre.
- I watered the seedlings.
- I ordered the train tickets with seat and bicycle reservations. I can get from here to within 30 kilometres of the school in one day, whereupon I’ll stay overnight in a bike-friendly bed and breakfast before riding the last bit.
- I bought a map so I can find my way on that last bit, and a German-English medical dictionary, and then realised I didn’t understand half the English words either.
- I’ll have to buy a mobile phone for the first time in my life so I’ve been getting advice, some of which I actually understood.
- I’ve been dispensing hugs to The Boys, who have been staying noticeably close this week.
- I was (rather suddenly) interviewed and offered a placement in an emergency room at a major children’s hospital as long as I don’t get in the way too much (I’ll have to wear a white uniform. Beautiful Wife finds this hilarious)
- I read the electricity meter.
- I lost some files on the computer, made a mental note to sort it out and forgot about it three minutes later, several times.
- I collected our seed potatoes.
- And a few minutes ago, I was offered an internship at an ambulance station, subject to an interview next week.
So things are happening fast, and I’m about to do something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time, but the process doesn’t make for exciting blogging.
I’m going to the school in Daschow to learn how to be a Rettungsanitäter, or Emergency Medical Technician. I had to think about this a bit as it means committing spend a month away from the family, but I got a lot of encouragement, not least from several readers of this blog, but the deciding factor was that Beautiful Wife felt it was a good idea. As she’s the one who will have to look after three highly energetic boys while I’m away, I wasn’t about to go and try without her agreement. She reckons that as long as she’s known me, I’ve wanted to jump on passing ambulances to go and help people, so it’s about time I actually learned to do it*. I have a fantastic wife.
I’ll be off for a month in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, known as Meck-Pom, and about as far as you can get in Germany before falling of the north coast and heading for Sweden. The school is in the least populated area of Germany’s least populated state, and the bus service won’t exactly be every ten minutes, so one of the items on the very long list of things to do before I go is fixing up Bike N+1 so I can actually get about**. Thankfully, between working in the bike shop and my habit of embarrassing Beautiful Wife by salvaging bits of scrap bikes, this won’t be too expensive. A small victory for hoarding.
Hopefully, if I have time and money, I’ll be able to race down to see the family for a very short weekend in the middle of the course, then after my first exam I’ll be home for two months, sort of, while I spend four weeks in an accident and emergency ward, and then another month in different ambulances. Of course I now have to apply for these placements, which means more paperwork, and I still have to finish the paperwork for the carpentry apprenticeship, -or more accurately, for the finance for the apprenticeship- and visit the carpentry school and discuss how many lessons I’m expected to attend, and file an amendment to my original application (with paperwork to back it up) because I’m now working part time at the bike shop, and then another amendment (with different paperwork) because I’ll be away throughout May, and…
We’ve made a lot of progress in the last week, I’m trying not to forget that in the face of all these forms…
*Helping people that is, I doubt jumping on passing ambulances is part of the training.
** “Think up a better name for it” is another job, I reckon…