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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.
Winter has kicked in with a vengeance, and for the last few weeks I’ve been leaving home before dawn and arriving after dusk on weekdays. Once out of the village it is pitch dark, and the wonderfully retro bodged halogen light I fitted on the commuter bike hasn’t got enough oomph to break through the dark and fog that are a feature of the ride, especially on the section where the local council has thoughtfully closed the pedestrian/cycleway to accommodate building work* and I have to navigate over the fields and around some trees largely by memory. When I’m riding in traffic I’m fine while I keep moving but as soon as I stop I become invisible.
I reckon I’ve got at least eight more weeks of this, so I’ve finally got a modern light, which actually lights up the road, and stays on for a few minutes when I’m not riding. It’s a bit of a risk having a better quality light on a bike I’ll leave in a public space most of the day, but the bike parking space seems pretty safe, and weighed against crashing into a tree or being run over, it makes sense.
If I muster up a lot more self discipline than usual, I may even fit it to the bike and take photos before next March.
*Because it isn’t a road, so it’s not like anyone important will be using it.
I’ve been a commuter for a month now. Not a proper ‘fight against early morning drivers to claim back the road from motor vehicles’ commuter, more a sort of ‘ride blearily through the fields to the next village and abandon the bike for a bus’ commuter. I only have a few hundred metres of road where there’s traffic and at half past six in the morning there isn’t even that much of it.
I’ve even managed to find some decent covered cycle racks (ie, not wheel eaters) which are pretty safe. I know this because the old peoples home next door has used them as to stack several new rolls of linoleum for a couple of weeks.
Normally I leave home at leave home at about 0615 which gives me plenty of time to get everything ready, discover something is missing, panic, run about the house trying to search quietly so I don’t wake up Beautiful Wife, wake Beautiful Wife, look for the missing item where she has told me to look, find it, pack my bag and leave, and ride over the fields at a reasonable speed catch the bus at 0635. The strange thing is, if I happen to be late (ie. When I’ve lost something and Beautiful Wife isn’t able to guide me to it), no matter how hard I ride, it still takes me five minutes longer to ride the same distance.
Carpentry school is proving challenging, not least trying to keep up with the instructions. We have eight to nine hour days and we’re starting to get research assignments and presentations to prepare. I didn’t realise that as well as woodwork we’re expected to be competent in technical drawing as well, which is why I spent the afternoon drawing lots and lots of parallel lines without a ruler. I think the idea was to show it can’t be done.
The plan was to change from posting on Saturday to writing little posts as and when I could, but I’m still getting used to the routine (and probably too lazy) to get writing most evenings when I come home.
I was going to say that the good side to this is that when you do a carpentry apprenticeship, you can be fairly sure you’ll get a decent job, but then today’s newspapers were saying that our local car company is announcing things aren’t looking too good. In theory it’s a good thing if we are producing less oil dependent cars: that will mean a tiny bit less pollution, a tiny reduction in our resource destruction to make flashy cars whose drivers object to my presence on the road, but Stuttgert depends on the car industry and it would be nice if we could avoid economic meltdown until I’ve at least managed to finish my apprenticeship…
Anyway, I’m still here, don’t go anywhere…
This weekend I made a trip to Bad Urach, in the hope of making a metric century.* Bad Urach is the sort of German town you see on calenders, with a medieval centre, winding cobbled streets, timber framed buildings, street cafés and a chemist claiming to have been in business since 1429. The town has been thankfully well looked after too, with a merciful absence of ugly modern buildings, apart from one brutalist concrete monstrosity that the council must have approved during an office party, but even that was tucked down a side street. The council did manage to make most of the old town pedestrianised so that instead of cars in the centre you get scenes like this.
Of course, just after I took this picture a car came trundling furtively down the road towards the café, probably having taken a wrong turn somewhere. I’m not one to criticise drivers for getting stuck on the wrong road, as I’m especially prone to doing exactly that: my dad still hasn’t forgotten the trauma of driving here while trying to follow instructions like “Turn left here… Oops, that’s a cycleway.” But, dear readers, I would ask one question: if you have unfortunately managed to find yourself driving along a pedestrianised street barely wide enough for your car, and come across a café whose furniture makes it even narrower and thus impossible to pass, do you:
A: Drive back the way you came and find one of the perfectly good, fast roads around the town to get to your destination, or…
B: …get your passenger to alight from the vehicle and move the offending furniture so that you can keep going, because obviously, you need to get somewhere and the furniture is In The Way?
I wonder what they would have done if the tables had been occupied…
*106km as you asked, at an average speed of 19km/h, and my legs let me know about it the next day…
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…
Very Useful Sign showing the cycle routes to the villages of Schlattstall, Gutenberg, and oberlenningen, and the nearest sewage works, just in case someone needs to know.
I was going to ask for suggestions why anyone in the middle of nowhere would suddenly need this information, but if you have any ideas I’d prefer you to keep them to yourselves. Thanks…
Having foolishly said that I’d try to ride a century this year I needed some practice, so last week we went on a short (60km) tour. Unfortunately yet another post about riding through hils and valleys woith the birds singing and the hills being alive to the sound of music et c, doesn’t make for interesting reading, but thankfully for the purposes of a good blog there was one problem. The Motorised cyclists are back.
I have two theories for the phenomenon of the Motorised Cyclist:
1. They’re out to get me: I’ve annoyed the local drivers so much that not content with making assasination attempts on the roads, they have commisioned bounty hunters to take me out on the cycleways as well.
2. In the spring, SUV drivers all over Stuttgart dig the bike out of the shed, blow off the cobwebs and pull on their high-tech cycling clothes, then then set off down the cycle trail, forgetting that it isn’t an Autobahn and the squashy obstacles are actually allowed to be there.
So, for example, as I slowed down to pass a family with a wobbly toddler on a bike, the air was suddenly filled with the sound of disc brakes, swearing, and bicycle bells as the
drivers cyclists behind made their displeasure clear. They swept past with the traditional greeting of “schiebeauszervaygettinkfurfastergopersonens!”, and they were gone.
Until the next slight climb where we passed them again.
*It was entirely a coincidence** that I decided to slow down a bit more at that point, just in case.
** Sort of.
Spring is coming, but one of the rules of bureaucracy seems to be that for every form filled in, another two ae generated, so I’ve spent a lot of this week filling in and posting applications for grants rather than being outside, but at least I’m doing it in daylight now. Besides, cycling every day means I can notice the changing of the seasons as part of my everyday routine.
Of course, come November I probably won’t be as happy about that last bit, but theres always the option of staying indoors and filling in forms. Or burning them.