So, I had plans for today: go to the garden and beat back another swathe of brambles, come back and do some translations before lunch, and then go and chase up a couple of things, make some phone calls and get organised for the 7-month placement I’ve been offered from September.

I didn’t plan to lock myself out of the apartment.

Fortunately the letting agent runs a business in the village and I could catch hold of him fairly quickly and borrow the spare key.

From next month I’ll be helping to do activities with number of young people and assisting in the care and feeding of half a dozen animals. The people there seem to think I’m sufficiently organised to be trusted with this responsibility, so let’s keep this little episode to ourselves, hmm?

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Ah, the joys of being an international family.

These are the passports Beautiful Wife will have to carry next week when she takes the Boys and beautiful Daughter to visit relatives in Japan*. From Left to right: Beautiful Wife’s Japanese passport, Japanese Passports for the three boys and beautiful Daughter; British passports for three boys and Beautiful Daughter, and finally, a German childs passport for Beautiful Daughter, who qualified herself for German citizenship by being born much later than the boys. It is getting to the point where the passports make a dent in the carry on luggage allowance.

And while I’m on the subject, can someone explain how a British Passport requires several pages of forms, lots of supporting documents, costs about a hundred euros, and takes up to eight weeks, but a German passport takes five minutes to produce** at a tenth of the cost?

*Our biannual contribution to climate change. Sorry…

**Plus a twenty-minute Bakfiets ride to the local town hall with beautiful daughter. It’s tough living here, I tell you…

So, here’s a couple more pictures of the stage I helped to build last week.

This is what happens when you ask artists to make a stage: they get all excited about making a piece of sculpture, beautiful on its own without a performance happening on it. Of course in practice that meant every upright was a different size.

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A Proper Carpenter would have spent a day working out the radius of all the curves and then the exact sizes of the uprights to fit. We bent the curvy bits until they looked about right and measured from there to the ground and cut the wood to suit. It turns out that this works just as well, although we did have to stamp on some plywood sheets until they stayed put, and screw them down quickly before they sprung up again.

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This was a joint project between artists from here and from our partner town in the Ukraine, so everything had to be discussed and translated in both languages, which didn’t speed things up,

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However, stage was ready for the big festival on Sunday, and as far as I know it hasn’t fallen down yet.

As an added plus, I can now ask for several tools in Ukrainian, and you never know whan that may come in handy.

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I’ve been working on a project with some artists to build a stage in our town square for a big celebration this weekend. The idea was that it could stand alone as a piece of sculpture when there are no performances, and I think they asked me because they thought that being a carpenter with a background in theatre I’d know what I was doing. Thankfully I managed to finish the project without anyone realising otherwise, and was able to get to know a few of the local artists into the bargain.

The stage is a bit more complete now but I was too exhausted to get a decent picture. I’ll take one when we go to the performances.

One of the joys of having an allotment the other side of town is the summer morning commute to water the plants in the hope of actually successfully growing something this year. This has to be done fairly early at the moment before the sun begins to come over the hills and I have to stop playing and pretend to be a grown up by looking for college courses and doing translations.

Yesterday the report promised rain. The view out of the window said otherwise, so I got the Xtracycle out and rode up the hill to the centre of the village and down the other side, down a bit more on the much steeper gravel track to the allotments.

I unlocked our allotment gate, locked it behind me: one of the neighbours has a large Rottweiler: soft as a warm marshmallow but possessed of an enormous amount of poo and an urgent need to distribute it as widely as possible.

I climbed down the steps, hung up my jacket and took the lid off the water barrel, whereupon the first raindrops fell.

Ah, well, I suppose I asked for it.

And how was your weekend?

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Yours truly finishing off a painting a couple of months ago; the completed version is on my drawing and painting blog.

I’ve been doing this for myself for a while, but now the local printer has offered to hang my paintings up in his shop. I realise this isn’t a residency at an art gallery or anything, but it is encouraging that someone other than immediate family thinks my work is good enough to be seen in public…

You…

…can’t…

…catch…

…me.

Missed this one last Autumn. Middle Son is on a new bike now, and even faster…

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Yesterday, Beautiful God-daughter -and others- were giving flute recitals, so naturally I went to watch. The Xtracycle can be seen above in the large plaza outside the town arts centre where the performance was held. It is a very tasteful rebuild of an old tram depot.

The tram used to run through here to a couple of other places, including this town. Unfortunately the line was closed in 1978 ‘for economic reasons’ and ‘because we need the space for cars’. Of course. A local group tried to build a museum on the edge of the town but the local government decided to use the space for a petrol station instead.

A walking/cycle way runs along the old tramway, which is a nice thought, but really, we’d have preferred to have the tram.

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Track on old level crossing

But the shell of the old tram depot has a few cycle racks in one corner, so that’s sustainable transport covered.

In 1995 a new road bridge was built over the valley, making it easier to drive, walk, and cycle from one side to the other. It was promptly closed to pedestrian & cycle traffic because it was ‘unsafe’, so schoolchildren now have to be driven by their parents or take the bus.

And the town centres on both sides are crammed full of cars.

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Eldest son on tramway.

So now the local governments are looking at plans to possibly, maybe, build a new tramway and/or railway running along a similar route, at a cost of millions of Euros…

Ah, well.

More importantly, Beautiful God-daughter was awesome…

Down in the veg beds, something stirs…

Beans, pumpkins, and some seeds that I couldn’t identify but decided I’d bury and see what happened.

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According to the instructions on the package, I’m sowing the beans at the correct time. This is not something I can explain to the other gardeners though: no matter what I say the response is much tutting, shaking of heads, and gleeful comments of how I’m far too late, or too early, and they wouldn’t have done it like that, and the seed beds are the wrong shape, and…

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After three years of scything away at the brambles, the garden is sprouting trees now they can see sunlight, including this specimen that is rapidly growing near the water tap which I can’t identify*. I don’t want to allow space to some invasive species but I’m loathe to just cut it down. Can some friendly botanist identify the species from this rather blurry picture?

*My tree recognition, I’m ashamed to say, is limited to species considered potential furniture…

Or: how to make a simple job more complicated.

1: Leave apartment to deliver letter, notice plastic ready for recycling. Take it downstairs.

2: Dither in hallway before deciding that as I’m using the Bakfiets, and I’ll be going through the garage, I’ll drop the plastic in the Bakfiets, take the Bakfiets out of the garage,  close the garage door, and transfer the plastic to the recycling bin, thus saving myself a trip of ooh, about ten metres.

3: Open garage door.

4: Drop the plastic in the Bakfiets, take the Bakfiets out of the garage,  close the garage door, ride off.

5: Reach top of hill. A couple of dog walkers look curiously into the Bakfiets. Realise why.

6: Ride 200m back down hill.

7: Transfer the plastic to the recycling bin.

8: Ride 200m back up hill.

At least I’d remembered to bring the letter. I guess I’ll go and cross out ‘multitasking’ as one of my skills on my CV…

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