The weeks are passing quickly in my internship and it is exam season again, but this time it is for real. I Have a real client with real learning difficulties and I have to write them all up in German, so as before I’ve spent a day writing 3500 words of flowing German prose or complete drivel.

Now I’m pooped.

See you next week…

Things have been pretty quiet here because as well as having various friends and family around, and starting another term at college, we’ve been dealing with all the excitement of a new school year for the boys, which means things like parents evenings, where the teachers take about two hours to give enough useful information to cover on one typed sheet of paper, and then two or three parents have a long discussion about supplies of bottled water or the colour of the trampolines, while everyone else wishes they would shut up so we can all go home.

Even though I ride a bike to most of these evenings, much to the horror of several other parents, there’s not much interesting blogging material to get out of them, except for the occasional howler we get from the teachers. For example, the French teachers assertion that to make up for the lack of lesson time, she expected the children to practice in the lunch break.*

The best so far was the class teacher for our eleven year old, who described the year as “getting off to a bad start.” The class has a ratio of 25 boys to four girls, and unusually they’ve had to move classroom several times in the first days after the summer holiday, and she couldn’t understand why they were so loud and unsettled.

So you’ve got 25 healthy eleven year old boys**, excited to be seeing friends they’ve been away from for six weeks, readjusting to school (and in many cases German culture), you make them change classroom every few hours for a few days so they can’t get into any routine, and then get annoyed when they won’t just sit down, keep still, and do low grade clerical work for several hours a day.


*“It’s a lunch break. The clue is in the name”, as one parent pointed out.
**We were left in no doubt as to who the teacher was talking about.

All the forms are filled in, and filled in again because they were the forms from a different state and even though the information is the same, it is in a different order (the joys of a federal system)…

The other paperwork has been handed in and copied, extra paperwork chased up, (promised, chased up again, promised again, arrived, discovered to be the wrong paperwork, chased up a third time and finally delivered).

Copies of all paperwork made, translations made and certified…

…form signed at the bottom and passed over the desk, processing fee paid, and finally our application for naturalisation in Germany is sent off.

It took almost an hour for some poor secretary to photocopy all the documentation. Now all we have to do is wait and see if it will be accepted at all, and then find out what the next stage in the process is…

Posts have been a bit thin on the ground of late, mainly because I couldn’t think of an interesting way to say we were having a lot of fun going on bike ride.

anyway, I’m now back training.Right now I’m at the end of week one of my training placement.

To recap, I’m getting  retraining is due to health issues, because carpenters can’t have asthma.

Now I’m in a workshop that takes people with light to medium level disabilities leaving school and help them adjust to a work environment, and run all kinds of education projects alongside. I get to spend all day doing creative stuff that helps people

I get the best of both worlds because as a former carpenter I have a machine operators licence and therefore can use all the machines to make interesting stuff and try ideas out.

It’s a bit like being a kid in a sweet shop, but I’ll try and find something to be grumpy about for your amusement…


Since working at a local bike shop and maintaining the ever expanding family bicycle fleet (currently at nine bikes for six people, one of whom can’t ride yet, and your point is?) I generally think I’m pretty competent at basic cycle repairs, but there are some days when I wonder if I should be allowed out with as much as a hex key in my hand.

Take Wednesday as an example. After successfully not losing one of the wheels while juggling them between bikes, I’d also fitted Elder Son’s saddle to the commuter bike, as mine apparently wasn’t up to snuff. This done, we toddled off to prepare ourselves for the 80k ride the next day (ie, get lots of chocolate).

In the morning, we were just climbing the first major hill, when The Elder Son mentioned that his saddle had moved. When I tested this by poking it a couple of times, it wobbled and almost fell off.  We flagged down a fellow cyclist and were directed to a shop in a town a few kilometres away, where I shamefacedly confessed to not having fastened the saddle properly. The owner came and had a look, and announced that I had also managed to put the post on backwards. Fortunately he was sufficiently amused by this to not charge us for fixing it properly. I expect that story will go around the regulars for a while…



Elder Son thought that his brakes may be snagging as well. I lifted the bike and checked both wheels. They turned freely. I harrumphed at this lack of trust in my maintenance skills.

Despite this we made it to Gutenberg. This is at the end of the valley and going further means climbing about 350m in 3 km (830ft in 2 miles), and I’m much too lazy for that sort of thing. So we took a not at all posed picture of the bikes in front of the church door and set off.



After a quick break for lunch…

After our return I found the cause of the ‘dragging brake’. The valley that I’d assured Eldest Son was nice and flat climbs 300 m in 25km. Thats just under a thousand feet in fifteen miles.

Need to work on navigation skills as well as maintenance…



Fresh wheel delivery by Bakfiets

The Elder Son has frozen onto my commuter bike as his preferred form of transport, and was ready to go on a bike tour. This meant moving his saddle over to the commuter and fitting a new wheel with a hub dynamo, something I’ve been meaning to do for ages, but as usual I faffed about and didn’t get on with it.

The wheel intended for the commuter bike was on the Xtracycle, bought as an emergency replacement in January when the original wheel rims finally split after being worn down over twenty years of use. Last week I finally bought a better wheel for the Xtracycle, so now we had to move the wheel on the Xtracycle over to the commuter, after removing the tyre, put the new wheel on the Xtracycle and take the older, dynamo-less wheel off the commuter. this would donate its tyre to the wheel off the Xtracycle before disappearing into the cellar.

Because we can’t do things the normal way, we added another elderly front wheel out of the cellar, and used that to prop each of the bikes in turn as we worked on their wheels. I have no idea why I have so many used bicycle wheels.

There was one interesting moment when I thought the brakes on the commuter were acting up as I couldn’t set them straight, but this was solved by pushing hard on the handlebars, which knocked the wheel in straight and suddenly everything made sense

I then made exactly the same mistake on the Xtracycle, but as we are taught at college, Occupational Therapists don’t make mistakes, we have ‘learning experiences’.

At some point when I’m less embarrassed about it I’ll tell you about the learning experience we had with the brakes and the saddle on the next day…



Beautiful Daughter is now big enough that she doesn’t need a baby seat to travel in the Bakfiets, which means we can carry other things besides the resident small person, and we can go on a ride without Daddy mucking about with a rope for ten minutes to make sure the child seat is properly secured, the Japanese makers having neglected to make it compatible with a Bakfiets for some reason.

The Small One also approves because in her new sitting position she can see what is happening, instead of watching her dad pedaling away. From her point of view, this is a definite improvement.


Three months have just vanished. We’ve gone from ‘getting to know you games’ to the first exams, and the first internship is starting after the summer holidays (did I mention that I have full school holidays? Six weeks off? just checking).

Meanwhile Eldest Son, who originally featured in the early days of this blog riding on a bike with stabilisers, is now able to ride on the commuter bike, hence the presence of both bikes at the end of the local tram line.

I feel old…

Sometimes I think I shouldn’t be allowed out alone.

Yesterday we had good cycling weather, so I cycled to the tiny tram stop at the edge of the valley to catch the tram down the hill. I’ve found this is far easier than dealing with the Scary Hill of Doom with impatient motorists first thing in the morning. The tram stop is hidden away in a quiet corner of the city, and comes complete with a convenient railing. I locked the bike to this (a bike rack would be preferred, but you can’t have everything), waited a few minutes, and got on the tram.

Leaving my cotton cap on the bench seat in the tram stop.

It wasn’t until I got off at the bottom of the hill that I noticed a distinct lack of headgear.

Fortunately the locals are too honest, or too wealthy* to be bothered with such things as a grubby hat, and ignored it for the seven hours it took me to come back and find it.

*Judging by the size of the houses, I suspect the latter.

It’s exam season at college, and that means getting the remaining functional brain cells to work trying to learn things.


It turns out I’m a visual learner and I don’t remember abstract concepts very well, so to get some of the ideas into my head, I hit on the idea of making posters for them. The process of making the pictures and drawings helps me retain the information, and I have a visual idea to try and recall during the exam.

That’s the theory. And I get to draw stuff in the class, and call it revision.

I’m supposed to remember the word at the back, ‘erträglich’, meaning ‘sustainable’, as in ‘a job doesn’t cause long term health issues’. I’m using a play on words which I’m sure has German speakers rolling on the floor already;  to allow English speakers to join in the hilarity I should explain the German word for ‘carry’ is ‘Tragen’: so he’s carrying something. (Tragen and Erträgen, gettit?) I’m hoping this will help me remember the point.

I’m also hoping they won’t deduct marks for bad puns…

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