Work has been a bit busy over the last week or so and although there’s been plenty of blogging interest happening it soaked up the energy for the actual blogging, so as a bit of a cop out this week, here’s an entirely normal occurrence at work:

One day last week the kitchen/restaurant had a had a a big catering contract, so very unusually the chef turned up at 0800, while I was having a quiet cuppa with the business manager (who deals with paperwork). The Chef saw the manager, grabbed an invoice that had just come with an early delivery, and wordlessly attempted to wrap it in a bow around the managers hand. This didn’t work so he proceeded to stuff it down the back of the managers shirt.

The manager had remained silent for this operation, but as the chef tried to walk away as if nothing had happened, he retrieved the crumpled paperwork and calmly observed: “You really aren’t a morning person are you Stefan?”

Holidays this week, so hopefully I’ll find something interesting to blog about…

As I mentioned last week, we had the big summer concert at work recently. Like lots of social organisations we occasionally do something like this, even though it means that for a couple of days we have to drop the treehuggy therapy side of our work and just put on a show. As an Arbeitserzieher/Occupational Therapist is essentially there to do the treehuggy therapy thing, this renders me pretty useless but fortunately there is still a need for someone to be a vaguely reliable gopher.

Being generally useless was an advantage as the rain came pounding down at eight in the morning and kept going until early afternoon. I ended up being the designated Holder-up Of The Other Tent Pole so I managed to stay mostly dry, while all the people who knew what they were doing ended up getting soaked doing the complex techy stuff outside.

The rain got bored and went home before the artists turned up, and when the audience arrived I was the Ironic Stage Door Bouncer and spent most of the evening persuading merry people that no, the entrance to the building is that way and there really isn’t anything interesting behind this door, and if they genuinely had an important message for someone I could take it to them et c. The rain held off until just before midnight when the band played its final encore: we have a strict 1200 finish, mainly because one of the largest police stations in Stuttgart is three doors down the road and the boys in blue apparently get really grumpy if their midnight doughnut round is disturbed.

The tidying up part of the operation was simple enough even for an OT: It doesn’t matter where the cables are plugged in, you just tug at it until it comes loose and then dump the whole soggy mess onto our indoor stage to dry out by Monday. We were finished in two hours much to the disappointment of two very well lubricated festival goers who thought they’d finish off the evening listening to a band. After briefly considering turning into rowdily aggressive festival goers they decided that trying to annoy a dozen tired stage shifters was probably a bad idea and wandered off into the night.

Stuttgart’s transport system goes to bed at about eleven, so the organisation laid on taxis for us, which sounds like a quick way to get back, except that our driver was afflicted with the problem of taxi drivers all over the world, of being unable to drive anywhere in a straight line. so I finally arrived in our village at 3am on Sunday after a very informative tour of the surrounding towns…

This week the theatre/social enterprise I work for was part of a big summer festival in our part of the city, which meant Saturday was full of loud music, crowds, lights, more loud music, and more crowds. Pretty much the standard town festival formula really. Oh, and it ran to midnight and after that we had to tidy everything up. And someone decided it would be a great idea to put the 5’3″ (168cm) Brit on the rota for the stage door bouncer.

Still, there are worse ways to spend a Saturday night than trying to keep people on the public side of the stage door by sheer force of personality and a step. Besides, I got to hang out with some of our clients and hear their stories and as soon as enough time has passed that I can tell them without the people involved being identified you’ll read them here.

Alas you won’t ever get the full experience of the Tale of the Announcers Dentures, to name but one, because that requires the announcer themselves to be recreating the situation and audiences reaction, but I’ll do my best.

In the meantime, I’m going to stop writing before I lose the ability to use sentences and fall aslpffrrrrzzzzzzz….

I have issues with cell phones. Mind you, I have issues with most electronic devices. If it can’t be fixed with a hammer then it wasn’t properly built is the way of thinking from this grumpy Luddite.

Cell phones are especially bad because they are not only breakable, they are also small and have to be carried around all the time. As such mine usually spend most of their working life held together with Gaffer tape.

I also long since concluded that smart phones are not good things for the organisationally challenged, especially serial readers who discover Ebooks.

The latest example/victim of this was a cheap ‘traditional’ cell phone which suddenly decided it only needed to bother connecting for a couple of minutes a day. Mind you, this was just after Beautiful Daughter got a hold of the phone and spent five minutes changing all the settings and deleting most of the ring tones, so it may not have been me this time. Personally I could see the advantages to this, but society in general and my employer in particular have unreasonable expectations about contacting me. Besides I’m paying the phone company for the privilege of making phone calls so it seemed a bit daft to keep using a phone that refused to do its main job.

In an effort to find a phone that survives longer than six months I ended up looking at “Building Site Phones”. To my frustration the only one I could afford was made in China but it is built along the lines of a brick and so far doesn’t seem to mind being dropped, so I’m hoping the environmental damage caused by shipping a collection of rare metals halfway around the world will be offset by its long service. It also has a torch powerful enough to signal helicopters which proves very useful for navigating around a dark theatre, and a thoroughly obnoxious and apparently unchangeable ring tone which may eventually annoy me enough that I actually look at the instructions to see how to replace it.

Or maybe I’ll just give it my daughter to play with instead.

 

Bike maintenance seems to be like buses: nothing for ages and then a load of it all at once. This is probably because I keep putting it off, but still…

Having managed to change my cassette and chain without breaking any more tools, I set out for work feeling appropriately smug to find that the bike had a new party trick. When I used the big ring on the front gears, the chain would refuse to drop back down to the middle again. As my cycling style could charitably be called “relaxed” this was arguably not a major problem, but still…

Normal procedure for this is to mess about with the tension on the cable, and there’s a little twiddly bit on the gear shifters for this very purpose. Twiddling this improved matters slightly, but then the chain started rattling at annoying random intervals. Eventually I found that I could force the issue by changing gears down until I was on the smallest front ring and then changing back up to the middle.

After a few kilometres the bike decided it had had enough of this and dropped the chain over the big ring and somehow wrapped it into the mech at the same time, before vomiting it onto the road.

Fortunately it is uphill from my village for most of the commute, although in accordance with the usual law of the universe I had just descended the only steep hill, so I plodded up to the summit and coasted back to the apartment.

I go to work pretty early to allow time to prepare the activities for my clients, so I wasn’t about to be late. Instead of taking the bus I decided to have a look at the bike. On inspection I discovered the link designed to join the chain had been torn out, along with another link or two. I also discovered that I’d been far too cautious as usual, and left the chain stupidly long to the point it was dragging on the frame in some gears. I removed several links so it looked less like a piece of damp spaghetti.

Twenty minutes later we were off again, and suddenly the chain was much smoother, which is not a surprise in the circumstances. Even better, the chain obediently drops out of the big ring on command. I’m still not sure if this is because of the shorter chain or because the front mech was bent into submission when the chain became an ugly shape, but hey, it works, so I’m not complaining…

This post is brought to you by a combination of poor planning and procrastination. For some time I knew the chain and cassette on my commuter bike were getting pretty worn: I’m not sure I changed them when I bought the bike about six years ago and they’ve done a fair bit of distance since, but they were still just about working so I decided to leave them until winter when I’d put a new chain on and put on the winter wheel with an equally new cassette. Of course, I’d actually said this about a year ago, but hey, the problem wasn’t urgent so I kept forgetting.

Fortunately the chain and cassette wear together, so I could get away with ignoring the problem as long as I didn’t change any components. So of course when I swapped my winter and summer wheels without thinking, the smallest (ie top) gear began to slip. I ignored it for a bit until the next one started to do the same and I realised I’d have to do something.

Most modern(ish) cassettes are held on with a locking ring that has ridges on it to stop it rattling loose, so the one thing you don’t want to do is make it very tight. Unfortunately whoever had put this lock ring on had not been told this as I discovered when I failed completely to move the ring at all.

The usual way of dealing with an over tightened ring is to clamp everything down firmly, and use a piece of tube on the cassette removing tool to gain more leverage. This in theory results in a clicking noise and a loosened cassette.

In my case it resulted in a loud snap and a broken removing tool.

Situations like this are why we have Bakfietsen. Off we went to the bike shop in the next town, where the mechanic applied a professional removing tool to the wheel. This didn’t work, so he called a colleague over to help. Eventually it took both of them and a length of what looked like scaffolding before the lock ring gave up. Now we have the new cassette on, new chain on, and I’ve got a commuter bike again…

Now, will I learn from this experience and get to grips with maintenance before it all goes to pot again?


Yesterday I decided that the bikes were filthy. Actually, I’d decided that some time ago and then put off cleaning them for ages, but I’d been using the Bakfiets to move gardening things and it was looking appropriately like a farm trailer inside and out, and the weather report was promising a lack of rain, so out came the Big Black Bucket.

The Commuter bike was done first, so that I can find and/or get at important moving parts and attempt some vague maintenance next weekend. Even though bikes are astonishingly low maintenance, after riding it about in all weathers for several months it reached the point where I need to spend actual money on it.


Essential tools of rural Bakfiets hygiene are a dustpan and brush and a large lump of wood. Close inspection of the moving parts below the box revealed some serious rust around the bottom of the steering column, so I’ll have to get the Hammerite out over summer.

Despite my lack of organisation I actually managed to finish all three bikes. I’m now hoping that the weather holds for the week so I can get on with fixing the commuter bike when the parts arrive…

 

 

 

 

Meet Mr. Ugly, a bike only a mother could love. I’m guessing this dates from sometime in the mid 1990’s, because I can’t imagine another time when a design committee would have looked at a mountain bike and a colour chart, stared at each other an in unison whispered ‘Purple‘.

As if that wasn’t enough they then went and upped the ante by giving it the name ‘Didgeridoo‘.

Close up the bike is a small rolling museum to 90’s MTB technology. It is almost identical to the original setup on the Raleigh bike that became the front half of the Xtracycle.

 

So the goal now is to turn this into a retro-styled drop handlebar commuting/touring bike. Just because.

 

Step one is to replace these handlebars with a pair of drops salvaged off an elderly racing bike and hoarded for six years in case they might become useful, and add some bottom bar levers from the same source.

If we get on with the drops we’ll make the world a slightly better place by taking the bike to bits and spraying it a different colour.

Then we’ll add mudguards, breaks and wheels from the hoard of bike bits that infests the cellar (and apparently includes a breeding colony of straight handlebars) to make it an all weather bike with luggage rack. Otherwise we’ll do much the same but with straight shifters.

That’s the plan anyway. the problems, deviations and other issues will doubtless appear here…

We’ve finally succeeded in finding a bike. It is thoroughly ugly, but we can deal with that bit as the idea was always to repaint and convert the bike into a hybrid with drop handlebars and bottom bar shifters.

The over ambitious conversion plans are partly simply because we want to try it, but as Elder Son pointed out, he doesn’t want to ride an ugly bike so it doesn’t get stolen. Making a bike with drops and friction shifters hopefully will mean that it is hard to sell, and therefore not worth stealing, so we can make a bike that looks attractive and that he can enjoy commuting on, especially as it will combine the whole ‘forget it it’s not worth nicking’ vibe with solid bike locks.

Having got nowhere with the bike shop I decided to try online adverts. I wasn’t very hopeful, and as expected spent the first few minutes having a hearty laugh at attempts to sell cheapo supermarket bikes for three figure prices.

After some more searching I found something that looked like it might work. It was a foul colour, but the frame was clearly steel and didn’t have any obviously large rust holes. I called Eldest Son over and warned him to wear sunglasses. His response of “Woah, welcome to the nineties” was expected, but once he got past that he saw the frame shapes and agreed to make an approach.

After a rather cautious discussion with the seller -on my side because I thought he’d want a couple of hundred for it, from his side I later discovered because the last possible buyer offered a fiver- we agreed a ballpark figure and I took the Elder Son to have a look. I checked that there were no obvious cracks, and even found it was chromoly steel, which was a nice surprise, and Elder son took it for a test ride and came back happy.

So now it’s in the garage, giving the spiders headaches while we wait for the money tree to recover enough to make the next step.

Eldest Son is pricing up paint…

Still settling in at work, so there’s not a lot of energy left for blogging, but I’m determined to keep posting more often. To this end here’s another list. This time it’s the good and not-so-good things about where I work:

Good things:

  • Working with a great team of people who love their work and have a shed load of experience.
  • Therefore, I’m learning a lot about social work and Theatre.
  • Most of the clients are great to work with. And the more awkward clients usually get fed up and leave after a few hours.
  • The other staff all dislike meetings, so they survive them by taking the mickey out of each other between business.
  • I’m close enough to my old college to continue the training as a therapy dog trainer.
  • I’m working in a theatre again, and not just any theatre: it’s in a re-purposed art-deco power station.
  • Standing up and moving about all day is good for a waistline that expanded in two years of sitting at a desk.
  • Because I’m the first Occupational Therapist in the organisation, I’ve got a fair bit of freedom to work out how I fit into the team.

Not so good stuff

  • It’s in the middle of the city, and I really don’t do cities.
  • The commute into the city is shared with approximately 3749 children going to school, with high pitched voices.
  • I’m still getting used to this business of standing up and moving about at work…
  • It’s really in the middle of the city…
  • There isn’t a workshop to play do projects in.
  • It can be stressful when I have several clients who need something to do, and I can’t give them a job because of lack of experience and technical understanding on my part (But we’ve figured a possible solution for that…)
  • I’m essentially an intern, which means ‘cheap’, but it’s only for a year until I get my state recognition.

Overall the good outweighs the stuff I’m less than thrilled about. At least for the next 12 11 months.

I also have to write reports in German which isn’t easy. On the other hand someone has pointed out that I can see that as a kind of revenge on the Job Centre who have occasionally made life miserable in the last five years: some pen pusher in an office over there has to decipher what I’ve written…

Mwahahaaa…

 

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