I was hoping to be able to write about some cycling adventures, but now the flu is subsiding I’m trying to get all the paperwork done for various offices that need to have The Right Piece Of Paper to be convinced that I’ve finished the apprenticeship. They can’t do this until they have The Other Piece of Paper from a different office, who need The Correct Form filled out with Supporting Documents… I’m sure it is the same everywhere but I wonder if it is the German love of bureaucracy: it certainly keeps a lot of people in work.

It doesn’t help that I’m possibly the worst organised person in Germany. Today I had to go and get a fresh copy of some Very Important Forms which I’d neglected to send to another office on time and promptly lost. Mind you, that meant I got a ride across the fields in bright sunshine, when I’d otherwise have been stuck inside shuffling paperwork, so being disorganised has advantages.

Besides, I do try to be organised, it just seems to go wrong. All year I’d been carefully filing paperwork together in big ring binders and stacking them safely in the loft, and yesterday when I needed a specific form I knew exactly where it was.

Unfortunately this didn’t help when the loft hatch jammed shut.

Still, I knew where the form was, even if I couldn’t get to it. That’s an improvement, right?

…what was the question?

One thing I’ve learned is that in Germany, or at least this bit of it, there is pretty well no problem that can’t be cured with tea. Stomach ache, stiff joints, fevers, tiredness, stress, and acne can all apparently be dealt with using some concoction of dried fruits and flowers, and there are probably cures for hair loss and missing limbs.

With this background, it was inevitable, when a friend heard me wheezing like an elderly dwarf with a smoking habit, that they would present me with a bag of the local chemists special anti-cough herbal tea.

I’m a tree hugging hippy and quite happy to try and sort out ailments with moss and tree bark, especially as it means potentially sticking two fingers up at the big corporations. On the other hand, I’ve not found one of these teas yet that looks or tastes like anything more palatable than a pile of compost, and the last time we gave Beautiful Daughter a ‘natural’ remedy for her tummy ache the poor girl screamed the place down for about twelve hours, so I’m not entirely sold.

Anyway, this morning I opened the bag and found what looked like a mix of dried flowers and grass, put it in the ‘reusable’ tea bag, poured the water in, sieved the bits out after the reusable tea bag spewed them all over the place, and poured a cup.

Ignoring the colour, it wasn’t that bad. Will have to see how effective it is, but as I’ve about a gallon of the stuff to drink down, I think I’ll be able to say I gave it a fair chance…

Any other suggestions how to get rid of a cough?

More cycling related posts as soon as I can ride and breathe at the same time…

With my laptop mostly dead/sulking I figured the week would be spent productively doing all the things I usually avoid doing by working on the laptop. Even better, it was a holiday week, so I could do some woodwork with the boys, help Middle Son to fit new lights on his bike, etc.

Then I caught a cold: a slight sore throat, runny nose for a day or two and it subsided. I figured this was my more effective immune system: another victory for cycling…

Me and my big, smug mouth. Getting rid of that cold was rather like beating off a scouting party of the Mongol horde: it went to get reinforcements and attacked several of the family at once.

At the moment Beautiful Wife and me are both affected with fevers, aching joints and feeling generally bleargh. Whereas I have a small pharmacy next to my side of the bed, Beautiful Wife is still breastfeeding, so the only medicines she can take are so weak they aren’t worth taking in the first place and she has to suffer.  Strangely Beautiful Wife is still recovering faster and is almost back to normal, while my body seems to have given itself over to the production of snot and my brain can’t string two ideas together*. Beautiful Wife reckons this is because she’s a wife and a mother and wives and mothers can’t afford to get sick, whereas husbands know they can be a wuss and let their wife look after them.

I am man. Hear me sniffle.

*Although, that may not be the cold, of course…

I had a couple of posts lined up to write about on Friday, when my computer threw a sulk and refused to respond to anything. It claims this is because of an error in the hard drive, but it happened a mere few days after I got a smart phone for work.

This is not a coincidence.

As I am unable to understand, much less repair anything that requires more finesse than hitting it with a hammer,  I sent a cry for help to my incredibly patient computer tech friend.

He assures me it is fixable, which would be nice, as my laptop is my main tool for translating.

So, normal service will be resumed as soon a possible.


The long silence was not due to my having gone out on the lash to celebrate the end of the apprenticeship. That would be unlikely because 1: I am ‘somewhat’ older than the average apprentice and I don’t need any help to do more silly things in public, 2: An extreme introvert who tends to hide during parties, and most importantly 3: I really dislike the taste of alcohol. I appreciate this puts me in the running for the Most Boring Person on the Planet competition, but regular readers knew that anyway.

The last two weeks were mainly spent doing a translation job for a documentary (I now know enough about heart disease to make me seriously paranoid), getting my CV up to date, playing with the boys and Beautiful Daughter, and cycling through snowstorms to pick up ‘important’ pieces of paper from various offices.


Remember, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad organisation and poor time management.

Oh, and I now have the paperwork to prove that I’m a Real Carpenter, at least as far as the state of Baden-Württemberg is concerned. Still working in what we do next though…

The day began with us delivering our projects. There were two other students being tested, and they were busy unveiling very complex and very beautiful pieces of furniture that would have fitted quite well into an art gallery: a desk with glossy white surface atop an oak cupboard stood next to a tool box which opened in intricate ways to become a portable modelmaking studio. I couldn’t help feeling I was out of my depth.

Fortunately hand tool woodworking has something of a mystique even among carpenters, so the others were too busy looking at the carving on the lid of my box to notice the dodgy bits of the dovetails or the wonky hinges.

The exam was to make a child’s chair with a mix of traditional and modern joins. In seven hours. The three of us know each other and get on well, so we were more relaxed than you might expect. We also helped each other rather more than we were strictly supposed to, which I think irritated the examiners a bit, but it meant we all finished on time. As if this wasn’t enough, we also managed to discuss religion, ecology, global warming and the Tar Sands in the middle of all this.

Afterwards, we hung around for two and a half hours while the examiners poked at the exam pieces, and then at six thirty our tutor came out and told us unofficially that everyone had passed. We were not supposed to be told this, so I had to keep you in suspense for the weekend.

I am now a guild-registered carpenter in Germany, but I don’t have the paperwork so you’ll have to trust me for a couple of days…

Today I wandered over to my former employer’s workshop, tidied the tools away for the last time, swept the bench clean(ish), chucked some leftover pieces of wood into the bin, said my goodbyes, and left.



Thursday evening: the box outside the workshop and ready for delivery to college for the judging.

I didn’t take it all the way on the Bakfiets. I designed the project to be small enough for easy transport on the Xtracycle, but this plan was scuppered by having to take lots of tools and wood for the exam on the same day.

Yesterday the three of us being examined delivered our projects and built a chair in seven hours. The official letter to say if we passed or not arrives on Monday.

Right now I’m adjusting to the idea that I don’t have to do any more maths equations…



The tray fits, and even moves up and down, much to the suprise of some people in the company who were trying to covince me it would go horribly wrong. The box is oiled, waxed, polished and (since the picture) packed ready to go to college.

All I have to do now is get to college before seven in the morning today, hand the box in, build a piece of furniture in seven hours to a drawing I’ve never seen before, succesfully demonstrate how to use one of the machines, and survive an oral exam.

This time tomorrow, it’ll all be over…





The sliding tray last seen heavily clamped a couple of days ago.

Despite the ironmongery, the tray still managed to move out of shape again, and unfortunately it has to be exactly square or it won’t slide smoothly when the examiners play with it on Friday. The only thing for it was to pull two sides off and reset them.

I think I got it right this time.

I’ll let you know tomorrow…


Fitting hinges to a box seems to require a lot of time and a broad vocabulary. This is probably why they aren’t used in normal carpentry very much.

Another discovery today, was that soft leather stretches under pressure, so my carefully made strap needed shortening as it turned out to be entirely ineffective for holding the lid up.

I would like to point out the mess is not normal, but I’d be lying…

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