Towards the end of the holiday the weather got bored with being wet and windy, and went to just being cold for a couple of days, leaving your correspondent with the usual dilemma: Should I take advantage of the sudden blue skies to clean wash about three months of accumulated crud off the bikes, or should I just ride a bike?

No contest really.

Having made it through the unfortunate mess that is Stuttgart Airport, I broke out into fields again, and past this monument to a more civilised form of flying. Apparently this is where one of the first Zeppelins made an emergency landing in a field with the great man on himself on board.

After making repairs they took off again and flew to Friedrichshafen. Try that with a 747.

Off to the next village…

And on, through the fields. These hills are the same as those seen from our balcony. I really should stop whining about where I live.


This was my goal: Hardthausen church. Churches in the region are very distinctive so I tend to use them as markers on a ride.

As I approached Stuttgart again things began to unravel. a mix of poor signage and poor guesswork landed me riding uphill on a busy road with drivers honking their horns at me. I’m going to assume they and the motorcyclist who shouted something indistinct and waved a boot in my direction were simply trying to be encouraging.

Then after following the route around the airport for several kilometres, I found this:

There was a small piece of paper taped to this showing a ‘diversion’ that went back along the way I’d come, then through another village and into a valley, using another busy road and adding about 3 hilly miles to the journey.

The other side of the roadworks, the crane is the same one as in the other image.

Sharp eyed viewers will notice that I could have gone around the fence and cycled the hundred yards or so straight through the roadworks, as it was a Sunday and they were empty of construction workers.

Of course, I was very good and didn’t do this.

This isn’t far from our town, just a short ride down into the valley…

And up the Hill Of Doom on the other side, which is the unfortunate end of every ride around here and never gets photographed because that would require me to stand up straight and be able to focus after the climb.

I managed 32km in total. Not much but it wasn’t meant to be a serious ride. Anything more adventurous will have to wait until after exams.

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One of my resolutions for this year was to get back to writing a new entry here every Saturday.

I’m not sure how well that’s going to work to be honest. Apart from my non-existent work ethic I’ve realised that the final exams for my Occupational Therapist course, which up until now had been far far away, are suddenly looming with a couple of months to go.

From tomorrow I have about four more weeks of normal lectures (including at least two tests, whoopee…) and then a month or so of exam preparation, then in early March I’ll be given the address of a randomly selected workshop for people with disabilities where I’ll get a client and have a week to prepare a 30 minute training session, write a report, and then and do the training session with an examiner watching.

Then it goes quiet until late March when I have two written exams, and then on April the 19th it’s the the last push: six fifteen minute interviews one after the other. I’ll get my grades on the same day.

In theory I should start work the week after. I’m working on that minor detail.

All this is to say I may be posting entries even less regularly than I managed last year. I just thought I’d better get my excuses in early.

I have it on good authority that I am a nerd: I was told repeatedly when I was at school, although the main definition of ‘nerd’ was “Doesn’t understand minutiae of football” and “Doesn’t base self esteem on how his football team did last weekend” which I think was the pot calling the kettle black frankly.

I used the time I could be obsessing about a bunch of people kicking a bag of wind in making models. This means I was considered even worse than a Nerd: I was ‘Boring’: I didn’t even blow things up on computers, for goodness’ sake.

So I embraced my inner nerd. I even got a job partly on the basis of that when I showed my carpentry master a dimensioned design I’d made for some models I was working on. Skills gained making models are also surprisingly useful in the largely improvised world of occupational therapy.

Besides, with three boys things break in strange and unusual ways. This Christmas the boys got a high-tech marble run with magnets and other exciting things and which I wasn’t allowed to play with because the boys have grown out of eating small objects and know more about physics than I do. It contained the little green component above, which succumbed to laws of physics after a couple of hours, and which is pretty simple to fix if you are the sort of person that has a stack of really fine brass rods and tiny hand drills just lying about.

So there: Nerds rule.

They still wouldn’t let me play with the marble run though. Next time I’m going to demand access for repairs…

Happy Christmas and New Year, and thanks for reading along for the last twelve months…

Now I’m off to do something more festive. See you later…

 

With the snow coming down in great lumps I finally gave in and fitted spikes on my main commuting bike. It was snowing so fast that by the time I finished clearing our entranceway and went inside, it was almost impossible to see where I’d started, so it seemed a good idea to be snow ready for the morning commute, especially as the cycle lanes locally aren’t cleared because “That’d mean putting salt on them and salt is bad for the environment.”

As I fully expected, within 24 hours the snow vanished and the roads were back to their normal state of being just damp enough to make everything thoroughly muddy. Since then we’ve had rain with temperatures just above freezing so the roads were wet, or subzero temperatures and dry roads.

This happens every year, without fail.

I’ve kept the snow tyres though, because with exams coming along I’m a bit short of time to change tyres again, and from experience¬†snow clouds will sneak over the horizon and we’ll have about a week of blizzards within hours of me putting semi slicks back on the bike.

I suspect I’ll now spent most of the winter dragging myself to the tram stop and muttering about how I’m definitely going to get a new set of wheels by next winter, and then forget to do anything about it by Spring…

It’s cold and slippery, and as usual I’ve put off fitting the magic snow tyres, and nearly slithered off into a field on the morning commute. The weather report predicts foul conditions and sub zero temperatures for the next week so I’ll have to try and fit the tyres over the weekend.

On past experience this will cause sudden freak warm weather from Monday.

Days have got so short here now that I rarely see the place in daylight, but yesterday I’d decided to skip the scheduled “team building games workshop” as I wasn’t about to spend six hours running about in a smelly room when I could hang out with my daughter on her 3rd birthday. I also had some revision to do.

I felt a bit guilty about this, until the college called to say the workshop was cancelled because the trainer was off sick.

So yesterday was about building presents and building cushion houses instead.

 

 

 

Sunrise a couple of days ago, when the weather report was forecasting wind and rain in industrial quantities.

The rain came later, about five minutes after I set of for college on my bike…

I may be a tree hugging hippy but if I don’t want to end up tripping over my flowing beard, I still need to shave occasionally, so what passes for intellectual capacity here has been intermittently occupied with finding a method of shaving that still allows me to pass for normal in The Towns.

I abandoned electric razors over a decade ago when planning a trip to Nepal. Plugs were in short supply in the mountains, so I’d changed to a well known brand with Three Parallel Blades. I thought no more of it until I realised that although this had undoubtedly been the better choice for a month of washing in a river, they were still contributing to landfill, and I really wasn’t getting a very good shave out of them.

I heard a story from about how some years back the shaving industry decided they were not making enough profit with simple razor blades. They solved this by persuading the unshaven masses that the safety razor didn’t work and exciting combinations of plastic and metal which cost about five times as much were a better option. Apparently they knew the best shave was offered by the humble safety razor, but hey, enough advertising can solve almost any problem.

This appealed to my inner hippy and when the Three Parallel Blades ran out, I swapped them for a safety razor, brush and lump of soap, and do you know, this really does give a better shave, the old school razor blades are cheaper and easier to recycle. To add to the smug green glow I even used an old tea cup for the soap.

Yeah, man. Down with the purpose made soap dishes of tyranny and capitalism.

Then the local shop stopped stocking razors and soap, which I suppose was inevitable. So until I find a decent shaving shop in Stuttgart, I now have to order stuff online via the evil corporations which arguably defeats the point of the exercise.

It isn’t easy being green. And before someone asks, I’m not really sure I want to go for the real traditional approach

 

I’m still working as an intern. Currently I’m at the Kulturwerk, an arts centre for people with psychological issues and/or substance abuse problems to get their lives back on track. My job is to work alongside clients working in the theatre section preparing for shows, train them in soft skills and generally help them get ready for normal work. Once a week I go out with a team of people who used to have substance addictions and we do theatre presentations in schools followed by group work and question and answer sessions.

I’m having far more fun than you really are supposed to have at work, so to make up for it I’m supposed to write a Very Boring Report, and this is taking up a lot of time and creative energy.

I also have to attend team meetings without falling asleep.

I’m working in the centre of Stuttgart, a city trying all kinds of creative ways to reduce pollution from cars as long as they don’t actually involve reducing the number of cars, so there’s little meaningful infrastructure for bicycles except for a few white lines and hopeful slogans. I live about 200m higher than the city which makes the ride back a little arduous, especially when being buzzed by impatient SUV drivers, so cycling is reduced to a short ride on the commuter bike to our local tram stop and a tram ride down the hill.

I can still do this and barely touch a road, and the public transport system drops me off right in front of Kulturwerk so I really shouldn’t complain too much. But I still do.

 

I started my second training placement this week, which has been busy, with lots of new people, new workplace and new responsibilities, so I’m not really in the right state of mind to write a finely honed blog post. Instead, here’s a set of pictures from another ride I went on using my sister in law’s borrowed bike.

Corner shop.

 


Back street.

 


Local shop seen from under a small arcade.

 


Railway station, so small it doesn’t have a ticket barrier, but not so isolated that it lacks a drinks machine.

 


Old house, still inhabited despite appearances.

 


Railway crossing the Miyagawa river

 


Roadside business, Miyagawa village.

 


Rice harvester unloading in the countryside. Passing rice harvesters on the narrow roads was a minor hazard.

 

“Wind Clan”, apparently the place Cadillacs go to die.

 


Tamaru (“Tama-Loo”)¬† Station complete with hand painted sign over the door.

 


Very optimistic taxi waiting for the next train at Tamaru.

 

Cycle lane. In the manner of cycle lanes the world over it lasted for all of half a kilometre and vanished into a road Island.

Grateful as I was for the use of this bike, it lacked certain things I’m used to, like 25 other gears. I’d cycled about 9km in an hour and it felt like a lot further, so this is as far as I got.

I am not working out schemes with Eldest Son to take bikes with us next time and go on a tour. Not at all.

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