The Xtra and I were coming back from the next village, well loaded with bread and other nice things. I was enjoying the feel you get from a loaded longbike and idly wondering how much I’d have to stuff into it to actually fill the thing, when I saw an older friend waving from the side of the road.

South German culture is very relational: when you see someone you will probably stop to chat and it, won’t be about the weather: I was asked where I’d been, why I was coming along this road, how the family are, (she saw them only three days earlier…) if Eldest Son is still enjoying school, if Middle Son is still happy in Kindergarten, how Youngest Son is finding being at home… This was not nosiness, you understand, but genuine interest. People here do care for one another, and have already offered help and suggestions when we needed it. This family have offered us the use of their car at any time. We’ve never needed it in four years but it’s a kind thought.

When I’d recovered, or possibly to break the flow of questions, I asked why she was here. She was standing by her car, and does a lot of work visiting older people who can’t get out much.

“I went for a walk.”

A walk?

“I go for a walk every day to keep fit. Sometimes nearer to home and sometimes I feel like a change and drive over here for a walk. It’s such a lovely place to go and get some peace and quiet…”

We were about 1.7 km from the centre of our village via a direct, flat, and paved route. It would have taken about fifteen minutes walking to get here from our friends home: she was literally parked on the end of the cycleway/footpath. But instead she drove. By car it’s 3,4 kilometres, round three sides of a square. This means her car had polluted its way around our village, the edge of Stuttgart and into this residential area. As a catalytic converter is largely ineffective for the first 3 km or so, it may have started to work just before she turned the engine off.

And this, remember, to go for a walk.

And people think I’m odd.

I cycled home and unloaded the Xtra: Unloading took longer than the cycling. Just after I’d finished the phone rang. It was our friend again, now returned and wanting to remind me that if we needed a car to do the shopping, we only had to ask…

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