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Yesterday after weeding the patio, Eldest Son and I went for a ride. We followed the valley for a while until we reached the old tramline, now a cycleway/footpath, and followed it up and over the hills to the town of Neuhausen. I’d chosen this route because being off the road reduced the likelihood of having speed-crazed drivers near us: I forgot that in summer a lot of them get their bikes out of the shed, pull on lycra, and go on their annual bike ride, forgetting they aren’t on the Autobahn.

Just to set the record straight, we did not slow down even more when they pinged us to get out of the way, just to annoy them: we wouldn’t do anything like that.

We turned around at the Catholic church of St. Peter and St. Paul. According to the sign it is the largest parish church in Europe.

So there.

the last two weeks were mostly spent chasing offices and forms, which frankly make for rubbish blogging. We’ve been advised that it would be good for us to change the status of Beautiful Wife’s music tutoring to ‘self employed’, and at the same time we were sorting out various forms for different things we are trying to do. At one point I went down the hill and back up again only to end up with a grumpy ‘assistant’ who didn’t. In fact, so bad was his ‘assistance’ that I had to go back down and up the next day, and the day after that, each time with a separate bale of forms and supporting documents. Still it’s a free work out…

In the middle of this we got our passport application for Middle Son and Beautiful Daughter back from the British Consulate, and found that not only had they changed address but they had also stopped processing passports so our application now has to be sent to Liverpool and all our documentation has to be translated from German to English and other things need explaining with covering letters*, and oh, by the way the UK doesn’t use the EU standard for biometric passport photos (Of course it doesn’t, it’s not like the UK is in Europe or anything) so we had to go to a specialist photographers in the middle of Stuttgart.

In the middle of this, quite by accident, we found a letter from the local government saying Beautiful Daughter has German citizenship, so we now have to find out what that means, probably that she has three passports…

Told you it made for rubbish blogging…

*This would seem to be the point of having a passport office in the embassy, so that the staff know the local situation, but that means dealing with foreign people and spending money.

I’ve said before that cycling into the next big town is a simple matter of pootling through vineyards and gardens. Unfortunately riding back out again is rather harder work.

Step one is simple enough: find the shortest traffic free route through the suburbs of the town and  avoid being run over by the dustbin lorries that seem to infest these back streets.


The next image was taken about 500 metres behind the church seen above. The weathervane on the tip of the tower is directly behind the camera, which makes this hill seem rather excesive, frankly.

This road is closed to cars, but there are always one or two who decide to take the short cut. Inevitably they decide they want to overtake on this section.

At the top of the climb is a housing estate in a forest built in the days when everyone was going to use cars, and therefore with no infrastructure for bicycles whatsoever. Often when I ride here the local drivers have tooted encouragement, waved enthusiastically out of the window as they pass, and for some reason pointed frantically at the pavement.

I don’t know why this happens often here but almost nowhere else. Perhaps they just aren’t used to seeing cyclists on the road.

The secret exit out of the top of the housing estate into fields.

And the top of the climb looking back to the north, 20 minutes and about 200 metres after the first photograph. The reward for this climbing is a magnificent view towards the distant hills that mark the watershed between Rhine and Danube. Typically on the day I had my camera, it was too cloudy to see beyond the next plowed field.

We decided it was time for Beautiful Daughter to come on a bike ride with us. This caused much head scratching while I focused the remaining operable brain cells on a way to keep her baby seat from wobbling about in the Bakfiets.


After massively over thinking things and sketching out wooden frames and other ideas, I remembered that the simplest solution is the best, and that we had a 200kg rated climbing rope that would work just fine. As long as I could still tie knots.


About ten minutes later I had the seat tied down. unfortunately I’d also carefully tied the rope around the steering rod that runs under the bike. This meant that I could ride perfectly well as long as I didn’t have to turn any corners.

With some colorful language, another five minutes untying and retying the rope, and a total expenditure of €0,00 later we had this result. It is remarkable how the seat for smallest member of the family requires almost the entire Bakfiets.


When we go out as a family these days, people notice. Here is the mothership with the satellites waiting outside the shops. The boys often lock their bike to the Bakfiets as it is heavier than the cheap cycle stands provided. The roof was to keep the wind out rather than any rain.

Beautiful daughter was a somewhat bemused at first, and gave the bakfiets a thorough inspection. Her brothers helped her to relax by by riding alongside and pulling faces. Inbetween she played with her cuddly toys before settling off to sleep.


In flight entertainment was provided. She found the sight of Papa puffing up the hill more entertaining.

So, yes, I’ve been a bit quiet again. This is because filling in forms and sending multiple job applications makes for boring blog entries. You all know what it is like and don’t need me to remind you.

It doesn’t help that I’ve been diagnosed with Asthma which means I probably can’t work in a normal carpenters workshop, so the Job Centre is checking this with the doctor to see if I’m officially not able to be a carpenter, and therefore need retraining, and as with most government offices, this is taking a while.

So after being sensible for the last few years I decided to use the time to do something ‘silly’, or to put it another way, something I really wanted to do but was always told was silly.

I decided to try being an oral storyteller.

After much encouragement from an established English speaking storyteller in Germany, I put a show together, called it “A great British Evening” and made some posters.


And people turned up.

Even better, they didn’t run away during the interval and made positive comments. Some of the students even came twice. We also had a healthy amount in the tips jar, which is encouraging as people tend to be honest with their wallet and pay what they think their evening was worth. Now I’ve got a list of subscribers, a website, and I’m planning the next evening. “A Great British Evening” was a mix of history and stories from different people groups in Britain from the Romans through to the beginning of the modern age, so maybe I could do “Another Great British Evening” about the industrial revolution.

I’ve got several other leads I’m following up as well…

So last night I was riding the Bakfiets along the main road in the village, in the dark, and noticed I was being followed by something with a lot more lights than I had. Looking back this turned out to be a Big Black Truck.

About a thousand trucks drive through the village every day, which causes much harrumphing from the locals while they wait to pull out from side streets in their 4 x 4’s. This one had just squeezed around the sharp corner at the top of the hill and was rolling  about fifty metres behind my back wheel. I looked again to signal for a left turn, to find it was still there, but noted with surprise that he was hanging well back, giving me space and allowing himself a generous braking distance. Gratified that he was doing his best not to glue me to his massive bull bars, I signalled, pulled across the road and waved to acknowledge that I had seen the fifty tonnes of black and chrome just behind me. I was rewarded by a short flash of headlights with enough candlepower to safely guide ships, which projected my shadow on the buildings opposite.

It being rather late, there was no traffic in the opposite direction, so I could pull into our street easily enough. I stopped to wave again and got a quick honk on the horn and a wave from the shadowy figure in the cab as the behemoth rumbled out of the village into the darkness.

Why can’t it be like this more often?

(And let’s not ask why cyclists are sharing space with such massive vehicles on narrow roads in a small village, that’d spoil the story…)



A few weeks back, Tony from The Rock, who writes a very entertaining blog about the smallholding his family shares with several dozen assorted animals, posted a photo of a new mug which expressed his love of cycling. I made a positive comment, and thought no more about it.

Then a couple of days ago, a parcel arrived in the post, which turned out to be a cycling magazine, and my own mug…




And to avoid it ‘wandering’ in our rather large family, he even got me a personalised version…

Many thanks Tony, that cheered me up no end…


Xtracycle outside trade guild office


In my last post, I mentioned that I was collecting certificates for the carpentry apprenticeship. these are the ‘other’ certificates issued for the practical exams by the trade guild, as opposed to the theory certificates from the state. I’d explain more but it really isn’t interesting.

For readers who haven’t been following the blog for the last three years -or have for some reason neglected to take notes- a local company took me onin 2012 as an apprentice carpenter –to my rather great surprise, and sent me to college for a year making different small projects before graduating to my first piece of furniture. Once the trade guild (and more importantly, the insurance company) were convinced that we could be trusted with sharp and fast moving objects, we were allowed to work in our companies.

Dissilusionment set in at this point: I’d joined the course to learn a creative job where I could make things like this (preferably with tools like this), the system wanted me to spend the next thirty to forty years making semi-disposable shelving units out of formaldehyde-filled industrial woods with ridiculously complex machines. Attempts to use hand tools whenever I could met with consternation.

I managed to pick up a work related injury, and the college suggested I take my exams six months early. They suggested this three weeks before the exam. Much revision ended in three days of exams and then making my final project in February -using hand tools most of the time: I am nothing if not stubborn- and suddenly I was finished.

The summer graduates will have an exhibition of their work hosted by the college and then be invited to a grand handout of certificates. As there were only three of us graduating now, there won’t be any exhibition and we were invited to tag on to the next awards ceremony, which incidentally would have finished late at night, some distance from our apartment and the nearest station, but then it was for the car mechanics so I guess they assumed everyone would drive there.

Which is why my apprenticeship ended on Friday, with me cycling down to the local trade guild office*, and picking up the final certificates from a bored secretary.

An odd way to finish two and a half years, but at least I finished.

*Which had a car park, but no cycle parking. A pattern emerges…

Due to some monumentally bad planning on my part, I managed to have four appointments in our local big town on different days last week. The town in question is only a bit over five kilometres away, which comes in at a mere 3.2 miles, but before you serious transport cycling types scoff, it is also almost 200m lower, or a rather more respectable 620 feet, most of which is crammed in a relatively short part of the ride.

The quickest way (down) is the busy, but straight main road.


 but if I have the time, it is far more pleasant to use the old road…


…which meanders without any urgency through the vineyards…


…especially as this route is closed to motorised traffic, so I can stop and take pictures.


This was another one of those mornings when I was reminded there are far worse places to live and ride a bike.

You really aren’t supposed to have this much fun on the way to an appointment, especially when the reason was to pick up my results for my carpentry apprenticeship…

After living in a car focused town for so long, it comes as a shock to find genuine, well designed bike lanes just a few kilometres away.


Bike lanes, no less, which go all the way along this side of the main road, inside of the parked cars and in to the centre of the town. I’m not sure why they look so shabby, in particular why someone decided to spend time and money scraping the red surface off at this point, as it was very much present further along (where I naturally forgot to take a photo). The blocked area is so drivers pulling out of side streets can see oncoming traffic without blocking the pavement and cycle lanes.


Riding along it was a novel experience of knowing it was going where I needed to go, and not having to watch cars everywhere. It was also a shock not to have to dig out a map every five minutes to see where I was being taken next and how to avoid it.


It also made a nice change not being the only wierdo on a bike.


And thanks to the driver of this vehicle (under contract to the German Automobile Club, no less)* We can see that the cycle ways are not only direct, they are wide enough for two bikes to ride side by side, or for one truck to park.

*The nice people who sent us free Hi-vis vests a few years back.

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