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The plan was for a 20k ride with Beautiful Daughter on the back, towards Stuttgart and then through a forest to a rather attractive castle. From there we’d follow a road through the valleys out into the countryside and wiggle back up through the hills to our village. The roads were dry and the wind had died down, so what could possibly go wrong?

Well, as we went past the local chemist their thermometer was displaying a temperature of -1°c. This wasn’t too much bother for me as I would warm up quickly hauling Beautiful Daughter up the hill, but it occurred to me that after 20km I’d probably have to chip my passenger off the back seat.

Then the Xtracycle gears decided was too cold and started playing up.

So we cycled around the local villages and followed the tram line for a bit then coasted back over the fields, and spent the next hour under a blanket drinking hot chocolate instead.

There’s always next time…

As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Elder Son is now an apprentice bike mechanic. In Germany this is a two year course, mostly working in a bike shop with college one or two days a week. The college makes sure he has extra practical and theory lessons, and also theory, social studies, how and why the German government is built as it is, law and business studies: he’s not just being trained to be a bike wrench: he’s being trained to run a business.

And yes I am envious, even more so because it turns out he’s pretty good at it.

Take this week for example. As mentioned previously, we’d pulled most of the extra components off the bike frame ready for painting, but the cranks and bottom bracket (where the pedals go through the frame) needed some needed some tools I hadn’t got, so we arranged that Elder Son would ask his boss to lend us a couple. He was a bit unsure about this for fear of making a mistake (thanks schools system) but agreed to give it a go.

Yesterday evening he rang the bell and reported that he did have the tools, so I went downstairs to lend moral support. He’d already started, and waved the Mother Of All Spanners at me, saying “Hi dad, I thought you might like to see how this works”. He took hold of the bike, instructed me to hold it “Like that, no, a bit over here. That’s it…”
He waved the crank remover, fitted it, turned the lever and removed the crank.
I was instructed to rotate the bike. Next time I looked the other crank was neatly placed on the floor.
Then came the Mother Of All spanners. “This engages inside the ring here, look, my boss showed me this trick…”
The first screw loosened without protest
“Dad?”
“Yes?”
“Can you tun the bike around?”
“Oh, sorry.”
Spanner was applied again, Bottom bracket removed.
“Okay, so we can pack those up and sand the frame down.” He’d only taken the tools out of the bag three minutes earlier.
“Okay,” I said, “just one thing.”
“What?”
“Next time,let me have a go, okay?”
“I’ll think about it.”

You can’t buy that…

RND_10With Elder Son becoming more confident that he won’t break something vital while fixing stuff, we pulled the Ugly Bike out of the cellar to begin turning it into a beautiful randonneur/adax bicycle.

We’d decided to pull off everything we could with the tools we had in the drawer, up to and including a big hammer if the mood took us. For anything else we had an agreement of Elder Son’s employer and trainer that we could use some of the more specialised tools. Of course we could have waited until we had everything on hand but this bike really was just too ugly to be left any longer.

RND_09

Elder Son began at the back end with chain and dérailleurs while I got to grips, ha, ha, with with the handlebars. The grips themselves proved immune to persuasion, WD40 and bad language, and I ended up taking a knife to them before dealing with the combined brake and gear units. Normally this would be an opportunity to whine about the evils of capitalism as evidenced by the practice of combining gear and brake levers, and forcing users to replace the lot every time one element failed, but on this occasion we were changing to V-Brakes and drops and the gear shifters were worn out anyway, so I just dumped them in the bin without comment.

RND_12

We discovered that our tools aren’t the right ones to remove the crank and bottom bracket, but we changed the handlebars anyway, even though we’ll need a different stem, This was as much a statement of intent and a morale booster as anything.

Any suggestions we then coasted up and down the drive making ‘woosh woosh’ noises are pure fiction…

Rebuilding the Ugly Bike has stalled a bit while Elder Son decided what he was going to do having graduated from high school. Elder Son  had had quite enough sitting in a classroom for a few years, so the wanted to find a vocational qualification. This is complicated in Germany, mainly because there are so many options with literally thousands of 2-3 year vocational courses to choose from, most of which are not only free, but start paying a small wage from the first day.

Fortunately part of my job is helping to get people apprenticeship places, so I dug out the Big Book of apprenticeships at work, where it was being used as a door stop, & we made a list of possibilities and Elder Son started applying. After a few weeks working in a Hotel and then as a vets assistant, Elder Son landed himself a place as a bike mechanic, making me both proud and frankly rather envious.

I told him it would only be three months before he started telling me how to fix things.

I was wrong, it took three weeks.

Time to dig the Ugly Bike out of the cellar methinks…

This box represents an big step forward in the InGermany household.

We’ve bought a new microwave.

Our previous Microwave was given to us by some friends with a slightly apologetic comment of “My Granny was throwing it out: It’s a bit old.” and it was, in fact it was ancient, but we needed a microwave and we figured we could replace it later.

That was about seventeen years ago.

People have commented at times at the age of the microwave, but we’d always had other things to do and it still worked, after a fashion. It was noisy and the light packed up several years ago, but we got used to that.

Then someone pointed out that the power consumption on the thing must be pretty high: I believe their actual words were “I can see the lights dimming whenever you cook something” so we started looking around for a replacement -until something came up, and then something else… you get the idea.

Anyway, Beautiful wife got fed up and went online last month. It took ten minutes to order a new one, and finally we have a microwave made in this century.

If things go on like this we may all have a smart phone by 2050…

The Elder Son -who made his debut on this blog riding a bike with stabilisers- needs a new bike to go to work. This it a matter of some urgency because at the moment he’s using the commuter bike, and it is only a matter of time before ‘my’ commuter bike becomes ‘his’ commuter bike unless I find an alternative.

So we’re going on a bike hunt.

The charitable organisation I work for runs several local bike shops as a way to help people gain skills and get back into work. They also recycle bikes and at this time of year there are usually a dozen or so refurbished items in unfortunate colour schemes in front of the shop, perfect for the rebuild/repainting we had in mind.

So we went to see what we could find. There are two such shops on the other side of the city, so we’d have plenty to choose from. The weather report threatened storms from mid afternoon., but there was no sign of them after lunch, and anyway, we were following a tram route the whole way, so we could always leap on the tram and come back in the dry. We snorted in derision at the weather report and set off.

Of course, after we’d been riding about half an hour -ie, we were far enough away from the apartment that it would take a soaking to get back- it started NAR. This, UK readers will know is ‘Not Actually Raining’; a very gentle drizzle or spit of rain that makes it clear that a good soaking is entirely possible.

We arrived at the first bike shop. instead of the line of bikes I was expecting, there were three: a mahoosive upright town bike, a tricycle, and a pink bike with stabilisers and plastic flowers. I suggested to Elder Son that the pink bike would suit him, but he’s fussy about things like that and wouldn’t even try it out. Young people these days.

The second shop had no bikes at all unless you counted a pile of bent scrap frames out the back.

Then the rain finally came. Not the British style of spring rain, that falls solidly but gently for hours: this was a German ‘auditioning to be a monsoon’ rainstorm, which hits the ground so hard it bounces twice and cracks flagstones.

Thank goodness we were at the tram stop, we agreed smugly.

Then we found that the station was closed for repairs and there were no trams running for the weekend…

 

Well, week actually, but never let reality get in the way of a title.

This week was supposed to be one of being generally relaxed and pottering about, catching up on all the annoying jobs that get forgotten while revising. Of course it hasn’t worked out like that because of the demands of different offices that we fill in the correct form and/or turn up for an interview Right Now because my change of status to not-really-unemployed to not-really-employed had sent their systems into a hissy fit.

This is not very exciting to blog about.

Fortunately, once the forms were gone we could do all the things that were neglected in the last few months.

One of the most important of these as far as Beautiful daughter was concerned was going out for adventures on the Bakfiets, so we’ve been exploring.

We went to see some horses,

…and found out how useful dock leaves are after stumbling through some nettles on the edge of the forest.

Beautiful daughter found a warm space with some interesting shaped seeds and nice soft soil…

And of course we had to visit a river to throw Great Big Rocks into

While not finding interesting new places we had time being creative, and made a poster for Grandpa’s birthday.

Meanwhile a pile of revision notes has been sitting forlornly in the corner waiting for me to decide what to do with them…

 

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…

The long drawn out and very boring process of getting German citizenship I’ve described before is continuing: we’ve had a request for a rather large amount of money and more copies of the documents we had to copy earlier. We have to take them to an office at some unspecified point in the future, so we are hoping this means we are coming towards the end of that one. Of course this means chasing different government offices who move at the usual speed of government offices everywhere…

Exams continue: you’ve all experienced them and they are as fun and exciting as way back when, so I don’t need to go on about that…

On the other hand I’ve got a project week this week, which means I can start a bit later and get to make stuff and call it work. My group has to make and design a gate that will open for a wheelchair without the user needing to undo a bolt or turn a handle, and close securely after they have gone through. This last bit is important because we are back at the city farm I worked at a couple of years ago, and the gate goes to the rabbit pen.

On top of this the weather is good at the moment and I can ride the Xtracycle to the farm, and not get muddy in the process, which reduces a lot of the potential grumpiness…

The current lack of posts on this blog is because I can’t find the keyboard for paperwork. Several local government departments have demanded lots of official ie ‘expensive’ documents at the same time as Younger Son needs his passport renewing. As the UK governments increasing paranoia about furriners now extends to anyone who has contact with furriners, and I am to paperwork what an Ostrich is to competitive baking, so this is proving rather stressful, especially as I still have a couple of exams to prepare for.

It also makes for rubbish blogging.

On the other hand I have a place for the internship in September working in this theatre and arts centre which runs lots of programmes for people with Psychological issues, and with this theatre company which does drug awareness programmes in schools.

Even better, everything to do with organisation and insurance goes through college, so I get to play in the theatre and and the paperwork is someone else’s problem.

Updates will follow as soon as I dig my way out.

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