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I don’t have to plant everything in the garden just yet, as I’m waiting a bit this year in an attempt to time the narrow window between ‘not ready for harvest’ and ‘bolting out of control’ so I’m actually around to harvest something. Nonetheless I’ve been digging the garden as fast as I can: my parents are coming this Easter and my mum, who is a keen gardner, will want to know how I’m doing. It would be preferable if the garden is not a bramble strewn wasteland when this happens.

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Apart from digging out the beds, I also cleared the grass off the parking space at the top of the hill (top tip: don’t leave the remains of the pile of potting compost and cow poo out on paving over winter) and filled the pots for our apartment from the compost bin. I was feeling rather virtuous today when I arrived to find that the warm weather has set the grass off again and the paths are starting to look decidedly shaggy.

At least there’s a visible difference between ‘paths’ and ‘vegetable bed’. For the next week, any way.

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The weekend has been rather busy, in the good sense of being with great friends who you don’t see every day, an in some cases only see every couple of years, so there was very little cycling going on, except for the usual transporting lots of cakes and other essentials to where we were meeting, and of course picking up a family-sized pizza for the evening meal, but apart from that, not much cycling took place.

I can however report that apart from other practical uses, a Bakfiets is the perfect solution when we needed to move some small, severely jetlagged children from where they were staying to where we were feeding them.

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…

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Happy new year for 2015.

2014 was quite a rollercoaster year for us, what with the sudden realisation Beautiful Daughter was on her way, shortening the apprenticeship and trying to work out what this meant for us as a family, there hasn’t been a lot of time to sit down, let alone do stuff we wanted to work on like deal with some bigger projects in the garden to try and make it a more pleasant place to be and bring people, maybe even build it in to a microholding.

On the other hand I’ve (almost, one month and two exams to go) finished an apprenticeship in my second language, and we have three fantastic boys and a lovely little girl. As you can see the boys are riding well, and this is probably the only view I’ll get of them when we are cycling together in the years to come.

We are also broadening our horizons. Goodness knows where we will be at the end of 2015.

XmastreeA couple of years ago our boys decided that they didn’t like the idea of killing off a living plant at Christmas, and Beautiful Wife was heard to promise “Daddy can make us our own tree instead” causing much frantic cutting of cardboard and applying of hot glue late into the night. This was meant to be a temporary solution, but the boys liked it so it seems to have become a permanent fixture as these things do.

The picture is a bit rough around the edges, but then so is the tree. Every year I look at ‘my’ tree and decide I really need to make a new version, and of course, every year I promptly forget about it.

Never mind.

This seems a good opportunity to say thank you for reading the blog this year, and for the comments and support you’ve sent online or by email. From all of us over here in Germany, have a Good, peaceful, happy Christmas and new year.

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Beautiful Daughter crashed into the wider world about an hour and a half into December.

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Once she decided she was coming it took about thirty minutes before were holding a beautiful, wriggly baby with functioning vocal chords, which she tested pretty well immediately.

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The hospital staff took one look at Beautiful Wife’s medical history and decided she could probably manage another child pretty well, especially with The Boys helping out, so they’re letting her come home today.

She just called to say she’s allowed to come home around ten, and the apartment is a right mess…

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…one Tiny Person. Beautiful Wife and myself had a lift to the local hospital* this afternoon, and we are now waiting for the smaller person to make their mind up about coming, or not. From past experience, there will be a long wait until the baby decides they want to come now and then things happen very quickly, so although I’ve been sent off home, the phone is staying close by.

I’ve been offered lifts by various kind people, but I reckon that by the time I get to their home, wake them up, they get ready and we can drive off, I’d be halfway to the hospital, so it will be a nighttime Xtracycle ride at some point probably early in the morning.

*Beautiful Wife having rejected suggestions that she ride herself or be carried by Bakfiets: I can’t think why…

With exams in a week, my days are taken up with revising and doing more maths equations than I ever had to complete for high school.

I’m still ‘off sick’ and likely to continue that way for some time, which is a blessing in disguise as I wouldn’t have managed to learn half as much if I was at work. Wanting to take full advantage of this unexpected extra time, I’ve taken to revising in ‘my’ carpentry workshop which keeps me away from the distractions of the internet and other things.

bedprog_01On the other hand, working next to the workbench means breaks are taken up doing something useful. The replacement section for Youngest Son’s bed is coming on nicely, and providing me with practice material for the practical exam in the new year. That sounds almost plausible if you read it quickly.

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With a little help from the end user himself. I can’t blame Youngest Son for the dodgy join in the foreground: that was all my own work. Fortunately it won’t be visible at the end.

Besides, if you want perfect, you can go to a shop…

The exciting bit of news I hinted at last week is that we have another tiny person due to join the madness here in a mere five weeks. Beautiful Wife has a beach ball tummy with a very wriggly occupant who has already managed to kick, or possibly elbow, at least one of his or her elder brothers in the ear.

Preparations have been going on for some time: I’m trying to make a way to fit the baby car seat into the Bakfiets, and Eldest Son and I spent a chunk of this morning building a borrowed crib. How we will fit this into our already cramped bedroom is a detail which we have yet to work out.

Another detail is a name: All the boys have a vaguely Germanic first name and a Celtic middle name, which causes consternation to the school because their systems don’t allow for a middle name and then the teachers can’t pronounce them. We seem to be getting stuck this time, still, there’s five weeks to go yet…

One of those weeks is full of exams. Must remember that bit…

Suddenly it is the end of year two at college, so we had an exam. The system of putting everyone in a room and telling them to make something perfectly in seven hours because their whole future depends on it still seems very odd to me, but what do I know?

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This isn’t the exam: it’s what happens when you get too enthusiastic with a hand plane and have to add an extra piece of wood to make up the difference. That long piece of wood is the replacement for 2mm that I took off by mistake: but for that lack of attention I could have started the next step on making a box. I’m choosing to see this as ‘character building’. Or something.

Anyway, the carpentry is now closed for three weeks and we’re off to the UK, which is always an interesting experience. I will have to get used to offering pounds in shops and looking to the right when I cross the road. We’re going by train which can be fantastic or stressful depending on how well the German and French railways, Eurostar and whoever is currently running trains to York  have got their act together. On previous occasions we’ve been through Brussels but this time we will catch a direct TGV to Paris, where we have to make our way from Paris Est station to Paris Nord without getting lost.

As the two stations are a few hundred metres apart and each the size of a cathedral, that shouldn’t present too many difficulties, but if you don’t hear from me in the next week, you know where to start looking.

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