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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.

After we passed Eldest Son’s previous bike to his brother we noticed the brakes had the stopping power of a damp sponge. On closer inspection it turned out that it was because they were worn down almost to the metal, so Eldest Son and I took an hour or so to sort the problem out. I always found practical things like fixing bikes a very mysterious thing and never really felt confident to try and I want the boys to feel much more confident in this sort of area.

Eldest Son was understandably nervous about making a mistake that could result in his brother ending up in a pile at the bottom of a local hill, but after I assured him that I’d be with him as he fitted the brakes and that I’d also check the brakes after he’d finished and make sure they were safe and tight he was happy to have a go. As he started it occured to me that a few short years ago I wouldn’t have had the confidence to adjust my own brakes, let alone be the person who checked someone else’s bike.

Judging by the speed with which by Eldest Son sorted the brakes out, I don’t think I’ll be getting much practice in the future either.

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Eldest Son passed a milestone on this birthday by getting his first proper adult bike. After the initial excitement of finding his new present in the living room, he quickly realised that the potential of a bike is very limited in an attic apartment…

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So once he had got back from School and we’d got it down to ground level we went off for a test ride, where he demonstrated his pleasure with his new bike by vanishing over the horizon whenever I wanted to take a picture.

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German children and teenagers ride the sort of bikes I dreamed of in the UK. This one even uses a hub dynamo which Eldest Son was particularly insistent about as he was fed up with having a bottle dynamo whirring away and slowing him down whenever he had to go somewhere in the dark.

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It is in a different league to the heavy mudguardless mountain bikes I had as a teenager, but then, so was the price, so I guess it works both ways. One question remains though, how did his handlebars end up being higher than mine?

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We were accompanied by Middle Son, who was very happy at the new arrangement as he inherits Eldest Son’s ‘old’ bike and can now go much faster.

This is why we decided to pay the extra for a very good bike this time: we will be using it at least ten years several times a week and in all weathers, so it will have a lot to cope with.

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…besides, they’re worth it…

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