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The local immigration office has been getting on our case again. We’re supposed to have a copy of everyone’s passport on their files but we were a little slow in applying for a couple of British passports, and they needed the passports ‘urgently’, or they may decide that we aren’t legally allowed to live here and throw us out. Or something.

So we had a mad rush filling in the forms, took the proper EU standard Biometric photos, took another set of non-EU standard, and more expensive photos because the UK Passport agency doesn’t use the same system, confused a friend when we asked him to countersign the photos -he has a Doctorate, obviously a normal Doctorate-less peasant wasn’t enough- sent off the forms to the Embassy, got the forms back with “Not known at this address” on the envelope, found out where in the UK to send the forms to, got a certified English translation of the certified German translation of our Japanese wedding certificate, sent the forms, and wonder of wonders, we now have two shiny new British passports.

So Yesterday I rushed down to the immigration office.

Which, along with the entire local government, was closed for the staff summer outing…

*The British Passport office is known for being desperately slow: a German or Japanese passport takes a week or two, but the UK demands you apply about two months before you need one.

Fireengine

The local sport club was having a festival on the weekend so several streets were closed. This is the fire department waking everyone up with a loud hailer and siren announcing that any cars still parked here in the next five minutes would be removed, which is something the car adverts don’t show.

The announcement was punctuated by comments like “Attention please. please remove your cars from the Friedrichstrasse. All cars not removed will be towed away in five minutes… Good morning Franziska…”

I’m guessing that wasn’t part of the official announcement.

Even better, on the next street they were making the announcement from a bicycle.*

*Without the bit about Franziska.

Riding the Bakfiets to the local metro station to pick up the boys* I noticed a cyclist coming towards in full lycra with helmet riding an ancient and rather dusty bike. Nothing unusual there: this time of year the routes over the fields fill with luridly clad riders on bikes which look like they’ve been in a cellar for the last twelve months.

What was odd was that I could hear a tinny voice coming from a large plastic object on his handlebars. I thought this was a cell phone using the hands free facility until he came closer and I realised it was a radio, fastened onto the handlebars and blaring out 80’s hits from the local station.

The end is nigh, I tell you…

And speaking of abominations being where they should not be, my computer seems to have picked up some adware called cheapo-o, which I can’t get rid of. I’ve shut down the add-on but according to several websites there’s still spyware lurking on the hard drive. Of course they all want me to download another programme to get rid of same, but as that’s apparently what caused the problem in the first place I’m not touching them. Can anyone recommend a safe way to remove this rubbish?

*It is downhill coming back: I’m nice but not that nice…

Church_01

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.

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.

Bigill_01

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.

bigill_02
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.

Bigill_03
The secret exit out of the top of the housing estate into fields.
Bigill_04

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.

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…)

 

 

I have not fallen off the face of the planet.

I’m just working on a couple of projects and generally looking for a job, and it is taking a lot of time. We are also hosting my lovely parents and as we see them but once or twice a year, time with them takes priority over things like blogging.

This post is a blatant attempt to fill in that gap by using a piece I wrote for a writing group I’m part of. I was supposed to write a short piece on ‘Music Lessons’.

More on topic material will come soon, I promise:

I avoided music lessons as much as I could, I suspect the music teachers were quite glad about this. There were a few difficult times in School, of course, including one memorable term where they tried to make us think Mozart was cool by making us sing drippy songs to the sound of a harpsichord. I disliked Mozart for years.

There was one unavoidable music hazard, and that was when it was raining, and the teachers were in a flurry to stop us from pulling limbs off each other with boredom during the lunch hour (this is north-west England, you’d think they’d have come up with a plan for rain) and we’d be herded into the big assembly hall for a ‘sing-along’, something almost universally dreaded.*

We’d troop in and adopt various interpretations of ‘sitting’ while Enthusiastic Teacher handed out instruments, ranging from the expensive Glockenspiel (only for the trusted few) down to the triangles and battered castanets with saggy elastic. Those of us too slow or not trusted even with these relatively unbreakable instruments, had to Clap When Instructed.

Enthusiastic Teacher would bang out a chord on the piano and we would all make an approximate noise, whereupon her head would appear over the piano, the better to see those of us trying to hide. She would glare at us, and bang the piano again. All kinds of chord, ranging from ‘Enthusiastic Harmony’ to ‘Bored Moans’ would ensue.

Satisfied that we were enjoying ourselves whether we liked it or not, the teacher would begin playing. This was the cue for a cacophony of sound to erupt while various new and interesting rhythms were tried on various old and battered instruments and the glockenspiel degenerated into negotiations that would put the Middle East in the shade.(“I’ll let you play this song, Lucy, if I get invited to your party in March”).

None of this was important to Enthusiastic Teacher though: as the song continued, she would regularly shoot up from behind the piano shouting “I want everybody singing, including the boys hiding behind the piano! I can see you! Sit up straight! And clap! Now! and Now! and Now! Sing up…”

I have never experienced longer lunch breaks…

*Seriously, you don’t need corporal punishment: just threaten eight year old boys with having to sing with girls for an hour, we’ll do anything…

Coming back to our village this week, I came across a new bit of shared use pedestrian/cycle route that hadn’t looked like this two days earlier.

Nuroad_01

The previous surface had been getting rougher by the year, but even so I couldn’t help feeling there were other places they where this could have been more useful.

Cynical people would of course suggest that this wasn’t the point: it is March, and the surfacing budget must be spent before April the first.

Nuroad_02

Obviously there wasn’t that much left in the budget, as this is the other end, just at the bottom of a hill where a nice flat surface would be really welcome. If you are wondering how long the largesse lasted, the barn above is the same as the one in the previous picture.

Still, this is the second year running that the tarmac leftovers were used on this route, and at the current rate the whole way to the next village should be nice and smooth in about six years or so…

Things normal people carry by bike: Books, laptops, shopping, small children…

 

Swedesaw

Things I end up carrying by bike: swede saws.

 There is a good reason for this, honest.

I was given a large piece of lime wood (D: Lindenholz) to hopefully convert into carved spoons and other items. The wood has to be split or it will be damaged as it dries, which meant hauling it to the garden and attacking it with an axe and heavy hammer, and hauling it back to the workshop to cut into smaller pieces for carving.

The problem with this plan was that it required your truly not to leave the swede saw in the garden. Which I promptly did, and had to collect it with the Xtracycle.

Mind you, I noticed that drivers gave me plenty of space…

(I’m still open to suggestions for garden planting…)

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.

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