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So, I had plans for today: go to the garden and beat back another swathe of brambles, come back and do some translations before lunch, and then go and chase up a couple of things, make some phone calls and get organised for the 7-month placement I’ve been offered from September.

I didn’t plan to lock myself out of the apartment.

Fortunately the letting agent runs a business in the village and I could catch hold of him fairly quickly and borrow the spare key.

From next month I’ll be helping to do activities with number of young people and assisting in the care and feeding of half a dozen animals. The people there seem to think I’m sufficiently organised to be trusted with this responsibility, so let’s keep this little episode to ourselves, hmm?

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I’ve been working on a project with some artists to build a stage in our town square for a big celebration this weekend. The idea was that it could stand alone as a piece of sculpture when there are no performances, and I think they asked me because they thought that being a carpenter with a background in theatre I’d know what I was doing. Thankfully I managed to finish the project without anyone realising otherwise, and was able to get to know a few of the local artists into the bargain.

The stage is a bit more complete now but I was too exhausted to get a decent picture. I’ll take one when we go to the performances.

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Yours truly finishing off a painting a couple of months ago; the completed version is on my drawing and painting blog.

I’ve been doing this for myself for a while, but now the local printer has offered to hang my paintings up in his shop. I realise this isn’t a residency at an art gallery or anything, but it is encouraging that someone other than immediate family thinks my work is good enough to be seen in public…

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Yesterday, Beautiful God-daughter -and others- were giving flute recitals, so naturally I went to watch. The Xtracycle can be seen above in the large plaza outside the town arts centre where the performance was held. It is a very tasteful rebuild of an old tram depot.

The tram used to run through here to a couple of other places, including this town. Unfortunately the line was closed in 1978 ‘for economic reasons’ and ‘because we need the space for cars’. Of course. A local group tried to build a museum on the edge of the town but the local government decided to use the space for a petrol station instead.

A walking/cycle way runs along the old tramway, which is a nice thought, but really, we’d have preferred to have the tram.

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Track on old level crossing

But the shell of the old tram depot has a few cycle racks in one corner, so that’s sustainable transport covered.

In 1995 a new road bridge was built over the valley, making it easier to drive, walk, and cycle from one side to the other. It was promptly closed to pedestrian & cycle traffic because it was ‘unsafe’, so schoolchildren now have to be driven by their parents or take the bus.

And the town centres on both sides are crammed full of cars.

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Eldest son on tramway.

So now the local governments are looking at plans to possibly, maybe, build a new tramway and/or railway running along a similar route, at a cost of millions of Euros…

Ah, well.

More importantly, Beautiful God-daughter was awesome…

The local Weather Department has decreed that is it summer and There Shall Be Stickyness and temperatures of 30-35°c (86-95°f). Unusually we are even overheated in the apartment because the wind is so warm it just shunts the sticky air about. I’d go on a bike ride but I’m afraid the wheels will end up looking like a Salvador Dali painting.

This usually means a thunderstorm of biblical proportions, which never fails to entertain, but this evenings scheduled tempest was cancelled.

Still, on the bright side, If I hadn’t taken the early exam for my carpentry apprenticeship I’d be trying to learn about door fitting and window frame building now instead of whining about the weather on my blog.

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, and a normal doctorate-less peasant wasn’t enough for the Passport Office- 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.

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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…

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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