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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
I was hoping to be able to write about some cycling adventures, but now the flu is subsiding I’m trying to get all the paperwork done for various offices that need to have The Right Piece Of Paper to be convinced that I’ve finished the apprenticeship. They can’t do this until they have The Other Piece of Paper from a different office, who need The Correct Form filled out with Supporting Documents… I’m sure it is the same everywhere but I wonder if it is the German love of bureaucracy: it certainly keeps a lot of people in work.
It doesn’t help that I’m possibly the worst organised person in Germany. Today I had to go and get a fresh copy of some Very Important Forms which I’d neglected to send to another office on time and promptly lost. Mind you, that meant I got a ride across the fields in bright sunshine, when I’d otherwise have been stuck inside shuffling paperwork, so being disorganised has advantages.
Besides, I do try to be organised, it just seems to go wrong. All year I’d been carefully filing paperwork together in big ring binders and stacking them safely in the loft, and yesterday when I needed a specific form I knew exactly where it was.
Unfortunately this didn’t help when the loft hatch jammed shut.
Still, I knew where the form was, even if I couldn’t get to it. That’s an improvement, right?
…what was the question?
One thing I’ve learned is that in Germany, or at least this bit of it, there is pretty well no problem that can’t be cured with tea. Stomach ache, stiff joints, fevers, tiredness, stress, and acne can all apparently be dealt with using some concoction of dried fruits and flowers, and there are probably cures for hair loss and missing limbs.
With this background, it was inevitable, when a friend heard me wheezing like an elderly dwarf with a smoking habit, that they would present me with a bag of the local chemists special anti-cough herbal tea.
I’m a tree hugging hippy and quite happy to try and sort out ailments with moss and tree bark, especially as it means potentially sticking two fingers up at the big corporations. On the other hand, I’ve not found one of these teas yet that looks or tastes like anything more palatable than a pile of compost, and the last time we gave Beautiful Daughter a ‘natural’ remedy for her tummy ache the poor girl screamed the place down for about twelve hours, so I’m not entirely sold.
Anyway, this morning I opened the bag and found what looked like a mix of dried flowers and grass, put it in the ‘reusable’ tea bag, poured the water in, sieved the bits out after the reusable tea bag spewed them all over the place, and poured a cup.
Ignoring the colour, it wasn’t that bad. Will have to see how effective it is, but as I’ve about a gallon of the stuff to drink down, I think I’ll be able to say I gave it a fair chance…
Any other suggestions how to get rid of a cough?
More cycling related posts as soon as I can ride and breathe at the same time…
I had a couple of posts lined up to write about on Friday, when my computer threw a sulk and refused to respond to anything. It claims this is because of an error in the hard drive, but it happened a mere few days after I got a smart phone for work.
This is not a coincidence.
As I am unable to understand, much less repair anything that requires more finesse than hitting it with a hammer, I sent a cry for help to my incredibly patient computer tech friend.
He assures me it is fixable, which would be nice, as my laptop is my main tool for translating.
So, normal service will be resumed as soon a possible.
Gloves, for me, are frequently elsewhere: either forgotten at home, or at my destination, or in the worst case scenario, somewhere in the middle lying forlornly on the road and waiting for me to roll by and pick them up.
For gloves, also read ‘groceries'; ‘shopping'; ‘college notes'; ‘wallet’… If I can put it down and forget it, I will. I think German Railways are financing a couple of large-scale projects with the proceeds from hats I’ve left on trains, and although I haven’t managed to lose my bike yet I know in my heart that it is only (1) because it is too big to forget easily, and (2) only a matter of time.
So when I set out this week to make some photocopies of rather important certificates, buy some stationery for Eldest Son, and then pick up something from the Chemist for Beautiful daughter, I was determined. Nothing Would Go Missing.
First the printer, I went in, made the photocopies, dropped them, picked them up, sorted them, and departed with everything organised, in the folder, uncrumpled, and without leaving the original on the glass. Success.
Next, the stationery shop, where Eldest and I managed to meet with the minimum of amusing ‘just missing each other’ moments* and we were able to pick up a worryingly small pack pf pens that we carefully zipped into a pocket: you can’t be too careful.
Two down, one to go: the Chemist was the next stop, where they actually had what we needed. This was also zipped away and we headed out of the door. Success was ours, All Items Would Be Delivered.
By now it was getting a little cold. As we stepped outside I reached for my gloves…
*Uses for a Bakfiets #873: instant meeting point/landmark.**
**Do not attempt in Amsterdam.