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I may be a tree hugging hippy but if I don’t want to end up tripping over my flowing beard, I still need to shave occasionally, so what passes for intellectual capacity here has been intermittently occupied with finding a method of shaving that still allows me to pass for normal in The Towns.

I abandoned electric razors over a decade ago when planning a trip to Nepal. Plugs were in short supply in the mountains, so I’d changed to a well known brand with Three Parallel Blades. I thought no more of it until I realised that although this had undoubtedly been the better choice for a month of washing in a river, they were still contributing to landfill, and I really wasn’t getting a very good shave out of them.

I heard a story from about how some years back the shaving industry decided they were not making enough profit with simple razor blades. They solved this by persuading the unshaven masses that the safety razor didn’t work and exciting combinations of plastic and metal which cost about five times as much were a better option. Apparently they knew the best shave was offered by the humble safety razor, but hey, enough advertising can solve almost any problem.

This appealed to my inner hippy and when the Three Parallel Blades ran out, I swapped them for a safety razor, brush and lump of soap, and do you know, this really does give a better shave, the old school razor blades are cheaper and easier to recycle. To add to the smug green glow I even used an old tea cup for the soap.

Yeah, man. Down with the purpose made soap dishes of tyranny and capitalism.

Then the local shop stopped stocking razors and soap, which I suppose was inevitable. So until I find a decent shaving shop in Stuttgart, I now have to order stuff online via the evil corporations which arguably defeats the point of the exercise.

It isn’t easy being green. And before someone asks, I’m not really sure I want to go for the real traditional approach

 

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So I’ve been a bit preoccupied for a while and got out of the rhythm of writing here. sorry about that. I’m trying to get back and start writing so if there is anyone about, welcome back. have a look around. Mind the dust.

As a starter someone suggested writing ten things from the day. Not good, bad or profound, just ten observations:

1: This morning a red kite flew past the window. I know they’re just an exotic waste disposal unit, but they are stunning birds, especially viewed from the kitchen.

2: I don’t have any exams for at least four months.

3: After the summer holidays we should start our animal assisted therapy training, which I am very excited about. The Boys are also excited because they think we’ll get a dog despite me telling them repeatedly that we can’t.

4: The Boys want a Bernese Mountain Dog. Or a Husky.

5: After the holidays I also start my second internship. I’ll write more on that another time, rest assured.

6: Beautiful Daughter is more beautiful each day, but she’s getting bigger and going up hills on the Bakfiets is harder work.

7: Youngest Son has decided he likes rugby. No-one here has heard of Rugby. This means he has to play with me, so we get more time together.

8: I still think rugby balls are a silly shape though.

9: Eldest Son and Lovely Girlfriend of Eldest Son are in the UK with my his grandparents. They have had important Cultural Experiences, like Fish and Chips and Eating Ice Cream on a Cold Beach in the Rain.

10: It is surprisingly hard to think of ten things when you have to make a list.

Will have to attempt this more often.

The long drawn out and very boring process of getting German citizenship I’ve described before is continuing: we’ve had a request for a rather large amount of money and more copies of the documents we had to copy earlier. We have to take them to an office at some unspecified point in the future, so we are hoping this means we are coming towards the end of that one. Of course this means chasing different government offices who move at the usual speed of government offices everywhere…

Exams continue: you’ve all experienced them and they are as fun and exciting as way back when, so I don’t need to go on about that…

On the other hand I’ve got a project week this week, which means I can start a bit later and get to make stuff and call it work. My group has to make and design a gate that will open for a wheelchair without the user needing to undo a bolt or turn a handle, and close securely after they have gone through. This last bit is important because we are back at the city farm I worked at a couple of years ago, and the gate goes to the rabbit pen.

On top of this the weather is good at the moment and I can ride the Xtracycle to the farm, and not get muddy in the process, which reduces a lot of the potential grumpiness…

In December our glorious leaders, in the form of the town council, announced that they were introducing a new traffic calming scheme. Finally we are getting a speed limit of 30 km/h (Ca. 20 mph) through the village, instead of 50 km/h (30 mph). This, according to google and my rather wooly maths, will mean it takes 2 minutes 24 second to go through the village, instead of 1 minute 26 seconds. A ‘delay’ of 58 seconds.

Cue howls of protest from local drivers.

This limit will apparently cause chaos. And… and… er… traffic jams, yes, lots of traffic jams… and it’ll cause more of that… oh, what was the word… began with a P… pollution, that was it. Pollution. Because er… slowing cars down means they pollute… more… Yeah: pollution bad. But not bad enough to stop me driving.

Besides. It’s not because of cars. It’s because there are too many Lorries. yes. All the noise and pollution is the fault of the 1300 lorries that drive through the village each day, not the 13000 cars: it’s all the trucks. And what about those busses getting priority at lights? How dare these lesser road users get priority over me? Don’t they realise that as a car user I am a superior being? And of course buses take up too much space as well. Get rid of them.

So what we need is more roads. nice fast roads running around the village so the lorries can go around the village and we can drive in the centre as much as we want. That’ll solve everything. What? The new road will go through a nature reserve. Ah, well, at least the roads in the village will be nice and clear.

After all, building roads for the last fifty years has worked so well for everyone, hasn’t it?

There’s a great deal of hand-wringing at the moment in Stuttgart. It turns out that if you spend forty years building a transport system for rich people in private cars, eventually you run out of space, and rather more importantly, fresh air. Stuttgart is now registering the worst air pollution in Germany, and is breaking the EU limits on a pretty regular basis.

This of course has nothing to do with cars. Well, it is possibly connected to the numbers of cars, but it is really because Stuttgart is in a valley. Yes, that’s the problem, the valley. Not the cars. Anyway, we can’t really do anything effective to stop the pollution because that would mean stopping the cars, and we can’t have that. We just have to hope that the wind picks up and blows the particles outside of the city, which I’m sure will make the citizens of the next town really happy, or that it rains and washes all the muck down the drain, where it can flow into the river and be someone elses problem.

Unfortunately this hasn’t helped much, and neither has building more roads, so now the city has resorted to having a ‘Feinstaubalarm’ which roughly translates as a ‘Pollution alarm’, and on these days, adults can buy half-priced ticket, which should get people out of their cars.

Or not, if the traffic jam outside of my college is anything to go by.

Even so, the hotels association has started complaining that because of the Feinstaubalarm: people are ‘cancelling bookings’. When a journalist checked, this turned out to be about ten bookings in the last month cancelled because of the Feinstaubalarm.. perhaps. The Hotels Association demanded that the government should just sort out the traffic problem by ‘Making sure traffic flows freely’ and ‘Getting rid of traffic jams’.

That’s that, then. Problem solved…

Last minute preparations for starting college tomorrow included going to the local chain supermarket to get supplies. There I discovered to my horror that not only had they opened a cut price bakery in competition with our local company, but to make space for this they had stopped selling my favourite bagels, which were the only reason I’d come in the first place.

Now I’m bagel-less, and as I’m determined not to support the soulless chain bakery, I need an alternative for lunch at the college, preferably vegetarian that will last the morning without going dry or soggy, and keep me awake in the afternoons.

Oh, and simple to make in batches over the weekend to avoid disasters as I try to get it ready in the morning.

I’m good at coming up with ideas for most things, but not food. Any ideas?

Can someone explain how time becomes elastic when you are trying to catch a tram?

The ideal tram to get to work, the one which goes where I want to go, with plenty of space, leaves at 0831. This is exactly one minute into ‘off peak’ times when I’m allowed to carry a bike.

On a good day, I leave the apartment at about ten past eight, and pootle off up the hill in my usual way, coast past the farm, ride across the main road and past the field where they sell Christmas trees earlier each year (October, this time, I expect they’ll reopen in Summer this year), and get to the tram stop at about 0820. Which is fine, except that in winter it is a bit nippy standing on the edge of the fields waiting for a tram to turn up.

So last week I tried an experiment and went a bit later; actually that was less a plan and more because I forgot my keys, lunch and water, and remembered each item after I’d come back from retrieving the last one, but I was able to leave at about 0815. This was okay, because I still had a buffer of 5 minutes, but I decided to to move as quickly as a not particularly fit bloke with asthma can, pushed up the hill, raced past the farm, nipped across the main road between cars and arrived at the station at 0832, to see the tail lights of the tram as it wandered off to Stuttgart…

Explanations please…

[Update: Post finally updated to remove typo that ruined the already feeble punchline. I tried to do this earlier but the WordPress mobile editing page is even worse than the useless ‘Improved’ normal page]

…or, how to annoy right wing protestors…

I don’t as a rule, do current events, but I’m making an exception here. Over the weekend a populist right-wing political group held a protest in Mainz against the ‘chaotic’ situation regarding asylum seekers in Germany. (Rightwing code for “get rid of the furriners”) The protest happened to be in front of the State Theatre, and the staff decided this wasn’t a good thing, so they threw through the windows open and sang Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ at the top of their voices, specifically the bit about how “All Peoples shall be brothers”.

The theatre staff managed to sing so loudly -with no amplification- that the protest had to stop. They were promptly arrested for ‘disrupting a legal protest’.

The German Police are claiming that the right to legal protest is guaranteed by the Basic Law of Germany so this was unconstitutional.

I can see the argument: if you ignore this, others (probably this group’s nastier cousins) could use it as an argument to start disrupting protests, but personally I think standing up for people fleeing from war and chaos, or even, looking for a better life, is generally a good idea, and it would be better all round if the police stopped mucking about and dropped the charges. If you agree with this, please sign this petition.

Normal service will be resumed shortly….

The BBC Covers the story here.

 

 

So yesterday I went back to have the bandage changed on the smallest industrial injury ever. I was a bit apprehensive about this to be honest because I wasn’t sure where the surgery was, and after the faff we’d had driving there I thought it may well be in the outer reaches of Karlsruhe, or possibly Paris.

Then I looked on Google and found that this same surgery that had taken almost an hour of stop-go traffic to reach, was ten minutes away by shared use pedestrian/cycle roads and residential streets.

It isn’t supposed to work that way: cycling is supposed to be really inconvenient, fine for a trundle on a summer Saturday but not a serious way to get anywhere you need to go. I know this because I’m told by several people a week. Driving -even allowing for taking wrong turns, shouting at the navigator when it claimed we were at our destination when we clearly were not, and getting stuck in a one way system- must still be faster. Because cars are faster. End of story.

I suppose this has one advantage of making sure the cycleways are empty. If the drivers of Stuttgart collectively notice how much easier it is to cycle even on the paltry facilities we have, then the currently quiet cycle ways may well be filled with ex-motorists all trying to cycle as if they’re driving along an Autobahn, scattering slower cyclists and pedestrians then promptly collapsing in a heap and blocking the way at the slightest hill, and no-one will be able to get anywhere…

Or maybe it will become safe to cycle along those wide, smooth, well-maintained roads and a virtuous cycle will start, of ever improving cycle facilities and ever decreasing car use, causing drastic reductions in urban pollution and traffic deaths, so the only thing visible in the otherwise entirely clear sky will be the flock of pigs flying overhead.

I can dream. Still, cycling is a lot faster and easier than people think. I’m just saying…

So I woke up this morning with one ear thoroughly bunged up with wax, a family curse made occasionally worse by having to use earplugs at work. If someone on my left is speaking to me it sounds like “glong, glong chumble mumf wumble …half past two” as I turn my head. Then they go away before I can ask what the heck they were talking about and what is happening at half past two.

I took a couple of days holiday this week do I’m not besieged by children. Although in that case being unable to hear them may be a good thing.

Thankfully our village still has a chemist in walking distance, so I wandered over and had a conversation which went like this:

Me: I’d like something to get rid of ear wax please.

Chemist: Chomble mumpf syringe?

Me: Pardon?

Chemist: (Trying not to laugh) Ears humflug solution and syringe?

Me: Er… yes?

Anyway, I now have a bottle of solution to pour into my ear and a syringe to squirt hot water down there when that doesn’t help.

Here’s hoping that I’ll get that sorted fairly quickly before I have to do much cycling or have important conversations in German, and that I’ll find out what I’m missing at half past two.

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