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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.

Last week we all went on the annual farm outing, which meant we came to work early and rushed about feeding the animals in the morning so we could drive about an hour to go and look at someone else’s animals.

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Admittedly they were a bit different to ours.

Unfortunately to begin with we were accompanied by a ‘Wilderness Guide’ whose main goal seemed to be to make us play silly games instead of showing us around: seriously, what is the point of ‘team building games’? I’ve worked with several teams, good and bad, and I doubt any of the rubbish ones would have improved by making us stand on a piece of wood in a field for half an hour pretending to cross a ‘river’.

I long ago realised all games work on the assumption that you want to win, so if possible I ‘fall’ into the ‘river’ or allow myself to be ‘caught’ by the ‘lion’ as quickly as I can so I can sit the rest of the game out*.

Finally our ‘guide’ finally shoved off disappeared mysteriously into the wilderness in his 4×4, and we got on with watching animals.

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Sure, Mr. Bear looks cute, but the bars around his enclosure were massive.

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Watching these animals being fed was interesting and informative in all the ways our ‘guide’ wasn’t, and we learned, amongst other things, that there is a male lynx not far from Stuttgart looking for love, but he’ll have to look pretty hard as the nearest female lynx is in Switzerland, that the fences on the wolves enclosure are not really needed because they don’t attack humans, and that the first confirmed sighting of a wolf in the region was made a few months ago. Unfortunately the wolf in question had been killed by a car on the main Autobahn from Basel to Karlsruhe, but we know they are on their way, and once here they’re protected by law** and should thrive.

While we were looking the other way, someone else was getting a meal too.

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We finished the day watching the birds of prey.

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Several of the team now favour vultures as the next animal for the farm.

*In this case not even pretending to run away was perhaps a bit too obvious.

**Except from bad drivers…

I’d just like to apologise to the cyclists in our area for the weather we had over the weekend.

On Friday the weather report was very upbeat, predicting sunshine and a the odd fluffy cloud, and even enough warmth to leave your coat at home. On Saturday the sun shone, I was out building a shed with friends, the weather forecast was showing bright yellow symbols into next week, sheep gamboled in the fields* and all was right with our world.

Then, on Saturday night we had monsoon-standard rain. Certain people will put this down to meteorological conditions, warm air rising from the hills et c but there is in fact a simple explanation.

On Saturday evening I washed the Xtracycle.

I knew it was a risk, but the poor thing had been rather neglected all summer and was looking, appropriately, like it had been in a farmyard for some time. I knew I shouldn’t, but I figured that just a quick clean wouldn’t hurt, and then I’d have a nice shiny bike for the rest of the week.

Now, of course the roads are soaking wet and the gravel trails are full of muddy puddles and the bike was once again filthy by the time I got to work.

So, like I said… Sorry…

*Presumably. We don’t have any near the village right now, but it was good gambolling weather so I’m assuming that somewhere gambolling was taking place.

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