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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.



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.



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


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.


We finished the day watching the birds of prey.


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.

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?


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.


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…


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.


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.


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.


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.

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