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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.

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While on my way to an appointment in our local big town, I came across this.

For the benefit of our local councillors I should explain that this is called a ‘cycle lane’, and is a place where ‘bicycles’ can be used safely and conveniently by people of all ages and abilities.

Significantly this is part of a ‘cycle network’ which means lots of these are connected together, so that people have a choice of transport mode and don’t have to use a car.

I can explain the concept in detail if any local government officials are having difficulty with it. Judging by past experience I suspect that is most of them.

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Living car free is easy, but the expectations of the car culture around us can be a problem. For example, when I have to get to several different places in a short period of time, and the public transport connection is just too tight or too long to be sure of making the appointments.

Enter the commuter bike which finds itself dumped at some distant tram or bus stop where I’d never dream of leaving my Xtracycle, while I follow some complex itinerary to get where I need to go.

Here it is towards the end of a rather complex journey involving two appointments in different places which required a round trip on several busses, trams and trains.

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People who hear I cycle to college often react with surprise and imply that I’m incredibly hardcore but I honestly don’t see it as a big deal: the ride is only 20 kilometres (12 miles) one way, and I get to sit down in a warm classroom all day before pootling back: essentially I get to have two short bike tours with a day at college inbetween. Besides, so far I’ve seen deer, rabbits, kestrels, red kites, buzzards, lots of smaller birds I’m gradually getting to know, and last week a fox ambled across the road as I went through a forest.

It helps that I only have to do it once or twice a week: I think I’d see it differently if I was riding every day.

The photo is on a new section of the route: I had to change because one of the towns I went through has closed a main road to lay a new sewage pipe and decided the cycle way is much more useful as a diversion for the Very Important Drivers rushing to the autobahn, and I don’t feel like dealing with stressed drivers trying to control their car and use their navigator while drinking coffee at half past six in the morning.

I did wonder about writing to the council and pointing out that by pushing cyclists like me out of the town, it means we can’t stop and spend money in their supermarkets as we pass,  but then I remembered I’m too miserly to do that anyway, and besides the new route has views like this and no traffic whatsoever, so I didn’t bother.

So the end of the carpentry apprenticeship is just around the corner: exams in May, final project a few weeks later, and the question I keep getting asked is “What will you do afterwards?”

I don’t know what I’m doing next Saturday. Next year is a bit ambitious.

The local expectation is that I’ll get a job as a carpenter, start a savings account as a down payment on a house, and patiently push chipboard into a machine for the next forty years or so. Assuming that infinite growth is possible on a finite planet, and the bottom doesn’t fall out of the financial industry again, the reward for this monotonous plodding will be a suburban box and retirement at about 75.

Stuff that for a game of soldiers.

As well as not being very enthusiastic about the whole chipboard-and-machines carpentry, I’m not really that good at it: the sort of work I’ve been doing for the last couple of years requires me to be very methodical and mathematical, two words that came up frequently in my school report, as in: “Andy isn’t methodical and for goodness sakes don’t ask him to do any maths.” Maths for me is a creative process: the answer I come up with is far removed from what the teacher writes on the board.

On the other hand, carpentry is a broad field and I’ve got a degree in theatre studies and ten years experience doing all kinds of theatery things from set building to acting. There’s also a lot of big theatres nearby.

I’ll start there and see what happens.

There is a long term dream as well, but I’m too tired to go into it now and you’re probably bored already.

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The Millennium bridge in York, part of the city of York orbital cycle route which I’ve been using a lot in the last few days.

The white arrows at the bottom of the picture are three speed bumps. This is essential to stop anyone riding too fast off the bridge and along the straight, wide cycleways on either side. Presumably this important safety feature will soon be added to all road bridges.

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