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Rebuilding the Ugly Bike has stalled a bit while Elder Son decided what he was going to do having graduated from high school. Elder Son  had had quite enough sitting in a classroom for a few years, so the wanted to find a vocational qualification. This is complicated in Germany, mainly because there are so many options with literally thousands of 2-3 year vocational courses to choose from, most of which are not only free, but start paying a small wage from the first day.

Fortunately part of my job is helping to get people apprenticeship places, so I dug out the Big Book of apprenticeships at work, where it was being used as a door stop, & we made a list of possibilities and Elder Son started applying. After a few weeks working in a Hotel and then as a vets assistant, Elder Son landed himself a place as a bike mechanic, making me both proud and frankly rather envious.

I told him it would only be three months before he started telling me how to fix things.

I was wrong, it took three weeks.

Time to dig the Ugly Bike out of the cellar methinks…

Ever since we had the ‘Brexit’ vote, the UK government has been pretty cagey about what it means for us and the other 1.4 million Brits in the EU and 3.5 million EU Citizens in the UK. (although if this is the best they could come up with, perhaps that’s a good thing).

This wasn’t quite as much of a worry for us in Germany as it was for EU citizens in the UK: we haven’t been attacked, told to “go home” or had anything shoved in our letterbox; our local immigration office was almost comically horrified when we asked if we may have to leave after 2019.

This week the UK Government made a heroic effort to “claim the moral high ground”*, by leaking some papers suggesting they might perhaps allow EU residents to stay. Maybe. They were pretty unclear exactly what rights EU residents would have, who gets them, the time and cost involved (you can bet it won’t be free) and a whole heap of other niggly but important details, but one thing was for sure:

…former Brexit minister David Jones said: “It’s got to be reciprocal.

Which is a bit different from their response when The EU unilaterally suggested this solution in 2017 and it was rejected by the UK…

Only a really cynical person would suggest that the UK gov deliberately rejected those proposals last year, so now they can try and claim the credit…

*Possibly having had someone explain what ‘moral’ meant

Work has been a bit busy over the last week or so and although there’s been plenty of blogging interest happening it soaked up the energy for the actual blogging, so as a bit of a cop out this week, here’s an entirely normal occurrence at work:

One day last week the kitchen/restaurant had a had a a big catering contract, so very unusually the chef turned up at 0800, while I was having a quiet cuppa with the business manager (who deals with paperwork). The Chef saw the manager, grabbed an invoice that had just come with an early delivery, and wordlessly attempted to wrap it in a bow around the managers hand. This didn’t work so he proceeded to stuff it down the back of the managers shirt.

The manager had remained silent for this operation, but as the chef tried to walk away as if nothing had happened, he retrieved the crumpled paperwork and calmly observed: “You really aren’t a morning person are you Stefan?”

Holidays this week, so hopefully I’ll find something interesting to blog about…

The Elder Son -who made his debut on this blog riding a bike with stabilisers- needs a new bike to go to work. This it a matter of some urgency because at the moment he’s using the commuter bike, and it is only a matter of time before ‘my’ commuter bike becomes ‘his’ commuter bike unless I find an alternative.

So we’re going on a bike hunt.

The charitable organisation I work for runs several local bike shops as a way to help people gain skills and get back into work. They also recycle bikes and at this time of year there are usually a dozen or so refurbished items in unfortunate colour schemes in front of the shop, perfect for the rebuild/repainting we had in mind.

So we went to see what we could find. There are two such shops on the other side of the city, so we’d have plenty to choose from. The weather report threatened storms from mid afternoon., but there was no sign of them after lunch, and anyway, we were following a tram route the whole way, so we could always leap on the tram and come back in the dry. We snorted in derision at the weather report and set off.

Of course, after we’d been riding about half an hour -ie, we were far enough away from the apartment that it would take a soaking to get back- it started NAR. This, UK readers will know is ‘Not Actually Raining’; a very gentle drizzle or spit of rain that makes it clear that a good soaking is entirely possible.

We arrived at the first bike shop. instead of the line of bikes I was expecting, there were three: a mahoosive upright town bike, a tricycle, and a pink bike with stabilisers and plastic flowers. I suggested to Elder Son that the pink bike would suit him, but he’s fussy about things like that and wouldn’t even try it out. Young people these days.

The second shop had no bikes at all unless you counted a pile of bent scrap frames out the back.

Then the rain finally came. Not the British style of spring rain, that falls solidly but gently for hours: this was a German ‘auditioning to be a monsoon’ rainstorm, which hits the ground so hard it bounces twice and cracks flagstones.

Thank goodness we were at the tram stop, we agreed smugly.

Then we found that the station was closed for repairs and there were no trams running for the weekend…

 

We have a friend who is an artist, a proper artist who actually knows what he’s doing and earns money and everything. Every year he sends us and a lot of other people a postcard with an ink drawing on it as a new year card, and every year I told myself I’d try and do the same and promptly forgot about it.

This year I finally got myself into gear and drew a sketch of the Wolfstor in Esslingen am Neckar, then inked the lines over several lunch breaks, and possibly in the occasional dull lecture.

Click here to find the mistakes.

Last week we were given notice of about four modular exams, so I’m going to have to stop making pretty pictures and get on with revising. Still, at least I managed to make a drawing this year. Maybe I’ll remember to make the 2019 sketch before the year changes…

 

The current lack of posts on this blog is because I can’t find the keyboard for paperwork. Several local government departments have demanded lots of official ie ‘expensive’ documents at the same time as Younger Son needs his passport renewing. As the UK governments increasing paranoia about furriners now extends to anyone who has contact with furriners, and I am to paperwork what an Ostrich is to competitive baking, so this is proving rather stressful, especially as I still have a couple of exams to prepare for.

It also makes for rubbish blogging.

On the other hand I have a place for the internship in September working in this theatre and arts centre which runs lots of programmes for people with Psychological issues, and with this theatre company which does drug awareness programmes in schools.

Even better, everything to do with organisation and insurance goes through college, so I get to play in the theatre and and the paperwork is someone else’s problem.

Updates will follow as soon as I dig my way out.

Occasionally people  who know me through the blog ask why I don’t just ‘become self employed’ as a carpenter, instead of faffing about for another three years learning occupational therapy.

Apart from this showing a highly optimistic view of my abilities, in Germany a carpenter/cabinet maker is under the authority of the Carpenters Guild, which decrees that even after a three year apprenticeship, no-one is ‘permitted’ to be self-employed unless they have completed a master carpenters qualification. This takes another two years and you have to practically be an engineer or mathematician to get through it. It also costs 15 to 20 thousand Euros.

Most of which goes to the Carpenters Guild.

The result is that most self-employed carpenters about are (1) mathematicians; (2) in debt, (3) largely keen to keep the status quo going, having invested so much in it, and (4) paying members of the trade guild and therefore able to keep things the way they are*.

And then there’s the startup costs. Carpentry here is machine intensive and machines aren’t cheap: I’d have to take on a frightening amount of extra debt to set up a workshop. I’d then spend 20 years getting stressed out making boring chipboard furniture to pay it all off. Except that the machines will be ‘too old’ and ‘too slow’ in twenty years time, so I’d have to start all over again.

Or I can learn to be an occupational therapist, which frankly sounds a whole lot more fun.

I’ll also be at least twenty thousand Euros better off…

*Quote from one master carpenter on the subject: “I had to pay to get my Masters’ Qualification, so you should too.”

So I promised you some slightly more interesting news than our plumbing adventures, and on Monday I was provided with it.

Around the end of my carpentry training we found that I have mild Asthma, and after some visits to various specialists I was solemnly informed that I would have to retrain*. To be honest, this was not a great disappointment, but it raised the question of what I could be trained to do.

At first the Job Centre suggested a business studies qualification.

Stop laughing.

Next on the list was ‘technical designer’ which sounded better but means sitting in front of a computer for eight hours a day designing disposable furniture…

Besides, our long-term goal involves moving towards a simpler, more sustainable way of life as independent of the ‘normal’ economy and system as possible. Becoming more connected with the same consumer economy seems to be the opposite of what we are aiming for.

Unfortunately you can’t explain this sort of thing to the job centre. Worse, because I’m a carpenter everyone assumed I was good at maths.

I said, stop laughing.

Finally, a friend who actually knows me suggested I learn to be an ‘Arbeitserzieher’, a qualification that doesn’t exist outside of the state, let alone Germany. The nearest translation is a work therapist (‘Arbeit’ means work and ‘Erziehen’ is to nurture and educate). I could work in anything from protected workshops to city farms, theatres, or therapy centres, with anyone from children to vulnerable adults or people with disabilities, using things like woodwork, lino printing, bike repair, cooking, or animals. I would dream up creative ideas that I could do with clients to help them.

Put another way, I get to keep playing doing the same job as the last seven months, every day. And getting the perfect training to realise our future goals.

The only problem would be that I’ll have to go to a college slap bang in the centre of Stuttgart every day for two years without getting hives. Assuming I manage that, I’ll then have another year doing the job with regular evaluations, and an exam at the end. Oh, yes, I also had to convince the Job Centre that they should fund this.

On Monday they finally agreed and signed the contract.

The course starts on April the 21st, and right now I feel like a kid in a sweet shop.

*Honestly, I’m not trying to be a perpetual student, although I appreciate it may seem that way sometimes.

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The last weeks I’ve been busy going to interviews for a college course and going to see various medical specialists and doing lots of tests. It isn’t enough, you see, for a doctor to diagnose me as having Asthma and therefore unable to work as a carpenter: I have to officially have Asthma and therefore be unable to work as a carpenter.

That established, I applied for the course, and was accepted, then the hard part: getting the Job Centre to agree to fund this. You’d think that was easy as they have put me on the retraining programme, they have acknowledged that the specialist lung doctor says I can’t be a carpenter, and they recommended the course in the first place, but the Job Centre is a bit like being stuck in an absurdist play and you never know what is coming next. After much telephoning and emailing I got a call from the Job Centre (retraining department) yesterday: they were happy, I could start in April. Finally, I thought. Then last night I read the email: the the Job Centre (retraining department) was in favour, but they don’t fund the course (which makes me wonder what they are there for) the funding has to be approved by the Job Centre (funding department), an organisation that makes absurdist theatre look like a beacon of sanity and common sense.

I’ll be told more on Monday… Hopefully

…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.

 

 

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