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Yesterday morning on the way to do the Sunday feeding rounds, I found myself in a tram carriage almost entirely full of local Eritreans wearing white clothes, from a large priest complete with hat and wooden cross in his hand, several old ladies with headscarves and a lot of younger guys including one who was compromising the dress code by wearing a white racing jacket. They were all talking in Eritrean and clearly having a great time.
There’s something infectious about being with fifty people laughing and enjoying themselves in a language you can’t understand. It quite cheered me up and made for a great start to a day chasing animals around the farm.
I’m glad I met them on the way in, on the return I may have been a bit nervous about getting my grubby farm clothes too near their Sunday best…
So, here’s my Den Haag bike looking surprisingly chic and smart considering it was pulled of a rubbish tip and all I’d done was replace the lights. Unfortunately this is a historical view as on day two several zips on the panniers gave way rendering them useless, and meaning I’m back to Sweaty Back Syndrome until I can figure out some kind of replacement.
It is the way of the world that this happened three minutes before I was supposed to leave and catch the tram.
On the other hand, I’m now set up for transport, and this bike is sitting in a garden near the farm ready for me to pick it up when I get off the tram later this morning. At least I hope it is, as I managed to lose my spoke lock key yesterday. Thankfully, being a farm we had a set of heavy-duty bolt croppers, but all that is stopping the criminal fraternity from sloping off with the bike is a hedge hiding it from the street and a piece of chain and a padlock borrowed from one of the barns.
I hope the local bike thieves are not so well equipped…
In my case I’ve been doing lots but it doesn’t make for blogging material. I’ve scythed a lot of brambles and painted the hallway, kitchen, and dining room, and filled in some forms.
See what I mean? not exactly sparkly*.
However, tomorrow is the first day of a fresh start. I’m working at a city farm for seven months, using a bike and a tram for the commute and spending all day with 6-18 year olds and a lot of animals. Surely I’ll get some material out of that…
*I also did a few paintings inbetween, but they are all on my other blog…
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?
Ah, the joys of being an international family.
These are the passports Beautiful Wife will have to carry next week when she takes the Boys and beautiful Daughter to visit relatives in Japan*. From Left to right: Beautiful Wife’s Japanese passport, Japanese Passports for the three boys and beautiful Daughter; British passports for three boys and Beautiful Daughter, and finally, a German childs passport for Beautiful Daughter, who qualified herself for German citizenship by being born much later than the boys. It is getting to the point where the passports make a dent in the carry on luggage allowance.
And while I’m on the subject, can someone explain how a British Passport requires several pages of forms, lots of supporting documents, costs about a hundred euros, and takes up to eight weeks, but a German passport takes five minutes to produce** at a tenth of the cost?
*Our biannual contribution to climate change. Sorry…
**Plus a twenty-minute Bakfiets ride to the local town hall with beautiful daughter. It’s tough living here, I tell you…
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.
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.
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…
More importantly, Beautiful God-daughter was awesome…
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.
the last two weeks were mostly spent chasing offices and forms, which frankly make for rubbish blogging. We’ve been advised that it would be good for us to change the status of Beautiful Wife’s music tutoring to ‘self employed’, and at the same time we were sorting out various forms for different things we are trying to do. At one point I went down the hill and back up again only to end up with a grumpy ‘assistant’ who didn’t. In fact, so bad was his ‘assistance’ that I had to go back down and up the next day, and the day after that, each time with a separate bale of forms and supporting documents. Still it’s a free work out…
In the middle of this we got our passport application for Middle Son and Beautiful Daughter back from the British Consulate, and found that not only had they changed address but they had also stopped processing passports so our application now has to be sent to Liverpool and all our documentation has to be translated from German to English and other things need explaining with covering letters*, and oh, by the way the UK doesn’t use the EU standard for biometric passport photos (Of course it doesn’t, it’s not like the UK is in Europe or anything) so we had to go to a specialist photographers in the middle of Stuttgart.
In the middle of this, quite by accident, we found a letter from the local government saying Beautiful Daughter has German citizenship, so we now have to find out what that means, probably that she has three passports…
Told you it made for rubbish blogging…
*This would seem to be the point of having a passport office in the embassy, so that the staff know the local situation, but that means dealing with foreign people and spending money.
So last night I was riding the Bakfiets along the main road in the village, in the dark, and noticed I was being followed by something with a lot more lights than I had. Looking back this turned out to be a Big Black Truck.
About a thousand trucks drive through the village every day, which causes much harrumphing from the locals while they wait to pull out from side streets in their 4 x 4’s. This one had just squeezed around the sharp corner at the top of the hill and was rolling about fifty metres behind my back wheel. I looked again to signal for a left turn, to find it was still there, but noted with surprise that he was hanging well back, giving me space and allowing himself a generous braking distance. Gratified that he was doing his best not to glue me to his massive bull bars, I signalled, pulled across the road and waved to acknowledge that I had seen the fifty tonnes of black and chrome just behind me. I was rewarded by a short flash of headlights with enough candlepower to safely guide ships, which projected my shadow on the buildings opposite.
It being rather late, there was no traffic in the opposite direction, so I could pull into our street easily enough. I stopped to wave again and got a quick honk on the horn and a wave from the shadowy figure in the cab as the behemoth rumbled out of the village into the darkness.
Why can’t it be like this more often?
(And let’s not ask why cyclists are sharing space with such massive vehicles on narrow roads in a small village, that’d spoil the story…)