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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.

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With world-class cycle facilities like this, you wonder why there aren’t more cyclists around…

Ecologically sound bike parking in Stuttgart centre.

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A friend of ours needed to move house, and I opened my big mouth and suggested that I could drive a car-share van, thus saving him a lot of money compared to renting. Being totally unaware of my driving incompetence he agreed.

We arrived intact -after a minor detour in Tübingen and a tour of an old railway yard- and found his apartment in an old mill, down a narrow track alongside a stream, on the edge of a small village.

The sort of place which is just begging for a family like ours to come along and start a smallholding/arts centre, like we’ve been dreaming of doing for ages.

Our dream is becoming more practical as I’m going to be a fully fledged carpenter from 2015. This will give me the skills to build stuff, and a way of actually earning money*. Rather conveniently there is a shortage of carpenters in rural areas.

At which point lots of people feel the need to remind me that we couldn’t possibly do this with our lifestyle. The vast distances of the countryside are simply too much for us to rely on bicycles, and public transport as we know it doesn’t exist. Better, we are told, to stay near to the big city with all the convenience this brings. Or grow up and get a car.

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This is the view from our friends new apartment.

In the time it takes to catch a bus to our local tram stop and wait for a tram, my friend could take this train right into Tübingen, and take his bike with him.

Or he could use the traffic-free cycle way through the fields behind which goes into the centre of the city.

To add insult to injury, our friend pays far less rent than we do, because of the ‘convenience’ of our public transport.

* A Theatre studies degree being as useful as a submarine in the Sahara when it comes to making a living.

One of the most common plants in our garden is the ash tree, Fraxinus Exclesior, a fast growing native hardwood. The owner of the garden loathes them, but I’m letting them grow just about wherever they chose to self-seed, or wherever the bird poo carrying them lands. I’m doing this because I like them, and because they grow fast and give good quality wood which I may be able to use in three years, but also because recently a fungus called Chalara fraxinea has come from goodness knows where and seems to like eating them. Alarming numbers of ash trees are dying off all over Germany.

Until February this year there was some hope that the UK would be spared: as long as no ash trees from the continent were brought in the fungus may not make it over the channel. Unfortunately no-one told the politicians this (or if they did, the politicians didn’t want to hear it) so they allowed the trees to be imported and exported, and Chalara fraxinea turned up as well. In several places.

The brilliant minds of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), formed  ‘Emergency Committee Cobra’ which has come up with such gems as “everyone should be responsible”. and advise people visiting forests in the UK to “Wash your hands afterwards“. Thanks for that.

According to this very comprehensive post on the Ubiqitous Blog this is nothing new: scientists have been repeatedly ignored when their concerns may inconvenience some corporate interest, and one who was asked to investigate a similar fungal attack on trees in a park had a gagging order placed on them to prevent them saying where the outbreak may have come from.

At the same time, the  Environment Secretary (who supports a third runway at Heathrow, a badger cull and fracking, but dislikes wind farms, just as an aside) has suggested that the current outbreak of fungus causing ash dieback is ‘possibly just wind borne’, which is interesting because two weeks ago a forester in Germany old me no-one is sure how the fungus spores are transported.

Which would mean that in the UK, a scientist commissioned to investigate an outbreak of fungal based dieback cannot publish his or her findings for fear of legal repercussions, but a politician known to support corporate interests over the environment can make statements which happen to match up with the desires of the industry to keep going as usual, and that’s okay.

Is this a very strange situation, or am I  missing something?

[Edit: Check the comments. It appears Ash seeds are wind blown rather than carried by birds. Thanks Kim.]

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