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It’s one of my favourite times of the year again, when the weather department realises it is spring and suddenly we go from freezing cold and rain to sunshine, flowers, and very nearly not a needing a coat. This also means I can ride most of the way to college instead of using the tram, and thus avoid the centre with all its annoyances without getting too muddy.
Most of the route is on routes through the forest and across fields where cars are supposedly not allowed.They are therefore indifferently tarmacked or gravel, and used as a turning circle for tractors ploughing. (The local town once made a big thing about how they employed a sort of park ranger who apart from anything else should keep these roads clean, which gave us all a laugh).
Having mudguards helps of course, as well as an improvised mudflap which is surviving far longer than I dared hope, but it is good to know I can ride through the forest and not hit mud or puddles.
Which made last week just the wrong time for the owners of the local forest to decide to play with their big tractors, and close the routes to Stuttgart so they could mess up all the trails undisturbed. It gave the journey an extra edge of adventure, especially as they only reopened them when they’d made sure there were wheel ruts across the trails wider than some local cycleways.
Just a small reminder that for all the hot air, we don’t really consider bicycles to be a proper form of transport.
Meanwhile, our version of Stuttgart is developing, slowly…
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.
The mural is getting there, slowly. The tiles in the foreground are complete and we’ve almost covered the wall colour on the rest of the picture.
We’re way beyond the alloted time for the project but the tutor is letting us continue. Probably because the alternative is a half-finished painting for the next eighteen months…
I’m also organising my work placement in September. It looks likely that I’ll get to work for three months in a theatre and arts centre based in an incredible art deco power station. The organisation also has a travelling company presenting theatre about drug awareness in schools.
The only thing that stops it from being perfect is that I’ll have to go into the centre of Stuttgart every day.
Never mind, you can’t have everything…
It’s been snowing, with enthusiasm. The roads are cleared within a couple of hours and then ploughed every hour or so after that, and gritted in between so that the Very Important Drivers aren’t inconvenienced. Pavements are the responsibility of anyone living alongside them, if they can be bothered, and cycleways, well, no-one uses bicycles in winter. Well, no-one important anyway. Important people use cars.
I am a tad annoyed about this. Fighting to stay upright while bouncing along a rutted ice covered cycle lane in a gale, while drivers swish past on the cleared road does nothing for an even temper.
I’ll get over it. Doesn’t give me much to blog about though.
So, instead, I’ve got an update on our classroom art project, the one I got roped into last year. So far. People wanted a sketch of Stuttgart, but after making the more iconographic buildings things got a bit art deco and Steampunky, partly to give a slightly more utopian optimistic feel than you’d get from looking at the back end of Stuttgart as it really is, and partly because then no-one can say I got it wrong. I also have to design it so that everyone can be involved, so a lot of the city will be fairly simple shapes so that we can give people three colours and instructions on how to make base colours, highlights and shadow.
I still haven’t managed to get the Quadratura effect quite right, and the ‘cafe’ sign looks a bit lost. On the other hand everyone agreed to the idea, although that was probably because they knew they’d have to come up with another one if they didn’t.
Now I have to make a more detailed version ready for a projection, and a second window “with more forest and trees and stuff…”
In December our glorious leaders, in the form of the town council, announced that they were introducing a new traffic calming scheme. Finally we are getting a speed limit of 30 km/h (Ca. 20 mph) through the village, instead of 50 km/h (30 mph). This, according to google and my rather wooly maths, will mean it takes 2 minutes 24 second to go through the village, instead of 1 minute 26 seconds. A ‘delay’ of 58 seconds.
Cue howls of protest from local drivers.
This limit will apparently cause chaos. And… and… er… traffic jams, yes, lots of traffic jams… and it’ll cause more of that… oh, what was the word… began with a P… pollution, that was it. Pollution. Because er… slowing cars down means they pollute… more… Yeah: pollution bad. But not bad enough to stop me driving.
Besides. It’s not because of cars. It’s because there are too many Lorries. yes. All the noise and pollution is the fault of the 1300 lorries that drive through the village each day, not the 13000 cars: it’s all the trucks. And what about those busses getting priority at lights? How dare these lesser road users get priority over me? Don’t they realise that as a car user I am a superior being? And of course buses take up too much space as well. Get rid of them.
So what we need is more roads. nice fast roads running around the village so the lorries can go around the village and we can drive in the centre as much as we want. That’ll solve everything. What? The new road will go through a nature reserve. Ah, well, at least the roads in the village will be nice and clear.
After all, building roads for the last fifty years has worked so well for everyone, hasn’t it?
All the forms are filled in, and filled in again because they were the forms from a different state and even though the information is the same, it is in a different order (the joys of a federal system)…
The other paperwork has been handed in and copied, extra paperwork chased up, (promised, chased up again, promised again, arrived, discovered to be the wrong paperwork, chased up a third time and finally delivered).
Copies of all paperwork made, translations made and certified…
…form signed at the bottom and passed over the desk, processing fee paid, and finally our application for naturalisation in Germany is sent off.
It took almost an hour for some poor secretary to photocopy all the documentation. Now all we have to do is wait and see if it will be accepted at all, and then find out what the next stage in the process is…
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.”
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…
My original idea for commuting to the farm was to have a bike at each end of the tram journey, cycle to the the local tram station, ride the tram across town, and pick up another bike to cover the last bit to the farm. This sounded great when I worked it out, but in practice there’s all kinds of problems, mainly that it relies on me being able to finish work, sweep the workshop, clean the privvy, unlock the bike, ride to a house within dashing distance of the station, lock the bike again, and leg it to the tram stop to meet the tram.
You will not be surprised to find this doesn’t work very well.
Of the three direct trams back from the farm, the first is long gone before I’m finished, the second usually leaves the station just as I come sprinting around the corner, and the next is far too late. If I even miss that one, we enter the twilight zone, that period the powers that be have decreed to be Off Peak, when no-one needs to travel, so the wait until the next connection is best measured with a calendar.
There are other trams, but they involve travelling into Stuttgart, changing and coming back out again. Either way I end up doubling the journey time. I know this because I missed the tram every evening so far.
So now I’ve come up with Cunning Plan 2.1. I can take a bike on the tram off-peak, and the farm opens mid-morning, so I can ride to the station at this end, carry the bike on the tram, ride to the farm, and then in the evening simply cycle home, thus saving all kinds of frustration. It would also mean I can use the Xtracycle, which solves the problem of the disintegrating panniers.
Spend enough time sitting on random tram stations and this sort of thing becomes interesting…