Tuesday, 5 July 2022

Last of June, First of July

Last week was as varied in weather as it was in activities.

On Monday, June 27, my trains home were almost punctual. There were several showers during the morning and early afternoon with sun in between. I spent the evening with my Dad so that my Mum could attend the farewell event for her former boss at the library. An era ends with him retiring; he used to be my boss as well when I still worked there.

Tuesday, June 28, was pleasantly warm without being too hot. My sister and I went for a walk in the palace grounds together after work and then concluded the evening at my place, sharing my leftover tabouleh from the Sunday.

This life-size statue represents a favourite pet of King Friedrich I. Every time we are at the palace grounds, we visit the ugly little dog, and it always has a flower, a twig or stone between its paws.


Nearly time for the annual sand sculpture festival again. When I saw this I thought it was meant to be Hogwarts, but then found out it is Neuschwanstein.

I met up with the partner of my late friend Martin on Wednesday, June 29. Although it is nearly 13 years now since my husband died, his death was as sudden as Martin's, and so I can relate very well to how Anne felt (and still feels). She chose to meet at the pub, and with the evening being sunny and beautiful, we were able to sit outside and have a good long heart to heart. Hopefully, it helps a little bit - it is the least I can do. We also talked about one or two ideas for what we can do to honour Martin's memory with his group of friends here in Germany, since we weren't able to attend his funeral in England.

Comparing notes with Anne reminded me of things about those first few weeks after Steve's death, some of which I had not forgotten but very much pushed to the back of my mind.

It was above 30C on Thursday, June 30, with a thunderstorm passing through late afternoon/early evening. By the time the main news on TV were over, so was the thunderstorm, I took advantage of the last hour and a half of daylight and went for a walk on the fields. Everything looked a bit fresher out there after Monday's showers and the thunderstorm.

Friday, the 1st of July, was sunny again but not too hot for an after work walk with my sister, wrapped up by an hour or so at what has become our favourite hangout near the station, the recently opened industrial area I have mentioned a few times now. They have the best chips (french fries) in town, we think, and so our evening meal was settled.

I spent a leisurely morning on Saturday, 2nd July, with household stuff and other things before taking the trains to O.K. After a delay of about 20 minutes, we still had all afternoon to relax on the balcony before it was time to do our shift at the village fête - the first since 2019. Once again, we manned a stall selling Flammenkuchen (pictures in my 2019 post). Our shift started at 9:00 pm and ended at 2:00 am on Sunday morning, with us selling the last batch of Flammenkuchen at 1:45 am before starting to clean up. We had sold around 120 "cakes" by that time.

Because we had gone to bed only at around 3:00 am, Sunday 3rd July saw us sleeping until 10:00. It was still pleasant enough then to have our first coffee on the balcony. Most of the very hot day was spent resting, before we walked down the village for a cold drink at the fête mid-afternoon - also to look at how everyone was getting on at their stalls, and to chat with a few fellow musicians and neighbours of O.K.'s.

After a delicious evening meal of oven-baked summer vegetables with goat cheese at home, O.K. went back down to help with the dismantling of the stalls. Next year the fête will be held at one of the neighbouring villages - if circumstances allow.

I spent the evening alone on the balcony, being very lazy, reading and watching the sunset until O.K. returned after 10:00 pm. We had one last cold drink on the balcony before it was time for bed; the alarm was set for 5:15 the next morning.

Saturday, 2 July 2022

Last Full Week of June

After the very hot weekend of June 18/19, it was a little cooler on Monday, June 20. I took an hour or so out of work to run an errand for my parents, and went for one of my favourite after-work walks later. It was really pleasant out there on the fields, but I couldn't help thinking how far along everything seemed to be - and this was only the last third of June, with the first half of the year not over yet. Look at the pictures I took that day and see what I mean:

It looks like autumn is coming very early for this tree near Benningen.

I have written a separate post for Tuesday, June 21, so we can skip that day here.

Wednesday, June 22, finally saw a bit of rain. It was still fine enough in the morning, which allowed me to go for a pre-work walk with my friend once her children were in kindergarden.

Sunset on June 22, as seen from my Third Room

My upstairs neighbour joined me for a cup of coffee in the afternoon on Thursday. The family are from Turkey and will go there for their summer holiday the same day that my sister and I return from Yorkshire; their eldest daughter (who lives there) is getting married, and I let my neighbour write the groom's name down for me on a sticky note so that I shall spell it right on the card I intend to give them before I leave for England.

It was also the day for the regular fortnightly meeting with my volunteer work; there were only four of us this time, and admittedly we did talk shop only for a bit before we simply enjoyed a fun evening with good music and cold drinks at the recently opened industrial area at the train station (as shown in this post).

Friday, June 24, was a busy day with an online meeting of my professional association, lasting until early afternoon and with me giving two presentations as well as moderating part of the meeting. Afterwards I did my usual round of weekly cleaning, packed my little red suitcase and walked to the train station. For a change, both my trains to O.K.'s were on time, and at about 9:30 pm, we sat down at the cottage for a delicious meal of assorted cheese and rosé wine.

It was good to get away from the noise and dust I had been subjected to all week; the house next to mine is getting a complete make-over. This is what it looked like that morning:

Saturday, June 25, was going to be warmer again at almost 30C. We managed to get up early enough to enjoy a leisurely paced "run" of about 7.5 km in the morning; there was still enough puffing and panting on my part, but O.K. helped me to pace myself well so that I even managed some of the uphill bits that usually see me walking instead of jogging.

After a late breakfast on the balcony, O.K. took care of some things around the cottage while I spent several hours reading and dozing, still on the balcony (and before you ask: No, there wasn't really anything I could help with). He joined me there for coffee and cake in the afternoon, and some time later, we welcomed the evening with very refreshing glasses of Apérol Spritz, going for a short walk around the village afterwards to catch the beautiful evening light before returning to the cottage for a light evening meal.

We set the alarm on Sunday, June 26, so that O.K. had enough time to get ready - the village band were booked to play at the next village to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the fire brigade.

Only last year (or was it 2020?), they finished a brand new building on the fields between the two villages; it houses all modern technology and state of the art machinery. The brigade serves the three villages making up the administrational unit of Hohberg, and has been doing so for 100 years - certainly an occasion worth celebrating!

It was interesting to tour the building, and once the band had finished, O.K. and I enjoyed a shandy or two before cycling back to the cottage. After what looked like a cooler and wetter morning, the day had become rather hot by then, and we rested for a few hours before making use of the beautiful evening light by going for our first proper bike ride of this year.

We cycled along the rim of the woods, crossed the Kinzig and went back on the other side of the river, briefly stopping at this place (called Großer Deich, "big dike") to take in the view of Ortenberg Castle in the evening sun.

There was still enough daylight left for us to have our evening meal on the balcony, and we remained there for a while afterwards, watching the upcoming thunderstorm; the lightning in the distance was quite spectacular. Eventually, we retreated inside; it was going to be an early start on Monday morning (5:20) and time for bed.

Friday, 1 July 2022

Read in 2022 - 18, 19: The Riddle of the Dunes; No Trace

#18: The Riddle of the Dunes (Inspector Blades Mystery #3)

by James Andrew

Not long ago, the topic of World War I and conscientious objectors has been cropping up on one or two blogs I have been reading as well as in books; this was one of them, and much of what I already knew about them was brought up in the story.

The book is set in a small Yorkshire seaside town a few years after the war, when many former soldiers have not managed to pick up their pre-war lives but are forced to roam the roads as homeless tramps.

Was it one such tramp who killed the young woman found in the dunes? What about similar killings that shocked the town a few years back - a suspect was convicted and hanged for them, but was it the right man?

Inspector Blades has a list of suspects ranging from the victim's own brother to her fiancé, a "conchie" who nobody seems to have much good to say about, to an elusive violent tramp the other tramps are scared of.

The book is not only about the inquiry, but the reader learns about life between the two wars and how the war had changed things forever. Women police officers were still a novelty, and although fingerprints were well known as possible evidence by then, DNA was not yet part of an investigation; detectives still had to rely much more on their own skill than anything else.

I liked Inspector Blades and the well researched portrayal of the time. If I come across another book of the series, I won't mind reading it; the only thing I would have liked different was the frequent repetition of things. For instance, the inspector's thoughts would be in one chapter, and in the next chapter, he would repeat them all to his sergeant; it seemed quite unnecessary.

The author's website is here; he also has a blog but there are no entries after April 2021.

#19: No Trace (A Yorkshire Murder Thrillers Short Story)

by Jane Heafield

Although called a short story, it is actually a short novel, featuring DI Liz Miller investigating the case of a missing woman, reported by her worried husband.

It was my first book by this author, and I wonder whether her other books are similar. This one focuses much more on police procedure than on the people in the stories. To me, most characters (including the DI) remained rather flat; I did not really come to like or even care about any of them.

Still, the way the mystery is solved has its moments, and reading this free ebook was not a waste of time.

I like what the blurb I found on a website says about her: "Jane Heafield was born and raised in South Yorkshire, where she works as a scientist in a busy hospital. When not using a microscope or a TV remote, she likes to write. Plotting for her novels is done with a voice recorder while strolling around English Heritage sites."

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

A Night Out

Let me breeze through the week starting on Monday, June 13. It started a little cooler after the hot weekend, still beautiful and summerly, with not a single drop of rain.

On the Monday, both trains taking me from Offenburg to Ludwigsburg were on time. My cherry tree was in full swing and allowed me to pick a small bowl for my elderly neighbour; she'll be 90-something on July 6, and in previous years I brought her cherries for her birthday - not anymore, since they ripen much earlier now.
I went for a good long walk after work but did not take photos.

Tuesday was spent at my client's office, where I went on a short walk with my client during our lunch break. On my way home I got off the train in Zuffenhausen, walking from there via Stammheim and across the fields back to Ludwigsburg. I enjoyed that walk of about 10.5 km - taking just under two hours - very much, as it is one I have done only once before (some time last year), and the weather was very pleasant.

I had to take an early train into Stuttgart on Wednesday morning for my regular appointment with my eye doctor. My operations are now a year ago, and my doctor is still very happy with how it all turned out - and so am I!
After work, I went to see my parents.

Thursday was a public holiday in my part of Germany - Fronleichnam (Corpus Christi). O.K. and I spent the day separately, as he had to play with the village band for the procession through the village (it is a mainly Catholic village), and we were both working the next day.
After a morning of doing household stuff, I joined my sister at her allotment for the afternoon and went for a walk on my own quite late, returning home at 10:30 pm. 

It had steadily become warmer during the week, reaching almost 30C by Friday. O.K. arrived at my place relatively late, so we only had a light supper with two bottles of well-chilled beer.

Saturday was hot at about 33C, but we so wanted to go for a run and knew it had to be early. And indeed we managed to get up so that we could catch the relative fresh morning air. We'd not been running together since February, which was the last time I had done any running at all - it showed, but the 5 km went well enough. We spent the afternoon with my sister at the allotment, enjoying the shade of the large trees and cool drinks.

Then it was time to go home, freshen up and change: We had tickets for a wine tasting at our favourite wine bar, a birthday present from my Mum. And a very pleasant night out it was! The tasting started at 7:30 pm and lasted until 10. 

When we left the wine bar, it was still very warm, and many people were out and about. Of course, we had come to the wine tasting on foot, and our way home lead us across the market square. For a minute or so, we just stood still on the square, taking in the atmosphere - the soft murmur of a multitude of people chatting, laughing, clinking glasses, and the night-blue sky above the square. It was quite wonderful and had a mediterranean feel to it.

Hopefully, the above video works for you - I have not uploaded videos here in a long time.

Glimpse of one of the churches on the market square through a gate to a court yard off the main road

Sunday, June 19, was too hot at 35C to do anything much. We went to see my parents at 10:00 in the morning, which was just the right time, and had a late breakfast afterwards. The rest of the day was spent relaxing in the darkened living room, sipping water, watching TV, reading and snoozing.
When O.K. left at 9:30 pm, I caught the last of the evening light and the sunset on a short walk on the fields, returning home an hour later.

The whole week was what summer should be like, only the Sunday was a bit too hot for my liking. I enjoyed the night out with O.K. very much, and one of the wines we tasted is definitely going to make a good present for someone I know :-)

I picked a bowl of cherries every evening that week for my desert, and shared some with my parents and my neighbour.

Friday, 24 June 2022

A Walk Repeated

Two years ago, O.K. and I walked a circuit in the Black Forest near Durbach that was to include several remote farms, the Gebirge-Höfe-Weg (literally "mountain farms way"). Back then, we only really enjoyed the first half, as we were totally soaked on the second half. We knew that we wanted to repeat that walk under more favourable circumstances, and we did just that on the 12th of June.

Pictures and a description of that walk are here on my 2020 post.

This time, not a single drop of rain was in sight - it was very hot, and some of the steep uphill bits were a real challenge for me; I had to stop for breath a few times, and any bit of shade was very welcome. Much of the walk was in the woods, though, and that was definitely the best place to be on a day like that!

Back at O.K.'s cottage, after an afternoon nap we felt much refreshed and spent the evening on the balcony. O.K. grilled zucchini and aubergine for us along with merguez, and the well chilled rosé was perfect on that beautiful summer evening.

All week, I had been picking cherries through my kitchen window - enough to share with my elderly neighbour and with my parents, and a small bowl for me as dessert every night. The weather turned very hot then, and after a few thunderstorms with rain, my cherry season was over - plenty left on the tree, but overripe and rotting faster than we could pick them. Still, the ones I did have were great, and I gladly left the rest to the blackbirds.

Thursday, 23 June 2022

Read in 2022 - 17: The Importance of Being Interested

The Importance of Being Interested - Adventures in Scientific Curiosity

by Robin Ince

Was it a birthday gift, or did I already receive this for Christmas? Anyway, my sister came across this wonderful, wonderful book and immediately thought it would be something for me - and right she was!

I enjoyed every single page of this work of non-fiction, savouring it over a period of several months. It is the best book I have read so far this year, and has great potential of becoming my personal Book of The Year, as well as being re-read at some stage.

Part of the blurb on the jacket reads: "In this witty and often profound tour through science, Robin argues that scientific wonder should be for everyone. Packed with interviews featuring astronauts, comedians, teachers, quantum physicists, neuroscientists and more [it shows] that many wrongly think of [science] as distant and difficult. [...] This optimistic book will leave you with a thirst for intellectual adventure."

And it does exactly that! Just have a look at some of the chapters' headlines:

  • Armchair Time-Travel - Putting out your beach blanket on the sands of time
  • Big, Isn't It? - On coping with the size of the universe
  • Swinging from the Family Tree - Inviting yeast to the family reunion
  • More Important than Knowledge - On the necessity of imagination

Now, aren't these intriguing as well as promising? Believe me, each chapter lives up to that promise, delivering insights and plenty of food for thought in a very entertaining manner. More than once, I found myself chuckling at the end of a paragraph, regardless of whether it was about the existence (or not) of God, what's happening at a subatomic level or standup comedy.

Don't think this book isn't for you - it really truly is for everyone who can read, and I guarantee it is just as much a page turner as the latest Harlan Coben.

Robin Ince is the co-creator and presenter of the BBC Radio 4 show "The Infinite Monkey Cage" and has toured the world with scientist Brian Cox to make science accessible to everyone. The Covid pandemic put an end to their touring, and the enforced confinement lead to him writing this book in order to keep (?) his sanity. You can find out more about him and his work here on Wikipedia.

Thank you, sister, for finding and giving me this gem!

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

The Longest Day

Of course, the day as such wasn't longer than any other day, but you know what I mean - the time between sunrise and sunset was at its longest yesterday, June 21st. From now on, slowly but surely we are moving towards the shortest day. It is comforting in a way, isn't it; knowing that this has been going on for millions of years regardless of what's happening in our little lives. Everything seems so insignificant compared to the workings of the universe in general and of our solar system in particular.

Here, we were lucky in that the day was not too hot with even a rather chilly morning, making it easy to fill the house with fresh air and cool everything down a little after the very hot days of the weekend.

After work, my sister and I met up and bought Asian takeaway food, bringing it over to our parents' for a meal with them. My Mum cooks every day and makes sure they both eat healthy homecooked food all the time, but every now and then, a change is welcome when she does not need to cook.

The food was nice and we're going to use that shop (it was our first try) again.

It was still only about 7:30 pm when my sister and I left; it had been a long and somewhat difficult day for both my parents and they needed to rest. Sunset was going to be at 9:30 precisely, giving me plenty of time for a long walk, and that's of course what I did.

It was just beautiful out on the fields, the air was pleasant and balmy with not too many annoying little flying things about. I deliberately chose grassy paths and dirt tracks where possible, to avoid the many cyclists still out and about.

I love it that more and more, you now see flowers on and along our fields; gone are the days when each and every little "weed" (who classifies a plant as a weed anyway - don't they all have the same right to grow, and are playing their part in the ecosystem?) was sprayed to kingdom come. 
People now understand how important it is for insects, birds and other wildlife to have at least SOME natural growth left, although of course we still need the arable fields planted with crop so that our species can eat (or drink - much of the barley growing on our fields is used for beer).

Sunset was precisely on time - isn't it wonderful how we can calculate such events with great precision for centuries ahead?

The last picture is the view from my Third Room, which has been my work place almost exclusively for more than two years now. Two large trees have been cut down in the neighbouring gardens recently, which I found a pity, but it now enables me to see more of the sunset.

Bye-bye, longest day! I am glad I had the chance to accompany it to the last bit.