Friday, 9 October 2015

Guest Post By My Mum: Else and the King

In my last comment on this post, I mentioned that there was soon going to be a surprise post about Wilhelm II., last king of Wuerttemberg. And here it is, written by my Mum (and a true story):

Inspired by my daughter's post about our King, I want to tell you a little episode from my mother's life, born 1915. It was such an unforgettable experience for her, that she often told us this little true story:
König Wilhelm II von Württemberg used to walk his two beloved little dogs daily himself, around his domicil Marienwahl. They were pretty white German Spitz dogs. He always wore a traditional hunter's suit with matching felt hat, and a walking stick belonged to him as well.
Wilhelm II. with one of this Spitz dogs, Rubi or Ali.
When my mum was a little girl, she often went (of course on foot) to visit her grandmother, who lived in a suburb of Ludwigsburg, and she had to pass the corner where the King lived. At this time nobody had heard about bodyguards!
She often saw him, and once he noticed her, asked her name and patted her hair. So she made a deep courtsey and little Else felt very lucky about this great honour.
Little Else - my grandmother - with her mother, at about the age she met the king.
Later in her life,  she had a little white Spitz dog herself, called Lore. Maybe it was a hommage to this popular King!
- - - End of guest post - - -
When I was writing my review to "Der gelernte König", I thought about including my grandma's encounter with the king. But as I was not entirely sure of it and did not want to write anything that wasn't true, I left it out. 
My Mum has a better memory than I, and the episode does deserve its own post, doesn't it?

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Read in 2015 - 28: Mary Anerley - A Yorkshire Tale

This book definitely has its lengths, but I found myself minding them less and less, and as I was getting closer to its end, I even wished for it to go on just a little bit more.

As is my habit when writing a review for my blog, I did a bit of research and found that "Mary Anerley - A Yorkshire Tale" by R. D. Blackmore was originally published in a magazine's issues spanning more than a year, from July 1879 to September 1880. That explains the length!

The plot is quickly told: In 1801, when free trade (= smuggling) was as lucrative as it was dangerous, 17-year-old Mary Anerley from Anerley farm comes across a man who runs for his life, with coast guard officers shooting at him in hot pursuit. Mary saves him by showing him a hiding place, and agrees to meet at the same spot again one week later.

You guessed it - this is the start of a love story. But the book is so much more than just the romance of Mary and the smuggler, and how their true love overcomes all obstacles in the end. There are several threads followed in alternating chapters, such as who is the true heir to Scargate Hall; where did the toddler washed ashore and dressed in lace and gold originally come from; why was the Lieutenant shot, and by whom; will Lancelot of Scargate Hall ever beome a decent person; is the General Factor going to be successful in his secret business, and will Dr. Upround find someone else to play chess with? These are just a few examples of the rich tapestry the book weaves of lives crossing each other at various points, and for various reasons.

I loved the often very witty descriptions of the characters and their way of acting (and even thinking); it shows the author's acute observational skill. The setting is the coast of Yorkshire, with all its rough beauty and strong-minded people. Even of the elderly couples who have been together for decades, the author allows the reader glimpses of when they were young and fell in love, and shows the relationship between them now, expressed in their words and actions towards each other.

Of course this was another one of the many free ebooks I keep finding at Amazon's kindle shop. Because of the seaside jargon (and the age of the book), I had to look up several words, but that did not diminuish my pleasure.

About the author I knew nothing at all - not even whether "R. D. Blackmore" was a man or a woman. Wikipedia tells me that Richard Doddridge Blackmore lived from 1825 to 1900 and was "one of the most famous English novelists of the second half of the 19th century".

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Read in 2015 - 27: Der gelernte König

The title of this book means "The Trained King" and refers to Wilhelm II., last king of Wuerttemberg*. Its author, Anni Willmann, is a journalist usually working for one of Stuttgart's newspapers. In "Der gelernte König", she has put together 160 pages of short stories about Wilhelm.

He was not only the last, but probably also the most popular king of Wuerttemberg. If such a thing as a "democratic monarch" is at all thinkable, then he fits the description. Everything this modest, well educated and conscientiously dutiful man did had one goal: to benefit his country and its people.

Many improvements in the lives of his subjects can be traced back to an initiative of his. He made sure the transition from agricultural to industrial state went as smoothly as possible; his was one of only a few German states where the press really WAS free and no censorship existed; he saw the importance of getting a proper education in the theoretical as well as the practical part of all trades, crafts and professions, sponsored the arts - mainly the theatre - and he loved his country so much that he knew war could never be anything but his worst enemy. When WWI broke out in 1914 and he had to say good-bye to his troops in Stuttgart, he did so with tears in his eyes.

Although Wilhelm's life (1848 - 1921) was free of financial sorrows, it was by no means easy or smooth. His first marriage to pretty Marie - it was love at first sight - sadly ended after only 5 years, when Marie died giving birth to her third baby, a stillborn boy. Two years previously, the couple's second child, little Ulrich, died at the age of five months. Wilhelm found himself a widower and single father to barely 5-year-old Pauline.

This is, by the way, the same Pauline mentioned in this post: The house "Marienwahl" (Marie's Choice) was the very place Wilhelm and his young wife moved to, and where he had, in his own words, the happiest years of his life.

The prince (it was still many years before he would become king) remarried, once again for love and not for politics. With his second wife, Charlotte, he had no children, but the two of them seem to have enjoyed a quietly happy marriage based on mutual respect, deep friendship and love, in spite of Wilhelm never really getting over Marie's early death.

In 1891, Wilhelm's uncle Karl (the one mentioned here) died and he became king at 43.
As mentioned above, he did a lot of good for his country, and was much loved. Still, when WWI ended in 1918, the old order could not be upheld, and he was forced to abdicate.

The last three years of his life were spent in modest surroundings (as he had done already before - he never lived in the palaces of Stuttgart or Ludwigsburg, using them only for representative duty). What he enjoyed most was going for walks with his two dogs, dressed as any elderly gentleman, talking to people who often had no idea who he was.
Many funny and touching little episodes are reported, and the king always showed himself a very kind, generous and understanding man.

This book brings out the official as well as the private person behind the title of "Last King of Wuerttemberg". I enjoyed it very much.

* The title? Well, if in my Swabian dialect you want to pay respect to someone's ability to fill a certain role, you say that he "learned" it, he was thoroughly trained for it. That is what someone once apparently said about Wilhelm, that he was a "trained" king, to indicate how good he was at his "job".

Monday, 5 October 2015

Read in 2015 - 26: Does Anything Eat Wasps?

This book came as a lovely surprise from a friend I have the privilege of knowing as a fellow inhabitant of Blogland. Thank you!

The magazine "New Scientist" is one I've never read myself, but some of my friends are 
regular readers, and occasionally, one of them sends me the link to an article they deem particularly interesting for me (they are always right).

A column in the magazine is called "The Last Word" and it is apparently immensely popular, featuring readers' answers to readers' questions about puzzling everyday questions such as "What affects the different shadings of earwax?" or "Why should one never eat the green areas on a potato?", or even "Does being beheaded hurt?".

This book is a fascinating collection of over 100 such questions - and their answers. I enjoyed it a lot, and am sure that some of what I have learned from it will come in helpful... at the next pub quiz or, indeed, in everyday life. 
It comes with a useful index, and the blurb on the back is right when it reads "sparkling with intelligence, knowledge and scientific curiosity".

So, if anyone ever wants to know why and how fabric conditioners reduce static electricity in clothes, why bruises go through a range of colours before the fade, or how the bubbles in aero chocolate are made to stay there, simply ask me!

PS. The answer to the title question is: Yes, of course - quite a few animals, mainly birds (but also a number of other wasps) eat wasps (something I actually knew before having read it in this book).

Friday, 2 October 2015

Hello, October!

The 2nd day of a new month, already October... So far, there is no notable difference to the last few days of September. But soon, it will get darker earlier and earlier, and I will really have to wear gloves on my way to work, and turn the heating on a bit more.

The following pictures were actually taken while it was still September, but the place (you recognized it, of course, as I've shown you round Ludwigsburg's palace grounds so often) does not look much different now:

Yesterday, the 1st of October, was gloriously golden. The sunshine meant we had about 20 Celsius in the afternoon, but the morning was rather cold at 6 Celsius. Leaving the office, I wished I had my camera with me, because there are some trees and shrubs around the building that look very beautiful right now in their autumn colours.

The last picture is from the annual pumpkins exhibition.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Good-Bye, September!

September was a beautiful month here, most of the time, and I find it hard to believe that today really is its last day. Somehow, this month went by even quicker than other months; maybe because of the return to work after my holiday, and being a little more busy with customers' projects than usual.

We had many sunny days with some rain in between; some afternoons were still as warm as summer at 25 Celsius or more. But mornings and nights are getting rather cold now; when I checked this morning at 7:30, the thermometer showed 6 Celsius. 

Leaves are turning and dropping already, chestnuts are ripe, and there is a general air of busy-ness around, without the seemingly unavoidable hectic of December.

My Mum and I went for our favourite walk two weeks ago (you've seen it often on this blog; I mean the walk to my parents' allotment). As usual, my Dad had coffee, Brezeln and cake ready for us by the time we arrived, and we were joined by my sister who later went on another walk from the allotment to my favourite grassy path with me.

I did not take all that many pictures on either walk, because I've showed you most of it before, but here are a few to say good-bye to a great month:

Monday, 28 September 2015

What I Brought Back

In one of my many Yorkshire holiday posts, I have already mentioned that I brought back several dresses and a coat, as well as a pile of books my mother-in-law had set aside for me.

Here are the first two of the new dresses:

They are both from Ripon's Dorothy Perkins shop. The summery one was in the sale and cost only 8 pounds, the other one wasn't very expensive, either. The first two weeks back here after the holiday, it was still very warm during the day, so that I was able to wear the sleeveless dress already and did not have to wait until next summer. The other dress is warm enough to be worn quite a while yet, and it has very quickly become a favourite of mine for its very comfortable cut and crease-free fabric.

Meanwhile, it has become rather chilly; although on a day like yesterday, it still gets warm enough mid-afternoon for some sunbathing on my window sill, I have been wearing a coat (and seriously been thinking about gloves) in the mornings on my way to work.

So, I have for the first time in my life decided to take those items out of my wardrobe that I won't be wearing for the next half year or so, just so that everything I will be wearing has enough room and is easier to organize. Up until now, I've always had my complete wardrobe together, never separated anything, but it is so much nicer now (and gives me the illusion that I do not have too many clothes...). I only let go of four items which will be collected Tuesday morning by a charity organization who have put leaflets in everybody's mailboxes in my neighbourhood.

In order to make this post a bit more interesting, here are two views from my kitchen window:

The time of the year has come when I get to see sunrises - my kitchen window faces East. And that rainbow in the second picture was much more brilliant in reality; the camera couldn't capture it as beautiful as it really was.