Friday, 31 March 2017

Sunshine and Flowers Galore!

In this post, I already told you that last Saturday afternoon, O.K. and I had the first proper ice creams of this season, and went to the palace grounds for a very quick look around before heading back home to complete the preparations for my party in the evening. I promised to show you many more pictures than the last one in that post with the beautiful tulips.

Here they are - all taken by O.K. (and I have his kind permission to show them here).

This is a monument to one of King Friedrich's favourite dogs. It may never win a beauty contest, but I am sure it was a very good dog for it to have been the King's favourite. Whenever we visit the palace grounds, we have to say hello to the dog, and he always has some flowers, pebbles or a stick to play with, probably placed there by someone who is as fond of him as we are.

Leda and the swan. This is a story from Greek mythology, I think. Look her up on wikipedia, if you like.

 A last postcard-like view of the palace before we leave the grounds and walk home:

Back home now in my kitchen, getting things ready for the party:

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

More Woods, More Spring

Two weekends ago, I was at O.K.'s and we went for a walk on the Sunday. It was a blustery day with plenty of clouds threatening to rain, but somehow I was sure it was not going to rain while we were out (and it didn't). This time, we took slightly different paths from our usual ones, although I am sure you will recognise at least one of the views from this post.

On the Saturday, we had been to town for a spot of shopping, when we noticed a stork flying across the market square. He or she landed in a nest high up on one of the buildings around the square, where his or her mate was already waiting.
While we were still watching them, another pair flew past - and then another! Six storks were in the sky above us, all at the same time; I don't think I have ever seen so many of them in one go, especially not outside a zoo or park. 
There used to be a time when the sight of a stork's nest on top of the highest building was familiar in German towns and villages, but their numbers have steadily been dwindling through loss of habitat and other causes. I don't think I was over-proportionately pleased with seeing them that Saturday, as one of my family members suggested when I told them.

Anyway, back to our walk on Sunday. Ready?

As you can see, the windy, cloud-filled skies made for some rather interesting light. It wasn't as dull and grey as it may look in some pictures, and it was just wonderful to see white and yellow here and there amidst the brown and green landscape.

When I'll be back there this weekend, a lot will have happened in terms of flowers and trees. Nature is always good at making the most of milder temperatures, sunshine and the occasional drop of rain.

Read in 2017 - 12: Ye Olde Britain

The full title of this free ebook reads "Ye Olde Britain - Best Historical Experiences (Regional Travel Guide)", and it is one of the Lonely Planet travel books that have become rather popular (and rightly so, I think) in the last years.

Normally, I would hesitate to read a travel guide on my kindle, as it is not the perfect medium for pictures and maps. But this book has mostly text: Short descriptions of the most important historic sites across the UK's regions. There are photos, but they are few and far between, and not really necessary.

The short paragraphs for each site of interest are supplemented by web adresses, opening times and other information such as entrance fees or a particularly good café. I don't think opening times should be published in travel books; they are too often subject to change, and it is always advisable to check their website or call a place before you want to visit anyway.

Some of the descriptions are more humorous than others, but they are all concise and good. Of course I was particularly interested in what was said about Fountains Abbey and other places in Yorkshire I know. Sadly, Ripon Cathedral is not mentioned - but I know there are so many great places to see throughout the UK, that this book had to draw the line somewhere and can not list them all.

I shall definitely keep this on my kindle (unlike many other books which I delete as soon as I have reviewed them) for further reference, even though most likely I will never visit about 99 % of the sites described.

Read in 2017 - 11: Friarswood Post-Office

This was not my first book by Charlotte Mary Yonge, a prolific writer who lived from 1823 to 1901 and was very popular in her time.

Therefore, I knew more or less what to expect: An emphasis of virtues such as being obedient, pious to the point of being fatalist, and of course always clean and proper. "Friarswood Post-Office" (first published in 1858 as a series in "The Magazine for the Young"), though, overdid it in places, and a few times I was close to putting it away in frustration. In the end, I did finish reading it, last but not least because it was not very long.
My main reason for sticking to this free ebook was that the book does give an interesting glimpse in times long gone, how home life was for people who were not quite that well off, how a village shop/post office was run and how orphans were provided for.

The King family live in an English village. The widowed mother runs the village shop and post office, with the help of her children. One of her sons is bed-ridden after an injury that never quite heals (what his sickness really is did not become entirely clear to me), and young Alfred takes his confinement very badly. He is ungrateful and sometimes downright nasty to his siblings, who do what they can to help.

When a homeless boy appears in the village, rumours abound that he has escaped from prison, and people blame him for anything that goes missing. Soon, however, the good heart and kind nature of the mysterious boy become apparent.

The village deacon plays a very important role in the story, as he probably would have done in real life in such a small rural community. The lives of the two boys could not be more different from each other, and yet they touch in an unforeseen way - to the benefit of both, and the entire family.

Several times, I expected events to take a different turn; I do like it when a story manages to surprise me. The final chapter sort of reconciled me with some of the developments I did not like. The book is not without a sense of humour, but it really is not for you if you can not (or do not want to) cope with too much moralising.

On this website of the Charlotte Mary Yonge Fellowship, I found out that both the orphan boy and Alfred were based on people the author knew in real life.

Monday, 27 March 2017

A Week of Celebrating

Not the whole week, but almost!

I turned 49 last Wednesday, and started off celebrating by meeting a group of friends - my pub quiz team - at the pub on Tuesday night. We had not been there in way too many months, and apart from having a lot of fun with the quiz, it was simply great to see them all and catch up in between answering questions.
And guess what - we and another team had the most points! It was a draw, so an extra question was asked, and we came second. Actually, we preferred that, as the first prize is a bottle of whiskey and the second a bottle of vodka. Whiskey is something I honestly can't drink; I suppose I am too weak. Vodka I can not drink on its own, either, but I do like vodka-based cocktails, and so my team mates made me take the bottle home. 

As it was only an hour or so until the start of my birthday, the landlord had a glass of champagne brought to me - it was a pleasant surprise and very kind of him!

On Wednesday, my sister and I both had taken the day off. We travelled to Karlsruhe, about 1 hour by train. We went to see an exhibition about pharaoh Ramses II. He was the longest-reigning of all the pharaohs (more than 60 years!), and the exhibition covered many aspects of his life and times. It was well presented, with just the right amount of text - not too much as to become boring or overwhelming, but still enough to give all relevant information. 

At the museum café, we stopped for coffee and cake before walking back to the train station.

Our ride in was around lunch time, so we snacked on sandwiches we had bought. It was nice and quiet on the train, just as I like it. Then the train stopped, and a group of young children with several teachers got on. You can see how the noise affected poor little me in the pictures my sister took with her phone :-D

I was back at the office on Thursday, where one of my customers gave me a box of rather luxurious chocolates and some other people came to my table in the canteen to shake hands and give me their best wishes - I felt like a VIP!
My boss (RJ) and I went for a quick after-work drink at the hotel bar next door before he gave me a lift home.

On Friday, I was in Ulm for a meeting with other data protection officers. It was a lot less boring than it sounds, and I always jump at the chance to go back to Ulm, where I spent such a good time in 2014 for my course for data protection officer.

Saturday was here with plenty of sunshine, and as soon as O.K. arrived at my place, we went out to have the first proper ice cream of this season:

Mine was with peanuts and bits of snickers, O.K.'s was decorated with hazelnuts and topped with Bailey's.
We had a very quick stroll in the palace grounds, where spring is in full swing - look at the wonderful tulips:

Back home, we did the last bits of party preparations, and shortly after 6:00, my first guests arrived. I had a wonderful party, lasting until around 3:00 am (actually, it would have been 2:00 am, but we had the change to summer time that night), with good drinks, excellent food (mostly prepared by my Mum), great presents and surrounded by the people that mean the most to me.

I have many more pictures to show and things to tell you, but right now, I don't have the time.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Early Spring in the Woods

Two weekends ago, I was in the rare situation of spending a weekend on my own, neither travelling to O.K.'s nor he coming to my place. Don't worry, all is well with us - it was simply a case of obligations on his side taking up all of the Saturday and me wanting/needing to do some stuff like cleaning my windows (you really had to open the windows to see whether it was day or night outside) and switching the contents of my wardrobe from the colder to the warmer season.

On the Saturday (11th of March), my Mum, my sister and I went for a walk to enjoy the early spring sunshine. Here are the pictures I took.

By the way, this was almost exactly the same route we took in November 2015, when it was warmer and sunnier than on this Saturday in March! Compare the pictures, if you like - click here for the 2015 post.

After the descent through the woods, the path stretches along the river for a while before, after a slight ascent, it emerges at the steep, rocky, heath-like bit above. From there, it leads along vineyards old and new, with a beck babbling by its side.

You know I have a "thing" for abandoned places, and these former vineyard walls certainly do it for me:

Some are still in use. I showed you these same places in November 2015, too. Click here if you want to see what the vineyards looked like in all their colourful glory then.

We suspect there might be a secret castle underneath all that wild growth, with Sleeping Beauty resting on a bed of faded silk:

We had a break here, with a little snack and some water. It was even warm enough to lay back in the sun, using our coats as blankets:

On we went, now moving back in the direction we had come from, parallel to the path down in the valley where we had been walking before:

Doesn't this look much more like November than March?

At first, the landscape may look rather dull, lacking colour. But if you look closely, you can detect spots of colour everywhere.


Helleborus foetidus - it was not at all smelly, in spite of its name:

I will have to rely on my Mum to tell me the name of these - I know they are not aconites:

It was a much more pleasant way of spending a Saturday afternoon than cleaning windows... I still did that afterwards, though. Daylight was fading by that time, and when I looked at my windows again on Sunday morning, I did some of them again.

Now it's time to get some stuff done here at home. I have the day off and will be going out with my sister in about 2 hours.