Monday, 10 December 2018

Home Alone

Last weekend, I was home alone instead of travelling to O.K.'s. 
On Thursday morning, I woke up with a nasty scratchy feeling at the back of my throat, but as usual, I tried to ignore it, thinking it would go away. Well, it didn't. Instead, it developed into a full-blown cold that meant I was able to work on Friday only with the help of drugs (which I usually do not take, but I had to complete a job for a client by Friday evening). It also meant I was not fit for travelling, and certainly did not want to pass my cold to O.K., who has only just recovered from his own first cold of the season, while at the same time in the middle of rehearsing for the village band's annual concert.

So, home alone it was. But don't worry, I was not alone all the time. My sister did a spot of shopping for me on the Saturday and stayed to watch an episode of a series we both like, and my Mum came for a cup of coffee on Sunday. We lit the candles on the Advent wreath, and she kept me company until it was time for her to go home and administer the next round of medical care to my Dad.
And of course, O.K. and I talked on the phone both days. Hooray for flat rates!

You are all so kind, asking about my Dad. He is doing better but still needs a lot of help, and my Mum's life revolves around him right now. All the more important it is that she gets to be out and about every now and then on her own, and do nice things for herself.

The weekend before last (the 1st Advent weekend), I was at O.K.'s. Therefore, I did what cleaning and decorating I wanted to do on the Friday evening, so that I would find my flat nice and cosy on my return.

We had planned a day trip to Lake Constance with a group of friends for the Sunday, but it rained all day, so we cancelled that trip. This resulted in an unexpected quiet and relaxing Sunday at O.K.'s home - very nice for a change!

He cooked Shakshouka for us that evening - so delicious, and a "first" for us. A colleague of his had told him about this dish, and we'd been wanting to try it for ourselves for ages. Now was the time, and O.K.'s version was very nice, hot and spicy, and very filling. This dish has its own wikipedia entry right here.

Because of the day trip that had originally been planned for the Sunday, I had taken Monday off work and returned home that morning; O.K. dropped me off at the station on his way to work. I went to lunch at my parents', also to see my Dad of course, and last but not least to pick up "my" tin of Christmas cookies made by a close family friend who is like an older brother for me and who was trained as a proper baker when he was a young lad.

On the Monday night, I was scheduled to host the "Living Advent Calendar" (see my previous post). The weather was awful - that much needed rain was coming down in buckets, and not one single person showed up! Good job I had not needed to invest much time and effort into the preparations, and I made the most of it by enjoying another unexpected quiet time to myself.

The rest of the week was busy work-wise, and as I said above, I spent the weekend nursing my cold. 

Today I am much better, although not yet 100 %. I used the time alone at home to write my Christmas cards (hand-writing takes me AGES) and wrap my gifts, and get the parcels ready for family and friends in England. When I finish writing this post, I'll take the parcels and cards to the post office - venturing out for the first time since Friday! It is sunny and cloudy, probably won't be raining, and not too cold at currently 4C.

Sorry - this was a bit long.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Remember, Remember the Month of November

December is already three days old, and I have hardly written anything in November. As you know from my previous post, the larger part of October and all of November have, for my family, mostly revolved around my Dad's health.
He came home two weeks ago, and he sounds and looks and behaves like my Dad again more and more every day. (Not that I really see him every day, mind you - but I guess you know what I mean.)
There are still things he can not (yet?) do on his own, but compared to how he was while he was still in hospital, he is doing well and I think we should focus on what he CAN do.
Later this week, physio therapy will pick up again, which will not only mean he'll get out and about a bit more, but also that there will be further progress where his physical strength is concerned.
Thank you all so much for your kind comments and the messages that reached me outside my blog!

What else happened since my last post?

On the 19th/20th, I was in Erfurt for work-related meetings. Erfurt is a city in what used to be the GDR (East Germany) and a place I've never been to before. On the most direct route, it is roughly 320 km from Ludwigsburg. By train, it takes between 4 1/2 and 5 hours.

The hotel was in the historic town centre, and I wish I would have taken a few pictures. However, it was dark by the time I left the hotel with a group of people (we were all booked elsewhere for dinner), and stopping for pictures wasn't convenient. Therefore, all I can show you is my rather large, very clean and quite comfortable room.
Unlike so many hotels in Germany, this one had what I always appreciate: tea & coffee-making facilities! No matter where in England I've been, I've always had a kettle, cups/mugs and a selection of tea bags etc. in the room, even at the most modest hotels or B&Bs. And I am one of those people who simply like to have their first coffee before facing the crowd in the breakfast room, especially when the day ahead is going to be a busy one with many people to listen (and talk) to.

It started to snow on the 20th around lunch time, as this view from the hotel's dining room proves:
Half of the train ride home that evening was through winter wonderland, it was the first snow I've seen this season.

Our Christmas market opened last Tuesday (on the 27th), and my sister and I went to the opening. My sister took these pictures of me as I am going through various "must do's" at the market:
At one of the entrances, now with concrete blocks and huge water bags to stop terrorist attacks.
Queuing for... staple food during the weeks leading up to Christmas!
Choosing cards
Having white mulled wine with slices of ginger - very nice!
Angels spreading their protective wings over the market
The last third of the month saw some impressive clouds and - finally!! - a little rain. It was very welcome! It felt odd having to remember to take an umbrella when leaving the house; for months and months and months, it simply wasn't necessary, because it never rained.

A trip to nearby Marbach was scheduled for the 29th. You have seen the place where I work about once a month before on my blog, for instance in February of this year.
For the first time, I used the panorama option on my phone's camera, taking in the view across the river Neckar from the terrace of the literature museum:

As you can see, it was (yet another!) sunny day, and I enjoyed the walk to and from the train station to the archive and museum. One way takes me about 15 minutes, and I arrived with plenty of time to spare before my scheduled meetings were to begin.

Now November is over, the 1st Advent Sunday is already gone as well, and I am hosting my part of the "Living Advent Calendar" tonight. (I have explained about this here; this year is my 7th year.) As every year, I have no idea who - and how many - are going to show up; it has been a very mild (almost warm!) day with blustering wind and lots of (very welcome) rain, so I do not expect a big turn-out. But we'll see, and I shall duly report!

Monday, 19 November 2018

November News

Good news for my family: My Dad is coming home today!! He has made great progress over the past two weeks at the rehab clinic, and I am very proud of him - it must have been really hard work to get to where he is now. There is still room for improvement, of course, and we are sure that returning to his familiar environment will give his mind another boost, and further increase his motivation to continue working on his physical condition.

Unfortunately, I won't be there to welcome him, as I am out of town for work for the next two days, and there are two more work-related events I am supposed to attend later this week. But as soon as I can, I'll pop in with my parents to see how my Dad has been settling in. Actually, I think it is good for my parents to have time to themselves at first, before the round of visitors begins!

So, it looks like my biggest Christmas wish this year - to have my Dad back with us, and him really being my Dad again - is coming true.

Now I've said it: The C-word... some of you dread it, I know from your blogs. I love it, as you know from my blog. It is still a bit over two weeks until the opening of my home town's Christmas Market, but it has turned cold enough now to see the first frost appear on my neighbour's lawn, as spotted this weekend from my kitchen window.

So far, November has been very colourful and not at all the grey, dreary month it is often thought of. Here is photographic evidence :-)

At quarter past 7 on the 10th of this month, this was the morning sky as seen from my bedroom window:

And here the view from my kitchen window:

A walk with O.K. around the perimeter of his village on the 11th:

The mountain range in the distance are the Vosges:

It was foggy on the morning of the 14th, as you can tell from this (yes, another one!) view from my kitchen window:

The mulberry tree in front of my bedroom lights up the day with its yellow leaves, no matter how thick the fog is:

After visiting my Dad yesterday, walking from the clinic to the train station, my Mum and I came across this car - look at the license plate! I don't think I've ever seen a car bearing my name :-)

I hope November is full of colour for you, too.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Read in 2018 - 19: Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Twain Papers

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Twain Papers
by Roger Riccard

When I was about 10 years old, I went through a Sherlock Holmes phase and read all the books available at my school’s library.

The first time I realised that such a thing as fan fiction (or "pastiche") officially exists was much later, in connection with Star Trek some time in the 1990s, when I found out that numerous fans have written, more or less professionally, stories involving the characters and settings of their favourite series.

Hardly surprising, then, that the same is true for almost any popular set of characters from films, series and books, including Sherlock Holmes.

The book I am reviewing here is one such example of pastiche. It was published in 2014, long after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's death, and it is part of a series of Holmes-based fan fiction, some (but not all) by the same author. The story is set 5 years after Sherlock Holmes' presumed death, and it nicely ties in with someone whose biography I have read and reviewed here not long ago: Samuel L. Clemens a.k.a. Mark Twain.

The famous author and his family are in London for a series of talks when a briefcase with notes disappears from their hotel suite. Everything looks as if someone stole those papers, which were going to be included in Mark Twain's autobiography, either to hinder their publication or to publish them without the author's consent in order to make profit.

Somehow, Twain finds out that Holmes is still alive and goes to find him at his rooms in Baker Street, where he and Dr. Watson have not been idle over the past five years, but deliberately stayed below the public's radar. Twain's case interests Holmes enough to break his reclusion, and soon he and Watson are interviewing suspects, travelling by train as far as Bristol, staying at country houses of the rich and famous, and visiting theatre performances and clubs.

As a sideline, Watson bumps into an old acquaintance. Both he and the lady are now widowed, and romance blossoms. I kept hoping she or her family had nothing to do with the case!

I really enjoyed this book; it was never overly lengthy but detailed enough to picture all the characters, rooms, houses and other places very well. 
Written from Dr. Watson's perspective, I particularly liked those bits that dealt with Watson's own life and experience, showing him not merely as a sidekick to Holmes' great mind. 
Of course the story held special appeal for me because of the Mark Twain angle. I have yet to read his autobiography, and naturally there won't be any mention of Holmes in it - but the famous author really was in London (more than once, I should think), and if Holmes and Watson had been real people, it is easy to imagine their paths would have crossed, and they would have liked each other. In case I'll come across more free ebooks from this series on Amazon's kindle shop, I will definitely download them.

Friday, 9 November 2018

A Mixed Bag...

...was pretty much what October was - see my previous post. November has begun a little less worrisome, still very busy, still rather mild for the season, still way too dry.

Let me just give you a rough outline of what have been (and still are) the worries mentioned last time I wrote on here. Some of you already knew that my Dad was very ill and had to be taken to hospital.
Without wanting to bore you with much detail (and at the same time respecting my family's privacy), in short, his condition was life-threatening and he was at the ICU at first. Once he was more stable, he was transferred to other wards (he spent the first two weeks in four different rooms). After 3 weeks in total, last Wednesday my Dad was transferred to a geriatric rehabilitation clinic about 40 minutes by car from where we live.
He is making progress and we are cautiously optimistic where regaining his physical strength is concerned. We are realistic enough to understand that quite probably, life for my parents (and therefore, for us) will not be the same again after he returns home, but as long as a certain level of almost normal day-to-day life will be possible, we'll be glad.

Last week was a short working week for me, as Thursday (Nov. 1st) was a holiday and I took the Friday off. O.K. did the same, and so we spent a nice, long weekend together at my place. 

Since the weather has turned a little cooler, making something in the oven was a good idea. I made Quiche on Saturday and a mix of grilled vegetables on Sunday.

The recipe I use when I make quiche is here; I posted it six years ago.

We went for a walk on Sunday and came across this field of grown-out asparagus:

The last set of pictures I took on my way to hospital one day, walking through the palace grounds (Ludwigsburg's main hospital is right next to the park) and stopping very briefly to have a look at the old gardeners' shed and greenhouse, which is partly still in use and partly deliberately left to look the way it once was, with old gardening tools about.

I enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere; there were no other people about, and the autumn afternoon light was just beautiful.

Tonight, together with a friend and colleague I am going to an 80s party! We've been at this venue and this type of party two or three years ago and had great fun. Now we hope for a repeat - after all, they will be playing the music of my teenage years, and I'll be on the dance floor as much as I can, enjoying the party without the awkwardness I felt as a teenger. Back then, I so wanted to be cool - now I just KNOW I am :-)

Tomorrow morning I'll be on the train to O.K.'s. I am very much looking forward to that, too (not so much the train ride, though; time tables have changed again and there is no connection at the moment with just one change; I need to hop from one train to the other twice now). 

Thursday, 1 November 2018

October is Over

October is over, and it has felt very long as a month. It was filled with work and worries (I will possibly tell you more about that in a later post; for now, let it suffice to say it had nothing to do with my health or O.K.), but also with sunshine and good things.

Here is a collection of pictures I took during the month with my phone, to give you an idea of what the month was like over here.

This was taken on the 4th of October at 8:34 from a client's office on the 9th floor - the view across Ludwigsburg practically non-existent:

A few hours later, it looked like that:

I spotted these unusual plane trails in the sky on the 5th of October on my way to work:

Leaving my parents' place on the 9th of October at around 7:00 pm to this beautiful sunset:

On the 10th, I left another client's office already before 4:00 pm and was greeted by this beautiful tree just outside the building:

Two days later, this was the view from my kitchen window at 7:30 in the morning:

I spent two weekends at O.K.'s and took these pictures in and near Offenburg on the 13th:

At 7:41 on the 18th, this is how the sunrise looked from my kitchen window:

The same view at 7:00 on the morning of the 30th - the colours are "as seen", I have not done anything with the picture:

And yesterday morning:

I hope October was a good month for you, and November will be just as good. It is always something of a mix of emotions for me; I love this season with its beautiful light and colour, but there is also sadness as it would have been my late husband's 50th birthday yesterday, and the 9th anniversary of his death is coming up on Nov. 5th.