Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Spring? Winter!!

My last post mentioned some clear signs of spring, and I saw even more of them last Wednesday when I found myself treated to an unexpected free afternoon and went for a walk with my sister (more on that in another post).

But we all knew we weren't going to get away with it so easily, and that spring wasn't going to come without some serious cold weather first. In recent years, winter has shown this tendency over and over again; mild - even warm! - weeks in November and December, followed by a mixed bag in January and then a really cold spell in February or even March. Not to mention the icy rain that fell last April and killed up to 80 % of crops for many owners of orchards and vineyards in our area.

At the end of November, on the opening day of my hometown's Christmas Market, we had 15 C (59 F) - it felt a lot more like approaching Easter than Christmas. This week, we've had nights as cold as -6 or -7 C (19 F), with temperatures during the day not reaching much more than 3 C (37 F). And it has snowed nearly all of Saturday.

Sunrise on the 15th of February - foreboding but spectacluar, much more than the photo shows.

Saturday the 17th, at 3:00 pm

Sunday the 18th, at 11:00 am

O.K. was here last weekend, and we went out for a walk of just under 3 hours on the Sunday. We even had some sunny patches, but by the time we arrived back home, I was very, very ready to get back into the warmth.

Still, there are distinctively more hours of daylight than a few weeks ago, and all the other signs of spring being on its way are still there, too. Isn't it a comfort to know that the succession of the seasons never fails?

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Old and New

On average, I spend about one day a month at my client in Marbach, the Deutsche Literaturarchiv (German Literature Archive). I have showed you pictures of this fascinating place before; for instance here or more recently in my January Summary.

I was back there again on the 7th of this month, to give my annual in-house data protection training to the employees. Between the morning and afternoon session, I had almost 2 hours to myself, and I used them well: First for a meal at the nearby restaurant "Schillerhöhe", and afterwards for a nice long walk.

Here are the pictures I took that day with my mobile.

The room where this year's training took place. The portrait is of Alexander Humboldt.


Walkway along the LiMo (Literaturmuseum der Moderne) - this is the "New" I hinted at in this post's title - and the Schiller Nationalmuseum, the "Old":


View from LiMo's terrace across the river Neckar valley:
 


 The train that takes me to and from Marbach comes across this viaduct:


I did not venture very far, but came across a footbridge I'd never been to before. Of course I had to walk on it and look at what I could see from there.


As you can see, the weather was better than at my last visit! The sun was welcome, and there were birds everywhere; in the gardens I walked past, snowdrops, crocus and aconites adorned the ground, and winter jasmine added even more yellow.

Can you tell I do like my Marbach days?

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Cats and Pancakes

Some of you will know that today is/was Shrove Tuesday in the UK, and that it is celebrated as "Pancake Day" in some areas, last but not least in Ripon. I learned about this and the traditional pancake race only last year from my friend George Pickles, former long-time Hornblower of Ripon, and told you about it in this post.

Admittedly, there was nothing happening in my life today that reminded me of Shrove Tuesday until I came home from work about an hour ago and did some ironing. Huh, I hear you say, what has ironing to do with Shrove Tuesday, or pancakes, for that matter? Nothing at all. But it has become my habit to listen to BBC Radio Four or BBC Radio York via the internet while ironing, and just as I was giving my beloved petrol green/blue Monsoon dress its hot steamy treatment, there was a short piece about Ripon's pancake race, held today. The Dean of Ripon's Cathedral was briefly interviewed, and here he is - photographed on Shrove Tuesday in 2016, the picture finding its way to me via George.


I hope everyone who was there to race or watch had fun! Three young members of the Chathedral's choir were also interviewed, and one very young sounding boy said that "it isn't a competition, but it's all about the community". I wonder whether he came up with that himself. When I was a little girl, I certainly would never had thought or said anything like it - when there was a competition of any kind, I would only feel like joining in when I was at least half way sure to win (and I could run real fast as a kid).

Speaking of me as a little girl, and it being the last day of Carnival in Germany today, here is the reason why "Cats" appear in the headline of this post.

As children, my sister and I used to love dressing up in carnival costumes this time of year, like all the children in our neighbourhood. Usually, there were carnival parties for children at schools, kindergardens and village or town halls. Our parents let us choose what we wanted to be, and you can imagine that Princess, Indian Squaw or Gypsy Lady were popular costumes for little girls.
When I was three and my sister four years old, I was determined I wanted to be Gestiefelter Kater (Puss-in-Boots), a character I knew from the fairytale books my parents read to us. A hat with cats' ears, a tail, a pair of black trousers, black top and little vest, all made to look like the stuff Puss was wearing in the books, was acquired. I wore my red wellies and felt absolutely great, like The Real Thing.

Until...
...yes, until I saw my sister's costume! She had opted for Sleeping Beauty, and our Grandma had made her the most beautiful princess dress I had ever seen in my life, out of glittery gold-pink fabric. She had a little crown, and a golden ribbon around her waist with tiny pink plastic roses tied in.

I am sure my jaw dropped when I saw it, and then of course, I wanted to look like her, be like her! Immediately!! Gone was my thrill at looking and feeling like a cat - now I wanted to be a princess, too.
Alas, there was only the one dress; we had made our choices, after all, and our costumes had been provided according to that.

I pulled all the stops, doing what a three-year-old can do so well: Throw a tantrum. Tantrum with a capital T! I cried, I refused to go out, I was nasty and angry and unpleasant and thoroughly horrible until...
...until my Mum unearthed an old, shabby petticoat from her wardrobe, one I am sure she had not been wearing since the late 1950s herself. It had tulle (even though it was REALLY shabby) - I saw the tulle, and pulled the old petticoat over my black pants. For a three-year-old, it came at floor length, and so it became my princess dress! I stopped crying, the cats' ears hat was taken off, the tail followed suit, and peace reigned again.

Seconds before The Tantrum
47 years later, I chose to be a cat again. This time, it was for the Costume Prize Ball at O.K.'s village. We went there last year, too, and it was my first carnival event in decades - carnival isn't a big thing in my part of the country, but it is MASSIVE where O.K. lives.
Last year, the motto was Fun Fair. This year, it was Walpurgis Night - so all things to do with witches and witchcraft were in order.

O.K. and I decided to go as Warlock and his Black Cat. I chose a very, very stylish and cool green satin robe for him, and he wore a pointed black hat and black clothes. My cat costume consisted of my usual black running pants, a black long-sleeved t-shirt I often wear, black fluffy knee socks and black shoes. I wore a black wig, black cats' ears and a black tail (which could have been longer, I think).


We had a lot of fun at the dance, and I never lost an ear or my tail - and I did NOT throw  a tantrum :-) But it was really very hot underneath the wig, especially when dancing. Now Carnival is as good as over, and I honestly won't miss it.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Sun, Windmills and a Castle

On the 14th of January, we had a rare Sunday deserving its name. I was at O.K.'s for the weekend, and we decided to finally take a walk to some of the newly erected windmills we can see from many of the paths near the village where we often walk or run.


The slopes and ridges of the Black Forest are great for windfarming, and I think it is a good thing that at least some of our energy comes from renewable and clean sources. On some of the blogs I regularly read, I have seen many a comment about the perceived "eye-sores" and how the windmills "blight" otherwise beautiful countryside. Well, in my opinion, they have their very own beauty, last but not least because I know we truly need them if we want to keep consuming energy at the rate we are doing these days. 






Have you ever stood real close to one? If you listen to the swooshing sound the blades make, you can almost imagine you were by the sea, and you hear the waves leisurely moving up the beach, then retreating back into the vastness of the ocean only to return the next moment at their own incessant rhythm - a calming, soothing sound, and really not noisy. Road traffic is much, much louder!


Maybe the odd bird gets too close occasionally, but - without being able to cite statistics - I do believe the number of animals killed by the roadside of our way too many cars is much higher. And generally, there is no decline in wildlife in those areas of the Black Forest where windmills are. Of course animals retreat while the building is going on, but once the heavy machinery and people have left, things return to normal.

According to information I found on the internet and on boards at the wind farm, the masts are 149 m high. Each rotor blade is 56 m long and weighs 26 tons! 

Anyway - to get there, we walked for quite a while, taking in the sights as we got nearer. There were other places of interest along the way, such as the "pioneer stone", a memorial erected by the troops who, a long time ago, built the road in this part of the forest, or the small devotional dedicated to Mary in the year 1797.


We chose a different path back to the village of Diersburg, where we had parked the car, and O.K. showed me the ruins of castle Diersburg. 


Altogether, we had probably walked somewhere around 3 or 4 hours, and enjoyed it very much. Many weekends have been grey and wet this winter, so we were glad to get the chance for good long walk.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

January Summary

Already the 1st of February - didn't we only just celebrate New Year's Eve? That first month of the year seems to be the least favourite for many people, according to what I have been reading on some blogs. I don't know why that is so; if one thinks long and hard enough, I suppose one can find something not to like about every month, but also enough to like.

For me, January meant four birthday parties within my circle of friends and family. It also meant going back to work after the Christmas/New Year break. Weather-wise, it meant mostly grey and often wet days with some storms thrown in for good measure, but no snow. 

Last but not least, it meant my first proper red-nose cold in a long time - I even stayed home from work for two days, something that happens only every few years.

For one glorious sunny Sunday, O.K. and I were out on a long walk (or hike) in the Black Forest. That is worth its own post.

The pictures here were taken throughout the month, all with my phone.

January 9th, my second day back at work. By the time I left the office, that brilliant blue sky was long gone:

Marbach, my place of work on the 17th of January. The view across the Neckar valley may not be exactly spectacular, but I like it. It was VERY windy that day:



Morning sky as seen from my kitchen window on the 30th:

What was January like for you?