Friday, 14 June 2019

Finding Refuge

Two posts back, I told you about my bathroom renovation and that it meant I had to move out of my flat. I also mentioned that my sister kindly and generously took me in for the entire three weeks; she gave up her study for me so that I could have my own room. She also provided me with food and drink, and did everything to make me feel welcome. I am very grateful for having her as my sister!

Unlike my flat, hers has a balcony. It faces East, and so I especially enjoyed those mornings when I was able to have my coffee out there. 

For the weekends, I travelled to O.K.'s, where I was also spoiled with food and drink - on the balcony, when possible.

The last few days before I was finally able to move back in were especially testing my patience. I had been promised I'd have a functioning toilet on the Saturday (1st of June), and was already planning my return and the cleaning jobs I was going to do first. Saturday came and went, with no notice from the workmen. Relatively late in the afternoon, I sent them a message to find out what was going on, and learned that it would only be on the Sunday that they'd have the toilet installed.
I felt somewhat let down and disappointed - if I'd known before that Saturday would not work out as my moving-in day, I would have spent the weekend at O.K.'s again instead of all alone! (My sister had gone away for a week on the Friday.)

What do I do when I am sad, disappointed, frustrated? I go for a walk or a run. It was a warm and sunny day, and I set off with a vague idea of where I wanted to go; more or less the route my late husband and I often took on our bikes on weekends, and where I walked for instance here.

I had not been that way in years, so it was interesting to observe small changes along the way. Two hours and 45 minutes later, with 15 km under my soles, I was back at my sister's flat, and felt much better. 

Saturday, 1st of June, 9:30 pm
Sunday, 2nd of June, just before 5:00 in the morning

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Read in 2019 - 8 and 9

There is a back log of four book reviews on my mental list of blog posts to write and publish, but with everything that has been going on here since the end of April / beginning of May, I simply have not gotten round to writing them.

Now, to speed things up a little, I have decided to post two reviews in one post:

8) The Widow of Larkspur Inn

by Lawana Blackwell

This was a joy to read - I liked the setting, I cared about the characters, plus the writing and editing were really good, too.

Not every reader would appreciate frequent references to God and the Christian faith, but if you do not mind that and are not afraid to read a book that touches on religious aspects, you'll like this one.

The setting is England, the period is the second half of the 19th century.

Julia, mother of three, wife of a surgeon and used to a carefree life in London's society, loses her husband to sudden illness.

When she discovers that he had gambled away all their money, her grief turns into despair - where to live now, and how to provide for her three children?

Of course, as a lady of society, she has never learned to do any work that would pay for their living, and there are no relatives or close friends she can ask for help.

The one asset her husband has left her which is not claimed by the bank is a former coaching inn in a village far from London.

The family has no choice but to move there, and try to make the shabby old inn liveable as a home and profitable as a lodgers' house.

Needless to say that they succeed in both - with the help of a cast of neighbours, new and old friends, and lodgers.

It is interesting to see how they manage to become part of the village, find their lodgers, and slowly but surely the widow drags herself out of her despair.

Not everything goes well at first attempt, of course, but in the end several characters find new hope and even new love.

Apparently, this is only the first book in a series; I found it for free at Amazon's kindle shop years ago.

Although I must say the religious bits were a bit massive at times, I liked this one enough to want to read the next instalment, but so far I have not looked for it.

I did not find a homepage for the author, but here is a little bit about her.

9) Surviving Michael

by Joseph Birchall

Five friends have just finished school and spend a lazy, sunny afternoon by the lake.

Only four of them return home that night.

15 years later, they still see each other more or less regularly. They never talk about Michael's death, but meet on its anniversary every year.

Their lives have taken them in very different directions, but that afternoon by the lake has left its mark on each of them.

Each of them has tried to find a way to cope with what happened back then, with various degrees of success.

Now one of them suggests a course of action to reach closure and enable them all to finally get on with their lives.

The others agree, and a chain of events starts that ends in drama... and a glimmer of hope.

Even though not everything about this book met my taste, it was a good read. The stories of the four young men were holding my attention, and I wanted to read on and find out what was going to happen next.

Don't read this book if you can't stand frequent use of the f-word; the book would have been very readable without all of that, but it matches the characters and their ways of life.

Each chapter is told from one of the four men's perspectives, and the author has brought their characters to life.

I have never heard of this writer before; it was a free ebook (surprise!) at Amazon's kindle store. There is a little bit about him here on his author's page at Amazon.

Friday, 7 June 2019

A Big Job

One reason why I have been around less than usual here in the blogosphere over the past weeks is that I was not home. After I came back from my two weeks away (first week at O.K.'s, second week hiking in the mountains), I had just one day at home before I had to move out - to get a big job done: my bathroom!

(To be precise, it has never been a bathroom, as there was no bath, always only a shower, toilet and sink. But you know what I mean; I still call it my bathroom.)

Already last year, when I turned 50, I meant to do this as a gift to myself. But what with the eye operation and various other things, I postponed it. This year, I finally got round to talking to my neighbour, who is a craftsman himself (although a painter, not a plumber) and knows many others. We agreed on a date after my holiday, and so it was that on the 14th of May at 20 past 7 in the morning, three men arrived at my flat and started the work.

This is what the bathroom looked like up until the day before:

It was never my taste; it was like this when I bought the flat 16 years ago. I got up early on the 14th and emptied it of all my stuff:

Then I left for work... and returned to this:

The doors to the other rooms were stuck shut with tape plus a plastic sheet. It helped a lot, but naturally there was still plenty of dust everywhere from knocking off the tiles.

Of course it was clear from the start that I could not stay in the flat while the work was going on; there is only the one bathroom with no extra toilet, and while I could have washed and brushed my teeth at the kitchen sink, I obviously could not stay here without a toilet. 
My sister kindly gave up her study to me for the entire time; I had the room to myself and we got along very well. Actually, it was almost a bit like sharing the cottage in Ripon, only with work and not quite as picturesque as there. We shared the cooking, and as we start work at different times, there was never a queue for the bathroom, either. 
When it became apparent that the work in my flat was not going to finish as quickly as my neigbhour had planned, she said I could stay as long as it would take. It really was no problem, also because she lives close enough to my place so that I could go there every day after work and check on the progress, make decisions when necessary, and so on.

May 17 - bare walls:

May 20:

May 24 - the former shower basin is filled in, and the toilet flush installed and put behind a wall:

May 26 - the walls are prepared for tiling:

May 27 - more preparations for tiling:

May 28 - the first tiles are on the walls:

 May 29 - tiling of the walls complete!

May 31 - floor tiles laid:

June 2 - I have a toilet!! But look at my kitchen:

June 3 - I now also have a sink, but can not use the shower yet:

June 4 - off to Berlin, leaving behind my kitchen like this:

June 7, 2:00 am, returning from Berlin: My neighbour has hung up a shower curtain for me (without adding it to the bill) so that I can use the shower without flooding the whole room until the glass separation arrives.

Still, the three weeks of going back and forth all the time were exhausting, and of course I wanted to be back in my own place. I spent the weekends at O.K.'s, and last week Sunday, I finally had a functioning toilet again and was allowed to move in.

Just like after our hiking holiday, I had only one day at home before I was off again - this time to Berlin for a work-related conference. While I was away, the workmen could finish.
I returned last night - actually, this morning at 2:00 am... My flight back from Berlin to Stuttgart was cancelled, along with many others, because of thunderstorms. The flight I was able to snatch instead was supposed to depart at 9:00 pm but was delayed until 11:00; landing in Stuttgart was at midnight, then another half hour until I had my suitcase and was out of the airport, and then two trains from the airport to Ludwigsburg, a few minutes walk from the station, and I was finally home! Phew! The flight had been very wobbly, and I admit I was scared. But we made it, and I am very grateful for that.

The work is not entirley finished yet; where the shower curtain is now, there will be a glass pane to separate the shower from the rest of the room, and a sliding door is going to be installed. That is supposed to happen the week after next.
Also, the heating/towel rack needs to be mounted (the only item I kept), and other things want deciding on, such as a mirror or mirror cabinet, lamp etc. This is going to be fun! Oh, and I already have a new bath rug :-)

You wouldn't think a tiny bathroom like this can be such a big job, but it is!

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Our Last Day

Friday, the 10th of May, was our last day in South Tyrol, and we were determined to make the most of it. And it became indeed a memorable day, with what I think was my favourite hike of this holiday (even though they were all great).

The day did not start all that brilliantly with thick clouds hanging in the Etsch valley, but we were not going to be discouraged, and drove to the village of Verschneid/Frassineto where, according to our map, we were to start our hike.
View from our hotel at 9:00 on the 10th of May
The first part of our route looked easy enough, and very picturesque already past a farm and meadows full of flowers.

A steep ascent followed, leaving us (well, me) breathless and sweaty. We could have stopped there for a drink and a rest, but as soon as we were on relatively even ground again, I regained my breath and we decided to walk on.
Gentian! I am not sure I have ever come across this Alpine flower in its natural habitat before.
Eventually, it was time for a rest and a large, cold shandy!
This brown pig was not in any type of enclosure and was free to move between his house and the meadow. It looked at us but kept a safe distance.
A curious look at us was all we got. The hay was more interesting than we were.
Now we were coming to something very special, maybe unique to this area: "Earth Pyramids", as they call them there (according to this wikipedia entry, they are called hoodoo in English - something I didn't know!). It is a geological phenomenon. Imagine a steep slope comprised of sandy clay and soil, strewn with large single rocks and boulders. Wind, rain, snow (and melting snow especially) work on the soil, taking it constantly downwards. But some of the boulders and rocks remain in their place, and erosion somehow works around them, leaving a column of clay and soil underneath, on top of which eventually the rock rests like a cap.
This curious formation looks man-made, but it is not. We took these pictures from relatively far apart, but I think you can get an idea of what it looks like:
Heading back, we came past a group of horses with foals. They were not easy to photograph, as they were in a very playful mood gallopping around, but here is one of the young ones:
Before driving back to Gargazzone and our hotel, we stopped at another small town to buy souvenirs for ourselves and our families at home, in the shape of typical products of the region, cheese and bacon.

Driving back to O.K.'s village the next day took us 7 hours with three short breaks, crossing several downpours along the way. It was raining and chilly when we arrived, but to end the holiday on a celebratory note and to say thank you to O.K.'s parents for minding the cottage during our absence, we went to an Italian restaurant with them.

I took the train to Ludwigsburg on Sunday, the 12th of May; the holiday was truly over.