Thursday, 20 June 2019

Horse Market Parade

For the 251st time this year, my hometown has been celebrating its Horse Market. Long-time readers of this blog will remember that apart from a proper horse market, the event means a fairground, show jumping and other horse-related shows along with prizes for the best, and the highlight on the Sunday afternoon: the parade.

Ever since I was little, I've been to watch the parade, with a few exceptions. This year, it was the weekend I was supposed to move back into my flat after almost three weeks of bathroom renovation. It was very hot on that Sunday (2nd of June), and even though my flat was a bit of a mess and very dusty from the work, I definitely did not want to spend this beautiful day with cleaning only and nothing else.

Usually, my Mum or even both my parents would have gone to watch the parade with me. But it was too hot for them to stand at the roadside for an hour and more, and so understandably, they both said no when I asked them.

My upstairs neighbours F and T (T, the husband, is a professional plumber and was also involved in my bathroom renovation) were home, and when I asked them if they felt like coming along, they were all for it. It has been only a year and a half that they have moved into the attic flat; they have left Turkey two years ago when the political situation there became unbearable (and possibly dangerous) for them.

We spent not only an entertaining hour watching the parade, but got ourselves ice creams afterwards, and leisurely strolled back up the road together to where we live. I did some more cleaning then, but left the bigger and noisier jobs (hoovering) to the next day. 

I did not take quite as many pictures as in previous years, but you can still get a good impression of the hour-long parade, I suppose:

Still my favourites: the Shire horses!

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Your Votes, Please!

Does it happen to you, too, that you think about something that was "maybe just two years ago" only to find out it was in fact much longer? It was like that this morning, when I was looking up an older post on my blog and found out that I've been wearing my current specs for 8 years, not two or three!!

In April, it was exactly one year since my eye operation. My doctor examined my eyes now in view of new glasses, and gave me a prescription for not just one, but two new pairs: One for computer work and reading (which is what I do most days all day and often well into the evening), and one for everything else.

What with my holidays in May, the bathroom renovation, business trips to Munich and Berlin and various other things, it has taken me until yesterday to finally go to the optician and have a look at frames. As I can not see myself all that well without my specs, I always need someone to help me choose, and my sister is very good at that.

We did not fool around like back in 2011, when I last had to choose a frame (you can see the pictures here if you like), but my sister took photos with my mobile phone so that I could a) send them to O.K. for his opinion and b) look at them at home and think about it for a few days before actually ordering the specs.

Here are our three favourites. Please tell me what you think. I shall go back to the shop on Monday and place my order.

Thank you :-)

PS: I didn't realise at the time that my hair was sticking out at the side. It was very warm yesterday, and a bit windy, so I was both a little sweaty and windblown. Oh well...

Monday, 17 June 2019

Read in 2019 - 10 and 11

Once again, I am putting two book reviews in one post, so as not to drag my back log of posts out even more, and make both reviews shorter than I maybe would have done otherwise.

Watered Down Death
by Lucinda D. Davis

This was a mystery that combined an interesting cast, nice setting and a plot I did not guess from the start. It came to my kindle as a free ebook from Amazon's kindle shop and is the first of a series.

Monica and Erin are not only best friends, but also run an antiques shop together. As if that wasn't enough, they are also gifted amateur sleuths AND have the backing of the local police in conducting their own investigation when a wealthy old Doctor is found dead.

The police backing makes this one a bit different from most other such amateur sleuth stories, where the hero or heroine usually gets repeatedly told off by the police and is ordered to "leave it to the experts". 

The two ladies are opposite personalities - one is a neat freak, the other very untidy but has psychic abilities -, but that makes their friendship all the more plausible.

Some of the other characters remain a bit one-dimensional, but I suppose this is something a writer can work on in the course of a series. It could be that this one is not only the start of the series but also was the writer's first book, as sometimes the writing is a bit bumpy. The book would definitely have profited of professional editing, but it was still a good (and relatively quick) read.

Lucinda D. Davis' homepage is here, if you are interested.

Alexander Gerst

by Felix Wetesrm├╝hl

A gift from my sister - thank you! - and good addition to my collection of books about people involved in space travel, such as Wernher von Braun, the Astronaut's wives, Chris Hadfield and others. (A "physical" book, as in "not an ebook".)

On my blog, I have written a few times about Alexander Gerst. He does not only come across as an intelligent, honest, down-to-earth (pun intended!) man, but also happens to come from the same Swabian region of Germany as I. 

The biography gives not only a detailed account of his life before, during and after his space missions, but also offers background information to human spaceflight that allows the reader to put current events in context.

Chapters alternate between Gerst's life story and such context information. All is backed up by a long list of referencing articles, most of them from online sources.

I enjoyed it, although there were no big surprises and the writing style was not exactly polished. Still, as I said, I enjoyed it, and it definitely has its place on the "space" shelf of my book case.

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!