Saturday 27 February 2010

The First Bee!

Winter has had a firm grip on my part of the world for way too long (for my liking, anyway), and today was not only a gorgeous day of blue skies and a stroll in the park, but I also saw my first bee of this year!

I think this is well worth its own blog entry :-)

If it is as gorgeous tomorrow as it has been today, I think I might get started on running again.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

The Longing

We have been very busy at work as of late, and I have been accumulating many extra hours that I am not paid for. Usually, I do not have a problem with that - mostly, I can put those hours to good use on a day when I want to leave the office earlier. But now, for four weeks in a row, it is not possible to leave early, as we are short of staff. Instead, my boss has agreed to me coming in as late as 10 or 11 in the morning.
And this morning, I took the chance and walked to work (yes, I know. I have been writing about walking to and from work many times on here, but maybe you are not too bored with my ramblings yet).

For the first time in what feels like ages, we had rather mild temperatures of about 8 C, and there were bits of blue between the grey clouds. It was windy but, even so, a lot more pleasant to be outside than what it has been for the past weeks and months.

When I reached the fields that I need to cross in order to get to the small town where I work, I saw and heard a couple of buzzards. They were circling around each other, sometimes breaking the circle and taking a long, elegant swoop, to then take up the circular pattern again.

Their cries filled me with a longing that made my chest hurt.
A longing for what, my precious few readers might ask.

Such is the nature of The Longing that I can hardly put my finger to it; I wish I knew - because if I did, that could mean the first step towards fulfilling it.

Maybe it is the longing for adventures and travelling to places far and wide; maybe it is the longing for someone who treasures me and who is interested enough in me to keep the lines of communication open on both sides, someone with who it is not always me who needs to make the effort to stay in touch, someone who does respond to my messages and not lose interest after a certain time, someone for whom talking to me and spending time with me is not burden but joy.

You may have noticed that I am avoiding the term "love"; I simply can not imagine this - if it does exist, actually - ever coming my way.
I am far too much lacking in character for that, and possess only the most rudimentary of morals and conscience.
But friendship I value, and very highly at that.

And who knows - it may just be the longing for this winter to truly end, and spring to arrive with all its light and colours and scents, and the possibilities it seems to open up for me all of a sudden.

Blame the buzzards, anyway - they couldn't care less, and rightly so :-)

Saturday 20 February 2010

Where does this come from?

Something I observe so often and have noticed again today while doing my groceries shopping at the supermarket has prompted me to write yet again, even though my last entry on here is not yet 24 hours old.

I am not entirely sure how to call this: laziness? Can't-be-bothered-ness? Something else I have not thought of yet?

What I am actually on about is how people seem to strive more and more for minimal effort, in all areas of life.

The observation at the supermarket is just one tiny example for the type of behaviour I mean:
There are four rows of trolleys at my local Aldi. Usually, one or two rows are still quite well filled with trolleys, while the others are almost empty with only a few left at the far end of the row.

What does the average customer do?
They go and grab, 95 % of the time (my estimate), the first one in one of the full rows.
Getting a trolley from one of the more empty rows does not exactly involve having to walk for miles, and yet, the effort to walk those few steps down the row is apparently too much for the majority.

It is very similar, I think, to what some of my colleagues do - they print something off the printer that is roughly 6 m from their desk and then look around to see if some other colleague has printed something or is going in that direction anyway, so that they do not have to get up from their chairs, make those few paces towards the printer and get whatever they have printed (and I am not talking here about times so stressful that they can not afford to leave their desks for 15 seconds).

Taking the train to work in the mornings, I see most of the other passengers clustering right at the top of the stairs where they wait for the train, making it difficult for others who come up the stairs to get around them, simply because (I think) they can not be bothered to walk a few metres further down the platform - the train is certainly long enough, and has of course more doors than just the one that comes to a stop just in front of the stairs.

So, what is this?
Is it some ancient behavourial pattern, deeply ingrained through tens of thousands of years of evolution, from back when it was essential to any human's survival to conserve as much energy as possible? Is it a laziness that ties in with the "me first" mentality as well as with the "I want it all and I want it now" type? Or a combination of both?

If you know, please tell me.

Seeing Red

Colours affect our mood; we all know it and we have all seen it happening.

Today's picture of the Pink Lady is no coincidence; the past few days have been grey and overcast, with muddy heaps of snow still sitting on every road and pavement, and so I felt the need for some pink.

Going to the gym last night after work, I couldn't help but notice that more than half of the others there - both men and women - were sporting red t-shirts (myself included - more often than not, I wear a boring plain white one).

Yes, it looks like we have all truly had enough of the greys, browns and blacks that feature so prominently in winter outfits.

I will celebrate the day when I can leave the house without that winter coat and not freeze instantly!
Anyone feel like joining the party?

Monday 15 February 2010

Why I Do Not Drive

Lately, I have met several new people; some at parties, some business-wise. One thing these new acquaintances have in common: they all look at me in wide-eyed disbelief when the conversation turns to the topic of travel and I mention that I do not drive.
"You mean you don't have a car," is the usual first reaction. No, that is not what I mean. What I mean is that I do not have a driving license, never had one and - in all likelihood - never will have one.

Since this has come up quite a few times recently, I have started to wonder why I actually am so completely not bothered about cars in general and owning my own car in particular.

The total lack of interest may have something to do with the way I grew up.

Grandparents on both sides of the family never owned a car, and to my knowledge, neither of the four had ever learnt how to drive.
My mother took her driving test in the early 1960s, when traffic on the streets of our small town in South Germany was nowhere near what it became only two decades later; she gave up on driving when, after a short stint in the countryside, we returned to live in town.
For my father, driving was essential, as he used to work shifts at the printing press for the local newspaper, and there was no public transport by the time the night shift ended.
But, as I said, it was essential to get from A to B - not something you did for fun, and the money simply wasn't there to own a car just for fun, either.

When I was around 5 years old, my family moved to a small village near the French border, maybe 2 hours' drive from our original town.
People did not have two or three cars to each household back then; the village was mostly home to farmers who had a car and a tractor, plus bikes for everyone in the family.
The place was small enough for me to easily get anywhere I wanted to on my own two stubby little legs, and my tiny bike and my roller skates were not so much seen as means of transport but as ways to have fun (and the occasional accident when I became too daring - which was quite typical for me back then).

By the time I started school, we had already moved back to town. School was only a 5 minute walk from home; all the shops for our daily needs were in the same direction, and it was only on very rare occasions that one took the bus to the other end of town instead of walking there, or even the train to the next small town where some relatives lived.
We still had bikes, and used them often in the summer to get to the public swimming pool. I also still had my roller skates, and my best friend and I spent endless afternoons in working on our "figure skating" routines, imagining ourselves in the pretty costumes we had seen on telly, receiving flower bouquets from our admirers, and smiling beautifully into the cameras.

At 17, almost everybody in my class was taking driving lessons, paid for by generous parents or grandparents.
As much as our parents and grandparents loved us, neither I nor my sister were offered the amounts of money needed for those lessons, and we were too lazy (and too interested in clubbing and music) to try and find after-school jobs or other ways to raise the necessary funds; therefore, we both left school without even one single driving lesson under our belts.

Later, when I started to work at the library, once again I lived close enough to walk; it happened only on particularly awful stormy, cold and wet autumn nights that I took the bus home after work, and every time I hated to spend money on something I still deemed unnecessary in my mind.

Of course by then, several of my friends already had their own cars - and I don't deny that it was comfortable to stick to them for a night of clubbing; so much easier (and probably less dangerous) to go to Stuttgart and back by car than having to make sure you got the last train in and the first train out (which usually meant meeting my dad under the door, when he was leaving for work and I was just coming in to go to bed).

I got married at 22, and my husband had a car. This, for a brief period in my life, did open some new possibilities for holidays and other trips that had not been possible before, or at least not possible without a lot of planning. Soon, though, with the disintegrating of that marriage, the benefits of actually owning (in monetary terms) more of that car than he did, disappeared, and once again, I relied on my own two legs plus public transport for most of the distances I needed to cover.

My second marriage was to a man who, like myself, never had a driving license and never owned a car - two of a kind, it seemed.
We still had some very nice holidays together, got all our shopping done, were able to go to work and managed to keep many other appointments both for business and private purposes.

When I became a widow, many of my friends and acquaintances offered to help in whichever way they could; for some of them, that meant offering lifts or helping me with my groceries shopping and similar. Much as I appreciated all those offers (and still do), so far, they have largely not been necessary.

Yes, there are times when a car is most convenient; take last week, for instance.
I was meeting a friend at the aiport; their plane was cancelled and the next one delayed, so that we ended up meeting hours later than what was originally intended. Had I relied solely on public transport, I would have had to take the last train back, which would have meant to spend a mere two hours together - way too short for someone you meet less than once a year!
So, in that case, I was glad for the taxi taking me back home at a time when no trains were available. But generally, I do not feel I am missing out on anything for not being able to drive.

So far, I always got to where I wanted - and back.

Monday 1 February 2010

On a Rainy Day...

...or a snowy one for that matter, if it is a weekend and I do not have any appointments, I just stay home... my pajamas all day, with a book that is not too challenging on an intellectual level but still engaging enough to keep me interested, or watching a cosy film, having hot drinks like coffee, tea and sometimes broth;
increasing the enjoyment of the book or the film by adding some delicious chocolates or cookies, with the scent of a home-made potpourri of rose petals,
or by ringing a friend I have not spoken to in a long time.
Alternatively, I can just follow my cat's example and never get out of bed. Utter luxury!