Sunday 31 March 2019

Yorkshire Holiday 2019 - Arrival

Last week Thursday, the 21st of March, was the day we arrived for this year's holiday in Yorkshire. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know my connection with Yorkshire, especially with Ripon; for those of you who don't, let me just briefly explain that my late husband was from Yorkshire, and my sister and I are still close with the family there. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law with her family live in Ripon, so that is where we like to spend somewhere between one and two weeks every year.

As mentioned in my previous post, the journey from my home town Ludwigsburg to Ripon takes a full day and is spent using various means of transport from buses and trains to planes. Altogether, on the 21st of March it took us almost precisely 9 hours - everything went well, and we did not have any significant delays.

When the 36 bus from Harrogate pulls into Ripon, it feels very much like coming home, and even more so when we arrive at "our" cottage 10 or 15 minutes later - we've been staying here for quite a few years in a row now, and will keep this up for as long as our kind and friendly landlady will have us.

Here are a few pictures of Matchbox Cottage (of course you've seen it all before). There is a new settee in the living room, a window has been replaced in the ground floor bedroom, and the heating system is now completely independent from the main building.

The new settee - much bigger, and very comfy.

Fresh daffodils on the dining table, put there for us by our lovely landlady.
The ground floor bedroom (my sister's).

I sleep upstairs. We each have our own  en-suite shower rooms.

We had been sitting all day long (except for the times we spent standing in various queues - part of the parcel when you travel by plane) and were happy to take a detour to the Cathedral on our walk to the supermarket for some basics.

Ripon Cathedral is a remarkable building, and this first walk by it in the dusk was only to whet our appetite for more to come.

Speaking of which - more to come about my Yorkshire Holiday over the next days and possibly weeks, as I'll be back working tomorrow and won't have as much time to blog as I'd like to. And now, it is time to wind down for the night; I can tell it has been a long day, plus we have "lost" two hours - one by switching to summer time, and another one by travelling to a different time zone.
Good night!

Thursday 21 March 2019

...And Off We Go!

In about 15 minutes, I will put on my shoes and coat, grab my suitcase and handbag, close the door to my flat from the outside, descend the stairs to the ground floor, there leave a paper bag containing some sweets, a note and my keys at my ground floor neighbour's door (she'll look after my few house plants and take out the mail) and walk to the train station.

Getting ready...
All fits in nicely, with some room left for souvenirs.
Bye-bye, flat! See you Sunday in a week!

There, I will meet my sister. We will take the train to Stuttgart, there changing for another train to the airport. Our flight to Manchester will hopefully be smooth and not delayed.
Once in Manchester, we will patiently wait for our luggage to be brought out, then pick up our pre-booked train tickets (thank you, Internet!) and take the Transpennine "Express" to Leeds. From there, a local train should carry us to Harrogate, where we will take the 36 bus to Ripon.
Some time late afternoon today - I estimate around 5 or 6 pm - we should be at "our" cottage.


Until yesterday, I still had a rather busy week. Tuesday saw me wrapping up a few tasks at one client's office. It was pub quiz night, too, and my team and I managed to get the highest number of points - unfortunately, the questions were so easy that four other teams did the same! The tie question set us back to the 4th 1st place; we still won a bottle of champagne and had great fun.

I have not asked my team mates' persmission to publish their photos, so here is just a cut from our group photo on Tuesday night at the Irish Pub.

Yesterday, I worked at a different client's office, with a meeting of a prospective new client in between. The new prospect has already asked for the draft of a contract, so all went well there, too.
After work, I went running with a friend. Today will be mostly spent sitting and waiting around, so the exercise was welcome.

Now I'm off - next time you'll hear from me, it will be reporting from Matchbox Cottage in Ripon!

Monday 18 March 2019

Three More Days...

...of work (including today) until my sister and I will be off on our Yorkshire Holiday!

Last week was very busy again, with a funeral thrown in for good measure. The lady who had died was a family friend of ours and in her early 90s; she had been ill for some time and I guess ultimately death came as a relief. 

Friday evening saw me travelling to O.K.'s, with the train being only about 10 minutes late. I always look so much forward to that moment on Friday night (usually around 9:00 pm) when we finally can sit down at the dining table in O.K.'s cosy cottage, with a bowl of salad, fresh bread and a delicious selection of cheeses, accompanied by glasses of red wine - all prepared by O.K.!

On Saturday, we took advantage of the dry day (it has been raining on and off most of the week, and more was forecast for Sunday) and went running. It was very windy, which for me makes running twice as exhausting as it should be, and on my request we shortened our route from what would have been roughly 7.5 km to 6.
Is this hawthorne?
Pink, white, yellow - spring is here!

View from O.K.'s living/dining room

Whenever the sun had a chance to get through the fast-moving clouds, it was rather warm, but with the wind, it felt colder than it was.

Sunday was spent most leisurely with a late breakfast, until it was time to meet up with a group of friends at a rustic restaurant for an early evening meal. The food was excellent (if a bit expensive), and the company entertaining as usual. One of the group had an appointment with her riding club later that same evening, so our party broke up earlier than usual. Going back home to O.K.'s would not have been practical, so I opted for my trains home an hour earlier. 

Having to say good-bye to O.K. at the station was a little harder than usual, as I know I won't be seeing him until the 6th of April. Of course we will be on the phone and communicating by email and imesage while I'm in England, but it is just not the same as being together.

On the other hand, of course I am very much looking forward to seeing family and friends in Yorkshire - and there is even a trip to Derbyshire planned, to see family living there!

Keep your fingers crossed for our flight on Thursday around lunch time... I am NOT keen on high winds when I am up in the air, even though I know they do not pose much of a threat to a good aircraft and an experienced pilot.

Wednesday 13 March 2019

Thirty-Six Hours

I left home on Monday morning at 9:00 and was back home yesterday. Tuesday, at precisely 9:00 pm.
Where was I in the 36 hours in between, and what did I do?

Berlin called - I went to attend a meeting with other heads of regional groups of my country's association of Data Protection Officers. We worked hard for 1 1/2 days, starting at 3:00 pm on Monday and finishing at 3:00 on the next day.

When the invitation arrived, I had my colleague check out flight and train times for me, as well as ticket prices for both means of transport. That flying would be the quickest way was no surprise. But isn't it absurd that the price for a tain ticket was, even with going half-price because of my annual ticket, more than twice as much as for the plane? Therefore, even knowing that travelling by train is much more environmentally friendly than by plane, the decision was a no-brainer.

On Sunday, we'd been having stormy weather. There were storm warnings out, and in some areas of Germany, all train traffic was stopped. Amazingly enough, air traffic went on almost as usual.
O.K. and I were out for a walk on the fields - we did not dare walk in woodland - and I am not kidding when I tell you that we could properly lean into the wind without falling over. Few other people were about, and walking against the wind required an effort similar to running. Still, it was fun playing with the wind, and keeping a safe distance to trees, we didn't feel in any danger.

By Monday, the worst of the storm was over, but it still very windy, and the first half of the flight to Berlin was rather wobbly. Although I do fly fairly regularly and have no problem with small aircraft where I can sit next to the pilot and see everything that's going on, I simply do not feel comfortable on larger passenger planes where I don't know what is happening at all times. Call me silly, but I was worried and frightened. Reading, praying or talking to other passengers helps, though, and I applied all those strategies successfully.

Once in Berlin, a fellow Data Protection Officer and I teamed up for a taxi to the hotel and arrived well in time. I could even retreat for my room and rest for about an hour before joining the others downstairs in front of our conference room for coffees and snacks - the latter being very welcome, since breakfast had been before 8:00, and by now it was after 2:00 pm.

The afternoon was filled with intense work and important information. At 7:00 pm, we all went for dinner at a nearby steak house. It was extremely noisy in there and very warm. so that our group left rather soon after the meal. This gave me again time to relax in my hotel room, talking to O.K. on the phone and reading before lights out.

As you can see, my room was spacious, modern and spotlessly clean

I have deliberately left the window frame in the picture, so that you can see how close to the train station I was. It did not make exactly for a quiet night. If I'll be in the same hotel again, I'll ask for a room to the back.
I doubt anyonw chooses this hotel for its views - but catering and service are really good.
Breakfast was excellent, and we resumed our work at 9:00 the next morning. Again, an intense day with plenty to digest in terms of information. Lunch break was welcome and the food once more very good.
A little after 3:00 pm, we were back on a taxi on our way to the airport, and just after 6:00 pm, I was aboard the plane that took me back to Stuttgart in about 50 minutes - really just a short hop. It took about another hour to get from the south of Stuttgart, where the airport is, to Ludwigsburg, which is situated north of the big city.

When I closed the door of my flat from the inside, it was precisely 9:00 pm, and I was happy to be home.

Now I need to get ready for a busy day at the office. My clients have work for me, and my colleagues want a summary of what I've been learning over the last two days.

My next flight is not far away - Thursday next week, my sister and I will be flying to England.

Monday 4 March 2019

End of February, Beginning of March

February ended with plenty of sunshine and temperatures around 15 Celsius (59 F) in my area. The 28th, last Thursday, saw me working in Marbach, at my favourite client's. I have shown you pictures of the place (German Literature Archive) before; simply type "Marbach" into the search box in the top left corner of my blog, and you'll find them.

This time, the sun shone on a still rather bleak looking landscape of muted browns and little green; no leaves on the trees yet, and not many flowers out to add some colour to the picture. But on closer inspection, there are signs of spring everywhere, and by the weekend, even the daffodils were out. I hope there will be some left by the time my sister and I arrive in Yorkshire in less than three weeks!

The entire weekend was different from my usual weekends at O.K.'s: It started and ended earlier, and it was all dominated by carnival activities.
It started earlier, because we were invited to a birthday party on the Friday evening, which meant I had to leave work already at around 3:00 pm (instead of my usual 5:00) so that I could be there in time. Thankfully, the trains were only a few minutes late each, so that we weren't the last guests to arrive.
On the invitation, full carnival attire was requested, and so we wore what we'd already worn at last year's carnival dance in the village hall.
I was again the black cat to O.K.'s warlock (you can just see the rim of his hat next to me and a bit of his bright green satin robes on my shoulder).

We slept in on Saturday and then went for a run. This time, we took a route I'd not been running for many months; it is 7 km long (as opposed to last week's 5), and I did reasonably well. The sky was grey with glimpses of sun in between; it was very windy in parts and we were glad of our long running pants.

The first daffies are out in front of O.K.'s cottage!

The rest of Saturday was spent very leisurely with coffee and cake in the afternoon and a delicious selection of cheeses with bread and salad in the evening. We watched a movie and made sure not to go to bed too late, as Sunday was going to be a very full day for O.K.

Traditionally, O.K.'s village is dominated by carnival on the Sunday and Monday. As he plays the trumpet in the village band, he is involved in the parade on Sunday afternoon as well as in the street party (the main road through the village is blocked for cars that day) and the band's performances at various venues. 

We all (the family) had lunch (goulash soup) at his parents'. O.K. then had to leave to get ready for the parade with the band and the other groups, and we went outside to watch. Here they come:

(O.K. is in the picture but you can't see him, which is how he prefers it!)

The street party went on for almost two hours, in spite of it being a relatively small village. Young and old, native villagers and recent move-ins; they were all there, and nearly everyone wore some kind of costume. The children of course had a lot of fun and proudly displayed their princess dresses, astronaut suits and other costumes. The crowd on the street then dissolved, with most people going to the various venues where food, drink and more music was offered, and a few going home.

Just after the parade was the last time I spoke to O.K. - he was then too busy moving from one venue after the other where the band was to play. His sister and her husband kindly took me to the train station just after 5:00, and I arrived home at around 20 to 8 - about 3 hours earlier than usual.

Carnival isn't a big thing in my area, but schools are closed this week and many families take the chance to go on holiday, often skiing. Therefore, I expect a relatively quiet week at work - suits me!