Monday 28 October 2019

The Village Band

Every now and then, I mention here on my blog that O.K. plays the trumpet in the village band. I also have talked about some of the events where the band either play or are part of in some other way, such as the May fête, Carnival parade or in church at Christmas. On top of such regular events throughout the year, the band (or part of it) also play for their members when someone gets married, is celebrating a "big" birthday (starting from 50 onwards) or is put to rest on the village cemetery.

This month, there were two official dates in the band's diary: Performing at a trade show on the 5th of October, and a short concert outside the church in honour of the village's patron saint, Gallus (Saint Gall). You can read about Gallus' life here on wikipedia, if you wish. I am only giving you a few excerpts here from that wikipedia entry: Gallus lived from 550 to 646 - that is a long life even by today's standards, and even more so in those days, when many adults hardly made it to 40.

His origin is unclear - was he Irish, as was widely believed? Or did he really come from the Alsace region, which would explain how he came to be such a popular saint in the region of O.K.'s village, which is close enough to look across the Rhine valley to the French Vosges and the Alsace region? Be it as it may, Gallus has not only his own small chapel in the village. Also the parish church, a baroque building dating from 1763 (built on the grounds of a much older church from the early 14th century), is named after him.

First, though, let me show you a few pictures from the performance at the trade show on the 5th of October. The band were booked for two hours. I listened to the first few pieces and took photos (more or less as the "official" photographer). Then I wandered around the show and came back in time for a late lunch with the musicians. The food was plenty and good. Afterwards, O.K. and I walked around the fair for another hour or so, before meeting up with two other band members to drive back to the village.

"Gallus Day" is always the Sunday closest to the 16th of October. This year, it was the 13th. Sunday mass is held in church, with special emphasis on the patron saint. Afterwards, the village band play outside on the square between the church and the vicarage.

Food and drink is prepared for everyone by the diligent women of the community. It is all handed out for free, but there are small baskets ready to hold whatever monetary contributions people are willing to give (and the baskets never remain empty).

This year, it was almost summerly warm, and there was no rain forecast - perfect for the occasion. It was interesting to observe the preparations, and then to witness how the square became more and more crowded. People were chatty and friendly, and we enjoyed some of the food and drink while listening to the band.
Some food was set aside, so that there would still be something left for the musicians after they finished playing.

The next official engagement for the village band will be their annual concert in December, and then playing at the service in church on Boxing Day. Until then, it is practice, practice, practice! There will even be one entire weekend at the end of November dedicated to band practice; one of the few weekends in the year when O.K. and I won't be seeing each other.

Being part of the band means regular rehearsals and practice sessions; every Wednesday night is firmly set in the diary. If you play an instrument, you will know that once a week is nowhere near enough practice, and you need to work on your skill constantly. Add to that the work involved in organising, setting up and running all those fêtes and similar occasions, and you can see that it is not just about making music - it is much more, and certainly not to everybody's liking. I, as a passive member (meaning I do not play music), am only involved in some of the other work, but I like coming along when the band perform somewhere on a weekend.

Saturday 19 October 2019

Autumn Walks

Since we have returned from our holiday mid-September, autumn has been making progress. For a long time, it seemed as if the green did not want to make room for the golds, yellows, oranges, browns and reds, but then almost over night more and more colours appeared in the gardens, vineyards, orchards and woods.

We made use of the good weather with several walks during the past few weekends. Here is my collection of pictures taken through the end of September up until last Sunday.

Monday, the 16th of September, saw our departure from Austria. This photo shows the view from our hotel room at around 8:00 in the morning. What you see is not a lake, but the morning mist in the valley:

An hour or so later, it looked like this:

Back at work the following week, my colleagues and I went for an after-work drink at the hotel bar next door:

Sunset on the 29th of September, as seen on my way into town to meet a group of former school mates for drinks and a meal:

The 3rd of October is a national holiday in Germany, to remember the re-union of the two Germanies (East and West). O.K. and I went for an afternoon walk from his village to the next:

Sunrise on the 11th of October, as seen from my kitchen window:

Walking in the vineyards not far from O.K.'s village last Sunday:

Thursday 17 October 2019

Read in 2019 - 23, 24

After my last few reviews were usually a three-in-one post, I am now down to a two-in-one - who knows, I might even get back to the time when it was one book, one review, one post.

# 23: Leaving the Comfort Café
Dawn DeAnna Wilson

Another freebie from Amazon's kindle shop, and one I really enjoyed, because it had a lot to offer: A cast of quirky characters with the kind of quirks you find in real people, a well portrayed setting (Conyers, North Carolina - not Conyers, Georgia, where I have a blogging friend!), a series of developments in the small town and for some of the people there, secrets from the past revealed, and of course a love story that is not quite your average boy-meets-girl bit - it completely lacks the improbable gorgeousness of men and women so often described in "chick lit"; people look and feel real in this book (at least they did to me).

The story? Austin Parker, aspiring graphic novel artist who dreams big but achieves small, starts work as town manager in Conyers after his girlfriend leaves for an arts career in New York without ever asking him to come with her.

New in town, he sees the residents like comic book characters. Settling in is not easy, as he really wants to be elsewhere and do something else. When he befriends one of the waitresses at the local café, things begin to change - for both of them, and eventually, for the whole town.

And just when he starts to feel comfortable in his new life, his former girlfriend announces a visit...

There is much more to the story than this quick summary can tell. As I said, I enjoyed it, and found the writing style and editing good. The author's homepage is here.

# 24: Die andere Laura
Anthea Fraser

The German translation of the original "Laura Possessed", I found this a rather gripping read - strangely enough, more so at the beginning than towards the end, when most of the mysteries were already revealed.

What happens? After a car accident and long hospital stay, Laura comes to stay with her brother and his family at their beautiful old country house. Even before stepping through the front door for the first time, Laura feels terrible, and while resting in her room after the journey, has a strange dream. Coming from a rational-minded family, she dismisses both as remnants of the accident and signs that she needs more rest.

But then she encounters the man she saw in her dream, and a chain of events is set in motion that ends up costing the lives of two people, and changing the lives of those involved forever.

It is a ghost story, yes, but not the bloody-scary-demon-curse-type, more on a psychological level. Written in 1974, it is unwillingly but charmingly old fashioned, and I could easily picture everyone and the places where the story was unfolding.

Editing could have been better in this free ebook, but it was just below the threshold of detracting too much from the story.

Anthea Fraser has her own wikipedia entry here.

Monday 14 October 2019

September Holiday - Eigth Day

Our last full day in Austria was the 15th of September, and the warmest day of what had been a series of sunny days. We borrowed bikes from our hotel, and after getting some quick advice from the kind lady at reception, decided on a path along the river Gail, designed specifically for cycling.

View from our room just before 8:00
The first miles were so easy we just happily trundled along in the sunshine, enjoying the beautiful views, fresh air and the fact that we did not have to compete with cars and walkers but had the path largely to ourselves, only every now and then encountering other cyclists.

A few times, the path lead through picturesque villages, but mostly it was along the river

Looking back towards where our hotel is, on the slope of the mountain.

O.K. had been in the area before and remembered a place with a cable car and a summer toboggan run. We saw road signs for it and agreed that it would to be fun to go up there by cable car and go down by toboggan.

There was hardly anyone about at the cable car station in the valley. We paid for our tickets and had one cable car to ourselves. This was not the kind of open chair lift that I've shown you before, and taking photos out of the cabin was not feasible with the reflection of the cabin windows (and the dirt on them), but there were going to be plenty of photo opportunities once we were up there.

We remained on board all the way up to the highest point of the cable car, and then spent some time looking and walking around. The cross is at a height of 1,909 m, the peak is called Matritschn.

It was very touristy up there, as it usually is when a place is both beautiful and made easily accessible.

The toboggan run is designed so that you sit on a "toboggan" (like a small cart without wheels, just one person at a time) and it runs on a fixed rail, you can not choose your own route or go wrong or fall off. It is a lot of fun, and I would have loved to do it again instantly, after initially I had been (needlessly) worried a little about how I was going to fare. (Sorry - no pictures - I needed both my hands to hold fast.)
By now, we were in need for something refreshing and some caffein, and cycled a few miles more into the small town of Hermagor, where we had ice coffee at a café in the sun. This was most welcome, as we had been on our bikes for about 30 km then.

Going back the 30 km to our hotel was really demanding - the cycling path goes uphill ever so slightly; you can't really see it, but your legs will know it, especially after you have already been cycling in the sun all day! We still made it back to the hotel in time for a quick trip to the sauna before dinner. I guess it goes without saying that I slept like a log that night!