Friday, 10 July 2020

A Bit More...

...of my summer so far, and what has been going on here. 
Also, say good-bye to the longer hair with these last two pictures of me from before yesterday, when I've had it cut short (really short), much better for this season.

The one on my parents' balcony was taken Tuesday of this week. Why am I having an Apérol Spritz on a Tuesday evening, you may ask? It was a mini celebration of sorts: My parents have had a balcony make-over, namely the floor. You'll see in the next series of pictures how the old concrete slabs (the original ones from 1988, when the house was built) have been covered in snazzy new decking.

It does not just look good, it also feels nice underfoot, warm and smooth to the bare sole. This was done Friday last week, and when it rained on Sunday, my Mum assured me that the wooden planks are not slippery when wet.

Then there are of course the obligatory sunsets, taken from the allotment of O.K.'s parents last weekend.

Just before the UFO landed ;-)

And last but not least, for the first time in months I felt like shopping, and splashed out on two pairs of sandals, simply because I could not decide whether I prefer the yellow or the grey ones.
Now I'm afraid something is wrong with them and I'll have to take them back... see for yourselves:

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

My Summer So Far

The end of June saw me and my sister out on after-work-walks a few times. Restaurants and cafés are open again over here, but we are not keen on sitting indoors just yet, with all the restrictions about distance, masks and disinfecting still in place. Good job then that there are several beer gardens close enough to walk to!

We went to one near our town on June 23, a Tuesday, to have a refreshing shandy and a meal. The food was excellent, mixed salad with a tasty dressing, and the falafel were special: not made of chick peas, but of hokkaido pumpkin! So fluffy and soft inside, crispy on the outside, freshly made and hot - I am definitely going to be back for more there before this summer is over.

Another after-work walk the very next day took me and an old school friend to the palace grounds. I love the late afternoon / early evening light, and the always beautiful park is even more beautiful then. There were relatively few people about.

We don't get to see storks often in this area, whereas it is hard NOT to spot storks in O.K.'s part of the country, unless you deliberately choose to ignore them. This one looked beautiful against the clear blue sky:

The following week, on the 29th of June, I was back at the palace grounds for another after-work stroll, this time with my sister, who took my picture.

The 1st of July was very hot, and it was not only the first of the month - for me, it was also the first time I was NOT working from home since March 17! On that day, I went to work at the Literature Archive in Marbach. Walking from the train station to the archive takes about 15-20 minutes, and it is not a strenuous walk, but I was uncomfortably hot by the time I arrived there just after 10:00 in the morning. 
All went well; everyone walking around in the building was wearing a mask, and the meeting room was so large that the six or eight of us had plenty of distance (masks were taken off for the meeting). There was disinfectant spray provided, and we were all required to disinfect our own tables before leaving the room, and make sure the room was well aired before and after the meeting.
I felt perfectly safe there, and it was nice to actually see my clients face to face again after several months.

It will still be a while before I'll even consider going back to the other office, where I have much less space and many more meetings throughout an average day. So far, that particular client has not yet requested me to work on-site; everything has been done from home without problems. As far as I'm concerned, it can stay that way for as long as possible.

Later that day, I went running with my regular "running buddy". Well - that was our intention, but we ended up walking most of the second half of our circuit; it was simply too hot. The sunset was rather beautiful, first as seen from the street where Ludwigsburg ends and the fields begin, looking west, and then from my kitchen window, looking east:

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Pictures of June

A beautiful month with a healthy mix of sun and rain, that was June for me. 
After-work walk on June 8, on the fields near Ludwigsburg
Near O.K.'s village, also on June 8

It was also the month when many of the lockdown rules in this country were lifted. For instance, we are now allowed to have private gatherings of up to 20 people, no matter from how many different households they come. As good as all shops and restaurants are open again, and many have returned to their work places after a period of furlough or working from home.
For my part, I have still been working exclusively from home, but tomorrow - July 1st - I have my first on-site appointment with a client since mid-March.

Ludwigsburg palace grounds, June 19
Deer park, Ludwigsburg, the same day

In town, things look and feel almost "normal". 
There are still markings on shop floors to show customers how far away from each other they have to queue at checkout, and wearing masks inside shops and on public transport is still mandatory. But the number of people going about their business in town is as high as "before", and road traffic is completely back to normal, if not more - some of those who were using public transport before prefer their own cars now.

Black Forest, June 20

From some of the blogs I regularly read I learn how different things are in other countries. I am still not sure whether lifting most of the restrictions here has been such a good idea; we have hot spots and massive outbreaks in some parts of the country, and it makes me feel uncomfortable when there are many people around, especially if they carelessly do not wear masks and walk past or stand closer than they should.

But away from the crowded areas, it is beautiful, and I really have enjoyed this month a lot - especially as there was some extra time with two Bank Holidays (on the 1st and on the 11th of this month). It would have also been the month of my annual Yorkshire holiday, but of course, travelling like that was (and still is) completely off the cards. 

After a period of quietness, with walks my only after-work-activity, I have begun meeting friends again; one to one as well as in small groups. Last week, I had some appointment or other every day after work - just like before. I am not sure I want this busy life back; at least not just yet. This week is quieter again, and I try not to allow my diary to fill up with as much "out and about" things as before.

What was June like for you?

Friday, 26 June 2020

Read in 2020 - 14: Die Zwölf vom Dachboden

Die Zwölf vom Dachboden
Pauline Clarke

I remember having seen this book many times at the school library when I was a kid, but it never interested me enough to borrow and read it. What's different now?
Recently, I have been reading a biographical novel about the Bronte family and watched a matching DVD; my reviews for both are here. And in April, during this walk with my sister, I came across the book quite by chance, and of course couldn't leave it there.

It is the German translation of the book "The Twelve and the Genii" by Pauline Clarke, an English author who died in 2013. 
First published in 1962, it tells the story of the twelve toy soldiers the Bronte siblings owned and which sparked their literary efforts. The four children made up an entire fantasy world for their soldiers, giving them individual names and character traits, and wrote miniature books and magazines for them, detailing their history and adventures. 
For them, the soldiers were real people and very much alive, and that is what happens when 8-year-old Oliver* finds them in the attic of the old farmhouse in Yorkshire where he has just moved with his family.

At first, the tiny wooden men come alive only for Oliver. He does not know about their origin, but then he learns more and more about the Bronte family from nearby Haworth, and does not doubt that these are indeed the soldiers that once belonged to the siblings.

When an American professor offers a lot of money and wants to take them to the USA, Oliver knows he has to act - the soldiers' home is the parsonage in Haworth, and that's where they should be.

This is a children's book and the story was easy enough to guess at from the start, but it was a nice read although I was not too keen on the descriptions of the soldiers' parading up and down the attic and their aggressive thirst for military adventures. Still, I enjoyed it, and do not consider the 2 € I spent on the book a waste.

I guess this will be the last of my Bronte-related reading for a while; there are two new books on my TBR pile waiting for me, on very different subjects.

* Max in the English original - I wonder why his name was translated; Max is a perfeclty good name in German, too.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Hahn & Henne

Hahn & Henne is German for cock & hen, meaning really just that - the male and female of the species. It is also the brand name of a type of tableware originating from the small Black Forest town of Zell. The pattern is over 100 years old and still going strong. You can see pictures and learn more about it here. (The company have translated it as "Rooster and Hen" - I wonder why!) I remember we had a few pieces at home when I was a kid, and I think my parents still have the large coffee mug.

Zell is about half an hour's drive from O.K.'s village. On Friday, the 12th of May, we both had the day off; Thursday, the 11th (Ascension) was a Bank Holiday, and for us a good opportunity to turn it into a long weekend of four days that we could spend together.

The day was sunny and hot, 28 C (82 F), so a woodland walk/hike was a good idea. We decided to start from Zell and walk the Hahn & Henne route. Yes, there is a walk/hike/circuit named after the famous tableware, spanning about 14 km and taking in beautiful views across the Black Forest. Some bits are rather steep, but most of the time, the path is pleasant - and well signposted throughout!

There are many benches and other signs along the path to remind the walker that this is indeed the Hahn & Henne circuit:

Beautiful meadows, close to where we stopped to have our packed lunch:

The building below is called Vogt auf Mühlstein, a farm/guest house/restaurant that has been catering for the needs of walkers, hikers, cyclists and busloads of tourists for about a 100 years. In itself, the place is much older; first mention of a homestead here dates back to the year 712. Much of the building today is from around 1774.
A chapel (unfortunately behind the trees in my picture) was built next to the house in 1903. The door was open, and I took this picture of the sun painted on the ceiling and the words on the wall: Lobsinget dem Herrn ihr Berge und Täler, meaning "Praise the Lord, you mountains and valleys".

I was fascinated by the moss-covered old roof of one of the outbuildings:

The place was brimming with visitors, now that restaurants etc. are allowed to be open again - too many for our liking, and so we merely bought two bottles of shandy to drink on a bench in the shade and then walked on.

At one point, we spotted the castle we went to on our longest hike back in May; it is visible in the distance between the two trees:

You can see it better zoomed in:

As we were obviously not the only people to have taken that particular Friday off and had the idea to do the Hahn & Henne circuit, there were many other walkers and cyclists about. But there were still parts of the route where we were on our own and had only the sound of birdsong for company. 

Back home in time for coffee and cake on the balcony and later a delicious BBQ for just the two of us rounded up this perfect early summer's day.