Thursday 30 July 2020

Solar Energy and Other Things

This post is a mixed bag of pictures and things I did and saw between the 18th and the 22nd of July.

But first things first - I said I was going to show you my new short hair cut. It is not all that "new" - I've been having my hair cut short almost every year, as it is just not good hair for wearing it long. Now it really is dry within ten minutes out of the shower, which is very practical when I have a late shower after an evening run, or want to be ready to leave the house early-ish in the morning. Don't mind my daft facial expression - I can't help it!

My sister took this picture of me on July 22, after we had finished eating delicious veggie burgers at the farm shop / restaurant nearby, nicely breaking up an after-work walk.

Let's quickly pop back to July 18, a warm and sunny Saturday. O.K. and I spent the weekend at my place, and went on an evening walk to a beer garden (which was overcrowded, but we found a table on the terrace of a nearby pizzeria) and to enjoy the sunset, which we did:

On the 19th, we walked through the deer park and the palace grounds, where I took the pictures of the sand sculptures in my previous post. Just before entering the deer park, I could not resist taking a (not very good) picture of this sunflower field:

Monday, the 20th, was spent entirely in Stuttgart. It was rather hot and not the ideal day to be in the big city, but I didn't have a choice; another one of my clients had asked me to work with them for the day. All went well there, too; there were only a handful of us sharing a large, airy conference room, and of course nobody shook hands.

On the 21st, a friend needed to talk and came visiting after work. She stayed for about an hour, which meant I was out walking a little later than usual - just in time for the most beautiful evening light:

The next day, Wednesday (22.07.), saw me once more walking on the fields with my sister. I was home at 9:30 pm after a nice meal and a beautiful walk in good company.

For the last part of our walk, we chose the solar "farm" at the outskirts of town. This was or is a big project for Ludwigsburg. According to the information board, it is part of a communal project to protect the climate, by the name of SolarHeatGrid. The fields with rows and rows of solar panels were finished earlier this year, and they claim it is the largest outdoor solar thermal site in Germany.
The picture shows only one of several fields. They may not be to everybody's taste, but seen from the viewing platform and walkway constructed at one side, they have their very own aesthetic value, I think.
Also, if it's good for the climate, it is good for us!

The board informs the interested reader that the entire SolarHeatGrid project saves 3,700 tons of CO2 every year, the equivalent of 1.6 million litres of fuel, a forest area as large as 470 football fields or 500 trips around the Earth by car.

Wednesday 29 July 2020

Built On Sand

Actually, made of sand: This year's sand sculptures in the palace grounds of my home town have "Animals" as their theme. (Last year, it was Fairytales; you can look at them here, if you like.)

As always, we have come across them quite by chance, not having thought about the "Sand Worlds Festival" being on. With our season's tickets, we can just pop in and have a walk in the palace grounds any day, even if just for half an hour, or using the park as a shortcut when wanting to reach the parts of town that are East of the palace, such as the hospital and cemetery.
I'm not overly fond of this one, too much of a caricature for me.
Beautifully made, look at the ears!
The whales and dolphins left me a little sad - their set-up reminded me too much of the poor beached animals that we sometimes hear and see about in the news:


A gathering of pets.
The mouse was my favourite.

These two - Äffle & Pferdle (monkey and horse) - are famous cartoon figures in this part of Germany. They have been appearing on TV since 1960 in short clips at the start and end of the adverts block and soon became a firm favourite for viewers of all age. They talk in our Swabian dialect, and their little clips often depict one of them making a funny or silly statement which the other one comments on - and sometimes their statements aren't quite so stupid at second glance. Sometimes they sing - and one of their songs has become a big hit (Hafer und Bananen-Blues - "oats and banana blues").

We enjoyed our Sunday afternoon walk (this was on the 19th of this month, when O.K. was here for the weekend); there were people about, but it was not exactly packed, as it would have normally been on such a day, with busloads of tourists crowding the park.

Today is an important day for me: For the first time since March 17, I will be working at the office of my bread-and-butter client. I know they have all the measures in place you would expect, and I do not feel uneasy, just strange - after so much time working from home, I am going to see the people there face to face again instead of on video calls. I wonder how much dust my desk has collected!

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Read in 2020 - 15: Engulfed

by Kathleen M. Cosgrove

The first in a series, "Engulfed" introduces the reader to Maggie Finn, a rather chaotic, clumsy woman of middle age whose actual work for a paper leaves her with enough time and energy on her hands to investigate crimes and mysteries.

In this book, Maggie's parents have decided to move to a retirement place where the residents can spend their days playing golf and sipping cocktails under the Florida sun.
Maggie moves to the now almost empty house of her parents for a week or so to make sure everything goes according to plan before they go straight to their new place after a holiday.

Strange things happen - upon her arrival at the retirement place, body parts are found; Maggie is drugged via laced sweets smuggled into her handbag; an elderly lady goes missing, and a man who has been following Maggie around turns up dead.
At first glance, none of these events seem to be linked, but of course Maggie finds out that they all are - in what seems a rather far-fetched manner (but everything is explained at the end of the book, just how I like it with mysteries).

The cast include an ex-police officer turned hippie, a senator secretly performing at a drag club, an assortment of more or less interesting residents at the retirement place, a detective whose mixed Latin/Jewish ancestry is an endless source of "witty" remarks for the author, and of course Maggie herself.

Although I did enjoy the book on several train rides and while having my colour done at the hairdresser's, I don't think I will go looking for the next one in this series, not even if - like this one - it will be a free find at the kindle shop.

The clumsiness and talent of the heroine to harm herself (and a few others along the way) is just too over the top for me, and meant to be funny (which it is only sometimes). The detective uttering "meshugga" every other sentence is just too stereotype (I don't know anyone Jewish but I doubt they throw yiddish terms into their conversation all the time). The unraveling of the mystery is done well enough, and I liked some of the characters; it is just not really my cup of tea altogether. (And editing could have been better, although I have seen much, much worse.)

I'd say it is an undemanding holiday read, if you like this sort of book.

If you are interested, Amazon has some information about the author here.

Friday 24 July 2020

55 years, 1 week and 1 day

That is the amount of time my parents have been married now! I mentioned their 55th wedding anniversary last Thursday on this post, but I wrote that in the morning, before I saw them that evening.

In 1965, most brides had carnations or roses. My parents decided against a traditional bridal bouquet and instead went for what grew on the fields and meadows at that time of year: red roses, blue corn flowers, white and yellow oxeye daisies and wheat stalks. 

July 16, 1965
As mentioned before, my Mum was almost 21 and my Dad was 23.

July 16, 2020
Year after year for their wedding anniversary, my Dad gave my Mum a bouquet of the same flowers - with the exception of one year, when my Mum was in hospital with a broken elbow. That was the only time he forgot their anniversary, and understandably so, with all the upheaval that accident brought with it.

With all his health issues, my Dad has not been able to go out and buy flowers for a while now. I still wanted to have my parents their wedding bouquet and spoke to a florist in town, near enough for me to walk there after work and pick up the flowers. The florist was enthusiastic about the idea and re-created the original bouquet as closely as she could, after the picture I emailed her. Roses and corn flowers were no trouble, but oxeye daisies were not to be had (her wholesaler told her of a fungus currently spreading on those particular flowers), so she chose white gerbera with a pale yellow center instead. After shutting the shop for the day, she went out on the fields and picked a few wheat stalks herself - wasn't that nice?

I think the bouquet turned out beautifully, and it was really a nice surprise when I handed it over to my parents that evening.
Horse Market, May 2016
There were only six of us, and of course each of the four guests brought beautiful flowers, not just me. We had delicious food delivered from a catering service and refreshing drinks; sparkling wine for starters, and a light, fruity rosé with the food.
We used the dinnerware that was my parents' wedding present back in 1965.
It was a lovely celebration, and with there being only a small number of people, we were able to keep the recommended distance in my parents' spacious open-plan kitchen/dining/living area.
One of my favourite pictures of my parents, Horse Market, May 2012
Next in our family diary is my Mum's birthday on August 12 - she will be 76.

Monday 20 July 2020

Tuesday Evening Walk

After I had been walking north of Ludwigsburg in the direction of Marbach on Monday, I went south on Tuesday. It was another warm day, not overly hot, and overcast for good part of the day and evening, but dry. 
Work had been busy as usual, and I was really looking forward to getting away from my desk and the computer screen, stretching my legs and resting my eyes and mind.

Unlike my Monday walk, I had no particularly clear idea in mind about which path(s) I wanted to walk, just the general direction. After a very familiar route past the nursery (shown several times before on my blog), on a whim I decided to walk straight on, past more fields belonging to a different gardener than the one who owns the nursery.

I followed that same path until I reached a road which I did not wish to cross or walk along, so that marked my turning point. For the way back, I choose a zig-zag course of dusty field tracks and paved narrow lanes, first unknown, then more familiar until I reached home again, a bit more than two hours after I'd set off. 

The sign explains that barley for brewing beer is grown here. It also explains about how beer is made, and that it takes about 2 kg of barley to make one crate of beer. That equals four square metres on the field and costs about 40 euro cents.
Only about 15 minutes away from home
Many cyclists and walkers, with and without dogs, were around, but I had also long-ish stretches where I did not see anyone else. One elderly couple on bikes crossed my path (or I crossed theirs) twice; the second time, they called out to me and greeted me like old friends.
At one of the farms, a black and white cat was resting on a warm stone wall. We spoke briefly, and it came up for a stroke before I walked on and it went back to its look-out on the wall.

Back in time for the main TV news and something to eat, and later of course the customary week-nightly phone call with O.K. That was my Tuesday, a very average and ordinary - and pleasant - day.

Saturday 18 July 2020

Another After-Work Walk

On Monday, I decided to try a walk I had been meaning to do for a long time. The idea has been coming back to me every time I take the train to Marbach, to work at the German Literature Archive; I've been there only two weeks ago, on the 1st of July.
The railway tracks going out of Ludwigsburg towards Marbach take you through a mix of small towns and countryside that I really like - actually, it is more or less the area where my sister and I went walking in May, as shown here.
Every time on those train rides to Marbach I observe how the path mostly follows the rail track, sometimes a bit further off between the fields, sometimes much closer, and on Monday I finally went and tried to walk it.

It was a warm and sunny day, 27 C (80 F), and I made sure to take a bottle of tap water along. Also, I had a clean face mask in my bag, my wallet (just in case) and my mobile phone - needed mainly to take photos, but also to track my walk so that I could later see on a map exactly where I'd been.

The first part of the walk was noisy and dusty until I reached the end of Eglosheim (the northern suburb of Ludwigsburg). From there on, it was mostly fields and orchards, gardens and even a tiny bit of woodland - varied, and very enjoyable.

View towards Freiberg-Beihingen, where my sister and I walked in May.

Coming up towards Benningen

Once or twice I had to retrace my steps as the path that I thought would move on ended up at private property. One friendly man who was watering his front garden showed me a short cut across a grassy field so that I would not have to walk around all the way.

Later, I briefly chatted to an elderly couple who were out walking; there were several possibilities to walk on, and they advised me on the most "scenic" path, leading along a small nature reserve, the last two pictures above.

When I had set off from home, I had not yet decided on whether I would walk all the way to Marbach or stop earlier, but I was quite sure about taking the train back instead of walking the same route again.

By the time I reached Benningen - the last train stop before Marbach -, I still felt fine, but a certain tiredness made itself felt, plus I was looking forward to the salad of baby spinach leaves, red pepper and cucumber I had planned for my tea.

I was lucky in that I had to wait only about 10 minutes for the next train, using that time to finish my bottle of water.

Home in time for having my salad in front of the main tv news, it had been a really good walk of 11.5 km (just over 7 miles) and one that I think I will take another time.