Monday, 21 June 2021

A Sunday Worth Its Name

Sunday last week (the 13th of June) was a summer's day out of a picture book: Blue sky from sunrise to sunset, temperatures not too hot at about 25 C (77 F), and a slight breeze every now and then.

It was also the first time in many months that O.K. and I met with other than just our immediate families. In the village, there are three couples more or less our age who live on the same street as us, and although we lead very different lives, we get along really well and are never short of topics to talk about, and laugh.

During the past year, we have only ever bumped into them while out for walks and stopped for brief chats, never visiting each other. Now that infection numbers have gone down considerably in this country and many restrictions have been lifted, two of them have invited the whole group (eight in all) to their allotment for breakfast on Sunday morning.

With chairs and tables all out in the open, we felt fine about meeting them (no handshakes and hugs of course). Everyone brought something; in the end, there was way too much food (as is usually the case with such events), and our "breakfast" lasted until almost 4:00 in the afternoon :-)

It was a beautiful day, and the right kind of thing to take my mind off the upcoming operation for a bit. Not that I was overly worried, but I guess you know what it's like when you have something coming up and keep going on about it in your mind.

The whole week leading up to that Sunday had been good, weather-wise, and I am including a few pictures taken during the week on after-work walks.

On the fields around Ludwigsburg on Thursday, the 10th:

Sunday, the 13th, view from our friends' allotment:

The above is maybe my favourite photo of this summer so far. To me, it epitomises summer at its best.

In a bit, I will be on my way to Stuttgart to see my own eye doctor for the first time since the operation. I wonder whether she will confirm what my impression is, that the immediate result after the operation has not remained, but that the eye has gone back a few dioptres again, which is entirely normal from what the doctor at the clinic said. We shall see (literally). No matter what, it will still be tons better than what it was before the operation.

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Fox News

No, not the US TV station I won't recommend you watch, but news about the fox mentioned and shown in my previous post.

The letter my sister wrote to our local newspaper was printed unabridged, word for word, next to another reader's letter about the same topic. On social media, all hell broke lose, and even PETA (an animal protection organisation) spoke up for "our" fox. The next day, another article in the paper followed. Now all of a sudden everyone agrees that the fox is not dangerous, and even if the palace grounds manager still sticks to his opinion that the park is not the right place for this kind of wildlife, there is no talk of having the fox shot anymore. Instead, they will try to catch it and move it elsewhere. Also, just in passing, the article mentions that shooting foxes is not allowed between April and August anyway. Duh!

So, yes, Hooray!!! Our fox seems to be safe for the moment. Hopefully, nobody will put poisoned food out to make it look like the fox just "disappeared".


In other news, I have had my eye surgery (left eye) on Tuesday morning. All went well. I am fine, still with a bit of discomfort (as was to be expected) but not in too much pain. The check-up on Wednesday morning showed nothing unusual, but it could be that things turn out even better than what the operation aimed for: From -14, my eyesight has been tested at -1,75 yesterday morning, with the original aim at -2,5!

It is VERY difficult and exhausting to have one eye still at -9 and the other freshly operated and at -1,75. I am allowed to read, watch TV and use the computer as long as I feel fine with it, but of course I can do only so much and only for a short time. I am also allowed to walk (I had to, in order to get to my check-up appointment and back), but nothing strenuous, and I have to be very careful with too much light.

Before: Monday evening, last meal before the operation.

After: Tuesday around 11:30, back home after the operation.

After: Wednesday after check-up.

Summer flowers in my mini garden.

Flowers delivered from Mum & Dad.

So I am spending my time like a vampire in a darkened flat, moving around a bit but resting a lot, which is the best I can do now that we have temperatures around 30 Celsius anyway.

My Mum came visiting yesterday, followed an hour or so later by my sister. Flowers were delivered from my Mum and Dad, and my sister took the faded spring flowers out of the mini-garden she gave me for my birthday in March and planted summer flowers for me.

Everybody is looking out for me, and I feel very well cared for.

Don't be fooled by my "complete" look - it will take weeks before I will be able to do more than half an hour or so at the computer, and I am determined not to let work get in the way of my full recovery. My eyes are too important to risk any negative long-term effects, if I can help it!

Next Monday, I will see my usual doctor (the first check-up was at the hospital where I was operated). And now, it is time for breakfast!

Saturday, 12 June 2021

Flowers and Foxes

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know how much I love the palace grounds of my home town. Their official name is "Bl├╝hendes Barock", meaning "baroque in bloom" or "blooming baroque" - you will find both version on the official website with plenty of pictures and information in English, if you are interested.

For weeks and weeks now, the gates to the park only opened for those who had been either tested negative less than 24 hours ago, fully vaccined or officially recovered from a Covid infection not longer than half a year ago. Sounds complicated? It was, and it kept me from going there. There is still no vaccine in sight for me, and I can't be bothered to stand in the queue at one of the officially recognised testing centers just for a stroll in the park.

But on Wednesday, those restrictions fell, and you bet the first thing my sister and I did after work was to walk across town and finally enter our beloved palace grounds again!

There were hardly any other people about, just a few families with kids and one elderly lady who enthused to us about how beautiful it was and how much she enjoyed being able to come here again - just like us.

But someone else was about! My sister had read about this new resident at the park on our local paper's instagram presence. A young fox had been spotted a few times by lone visitors over the past few weeks. She had sent me the link to the picture on instagram, and I was hoping - but not really expecting - to encounter the fox, too.

And guess what - we did!! Bending a corner of one of the paths in the more overgrown part of the park, we saw a movement ahead: It was the fox! He or she was obviously not bothered by us, and walked so close to us before a family of children came up from the other end of the path and made him/her disappear into the shrubbery. 

Hopefully, the video my sister made works for you:

It was the closest I have ever come to a fox, and I won't ever forget it! 

My only worry is that, with more people having access to the park again, someone will either see him (or her) as a potential threat to their children or be upset about the fox killing a young duck or other wildlife in the park, complaining to the authorities and demanding the fox' removal. Or, even worse, someone will lay out poisoned food or harm him/her otherwise. Anyway, I just hope the fox will know better than to get any closer to the park's visitors! On the other hand, of course I also hope we will meet again - just without anyone else present (except for my sister and O.K.).


Minutes after I finished writing this post, I checked the online issue of our local paper and promptly found an article about the "Unwanted Guest". 

Apparently, it is not the first time a fox makes his or her way over to the palace grounds from the deer park on the other side of the very busy main road. And apparently, it is not the first time they take measures to get rid of them. The park manager is quoted in the article saying that the fox is going to be shot by the local game warden, of course at a time when the park is closed for visitors. They say the park is no place for foxes. Well, maybe not; but is shooting the best they can think of? How about setting a live trap and moving the fox to a place that is better suited to wildlife? 

My sister has already written to the paper, asking just that. Every now and then, a letter written by my Mum, my sister or myself has made it into print. We wonder whether it will happen this time, or what the general reaction to the article will be.

Thursday, 10 June 2021

An Unusual Weekend

Last weekend was unusual in that, for the first time in a long time, we did not go for a long walk or hike. We were at O.K.'s, and part of the time was spent doing jobs around his parents' house, such as cutting the ivy that was getting very much out of hand. I found another bird's nest (empty, of course) to add to the one I used this year for my Easter decoration.

Saturday started sunny but it was rather windy, and rain was forecast. The original idea had been to have a family BBQ at the allotment of O.K.'s parents, located just outside the village at the edge of the woods. But we decided against having it there, as there would have been no proper shelter. Instead, benches and a table as well as the grill were set up in front of the house. O.K. parked his car outside so that in case of rain we could quickly move into his garage - which we ended up doing long before the meat was done.

O.K. and his father bravely manned the grill in pouring rain, one of them holding an umbrella so that the other one could turn the meat over and look after the fire. It was fun, with food and drink being nice as always, and plenty to talk and laugh. Typically, the rain stopped not long after we had finished.

In the picture you can see the set-up before we moved to the garage. Look at the clouds gathering behind the house at the top end of the garden! The raised bed to the right was built last year by O.K. as a present for his mother's 80th birthday.

Sunday saw more rain. We tried to sneak in a walk around the village between showers, but what had begun as a slight drizzle developed into more while we were out, cutting our walk short. Never mind, I managed to finish the book I have reviewed in my previous post.

The picture above is from O.K.'s balcony, taken on Saturday morning when we were able to have coffee outside. O.K. recently bought new chairs, after the old ones were about 25 years old with the metal rusty and the arm rests beginning to flake. My contribution were the cushions, two with the pattern as shown in the photo and two without, just green, to mix and match. That weekend was the first time we used them.

Taking the usual train home on Monday morning, I was pleased that everything was on time, and I was at my desk half an hour before the first meeting of the day started.

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Read in 2021 - 5: In Good Faith

In Good Faith

#2 in the Joe Dillard Series

by Scott Pratt


A free ebook that for some reason sounded interesting enough from the brief summary that I downloaded it some years ago, I did want to know how it was going to work out but was not overwhelmed. 

Solid writing, the courtroom and procedure bits clearly based on how things are really done, as well as the main characters based on the author and his family; and yet, not entirely my cup of tea.

The story in short: Joe Dillard, a former defense attorney, turns prosecutor and is assigned a case that touches on everything dear to him, nearly costing him his own life during the showdown with the person responsible for several murders.

Needless to say, all turns out well in the end, and of course the reader is aware of this from the start - or it wouldn't be a series. There are still a few surprises along the road, and the suspense is definitely there.

Not a must-read, but a can-read, and it did not at all matter that I had not read #1 in the series. It made for a good read during several train rides and on a rainy Sunday afternoon when a walk was not a good idea.

The author's website is here, now managed by his son (Scott Pratt and his wife both died a few years ago). I had never heard of him before but have read through the handful of blog posts on his site, finding them rather touching.

Monday, 31 May 2021

Half Time

It is half time for me - two weeks since I have been back from my May holiday at O.K.'s, and another two weeks to work before the first eye OP on June 15 (the second is four weeks later, on July 13).

As always, easing back into the daily routine of getting up early and spending the day at my desk with a more or less tight schedule of virtual meetings to work through, with tasks to work on before and after each meeting, was a mix of "it feels as if I've never been away" and "I want to keep the relaxed mindset from my holidays a while longer" - I am sure you all know that to some extent.

Right on my first day back at work (Monday, May 17), I was scheduled for an appointment with my eye doctor, which meant taking time out of work to get to Stuttgart and back on top of it all - not exactly convenient, but necessary. There is one more appointment waiting before my operation: meeting the anaesthesist. That is going to happen the week after next, a few days before the OP. 

I wish I could report that I have also an appointment for my first Covid jab, but the situation here is unchanged; far too little vaccine for far too many who want to be vaccinated. I keep trying, but there are others who really need it much more than I do, and I am not in a panic to get that jab at all cost.

During that first week back, I had something lined up after work three evenings in a row and was glad when Friday came round and I had the evening to myself. O.K. had a very busy week, too, and worked long on Friday so that he decided to come to my place on Saturday. That weekend was very pleasant with more sun than what we'd seen all week, several walks and a family meal at my parents' on Sunday evening.

Thursday (May 20), a quick and drizzly after-work walk with my sister

Saturday (May 22), on the fields just after 5:00 pm

Monday (May 24), at the former royal horse stables

Wednesday (May 26), Azalea spotted during an after-work walk

Thursday (May 27), just before sunset

Saturday (May 29), Castle Hohenasperg

Same time, same place, the view across Asperg towards Ludwigsburg

A few hours later, resting on the grass

Yesterday (May 30), a few minutes to sunset

The following week (we're talking about last week now) saw me visiting my biggest client at their office for the first time this year. I spent several hours there, some of the time on my own at "my" office, but the largest part of the afternoon with two others dotted around a very big meeting room and two more joining us online. While it was actually good to be at the office for a change, the train trips to and from work were as chaotic as ever. This made me once more glad that I can work from home most of the time! 

We had a sunny weekend at my place with good long walks both Satuday and Sunday. It is finally warmer, and of course everybody was out and about; too many cyclists fighting for space (and usually winning against pedestrians) on the paths around my town, but I understand their desire to enjoy fresh air and sunshine. After all, that is exactly what we wanted, too, only that I would avoid certain paths by bike on a sunny Sunday afternoon; it is not much fun riding your bike when you have to swerve around groups of people all the time. And with a bit of consideration from both sides, it should be possible for all to have a good time.

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Back Home

On Friday, the 14th of May, O.K. went back to work and I took the morning train home. It was the same train I usually take on a Monday morning after a weekend at O.K.'s, and so I had this "Monday morning" feeling for much of the day, even though I was not working. I am sure you all know what that is like - something you normally do on a certain day of the week happens on a different day, but you keep thinking (or it keeps feeling) like that usual certain day, and you have to remind yourself of what day it actually is.

Anyway, both trains were almost empty and punctual on the dot, so that I was home at 9:30 am. Before I started to unpack, I first checked on the mini garden my sister had planted for me as a birthday present. My downstairs neighbour had been taking care of my plants and my mail, and I was happy to see that the flowers were in great condition.

My sister knew I was coming home that day, and we had been talking about getting together for a longer walk than what we regularly do after work. So, 1 1/2 hours after I had arrived home, I was back at the train station, meeting up with her. We took a local train into Stuttgart and a tram to a part of the city where I had never been before. That is, by the way, not unusual for me - even though I have lived almost all my life close to Stuttgart, there are many areas where I would not find my way around without looking at a map, and where I have never been before.

Stuttgart is the capital of the federal state where I live (Baden-W├╝rttemberg). It is much bigger than my hometown; Ludwigsburg has about 90,000 inhabitants, while Stuttgart has around 635,000. As a teenager, I often went to the big city with my friends, doing what teenagers like to do - shopping (for clothes and music), hanging out with our friends, or at night for clubbing. Later, my trips there became few and far between, and now are mostly limited to seeing my eye doctor or (in pre-Covid times) for special occasions such as a concert, theatre, the opera or ballet. O.K. and I have a favourite shop where we like to browse and also stop for a meal, but of course it has been shut for months like everything else.

Anyway, on that day we were not looking for shops but wanted to walk a circuit I had come across on a blog I regularly read.

It is around a small nature reserve at the edge of the city, one of many green areas dotted around Stuttgart. Again, the weather was so unsettled we wore our rain jackets (and needed them!).

The first part of the circuit was through woodland, very beautiful and filled with birdsong against city traffic humming in the background.

We could never forget how close to the city (actually within the city's boundaries) we still were, but somehow that had its very own aesthetic quality.

It was not a very long walk, but we enjoyed it and it certainly was different! Also, the plan had never been to be out all day, as I had only just arrived back home and needed to get a few things done such as food shopping, washing etc. It was definitely a nice way to start the last weekend before going back to work.

Friday, 21 May 2021

A Long Walk

At about 18 km, the longest walk or hike we went on during this year's May holiday was a lot shorter than the 30+-kilometer walk of last year. It took us to a place I first visited in June 2016, a few months after O.K. and I got to know each other. You can read about it here. It was also our first hike in 2020, and I could have sworn we've been back once more since then, but there was no entry about it in my diary and nothing on my blog, so I must have dreamt it!

Anyway, there we were on Wednesday, the 12th of May, starting from the same parking space O.K. likes to use for this particular walk.

The weather was no surprise and no different from what most of the previous few weeks had been like, a fast-changing mix of clouds and sunrays, with the odd shower to be expected (but not reaching us this time).

Even if it is not very steep, the long uphill stretch (5.5 km) from the parking lot to the tower (Moosturm) had me wanting a rest before climbing the steep spiral staircase inside the tower.

As it was a weekday, we met few other people along the way, and there was nobody around the tower when we arrived on top of the hill, giving us free choice of where we wanted to unpack our sandwiches. We chose the shelter you can see to the left in this top-down view from the tower.

The clouds made for some interesting shadow-and-light effects on the landscape around us. As before, my mobile phone thought we were in France and sent me a message "Welcome to France", when in fact it is about 25 km from there to the border.

Our next stop was the monument for storm Lothar. It is always a popular spot for cyclists and walkers, and today was no exception with a few small groups and single hikers there.

We decided on a different route back to the car, walking past a place with a shelter called Hilseneck (sometimes spelled Hylseneck) and the Kornebene, a guest house run by the Friends of Nature, a Germany-wide association. Of course, like all other places, both houses were shut. It felt strange walking around them, the atmosphere was a mix of feeling abandoned and anticipating their re-opening.

The "Ebener Weg", literally "flat (or even) path", was really that - very comfortable to walk, but seemingly never ending. Every time we expected to find the Kornebene around the next bend, another stretch followed - I didn't mind the length, but admittedly, it was still nice to get back to the car eventually.

After coffee and a brief rest at home, we paid a quick visit to a friend to hand over his birthday present. For our evening meal, we had delicious pasta with arrabiata sauce and pesto, both very nice. There was only one day left to our holiday together, as O.K. was working on Friday and I was going home that day.