Sunday, 19 September 2021

The First Days of September

You have already seen what I've been doing at the beginning of September, but that was only the start of what so far is turning out a very good month for me under many aspects.

The picnic on the 2nd was fun, the walk with my sister on the 4th was very nice, and with the beautiful weather still there the next day, I went on another walk. This time I was on my own and took off with my water bottle, mobile phone and only a rough idea of the direction for my walk.

In the end, I went a bit further than I had planned, and was rather tired afterwards (but in a good way).




Monday to Friday were regular working days, one of them spent at my client's office again and a lunch time walk with two of the people there. Tuesday evening saw me meeting up with a group of friends (we are actually volunteers working together at improving the situation at and around our town's train station) at a beer garden near the lake; a most pleasant evening. 

Wednesday morning, I had my last post-OP appointment with my eye doctor. Once again, she was happy with how everything turned out, and so am I. I will only see her again for my routine appointment in December.

September sunrise, as seen from my kitchen window

On Thursday, I took the usual train back from work but got off two stops before mine, exploring how to best get home on foot from there. It was a bit of an adventure, as I had not walked that route ever before, but of course I always knew where I was, since I am familiar enough with the area as such.

September sunset, as seen during my long walk home from work

Friday was the only day during that week without a walk. I worked from home and then got everything ready for a virtual wine tasting I had booked for OK and myself, my sister and my Mum. The wine itself had arrived earlier in the week, along with a leaflet explaining what to do: When to put which wine in the fridge and when to take it out, along with suggestions for food and so on. We had a great time, and it was interesting to compare notes on who liked which wine best.

Wine tasting at home. The jeans-clad leg is O.K.; he does not wish to have his full picture published on my blog, so I have cut that part off the picture.

On Saturday morning, O.K. and I went for a run. For the afternoon, my Mum had invited us over for coffee and home-baked plum cake - delicious!

Sunday was truly deserving its name with wall to wall sunshine and brilliant blue skies. It was Open Monument Day, an annual event where listed buildings and other interesting places normally not open to the public can be visited. We took several guided tours, but more details will have to wait for another post.

A lot of walking for one week, you think? Well, it was partly due to the beautiful weather we had and the golden light that I could not resist, and partly in preparation for our upcoming hiking holiday - we'll be off to the mountains tomorrow!

Friday, 17 September 2021

A Favourite Walk

Those of you who have been reading my blog for some years may remember that, when my parents still had their allotment, my Mum and I used to have a favourite walk together: We took the train for the first leg from Ludwigsburg to Marbach and then walked the rest; about an hour of up and down hills, between fields, orchards and vineyards, through the pretty old centre of Steinheim and on, out of the small town and up the last steep hill until we reached the allotment. There, my Dad would usually be expecting us, table ready with coffee and Brezeln or cake; we would spend the afternoon there (often with me going for another walk on my own towards the nearby woods) before packing up and my Dad driving us all back to Ludwigsburg.

All of this has ended a few years ago, but I fondly remember those times and, for sheer nostalgia, re-walked the same paths earlier this year on my own. Now, at the beginning of September, I suggested it to my sister, and so two Saturdays ago (4th of September), we met up at the train station and took the short train ride to Marbach.

It was a beautiful day, warm enough for shorts and sunny enough for me to wear my sun hat (I don't have sun glasses). My sister had prepared sandwiches for us, I brought drinks, and off we went.

Looking back towards Marbach shortly after we set off.



The photographer being photographed :-)

Autumn crocus - the meadows were full of them!



A few things along the way have changed, but the walk is still very much as I remember it. We stopped on a bench in the welcome shade of a large tree to have our sandwiches, and then decided not to walk all the way to the allotment (it would have been busy with many people chosing Saturday to work at their allotments, and we did not want to appear like snooping around). Instead, we took a different route back, past Castle Schaubeck (a lived-in castle and winery; click here for their website in English).

A glimpse of Schaubeck from the road.

An old gate to Schaubeck park, obviously not used often.

Old house in Steinheim; a fairytale character could live there.
We also chose a different route back to Marbach, along the river and skimming the small town of Murr. By the time we reached Marbach, we had almost an hour before the next train would go towards Ludwigsburg. What better way to spend that time by having a refreshing shandy at a beer garden by the river, and a very welcome rest! You can tell that I would have been ready for an afternoon nap - I am not grumpy, just tired, finding it hard to keep my eyes open. But the shandy did its job, and we made our way up the hill to the station well in time for the train.

Monday, 13 September 2021

Start of September

Before I start with my first September pictures, here are three more from August. O.K. took them on his own after work walk on the 31st. Looking at them, I think you can see why I like spending my weekends there so much (of course O.K. being the most important and best reason!).

The 1st of September, a Wednesday, saw me working at my client's office. Two of the people I work with there usually go for a walk during their lunch break, and they have asked me to join them. The office building is in an industrial estate at the edge of town, with fields and orchards only a few steps away. As long as the good weather continues, we will be keeping up our lunch break walks.

On the 2nd of September, my boss (RJ, as some of you may remember him) had organised an evening out for us: A picnic on the lawn in front of Solitude Palace! I had not seen my two colleagues in a long time (apart from an online meeting every now and then), and it was really lovely to meet up.

The evening was gorgeous; not too hot, and while there were several other groups of people dotted around the lawn, there was plenty of space for everyone, and the entire atmosphere was peaceful; nobody had music blaring or was drunk, shouting aggressively or anything like that.




The lawn in front of the palace, overlooking the area north of Stuttgart.



The sun sets behind the palace and a row of trees.

Eight minutes later (at 8:35 pm) the lights in the arcades under the palace went on, along with the evening chill signalling the end of our get-together.

We had so much food and drink (all brought RJ) that three times as many could have joined us. When it got dark and chilly, we packed up, dividing the leftovers between us. It was a truly beautiful evening and great start of September.

Sunday, 5 September 2021

End of August

The last part of August was still rather unsettled weather-wise, but the first part of September is turning out as beautiful as expected. On Friday, the 27th and on Tuesday, the 31st of August, my sister and I directed our after-work walks to Ludwigsburg's beautiful palace grounds and the deer park.

We love this time of year; the colours of the flowers and trees are so different to what it looks like in spring, and the afternoon and early evening light is just gorgeous.



When I arrived at my sister's that day to start our walk from her place, she had just finished making a batch of apricot jam. Not only is it very delicious (we love it with cheese), but it looked like apricot-coloured jewels against the light from the window. The photo doesn't really do it justice, but I've at least tried!

Now on to the deer park. It is usually rather busy on weekends, so we avoid it then. But on that Tuesday after work, it was just right, with a few people and many deer and sheep about.





I will tell you more about how beautifl September has started for me in my next post.

Saturday, 4 September 2021

Read in 2021 - 10: A Promised Land

Last Christmas, I had Barack Obama's "A Promised Land" on my wish list, and it was among O.K.'s presents. I was very much looking forward to reading it, and was not disappointed. But it took me ages - not only because this is a doorstopper of a book, but also because back when I started it some time early this year, my eyes were not yet operated and I could not read longer than 20 minutes at a time before it became too hard.

Years ago, I had read "The Audacity of Hope" by Mr Obama, and two years ago, "Becoming" by Michelle Obama (the clickable links lead to my reviews here on the blog). To me, the Obamas still stand out as people I admire, both as a couple and individually. Their values and hopes are something I can relate to; their work ethics, dedication to each other, their family and their causes are examples worth following.

They are both well educated, have sharp minds and good heads that can think for themselves on their shoulders, and it shows in their writing. Very different styles, but both highly readable.

A Promised Land sets out to enable the reader to understand what it is really like to be President of the United States, as far as that is ever possible as a second-hand experience (meaning, without actually BEING President). It is a political book, but it is also a very personal book. Its author does not try to make himself appear better, stronger and cleverer than he is; he is frank about his own shortcomings and doubts. When it comes to politics, he explains things in a way that even a reader who has not been following closely the events can understand them, giving them context and background. When it comes to his personal life and views, he reveals enough detail to relate to him as a person, but not in a yellow-press way.

What I noticed throughout the book are Obama's descriptions of other people, be it those who worked with him as part of his staff, other US politicians or the high and mighty of other nations: He draws their portraits with quick, strong strokes that - in my opinion - often build on stereotype images that may not be within the grasp of readers outside the US. Here is an example: 

Short, owlish, with a smooth Kentucky accent, McConnell seemed an unlikely Republican leader. [...] Boehner was a different animal, an affable, gravel-voiced son of a bartender from outside Cincinatti. With his chain-smoking and perpetual tan, his love of golf and a good merlot, he felt familiar to me, cut from the same cloth as many of the Republicans I'd gotten to know as a state legislator in Springfield [...]. Nancy [Pelosi], in her designer suits, matching shoes, and perfectly coiffed hair, looked every bit the wealthy San Franciso liberal she was. [...] Her ascent to power had been no fluke. She'd grown up in the East, the Italian American daughter of Baltimore's mayor [...].

The book is divided neatly into seven parts, the parts into chapters, and the chapters into clusters of paragraphs that allow reading relatively short bits at a time without losing track of the overall thread.

There are two sets of pages with photographs, some well known, others from the Obama family's personal archives. It is a book I can highly recommend, and I know there will be a second volume at some stage, already on my mental wish list.

You can find more information and a number of short interviews with the author about his book (what he wanted to achieve with it, how the process of writing was for him, and more) at www.obamabook.com.

Friday, 27 August 2021

More Changes

This week brought more changes for me - not only the ongoing subtle but noticeable shift from summer to autumn, but also the return to my biggest client's office. Ever since March 17 in 2020, I have been working on-site maybe a handful of times; almost every working hour was happening here at my home (and that worked well). But it is good to have face-to-face meetings again for a change, and I can focus on my work for that particular client much better than when I am available for all my other clients at the same time, too.

We have been working for this client for more than 10 years now (with me joining the team a year and a half later). Almost from the start, we were given our own office space in their large building. Seeing that we are external consultants and not employees there, they have moved us around five or six times according to their needs at any given time. The most recent move happened this week, on my first day back! I spent part of the day making sure everything I need was where I need it, and I must say I like my new spot, opposite an employee whom I've known for many years. It won't be permanent (nothing ever is, is it?), but for now, I enjoy it. As we always knew we could be gone at the drop of a hat, we never made our assigned rooms really "ours", meaning that we never put up framed photos, plants and other personal items. 

Compare this new picture with what our previous room looked like here.

For now, the plan is to be on site two days a week; fine by me. Regulations are still in place, of course; every time one leaves the desk, an FFP2 mask has to be worn. Chairs and tables in the canteen are set up with plenty of space. Meeting rooms are strictly limited to a set number of people, and hallways and staircases are aired much more than they used to be. Fully vaccinated, I feel quite safe there.

I went for a nice long walk on Wednesday after work and took a few pictures. It felt good to be out on the fields; the low early evening light was more beautiful than what the photos can convey.

Can you see why I took that picture?

The balloon appeared much bigger in real life, and was visible for almost my entire walk.



Today I'll only be working until lunch time, then (if the weather allows) I will go for a walk with my sister (we have not seen each other at all this week!), then do my usual cleaning, pack my weekend suitcase and head to the train station.

The moon, as seen at 6:17 am on Tuesday from my bedroom