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

Saturday, 21 August 2021

Read in 2021 - 6, 7, 8

During the six-week break from work and ever since, I have managed to read a lot more again, thanks to my eyes being much better suited to reading than before the operation(s). Especially the left eye made a huge difference, as it was the one that had developed cataracts. Of course, I could not read all that much at first, but no restrictions were imposed on normal reading as long as I wasn't straining my eyes too much, sticking to my medication plan and getting enough rest in between.

I will keep the single reviews short due to lack of time this morning and because there's three of them to squeeze into one post.

 

# 6: The Whitby Murders (A Yorkshire Murder Mystery)

by J.R. Ellis

Just like the first five books in the series, I greatly enjoyed this one. Of course, much of the series' appeal for me lies in the setting - I know many of the places described, and always like reading about Yorkshire, especially now that I have not been able to travel there for a couple of years.

But I am also really fond of the main characters, DCI Oldroyd and his team. By now, they are well fleshed-out figures, with their relationships and characteristics growing book by book.

In this one, a group of young people visit Whitby for a weekend. It is Goth Festival weekend, with folks dressed up as Dracula and many other characters all over the town. The friends have booked an escape room adventure together and are looking forward to a fun night out, when one of them is killed - they are all eye witnesses, and the case seems clear at first... but Oldroyd's daughter, who is part of the group, is like her father in that she does not take everything at face value.

Well written, cleverly constructed without being so overwhelming you can't remember who is who; also, not too much indulging in the gory details.


# 7: Mercy and Mayhem (A Mercy Mares Cozy Mystery)

by Ava Mallory

When I downloaded this free book to my kindle some time ago, I was sure I had read something from the author before; looks like I have not, as I can't find a review on my blog. Never mind!

Mercy Mares is a travelling nurse who loves her work. At her new assignment, where some of the staff are less than welcoming and the spouse of a patient dies within minutes of her arrival, makes her not only doubt herself, but she also finds herself at the centre of a murder enquiry with seemingly the entire town turning against her.

But this would of course not be part of a series if Mercy didn't manage to solve the case!

I did like the book well enough to keep reading on, but I must admit that some of it got on my nerves, with Mercy acting more confusedly and illogically than I thought was fitting for her character.


# 8 Death of a Dapper Snowman (Stormy Day Mystery Book #1)

by Angela Pepper

Stormy Day (that is her name) returns to her hometown after years of absence - always a grateful setting for an author, with old schoolfriends, former neighbours and other people providing the cast.

She is just settling in with opening her own shop and coming to terms with the new woman in her father's life when she discovers the body of an elderly neighbour hidden in a snowman.

Again, we find the heroine being the prime suspect (at least for a while) and doing everything she can to find the real murderer. What makes this one special is that Stormy is entrusted with the care of a cat, and that relationship is part of the book's charm.

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

Changes

This time of year, at least in my part of the world one can't help but notice the inevitable change of the seasons. Even though last week was a scorcher of a week (and weekend), sunrise is much later and sunrise much earlier than it was a few weeks ago. Also, the flowers in people's gardens are different, fields are mostly harvested and the apple trees are getting visibly heavier with fruit by the minute, it seems. Birdsong has largely stopped, as it always does in high summer. And this morning, opening all my windows actually felt COLD at a mere 10 Celsius (as opposed to easily hitting the 30C-mark on the weekend).

Like every year, I experience this change with a mix of nostalgia for the passing summer (can't it last a little longer?) and looking forward to autumn with its own beauty. August is a busy month in my family for birthdays; my Mum is the first to start the series (on the 12th), then it is O.K.'s sister (she turns 60 on Sunday and there will be a proper "do"), and last but not least, O.K.'s mother is going to be 81 the week after.

Other changes concern Covid regulations; yesterday, a new set of rules was introduced for my part of Germany (and most of our 16 federal states, I think): You have much of your freedom back if you are fully vaccined, but need to produce a negative test in many situations if you are not. That way, people are supposed to feel motivated to have their jabs; after months of there not being enough vaccine around, now they are positively throwing it at you. In my town, a mobile vaccination centre (a converted bus) has been stopping at various places for a few weeks now, for instance on the market square during our weekly markets, on the IKEA parking lot (plus IKEA offering each person who take them up on the offer a 10-Euro-voucher for their willingness to get vaccined), near public swimming pools, outside a popular beer garden by the river and so on. There was even a "vaccination party" on Friday night with a DJ at the centre close to where I live!

One big change for me will be next week, when for the first time in many months I will return to my biggest client's office for two days every week. I am looking forward to this and hope the local trains won't let me down (again).

Last week, another change took place in that I met up with part of my pub quiz team for the first time in about a year. Not everybody could make it, but the four of us who did get together had a great time. Our pub has been open for months, but at the moment I still go there only when the weather allows for a table outside on our beautiful market square.

Here are two pictures I took that evening. The corner where the pub is has sunlight the longest of all the square, and it was such a pleasure to observe people simply enjoying themselves on that beautiful summer evening. How I wish people in other places could enjoy the same peace!


Tuesday, 10 August 2021

Sunday Walk With Views

My second week back at work was busier than the first; things are gradually picking up pace again but I am still carefully avoiding long stretches at the computer without breaks, and managed several after-work walks in spite of the still very unsettled weather.

On Tuesday morning, exactly 3 weeks after the 2nd operation, my eye doctor did a thorough examination and was happy with the result. And so am I - even with provisorial glasses, it is a big difference to before.

Taking the usual train on Friday evening to O.K.'s did not work out, as the stop at Offenburg station was cancelled (no idea why). I had to change my plans very spontaneously and leave the house in quite a hurry; good job my little weekend suitcase is packed very quickly and it takes me less than 10 minutes to walk to the station. Similarly, on Monday morning the train back to Stuttgart was without coach # 8 - guess where I had booked a seat... Yep, coach # 8! Along with many others who had seats booked in the missing coach, we asked the staff what we were supposed to do, and they very kindly helped all of us to find seats. So, two reservations were gone without my fault; I practically donated 8 euros to the railway company.

But back to the weekend, which was really very nice.

The Saturday saw more rain than dry spells, but we did not mind. We had coffee and cake at O.K.'s parents in the afternoon - for me, it was the first plum cake of the season, home-baked by O.K.'s mother and as delicious as always. For the evening, we were at friends' for a balcony BBQ. They live on the top floor of a 5-floor town house in Offenburg, with great views of the town, the Vosges mountains in one direction and the Black Forest in the other. The weather kindly decided to improve, and we enjoyed a beautiful sunset after a delicious meal.

Sunday was forecast dry, windy and no warmer than 21 Celsius - perfect for a longer walk. We drove to the end of a valley where a circuit to a viewing tower started, an area we'd not walked before.

Walking up from the village of Freiamt:





After a lot of puffing and panting from my part (O.K. is much better at the uphill bits than I - I need to stop to catch my breath every now and then on the longer stretches), we reached the top of H√ľnersedel with its tower:

I did not climb the steps immediately, needing a few minutes to get my breathing back to normal. But then I made my way up and joined O.K. on the top platform, to be rewarded with great views in all directions. If you know where to look, you can even see where we walked last weekend, and where O.K.'s village is located.





We sat down for our very late lunch, our customary array of sandwiches etc. from our rucksacks, before we said good-bye to the tower and continued on the path.


It was now taking us on more gentle ups and downs along meadows and through the woods until we reached Freiamt and the car again.





After a beautiful drive back home, O.K. started the grill and we prepared zucchini, steaks and crusty bread. We enjoyed our meal in the courtyard and only went inside when the mozzies started to appear.

Another very enjoyable weekend; about half of the pictures in this post are O.K.'s (with his permission of course). 

And yesterday (Monday), I had my 2nd jab! I did feel a little off colour last night but am fine today.

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

First Week Back

My first week back at work after the enforced break of six weeks went by in a whirlwind, and much smoother and more relaxed than expected. This was partly due to many of my clients/customers being on holiday right now, which generally slows the pace down a little every summer. Part of it was also because I made sure to take enough breaks for my eyes - if I do not send myself away from the computer screen, nobody else will!

But before that week started, there was the weekend. It was cut short by a few hours because O.K. had to leave mid-afternoon on the Sunday instead of the evening, as the village band were to play on the square in front of the village hall to mark the election of a new mayor.

Both Saturday and Sunday were rather unsettled, with the weather frequently changing between sun and rain, plus some thunder thrown in for good measure. We still managed to get a run in on Saturday morning (the first in I don't know how many weeks!) and a walk in the afternoon, again at the palace grounds.

The Orangery (greenhouse) usually shows one or two exhibitions every summer. Right now, it presents all sorts of waterlilies and other water plants. Did you know that in German, waterlilies are called Seerosen - literally "lake roses"? Admittedly, they do not really look like roses, but I like the name nonetheless. Here are a few impressions of that exhibition:





After O.K. had left on the Sunday, I spent the evening quietly, mentally getting ready for the following day.

That Monday went, as I said, smoother and much better than I had expected. A mix of sun and rain made for a beautiful double rainbow in the evening, as seen from my kitchen window:



On Wednesday afternoon, RJ (my boss and employer) came visiting - we had not met in person for about a year! There were a few work-related things I wanted to discuss, which of course we could have done over the phone and/or computer, but the main reason for his visit was the large screen he brought for my desk. Of course, that screen would have been very welcome all of last year, and would have made work a lot easier for my eyes, but never mind - now it is set up and connected to the small notebook you can see to the right. It belongs to my biggest client, and I spend most of my work day at it. The laptop on the left is the one I use for all my other work.

Thursday was the most beautiful day in a long time - completely dry, just sunny and warm, not hot. I went for a lunch time walk with a friend I had not seen in about 8 weeks, and it was very good to catch up with her. 

After work, I went for a good walk on my own, two 1/2 hours straight. I took these pictures, of the fields and orchards looking as if it were already mid-August instead of the end of July.



One last picture for this post, taken on the 31st of July near O.K.'s village. There are many fields of sunflowers in the area, but this one I particularly liked with its half-abandoned look.

Now I am on the 2nd day of the 2nd week back, with a check-up scheduled with my eye doctor this morning. It is now three weeks since the 2nd operation, and I am doing very well with my provisorial specs.

Right, time to get some breakfast and catch that train to Stuttgart!