Wednesday 23 March 2022

Spring All Around

Last weekend, I was at O.K.'s (after an almost punctual train ride - we don't even count 5 minutes late as "late" anymore). After a week of overcast skies filled with Sahara dust, a series of sunny days was announced, and the weather people were right.

O.K.'s area is usually a tad warmer than where I live, with spring and summer often being about a week ahead where flora and fauna are concerned. This year, there seems to be only a few days of difference; I took these pictures on a walk around the village on Saturday afternoon:
View from the cottage's living/dining room

Can you spot the bee? The tree was buzzing with them, but it was very hard to take a picture - they just would not sit on a blossom long enough:

Maybe you remember that O.K. plays in the village brass band. They have a General Meeting once a year, but due to the pandemic, it has not been possible to hold such a meeting for the past two years. Saturday was the first one since 2019, and since I am a "passive member" (meaning I pay annual membership and help with events, but don't play) and elections were to be held, I came along, too.

Tradition calls for the band to attend mass at the village church before the meeting. They commemorate their deceased members, take communion and the congregation sing to the band's music. Church finished at 7:00 pm, and while I was waiting for O.K. to gather his things and walk to the village hall with me, I took these pictures from the top of church hill:

The Sunday fully lived up to its name! We left the cottage at around 1:30 pm and walked across the fields to the next village and up into the woods. At one of our favourite spots, we stopped to eat the rhubarb cake we had brought along before completing our circuit of just under 21 km.

Other people were out and about, of course, but nowhere near as many as I expected, and most of the time, we were on our own, with birdsong and sunshine for company.

This last picture was taken at 10 past 6 on the Sunday afternoon, shortly before we arrived back at the cottage.
We could both feel the 20+ km in our bodies and were looking forward to sitting down for some food and drink, but it had been such a  good day - hard to believe there are terrible things going on in so many parts of the world.


  1. The whole mood of that post is one of the hope and joy of Spring and that shows in the pictures with which I was really taken. The First two and the evening sky at the Church really appealed to me and lightened the start to my day this morning.

    1. The evening light around the church with the view across the village and further (on a clearer day, the Vosges would have been visible) was really special, prompting me to take the picture to conserve that mood.

  2. Lovely burst of pink! 💕

    1. I love that tree in O.K.'s neighbours' garden!

  3. What a wonderful weekend! The photos are so lovely and your post is so happy! Our cold, snowy winter makes us appreciate Spring even more! Thanks for the beautiful views!

    1. You are welcome, Ellen! Spring flowers, sunshine, beautiful countryside and walking with the man I love - how could I not be happy?

  4. *We don't even count five minutes late as late any more.*
    Now that made me smile: you talked before about the myth of Germany's punctual trains.

    One of my sisters studied French and Spanish for four years; her friend Oona studied French and German.
    Honours language students spent a year in a Western European country working as assistants in schools, so Oona chose to spend her year in Germany.

    *Sometimes I got tired of the fact that the trains were never late, not even by five minutes, that all noise in our block of apartments stopped after 11 pm,* Oona later complained.
    This irritated me no end.
    *Well, I wish OUR trains ran on time,* I said, *I wish OUR people would not play their bloody awful rock music after 11 o'clock.*
    I was a bit of a cross-patch in those days.

    My knowledge of your country came from Heinrich Boll, Gunter Grass and John Le Carre's thriller about Bonn in the Cold War, *A Small Town in Germany*.
    I used to wonder whether East Germany was not as bad as it was painted.
    I identified with Oskar Werner the good communist in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

    Bertolt Brecht elected to live in East Germany after the war, insulting America which had given him shelter during WWII. I admired his fine contempt for capitalism.

    Oona looked German but she was a bit of a hippy at heart.
    She complained that German teachers in her school jumped up the second their break was over, bound by Teutonic duty like their forebears.
    This reminded me of August Bebel, who looked every bit the Prussianofficer like his father, but affected to despise the military.

    Sorry to ramble.
    Wish I had heard that brass band.
    Can almost hear the bees in the sunshine: I am a fan of bees.
    Is it just my imagination or can I smell the blonde beer?

    1. As I have never lived in East Germany, and my only visits there were working trips in the 2000s, I have no idea how bad it really was there before The Wall fell. I guess different people will give different answers, as always.

      In what way did Oona "look German", I wonder? Of all the Germans I know, no two look the same. They come in all colours, sizes and shapes :-)

      The days of punctual trains and (most) neighbours sticking to set rules are long gone. Maybe they never really existed. Most of my neighbours - German, Turkish, Italian, Syrian and many more) will more or less do what they like, when they like.

      Blonde beer? I am not sure what you mean by your last remark, but I did not have one single drop of shandy (which is almost the only beer I like) all weekend. There was wine on Friday and Saturday, and Apérol Spritz on Sunday with our evening meals, though.

    2. As for hearing the brass band, they have a few clips on Youtube. Look for Musikverein Hofweier. Don't expect too much - I don't think those clips do them justice.

    3. If I had had Oona's German language skills I would have attempted a novel about a Scottish member of the British Communist Party electing to live in East Germany.
      These men and women who had known poverty were believers till the end.

      My father, though never Communist, knew many of them and suspected some were KGB, though my father died before learning that Jack Jones the popular English trades unionist was KGB. Upon retiral Jack campaigned for elderly people.

      By the age of 19 I knew what a grim society the GDR was yet the biographies of the leading members of the East German elite interested me as Nikita Krushchev interested me.
      Whitaker Chambers, the American underground Communist who saw the light after learning of Stalin's secret trials, used to say that Krushchev was not Stalin, though Chambers still hated the Soviet system.
      Edward Crankshaw wrote one of the best English studies of Krushchev.

      Stan Barstow, definitely no Communist, told me his novels sold in East Germany and he went on a trip there with his wife Connie to spend the Deutschmarks which his books had earned there. British writers could not take out money out of the GDR.

      My youthful stereotype of a German somehow included Oona who looked a bit like you, Meike.
      Oona was a great laugh, liked a drink and was a good friend to my sister.

      *Blonde beer* for lager was a term I must have picked up from Frederick Forsyth:
      I read and reread The Day of the Jackal and The Odessa File but never much cared for his other books.

      I like brass bands (so did Stan Barstow) and will listen to Musikverein over an Aperol Spritz.
      There are good photos of Gunter Grass on the internet and in one he is in a rathskeller with a number of writers including John Dos Passos.
      Dos renounced his Marxism after his Spanish translator was shot by the Communists in the Civil War.

    4. The East German DDR mark banknotes had been accruing from Stan Barstow's royalties since the publication of A Kind of Loving in 1960.
      GDR literary critics saw Barstow's fiction as an anti-bourgeois critique of the English class system.
      Stan was a miner's son who went to grammar school in Wakefield.
      He believed in upward mobility for working class people, but his political faith lay in the (non Marxist) middle ground of the British Labour Party.

      Alan Sillitoe's novels also sold well in the Soviet Union and its satellites.
      Sillitoe's 1963 travel book, Road To Volgograd, attempted a defence for the building of the Berlin Wall, which he later regretted after his visits to Israel.

  5. Wow, spring seems so far along there already... (As every spring! - I know you're always ahead of us...) In spite of a very sunny March so far, a few crocuses is really all I've seen here yet. Perhaps just as well, though, as they just said on the weather forecast that we may soon expect a backlash and perhaps even snow again.

    1. That could still happen here, too, Monica. Sometimes we get snow as late as April or even May, and I remember it being so cold for the Maifest in the village that we were all wearing padded winter coats while setting up the tent and tables etc.

  6. The weather in England is gorgeous this week18.5°C, just right for me. I lovedcall your pictures, and am full of admiration at acwalk of 21 kms and you only ate rhubarb cake.

    1. It's been like that here, too, and it definitely makes getting up in the morning easier when the sun is already out!
      Before we'd set off on our walk on Sunday, we had eaten, and we ate again once we were back home; the cake we had half way through gave us just the necessary burst of energy (and reason to sit down for a bit).