Wednesday 31 August 2022

Almost September!

Without having checked, I think I might have been using this same headline in previous years. I know that for me, somehow the end of August and beginning of September always sets a special marker within the year. It is not necessarily the back-to-school mood that obviously prevails in families with children of school age, or when you work as a teacher or school staff. Neither is the case with me, and more often than not, during my own school days summer holidays did not end at the end of August, but up to two weeks earlier or later. (In Germany, summer holidays are set on a sort of rota for each federal state. They span the entire period from end of June to mid-September, making sure that not all of Germany have their holidays at the same time, in order to avoid total chaos on the motorways etc.)

Anyway, back to topic! It is the last day of August, but it already feels like mid-September. Of course, that is due to the weeks of hot and dry weather we have had, with many trees already shedding their leaves or at least turning brown.

My fourth week back from Yorkshire started with Monday, August 22, working from home - not my home this time, but O.K.'s cottage. I had accompanied him on the drive back to the village on Sunday night, with my little suitcase and my work laptop. It was his sister's birthday on Monday, and since I did not have any appointments that required me to be on site in Ludwigsburg, Marbach or Stuttgart, I came along.

It was a beautiful sunny day, not too hot, so that we could celebrate J's birthday in their garden. There were just the six of us - J and her husband, J's and O.K.'s parents and O.K. and myself. Burgers were grilled, and everyone put together their own burger, with a choice of buns, sauces and toppings. My favourite were the diced onions, caramelised and boiled with port wine. Lovely! One burger was big enough to fill any hungry stomach, but because it all tasted to good, some of us had another half each. There was well chilled rosé wine or beer, and of course plenty of water to drink. I enjoyed the evening very much, and hope J did, too - it was her birthday, after all.

I traveled home on Tuesday morning without a hitch, and after work met an old school friend for a walk in the palace grounds.

On Wednesday, I went to see my parents after work. 

August 24, about 7:30 pm
Thursday was my day to work on-site at one of my clients' offices, where I changed rooms once again. In the almost 10 years I have been working for them, I think I have been moved (not out of my choice, of course) around in the building six times or so. This time is different, though: One lady in the department where I work mostly has retired, and her single office has been empty since July. Her boss is my main contact in the company, and he has arranged for me to move into that office. So, for the first time since I started there, I now have my "own" room! I am still an external consultant, not employed by that company directly, but it feels like being a "proper" employee in many ways.
Sunrise on Friday, 6:23 am

It was very hot and humid on Friday; even not doing anything physically more demanding than cleaning my flat after work, I was wet through. During my lunch break, I ran an errand for my parents and arrived at their place soaked, and it really wasn't that long a walk. Late afternoon, the threatening thunderstorm finally materialised - and most importantly, rain!!! Thunder and lightning were not directly hitting us, and the rain was not torrential; rather the gentle, steady kind we were so looking forward to.

It was raining again when I left the house on Saturday to travel to O.K.'s. The trip was chaotic to say the least, and took me a full four hours instead of the usual two. I was still in time for another birthday celebration, though: O.K.'s Mum had her birthday on Friday, but we went for a family meal at an Italian restaurant with a good beer garden on the Saturday, and afterwards sat on O.K.'s parents' patio with drinks until dark.

The sun was fully back on Sunday. For the 2nd time this year, O.K. got our bikes ready. We cycled to a village about 12 km from O.K.'s where the local riding club was hosting a fĂȘte, complete with show riding and competitions. Maybe you remember that back in July, we were at a wedding? It was the very same friends we were meeting there, and the same riding club. We enjoyed our food and drink and of course chatting with our friends before riding home on our bikes some time mid-afternoon. On the way, we stopped for an ice cream in the village, and after a little rest at home, went for a brief walk to take in the beautiful evening light.

Ice cream on Sunday afternoon

Sunset on Sunday evening - now as early as a quarter past 8!

Saturday 27 August 2022

Third Week Back

There is not a single photo I can show you for my third week back, and this post is actually more for my personal record keeping than anything else. Feel free to skip it!

On Monday, August 15, I arrived home from O.K.'s with a delay of about 20 minutes - nothing unusual, as you know if you have been reading my blog for a while. The most remarkable thing about the day was that we actually saw a few drops of rain!!

After work, I wanted to go for a walk but cut it short and went home after only an hour, because I was very, very tired.

Tuesday was the day when I learned of my friend George's passing. The hot and sunny weather did certainly not fit my mood. After work, I went to see my parents. From there, my sister and I walked to her place and wrote to Lilian (George's widow) together.

The thermometer rose to 31C again on Wednesday, with a brief shower in the afternoon. Just like the previous two Wednesdays, I went for a run/walk before work, and although I didn't really feel stronger or faster, my "Runmeter" (an app on my mobile phone that I occasionally use to track a walk, run or hike) told me that I had indeed covered the 5.2 km around two minutes quicker than before.

I felt like another walk after work, and did so, this time feeling much less tired than on Monday.

It was rather windy and not quite as hot anymore on Thursday. In the early evening, my volunteer group held its regular fortnightly meeting. There were only three of us (it's still holiday time here), and since there wasn't any food to be had at our original meeting place and the one we tried as plan B claimed not to have enough space, we settled for Kullman's Diner opposite the train station. I had sweet potato chips/fries, which were delicious. 

In the past, I had been disappointed with their service a few times, and stopped going. This time, we had nothing to complain; maybe I'll start going there again.

Friday brought my friend from kindergarten days - always lovely to meet her and catch up. We grew up wall-on-wall in terraced houses and have known each other since when we were five years old, spending many of our school years in the same class. Like my sister and I, they were also two sisters, so the four of us were inseparable until the usual happened - people grow up, move away, start work or uni, meet boyfriends, get married and so on.

Anyway, my friend was visiting (she lives in Switzerland now), and we had a very nice evening together, joined a little later by O.K. who had driven the 150 km to spend the weekend with me.

On Saturday, a forecast thunderstorm made us decide to go and see my parents early so as not to get soaked on the way there or back. They had not seen O.K. in quite a long time, so that was nice for them.

Back home, the thunderstorm kept us indoors all afternoon, resting and relaxing. Shortly after 5:00 pm, the sun was back, and we went to the Ludwigsburg Weinlaube (wine fest) in the town centre - it was the last night, and we enjoyed it greatly! Food and drinks have become significantly more expensive, but that did not stop us from eating and drinking whatever took our fancy. At around 8:00 pm, a live band started to play. They were really good, and we spent the next four hours in front of the stage, dancing, singing (or rather shouting) along, using the band's breaks to have our glasses refilled or nip to the loo. At midnight sharp, the band had to stop (it is after all in town center, with many residential buildings close by), and we staggered (not really - we were still very well capable of walking properly) home.

You can imagine that Sunday was much quieter after that party night, but we did go for a walk/run late morning. After an extensive breakfast/early lunch and a bit of a rest, we walked to the lake at the northern end of Ludwigsburg (Monrepos; it has appeared a few times on my blog). We then had an early evening meal, because we wanted to leave early. Leave? Yes, I was going home with O.K. this time, to spend the following day there and go back to my place on Tuesday morning. More about that in one of my next posts.

Thursday 25 August 2022

Read in 2022 - 24: The Graveyard Mystery

This is #4 in the Blake Hartley series by John Waddington-Feather; my review for #3 is here.

The story is a little different this time, because Hartley's boss is recovering with a broken leg, and his temporary replacement has a very different approach to police work. Also, a detective from the US joins forces with Hartley and Khan, and the two Yorkshire officers and their wives even get to visit their American friend and his wife.

However, most of the book takes place in the fictitious Yorkshire town of Keighworth, with some bits in Harrogate and in the dales, which is of course why I am reading this series in the first place.

A dead body is found in the graveyard of the church where Hartley works as a Reverend when he is not policing. Nothing unusual about a dead body in the graveyard, one should think. But this time, it is an internationally searched for hitman who was killed very expertly and very recently, and his body deliberately placed on the Redfearn family tomb, a well known and influential family.

What have the Redfearns got to do with a hitman from Pakistan? An international drugs ring, honour killings, money laundering and stolen church furniture turning up in an antiques store in Phoenix, Arizona - and to top it off, there is a bent copper in Keighworth's force who is in league with the drug pushers. Of course, Hartley and Khan solve the case and uncover their colleague`s wrongdoing, and there is a dramatic showdown towards the end, set against the backdrop of the Grand Canyon.

Somehow, I found the main characters just a little bit paler than in the previous two books I have read of this series, but maybe it was simply a case of me not fully concentrating while I was reading. Most of my kindle reading happens while I am waiting at train stations or actually on the train, and it has been very, very busy recently, what with a lot of holiday makers (many of them obviously not familiar with public transport) and frequent loudspeaker announcements distracting me.

Wednesday 24 August 2022

Read in 2022 - 23: In the Palm of a Dale

This book by David Morgan Rees was one of several I found at Ripon's book shops and took with me on the long journey home, making my suitcase heavier than it was on the way up. But it was entirely worth the 3 quid I spent on it, and it will very likely be re-read again at some stage.

The subtitle on the cover reads "A portrait in words and pictures of a Yorkshire Dales village", and that is exactly what it is.

The village is Marske in Swaledale, where the author has a small cottage. He has been spending a lot of time in and around the village since the mid-seventies and although still a visitor, he has made friends and become part of the village as much as is possible for someone not permanently living there.

The book follows him round the village and through the seasons, telling the stories of individuals, entire families, their houses and farms and other buildings as well as the land, paths and bridges. He put together his many beautiful photographs (all black and white in the book) at the turn of the century to preserve a comprehensive image of Marske at that moment in time, when many changes had already started and much more was to come.

It was a soothing and comfortable read for many of my lunch breaks since I have returned from Yorkshire. My favourite chapter is about the light, and here are a few lines from it:

"This small compass of landscape becomes a light-box or prism for sunlight as it darts and glances, striking at different features, emphasising a detail of stone wall or barn, boldly illuminating a group of tall beech trees, or washing quickly over meadow or woodland. It is an accentuation which gives sudden meaning in brightness, like a word underlined or in italics. Even on a sunless day, there is often a pervasive glow held within the dale which subtly creates a mood."

According to the info in the book, David Morgan Rees is a part-time academic teaching public relations studies at universities in Yorkshire. He is a freelance writer and photographer, specialising in rural interest and craft topics, and divides his time between Ilkley and Marske. Other than that, I have found precious little information about him on the internet and wonder whether he is still alive, as the info in the book is over 20 years old now.

Friday 19 August 2022

Second Week Back

The third week back home since my Yorkshire Holiday is almost over (at least work-wise), and I have not even said anything about the 2nd week

Monday (August 8) was sunny and windy, which made the 28C pleasant enough for a nice long walk after work. 

It was almost the same (sunny and windy, around 29C) on Tuesday, when I met up with my sister after work. We went to our favourite wine bar/shop so that I could buy a bottle of a wine I had particularly liked at a tasting there back in June - and I was lucky in getting the last bottle they had. It was for my Mum's birthday later that week. 

From there, it was just across the road to the palace grounds. The late summer flowers were beautiful, but of course the long dry spell, intense heat and wind have been taking their toll on the gardens. My sister took this picture of a particularly beautiful flower bed:

We were getting thirsty by now and a bit peckish, so the Irish Pub was our next stop. A table in the shade was just right for us, and since I had not eaten fish & chips while in Yorkshire, I did so now - I know it's not the same, but I quite like them there nonetheless.

On Wednesday, my Dad had to go back to hospital. This was a planned stay for a minor operation. His Covid test had of course resulted negative, but a man who was in the same room later tested positive - meaning my Dad was moved to a room on his own (which he didn't mind), and we were not allowed to visit (which we did mind very much).

Like the previous Wednesday, once again I went for a leisurely "run" (more a trundle!) in the fields before work, and before it got too warm for it. In the afternoon, I rang my uncle (Mum's big brother) and spoke to him for quite a while; we'd not heard from each other in a long time, and I was getting worried as to how he and my aunt were doing.

I wrapped up the day with a short evening walk on the fields.

The weather remained the same on Thursday. My sister and I met at our parents' place after work, to help prepare the rooms for a change. 

My parents have what in German is called a maisonette flat, with a staircase in the open-plan living/dining/kitchen area leading to a 2nd bedroom and bathroom upstairs. Until now, the upstairs part was my Dad's, with my Mum having the downstairs bedroom and bathroom. It has become nearly impossible now for my Dad to master those stairs, and so they have swapped rooms.

A lot of carrying things up and down was involved, but of course more needs doing eventually. We just had to make sure everything was ready for when Dad would be back from hospital.

Friday (August 12) was here - my Mum's birthday! She turned 78. Her birthday was not quite what she would have liked; from the moment she got up until late afternoon, all she did was work, sort, organise. Surprisingly, Dad was released from hospital already, and brought home mid-afternoon. In between all that, friends and neighbours popped in with flowers etc., and of course the phone rang several times - an action-packed day for sure!

My sister and - a few hours later - I had been helping and done some more cleaning and shifting stuff, then went home for about an hour to shower and change. Back again, we ordered pizza, and opened a bottle of sparkling wine to toast Mum's birthday. Presents were opened, cards read and although Dad was still rather groggy after his stint in hospital, it turned out to be a nice evening after all.

On the Saturday, I was finally going to see O.K. again, for the first time since the 11th of July! As usual, the train journey was not without problems, but I arrived only about half an hour later than planned. And of course I had left enough margin for that. Mid-afternoon, a couple of friends picked us up to drive deep into the Black Forest: A group of eight of us were booked for ziplining. 

This was a present for one of the group's 50th birthday, and apart from one person in the group, none of us had ever "ziplined" before. Do you know what it is? Have a look at the website of that particular area, if you like. 

I was determined to have a go and not really worried or scared. But once the instructions started and the guide kept talking and explaining, the longer we stood there listening, the more I felt I did not want to do this. It was purely my gut reacting, not my mind, and I was quite surprised (and somewhat disappointed) by how I felt. In the end, I was the only one of the eight who did not go - everybody else did, and loved it!

For the roughly two hours they were away, I stayed at the base and enjoyed the peace and quiet of the woodland. With me were two others who had only come along for the company, not intending to zipline. So the three of us had a nice long chat, and at two points, we could watch the others swish along the steel cables across the valley. We took pictures, knowing full well that what we could see rather clearly with the naked eye would look just like a pin prick in the photos.

Clicking on the pictures enlarges them; maybe you can spot the person zipping across then:

Once everyone was safely back on the ground, we piled again into the two cars we had used to get here, and drove a bit further up into the woods until we reached a tiny hamlet, consisting of a former typical Black Forest farm turned restaurant and two or three houses nearby. The place is popular for its regional food and beautiful surroundings, and without booking tables we would not have had a chance.

Everyone enjoyed their food and drink, and then the sun set and the super moon appeared! With no town, no street lights etc. around, the nightly sky was almost magical to look at, and the moonrise was truly spectacular. Again, what we saw with the naked eye was MUCH bigger and better than what my poor quality photos can convey.

We even spotted shooting stars - it was one of the few nights when the Perseides are visible.

Sunday was the hottest day of the week at 32C. It did not stop us from going for a walk/hike we have done several times before, finding the shade of the woodland the best place to be. About 15 km and a few hours later, we were back at O.K.'s cottage and had coffee with vanilla ice. Before our evening meal, we visited his parents, enjoying Aperol Spritz on the patio behind their house.

Wednesday 17 August 2022

Remembering George

Four weeks ago today, my sister and I spent a most pleasant couple of hours at The Water Rat in Ripon, in the always delightful company of George and Lilian Pickles. We had not seen them since 2019, and I am so, so very glad we had the chance to meet again this year, because George died on Sunday morning.

I learnt of his death by an email one of his daughters sent me yesterday: 

"I’m sorry to let you know that my dad passed away very suddenly, but peacefully during the early hours of Sunday morning. 

I know he thought very highly of you and thoroughly enjoyed your company on your very recent visit, and all the other times too."

It was a shock to me, but imagine how much worse it must have been (and still is) for Lilian and all the family. George was in his 80s, but he looked as well and fit as ever when we met.  

There is so much - and all of it good - I could write here about George; he and Lilian certainly are among the loveliest people I have ever met. We hit it off immediately; no such thing as a generation gap or different nationalities stopping us from becoming friends.

My sister and I have always admired how the two of them were still so obviously in love and treated each other with humour and respect. Their wit and humour were contagious, but they also knew how to address serious things, and we always covered a wide range of subjects both in our emails and in our conversations.

Before I go on and on, let me direct you to this older post of mine, where you can read George in his own words.

His last email to me is from the 1st of August (Yorkshire Day!). He wrote, among other things:

So, so glad you got home safe. Lilian and I were thinking about you none stop for a couple of days. Watching the TV news for the latest on the rail strikes. 
Reading your email makes us realise what a hell of a journey you had getting back home. You must be absolutely shattered.
Let’s make up for all this next time you come. We will have that evening at the RAFA club and I will give our daughters and son advanced notice to make sure you meet at least some of them.

That evening at the club will now never take place. I miss George and his emails, and making plans for future meetings. Ripon has lost a good man who cared for the place and was interested in what was going on, but Lilian and the family have lost a wonderful husband and great dad.

George and Lilian*

June 2021

* When George included pictures in his emails to me, he always said I was welcome to use them here on my blog.

Thursday 11 August 2022

Read in 2022 - 22: The Thursday Murder Club

At some stage during the past two years, I read about "The Thursday Murder Club" by Richard Osman - was it on someone's (Monica's?) blog? Anyway, a fellow volunteer and almost neighbour recently lent me her copy, and I am glad she did!

The Thursday Murder Club are mainly four friends living in a retirement village for the rather affluent. They regularly go over old case files and try to solve them more for the intellectual stimulation and satisfaction than anything else. But then, a property developer is killed right under their noses (literally), and of course they set off to solve the case.

Needless to say, they do indeed solve it (and some other, more or less related cases along the way), and faster than the police, too. Speaking of the police, mainly present in the shape of a young police woman who desperately wants to escape the tedious beat work, and her middle-aged boss who is struggling with his weight as much as with his loneliness.

I enjoyed each and every line of this. There is a lot of wit and humour in the book, but also plenty to make you think about family, friendship, love, death, loyalty and getting older (a topic very close to home for me these days).

The book has its own entry on wikipedia, which also links to the entry about the author. Wikipedia says that Steven Spielberg has bought the film rights. Throughout the book, my inner cinema was at work. I wonder whether other readers have the same idea about who should play Elizabeth? For me, Helen Mirren is the obvious choice.

Yesterday, my volunteer colleague lent me her copy of the sequel. It is next on my to-be-read pile.

Monday 8 August 2022

First Week Back

Back from my Yorkshire Holiday, I spent a quiet Sunday doing my washing and other household things as well as visiting my parents. In the evening, I went for a walk on familiar paths - something that helps me to feel properly at home again. It was a hot and sunny day at about 30C, but it was close to 8:00 pm when I set off and therefore not quite so hot anymore.

Monday was not only the start of the week and my first day back at work after two weeks away, but also the 1st of August (and Yorkshire Day!). Many of my clients are on holiday this time of year, and so there weren't all that many emails for me to sift through (only 109 in all my various inboxes combined).

Of course I wanted an after-work-walk, this time directing my steps the opposite way. It wasn't a very long walk, only just over 7 km in the space of 1 hour and 20 minutes, but it was good after so much time spent looking at screens and typing.

On Tuesday, it was again 30C, and I started my walk a little later, timing it so that I could take in the sunset and the slightly cooler temperatures.

The photo with the pink sky was taken at a quarter past 9 pm from my Third Room - still unusual for me that I can see so much sky from there, since the trees growing there before were cut down only this spring.

I did something on Wednesday that I had not done in a long time: Going for a run before work! Temperatures well over 30C were forecast for that day, and I knew I was not going to feel like walking then. Instead, I decided to go out at 7:30 in the morning, and did my standard 5K circuit on the fields at a very leisurely pace, taking 40 minutes - that's how leisurely it was! Still, in spite of the lovely fresh morning air, I was wet through afterwards, but had enough time for a shower and muesli before work started.

During my lunch break, I ran an errand for my parents, and after work went to deliver what they had requested. My sister was also there, and after we had spent some time with our parents, I accompanied her to her place. She is currently not only looking after the allotment she shares with her neigbhours, but also their house garden since they are on holiday, and I helped with watering the tubs and the vegetable plots.

Thursday was the hottest day of the week at 39C. I found work rather hard-going and was grateful when the client I mainly work with on Thursdays rang me in the early afternoon to let me know he was packing in for the day, he couldn't concentrate any longer. I was the same and had a bit of a rest before meeting with my volunteer group at 6:30 pm - in a beer garden under large trees. We went through the points that needed talking and deciding about as quickly as possible and then spent another hour or so just pleasantly chatting over large glasses of shandy.

I hardly slept during the night from Thursday to Friday, as the heat just wouldn't budge. Funnily enough, I was back at the same beer garden that evening with my "girl" friends - we had arranged to meet weeks ago and did not want to cancel in spite of the heat. Only four of us were there, but it was lovely to see them, especially one of our group who had not been able to attend the last few meetings. We had not seen each other in about a year, I think, and I was happy to see her looking so good and being really well after she'd been through a difficult time in her life. 

Finally, a thunderstorm brought a little bit of rain (nowhere near enough, but better than nothing) and a much cooler night and morning. O.K. was still officially in self-isolation until the Sunday, so he did not come to my place for the weekend, and I spent Saturday mostly doing housework, which was a lot easier now that it wasn't so hot anymore.

After I had finished all I wanted to do, my sister and I went to have ice cream together - I believe the first or maybe second time this summer!

All that ice cream made us thirsty, and so it was only logical to move across the road to the courtyard behind the Town Hall, where the annual Weinlaube (wine fest) had started two days before. Like so many other events, it had not taken place for the last two years, and people had really missed it. At that time in the late afternoon, it wasn't yet too crowded, giving us a chance to really enjoy our glasses of white and the atmosphere.

Sunday was here again, and I went for a morning walk before doing my ironing. Later, I visited my parents, this time to join them for their evening meal (always a good idea, since my Mum is such a good cook!). I wrapped up the day and the week with one last walk before sunset.

Saturday 6 August 2022

Read in 2022 - 21: The Marcham Mystery

Before starting on my Yorkshire Holiday, I had read the first book in the Blake Hartley Mysteries series by John Waddington-Feather. You can find my review here.

The Marcham Mystery, of course by the same author, is #3 in the series - I do not have #2, as it wasn't among the ebooks available for free at Amazon's kindle shop when I was looking. And it didn't matter, since the characters were already familiar to me from #1, and the case itself is stand-alone anyway.

The story: Well-known business man Sir Edward Marcham is found murdered in a sleazy hotel. What was he, an influential pillar of righteousness and charity, doing there? Detective Hartley's boss urges Hartley and his sargeant to tread carefully, considering the family's reputation - and his own, since he has been playing golf with Sir Marcham for years and thinks very highly of him.

You won't be surprised to read that Hartley and Khan stir up a hornet's nest with their investigation. Not only come sordid facts about Marcham's past and present to light, there are also shady business deals uncovered, and KGB agents play a role, too.

The big showdown between Hartley and the person behind it all takes place in Gordale Scar, a great rift in the Yorkshire Dales. I have never been there, but other places mentioned I know quite well - which is of course the main appeal of the series for me.

Again, the only negative thing I could say about the book is the stereotyping of some of the characters. But I guess to keep the story going, the author can not digress too far with the description of some of the figures. I have one more book of the series on my kindle, but first, there are a few others I want to read.

Friday 5 August 2022

The Voyage Home

There is a Star Trek film by that title (which I am sure some of you will know), but it fits today's post so well that I simply had to use it.

Saturday, the 30th July, began bright and early for us. I had not slept well that night, as I rarely do before a long trip, but I was not overly tired and felt fine after my mug of coffee and a shower. The last bits went into our suitcases, the dishwasher was switched on, and when my sister-in-law arrived at 8:00 to take us to Harrogate train station, we were ready.

The drive was quicker than expected, and we were able to catch the 8:37 train to York instead of the 9:05. After a tearful good-bye from Angela, our trip started in earnest.


Of course, it was the day of a nationwide railway strike, but not all train companies took part. I had been able to change our booking online after I had been given notice by email a few days earlier that our originally booked train wasn't going to run. Funnily enough, the change meant that the ticket from York to London was cheaper 1st class than regular, and would I like a refund for the cancelled journey? Yes, I would, so I quickly clicked through the application, and guess what - the refund was on my account the very next day!! None of this would have happened with German railway companies...

Anyway, most people had been heeding the advice not to travel by train that day unless absolutely necessary (it was absolutely necessary for us), so there was hardly anyone about during that part of the journey.

The 1st class seats were good, but not all that different from what we had had on the Azuma train from London to Leeds when we arrived. The difference was that there were two ladies with a trolley passing through several times, offering hot and cold drinks as well as various snacks - for free! We gratefully accepted a snack box each, although my sister had prepared sandwiches for us, and of course we had brought our water bottles and bought cans of coke at the station.

That was before the trolley ladies came by!

1st class coach. The carpet looks not exactly 1st class, does it.

It was in London that the fun began...

From King's Cross to St. Pancras only takes a few steps across the road, but then we met with the longest queue I have ever personally been in, and the biggest number of people I have ever seen at a train station (and believe me, I have seen loads)!

It was really our own fault for having timed our trip without considering that the school holidays in England had just begun. Plus there was an airline strike with German Lufthansa, so that many passengers who originally had booked flights were now using the Eurostar instead.

To cut a long story short: We queued for a full TWO HOURS, only to go through ticket, passport, Covid pass and luggage checks in about 10 minutes... Everyone in the queue was well behaved, though, with only a few trying to get in front of others. Staff was constantly patrolling along the queues to make sure everyone was in the right queue for the train they actually were booked on, with one of them even keeping folks motivated by saying things such as "You're doing great" and "Almost there!". I replied to him that he and his colleagues were doing great, too; it can't have been easy for them to handle those crowds, either.

Finally on board the Eurostar!

We made it to our train which was of course delayed by about an hour, having us worry about our connection in Paris. But the Eurostar driver did his or her best, making up for at least part of the delay, leaving us with about 20 minutes in Paris - which turned out to be just about enough to get out of one station, along busy streets and down a flight of stairs to the next station, finding our platform and boarding the TGV. All that was not made easier by a) luggage, b) throngs of people everywhere and c) temperatures of around 30C. But we made it, and the train left almost as soon as we had found our seats. Phew!!!

On board the TGV, we could relax, as we knew that once in Stuttgart, we'd get home somehow. Crossing the Rhine near Strasbourg meant being back in Germany. In Stuttgart, we missed the local train home by seconds - it was still at the platform, but the doors had already closed. The 20 minute wait for the next local train to Ludwigsburg was not too bad; it was Christopher Street Day in Stuttgart, and there was plenty of colourful folk about at the station to do some people watching.


Finally, a few minutes before 10:00 pm, I shut the door to my flat from the inside. 

Would I do it again? Certainly! But next year, we will look up holiday times in England before we book our tickets. We can't always know in advance what will happen in terms of strikes or construction work, but all things considered, I much prefer trains to planes. And our trip there went so well, it really deserves a repeat.

(All photos on this post were taken by my sister.)

Thursday 4 August 2022

Last Two Days in Ripon

After the day out at Newby, we remained in Ripon for all of Thursday. It was a cool day of grey skies, but no rain. We went round the shops for some last bits and bobs, visited the friendly lady at the Tourist Information to tell her that we'd been to Newby following her suggestions, and had one last lunch at Oliver's Pantry.

In the afternoon, we went to say good-bye to Mary, knowing we would not have time for that tomorrow. Leaving Mary's, one can start on river walks this or that side of the river Skell. We've done the walk on the opposite side of the river several times in the past and decided to stay on this side now, knowing the path would take us near the village of Sharow and back into town.

When walking around Ripon, one has several views of the cathedral from various directions, such as here:

Can you spot the cathedral?

River Skell
Ripon Clock Tower

I always enjoy those "surprise" views. We came back by the clock tower and spent a quiet evening in, watching an episode of "Vera" on TV.

The next day, Friday, a second visit to York was planned. My sister-in-law picked us up at 9:30 so that we would be in the city nice and early, and we arrived at the Jorvik (Viking Centre/Museum; click here to learn more and see a short video introduction) just in time for the time slot my sister-in-law had booked online. About 15 years ago, I had been to the Jorvik with my husband, but it has had a make-over since. 

Everything is so well done there! One rides through a viking village with very life-like animated figures, down to a dog barking when you go past and a man on the toilet (including the smell!). After that, there are rooms where the real exhibits that were found on-site are displayed and explained, and of course there is a shop for any kind of Viking souvenir you could want (we didn't).

We were all hungry by now and went to The Forest, a restaurant where we found seats in their cosy back garden. My niece joined us for the meal, and we had a good long chat and a little walk around the surrounding streets before she went back home.

One of the many shopping streets in York

Last walk across Ripon's market square
Just as my sister-in-law dropped us off at the cottage, our landlady was walking up the road with a shopping back. She waited for us to get off the car and said she had just bought a bottle of wine, and did we want to share? You bet we did! And so we spent a very lovely early evening with her in their garden, sipping wine and talking, with her husband joining us after a while. They are lovely people, and we are happy to know "our" cottage is again in such good hands.

We said our good-bye eventually and grabbed pizzas at Domino's, half-watching an episode of Father Brown with it. Then it was finally time for packing; quickly done, of course, as you don't need to decide what to take - everything you brought and bought needs to go in your suitcase.

The next day, Saturday, was our trip home; that will be my next post.