Monday 27 February 2023

Last Full Week of February

Only today and tomorrow to go, and March will be here, bringing not only the spring equinox and official beginning of spring for my part of the world, but also my birthday (and that of several people dear to me) plus a mini break, a week-long course for work and most likely a pub quiz,

Last Monday (the 20th of February) was sunny, and very mild at 14C (57.2F). I spent my lunch break at my Mum's (of course having an excellent meal), and after work, my sister joined me for the first time on one of my most frequent routes, across the fields via Freiberg to Benningen.

Tuesday, the 21st of February, was equally sunny and mild. And good job it was - because due to repairs, my trains ended in Korntal, one town/stop before Weilimdorf, where I work. A replacement bus service was operating, but I had no intention of using that - it would have taken me almost as long as walking, and so I walked, still being on time for my first meeting of the day. The way back was the same; it is not a very nice walk, but the good weather helped.

This was the best part - a foot path along the rail tracks. For most of the time, I crossed from one industrial estate into the next.
Wednesday (Feb. 22) saw me working from home, avoiding the local train problems and starting work early. I also finished earlier than usual that day, as an outing was planned for my department: Ten of us were booked for a special guided tour at Ludwigsburg palace. 

The palace is open to the public only via guided tours, and the main tours include most of the stately rooms. The special tour we had booked only took in 12 rooms, and our guide was impersonating a lady-in-waiting from the year 1808, in authentic costume and using (mostly) authentic language of the time. We had to act as if we were minor aristocrats, visiting unfortunately when the King and Queen were away, but giving the lady-in-waiting the chance to show us round a bit.

It was good fun and although I have been at the palace for tours so many times I could easily be a guide myself, there were still bits I had not known. The tour lasted well over an hour, and I was glad I had prepared well for the unheated building - at some stage, I even put my woolly hat on, and my mittens came in handy, too.

Outside, it was still mild and spring-like, but we were glad to walk the short distance to the Irish pub where I had booked a table for us. The next couple of hours were spent in the warm, cosy pub, chatting over our plates of fish & chips and pints of cider (or beer, for some); a successful and pleasant event all around.

By Thursday (Feb. 23) it was obvious that O.K. had caught a heavy cold and was not going to drive up for the weekend. 

I met a friend after work; we had an excellent meal at a Greek restaurant where I'd never been before, and caught up on our news since the last time we'd met last August.

In line with the weather forecast, temperatures dropped on Friday, the 24th of February, and grey clouds replaced the sunny blue skies of the first half of the week.

My last work call ended shortly after 4:00 pm, but instead of starting my weekly cleaning right there and then, I first needed a walk, and went out for almost exactly one hour. It was nearly 7:00 pm when I called it a day with the cleaning, and spent the evening resting, watching some TV, reading and of course talking to O.K. on the phone.

Saturday (Feb. 25) brought a mix of clouds, sun and a few drops of rain eventually turning into snow. 

Much of the morning was spent finishing my house work (mainly cleaning my windows - honestly, I was ashamed of how dirty they were; I don't mind household tasks at all, but for some reason I do not quite understand myself, cleaning windows is my least favourite job of all), followed by a walk across town and the old cemetery (not in use anymore, but a peaceful park), crossing the palace grounds on my way back.

A tiny green parrot? No - budding leaves on a shrub.

Here is the name of the shrub.

Before O.K. had caught his cold, we had booked a table for the four of us (Mum, sister, O.K. and I) at an Italian restaurant within easy walking distance from my Mum's. We still went ahead with the meal; my Mum's friend who lives on the ground floor in the same house joined us instead.

Our pizzas were good, as they always are at this place, and I even bumped into my former boss and his wife, who have become friends over the many years we've known each other.

It started to snow just as I was walking to the restaurant, and kept snowing for most of the evening.

On Sunday, the 26th of February, a powdering of snow covered the gardens I see from my kitchen window; it was cold and windy with some more snow falling.

My sister suggested a visit to Stuttgart's Rosenstein-Museum, a museum of natural history which we visited every now and then with our parents when we were kids, and always loved it.

The museum is housed in a palace built to be the summer residence of King Wilhelm of Württemberg. You can read a short wikipedia article in English here.

Much to our dismay, upon arrival we saw a long queue in front of the building - almost entirely composed of families with small children. We decided to brave the queue and the crowds inside, now that we were here, and I am glad we did; yes, the noise level was almost unbearable at times, but the museum itself is still as beautiful and interesting as we remembered.

There is also a lot of information about extinct species, how we as a species are ruining the habitats of so many plants and animals, and what can be done.

A huge room is about The Sea, the lighting suggests you are under water. The floor is made to look like the real thing, too, complete with plastic waste.

We walked through the park into the city centre, and on our third try found a place where they had a table for us, so that we could have coffee and cake (my sister) or sweet potato soup with fresh crusty bread and a soft drink (for me). 
This is actually a rose garden, very beautiful in the warmer months.

Looking back at the museum

A train to Ludwigsburg was just a four-minute wait away afterwards, and I spent the rest of Sunday at home in my warm, clean and tidy flat, watching TV (a documentary about Harry Belafonte), reading and playing my favourite computer game (The Sims 2) as well as talking to O.K. on the phone.

Friday 24 February 2023

Last Week

The first half of last week was sunny, and mostly mild. The second half saw a little rain, strong winds and many fast-moving clouds. The weekend was dominated by Carnival-related activities.

I arrived back home on the morning of Monday, February 13, with my trains being on time. The day was sunny, inducing me to an hour's walk on the fields in the afternoon. In the evening, a meeting with my volunteer group took place. (Our meetings are always a mix of serious work and good fun.)

Tuesday, the 14th, was once again sunny. I worked at the office in Weilimdorf and arranged to meet up with my sister after work, half way on our respective ways home. The original idea had been to walk from Zuffenhausen all the way home, something I've been doing many times. But because of my sister having to carry a heavy rucksack with her laptop etc., we decided to try a new route and get back on the train in Kornwestheim for the last leg of our journey. It was still a good walk and an occasion to catch up. 

Not my pictures but O.K.'s, taken on that day during his lunchtime walk near work.

It was really foggy that day in O.K.'s area - not here, though.

It was another day at the office for me on Wednesday (Feb. 15), followed by an excellent meal of home-made savoury pancakes with my sister at our Mum's. The pancakes were spread with a filling of creamy mushrooms, cheese and herbs, and then rolled up. The fresh leafy salad and the well chilled rosé wine were perfect matches.

Same place, same walk, next day. What a difference!

For Thursday, the 16th of February, my original plan had been to work from home. But the city of Ludwigsburg's electricity provider had left a leaflet in my mailbox, informing me of a planned power cut from 8:00 to 11:30 in the morning, due to necessary repairs. Without electricity, I can neither work nor heat my flat (I use gas but the actual controls and pumps are electric) - not even make myself a cup of tea or coffee. Therefore, for the third day in a row, I took the usual two trains to Weilimdorf. 

By the time I finished work, much of the day's sun had gone, but it was still good enough to walk home from Zuffenhausen, making a little detour to the cemetry and ending up with exactly 10 km. Not long after I arrived home, rain set in.

Friday (Feb. 17) was mild at 12C (53.6F) but grey, and again very windy. After work and my usual round of cleaning, I started my trip to Offenburg about an hour earlier than usual. The second of my two trains was delayed by over an hour, but a spontaneous change of plans allowed me to still arrive with only about half an hour's delay. Honestly, without the Navigator app on my phone I'd be lost when it comes to public transport!

The reason for my earlier trip was that this was the night of the traditional Preismaskenball in the village hall (literally "prize masks ball", meaning a Carnival themed dance where visitors can enter a contest for the best costume). Of course, this was the first Preismaskenball since the pandemic, and my third one. The motto was Hamburg, but we never go for the contest, we just go for fun, and made little effort with our costumes, merely borrowing sailor-style shirts and hats, since Hamburg's most dominant feature is its international harbour.

We dressed (and I even put on some lipstick) and walked up to the village hall, about 10-15 minutes from the cottage. The place was packed, and the general mood was cheerful and merry; it was obvious how happy people were to be able to go to such events again. We had a few drinks, chatted to people we knew, watched a few performances on stage by the carnival clubs, waited for the prize ceremony (and did not agree with all the decisions of the committee), danced a few times, and generally had a good time, going home at about 2:30 in the morning.

Back in 2018, I posted here about the ball. 

Understandably, Saturday (Feb. 18) started late for us. After "breakfast" (we're talking 2:00 pm), we took advantage of the mild weather (14C) and went for a walk around the village. Afterwards, we popped in at O.K.'s parents (their house is just across the road from the cottage) - unintentionally, just when O.K.'s Mum pulled her freshly made pizza from the oven, so we stayed for a few pieces before retreating to the cottage.

Hofweier's village church, St. Gallus

Sunday, the 19th of February, was the main carnival event for the village: a parade in costumes and with marching bands, one of those bands being the village brass band where O.K. plays the trumpet.

Those events mean O.K. is busy all afternoon and evening, and also the following day. Therefore, just like in previous years, the family met at O.K.'s parents for goulash soup (very nice) and a drink. O.K. then had to go join the band for the parade, while the rest of us watched the parade from the side of the village road. We then followed the groups down the village road, chatting to neighbours and friends along the way, and then having another drink at one of the venues open only for that occasion.

I liked the little Witch walking with her Mum (or Dad)

You can tell that being part of a carnival club is very much a family thing.

Yours truly with one of the (male) witches posing for a "selfie".

The "Domino" is the village's oldest traditional costume. I find them scary, much more than the witches.

This group (there are actually 5 or 6 of them, all sisters) represents Hamburg's notoriously bad weather.

At 4:00 pm, O.K.'s sister and brother-in-law took me to the train station, and I was home after an uneventful journey at around 7:00 pm.

The quiet evening on my own was not unwelcome after the busy week and weekend :-)

Wednesday 22 February 2023

Read in 2023 - 4: Starvecrow Farm

Starvecrow Farm

by Stanley John Weyman

Another free ebook I came across at Amazon’s Kindle shop, and although I can not really recommend it without reservations, it did make for an interesting and somewhat different reading experience.

Published in 1905, Starvecrow Farm is set in 1819, a year that saw much action from and against radical political forces in England. The previous decades of industrialisation had brought great changes to society, with few profiting and many suffering from them.

Lancashire and the city of Manchester were centres not only of industry but also of political radicals. The events of the French Revolution, barely 20 years ago, were still fresh in people's collective memory. Not only for radical ideas and plans of revolution, but even for offences such as poaching a person could be imprisoned, deported to Australia or even hung.

In such a setting 19-year-old Henrietta, of a respectable but unloving family, flees the prospect of an arranged marriage and falls for a radical who entices her to elope with him.

During an overnight stop at a country inn, the man vanishes, and her romantic notions soon follow – especially when she learns the truth about him. Still, she has disgraced her family and can’t simply go back to pick up her old life. Also, there is still the matter of the man she was supposed to marry…

The young woman is falsely accused of being an accessory in the radical’s crimes, and faces aversity from all sides. She shows remarkable courage and resourcefulness to set things straight, and eventually does not only manage to clear her name, she even rescues a kidnapped child and finds a husband.

All events and places are described in much detail, which made the book more interesting than it would have been otherwise. But dialogue is lengthy and sometimes of the kind that makes you want to shake the persons who are speaking, urging them to say what they mean, and say it quickly.

The roles of men and women, of various classes and wealth, are very much rooted in the time not only of the setting, but also of the writing oft he book. Characters are very black and white with few redeeming features for the "bad" and few true faults with the "good" ones. There is humour in the book, too, but how much of that a modern reader will actually grasp is hard to say.

Anyway – it was my companion on the way to and from work for several weeks, and I have read worse (but also much better) books; if nothing else, I learned a lot about the social and political landscape of the time.

More about the author is here Stanley J. Weyman - Wikipedia. A version of the book with its original illustrations can be read online here (Project Gutenberg).

Monday 20 February 2023

Read in 2023 - 3: Ich bin hier, und alles ist jetzt

Ich bin hier, und alles ist jetzt

Dr. Edith Eva Eger

This book was a gift from Eszter, a lady I regularly go to for a back and shoulder massage. She is very good at her job, and a wonderful person with a big heart, great sense of humour and a bright mind. We often talk about all sorts of things, and some time in autumn she told me of a book she was reading. I expressed my interest but because she mostly reads Hungarian, lending me her book didn’t make sense – instead, she surprised me with the German edition on my last appointment before Christmas, along with a bag of her home-made Christmas cookies.

The author combines her autobiography with her psychological expertise and uses her own story to show how people can find happiness and peace of mind even under the most averse circumstances, and even after the most traumatic experiences.

Nobody will doubt that being imprisoned in Auschwitz ranks highly among the most traumatic things ever. Add the fact that the author was only 16 when she was sent there with her family, with only herself and her sister surviving – it would be perfectly understandable if someone who has had to suffer through all that would turn bitter and spend the rest of their days unable to feel true happiness ever again.

Not so Edith.

She struggles to find her place in life after the war, eventually emigrating to the US. Things are not easy there, either; her marriage, her relationships within the family and with others are all affected by her refusal to face her past and deal with its impact.

But several crucial moments allow her to change her life completely, and much for the better. She studies psychology and soon is a much sought after specialist. While healing others, she also heals herself, and the stories of some of her patients are interwoven with her own.

If you ever feel sorry for yourself and think you can never be happy again (for whatever reason), I recommend you read this.

Much of it makes hard reading, and no doubt some unbidden mental images will stay with you for a while  – but they are nothing compared to what it must have been like in real life, and they are balanced by the optimism and kindness the author shows towards her patients, her readers and herself.

Dr. Edith Eva Eger is now in her 90s. Her wikipedia entry is here, and her own website is here.

I consider this an important book on more than one level and only wish I could have read it in English (the language it was written in), as I prefer the original language of a book (provided I am able to understand it, of course) to any translation, no matter how well done. Take the title, for instance: The original title of the book is "The Choice: Embrace the Possible", whereas the literal translation of the German title is "I am here, and all is now". Why the difference? I don't know who comes up with such ideas; why not simply translate the title? I know you can not always create a 1:1 translation that makes sense in the other language, but in this case, it would have worked well enough.

Again, it is an important book, well written, and can be helpful to anyone who chooses to read it.