Friday 28 April 2023

Safety Saturday, Sunny Sunday

Do you feel safe when using public transport? (I know many of my readers rarely or never do, so you may skip the first part of this post; it won't interest you.)

I am on one kind of train or other (local, regional or long-distance) almost every day, be it for work or my weekends at O.K.'s. Buses rarely feature, as I can easily cover the distances within my hometown on foot. But trains, and waiting at train stations of all sizes, at nearly all times of day or night, has been part of my life for "ever".

Personally, I have not experienced many situations when I felt unsafe. But I am cautious when, for instance, groups of drunk football fans gather on the platform, and keep out of their way as much as possible. 

Also, Ludwigsburg train station is very crowded at certain times, and its stairs and tunnels are way too narrow for the masses of people having to go through. At such times, I keep my handbag very tight to my body (and ALWAYS closed, of course). Also, I dislike the feeling of being swept down the stairs in a mass of people pouring out of a commuter train; I keep my shoulders square, my head high and my step firm.

These small things have served me well. I have never fallen on the steps or stumbled on the platform, and my handbag or other things have never been stolen while travelling; nobody has ever threatened me directly.

But I know that many people - especially women - feel so unsafe about using public transport that they rather not use it at all. 

Therefore, as part of my volunteer work, last Saturday (April 22) I had organised a talk with a police officer giving advice about safety and security. Maybe you remember that in my recent posts, I mentioned putting up posters and distributing leaflets - well, that was what it was about: Advertising the talk.

With everything we did to attract attention (social media, local newspapers, the posters and leaflets), attendance was still very small. Only about 12 people were there on Saturday morning - and half of us were family or "officals" from the town. 

Never mind, it still was an interesting talk, and the police officer gave some good advice. She focused not only on possibly threatening situations but also on how to get up and down the stairs and on and off the trains safely, using a one-way system on the stairs and standing aside to let people get off before getting on the train - all those things that should be self-understood but more often than not are not observed.

Sunday, the 23rd of April, was again sunny and warm - much better than forecast. We slept in (the only time that entire week - I so needed that!) and had a late leisurely breakfast. 

Leaving the house at 1:00 pm, we took a local train to the small town of Tamm, just two stops from Ludwigsburg. From there, we walked across the sunlit fields to the woods known as Rothenacker Wald.

I have said it before, but I never tire to say how beautiful the woods are this time of year, with the green leaves still small and tender enough to let plenty of sun through, and anemonae and other small flowers covering the ground. Birds sing, and the air smells of spring. 

The route I had picked for us is one I have walked a few times in the past with my sister (see here and here), and once my Mum came along, too. O.K. had never been there, and so I introduced him to the views from Enzblick (Enz being the river in the valley, "Blick" meaning "view"), Leudelsbach (the small beck running at the bottom at the valley before it joins the river Enz) and the steep path leading up from the river to Schellenhof, a popular stopping place with a beer garden and restaurant.


That day, it was packed, and we did not stop for a shandy as we would have done otherwise. Instead, we walked back into Tamm and waited for the next train to Ludwigsburg. After 14.5 km under our feet, arriving home felt good. We ordered pizza and I made a salad to go with it. Eventually, O.K. had to leave and face the long drive home - I did not envy him!

Monday 24 April 2023

Working and Walking

The headline pretty much sums up what last week was like for me.

On Monday, the 17th of April, I worked from home, and the evening was dedicated to the fortnightly meeting with my volunteer group. In between work and the meeting, I had a long-requested conversation with my downstairs neighbour.

Tuesday (April 18) was Quiz Night for my team at my local - "Towers", the Irish pub where I hang out quite a lot and where I celebrated my 50th birthday five years ago. One team member couldn't make it, but another asked his 20-year-old son plus girlfriend along - and they were, as we'd hoped, most helpful with the two questions about current songs (our musical expertise ends more or less with the 1980s) and actors and other celebrities. We walked home with the 3rd prize, two bottles of sparkling wine.

As on most Wednesdays now, I worked at the office on the 19th of April. The day was very unsettled weather-wise, but when I left work, I was pretty certain about it remaining dry for my way home. I therefore decided to get off the train in Zuffenhausen and walk the 10.35 km to my home, which took me 1 hour 50 minutes and was very pleasant.

There was even more walking in store for me on Thursday (April 20). I was scheduled to give two talks/trainings about the basics of data/privacy protection to the staff of the German Literature Archive, one in the morning, one in the afternoon. Walking from Marbach train station to the archive takes about 15-20 minutes. 

Both sessions were really good (it is a part of my job I enjoy every much), but I was more than ready to stop talking and listening for a while after that, and so the decision to walk home all the way from Marbach was easy to make.

It was sunny when I arrived in the morning. This is the view across the river towards Benningen, where I often walk to after work.

View towards Ludwigsburg with the rocket half way between the two towns - see further down for a close-up.

The modern and original Literature Museums are part of a complex of buildings housing the German Literature Archive, library and Schiller museum.
For the first half of that walk (13 km altogether), I had grey skies but no rain. Then a fine drizzle began and did not let up until I was home. Never mind - it still was much better to walk than to sit on a stuffy train.

You have seen the "rocket" many times from afar; here it is close up.

River Neckar from the foot bridge between Neckarweihingen and Hoheneck. It was raining by then.
A friend I had not met in a while had asked for a phone call that evening, and I rightly suspected something was wrong. Turns out my friend has a brain tumor. She is several years younger than I, has never smoked or drunk much alcohol in her life. One really wonders how cancer starts. Her doctors are optimistic about the outcome of radiation therapy which is to start soon; the tumor is not spreading but sits in a place that makes it inoperable.

After the call, I needed a good cry to sort my feelings out. It was last year in April when the series of deaths within my circle of friends and families started, and a lot of how I felt during those months came back. I hope I can be at least of some support for my friend, even if it is "just" a listening ear.

Friday, the 21st of April, was busy with a combination of work, housework and preparations for a workshop on Saturday moring (more about that later). The day was sunny and rather mild after a cold morning, and while O.K. was on his way to Ludwigsburg, we had a thunderstorm. 

Morning fog on Friday, as seen from my sister's

Friday evening after the thunderstorm, just before sunset, as seen from my kitchen.

White wine risotto with green asparagus and - surprise! - white wine (Riesling)
O.K. arrived around 20 past 9 pm, and we sat down for a meal of creamy risotto based on white wine and freshly steamed green asparagus on top, accompanied by the same wine (a dry Riesling) I had used for the risotto, and using the new Riesling glasses O.K.'s sister and brother-in-law had given me for my birthday. Dessert was salted caramel ice cream with a splash of Bailey's.

Saturday (April 22) was forecast to be the warmest day of this year so far, and temperatures did indeed reach well over 22 Celsius (71.6 F) in the afternoon, probably  24-25 C (mid-70s F) in sheltered sunny spots. As always, some people cast off nearly all their clothes with the first sun ray, and it was the same that weekend; I saw folks in shorts and sleeveless tops in town, making me wonder what they are going to wear in the summer.

Anyway. We had our workshop at the train station in the morning and then went for lunch with my Mum and my sister. After ice creams in town with my sister, we went our separate ways, O.K. and I taking a stroll in the palace grounds before going home for our evening meal.

We went for a good long walk on Sunday, the 23rd of April, but this will be the subject of another post.

Thursday 20 April 2023

The Week After Easter

Another short working week with only four days, this one brought some family time, a few walks and a mix of sun and rain, most welcome this time of year.

Easter Monday, the 10th of April, was a holiday in Germany. I was still at O.K.'s and went to mass at the village church, where O.K. and the village band were providing the music for the service. The morning was chilly, but the day remained dry and with the sun out, temperatures got as high as 18 Celsius (64.4 F).

After church, we had a lunch of leftovers from yesterday's family meal and then rested for a bit before setting out for a nice long walk across the wooded hilltop (Hohhölzle) behind the village to the next village (Zunsweier) and back.

Tuesday (April 11) brought the early start for both of us that we usually have on a Monday morning when O.K. takes me to the train station. Because of the Easter holidays, my usual trains were not running, and I had to change twice instead of once. The planned connection in Karlsruhe did not work out, but I was able to make a spontaneous change and still arrived home at the usual time.

It was a sunny day with clouds drawing in later but remained dry, and so I took my standard walk to Benningen after work, with slight variations, enjoying every step of it.

Former entrance to the deer park at the outskirts of Ludwigsburg

entering Freiberg

approaching Benningen via a tiny protected area (no building allowed here)

row of fruit trees in bloom on the fields near Benningen
It was office time on Wednesday, the 12th of April. A busy but otherwise unremarkable day; rain in the morning, sun during the day and clouds later on. I got off the train in Kornwestheim and walked the rest of the way home.

I worked from home on Thursday (April 13) and then went to my Mum's at 6:00 pm for a delicious meal of pasta with two sauces: my Mum's home-made pesto and a tomato sugo. My sister was also there, and the three of us had a chatty, cosy evening. After a sunny day, it began to rain just as I was on my way there.  

Friday, the 14th of April, would have been my grandma's 108th birthday. Please read my Mum's guest post about her if you have not done so when I first posted it.

By the time I wrapped up work, I was extremely tired and would have liked to lay down for a nap. But the day was so beautiful with sunshine and somewhere around 12-14 C that I really wanted to be out there, too, and so I went for a walk on the fields with a stop at the cemetery, and was back home about two hours later.

Forgetmenots at the cemetery. As usual, I find them hard to photograph - the picture does not really do them justice.

My Dad's bird marker is the blue one at the far right, friend R's is the white one with the potted red primrose.
I made a point of visiting one of my favourite spots on the fields. A line in a song by Jamiroquai says "I know this corner of the Earth, it smiles at me", and that is exactly what this place means to me. It is nothing spectacular, but something about it "smiles" at me.

O.K. arrived at my place around coffee time on Saturday (April 15), which gave me all morning to do my cleaning, food shopping etc. From about 5:00 pm onwards, I was in the kitchen, getting a family meal on the way. My Mum and my sister arrived at 6:30, and after glasses of Apérol Spritz and cheese nibbles, we sat down for Yorkshire Puddings and oven-baked vegetables, a creamy sauce made with the same red wine we later drank, and fried sausages. 
Yorkshire puddings rising in the oven. You can see how uneven my oven heats, but the result was still good enough to eat.
On Friday, I had baked a Rocky Road cake (admittedly, I used a ready-made baking mix that only required me to add butter, egg and milk), and we had that for dessert.

Sunday, the 16th of April, was a wet day. It never really stopped raining, but let up enough for us to manage a 45 minute walk around the neighbourhood before dinner. Otherwise, it was a day of rest, sleeping until 10 in the morning and generally not doing much at all.

Sunday 16 April 2023

Read in 2023 - 9: The Eleventh Hour

The Eleventh Hour

Poppy McGuire Mysteries # 1

by Anina Collins

A - surprise, surprise - free ebook from the Kindle shop, I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. That's mainly due to me liking the main character (and her Dad), but more than that I think it is because after what seems like the classic start of a romantic interest, things do not go the way they usually do in books of that kind.

The situation is so typical: When the female heroine meets her male counterpart for the first time, there is an instant dislike. He is gruffly impolite, she is offended. I felt I knew exactly where this was going to lead - turn another few pages, and the two of them land in bed together, and in love.

Well, neither of it happens in that book, but the two do end up working together on the first murder case in a decade in Sunset Ridge, a small town where people know each other from kindergarden onwards, and it seems impossible to keep anything private.

Someone DID keep things private, though, and big time. Poppy, a journalist who has been friends since childhood with the police chief and his no. 1 officer, a pair of brothers, is always curious about what her fellow citizens get up to - not out of malice or wanting to gossip, but out of a genuine interest in life.

Needless to say, eventually Poppy and her new friend, retired big city cop Alex, get to the root of it all and solve the case. Also needless to say, before that happens, they themselves are in danger, and for a while, they are chasing false clues.

Of course, the reader knows that Poppy won't really die - otherwise, this could not be the first book in a series about her. But the twists and turns are surprising enough to keep the reader going "I knew it!" one minute and "oh... I didn't expect that" the next. The story is not too fast paced and not too over-populated with characters, and there are no gory details about the murders (yes, one more person loses their life before the end of the book).

The writing style flows along easy enough to make it a pleasant read, not overly challenging but not dumbed down, either.

I never heard of the author before, and Anina Collins does not appear to have her own website apart from her facebook page. says about her that she has "always loved a good mystery" and read Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes stories as a child, as well as Agatha Christie. She lives in North Carolina.

Thursday 13 April 2023

Easter Week

[Update - just added a picture from Easter Sunday at the end of this post.]

A short working week (with Good Friday off) does not necessarily mean a less busy week - instead, one tries to squeeze into four days everything one usually does in five. But it was a good week with plenty of sun, one birthday party and two family gatherings.

On Monday, the 3rd of April, I took my usual trains back from O.K. and arrived home on time. The day was filled working, doing a quick trip to Aldi for my groceries, an equally quick trip to a pâtissier in town to buy hand-made chocolate eggs for my nearest and dearest, and the regular meeting with my volunteer group.

It was below freezing during the night and still very cold on Tuesday (April 4), and I was glad to be working from home where my desk is right next to the heating. After work, I went into town to put up the posters and lay out the flyers I had picked up last week (more about that in a separate post).

The magnolia trees in my street were at their best that day, I think.

As a rule, Wednesdays are my office days now, and this one (the 5th of April) was no exception. My boss was on a high and talking non-stop that day, brimming with ideas, and it was quite overwhelming. I was really exhausted afterwards, and when my sister met me at the train station to put up the rest of our posters, she kindly offered to sit down for a coffee or tea first. We did that, and I recovered a little over a piece of delicious cheese cake and a mug of Earl Grey, but I was hardly able to follow a proper conversation. Still, we put up more posters and handed out the rest of our flyers and were quite satisfied with our efforts.

Thursday (April 6) was "Green Thursday" - that is what the day before Good Friday is called in German. It is tradition in most Swabian households to eat Maultaschen on that day, and our Mum makes them herself every year.

Therefore, I went to her place after work. My sister and I did a few jobs for her and then, together with Mum's friend who lives downstairs in the same house (also a widow) sat down for a delicious meal of home-made Maultaschen and spuds salad.

During my lunch break, I had put up the rest of my posters; it had been a busy day, and I was really glad that I tomorrow was a day off.

Sleeping in was very welcome on Good Friday, the 7th of April. I spent the morning quietly with a few household tasks, computer time and a phone call from O.K. before my sister picked me up at 1:00 pm for a walk to Asperg.

The weather was a mix of sun, rain and sun, and we caught a few drops of rain which did not bother us. It was good to be out and about and my first real walk of that week. 

We dropped in for a snack and a shandy at a beer garden/restaurant on the way home, but because it was rather windy and chilly, we chose to sit indoors instead of the beer garden. We were the only guests inside, and could not help but laugh at the horrible music playing in the background - the kind I call Euro trash and that is all electronic beats and bleeping noises and artificially enhanced voices that sound one just like the other. Still, the rest, food and drink were welcome.
Back home, I spent the rest of the day reading, playing the new computer game O.K. had given me for my birthday (Hogwarts Legacy) and later watching TV.

On Saturday (April 8), I took three trains to O.K.'s and arrived at around 1:00 pm with a delay of half an hour. We prepared some of the food for Sunday before setting off on foot to the next village (about 4 km away), where we were invited to a birthday party. It was a big party at the home of one of O.K.'s friends, with plenty to eat and drink and many people to chat to, and we had a good time. The walk back under the bright moon light (it was only two nights since the full moon) was special, and I enjoyed that part at least as much as the party.

It was our turn to host the festive family lunch on Easter Sunday, the 9th of April. We woke up a little before the alarm we had set, and spent good part of the morning in the kitchen. 

At noon, O.K.'s parents, his sister and her husband arrived. The six of us had a pleasant meal, and after a short walk to the cemetery (it was the anniversary of O.K.'s middle sister's death), enjoyed the cream cheese layer cake O.K. had made. It tasted as great as it looked!

When our guests left, we cleared the kitchen and put things back to normal in the living/dining room before going for a walk around the village in the beautiful evening light. The sights and sounds of spring were all around.

Easter Sunday, just before 7:00 pm
Surprisingly, even after the sumptuous lunch and coffee we'd had, by late evening I was hungry again. A few pieces of cheese and a slice of bread were enough, and we drank the rest of the wine from lunch with that, watching some silly TV (Reese Witherspoon's "rom com" phase) - just what we wanted.