Thursday 31 August 2023

Read in 2023 - 23: Janet Jackson's Yorkshire B&B

Janet Jackson's Yorkshire B&B
by Becky Papworth

This was another free find at Amazon's kindle shop, yielded after a search with the keyword "Yorkshire". It was a fun read, even though more often than not, I shook my head at the heroine.

Janet Jackson (no relation whatsoever to Michael's sister) lives in a small town in Yorkshire and has just converted her garage into a B&B. 
Sounds straightforward enough - but the opposite is the case.
The good Janet has started out on this business adventure with no preparation and no plan whatsoever, something I find truly exasperating. In the end, though, she is successful, and the reader (at least this one) can't help but feeling relieved - for her as much as for oneself.

Not only does she lack preparation or even the most basic sense of business. As if that wasn't enough, she is surrounded by obstacles in the form of envious neighbours, a high maintenance teenage daughter and her unemployed and alcoholic sister living with her, and an ex husband who manages to time his surprise visits just when she least needs them.

And that's not having said anything about the B&B guests yet! They range from horrible to absolute sweethearts, but even the sweetest ones mean (surprise, surprise) work for Janet.

There is romance thrown in, and humour; all in all, I found it really entertaining but would not put it on a "must read" list. I grew to like Janet a little bit when she finally asserted herself (at least in one situation).

Becky Papworth has her own website here; as far as I can see, this is her first and so far only book. If Janet embarks on future adventures, I might go and read them.

Monday 28 August 2023

Last "Proper" Summer Week?

The past week may well turn out to be the last one for 2023 we can justly call summer. After nearly every day saw the temperature reach above 30C (mid-/high 80s F) and brought several thunderstorms with rain, Saturday and Sunday were considerably cooler with an overnight drop to around 20C and under (68F).

My trains back to Ludwigsburg were on time on Monday morning (21st of August). It was too hot for a comfortable walk right after work, and so I waited until the main TV news were over and left the house at 20 past 8 in the evening, going for a sunset walk of about 1 1/2 hours. 

I worked at the office in Weilimdorf on Tuesday, the 22nd of August, and again it was too hot for a walk, and since I'd been away all day, I quite enjoyed spending a quiet evening home, playing my favourite computer game, watching TV, reading, and talking to O.K. on the phone after he'd returned from his sister's birthday party.

View from my kitchen window, Tuesday morning just before 7:00.
Wednesday was my second office day of this week. It was not quite as hot as the previous days, but still enough to keep me from a proper walk. Also, there was an open "after work do" (a kind of meet & greet) at the office, and I used the opportunity to get to know a few colleagues from different departments.

Thursday, the 24th of August, meant working from home like most Thursdays. The date itself made me think of Christmas Eve - one of my favourite days of the year - being only four months away. 

A very unpredictable mix of sun and rain and more sun and more rain made me abandon the idea of a walk - the weather app on my phone was wrong every time it rained, saying that Ludwigsburg was just "partly cloudy" :-D

The same view on Thursday morning.
The weather started similarly unsettled on Friday (in spite of my rain coat, I got soaked twice on my way to a client in Stuttgart, where worked until shortly after 1:00 pm), but the afternoon saw an improvement, and so my Mum and I decided to pay one last visit to the Weinlaube (wine fest, as mentioned in a few previous posts). Saturday was going to be the last day for another year, and since I was going to O.K.'s for the weekend, this was our only chance for a good-bye visit.

We had fun and got talking to people at our table; not even getting stung by a wasp put a real damper on the evening. Can you believe I was the ONLY person at our table constantly surrounded by wasps? Unlike the others, I did not even have food in front of me, plus I had sprayed myself with a repellant - it seemed to have the opposite effect! Good job I carried an instant treatment stick with me; it helped a little. But even today, three days after the sting, the spot on the inside of my upper arm is still red and itchy. 

Minutes after this picture was taken, I was stung by a wasp.

The live band were good, but once again had to take a long break (1 1/2 hours) because of an open air theatre performance nearby. We used that time slot to go to the bus stop where I waited with my Mum until I knew her safely settled in the bus, then I returned to the fest. I did not buy any more drinks but just kept close to the stage, singing and dancing along to the music until about 11 pm, when it started to rain. Good job I live so close to the town centre - I was home in under 10 minutes.

On Saturday, I wrapped up my house work and then made my way to the train station. It was considerably cooler at 21C, and there were showers all along the way to Offenburg, where I arrived early afternoon.

We joined O.K.'s parents, his sister and her husband, a few friends and neighbours on their patio for coffee and cakes (delicious!) to celebrate the birthday of O.K.'s Mum - she turned 83.

O.K. and I could not stay for the evening meal, since we had another birthday party to attend: The youngest sister of O.K.'s ex wife turned 50. The party was held in their beautiful garden; a few drops of rain did not bother us under the tents and umbrellas that had been erected. There was plenty of food (salad bar and BBQ) and drink, and we enjoyed talking to the family and friends.

At night, of course it cooled off further, and even though we had prepared ourselves with extra layers of clothing, eventually it just didn't feel comfortable anymore to sit and talk. We were among the last guests to leave and arrived at the cottage just before midnight.

Sunday started sunny, but more rain was forecast, and so we made sure to be out for a walk after our (late) breakfast. The temperature was hard to judge; although it did not show more than about 20 on the thermometer, it felt rather hot and humid in the sun, and I was glad that I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. We returned home after about 7.5 km, and just in time - maybe 2 minutes later, it began to rain again.

By early evening, the sun made an attempt to return, but it was really chilly; good job O.K.'s Mum had booked a table indoors at a pizzeria/restaurant in the neighbouring village. This time, there were only the six of us (O.K.'s parents, his sister and her husband, O.K. and I), no neighbours, friends or relatives - but by coincidence, some (distant?) relatives had the table next to ours.

Afterwards, O.K. and I spent the rest of the evening quietly; Monday mornings mean an early start for both of us (5:20), since O.K. takes me to the train station in Offenburg and then drives on to work.

Thursday 24 August 2023

Read in 2023 - 22: Our Village

Our Village

by Mary Russell Mitford

Not what my kindle edition looks like - I have nicked this picture from somewhere online.

This was an unusual read. Not because the book was first published in a magazine in the form of about 100 literary sketches during the 1820s and 1830s and uses expressions you won’t find in more recent books; I have read many books from that period and am used to their style and vocabulary.

But in my free kindle edition, the foreword alone was nearly as long as the author’s work. It was written by a lady who greatly admired Miss Mitford, and could not resist turning it into almost a full biography. I was never quite sure whether I was still reading a foreword to something that was yet to come, or whether this was the actual book.

The book itself can not really be called a story, neither is it a proper diary. I’d rather call it a collection of vignettes describing places, people, walks and other outings in and around Miss Mitford's village, roughly following the span of a year with the changing seasons.

Several characters reappear "months" later after their initial introduction, but mostly, each chapter has its own location and cast.

A lot is about the landscape itself; hills, woods, single trees, hedgerows, village greens, lanes, becks and rocks, with flowers getting the most attention.

The weather, temperature, what the sky looks like, what a day feels and smells like – the author is very good at that, and more often than not, I fully understood what she meant.

Other elements are too typical of the author’s day and age for me to really relate to them, such as the taking for granted of children having to work (hard) for a living or the way society’s conventions restrict people’s lives.

Still, it was a quiet, largely enjoyable read, but not one I would highly recommend, in spite of the writer having been very popular in her time.

Both the book and its author have their own wikipedia entries, so you can simply click on the highlighted words in this post to learn more, if you like.

Monday 21 August 2023

Mid-August Week

Last week, only one day was under 30C/86F (Tuesday at 29C); all the other days we saw the thermometer reach 30 and beyond. It was mostly humid, too, making the heat harder to bear, and there were several thunderstorms. But it was mid-August, after all - so neither a big surprise nor anything to complain about.

Sad news on Monday (August 14): One of the lovely cats in the same house as my Mum (they are my Mum's friend's; she lives on the ground floor, my Mum in the attic flat) was run over by a lorry right in front of the house. Thankfully, neither my Mum's friend nor Mum saw it happening, but a neighbour across the street did. He said the lorry was speeding well past the limit and did not slow down at all, probably completely unaware of what happened. At the allowed speed, the driver maybe would have spotted the cat, and poor beautiful loveable Keks (cookie) would still be alive. The only consolation is that it was all over in an instant (and I suppose we all know how daft cats can sometimes be around cars, trying to dash across at the last possible moment).

Keks ("cookie") in his garden. He loved being around his Human and feline companion and was very affectionate.
The day was too hot for much activity, with a thunderstorm in the afternoon bringing hail the size of hazelnuts. It cleared up just before sunset, allowing for a short walk of 45 minutes around the neighbourhood, where I met a very friendly grey cat.

Working at the office on Tuesday, the 15th of August, was in order, as along with a group of colleagues I was giving a presentation in front of people who were quite important for that particular task. All went well, and I feel good about this group; we've been put at that task together but usually have hardly anything to do with each other, so it was anyone's guess how well (or not) we'd be able to work together.

As it was not too hot and humid that afternoon (29 C/84.2F), I walked home from Zuffenhausen, enjoying the fresher air on the fields as opposed to in town.

No pictures from the fields this time, but this disused industrial brick chimney not far from my house where flowers grow out of the brickwork at great height.
Usually, Wednesdays are on-site days, but since everyone in my department (including my boss) was either on holiday or working from home, I did not bother to go in that day, either. A wise decision, as it was again really hot with a thunderstorm, followed by a beautiful double rainbow later.
I was waiting for the rainbow to appear...

...and was not disappointed!

My supper that day: Omelette, avocado, a slice of bread with creamy cheese & chives, and a glass of chilled tomato juice.
A similar pattern on Thursday (August 17); around 30C, sun, then a thunderstorm, then the sun came out once more, but at a pleasant 25C. My Mum and I met up for the Weinlaube (see my previous post to learn more about the festival) and had a great evening out with wine, food and music. 
Glass empty :-(

Glass full :-)

My Mum enjoying a dry white
To my surprise, I found out that one of the founders of the evening's live band (a different one plays every night during Weinlaube) was a former class mate, and so during the break I went to chat with him and his wife for a while. We had not seen each other in 30 years but there was instant recognition on both sides.
The band "Resonance" with my class mate at the far right.

Ludwigsburg's market square a few minutes after sunset.
Friday, the 18th of August, was over 30C but not humid. My sister and I spent our lunch break at our Mum's and had a delicious meal on the balcony until the wasps drove us inside. 

After finishing work and cleaning my flat, I packed my little red suitcase and headed to the train station. With only a 10 minute delay, I arrived in Offenburg, where O.K. picked me up. We enjoyed our supper on the balcony and stayed out long after dark, looking at the stars.

It was above 30C again on Saturday, but in the morning, the balcony was still in the shade, and so it was the best place for our first coffee. Some jobs in the house (for me) and outside (for O.K.) needed doing before we set everything up in the courtyard for a family BBQ. The six of us (O.K.'s parents, his sister and her husband, O.K. and I) enjoyed the salads, crusty bread, sausages and meat along with cool drinks.

On Sunday (August 20) early afternoon, we were invited at friends of O.K.'s who live in a village only a 15 minute drive away, but have never met me (and that's us having been together now for 7 1/2 years). 

Outside their house in the shade of the open porch/barn, they served iced coffee and home-made creamy cakes decorated with their own raspberries - very summerly, and very pleasant. We sat and chatted for longer than intended, and so our supper back at O.K.'s cottage was a little later than usual, with hardly any daylight left on the balcony. O.K. grilled what meat (beef steak) and sausages (spicy merguez eaten with a dollop of harrissa) we had not eaten on Saturday and made a tomato-mozzarella salad to go with it.

It would have been nice to do some stargazing again, but as usual, Monday morning meant an early start for both of us, and so we went to bed as soon as we'd cleared up the kitchen and the BBQ things.

The hottest week (or maybe second hottest?) of this summer was over.

Wednesday 16 August 2023

Summer Weekend

Last weekend was very warm, if not to say hot, and humid. 

On Friday (11th of August), the thermometer reached 30 C (86 F), but it remained sunny and dry throughout.

Unusual cloud formation we spotted on our way to the supermarket

Early supper on Friday evening...

...with home-baked plum cake from O.K.'s Mum for dessert.
O.K. arrived a couple of hours earlier than usual, enabling us to fit a lot into the evening: An early-ish supper (ciabatta baked with olives and feta, a selection of cheeses and a chilled rosé) followed by a quick trip to the biggest supermarket nearby for a birthday gift we are going to need later this month, and then on to the Weinlaube, Ludwigsburg's annual wine fest. 

We go there every year, and as it runs a full two weeks and is only a 10 minute walk from my house, repeated visits are possible. I have written about it a few times on my blog; for instance in 2018, the year I turned 50.

As we approached the Weinlaube, the hum of voices became a buzz. The court behind the city hall was packed - it was only the 2nd night of the fest, and it seemed like at least half of Ludwigsburg's 94,000 inhabitants were there, plus visitors and tourists :-D

It was the kind of situation where you need to be in the mood for crowds, or just turn round and go home (or elsewhere). We stayed, got ourselves something to drink and spent the evening people watching, talking, "making friends" (it is amazing how friendly and chatty perfect strangers can become at such occasions) and having fun when the live band started to play.

The wine fest logo is projected on the back of the city hall.

We were at the side of the stage with a good view of the band.

We stayed until the music ended, and came through my front door at 1:01 am.

It was my Mum's 79th birthday on Saturday, the 12th of August. For the first time since her 16th, she had to celebrate without my Dad. I imagine it was not easy emotionally, but she was happy to be surrounded by friends and family. 14 of us met for a leisurely lunch at a farm shop/restaurant on the outskirts of Ludwigsburg, where we have been on several occasions (the last time before this was after the two funerals of my Dad and friend R in October and November).

The food was good and conversation flowed freely, but an approaching thunderstorm made us move inside from our outdoor tables. Once the rain stopped, most of the guests made their way home, but a small group of us gathered in the beautiful garden of Mum's friend who lives on the ground floor in the same house as she. One more drink and nibbles, and then we, too, called it a day and went home for a late afternoon nap before it was time for a light supper and a quiet night in.

Sunday brought a mix of sun and rain; it was still hot and humid, not inviting for much activity. For our breakfast, I went to the bakery 10 minutes from where I live to get fresh rolls and croissants. After multiple checks of satellite images and weather forecast, we decided on an afternoon walk in town, ending up with about 10 km under our belts and only a few drops of rain having reached us, hardly worth mentioning.

Our fields and gardens are so much greener again after frequent rain.
On the way back, we stopped for ice creams; truly delicious.

At home, a brief nap followed by coffee was next, then I did a spot of ironing before it was time to cook. My sister had given me green and yellow beans from her allotment, and I made them with spuds and goulash. We paired this with a red wine I had been given for my birthday from O.K.'s sister - only a small glass for each of us, followed by an espresso, since O.K. was driving home that same evening.

When he left around 20 past 8, I knew I had 40 minutes before sunset, and went for a short walk around the neighbourhood. It was beautiful in the evening light, and did me good after the meal; just right to end this summer weekend.

View from my Third Room (study/office).

Saturday 12 August 2023

Back To Work

The first week back to work was a mix of very intense and quieter days, where I hardly saw my desk versus hours spent on speficic tasks requiring much concentration.
I also did enough walking to keep me happy :-)

On Monday (the 7th of August), I was glad to be working from home. Checking my various email inboxes showed that a mere 138 messages were waiting for me.
I closed my work laptop at 5:00 pm and was out of the door 20 minutes later, on my customary walk to Benningen.
As I arrived at the tiny station there, it was announced that the train I had intended to take back to Ludwigsburg was cancelled, and in the local trains app on my phone I saw that because of a technical problem, trains would not run to Benningen at all but stop at Freiberg, the small town between Benningen and Ludwigsburg.
Apples ripening in the sun


After almost two hours of walking, I was not too keen on walking another hour back to Freiberg on a hungry stomach, but I did not seem to have much choice. To add variety, I chose not to walk back on the same path, but try different paths where I'd not been before. It was enjoyable, but I must admit I was quite glad to reach Freiberg station, and even more glad to be home - it was 9:00 pm by now, and I had not eaten since my lunch break.
Part of my unplanned extra hour of walking

A path I had never walked before
And guess what: While I was walking to Freiberg, a train whizzed past me... so the originally cancelled train DID run, after all!!

Tuesday was my first day back at the office. My boss and my colleagues were pleased to see me, and we quickly prioritised tasks for the day. Because of many meetings, I hardly got anything done, but was satisfied with what I had achieved until 5:30 pm.

Another day at the office on Wednesday; it was overcast and grey with a shower in the evening. I went to my Mum's after work, where the three of us (Mum, sister and I) had a delicious vegetable soup, made with produce from my sister's allotment. 
For me, that day also marked the end of High Summer and the start of Late Summer. Why? Because for the first time this year, I spotted the beautiful orange "lantern flowers" in a garden on my way to work. To me, they say "late summer" along with rosehips and some other noticeable changes in the gardens and on the fields.

Thursday was a perfect summer's day - sunny and dry, pleasantly warm at 25C (77F) without being hot. 
View from my kitchen window at 6:17 in the morning

My Mum and I had long been thinking about going to an event called Wine After Work at the beautiful small palace by the lake (Monrepos - you have seen it on my blog many times), but today was the first time it was possible in terms of weather and my schedule. Mum's friend R who lives in the same house drove herself and my Mum there, while I wanted to walk.
The atmosphere was very nice; no music blaring, people of all ages just quietly enjoying their drinks (and some food), and watching the sun set over the lake.

On the way back up from the lake towards the suburb Eglosheim

Asperg, seen from a different perspective

I liked how the setting sun was lighting up the power lines.

I had my confirmation at this church at 14, and sang in the choir for a few years.

The weekend started effectively on Friday afternoon, but that will be my next post.