On furnishing adventures – the rocking computer chair

Once upon a time I bought a rocking stool at a jumble sale.

That was 2 moves ago and it’s still doing well. I love it. I love the thick padding and I love that it rocks. I love that it’s the right height for me to work at and I love that I’m short enough to have the choice of putting my knees or my feet on the knee pads. My brother ends up with his knees in his ears if he tries. I apparently have a problem with sitting in the same position for more than a few minutes so all the variations are very welcome.

I don’t so much love that sitting on it for long stretches of time hurts my back and occasionally my knees. Actually. I think it probably doesn’t hurt it in terms of ’cause it to hurt’. It probably just makes me notice where it already hurts. I should probably work on making it stop hurting rather than blaming the stool, but whatever.*

When I saw an adjustable rocking computer chair being given away for free on the local ads website I immediately wrote to ask if I could have it (and then went swimming for the first time in over a year).

Their original suggestion, a few hours later, to go and pick it up straight away, was thwarted by the time of evening and my lack of car and energy. An almost 3 hour round trip involving multiple buses and train seemed a bit over the top for a 7km journey (more than 3 sides of a square due to the way the train lines are set up) at 7pm on a work night. I suggested that the next day would be better and they agreed to look after it a little bit longer.

***

When I first said I wanted it, I’d been planning on asking H to pick it up in his car for me. He wasn’t there to ask, even after I got back from swimming, but it seemed like a thing he’d be willing to do. It’s not all that far away and he picked up a desk and skis for me before. However. I hadn’t planned on his friends having a wardrobe emergency resulting in needing his help well into the night, for several evenings**. When he got back from the first episode and told me about his plans to continue with it over the next few days, it was obvious that his free time to pick up chairs was so limited as to be non-existent. I didn’t ask or even tell him about the chair.

***

I cycled to work as usual in the morning, still wondering how best to bring it home. I was pretty sure that if I asked them to reschedule again it would be gone before I could get there.

I was still unsure when I left work. I almost left my bike there and got a bus to the chair family’s house but I remembered just in time that I can push my bike better than I can carry unwieldy furniture. I decided to use my bike like a trolley. The plan I made up in my head on the way to the chair family’s house was to push the bike-plus-chair combi to the station, take a handful of trains around an unnecessarily large part of Berlin and push it home from the station.

In the end (remember my track record of following through with any kind of plan?) I didn’t do that.

***

Instead, I pushed my bike all the way home. 🙂

It made the most sense of all my available options. After balancing the chair on the saddle and looking at train connections and remembering how much fun I’d had with the skis and the stereo on the train, I figured it was going to be easier to just walk than to fight the stations and lifts and train doors. It was also not going to take me any longer to do.

Luckily it was a fantastic day with no sign of rain or wind (or snow, although that would have been surprising in July) and a friend had some time free to spend on the phone, catching up and filling me in on her new job. I enjoyed the impromptu walk and phone call immensely.

***

This is what it looked like:

Notice the panier..

There was a very helpful saddle shaped hole in the base of the chair.

And that was the end of another successful trip.

* I expect it’s probably age-related because I don’t remember it being a problem before.. It’s also likely related to my sword-like bad posture, which is supposedly something the knee-stools are good at combating… Ho-hum.

** Germans have huge wardrobes. Like really huge wardrobes. Wall-to-wall wardrobes in houses many times bigger than the average Brit’s. I was in a posh furniture shop yesterday and the wardrobe section was very very scary. I think H said this one was nearly 4m long and 2½m tall. I have no idea what to fill almost 6m³ of wardrobe with, but it’s not my wardrobe and therefore not my problem.

On trying to post letters

Someone, at some point, told me that it was a good idea to keep stamps in the house so you can post letters without having to plan a trip to the post office. (This is Germany. You can’t buy stamps just anywhere, where would we end up?! It’s a huge improvement that they introduced stamp machines so you don’t have to queue up for them!)

I could definitely see the logic in that, especially when I lived far from the nearest post office, so I’ve bought a few more stamps than I need ever since.

What nobody told me was where to store them once I bought them. After a couple of occasions in which the stamps weren’t where I was, I took to keeping them in the inside pocket of my handbag.

This worked well..

..until it didn’t.

***

On Tuesday morning, before work, I finished addressing the second of two letters I needed to post ASAP.

I remembered that I had two stamps left from my last trip to the post office and went to find them. That sounds like I had to search for them but that’s not true. I went directly to the inside pocket of my handbag. Sure enough, there were the stamps.

However.

They were stuck together. Much more completely than in the picture. That shows how far I got with my thumbnails before I noticed that I was damaging them.

I didn’t want to go to work via the post office so I set to work unsticking them.

In all the little-kid books, they make steaming letters open and/or removing stamps from letters seem really easy.

They lied.

There’s nothing like sleepily holding your hand over an open kettle to wake you up in the morning.

Steam is hot. (well duh)

And, more annoyingly, stamps don’t just magically unstick themselves just because you sacrifice your hand for them. Even when you finally have two separate pieces of paper there’s a lot of fiddly scratching to remove the gluey remains and make them readable.

And then they aren’t sticky anymore and you have to find a gluestick. (I knew exactly where that was too, but knowing that it’s in a pencil case inside a satchel inside a drawer doesn’t save you the time it takes to fish it out).

It probably took longer to get the stamps apart and onto the envelopes than it would have taken me to go via the post office and buy new ones. ARGH.

Pro tip: don’t stack stamps on top of each other in your handbag. Especially if you are the sort of person who regularly gets caught in the rain.

On nail varnish – the best cover up (until it isn’t)

I often tell people I don’t wear (/use?) nail varnish. It’s not strictly true, but it’s as true as it needs to be for most purposes.

I used to once, but I haven’t regularly in years.

The following photo shows my not-empty tub of varnish removal pads. There were originally 30 in there, I haven’t counted, but I would estimate that there are at least 10 left. I bought it at a train station on the way to an oral exam in Hannover. That was in spring 2011. That’s how often I’ve taken it off.

(Totally irrelevant side story: I was in the sort of shop that sells nail varnish remover because I was trying to kill time so as not to have to hang round at the exam hall for too long before the exam. I wanted to be early but not so early that I could get too scared. There wasn’t a huge amount of choice of shops at the station, hence the nail varnish removal pad shop. I’d never seen them before and it saif they smelled fruity on the label. I am a sucker for good advertising ;).

When I finally sauntered into the exam centre expecting to find a crowd of people waiting, an examiner was the only person to be seen. “Jesska? Come on in. We were just wondering if you would turn up today. In 5 minutes you would have been confronted with a locked door..” Turns out my phone had not only automatically changed the clock to summer time, but also helpfully adjusted all the appointments in my calendar to match. Instead of being over an hour early, I was a couple of minutes short of missing the exam..(!!!) But… I got there just in time (they were only waiting for me because they’d been running early because this is Germany) and I sat it and I passed and the examination board said that I was good, so it all worked out in the end.. And at least I didn’t have time to get scared.. 😉 )

***

I went cycling at the weekend. It rained (obviously) but only a bit, and it was sunny in between the rain. As I was riding, my chain got stuck between my bike and the chain ring. Twice. Getting it out again was a bit of a challenge. (a bit of two challenges?)

Getting the oil off my fingers afterwards was even worse.

This was as good as I got before I got home.

The evidence was still very obvious after a couple of well planned attacks with soap and a nail brush.

Then I was invited out for dinner.

<insert mild panic>

Not only did I have to shower and find something appropriate to wear, I had to figure out how to make my hands marginally less grubby.

Nail varnish to the rescue.

I hate to admit it, but it did a fantastic job. 10 minutes concentration and a pot of dark purple polish painted over some of the oilier skin (cuticles?) and it wasn’t immediately apparent that I had been chain fighting.

Roll on this morning.

It seems nail varnish is not a very substantial decoration..

Oil-stained nails look even worse semi-covered with chipped nail varnish than just by themselves.

Which is why I found myself interrupting my breakfast to redo them.

See my cut off cycling gloves? That was a moment of genius forward planning – I could leave straight away instead of having to wait for it to dry before I could get ready. I am possibly also the only person who wears a cycling helmet to paint their nails.

On setting off

On a train. The last of 5. Next stop Wiesbaden, the capital of Hessen (central county in Germany).

My new saddle bags are being dropped in at the deep end 🙂 Packed to almost bursting point and still overflowing into my backpack.

The plan is to cycle for a couple of days with my folks who are cycling the length of the Rhein.

I’m hoping the weather is going to reasonable.. It’s been midsummer in Berlin, warm (/hot!) and sunny and lots of blue sky (with the occasional storm. Southern Germany has been rained on for months.

Anyway.

Off I go!

On saddle bags and storms

I found a pair of saddle bags for sale online last weekend and asked if I could pick them up the next day. They were en route to somewhere I was going by train anyway. The seller gave me his address and I said I’d phone when I knew when I would be there.

Then plans changed. I was no longer going anywhere “anyway”. But the guy phoned at midday to find out when to expect me, so I made a semi-instantaneous decision to cycle there instead. He said he was heading out to a party with his wife in the afternoon but I was welcome anytime before that. Google told me I needed 40 minutes. I told him I’d be there in approximately an hour and a half – Google and I don’t often agree on timing – leaving about ¾ hour before he set out for his party.

***

When I set out, later than planned, due to a flat tire and a small fight with my pump, and with a less-than-sensible amount of battery life on my phone, it was a beautiful day for cycling: finally a couple of degrees cooler than the last few weeks, with a light breeze..

I pedalled along, enjoyed being strong enough to get further than the end of the road without sounding like a steam engine.

About a third of the way there the sky began to get darker.

And darker.

And darker.

Until it was really dark.

And then it rained.

Proper rain. The sort that soaks you before you’ve registered that it’s raining. The sort that is more like someone’s pouring an ocean through a sieve rather than a hosepipe with a spray rose. The sort that makes the rain a couple of weeks before seem like drizzle. There was also thunder, seemingly directly overhead.

There was no point turning back (because I would have still been cycling in the rain, and if I’m going to be cycling in the rain, there’d better be a reason for it) and even trying to find a train station would take longer than just keeping on cycling through it. Besides, once you’re wet all the way through, you can’t get any wetter. Also, the day was hot enough that the rain felt like a cool shower. And there’s something refreshing about just not caring.

***

My phone appears to care about rain more than I do. Every raindrop which landed on the map changed where Google thought I was and where I wanted to go. I’d packed a long sleeved tshirt in my handbag, in case it got windy, but there wasn’t enough dry material to keep wiping the screen. At some point I just picked a street more or less at random* and hoped for the best.

***

The rain stopped as I arrived at the seller’s house, about 3 minutes before he was due to leave. They came out in all their finery to find me bedraggled and dripping.

The sale was very simple and the journey home was very wet.

The end.

*that’s pretty much what Google had been doing anyway..

On making time to be ill

It’s Friday.

I’m supposed to be in the middle of a two day committee meeting. Instead I am lying on a towel looking at this:

rejoicing at the slight breeze and listening to the birdsong and the buzzing of a million insects.

Yesterday I looked up at the sky through the branches for the first time in too long. As I lay there, I couldn’t actually remember the last time I’d done that. It’s amazing how seldom I lie on my back outside.

The day before that I lay beside a lake and looked at the reeds and listened to the frogs:

***

I have been neglecting myself recently, or at least not paying attention properly.

I’ve been working long hours during the day and watching the stars at night and not sleeping enough in between. I’ve been talking too much and not listening to my body enough. I’ve been eating beans and pancakes and müsli and chocolate and not nearly enough fruit and veg. I’ve been cycling and rowing (on the machine) but not stretching or actively relaxing. I’ve been trying to get things done, but not standing back to see which things are actually important. I’ve been spending a lot of time dithering and rushing about (mostly in circles) inside and not so much just existing outside.

All this is probably why I was the perfect victim for a passing virus. And also why I found myself spending the last few days in an exhausted heap observing the greenery and assorted wildlife.

As they say,

“If you won’t take time to be healthy, you’ll have to make time to be ill”

There’s a lot of truth in that.

Unfortunately.

On the other hand, even though being ill is no fun, there’s a lot to be said for lying on the ground under a tree, just recuperating. I might have to come here more often, even when I’m well again. Also, having a sore throat is the perfect excuse to up my icecream consumption :p.

***

I was invited to a party on Saturday. I had to turn it down because I wouldn’t be back from the committee meeting in time. That meant I was free to go to my AuPair kid’s birthday on Sunday, seeing as I was in Southern Germany anyway (and once I found out that I wouldn’t make it back for the party). Now, I’m not going anywhere. Hmph.

Not travelling means not needing train tickets. I was so chuffed about booking them in advance (and thereby saving money) but it seems that even if I am organised it doesn’t work out.. Very miffed about that – I thought I was doing so well! Luckily the train company refunds tickets up to the day they’re valid so I only “lost” the cancellation fee.

***

The next bit’s boring, mostly just for my memory in case I need to be reminded later.

I was tired and unmotivated for most of the weekend. Things that should have taken a few minutes took several hours. I started things and left them on the floor. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to buy when I went shopping and spent ages dithering between this one and that one, walking back to the shelves and putting things back, only to turn round when I reached the end of the isle and pick it up again, having changed my mind (this is a semi-normal thing when I go shopping, I’m just not usually quite as dithery as this weekend).

I had a dry throat and unquenchable thirst, along with a headache for most of Monday and Tuesday. Drinking 3L of water in less than 6 hours is possibly a little excessive, but it’s been 30+ degrees C in Berlin for a while, and 34+ in the workshop, so I assumed it was due to a combination of heat, dehydration and potentially a slight lack of salt.

Then I dropped my bike while getting off it at the crossroads on the way to work on Tuesday. Who’s that weak?! I put that, too, down to the heat and made a point of drinking even more, this time alternating water with squash, briefly thinking about adding some kind of strength training into my already largely unsuccessful mornings.

Swallowing started to hurt (rather than scratch) about mid afternoon. I waited until no one else was using the loos at work and looked at the back of my throat in the mirror (my mirror at home is waiting for me to finish its new frame). My tonsils were swollen and had white patches. Ewww.

That night I tossed and turned, froze, boiled, fought with the duvet, staggered back and forth to the bathroom and was generally not particularly rested when the alarm went off in the morning. I fought my way out of bed and towards the end of the road. I wanted to stop at the doctor’s before work and ask what to do about of the white splotches.

Turns out working isn’t good for healing. It’s also not good for other people if you work while you’re contagious.. Who knew. 😉

She stole some blood and wrote me off work for 3(+x) days and told me to get lots of rest and to avoid other people and talking. (She also recommended medicinal throat sweets, but they made my mouth hurt, so I gave up after the 4th).

The chemist suggested vitamin C crystals with added Zink. Taking that as she recommended.

Slept well and often for most of the rest of the day.

On going directly to prison

A couple of days ago I came across a YouTube video of a person I’d never heard of before being arrested. The arrest had been caught on camera by spectators. So far so normal. People get arrested all the time and people have had access to video recording equipment for a long time.

A couple of links and videos later I found out that this person had been arrested, tried, found guilty and taken to prison within a matter of hours (anywhere between 1 and 6 depending on the source). That seems much less normal..

I could understand them being taken to the police station or even to some kind of detention centre until the court case…but having the trial on the same day as the arrest seems a little bit crazy.

Also, although I’d never heard of them, they appear to be a Known Person. That means there’s a lot of public interest in finding out what happened.

However.

For some reason the judge issued a total ban on mentioning anything to do with the case, effectively forbidding anyone to report on the case since anyone who does mention details of the case stands to be arrested too. That’s reporters, journalists, newspapers, TV presenters, witnesses, family/friends of the person, random people using social media, etc etc etc. Some of the original news articles have apparently been removed from the websites they were published on.

That all means there’s no official information, which leaves a lot of room for speculation.

I understand (kind of) the idea of keeping ongoing cases non-public until the jury have made their decision. I would have thought that once the sentence has been given, then the case is officially over…

Apparently not.

That also seems crazy.

As does the fact that the arrest and consequent sentence took place in England. In 2018. Last weekend.

***

Regardless of who they are and what they’ve done (or haven’t, perhaps), can someone please tell me how it’s logistically possible to go to prison on the same day as the alleged crime, the arrest and the court case? And if it is possible, why it is that some cases take such a long time to settle?

On having beans-around-toast for dinner

There are some days when I go shopping on the way home from work and come back with a bag full of ingredients and a head full of ideas for dinner. Days when I look forward to peeling and chopping and frying and mixing.

And then there are days like today.

A day where I get home, fall into a chair and only think about moving when I realise it’s dark and I’m hungry.

A day when washing up a saucepan* in order to heat up a tin of beans feels like too much work.

A day on which sitting at the table with a knife and fork trying to keep the beans from flying across the kitchen is a daunting prospect and wielding a cheese grater something unimaginably difficult.

On days like today I cheat.

I tear the toast into pieces, dropping them directly into the saucepan** with the beans, and crumble a piece of cheese on top with my hands. Then I stir it with a wooden spoon until everything is a big sticky lumpy orange mess. And then I go back to my chair and eat it. Out of the saucepan.

And then I call it a day and go to bed, leaving the unwashed saucepan on the counter in the kitchen..

Night all! 🙂

* edit: one I didn’t wash up after using it last time..

** For anyone wondering, yes, I washed the saucepan first, before I started cooking. :p

On being surprisingly inspirational

Look!

Owen, from no talent for certainty wrote about me having a bath! 😉

“I read a blog post a few days ago that really struck me. Reading it, my mood began to change in the same way the author’s mood changed as she described it along with the circumstances of her evening. Riding a bicycle in the pouring rain for 45 minutes, then the warm bath, the conversations with friends, the TEDx talk — I could picture all of it.

I felt like I was there.

The process by which we move from someplace dark (or damp) to a place of gratitude is one almost all of us know, yet we need constant reminding that such a journey is even possible. So I was very appreciative of that post.”

You can read the rest of his post here.

You can read my original post here.

***

Owen is one of my favourite bloggers. Not only does he reply to my jumbly comments, he’s one of the relatively few bloggers who write a consistent stream of posts I like reading – often of the sort where you mutter variations of “Yes. This. Exactly this. How does he know? Get out of my head! That’s not just me? Amen.” as you go. The sort which make you breathe out when you reach the end. The sort where you take a moment to catch up with yourself before you carry on with your day. Posts you feel rather than read.

I am “well chuffed” that he liked one of my posts enough to write about it :).

That he felt like he was there while reading it is pretty much the best compliment he could give my writing. 🙂

***

He usually writes poetry, churning out poems faster than I can read them. ‘Churning out’ sounds too flippant, but I have no better word in my vocabulary for the process of posting a new poem every few hours.

This month he has imposed an essay-writing challenge on himself. He is convinced that it’s going to show people why he tends to stick to poetry, but I disagree, I think his prose is at least as fantastic as his poetry. His prose is very poetic though ;).

I suggest you visit him and see for yourselves.