On liking colours

I had a very interesting conversation the other day where one topic flowed into the next until we arrived at the following question(s):

Do I have to like one colour more than other colours? Why does it matter what colour something is? Does the colour make any difference in the way things work?

It was like the furthest you can get to racism/colourism except this wasn’t about people, but about things. I am all for ignoring/looking past people’s colour, because the person inside their skin is so much more important than the ‘packaging’, but I feel there’s nothing wrong with choosing a purple T-shirt over a yellow one, purely based on colour.. even if the T-shirts function exactly the same way.

Interesting concept though.. What do you people think?

On chopping boards and perfectly accurate worktops

We did it! 🙂

A couple of hours of chaos and a large pot of leek& potato soup later and the kitchen is now close to perfectly accurately straight, level, aligned… You name it, it probably is it.

It is quite an experience to watch someone take your rental kitchen to pieces… and then put it back together better than before.

And the best part? No stress. I haven’t worked with many people who can concentrate for several hours and still not get ruffled by unexpected things happening (or making unwanted discoveries). There was no shouting, no throwing things, no snide remarks, no kicking doors, no questions about who even thought of the idea.. It was very enjoyable. And informative. And more than a bit unbelievable.

And we’re finished. The fridge and oven are back in their rightful homes, the worktop is 17mm higher on one side than it was this morning. There’s a new piece of structural wooden panel in place, the screws are all the right length and with matching heads, the lines are parallel or perpendicular, and the chopping board no longer wobbles.

***

Talking of the chopping board, it’s currently soaking in the first coat of oil. I’m not sure how many coats it’s going to need – apparently this kind of oil “dries” so you put on as many layers as the wood soaks in, and polish the last layer off. The last layer being the one that doesn’t/can’t soak in.

I will hopefully be able to use it when K gets here at the weekend.. *excited about both events* 🙂

On chopping boards and wonky cupboards

H – yes, this is another story about H – made us matching chopping boards at the weekend. He needed one and apparently making an extra one isn’t much extra effort.

He brought it round yesterday evening.

It is beautiful, like all his woodwork is beautiful. I am very impressed.

It still needs oiling, but I (and he) wanted to see what it looked like in the kitchen. Or rather, in his case, whether it fit the way he was expecting it to.

He built it to go over the hob and/or the sink so there’s more work space.

It fitted. (Quelle surprise ;)). It’s raised just high enough not to scrape across the hob surround or the sink, and the raised edges are just far enough apart to keep it from sliding about on the counter.

It’s perfect.

Almost.

The only tiny thing wrong with it, is something that unfortunately makes it unusable.

It wobbles.

H was not amused. When he makes things, they don’t wobble. There must be some other reason for the wobbling.

He went off to find a spirit level.

Turns out my entire kitchen is wonky.

The floor, the cupboards, the work tops, the sink. Everything.

And all the wonkyness is different. There are no straight lines, no parallel lines, no perpendicular lines.

There’s no sense in changing the chopping board to match the kitchen if I’m liable to move out, so we’ll have to change the kitchen to match the chopping board.

Obviously.

Is that obvious?

It is to H.

This may turn out to be a bigger Job than he thought….

***

To be continued.

On impromptu 90s disco-parties

I went to pick up a couple of CDs last week. When I got there, the lady selling them pointed towards a huge cardboard box. “You can have a rummage through that too if you like… actually.. you can have the whole lot if you take them away. My husband used to be a DJ. We’ve just gone through his CD collection and that’s the pile we don’t want. It’s going to the dump tomorrow otherwise..”

***

An hour or so later, I made dinner while H (of shelf-making fame) sat on the floor surrounded by a sea of CDs. Mostly best-ofs, collections, slow-dances and samplers of long-forgotten 90s hits with a handful of very sweary rappers, classics, German Schlager* and kids music thrown in for good measure.

Every so often he’d wave one in the air, “Hey! Play this one! Haven’t heard that in years!” “Oh! I’d forgotten all about this one!” “Do you remember when this one came out?” “Look at the cover of this one!”

***

Sometimes, it seems, the best way to spend an evening involves vast quantities of cheese – in your ears as well as in your mouth!

Singing off-key** and dancing round the kitchen while chopping onions or washing up a bonus :).

* Schlager translates as “hits” but they’re mostly the sort of hits other people’s grandparents play at community gatherings

** H did too, so it’s ok 🙂

On trust

A week or so ago, I found someone online with a pair of skis to give away. I recently bought a pair, but these are a little bit longer and a friend could use them when we go on our skiing holiday. I wrote and arranged a time.

On the evening of the pick up day, winter arrived. It was several degrees below freezing and windy. I’d planned to cycle over after work, pick up the skis and walk the 3-4 miles home, pushing my bike with the skis resting on the handlebars. Leaving the relative comfort of the workshop and going out into the bleak midwinter darkness made me rethink my decision. It was cold. I was cold. I was wearing my cycling jacket and jumper combo, but the wind was blowing through both. My thermal undies were defenceless and although my gloves are usually pretty good, my fingers were frozen within minutes.

I did what any sensible person would do. I phoned a friend. Or in this case my neighbour. The one with a car.

He snuffled and coughed his way through the hellos and how-are-yous, his usual voice almost completely hidden beneath the creaking huskiness of a sore throat.

“So, what can I do for you?”

“Um.. I originally wanted to ask you if you could give me a lift to <village where skis were> to pick up a pair of skis, but you sound dreadfully ill.. so I won’t. I’ll wish you a good recovery instead..”

“You have a driving license don’t you? Why don’t you borrow my car?”

“??!!!!!”

“I’m serious. Ride back here and pick up the keys – you can’t honestly want to walk an hour in this weather..”

That was a very good point.

I cycled home, glowing from a previously unknown supply of trust-in-advance.

***

In the end, he drove. He’d had to get up and dressed to open the door and hand me the keys, so he said he’d be fine for the few minutes round trip.

Even though I didn’t get to prove myself worthy of his trust, I am awed by the fact that he offered it at all. I don’t remember the last time anyone trusted me that much without at least knowing me better first.

And I don’t remember the last time anyone went out of their way for me while ill enough to warrant staying home from work and drinking honey&lemon and sniffing olbas oil. (Except maybe the time my brother picked me up from the airport.. but he’s my brother so it’s part of the job description :p)

On hurting (and carrying on regardless)

Dear mind, dear body, dear soul,

Yes it sucks. Yes, it hurts. Yes it’s hard.

Know what though?

We’re carrying on. We’re not going to stop or give up or collapse or breakdown. We can go slower if you like. But we’re not stopping. There’s a long way to go yet.

Sometimes, like when hunting bears, you can’t go round it, over it or under it, you have to go through it. Guess where we’re going?! Yup. “The only way out is through” and all that jazz.

And we will get through it. Eventually.

Apparently the right kind of pain means you’re getting stronger. I have no idea which sort we’re working with, but let’s assume it’s the helpful sort and go from there.

It hurts more than before, but we’re better than before, so we can deal with more than before. We got through everything to get here, we can get through this to get further.

On the way, we’re going to keep smiling, keep cycling, keep rowing, keep walking and plodding and crawling. Keep talking and writing and listening and laughing and reading and building and trying. Especially trying.

Even when it’s hard. Maybe especially when it’s hard. Or raining or windy or snowy or silent or uphill.

We can do this.

Slowly.

With a million setbacks and a million and one restarts.

With tears and bruises and scars.

With stories and memories and pictures.

With late nights and early mornings and cake and hot chocolate and parsnips.

With barely-done-up trousers and worn out shoes and a brand new coat rack.

With good books and sunny days and amazing conversations.

With fish and fluffy slippers and freshly-put-up lights.

We’ve got this.

With lots of love,

Me xx

“And she never gives up…she just changes her mind!”

– Billy Joel

On reaching my full potential and cycling into the wind

Last week, my knees started really hurting. Luckily for me, my brother has had a pretty good variety of sporting injuries and suggested I adjust the height of my saddle.

I did, and noticed the difference instantly. My knees still have a bit of “residual pain” in them, but they don’t exactly hurt while cycling. I can stretch my legs to their fullest extent and nothing curbs them, nothing holds them shorter or smaller they are meant and wanting to be. There’s the resistance from the pedals, but they give in more quickly than my legs do. If they don’t, then I change gear until they do. I need to figure out what to adjust to get the same effect on my wings ;).

Having a decent wheel is fantastic. Having a good seat height is fantastic. Wearing shoes instead of boots is helpful. Wearing a lightweight windproof jacket with a jumper is better than a thick downy coat.

And after all the moaning I’ve been doing, cycling is now fun.

I went out yesterday, on a ride that wasn’t to work. There was a goal, but the whole thing wasn’t a necessity. And it was very enjoyable, even if it did rain partway through.

There’s something very pleasing about putting effort into something and having an immediate effect. If you play with glass long enough, you might get better one day. If you put a load of washing on, it takes an hour or so to wash, and you still have to hang it out and wait for it to dry. If you ever get to the bottom of the basket, you know it’s going to be full again soon. If you start making a website there are always going to be a million things to do to make it better. If you stick to rowing every morning, you begin to notice muscles building about a month later.

Cycling’s different. If you push more energy into the pedals, you go faster. End of story.

Sometimes I need to get rid of a kind of pent-up energy/aggression I didn’t realise I was holding in. You can pour it out through your feet and leave it like a snail trail behind you. I can rant in my head and pound the words into the pedals instead of my keyboard or my people, and no one has any questions or concerns or advice or suggestions. Much as I love and appreciate those things, sometimes it’s nice to have nothing but the wind bashing my ears.

***
In other, related, news, I cut a good minute off my commute this evening, despite the strong blustery wind, and the horizontal drizzle.

In non-related news, my shelf is finished. We put it up on the wall on Friday and I haven’t stopped admiring it on my way past yet.

On staining

Look! Isn’t it fabulous?!

That’s obviously only a very small piece of the end – I will put up complete pictures (of the shelf ;)) after K’s been. She’s coming to visit soon and she reads what I post and that would spoil the effect.

It still needs sanding and waxing and putting up.. it is a very time intensive shelf.

H can’t really understand my excitement, but I can’t understand how he doesn’t find it as amazing as I do, so I suppose it’s balanced..

Green fingernails and evenings well spent

My neighbour, H, is making me a shelf. It started as an offer to put my coat hooks up. I told him the rack he was holding wasn’t for coats and we came to a strange sort of compromise where he agreed to build me a shelf which I could hang coats on.

Over the weekend he glued and sawed and sanded and planed and did whatever carpenters do when making shelves.

Yesterday he brought me the raw wooden shelf (it’s beautiful) and a box of different wood dyes which he proceeded to spread on a couple of cut off edge pieces so I could choose one. I didn’t think any fitted quite right. I wanted green. Apparently green isn’t a colour he uses all that often..

Tonight, after work, I stopped to buy fishfood and green wood dye powder. And turkey for a thank-you curry.

I was still frying onions and chopping peppers when H arrived. He stood and watched for a minute or so before pulling out his penknife and adjusting the doors on the kitchen cabinets. It seems carpenters are incapable of ignoring badly hung doors. Never one to stop other people working, I found him a decent screwdriver or two and pointed him in the direction of the sitting room and all my other cupboards. My floorboards are anything but level, and I don’t think any of the cupboard doors hung straight. I also had a cupboard where the door opened the wrong way. No longer 🙂

The cupboards and the curry were both finished/ready around the same time.

At the first lull in the after dinner conversation, H leapt up, announced his intention of clearing up, and started running hot water into the sink, ready to wash up. At this rate I’m going to be cooking thank-you dinners for a while… 😉 I certainly stand no chance of drying faster than he washes.

The wood dye is astonishingly easy to mix and keeps for 6 months or so in a jar. I bought 2 packets, a light and a dark green, just in case the labels were misleading. The first trial pieces were painted in a matter of minutes, leaving us time to talk about different sorts of sealing coats, wax or varnish, matt or shiny, and the best kinds of joints to stop the wood twisting out of shape.

Tomorrow I can paint/dye the shelf.

By the end of the week it should be up on the wall – can’t wait to see it finished 🙂

On making things harder for myself

Way back when I lived by myself, I used to cycle quite a lot (to work, into town, through the vineyards, etc). I lived in a very hilly place and I could cycle to work and back without getting off and pushing.

I now live (almost) in Berlin. Berlin is flat. The same way Holland is flat. The only hills that exist are man-made, full of rubble from the war. Because that’s obviously the best thing to do with rubble. Pile it up and cover it with grass. Maybe Silbury Hill is an ancient version of the same idea.

Whatever.

I have started cycling to work here. On the way there’s a bridge with a very long, very gentle incline. Just a couple of metres over quite a long stretch of road. 1-in-100 or even 1-in-50 is not steep by anyone’s reckoning. There have been days when I fought so much I actually contemplated getting off and pushing. There’s nothing like failing to cycle up an almost nonexistent hill to make you feel the need to get fitter..

***

I picked my bike up from the workshop on Wednesday.

They’d had to replace the front wheel and realign the back wheel and adjust the brakes and do something technical with the gears.

I asked them to explain what had broken in the dynamo and how I could avoid breaking it again.

My understanding of the ensuing explanation is as follows. It may or may not be an accurate representation of what they actually said.

The axel was slightly off centre which lead to unequal distribution of pressure/weight/something which lead to the metal walls of the dynamo straining and eventually breaking, which lead to everything coming loose.

It appears that these things just kind of happen…

…but that most people notice earlier.

I thought that was odd, and said so, because I’d brought it in the day after it died…

… except apparently it’s been dying for several hundred km.

He was amazed that I’d cycled it so far without realising that there was a problem. He showed me the pieces of the broken dynamo, and the pieces of a new one. The difference was incredible.

Not as incredible as the difference having a new wheel made to my perceived fitness the next morning tho!

I’d struggled to get to work in under 40 minutes and reach an average speed of anything above 11kph.

On Thursday I was there in 30, with an average of more than 14. And it was windy and snowing.

I was amazed.

***

I was also amazed (and a bit confused) to realise that my rowing machine was no longer set to the easiest setting. I have zero recollection of changing it so I have no idea how long I’ve been using it like that.

It reminds me of mistakenly skiing down a black slope and wondering why I was suddenly so prone to falling over..