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.

On furnishing adventures – papasan chair (and picture boards)

I recently gave away the first piece of furniture I ever properly owned. A lady came early in the morning to pick it up for her cats…

***

I bought the papasan chair at a carboot sale in autumn 2006.

The town held a car boot sale once a year and pretty much everyone who was anyone went. Either to buy or to sell. The posters were put up well in advance and on the day the entire middle of the town was covered/filled with people – I didn’t know the town was big enough for the turn out.

So anyway. There I was. Newly arrived in a new town with a new room in my first shared flat. It was a fantastic room but although it was furnished, I had a shortage of seating. My housemates were busy doing other things so I set off by myself.

One of the first things I saw when I reached the car boot sale was a papasan chair. I’ve always loved those chairs so when I saw one I couldn’t leave it behind. On the other hand I didn’t want to carry it round the whole town so I paid for it and asked the seller to look after it until I came back to pick it up.

As I made my way round the market I also bought a printer, a backpack, a heavy frying pan and a few other things. Fully laden, I set off for home..

Then I remembered the chair.

A sensible person would probably have carried the first lot of stuff home and come back for the chair. I am not that person. Instead I packed the backpack as full as I could, put the base on the inside of the chair, persuaded the printer box into the base and piled everything else into the spaces.

Once everything was stowed away, I hoisted it onto my head and did my best impression of an African water carrier… except I am not cut out to carry things on my head without holding onto them so my best impression was terrible (and wobbly, despite holding on).

***

I made it home without dropping anything which is a very good thing since I wouldn’t have been able to gather it back up without major effort. As it was I unpacked on the drive and it took multiple trips up and down the stairs to bring everything into my room.

Phew! I could finally lie back in my new chair and relax :).

Only for a few minutes tho – I had lots of other new things to admire and unpack and wash and put away. (It was lucky I didn’t put the unpacking off until later – the printer turned out to be missing all the necessary cables and drivers and I think the block the ink cartridges go in, although I’d been promised it was all there so I lugged it back into town and the guy refunded my money 🙂 )

***

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. The chair has accompanied me for 12 years and 5 moves. It was looking somewhat worse for wear. The base was mostly held together with cable ties and the seat part was missing pieces of the spiral. Sitting in it felt like a brave undertaking, being as how it creaked and groaned and sagged when you lowered yourself into it. Getting out again was even trickier.

When I found a newer version in the small ads I pounced. It was on the other side of Berlin and I am still car-less, but that never stopped me before so I organised a pickup date. It was being offered without a cushion, but mine was still ok so that wasn’t a problem, and as far as transport went, was more of an advantage than anything else; the chairs are unwieldy things at the best of times and the cushions are heavy.

The former owner only lived a mile or so away from the station and the weather was good, I didn’t see a problem. When she found out I was going to be carrying it on the train she was amazed (and amazing) and tied the base to the chair for me. (She had a ball of string strategically placed close to her front door. I might have to adopt this practice).

Having the pieces tied together makes carrying them much easier.

I set off towards home.

Because I am still not the sensible person I wasn’t before, and because I hate wasting travelling time, I had made another appointment to pick up some picture boards conveniently being given away en route.

Mostly en route anyway. I suppose one has to count getting off the train for a 25 minute round trip with a large unwieldy chair as a slight detour.

The people sitting outside the pubs and cafés on the way between the train station and the picture board house were much amused by me walking past them twice.

Carrying 2 picture boards as well as the chair proved a little bit more complicated. Luckily I had lots of time to get home.*

***

There’s no way I have space for a broken chair I’m not using – the old one had to go. I couldn’t bring myself to dismantle it and throw it away, but I also couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to pay for it. I put it on eBay and hoped for the best.

Within a few minutes I had the first interested message. A couple of hours after that the second. In the end I gave it to the third person who wrote a week later after the other two hadn’t arranged a concrete pick up date.

When she arrived to take it away I pointed out all the places it was broken and said she should be careful sitting in it. Turns out I didn’t need to worry – she’s lining it with multiple blankets and letting her cats sleep in it. Good to know it’s got lots of life in it yet 🙂 makes getting rid of it that much easier..

* (..she says, lying through her teeth. I was running late and had to get home, showered and dressed up for a concert in very few hours).

On beneficial baths

Mostly written last night.

This morning it was warm and sunny and I cycled to work in a T-shirt and skirt. Yesterday and most of last week that was no problem. Today however…

When I looked out of the window at 5 this evening it was raining. The weather forecast I should ideally have looked at earlier said it wasn’t due to stop raining until tomorrow. I didn’t fancy sleeping at work so I packed my bag and cycled home straight away – in the hope that it meant I only had to face it being cold, wet and windy instead of cold, wet, windy and dark.

By the time I’d finished packing my bag it was not only raining but chucking it down. I was soaked well before I reached home.

Look! A dry bit! 🙂

***

This post was going to be a rant about the weather. I started writing it in my head on the way home. Then this evening happened and I no longer feel like ranting. I am actually kind of thankful for the rain, in a roundabout fashion..

***

The first thing I did after getting home and taking my helmet off was put the kettle on. The second thing was start running a bath.

I love baths, especially long baths but I don’t know when I last had one. ¾ of an hour cycling in a downpour without a coat seemed to be the perfect excuse.

Isn’t that ridiculous? That I feel like I need an excuse to spend [excessive] time in the bath. It’s like I have some kind of voice in my head permanently telling me that I should be doing something, should be productive, should have something to show for all the oxygen I’ve been using. I’m not sure what I’m trying to prove, or to whom, but I am aware that the more I try to prove it, the more I actually prove how incapable I am of proving it.

Productivity is all well and good, but I can’t be productive all the time, especially when my batteries are flat.

Sometimes batteries need recharging.

Sometimes a long bath is the best way to do that.

***

Today two very luffly friends (who barely know each other and are therefore almost definitely acting independently of each other) wrote to me to find out how I’m getting on and scheduled a phone call for tonight and next week respectively.

I’ve been spinning on my own axis in my own world for a while. Monday, for example, was one of those days where you I wonder what, if anything, you’re I’m capable of doing well and why you I even bother trying to deal with all the chaos when all you’re I’m doing is taking up space and messing up other people’s otherwise orderly lives. Reaching out (in person or by phone) and talking to people who love me was well overdue and I am so grateful for these people who seemingly instinctively know this and help me with it.

***

F and I had made our telephone plan before it started raining so I decided to combine the plans and phone her while soaking in the bath instead of while sweeping the floor and putting washing on.

Her phone didn’t work directly so I read my email while I was waiting for her to sort it out. I still get Flylady mails (remember her?) which I don’t often open but which I read today. I even poked the link and arrived at her podcast/vlog about how she makes her bed. Couldn’t bring myself to watch all the way to the end, there’s only so much bedmaking I can cope with, but since I was on YouTube anyway I jumped about through the recommendations until I came to a TEDx talk by a lady called Tracy McMillan.

BAM!!!

That is one cool lady.

I’d never read her articles or books or watched her TV shows. Never even heard of her before. Might be a tiny bit obsessed now though ;p.

As soon as her talk was over I googled her and found an interview between her and Lewis Howes (F’s phone didn’t properly recover so we spoke for a few minutes and agreed to postpone the call to tomorrow).

Here’s the link:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=eWwRl_CNLR8

I think that’s the first YouTube link I’ve ever posted here. I am so awestruck by this woman’s positivity in the face of everything that she’s lived through, I think you should all go and watch the interview. Or the TED talk. Or possibly all the videos, except I haven’t seen them all and can’t directly recommend them.

She mostly talks about loving oneself. Flylady is always talking about flying. For all of you who don’t know her and weren’t around when I signed up for her emails, FLY is an acronym for finally loving yourself… I find the full-circle-ness fascinating.

***

So.

I was planning to do a million things this evening. I wanted to get my tax return finished and tidy the sitting room and do the washing up and put some unwanted things up for sale online. I wanted to find some photos to print and go through my computer and find the documents I need to work on over the next few days. I wanted to achieve so many things. In the end I didn’t do any of those things (although I did get a load of washing done, change my bedsheets and cook and eat dinner), but I think spending the time with a cup of hot ribena and a bath and Tracy McMillan’s voice turned out to be the best thing to do with the evening.

I wouldn’t have done that if it hadn’t been for having to cycle in the rain.

For that I am thankful. That’s why this was going to be a rant, but isn’t.

On birds, bees and an underdressed first date

Mid April

A couple of weeks ago, I took some friends on an exploratory trip around my part of the world.

F pointed out an advert for “cinema night” on the notice board of one of my local churches. They were going to show a children’s film, followed by a film called “More than honey”. None of us had heard of it, so I made a mental note of the date and decided to look the film up online when we got back.

***

It’s a film about bees, or more accurately about the role and treatment of bees around the world. It was produced by the people who made ‘We feed the world”, a film I watched several years ago. I can’t exactly say I enjoyed watching it, but I was glad that I did.

This one sounded like a watchable film too.

***

I asked H if he wanted to come with me. It was something we might have done anyway, but we decided, semi-jokingly to call it a first date. It also meant we could go in his car ;).

When we got there the church was not only dark, but also locked.

Hmm.

After much puzzlement, lots of wandering around looking lost and a more careful study of the advert, we discovered that the church displaying the notice wasn’t the church showing the film. Google maps wasn’t particularly helpful, as it reckoned the film-church was in the same place as the notice-church. It took quite a lot of sleuthing powers to find out where the film-church actually was, by which time we’d missed a considerable amount of the film. The film-church was several km away, so getting there would have gobbled up even more of the film time.

Ever practical, and quite a lot pragmatic, H suggested we skip the film and go out for dinner instead. He knew of a restaurant close by where he’s eaten with his work colleagues before. And besides, going to the cinema is an overrated idea for a first date anyway..

When we got there I almost bailed.

It was a very posh-looking place. The sort with a french name and cloth serviettes. It turns out that “eaten there with my work colleagues” actually translates to “my boss takes us there to celebrate finished projects”.

I don’t eat out much, and almost never anywhere fancy, so I’m almost always out of my depth when I do. On the occasions when it is required of me, I like to have some forewarning and a chance to pretend that dress like I know what I’m doing. My going-to-the-cinema-in-a-church-hall clothes do not match my idea of going-to-posh-restaurants clothes. H laughed at me when I told him I wasn’t appropriately dressed to eat there and said he didn’t care, and also that one of his colleagues has been known to eat there with his hair still full of swarf. I could hardly compete with steel toe caps and swarf so I shut up and we went in.

Confronted with a menu full of words I never heard in school french lessons I almost bailed for the second time.

In the end I chose something more or less at random. My French is obviously worse than I thought it was because what arrived bore very little resemblance to what I thought I ordered. In fact, the only thing both dishes had in common was the chicken. If I’d still had a menu I would have checked, but they’d taken them away and I wasn’t sure enough to say anything without “proof” and it was entirely likely that I’d pointed to the wrong thing when it was my turn to order.

As I ate my spinach and hoped it would make me strong, I wondered how I always end up in such odd situations.

***

H was wonderful company, the food was good (if unexpected) and no-one said anything about my attire or tried to make me leave (which is admittedly obvious to most people, but still a realistic if irrational fear in my head). And a good time was had by all even if it was a shame we didn’t get to see the film. I think I will try to borrow it from the library