On making a mess in the dark

I started planting my balcony boxes almost a month ago. Various things kept getting in the way, and I kept wishing I could get out and finish them.

Today, I left work earlier than usual and decided to ignore most of the things I should have been doing, and instead spent the evening playing in the dirt.

Since someone messed with the clocks, it’s dark by 5, but luckily I have a light on my balcony.

I ran out of compost, almost exactly at the same time as I ran out of boxes (if you don’t count the 3 waiting to be started).

I also ran out of warmth quite a long time before that, so I was glad of the excuse to go in for a hot shower! Autumn is cold and damp πŸ™

Tomorrow I will pick up a couple more sacks of compost – for the last boxes, and for the new houseplant arrivals.

This is the state I left it in:

Edit – the morning after:

The balcony was covered in plastic grass when I moved in.

It’s now covered in plastic grass and wet compost.

πŸ™‚ joy

Does anyone have any good ideas for getting the compost out, besides washing it? My balcony is right over the front door – it has to be a resident friendly idea

(And yes, this is probably why people buy those huge potting mats…)

On lacking trust

This morning I bought 10 chocolate catfish. They are small and dark brown and incredibly cute.

The saleslady at the fish market said they’d grow to approximately 4-5cm long – perfect for my tank. I had no signal in the salesroom, so I couldn’t check anything online. I bought the fish, based purely on sight and the assurance of the saleslady.

When I reached civilization (;)) I googled them. Apparently there’s no such thing. I tried various other searches and decided they must be a dark brown version of Corydoras Aeneus. They grow to 8cm long. That’s almost double what I was expecting. I’m awful at playing catch (to get them out of an aquarium), especially when there’s lots of plants to hide in, so I aim not to have to try. That means I have to decide where they’re going in advance and that is dangerously close to planning.

I don’t plan.

After a long time of faffing about, googling and trying to make a decision, I took the fish to xDB’s, and put them into his tank with my other babies. He’s doing a great job of looking after them for me.

After I got home, fishless, I found a website selling a breed of dark brown catfish which supposedly reach an adult length of 5-6cm. 

Maybe the saleslady is right after all. Maybe I can pick my fish up in a couple of months and know they’ll be ok to live with my other fish.

But what if they really will get that big, what if she just wanted to sell them? I guess it worked – I bought them…
I’m not sure whether I lack trust or have too much.

Quote: on coming alive

β€œDon’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.

Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

– Howard Thurman

One of my favourite people told me today that she sees me as a “PowerFrau”. That translates literally as “power woman”, but kind of loses something in the translation. She means she thinks I’m always doing/achieving something. She occasionally has a point. In the last 6 months I have, among other less noteworthy things, dug a pond, been to evening classes, survived a breakup, sat exams, moved house, set up a 350l aquarium, written and presented a dissertation, driven across Germany, visited my family in England twice, produced the prizes for a chemistry competition, helped a friend pack the contents of her house ready to move and worked more or less full time.

I don’t feel like a PowerFrau at the moment though. I feel like someone’s stolen my batteries, and maybe filled the space with lead. There are some days where life is just hard. Everything seems heavier than normal and it counts as an achievement to survive the entire day intact. It doesn’t help that it’s damp and dark for most of my non-working hours.

What I need to do to feel alive is probably sleep more. My sleep dept might not be as obviously well-recorded as my sister’s, but it’s still made it’s mark and left rainbow-coloured suitcases under my eyes. I look forward to a time where I’m not dragging myself to work, where I feel up to cooking, where I can imagine going anywhere non-urgent, for pleasure, instead of curling up on my sofa. Where watching the fish is something I do between activities instead of the main attraction. Where washing my hair isn’t a hassle and going shopping is something I can be excited about.

That’s a vision for a future in which I am slightly more alive than I am now. The future beyond that will hopefully be even better, I just can’t picture it yet.

Baby steps.

And sleep.

Lots of sleep.

On peppers in November

(posted on the 1st, but somehow got stuck in the works)

One of my customers brought me a chili-pepper plant today. He wanted to thank me for getting his glass stuff finished so quickly. I didn’t actually have very much to do with his glass, my colleague did 95% of the work, but I do appreciate the pepper. (And obviously my 5% was the most important 5% ;))

Look at how pretty it is!

Talking of peppers, someone told me it’s November today… Apparently that means something to some people..

On finding the cage door

“Take the time to do the things that make you happy”

I picked up this postcard because of the message in the middle. I didn’t notice (don’t ask me how) that it was covered with pictures of keys and an open cage.

I am one step closer to opening my own cage, so it seems appropriate.

On sleeping in my car

Okay, so it was nothing like a Roxette song, but it was an adventure. There’s not much more freeing than packing your stuff into the back of your own car and driving into the sunset. And there’s not much more grown up than realising when you are really really tired and should stop to sleep instead of charging on towards a goal regardless of all danger..


Lorries, even sleeping lorries, are loud. Lorries full of animals are cruel at the best of times, but are especially cruel when they have to travel so far that there are overnight stops. Those animals are [understandably] even louder than the refrigerator lorries.

The rain, when it falls, is loud. The choice between fresh air and a wet car is difficult to make while half asleep.

The seats are only so long. I’m a fairly short person and my car is fairly big, but my feet spent a lot of the night trying to find something to rest on/against.

The sun comes up on its own terms. There are no curtains in a car. You can’t choose when to turn the lights on. You get what the weather fairy gives you.

There are many things which could be considered suboptimal.

But. None of them cancels out the sense of adventure and the feeling of being alive. In fact they add to it.

So would I do it again?

You bet!


On planting my lunch

A seed fell out of my lunch yesterday:

It had already started growing, so I planted it. (People without access to compost and plant pots in their lunch break are obviously missing out πŸ˜‰ *)

Even if I don’t really have room for an apple tree in my garden, I figured it should have a chance to do its thing. And there are always other people with bigger gardens if it ever gets too big for a tub.

Then I opened the other seed cavities and found two more ready-germinated seeds, so I planted them too.

In a couple of years I’ll need a volunteer who’s willing to host my orchard :).
* I only do as of yesterday morning – my tomato plants were shooting up without enough light to make them strong. The office at work faces mostly south, which is often a pain, but is probably good for the tomatoes…

On manflu and my inability to concentrate (although they’re probably not at all connected)

Hello people,

I’m still alive, but I might not write for a while. Not that I’ve written in ages anyway.

I can’t concentrate on anything long enough to write a post that makes sense. My mind jumps continuously from project to project to project: the garden, my work, school, the house, the committee I’m on, the committee I’m almost on, revsion, the company I almost no longer work for, the dog, the aquariums, the plans for the new pond, the plans for a porch, catching trains, eating, cleaning up, tidying up, going out, (not) going swimming, getting home in the dark, spring, bulbs which need planting yesterday, garden, …

On top of, or maybe next to, all those thoughts, I have manflu*, for the second time this year. The first time, I was off work for almost a month. This time I’m working through it, at least so far, which I suppose makes it less manflu-y, and more normal cold. Much as I would love to hide under the duvet, I can hardly phone in sick again! I’ve only been back at work for, what, 5 weeks? 6 weeks? Especially when a colleague is already off work with his own manflu. Maybe someone will send me home if I cough at them long enough.

I’ll leave you with a picture of spring:

* legitimately, if my latest hormone test is anything to go by. I figure if I have to have crazily high levels of testosterone, I might as well be entitled to manflu instead of normal colds…

On not yet getting a dog – part 6

The second walk was on a Sunday. On the following Monday DB phoned me from work, excited like a little kid who’d been invited to a birthday party.

Turns out the RC had not only received the blood test results, but the vet had also been and pronounced P fit – as long as she continued to take her medicine.

DB suggested he leave work early to pick her up immediately but they turned him down – they’re closed to the public on Mondays so although the RC staff were around, the secretary/reception desk staff/people who deal with the paperwork weren’t.

DB had to work all week (duh!) but I was still home on sick leave (more on that later) so he’d told them I’d pick her up as soon as they opened on Tuesday….Was that ok?


– !!! –


DB went back to whatever he’d been working on and I set about rearranging the house.

We have lots of open shelving, and although nothing was unwrapped I figured having food at dog-nose-level was probably not a good plan.

Dog-proofing the house turned out to be a bigger job than I’d anticipated and involved emptying and refilling boxes, tubs, packets, jars, shelves and cupboards. Things were piled on the floor, carried from one room to another, thrown away, poured or tipped together, reorganised, rediscovered, redistributed.

Just as I’d reached the middlest, messiest stage of the process DB arrived home. He took one look at the carnage, fought his way to the sofa and stayed there, feet tucked up well out of range of vacuum-cleaner, until the coast was clear and the house was tidy.

On [not quite] not getting a dog – part 5

On the way home from the first meeting, DB had thought-out-loud about adopting P even if his parents wouldn’t. After the first walk, the idea was firmly fixed in his head.

A second walk, the next day, sealed the deal. P was going to be rescued whatever his folks said (and they weren’t making dog rescuing noises). DB set about making arrangements and talking to the staff about finalising the adoption.

We couldn’t take her home immediately because she has ‘stomach problems’ and had been fighting with diarrhoea for a month or so. That explained why she was in the RC at all and why it had taken so long to arrange the first walk after the first meeting.

At the time of the first walk she’d been diarrhoea-free for a couple of days but they were waiting for the results from a series of blood tests.

We left with the promise of a phone call when they knew what the vet said. We shouldn’t hold our breaths – it could still take a couple of weeks before she was considered fit for release.

On not getting a dog – part 4

The day of The Walk arrived. Finally.
DB and I got there half an hour earlier than his father and C, to give us time to sort out the paperwork – that was DB’s job because he’d spoken to the rehab centre (RC) most, and his dad didn’t want to complicate things. DB’s mother stayed home with a cold.

As soon as the official part was over, we left the RC and wandered towards the car park. That is, we would have wandered if P hadn’t been tugging so hard on the line. Instead, we were dragged towards the car park.

When she wasn’t dragging DB along, she stood immovably still, sniffing frantically – a wall, a leaf, a clump of longer grass…anything and everything.

Freedom muss smell good to a dog.

DB says sniffing is, for a dog, like reading newspapers.. (and peeing on things is like writing articles or blog posts ;))

DB called her a couple of times as we walked, to see if she knows her name (and responds to strangers). Every time he called, she’d come running back to us, stop briefly at my feet, look up at us until she was patted before bounding off again. DB thought that was most unfair since he had the lead and was doing all the calling.. πŸ˜‰


DB’s dad pulled into the car park as we got there – talk about perfect timing!

C was completely uninterested in getting to know anyone and mostly ignored P. He marched past her and spent a long time reading newspapers at the other end of the field. Seemed a little bit pointless, but at least they didn’t fight I suppose.

Once all the papers were empty, he deigned to join us for a phone shoot.

P left, C right, both approximately the same age

It took 3 of us a good 10 minutes to get both of them to face the same way at the same time – and stand still long enough for a blurr-free photo..

DB’s dad didn’t stay much longer after that..something to do with getting back to his wife.. it seems he’d gone out to pick up cough-syrup.. Besides, it was far too cold to stand around with no gloves taking pictures.


The rest of the walk was uneventful. I took over holding the line partway through and tried getting her to “heel”, “sit”, “come”, “slow down”, with varying degrees of success. DB said it was much too early to expect her to listen and or respond. She did stop pulling so much though – presumably dogs home walks are shorter than mine!

P, not tugging on the lead


We handed her back before the home closed, and headed back to our home for dinner.

On not getting a dog – part 3

​A few days later we were back, well before closing time. We were welcomed into the rehab centre and P was brought in to see us.

DB took a couple of pictures, but nothing spectacular – P isn’t the most camera friendly dog (and DB was too busy filling in the forms necessary to be allowed to take her for walks to wait for opportune photo moments ;))

The blurry pictures were enough to convince DB’s dad that he had to see her for himself. Also, it seems not all dogs are willing to live with each other and it’s Very Important to test the water and let them get to know each other beforehand.

DB’s mother was still not convinced, but by then she’d already admitted that P was a cute dog, so she didn’t object too much. (Not that I spoke to her – that’s second hand information…).

Several weeks and phonecalls to the home later, a date was organised for the following weekend. All of us, plus C (DB’s dad’s dog) were going to the home to take P for a walk.

On not getting a dog – part 2

The dogs home was much bigger and quite a lot better than I’d expected. Also they don’t just have dogs..

The animals are kept in groups (cats/small animals/dogs/exotic animals/birds/farm animals), where each group is assigned its own area.

Each area is divided into different sections, the dogs area has a compound for dogs that were found and are waiting for their owners to collect them, one for dogs that are ill, and 3 for dogs that can be adopted.

Each compound has 3 round buildings surrounded by pens/cages. Each cage has 1-3 dogs and an assortment of toys and bedding. And a dog flap so they can go and play outside whenever they want.

By the time we’d been round the three adoption compounds without finding P, the home was in the process of closing for the evening. We found a carer who told up P was still in “rehab”, but gave us a number to phone the next day.

Rehab in Germany generally refers to recovery from health problems rather than drug problems. In this case, P had rather bad stomach problems and severe diarrhoea.


On definitely not getting a dog – part 1

Sporadically, DB looks at pictures of dogs currently in the dogs home. It’s a bit like a dating site; each dog has a profile picture, several additional pictures, and a list of information people may or may not consider interesting or necessary.

Occasionally, while scrolling through the pictures, he will sigh and tell me all about the unfairness of the world.

Sometimes, rarely, he will show me a picture.

Well, “rarely” until a few months ago.

Recently, finding show-and-tell worthy pictures has become increasingly more common.

In November there was a labrador puppy. Shortly afterwards there was a run of other dogs I failed to register as important.

Just before Christmas he discovered a Wolfsspitz/Keeshond, named P, who’d just been added to the dog-dating list. That’s the breed he grew up with, and the breed his father still has. His father’s dog, C, is ill. He has some kind of problem with his heart which causes him to have seizures. DB can’t imagine his dad without a dog, and suggested he adopt P. That way C could help her settle in and, in turn, she (P) could help his dad deal with C’s inevitable death.

DB’s dad was originally against the idea of getting a new dog, mostly because he’s not sure he’ll outlive another one, partly because he says C isn’t dead yead, and might hold out a couple more years yet… 

When he saw the pictures he slowly started changing his mind. 

When she caught wind of all the planning DB’s mother said “no way”. She wasn’t against a new dog per se, or even against this particular one, she was against having 2 at a time. 

A month or so of various persuasional tactics later, she was still adamant and DB’s dad more interested.

In January DB suggested we go to see whether she was still there and take some more pictures of her for his dad – a kind of secret mission to undermine his mother.

I went along for the ride – and to make sure he didn’t come home with a vanful of assorted homeless dogs.

On not having a dog – prologue

[A short history]

I didn’t want a dog.

I don’t remember ever wanting a dog.

Not even as a kid.

My family wasn’t and isn’t particularly dog-friendly, and besides, we had a mouse, followed by cats, chickens, goats and pigs. I had no need for a dog. I could snuggle up in bed with the cat, set up obstacle courses for the mouse, take the goats for walks, watch the pigs go crazy for treats (like crab apples), chase, and be chased by, the chickens.. Why constrict yourself to just one animal, when you could have so many?

Years later, living alone, I still had no need or wish for a dog. I wanted to be flexible – to have the freedom to go out, to stay out all night if I wanted to, to go away with very little notice, to travel on trains and busses and aeroplanes, to get lifts in cars with strangers. To have people over, or to stay by myself, hiding under the duvet, peering at the world without actually going out in it. A dog would have been restrictive, would have made me change the way I stumbled through my day, would have required planning and multiple daily walks and dog sitters and the transport of heavy bags of dog food in addition to my own shopping. I didn’t even buy a rabbit because it would’ve needed looking after when I was away.

As recently as Christmas I would have told you I didn’t want a dog, and not just because dogs aren’t for Christmas. DB and I regularly look after his parents’ dog. It’s selectively deaf, very stubborn, very hairy, and very lazy. It has the ability to completely and almost instantaneously cover the floor in fur and mud and slobber. Walks take longer with him than the same walk twice over might otherwise take without him. It howls when neither DB nor his owners are around, and barks and howls when they are. It demands dog treats every time either it or anyone else comes through the front door, regardless of how long they spend on the other side of it. It not only smells permanently of wet dog, even if it hasn’t been anywhere wet, it also has hideously bad breath. In short, it’s a joy to have around. I’m all for doing favours for people. But there was no way I would have wanted to adopt it. Luckily it isn’t an option – DB’s parents love it to bits.

Last summer, we looked after a friend’s dog. It’s far older, but far more interesting than DB’s folks’ dog, because it is at least prepared to walk. It’s interested in what’s going on around it, and it’s better able to put difficult commands like ‘sit’ into practice.

I enjoyed that week more than other dog weeks…..But I still didn’t want one.

Life gets planned, based on what the dog wants or needs to do. You can’t leave it alone, you often can’t take it with you. After a week or so, that’s pretty dull..

DB on the other hand, thinks life without a dog is dull…