I usually like doing things in my own way. However, even I must admit that sometimes ‘normal’ is normal for a reason.
In this case, there are probably better ways to open yoghurt pots…
I usually like doing things in my own way. However, even I must admit that sometimes ‘normal’ is normal for a reason.
In this case, there are probably better ways to open yoghurt pots…
I was recently in Girona on my way from Murcia towards Berlin.
Girona is a really pretty city, at least what I saw in the 17 or so hours I was there. Much friendlier than Barcelona and much less scary to walk around at night.
I wandered between the old old houses and shops, admiring the art nouveau balconies and door handles, stopping ever few hundred metres to take photos of things people probably mostly ignore. Missing bricks, the compass worked into the street, the street signs and the people on the traffic lights.
I visited the ancient Arabic baths and tried to visit the cathedral (but decided the entrance fee was unjustified). I was on my way to the remains of the tall wall that originally enclosed the city when I met Amanda.
I didn’t know she was called Amanda and I wasn’t out to meet anyone. Especially someone as glamorous as Amanda. I wanted to know how to get onto the wall and she was the only person around to ask. If there’d been anyone else I would have asked them instead.
“I think there’s a staircase along here next to the tower, let’s go and find out.”
She set off and I followed at a distance, leaving her some space – space it turned out she wasn’t really all that interested in.
“Do you think you could take a picture of me?”
She’d been fighting her phone for a while, trying to find a way to fit herself, the wall and the cathedral onto one photo.
“Yeah, sure, if you show me how your phone works..”
She handed it over (“Just press here”) and started posing, adjusting her hair and sunglasses, shuffling her position, arranging and rearranging herself, letting the sun dance on her face and make her earrings sparkle – obviously this is something she’s used to doing.
“Hey, give me your bag and your water bottle – they don’t need to be in the picture, and I’ll move my bag out of the way too. There.”
Click click click.
“The wind keeps messing my hair up..”
“I think if you turn just a bit more to the left.. Perfect.. Hold that…”
Click. Click. Click click click.
“Here, have a look to see if you’re happy with them. I can take more if you don’t like them.” I hand her phone back.
“Wow! You took loads! Thank you! I love this one, and this one. And this one’s good with the cathedral – you’re a really good photographer. Thank you so much!” She smiled as she flicked through the pictures. “Can you take another one of me in close up? From over there..”
Click. Click click. Shuffle. Rearrange. Click.
“There you go.”
“Thanks ever so much. That’s brilliant. Thank you!” she gushes. “Most people just take one and don’t check if you have your eyes shut or if you’re smiling. They don’t even make sure that the scenery fits on the photo. You’re lucky if they don’t cut part of your head off..” She paused. “Do you want me to take some of you?”
*panic* “Uh…” My mind races. Me? No way. Why not? I can’t. Just because you don’t usually. You can’t always hide behind the camera.. Ugh. “Ok. Go ahead. Please.”
My phone beeps as I hand it over – less than 10% battery life left. I hope it lasts until I’ve found my way back to the station. I hope there are plugs on the train. I hope I’m there in time to catch the train. I hope..
I stop thinking about the rest of the journey for a minute and try and act a fraction as cool as Amanda while she takes pictures. I think I need more practice at this posing lark.
Then it’s over (“Is that ok? Want any more?” “No, that’s more than enough, I have to get back to the station..”). I jump down off the wall, get my phone back, pick up my bags, start to leave.
Halfway down the steps I remember the other lady who’d been sitting by herself and who’d watched us taking pictures of each other for a few seconds before turning back to stare across the city. I go back up to the platform and ask her if she wants her photo taken too. She looks up, shy, and tells me she was going to take a selfie, but if I’m offering.. She stops mid-sentence, reminding me more of myself than of Amanda. I put down my bags and take her phone. She looks like she feels even more awkward than me as she balances on the wall, hugging her knees. I take a couple of pictures and ask her if she wants to move along the wall a bit – the sun’s behind her and I can only take pictures of her silhouette. She laughs, moves, resettles. “Better?” “Much.”
Click click. Click. Click click click.
I move too, trying to get her and the cathedral and the wall and the clouds onto a picture without anything getting in the way of anything else.
“This is like a proper photo shoot!”
I doubt it but we laugh anyway. She’s finally relaxed enough to sit naturally.
Beep! My phone is still in the process of dying, reminding me that I have a train to catch. I hand her phone back and say I have to go. She thanks me and goes back to her original position, looks across the city, looks at the pictures I’ve taken. Smiles.
I catch up with Amanda at the bottom of the tower, she’s been waiting for me. She wants me to take more photos of her along the next section of the wall.
We align clouds, walls, towers, roofs, trees as we make our way towards the end of the wall, sharing fragments of our lives – and the current moment – with each other. It appears we’re not so different after all, our reasons for being in Girona, our opinion of Barcelona, our travel plans for the next few days. Not identical, but similar enough to feel more than coincidental. The realisation that there’s a person under all that make-up is a surprise. Especially a person I can relate to. I am always surprised by this; in my mind at least, I still associate heavily made up people with the “cool” girls in my class at school. The ones who would rather do anything than talk to me and risk losing their coolness. The ones I had less than nothing in common with. The ones I still ‘see’ despite the years and miles between us.
At the end of the wall she thanks me again, profusely, for all the photos I took along the way, telling me again that I’m a great photographer. She ignore my protests that I just take lots of pictures and occasionally some work well, and instead wishes me a good time travelling. She insists we take a selfie together. One each. To remember.
Together. Me and Amanda. The laid back, perfectly made up, glamorous Amanda from Brazil, with her pearl earrings and flowing hair, who wouldn’t look out of place in a magazine or on one of those huge roadside posters advertising sunglasses or perfume, and me. In one picture. On purpose. Despite my messy bun and crumpled skirt and bag lady luggage. My word.
One day, I decide, I will lose some of my shallowness. Some of my prejudice. And maybe, maybe also some of my reluctance to talk to [makeup wearing] strangers.
This is me, sitting at the top of a tower on Girona’s city wall in November, taken by Amanda from Brazil:
We went inside but left before mass started.
Impressive, but way too much gold for my liking.
Lots of Murcians (and possibly lots of other Spaniards) have Churros for breakfast.
Churros are like pieces of deepfried (oozing) doughnut-dough rings. Here, you dip them into thick, custard-like, rich hot chocolate.
When in Murcia, do as the Murcians do.
So I did. And here they are:
I wear odd socks. Odd, as in not matching, rather than intrinsically odd.
Sometimes they’re brightly coloured, sometimes dark, sometimes stripy, sometimes spotty, sometimes plain, sometimes patterned, sometimes with pictures. Sometimes they’re thick, sometimes thin, sometimes long sometimes short, sometimes in-between. Sometimes they’re boring socks, sometimes they’re just socks, not in need of a description.
Sometimes someone mentions them, mostly they don’t. If they do, they mostly only notice that they don’t match.
I notice other people’s socks occasionally, mostly if they aren’t wearing shoes. Sometimes I comment on them.
“Hey! [Those are] cool socks!” Smile. End of conversation.
What I have never done, is ask if I can wear them.
No one’s ever asked if they could wear mine either. If they had, I would have thought they were very very strange.
I have to admit that I’ve also never offered..
If someone told me I have nice socks, I would say thanks and probably move on to something more exciting. If I thought they were really interested I might say something like: “Yeah, I thought they were pretty cool too, I found them in a market in….blahblahblah..”
“Those are nice socks!”
“Thanks! Want to try them on?”
is not a conversation I’ve ever thought about having. Not in a million years.
Yesterday, while waiting at the airport, I flicked through a magazine.
Apparently, according to the magazine,
“Hey! You’re wearing nice socks, can I try them on?”
made it onto the list of top 3 chat up lines for the next season.
Apparently that’s a thing.
I don’t claim to be an expert on chat up lines, I didn’t even know there was a list, but even assuming one exists, asking to wear someone else’s socks would never have occurred to me as a candidate, never mind one of the winners.
I have no idea how they choose what lands on it. Have they been compiled, thought up, tested? Do people write in with what worked for them?? Are there contests?
Several hours later I still can’t imagine a situation where that would be a good thing to say.
It’s entirely possible I’m missing the innuendo or a reference to something else because I miss a lot of references.
But I’m curious:
Is it me, or is the whole idea really really weird?
Do people really want to wear other people’s socks? Especially when the other person’s been wearing them..
Have I been missing out?
most some of this during the breaks in Friday’s adventure. I originally wanted to write about each step of the journey as it happened, but sometimes it was more important to participate than observe so I missed some lots of bits out, or wrote fragments instead of sentences. I thought about posting as was, but I had some time to kill on the flight and wanted to make it more readable so I’ve chopped and changed and added as necessary..
13:00 – motorway services carpark (where I bought my coffee)
S and I arranged to meet at the rental office at 8. I missed the train I wanted to catch so by the time I arrived she’d already sorted everything out and was raring to go – the helpers were booked to arrive soon and she had a couple of things she wanted to sort out before they turned up. All I had to do was hand over my driving licence (they gave it back afterwards)) and pick up the keys and then we could go.
The van is huuuuuge!! And has the turning circle of a block of flats. (Or at least a middle sized house). The place we borrowed it from has a lamppost directly next to the exit. Guess who dented the van before they’d even driven 200m….
Ho hum. We luckily have a good insurance policy.
Then we got a tiny bit lost on the way to S’s house so the helpers had to wait for us and S had to work round them.
They worked quickly and we were on the road half an hour earlier than we’d planned despite everything.
And now we’re on the first loobreak.
It’s windy and there are roadworks and it’s looking like rain, but there are no traffic jams (yet).
15:00 ish – Supermarket logistics centre carpark.
We’ve stopped because we have no brakes. Or at least dodgy brakes. Or not enough brakes. Or something.
We were driving along a motorway, minding our own business when the dashboard suddenly lit up like a rather monotonous Christmas tree (or a traffic light party).
I had no idea what some of the symbols and abbreviations meant, but some of them were red and I know red lights mean you should stop. The display screen told us to consult the handbook, but I didn’t fancy reading while driving and I’m against my dashboard telling me anything while I’m on the motorway, so we took the next exit and stopped in a logistics centre carpark.
According to the display and the guide to dashboard lights, we have no ESP, no ABS, no ASR, no hill holder…. Nuffink.
We consulted the handbook.
The handbook was almost entirely useless – it basically told us that a) it was something to do with the brakes and b) we should consult someone knowledgeable.
That we had no brakes can’t be quite true because I did bring it to a halt.
S is on the phone to the rental company to find out what to do next.
I used the time to smuggle my way into the logistics centre to use their loo. (If you don’t close the main door properly behind you, there will be someone who uses opportunity to follow you into the building..).
Life is never boring…
(Also, it didn’t just rain after we set off again earlier, it feels more accurate to say the sky fell down).
16:15 ish – still in the logistics carpark
A repair man is apparently on his way.. he is supposed to be here by 5… We originally wanted to be at the new house by then. That was honestly unlikely to happen, but we could have probably made it for just after 6. No chance of that now.
16:50 – still not going anywhere
I wrote: “New loo – lorry driver shed – renovation and lots of dust”
This was good. I walked up to the gatemen at the edge of the lorry park and asked if I could use the loo. They said they didn’t have one and they couldn’t let me onto the grounds to get to the main building. I asked where I should go instead, and they pointed me in the general direction of a garage. When I asked how far away that was and said I was on foot because my car had broken down, they admitted that they did indeed have a working toilet but that it was very dirty due to the renovation work going on. I was welcome to use it if I didn’t mind the rubble.
It was very rubbley, but still a lot better than a lot of motorway loos 😉
19:00 ish – van repair workshop
The repair man arrived (at the carpark) at 17:something-late.. He’d got caught in a motorway closure and resulting traffic jams, and a journey that should have taken just under half an hour took him almost two.
He was friendly and helpful and thorough and unplugged things and tested things and checked things with a computer.
It turned out that something to do with the ABS/rear brakes was broken. I could either sign something to say that I was personally responsible for any accident that occurred on the rest of the journey, or we could get it repaired before continuing Essenwards. We were already so late that the unpacking helpers would be gone when we arrived, and I really didn’t want to be responsible for any more accidents, so we decided to get it repaired.
He couldn’t repair anything in the carpark in the dark, so we followed him back to the workshop.. slowly and carefully.
We now have a drinks machine with free cocoa/coffee/water and a couple of sofas to play with 🙂
I’m going to sleep for a bit while they work on the van.
Midnight – at S’s parents’ house.
We got in, alive and well at 23:15 ish.
The last entry was as I was trying to sleep at the workshop…
No such luck. Or more luck, depending on how you look at it. Just as I was getting close to sleeping, they came back and said we could go – everything was mended :).
We drove the last 270something km in approximately 4 hours (including refuelling and getting lost in a car park). That’s incredibly slow for German motorways, but I’m a wimp and it was windy and I didn’t want to overtake all the lorries. I’m not good at overtaking on a good day in my car. On a crazy day like today in a 20something foot van, with less than enough sleep, I was even more reluctant than usual.. It’s amazing how much wind you don’t notice in a car..
S’s parents waited up for us, and we had soup as a kind of midnight snack while we recounted the days events.
I think, on balance, we did really well, considering, even if we could theoretically have done better..
I don’t often drink coffee, but for long distance driving I find it good to have a cup or two with me, just in case. In my shopping spree, I bought 3 pots of iced coffee and put them in the fridge to keep cold.
In the rush to get out of the house I left my coffee behind. (Out of sight and all that)
What costs 50ct in a supermarket costs 3€ at a motorway service station.. (!!!)
I figured getting there in one piece was worth it… Just about! 😉
[Mostly written on] Friday morning, 7:00 ish – on a train.
I’m driving a friend across Germany today. (Friday). She’s moving house and I offered to drive the moving van for her.
I’m setting out from Berlin (North East Germany). Her new house is near Essen (West Germany), I am going to a party (the late-night/early-morning kind) in Stuttgart (South Germany) on Saturday evening and I need to be in England on Monday evening. There’s no realistically viable way to go from Stuttgart to Berlin before I fly towards England, so I’m flying directly from Stuttgart. That means packing everything for all 3 trips into one small suitcase. The kind you can take on a plane as handluggage. The kind that takes more thought to pack than the kind you put in the hold.
I have been known to enter my house, pack a suitcase and leave within half an hour. That was a long time ago and I am quite out of practice. I am also exhausted from everything else going on. I decided last week (/whenever I got back and booked the new flights, I have no track of time at the moment) I needed to leave myself longer than usual to pack and get myself ready and to sleep. The sleep part was especially important because I’ve never driven a removal van before.
That was the plan. The reality was a little bit different.
Yesterday evening (Thursday) I worked later than planned because I got in to work later than planned. I got there so late because I woke up so late, and I woke up so late because I was up so late the night before (Wednesday), working on a present for one of the people I’m going to see in Stuttgart. I didn’t get it finished because I ran out of time and so won’t be able to give it to her this visit. That means the evening wasn’t used effectively. Or at least not in the most effective way.
Back to yesterday evening.
I worked until I’d clocked up the minimum hours needed to count as a day.
Just as I wanted to go home I remembered that I hadn’t printed my boarding card(s) yet so I stopped to do that.
Just as I was finally locking up the workshop, my friend (the one who’s moving) phoned to ask if I could make her some lunch for the journey because she’d left later than planned and wasn’t going to get to a shop before they all shut.
Ok. No problem – I was going to make myself lunch anyway. She doesn’t eat what I’d been thinking of taking, so I went shopping on the way home.
Once I got home (several € later – shopping hungry is never really recommended..) I did the following:
I got loads done, but it took longer than I expected (quelle surprise) so I went to bed later than expected (not late by my standards, but not nearly as early as intended). And even though I was exhausted, it took me ages to get to sleep. That really was surprising – usually I sleep as soon as I’m horizontal.. like one of those dolls with the weighted eyes.
My colleague says there are days when gravity is stronger than other days. Today is one of those days: First I couldn’t get out of bed. Second I couldn’t carry the lunch bag.
I found a backpack for the water bottles and waddled down the stairs, laden much like a Sherpa, only much less fit/strong/capable. I dragged and lugged my suitcase and picnic bag towards the train station, stopping every few hundred metres to change hands.
The first train I managed to catch left almost 20 minutes later than the one I intended to catch. That coincides almost exactly with the 20 minutes I spent lying in bed not getting up. Funny really.
I’m now tireder than I ought to be for a drive across the country, despite the fact that I’ve known about it for a while and also aimed to get enough sleep. It seems I’m my own best saboteur…
..but at least we have a good packed lunch! 🙂
* see: Wind-in-the-Willows
Look what I found when I got to work this morning!
A very posh looking bag, containing..
.. even posher looking chocolates!
It’s the thanks for the prizes I made and donated to a competition in the summer. There’s all kinds if things in there I’d never buy for myself – I’m looking forward to trying them :).
Today was a chocolate munching day – the kind when you already think about how to break the next chunk off while you’ve already got one in your mouth and are holding a spare. I consider it a suboptimal, though sometimes necessary, way to eat any chocolate, it would be practically criminal to munch through the posh stuff. I’m going to save them for a day when I can eat them slowly enough to appreciate them.
My sister is always adopting animals. This time she must have decided it was my turn. She left a small animal with my parents for me to collect and look after.
Unfortunately I don’t know quite what it is. I thought it was a baby puffin, my parents said it looked more like a penguin and my sister is adamant that it says it’s a cat…
Whatever it is, this was its first passenger flight. The trip is quite a long one, made longer by various delays, but it was very well behaved.
I’ve documented the journey for the photo album ;).. If you have better captions, let me know in the comments
Always wear your feetbelt on the train
* Like a duck-billed-platypus only different…
Today is my birthday.
I wanted to write a list of things I was going to do over the coming year as a kind of birthday post.
I am very naive.
I sat down last night and within a very short time I had a list of well over 31 things which all have to be done before Christmas.
Perhaps, if I get them all done, next year will be really relaxing. (And no. I’m not holding my breath on that one)
I’m not particularly keen on snakes.
I don’t have anything in particular against them, but I have less for them. I have no desire to be bitten and/or poisoned and possibly even less desire to be squeezed to death.
This isn’t about that kind of snake.
Recently I started learning Python. That’s a programming language. One of many.
Luckily for me, my brother is a multilingual programmer.
He’s teaching me how to write python.
Or trying to.
He’s very knowledgeable and mostly incredibly patient.
I am not knowledgeable. At all. And I’m not patient enough when it comes to listening, testing and understanding. I feel like I’m not progressing fast enough but simultaneously not going slowly enough for it to really sink in.
He keeps trying to tell me I’m not totally rubbish, but my head keeps telling me otherwise.
There are so many opportunities to get completely and utterly lost. There are so many commands and functions and strings and lists and dictionaries and tuples and maps and syntax and arguments and types and loops and iterators and keys and indexes and classes and sets and definitions and numbers and ranges and braces and brackets and immutable things and sums and and….
… I don’t even know some of the words in ordinary daily use (and have forgotten them already) and have to have them explained before I stand a chance of understanding their role in the program.
The guy sitting across from us on a train home heard us talking, and watched us tapping away on my laptop. When he got to his station he stood up, gathered his things together, took a step towards the doors, paused, turned back and told me it’s fun when you get the hang of it. That makes sense. Most things get better as you get better.
I don’t give up easily, and I know it’s ridiculous to want to learn a language in a few days, but it’s frustrating floundering about in the simplest instructions.
We’ll see how I get on between now and next year/decade/century/millennium…
Wish me luck!
“It’s in a cup so you don’t look weird” – Dad.
I was drinking apple juice. Everyone else was having tea. Black tea. The English sort with milk. The sort the sanity of the country, or at least my family, depends on. The sort everyone makes and offers you whenever anything happens, big or small, births, deaths, celebrations, calamities, meetings, visiting family, waking up, getting home from work, going to visit anyone, being visited by anyone. There are so many opportunities to drink tea that some people I know drink it purely because it’s easier than trying to refuse it. Peer pressure on a countrywide scale.
“Nice to see you – I’ll put the kettle on.” It is an integral part of social interaction.
And I don’t like it. I never have. Not really.
I used to drink my own version of tea when I stayed with my grandparents when I was very small. Grandma used to make it very very milky, and very very sweet – for me anyway, everyone else got theirs so strong you could stand the teaspoon up in it (as they say). I never made the jump to grown up tea. (Warm milk with honey still trumps tea any day, by any reckoning. I don’t drink it all that often though because heating milk is a faff, much more than putting the kettle on.)
I also don’t like coffee, unless it’s in icecream or cake or occasionally chocolate. I don’t like green tea either for that matter. That’s about the limit of choice, if there is any choice at all.
I drink herbal tea (“infusions” – my mother refuses to acknowledge it as an alternative, in her mind there is only real tea, or wasted hot water). I like mint and ‘mixed herbs’ and various fruit mixtures. I like drinking squash, hot or cold, although it’s considered a little kid’s drink. I like milk, hot or cold. I like hot chocolate and milkshakes and smoothies and most fruit juices. I even like orange juice with bits in.
But I don’t like tea.
And don’t get me started on alcohol.
Good job I like apple juice – you can disguise it in so many different cups and glasses!
🙂 🙂 🙂
I finally registered my glass molecule making company yesterday.
I’ve wanted to sell my glass (molecules and other artistic glassware) legally for a while – I had the original idea back in 2012, it seems I need a long time to process my ideas.
Whatever. It’s registered now, and ready to go. If anyone wants anything, yell :). I can’t guarantee it’ll be finished before Christmas, but I can certainly try :).
Everything that needs registering has to be registered at the town hall. The town hall is only open 4 days a week during the hours I usually work. This year I needed so much time off for all the school related things that I don’t have many days left to take and I don’t want to them for ‘frivolities’. My brother was over to visit for the week and we were going to fly back to my parents together. We (mostly I) wanted to go to see an exhibition before it closed so I’d taken the day off to spend with him and to see the exhibition (and to tidy the flat so that my landlord can feed the fish in my absence). I’m not going to get another chance to go anywhere during weekday opening hours until next year. Next year’s still a long time away. I left my brother to eat his breakfast and headed to the town hall.
Less than 45 minutes later I’d registered the company, deregistered my second accommodation (xDB’s house) and got a new statement/proof of address issued from a different office in the hall (since I was there anyway).
In the past, everything official has taken me ages and heaps of paperwork to complete. Official paperwork daunts me the way maths problems daunt lots of schoolkids. In reality, it was probably the easiest official thing I’ve ever done in Germany.
Turn up, hand over 26€ and some simple information about me and my intentions and sign a form. That’s it! You even have the chance to say when you want to start.
My company is my birthday present to myself, so it would have made sense to save the start date until next week. It’s my birthday on Monday. I’m going to be 31. I think it sounds much cooler to say you started a business when you were 30 than when you were 31. That’s ridiculous. I realise that. Especially when there’s only a couple of days difference. And yet I still feel it to be true.
Yesterday was Thursday. The date was 16.11.17. I could have asked if it could be registered from the 17th (today) because the date would have been cooler, and more memorable, but that would have meant it started on a Friday not a Thursday. I generally like Thursdays. I’m a Thursday baby, lot’s of good things happen on Thursdays and I wanted my company to be a Thursday baby too. That’s probably ridiculous, but I don’t mind being ridiculous sometimes.
Ridiculous or not, I’m now the proud owner of my own part-time company :).
Once upon a time, I soldered something together in school. At some point between then and now I made some stained glass windows and some small Tiffany style pieces. That kind of involves soldering, but with a huge soldering iron and a reel of lead/tin you could probably knock someone out with.
Since then, my life has been almost entirely solder-free, with any necessary soldering being done by other people.
Turns out becoming the owner of a raspberry pi involves not only learning how to speak ‘programming’ (;)), but also how to melt tiny things together.
My colleague offered to lend me a soldering iron which was very kind of him, but I decided, on reflection, that maybe soldering =/= soldering. Plumbing and pi-ing seem to be on different ends of a scale, or at least far enough apart to need to step back a bit to see both at the same time.
I went to look at new ones in DIY shops, but even the ones marked ‘suitable for electronics’ seemed huge compared to the pins I needed to connect.
In the end, my brother bought me one online.
This one is a bit longer and fatter than a biro, is fairly lightweight and has a set of changeable tips, almost, but not quite, as tiny as the pins that need soldering!
A couple of days’ mental build up, and a couple of hours later, I am proud (ish) to present (dum-dum-dah!) the results of my first electronic soldering:
It’s not a work of art, and it won’t win any prizes, but the pins are all attached to the board, and are recognisably separate from each other and not all melted together. I consider that a success..
Having let it all cool down, I inspected my labours… It seems I melted the plastic casing enough to push a few of the pins through towards the other side :(.
Here’s hoping it won’t matter! 🙂