On winning at life (or at least on the train)

April 24th.

I had a train to catch this afternoon and I caught it.

The end.

🙂

***

The truth is, as usual, somewhat lengthier and involves a confrontation with a couple of officious ticket collectors, but I still won. And winning is what it’s all about, right?

***

Take 2.

I had a train to catch this afternoon. The sort of long distance train that you book in advance to make the journey affordable. The sort that you shouldn’t really miss because getting the next one is not just an unnecessary nuisance, it’s a really expensive unnecessary nuisance (and in this case would probably also mean getting in really late and not being fit for tomorrow’s meeting).

That meant leaving work early and catching two other local trains to get to the station. I started looking at train timetables a few days ago. I checked again this morning and decided on a connection that left me quite a lot of contingency time (more orderly people would probably have left double..)

I occasionally have an urge to be more organised. Part of that involved spending the Easter we finding the bottom of my washing baskets so that I would have a wardrobe full of clean, dry clothes to choose from. It didn’t stretch as far as actually packing..

I got involved in a late-night discussion instead of packing and had to pack this morning instead. By the time I’d agonised over the weather and what I was going to wear when, and watered all the plants, I ended up leaving ridiculously late.

Anyway.

I got to the station and remembered that I needed a ticket for the journey to work but didn’t think about what I was doing and bought a ticket for the whole of Berlin instead of just the area I need.

Doh.

The tickets are valid for travel in one direction for up to 2 hours. You can get off the train as often as you like during those hours, but you can’t go back in the direction you came from.

Work lies almost directly between my house and the station I was leaving from later. If I left work a few minutes earlier than I’d planned, I could get to the station using the same ticket I’d come in with. I figured it was a lucky mistake after all.

Whee!

***

As is probably obvious to anyone who either knows me or has read more than three of my posts, I left work a couple of minutes later than I should have done. I got to the station half a minute or so later than the train should have left.

Bummer.

There are trains scheduled every 10 minutes, so it wasn’t really a problem

I say ‘should have left’, because it turned out it was running late so it arrived before the next timetabled train.

Wheee!

In a different universe I would have got to the station without further incident.. However. This isn’t that universe. This is the universe where “maximal nerve-wracking” is my automatic setting.

In this universe the ticket controller got on the train at the exact moment the time on my ticket ran out.

Bummer.

By the time he got to me.. “Your ticket ran out 4 minutes ago”

“Oh…”

“Where are you getting off?”

“Uh..here.” I pointed at the next station. I wasn’t planning to get off there, but it seemed like a good idea to not be on a train with an invalid ticket at the same time as the controller. (Not having a valid ticket in Germany carries a 60€ fine). From that station the trains go approximately every 3 minutes, so it shouldn’t matter too much if I waited for the next one. Especially seeing as the train-timetable-app said the next train was running a few minutes late…

“Ok.” (That’s the abrieviated version. He was very grumpy but jobsworthily pleased to have someone to rant at).

He watched as I got off the train..

..and then got off too.

He sat on the bench with his controller friend and looked as if he was content to stay for the duration.

Hmm.

Bummer.

I was only three stops away from where I wanted/needed to be, two from where I needed to change, but there was no chance I could walk there and still catch my train.

I went back to the ticket controllers.

“I’m sorry, I made a mistake. I wasn’t supposed to get off here after all. I need Other Station instead. Can I get the next train with this ticket? It’s only two stops… Please?”

They weren’t very happy, but they did rather dourly allow me to get on the next train.

Whee!

More accurately, they made sure I knew just how much I wasn’t allowed to use tickets past their use-by time, then escorted me onto the next train and watched me to make sure I got out where I said I would…

I luckily had to change platforms to change trains, and they got back on the train to check the tickets in a different wagon, so they didn’t see the last 3 and half minutes of my illicit journey.

Whee!

I arrived exactly 15 minutes before the train left, exactly as instructed by the ticket :).

Whee!

There were major building works at the long-distance station. And rather confusing signposts. And I was trying to catch a train that doesn’t exist on the timetable, rather like the Hogwarts Express, except that I didn’t know which platform to aim for.

Bummer.

My ticket said check the boards and the board said check your ticket.

Sigh.

I found the right platform by chance and after going up and down escalators more or less at random and checking all the platform displays. Some of which said check the display..

Whee? I guess..

When the train arrived it was full and the thermostat was broken

Bummer.

But I was on the right train train at the right time and I did get a seat and there were openable windows and we all got there safely.

Whee!

And that was the end of another successful travelling day.

***

(Yup, I’m off gallavanting again – there are meetings tomorrow and Friday that I want to go to, followed by people I want to visit for the weekend)

On rowing at midnight

I have a rowing machine.

I bought it on a whim when I bought my aquarium. Not necessarily an obvious connection but they were both second hand and being sold by the same family. And I’d already borrowed the van.

It’s not especially good quality. It’s not, according to my brother who actually rows, a bit like real rowing, not even a bit like using a ‘proper’ rowing machine.

I don’t really care. It’s something that fits into my bedroom, something that requires all of my body to work to make it work, something that I don’t have to go anywhere to use. Something I can do by myself, whenever I want to do it.

When I got it a year and a half ago, I started doing a very few strokes per ‘session’, building up until I reached 200, or occasionally 250, depending on how I felt. (people usually row for a set time (or distance) and count the strokes (or time) needed..).

Last year I rowed almost every day until about June. Then I went away and the habit broke. I think it probably ‘helped’ that it was approximately a million degrees here for a lot of the summer and just existing was enough to cause severe sweating.

Between June and November the rowing machine disappeared under several boxes of ‘Things to put on ebay’ and ‘Things to sort through’ and ‘Things I really need to deal with soon’. I probably rowed 5 times.

In late November / early December I claimed my bedroom back. The boxes were sent to the sitting room or the cellar. Some were properly dealt with.

The freed up rowing machine demanded attention. I started with 100 strokes. Half my old normal. I could have carried on but decided to quit while I was still able to choose to (i.e. before I fell off).

The day after was horrible. I ached everywhere. I carried on with my reacquaintance through and got back up to 150 daily strokes by the time I headed home for Christmas.

This year I’m trying to continue with the habit of rowing every day.

Yesterday was my first full day back in Germany. I got in after midnight and didn’t get up until after midday. Then I went out for lunch and to buy new pedals for my bike and to pick up a new notice board.

The evening disappeared in a fuzzy haze of transferring pictures from my phone onto the computer and starting to tackle the backlog of housey things – like going through the pile of post, emptying the fridge and cleaning the sink – while waiting for the computer to do its thing.

I intended to go to bed early.

I could pave a lot of roads with all my intentions (good or otherwise).

As I finally brused my teeth I realised that I hadn’t rowed yet. It was 4 minutes to midnight. I don’t feel resolutions are unbreakable, but I prefer to at least do the first day before I break them. I don’t know exactly when I started rowing but I certainly didn’t finish until after the end of the day.

I’m still counting it as a successful first day – after all, in England it was still yesterday…

Now to get up and get today’s rowing out of the way, before I try out my new pedals 🙂

On chainging my plans

Here we go again.

Jesska makes a plan and life makes it impossible to see it through.

***

At the end of August I bought new fish.

They were quite expensive as cheap fish go (nothing like as expensive as posh koi) and quite a luxury considering that I don’t “need” fish for anything. I decided to not spend any money on anything but proper food (no unnecessary/luxury food like icecream) throughout September to make up for it.

That decision lasted until about midday on the 1st when I got a message from the lady I’d agreed to buy water plants from, asking when she could expect me. I made a mental exception for things-agreed-to-before-the-decision and went to pick up the plants.

***

I did very well for the next couple of days until I remembered that I’d told people that I was going to be flying home soon and hadn’t booked any flights yet. Flights are obviously not food, but going home and seeing my family are necessary things, so I started looking at flights. They were cheaper than expected around my birthday so I booked them too. Two trips planned more than a few days in advance – way to go Jesska! Except you weren’t planning on spending money.. Ho-hum.

Then it became clear that my tyres couldn’t get much balder before the inner tubes started to show, no matter how much I tried to convince myself otherwise.

I arranged an appointment at the bike shop.

***

It turns out you can’t get new tyres without new inner tubes (something about guarantees and warranties) and one of my tubes was thin enough to leak anyway. The brake pads were almost as bald as the tyres and the light bulb in my front light was dead. So far so good. I signed on the dotted line and went to work on the bus.

A couple of hours later, I got a call from the guy responsible for working on my bike. As he’d changed the tyres he’d noticed the chain was worn and the cassette (gears on the back wheel) could do with replacing… Me: yeah, go ahead. (I’d had the feeling the chain was getting old a couple of months ago, it wasn’t too much of a surprise to hear I needed a new one. Also, I’m going cycling in France next month and I need to know my bike will be up to the challenge. My French is very rusty and definitely not up to talking about bike problems.)

The next day I got the train (and a bus) to work.

***

I picked my bike up on the way to teach maths to one of my favourite 13 year olds.

Look at the shine!

Pedalling felt very odd but I couldn’t do anything about anything without being late for my lesson. I ignored the “crunchy vibrations” and rode on regardless.

***

The next morning I decided to go to work on the bike – if it was still weird when I got home I’d take it to the shop to be looked at again.

Those were almost famous last words.

There’s a very long bridge on the way to work, the only notable elevation change on a route that is otherwise almost entirely flat. My usual routine is struggle up to the top then change rapidly up through the gears so I can make the most of the decline.

1:6

Click

2:6

Click

2:7

Click

2:8

Click

3:8…

Click, slide, scrunch, scratch, click, scrape, squarrk, clickclickclick, screeetch, klapper, schhhhhhh, wrrr

KLUNK!

I didn’t make it into 3:8.

Instead I came to a crunchy, panicky, pedal-free halt just before one of my least favourite junctions. A tiny road joins the main road and for some reason a constant stream of lorries pulls across the tiny crossing, often without giving way to anyone, never mind cyclists on broken bicycles.

But, as I said, I stopped before the junction (lucky I had brand new brakes really ;)). Phew!

I got off to inspect the damage.

The chain, my beautiful, shiny, brand new chain, was broken and had wrapped itself between the gears, the ends hanging on the ground.. 🙁

I’d made it 2/3 of the way to work.

Yeah.

I walked the remaining few miles in the first rain in living memory (or at least in a couple of months) wondering what I’d done wrong (probably nothing) and what I should do differently in the future (also probably nothing).

***

The bike shop was incredibly kind to me on the phone. I almost definitely wasn’t as polite as I could have been but they were wonderful and arranged to meet me for at lunch and mend my chain. For free. Obviously.

***

The bicycle repair man arrived exactly when he said he would and mended the chain in a matter of minutes. It would have been seconds if the chain hadn’t squished itself so well between rings and chainguard and bike frame. And if it hadn’t been so freshly greased. Luckily for both of us it wasn’t exactly broken, it had just come undone and he’d brought a replacement link.

The chain shouldn’t be able to come apart while cycling. There’d been a series of unfortunate events leading to the exact and uncommon chain undo-al I’d experienced. Neither he nor my brother have ever had a chain undo itself while cycling and they cycle most out of the people I know. I Take that to mean the chance of it breaking/coming undone again is pretty slim – a very good thing because I don’t want it to happen again.

Quick release chain joint – a brilliant idea until it isn’t.

After that he went for a test ride, muttered, adjusted various limit screws and tested and checked and cycled and hmmed and arrred and said that I should probably change the chain rings (gears near the pedals) too.

He’d left them because they weren’t terribly worn, but he thought there must be a few damaged teeth on each ring, enough to make changing gear difficult with a new (unstretched) chain.

The bike is going back to the shop next week. Until then, I’ll be cycling slowly and carefully and walking across crossroads!

***

Okay, somehow it’s taken me a while to add pictures and press publish.

The bike went in yesterday morning and I’m on the way to pick it up now…

*Fingers crossed the crunching’s gone and the gears do what they’re told*

(Oh yeah, the month is halfway over and I could have already, or at least by the time I’ve paid for the new chain rings, bought my new fish nearly ten times over…. I do love plans..)

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 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

On being on time by mistake

Most people (I think, probably) arrive on time because they plan to. They have a fairly realistic idea of how long it takes to get somewhere and what they have to do on each side of the journey and they plan accordingly, leaving a buffer for emergencies or unexpected events.

I, on the other hand, have a knack for underestimating how long things take, for not planning for anything like checking my pockets for the umpteenth time or going back to pick up my coat, and for not even thinking about unforseen circumstances, let alone leaving a buffer for them. I get drawn into long conversations 5 minutes before I’m due to set out and struggle to extract myself. I’m good at finding things which really need doing, right before I go anywhere. Like noticing that the plants need watering, or remembering that I wanted to bring something for someone and just have to find it..

As a result I am very often late. Or if not late, then only just on time.

Sometimes though, my lack of planning works in my favour. Sometimes I forget what time I’m supposed to be there. Or remember the wrong time. And then I surprise everyone (and myself) by arriving early. In this particular case 15 minutes before the meeting started, which meant that rather than dashing in at the last minute or sneaking in through the back door and hoping no-one notices or at least isn’t too disturbed by my entrance, I had enough time to say hi to people, go to the toilet, find a seat, get all my papers etc out of my bag and spread over the table, have a drink and sit back to wait for the speaker to commence his speech. No rush. No sneaking. No exasperated sighs. No rolled eyes.

I could get used to that.

I mean, I probably won’t. But I could.

(About a meeting on the 20th April)

On making the wheels go round

(or: on letting go of what is not yet broken)

If it’s working and you know it, leave it alone!

If it’s working and you know it, leave it alone!

If it’s working and you know it, and you really want to keep it that way,

If it’s working and you know it, leave it alone!

***

I cycled to work again today.

It’s been really cold lately and it was still around freezing when I left the house, late.

The wheel was stiff when I tried wheeling it away from the bike stand and towards the road. It felt like the brakes were jammed on tight, but they weren’t. After a bit of gentle persuasion and a few angry words it unstuck itself and off I went.

I assumed (see, there’s that bad word again, almost as bad as “planning”) there must have been ice in the works somewhere – it did get thoroughly soaked last week and it was icy this morning (never thought I’d have to scratch ice off the saddle, but I did).

***

I left work while it was still light to cycle to my maths/English/German student. As it turned dusky and got darker and darker I realised I was riding without lights. Argh. As a car driver, I can’t stand cyclists without lights.. as a cyclist, I try to be car friendly, in the hopes that they won’t run me over. Also, as I found out on Wednesday, lights are useful.

***

After we’d talked about adjectival attributes (?!) for as long as we could concentrate, I borrowed a front bike light from my maths kid’s mum and headed home.

Except I couldn’t. The front wheel was stuck again. It took me several metres of pushing and kicking and cajoling before anything happened. When it finally did start rolling, the nut holding the front wheel onto the forks starting turning too..

I stopped and did it up as best I could with gloves on. Another couple of paces and it was loose again.

At some point I noticed that the cables from the dynamo were hanging in the breeze and the box they’re supposed to join into was riding round in circles, presumably enjoying unknown freedom.

I prodded it a bit, retightened the nut and rode home, very very carefully.

***

It would appear that my dynamo has died.

When I said I was thinking about getting new lights, I didn’t mean I no longer wanted the old ones.

Tomorrow, I will have to find a bike doctor before work. Even if I was willing to buy new lights and ignore the dynamo, I am not willing to hurl myself at the pavement when the wheel falls off.

I expect I will have to leave my bike there and then walk to work or at least walk to the train station.

Sometimes I really love my life.

***

I think it’s time for a new motto/mantra:

If it’s working and you know it, leave it alone! Do not touch it, use it or think about it. Do not criticise it. Do not think about changing it or replacing it.

Instead, be thankful for it..you never know when it’s going to stop working..

On breaking the old and dropping the new

From Friday.

Once upon a time, when I lived by myself, I bought myself all manner of things and used them as required.

Then I moved in with xDB and stopped needing most of my things. I sold some and gave lots away. The rest were put in the garage or the cellar or hidden stowed away in boxes.

Recently I moved out and back into a flat of my own. I began buying or being given things to replace what I was missing. I assumed that the things I already had would continue to work as expected.

However.

Nothing is ever as one assumes. This is probably why assumption is something to avoid.

***

I went out to pick up a stereo system after work this evening.

My old one wasn’t as good as xDB’s and so had been rehoused at work when the ancient radio there decided it had had a good life and wanted to go to wherever good radios go when they die.

When I moved, I no longer had any way of playing music besides my alarm clock, my phone and my laptop. None of the three have spectacular speakers, especially the alarm clock. I’m not especially fussy about these things, but I’m quite happy if I can recognise who’s supposed to be singing or what song is playing.. I suppose I could theoretically take my old stereo back from work but I can’t imagine my colleague working without a radio, so I decided to leave it there and procure a newer one for my flat. Almost 6 months later I still haven’t. It hasn’t fought to the top of the priority list.

While I was browsing the free section of the small ads the other day, I found someone getting rid of a ‘micro stereo system in top working order’. I wrote to say I wanted to pick it up. The seller said it wasn’t free after all and named his price. I said he shouldn’t have put it in the free section if he actually wanted to sell it, but named my maximum and we agreed on a time and place to meet across town.

I decided, possibly foolishly after Wednesday’s adventure, to take my bike with me to save having to make a detour via work to pick it up afterwards.

I got the two trains with no problems. I found lifts and even found somewhere to change my large(ish) banknotes into smaller ones. I reached the designated meeting point at the designated time with the correct money and was feeling very proud of myself.

Even picking up the stereo was no problem. I didn’t want to leave my bike outside, so when the seller suggested he brought it out to save time I readily agreed

The man had packed it very neatly into two carrier bags. It was bigger than expected, and heavier, but I thought that must be a good sign.

One of the carrier bags was plastic, one paper. I’m probably a bit overly cautious but it’s January and the current weather forecast doesn’t make for overly joyful reading. I think potential rain and paper bags are a bad combination (though not as bad as actual rain and paper bags) so I carefully repacked my new speakers into my panier. The subwoofer in its plastic bag hung on my handlebar. It was much too heavy to balance while cycling so I pushed the bike.

The journey back was less simple. There’s a very large station in Berlin where a lot of S-Bahn and U-Bahn trains travel on different levels. It’s a station I usually quite like. I’ve been there a lot and changed trains there many times in many constellations….as a footpassenger. As a passenger with a heavily laden bicycle, stations turn into something quite different. I rode at least 4 lifts and spent a long time trying to find out where each of them were hidden. What takes me a maximum of 5 minutes by foot, took me at least 15 with the bike.

When I could finally see the platform my train was leaving from, but not the lift I needed to get to it, I gave up on the lifts altogether and used the stairs. My bike is fantastic, but it is not a light thing. There is no way I can carry it downstairs onehandedly, so I kept the front wheel in the air and let the back wheel bounce slowly on each step.

Approximately halfway down there was a sudden, strange noise. I looked behind me and saw the panier hanging from one of its clips. I was on the middle of a relatively well used staircase, a I had a subwoofer under one arm, the other hand on the crossbar with my elbow and wrist keeping the handle bars halfway steady. I couldn’t stop, couldn’t adjust my grip of anything, couldn’t even use my knees to push the panier back up to level because it was on the other side of my bike.

The only way out was down. I carried on going.

The second and final clip flew off before we reached the platform. The panier holding the newish stereo fell down and rolled the last few steps. It seems plastic clips aren’t up to being ignored for several years and then bounced.

I walked home with one bag on each side of my handle bars.

And the stereo didn’t even work when I got it home.

Before, I just wanted clearer music, now I also need new paniers.

ARGH.

On lacking expectation

I cycled to work this morning. It rained half the way there. The first half. Only the first half I suppose. I wasn’t expecting it to stop but it did.

***

After work, I had a plan to get a couple of trains to a distant part of town to try on a ski-helmet and pick up a pair of skis. After that I was going to get a train back and go and pick up the mattress.

***

I originally planned to leave my bike at work and swap it for the skis and possibly the helmet before cycling home. When I looked at the map and the local transport app at lunchtime, I discovered that I wouldn’t be home in time for the mattress if I relied on the buses to take me from A to B and B to C. I decided to take my bike and cycle from the station to the helmet, then to the skis and push the bike to the next station where a direct train would bring me to within 10 minutes of my flat.

***

Did anyone else notice the parts where I said plan and claimed it as my own?

Did all the alarm bells start ringing?

Did you feel the words “uh-oh” forming, ready to be released at a moment’s notice?

Did you see the chaos building up in the distance like the storm currently waiting to attack Berlin?

No? I didn’t either. I ran straight into it headlong.

I didn’t expect anything. But it expected me. I must be good company, or at least a regular visitor…

***

We had a fire alarm at work after lunch and before I could write my plan down.

Afterwards, I tried to get my work done so I could leave on time.

I almost did, too.

***

It wasn’t raining when I left my workshop so I packed my waterproof overskirt away in my panier.

It started raining just as I got outside the building. I don’t like being wet if it’s a cold kind of wet, and I especially dislike cycling in wet jeans, so I stopped and unpacked it.

I wasn’t expecting to spend time getting dressed once I’d left.

I didn’t expect the lift to be full when I got to the station so that I needed to wait for it to come up a second time.

I didn’t expect to miss the first train on my list of 3.

I didn’t expect the lifts at the second station to only go up when the train I needed to catch was a floor lower than the one I started on.

I didn’t expect the second lift, a lift I crossed a road especially to reach, to bring me back to the middle floor.

I didn’t remember my bike being so heavy when I decided to carry it down and up the next stairs I encountered.

I wasn’t aware that one station name in Berlin can actually mean 3 separate stations for the 3 types of train, and that they can be several hundred metres away from each other.

I didn’t appreciate having to visit each one of them to realise it.

I didn’t remember that the third train I wanted to catch only left once an hour.

I really didn’t like having to retrace my steps to get an alternative train from a station I’d already fought my way out of.

***

I didn’t check the map closely enough to know that the street I was looking for, started with one name and ended with a different one.

I didn’t realise that I cycled right past it without noticing.

I wasn’t paying enough attention as I started enjoying cycling along a straight cycle path without rain.

I wasn’t ready for the dark when the street lights stopped.

I wasn’t expecting my bike’s front light to be weaker than the wind-up torch I took on a night walk in 6th form.

I didn’t want to stop on the side of a busy but dark road with nothing but the dim glow of a fading dynamo to show where I was in order to check the map again.

I trusted Google when it recommended an alternative route from my current position when I finally felt safe enough to check.

I didn’t know, when I set out down the “dead end – pedestrian access only” road, that it would lead me into the middle of a very muddy field.

I didn’t know you could switch between the directions mode and the map mode without retyping the street name.

I didn’t know, once I was in a particularly boggy patch of field, whether it would be quicker to turn round and go back, or to carry on squelching.

I couldn’t imagine that I could be so scared of things that go bump (or knatterknatterknatter) in the dark.

I wasn’t expecting the torch on my phone to be so good.

I didn’t know in advance that I would rather cycle unnecessarily far by road, just to avoid a couple of hundred metres along a dark path through a woods

I didn’t know, when I set out from work, that I would arrive at the helmet man’s house later with the bicycle than I would have done without it.

I didn’t know, from the picture and the description, that the helmet would be just a smidgen too small.

I also didn’t know from the brief phone calls we’d had, that the seller would be so gracious about letting me traipse mud all through his immaculate house. “Relax! It’s all tiled and washable – it gets muddy every time I come in from working in the garden :)”

I didn’t know it would take me more than twice the time Google suggested to cycle across to the ski lady’s house.

I didn’t know that the skis would be so sharp that they’d take the paint off my handlebars when I rested them there.

I didn’t know that I would have such a problem steering when I got the skis into a stable position.

I couldn’t guess that the wind would pick up and join the pouring rain to slow down my attempts to get to the station while pushing my bike and balancing a pair of skis.

***

I didn’t expect to have to ask someone how to get into the train station.

I didn’t count on missing the last direct train of the evening and having to take three other indirect trains instead.

I didn’t think my phone battery would go down so fast, but I also didn’t think the last few percent would last all the way home.

I wasn’t expecting anyone to talk to me on the train, and when they did, I wasn’t expecting them to say, “don’t take this the wrong way, but I’ve got a wife and a kid waiting for me” as we got out at the same station.

***

I didn’t expect to get home more than 7 hours and 22km after leaving work, 3 hours later than I wanted to pick up the mattress.

***

Despite everything, I still feel it was a successful day..

One on which I feel I definitely earned my sleep.

***

Talking of sleep…I wasn’t planning on sleeping on the floor again tonight, but then, life always seems to have more in store for me than I could ever imagine.

(And I wasn’t expecting the neighbour to phone and apologize, but he did – assuming the mattress man is understanding enough not to sell the mattress to someone else tomorrow, we’re all set to pick it up in the evening 🙂 – wheee!)

On making ones bed (but not lying on it)

I’ve mostly slept on an airbed since moving into my flat. The first one died, despite the stars, and I replaced it with a second of the same sort. I love airbeds, especially the deep ones, but since winter arrived it’d started to get damp underneath and I really really don’t want the floor to go mouldy. Time for a proper bed.

***

Before Christmas I saw a nearly new mattress advertised in the small ads by someone who was planning on moving soon. My car went on strike on the day I wanted to pick it up but the seller said he’d keep it for me.

I also saw a bed for sale (different seller) and asked if I could collect it after Christmas. The lady said she wouldn’t reserve it for me but she’d let me know if it was still there in the new year.

It turns out that the bed was still available when I got back from England and now it’s mine!

***

I’m still car-less, so yesterday I walked the mile or so each way to the bed-lady and back multiple times, carrying pieces of bed.

The slats were awkward but not excessively heavy.

The sides and middle bar were by contrast enough to make me stop every few minutes to get my breath back. Luckily they were all taped together. Even more luckily, I didn’t knock anyone out with it on the way home, though I did come quite close a couple of times when I turned round…

One of my new neighbours (lives in the same house, don’t really know him all that well though) came home as I’d manouvered the beast up the stairs to my landing. I leant against the door holding the beast upright and trying to catch my breath and gather enough energy to find my key and open the door without knocking it over.

He laughed, “how come you sound so close to death, just from a couple of flights of stairs?” I nodded at the metal bundle, “The stairs would’ve probably been ok if I hadn’t carried it a mile first…” He picked it up and put it down again pretty quickly.. “must be close to 30kg!” he said. I nodded. “Yeah, could be. Certainly unwieldy”.

We talked for a while about cars and furniture and the state of his work project, (but not about cabbages or kings) and when the landing light starting getting annoying (it turns itself off after a minute or two) I opened my front door, took the beast into the sitting room, and came back out to the landing, leaving my hall light on. We chatted for another couple of minutes before he headed upstairs and I closed and started re-locking my door.

He stopped on the stairs and turned round, “Going back out again?!”

“Na klar, got to get the next bits of the bed”

“Bits? As in more than one? How many are there?”

“Two. The bedsteads”

“Wait a minute, you can’t carry them both at once and it’s already dark. I’ll come with you, it can be my good deed for the day”.

So that saved me a trip.

“If you need anything else carrying, let me know..” *

“Rolled up mattress? Tomorrow evening? By car?”

“Yup – can do”

“Brilliant. Until tomorrow then”

“Until tomorrow.”

No one should say things as open-ended as this to me without really meaning it. I am liable to take the 63359 inches they weren’t offering as well as the one they were.. 😉

***

Today (an extra day off work – whee!!) I packed up the air bed and assembled my new bed, washing all the pieces as I went.

It is a lot bigger than it looked in the pictures, much taller than my windowsill, and it took me a while to figure out where to put it so that it didn’t waste too much space or look too much like a cage. It meant rearranging almost all the other furniture in the room, but I think it’s the best place for it, even if I’m not happy with the placement of the cupboards yet.

Now all I need is the mattress!

***

Later:

The neighbour who promised to pick up the mattress with me didn’t. He wasn’t at home when I knocked and I don’t have his number. I will try asking again tomorrow, otherwise I will have to find another willing victim.

Argh.

Looks like I won’t be sleeping in my new bed tonight after all.

On naked v. knackered

For various reasons I am down to one pair of trousers which fits.

I took said pair of trousers off and left them on the bathroom floor while I had a shower. It was already late and I was already sleepy, but sometimes needs must. 

I got out of the shower, looking forward to going to bed and being horizontal. I leaned across the washing rack to open the window to let the steam out…and stepped backwards into a puddle.

That’s odd I thought.. but whatever. I don’t have a shower curtain and sometimes the water runs down my arms and off my elbows onto the floor while I’m washing my hair.

Then I wrapped myself in a towel and picked my clothes up… and dropped them again. They were sopping wet. And smelly.

It seems a stinky puddle of drain water had come back up through the hole in the floor and soaked everything. Eww.

***

The trousers went into the washing machine and I sat and waited for the peep peep peep to tell me I could hang them up and finally go to bed…

***

Radiator’s on, hopefully they’ll be dry by tomorrow. If not, I’ll have to find something else to wear… and I’m not sure I have anything that can cope with winter temperatures…

Argh.

On [self-inflicted] frustration

(Another one from the drafts folder)

“I hate satnags

And traffic

And running out of fuel

And hotel receptionists who have to show you how the lights work in your room

And not finding anywhere to park

And people who don’t put signs up to let you know where you’re going

And the lack of house numbers

And people who hold fish meetings in poodle club houses”

***

That’s what I wrote to my brother the other evening. Can you tell that I was stressed?

If I unravel the strings a bit, it’s obvious that I can’t honestly even blame any of the things on the list for my stress either. I am just really really bad at planning things. Or possibly passable at making plans and rubbish at carrying them out.

***

I wanted to listen to a talk about catfish.

It was being given by an expert/fanatic in Hamburg, at least 3 hours away from where I work. It was on a Thursday evening and I try not to drive when tired, meaning I needed to take holiday for the Friday, and pay for accommodation for Thursday night. I don’t have holiday or money to spare, and I should probably have stayed at home because my brother was coming to visit and I wanted/needed to prepare for him.

I decided to go anyway.

It was a spontaneous decision, one I didn’t really have time for, but one I made and stuck to regardless. My pre-birthday present to myself. There’s time to be vernünftig when I’m old, and luckily my brother isn’t fussy about things like unwashed floors or unmade beds.

***

On the evening before the day of the talk I came home late from work (still catching up with my hours of school-induced undertime) and tried to sort my house out. I could have started that earlier in the week but I didn’t, I made a mess in my kitchen and on the balcony instead. I could have ignored the hours I need to catch up with and gone home earlier but I didn’t. I could have tidied more quickly and distracted myself with the shrimp babies less often. But I didn’t and did, respectively.

By the time the place was starting to look presentable it was midnight and I was tired. I went directly to bed instead of going via the shower.

I didn’t shower the next morning either, because it was almost freezing outside and I’d had to park million miles away so the workmen could build a new road outside my house, and also because I’d woken up later than I’d planned.

I didn’t fill my water bottles for work because I hadn’t left time for the filter to do its thing and my tap water tastes horrible. I didn’t stop to buy anything to drink on the way because I was already late. Despite not showering and not filling my bottles.

Once at work, nothing I tried making turned out the way I wanted it to**. My hand cramped which only made things worse. The kind of cramp which makes you cry. I was aiming to set off at 2pm, but I didn’t want to leave before I’d had some kind of success, even if only minimal, so I didn’t get on the road until nearly 3. Google had said it would take 3 hours so I was still within my time budget. (Or so I thought.)

It took me over an hour to get across Berlin in nose-to-tail traffic. If I’d known, I could have taken a different route, but I didn’t know. I checked Google for distance and driving time a couple of days in advance, but I didn’t check for congestion before setting out and my satnav doesn’t communicate with traffic information.

The rest of the journey was long but uninteresting, except for having to stop for fuel on the way. The bloke at the petrol station laughed at me because I forgot to look at the number of my pump before I went in to pay… ?

***

When I reached the last junction I had to choose where to go first – hall or hotel.

I’d chosen a hotel approximately 10-15 minutes drive away from the hall the talk was going to be held in. It was already gone half past 6 and the talk was due to start at 7pm, with an open-ended question and answer session afterwards. I figured I was unlikely to make it to the talk on time if I checked into the hotel first, but just as unlikely to make it back to the hotel before the reception closed at 10pm. Sleeping in my car sounded like a bad idea in November. I looked at the clock, sighed and headed towards the hotel instead of straight to the hall.

***

I almost drove straight past the hotel but saw the sign at the last moment and parked on the pavement a couple of hundred metres away. It took me a while to find the front door (curiously situated at the  back of the house) and even longer to check in.

The receptionist was in the middle of printing and folding a million pages of menus. She couldn’t check me in until she could print my paperwork, and she couldn’t do that until the printer had finished printing the menus….

At some point I was shown the key. I couldn’t have it, though, until I’d been shown the box to put it in upon departure, as well as the carpark, the rest of the grounds, the breakfast hall, the toilets and my room, including a demonstration of each light and every cupboard.

Since when is that normal?!

To give the receptionist her due, she was very lovely (and possibly very bored), and on any other day, I would have probably been more grateful for the tour. In this case I could only just about remember to say thank you when she was finished.

***

I should probably have left as soon as she finished telling me about how to close the bedroom door properly, but someone had unfortunately put a mirror up in my room and I hadn’t managed to avoid it.

I looked a complete mess. It appeared that a shower was more a necessity than a luxury… (Especially the part where I had to be content with using the hotel’s shower gel instead of shampoo because I’d left my washkit in my car).

***

I was tired and I hadn’t eaten and I’d already missed the beginning of the talk when I finally set off towards the hall, but I had at least found a stray bottle of water in the boot of my car (from a previous shopping trip) so I was less at risk of dehydration thirsty than when I’d set off.

***

The 10 minute trip from the hotel to the hall took me over half an hour and involved swearing in multiple languages. My satnag and I rarely agree on timing and only very occasionally on directions. After driving backwards and forwards and round in circles I parked at random and got out of the car. My phone would have to take over.

It was dark and raining as I walked back the way I’d come. I was already nearly ¾ of an hour late for a talk I’d driven 300km to hear. I was not a particularly happy bunny and the weather wasn’t helping to cheer me up.

A few minutes later I was amazed to find a miniature carpark, accessible only via an unmarked turning, hidden from the road by a thick hedge. Opposite the carpark was a narrow wooden gate, mostly hidden behind some trees.

Further inspection revealed a small sign which informed me that the field behind the gate belonged to the poodle taming club. At the far end of the field was a low hut with row of yellow window-shaped lights.

The poodle tamers’ clubhouse address at the bottom of the sign was the same as the address of the fishlovers association I was looking for. I was expecting lots of catfish enthusiasts but no one had told me about the poodle tamers.

I opened the gate and made my way across the wet field in the half-dark, typing that message to my brother and hoping there weren’t any wild poodles waiting for intruders.

***

The talk was fantastic (at least the parts I was there for), the speaker unexpectedly laid back. The talk and Q&A session were followed by a book signing. He had brought a box of back issues of his magazines*** to hand out and a box of his books for sale. I, obviously (is it obvious to everyone else?), hadn’t got enough money with me to buy a book, but I did pick up a magazine as they came round.

I knew nobody and would have usually slunk away at this point, but I was accosted as soon as the projector was turned off and the lights came on. Who are you, where do you come from, why are you here, how did you hear about it, where do you come from, did you really drive all the way here from Berlin?! what kind of fish do you have..? Do you know the speaker, do you want to get his signature…etcetcetc… Some of the usuals in the aquarium club knew him already, presumably from previous speeches, and insisted on introducing us.

I still, despite working with famous artists and professors, expect experts to be serious, too aloof to talk to normal mortals, but the speaker, like the artists and professors, was just as human as the rest of us as he sat and chatted about fish and travelling and struggling to find time to write books between all his other commitments.

He pushed the pile of magazines in my direction and gave me the names of other people to get in touch with, people who know about the same sort of fish, people who are part of a small group of experts, people with many years of fish-breeding experience, people who would be interested in passing on their knowledge if I wanted to hear it.

***

I left the poodle club starving but in a much better mood than before…

…until I found out that none of the restaurants in a 10km radius were willing to serve me food after 10pm.

Ho-hum.

Good thing garages sell breadbuns late at night.

***

All things considered, it was a very good evening.

Can’t shake the feeling that I probably need to work on my organisation skills tho.

* Wet hair in cold weather is probably ok if you’re healthy. I used to not care what the weather was doing. Thing is, I’ve been running on empty for a long time and my immune system is more or less screwed.. I’ve been fighting a cold since early September and had far more eczema than usual.

** Not a new phenomenon…

*** He’s not only a discoverer and breeder of various fish, he also writes books and catalogues and is the editor of a well-read magazine.

On muscle ache and stupidity

(from late October – needed very little doing to it..not sure why I didn’t post it back then)

They say you can’t cure stupid.

You can’t really cure muscle ache either, but you can live with it. Usually.

I’m learning, slowly, how to move without yelping.

I’m also learning to live with stupid.

***

I spent Saturday reorganising my furniture and planting my balcony boxes. That involved, respectively, tugging and pushing and heaving sacks of compost in and out of the car and up the stairs to my flat.

I spent Sunday cleaning and reorganising xDB’s aquarium*. That involved stretching and pulling and scrubbing and heaving waterlogged wood.

I am incredibly unfit.

I don’t remember ever being as unfit as I am at the moment, unless you count 6 months ago, where I was almost exactly as unfit, but a few kilos heavier.

Whatever.

The weekend of “strenuous exercise” meant that this morning I crawled out of bed and hobbled down the stairs where I fell onto a chair and refused to move.

Eventually I had to. Needs must, work called and all that..

I hobbled out to the car and drove an hour and a half across Berlin to my flat. I needed to feed my fish (I hadn’t planned to stay the night so I hadn’t arranged for anyone to feed them). I also needed to change out of my aquarium washing clothes and into something work-worthy. And I needed to do it fast. I was already late for work when I pulled into the yard.

5 minutes later I was back out in the hall, ready to head to the workshop.

<click>

Was there ever a more ominous noise than the door shutting at the exact same moment as you realise you don’t have your key?

Argh.

Then I brightened up. All was not lost. I have a spare door key in my car.

My car key was on the wrong side of the door, but since moving out of Berlin I hardly ever lock my car if I’m not going to be away from it long, like the minute and a half it takes to carry shopping upstairs and come down for the next lot. I live in a fairly rural place, compared to say, central Berlin, or even where xDB lives, and I have a parking space behind my house (off the road). There’s never much worth stealing in it, and it’s old enough not to be worth anything in its own right so I kind of assume it’ll still be there after 5 minutes.

This morning I’d locked it. I must have still been in Berlin-mode.

Argh..

My bike, luckily, was still outside from my last trip.

My landlord had a spare key for my flat from when he was doing some renovation work. Not that I could phone to ask him to bring it over because my phone had died.

I went to his office instead. He was out somewhere, but his secretary was in. She unfortunately couldn’t find the key, but she did lend me her coat which was kind of her 🙂 I’d left mine in the car. She couldn’t do much more than that. Unfortunately she’s at least a size smaller than me, so I couldn’t do it up or stretch my shoulders, but it was at least warmer than nothing ;).

She also asked one of the other employees if he had any gloves.

“Do you have any gloves?”

“Umm… Only filthy, sweaty and gross work ones.. What do you want them for?”

“Jesska’s locked herself out..”

He was completely bewildered and it was difficult to explain the connection without making everything more complicated, and I didn’t really fancy wearing his gloves anyway if they were as gross as he said they were.

***

I cycled to work and back in the drizzle.

I don’t like drizzle, although it was probably better than a downpour or a blizzard. I am most definitely a fairweather cyclist. Besides, I could only just about walk, and all movement hurt. Cycling wouldn’t have been on my list of ways to spend my morning. But I didn’t have a lot of choice.
I’d only cycled to work once before. It had been sunny and I’d cycled slowly, along the river and along a main road into town. I’d had my phone to guide me. This time I had no helmet and no gloves and no battery life left on my phone. I’d decided last time that I needed to find a new route because the main road was scary but I hadn’t really thought about it since and certainly hadn’t cycled it. I didn’t want to use the same route as before because cycling through Berlin on the road with no helmet felt recklessly irresponsible.

I set off along the river, with a plan to choose smaller roads parallel to the main road I’d ridden along previously. This proved to be a better idea in theory than in practice.

Yes. I got lost.

After cycling round in circles for a while I found myself on the road I usually drive down.

There’s no official cycle path for most of it, at least in one direction, so I rode a lot of the way on the pavement. Illegally because I’d rather be illegal than dead.

***

My landlord was still at work when I got home, so I parked my bike and went for a walk round the fields behind my house. That was the perfect setting for an “important phone call” involving long convoluted histories of he said she saids. A walk is the best background occupation for such conversation.

… 2 ½ hours later …

Once I finally got back and picked the key up from my landlord, he suggested he come back to the flat with me to fit the smoke alarms he’d been meaning to put up since I moved in….. Eeek! <Insert slight panic> Luckily he decided against it, in favour of coming an hour later. That gave me an hour to make the place presentable. Which I did. Instead of collapsing into a small heap.

And that was the end of a very busy day…
* It still has some of my fish in it..

On self-sabotage and sandwiches

[Mostly written on] Friday morning, 7:00 ish – on a train. 

*Yawn*

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.

Whatever.

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:

  • Washing – all the things from my last trip which I needed for the next one (had to run the machine twice because I forgot the washing powder the first time). Hung it all out, rethought and draped some of the thicker clothing on the radiators to dry
  • Reheated/finished baking breadbuns (you can buy them half baked. That way they’re fresh when you want to eat then) and made sarnies (posh ones with ham and cheese and tomato puree and miniature bell peppers and basil leaves)
  • Decorated and cooked 2 [frozen] pizzas, ate 1, chopped and packed the other one
  • Washed and/or chopped and packed many carrots, apples, tomatoes, peppers, a kohl rabi, and a fennel (given the choice, S eats more like a rabbit than any other person I know ;))
  • Packed my suitcase (except for the clothes which were still drying)
  • Packed all the lunch things (fruit&veg box, sandwiches, pizza, apples, satsumas, bananas, biscuits, chocolate raisins, …) plus 4 bottles of water into a huge carrier bag. It was a picnic to do Ratty proud*
  • Did the washing up
  • Tidied the kitchen so I wouldn’t be embarrassed by my landlord feeding my fish.

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