On late night loo roll hunting (and locks)

Occasionally I think I’m getting the hang of this adulting lark.

This week, for instance, I consistently got to work an hour (or more) earlier than the week before (and most of last year if I’m honest). It meant making a huge effort to go to bed early and actually getting up when the alarm went off, and I also left my phone in the kitchen to avoid the one-eyed scrolling my mornings so often started with.

That’s pretty responsible right?

I even dressed up and went to a grownup classical concert yesterday afternoon, one of only a handful of under-70s in the place, not counting the orchester, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I also enjoyed the hour or three I spent wandering around Berlin in the dark, meandering past and through shops and along highstreets, looking at lots of the things I don’t want to buy and a few I feel I should think about before buying. I came home with a stack of tea towels. Can’t get much more exciting than that, really.

I went shopping on the way back from the station and came home, ready for a posh hot chocolate and an early night.

So far so good.

I realised, at gone 9pm on a Saturday night, that the last loo roll was very unlikely to last until Monday morning. I promptly changed my going out boots for more sensible cycling shoes, put my high vis vest on over my going out coat, took my helmet and saddle bag off their respective hooks and headed supermarketwards…

Click.

…without my keys.

Argh.

So much for responsibility and proper adulting.

Time to call my landlord.

He didn’t respond the first time I tried.

The staircase isn’t particularly warm or comfortable, but I figured it was warmer and more comfortable than the yard, so I abandoned all plans of going shopping (and besides, who needs loo roll when there’s no loo?!). In my head I went through all the people I could feasibly phone and ask for a bed and how I was going to get there (I can climb over a gate, I’m pretty sure I can’t get my bike over one). Thinking about it now, since I’d locked the front door behind me as I’d come in, I was stuck in the stairwell between my door and the house door and wouldn’t have been able to get into the yard anyway – or to anyone else’s house.

I tried again. This time he luckily decided to answer and I was brought the key and could rescue mine.

Phew!

I made it to the shop on time for a record breaking (for me) whizz round and stood at the checkout at one minute to ten.

By the time I got home I’d forgotten all about the posh hot chocolate and fell into bed with a hot water bottle instead.

And that was the end of another eventful day.

***

P. S. It seems I haven’t changed much..

This is a post from almost exactly 6 years ago about late night loo roll shopping. And just to round things off, this is a post from a year and a half ago about locking myself out.

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 finding a common denominator

Question: What do the following items have in common?

A hand powered mixer

A box of gravy thickening powder

A mop head

A trangia (camping cooker with stacking saucepans)

A laptop

A hand powered ‘vacuum’ /carpet sweeper

A tape measure

***

No prizes, but perhaps I’ll give the guessers an honourable mention in the next post..

On learning how to wash ones hands

Until today I kind of assumed that I knew how to wash my hands.

This poster on the mirror of the outpatient department* let me know how little I knew.

I’m uploading a photo of the 8 illustrated steps in case anyone else needs directions.. ;p I have no idea what the products are and no desire to advertise them. No one is paying me anything.

* I wasn’t a patient, I just needed the toilet.

On chasing rainbows

This morning a rainbow appeared.

It wasn’t raining where I was and the sky was cloud-free everywhere but directly around the rainbow.

Despite trying various positions, I couldn’t find one suitable for getting a picture of the whole curve – this was the most I could get on the screen of my phone at once.

I love the way the sky inside the rainbow is so much brighter than outside – as if the grey can’t get through it. 🙂

Here’s to everyone having a rainbow shield to protect them against the gloom.

On marbelous biscuits

There was a plan for them to be more obviously swirly (I even added contrasting chocolate chips to each mixture) but I seem to have forgotten how easily colours mix together and become sludgy – it’s obviously been too long since I last played with playdoh…

On ‘real’ mincemeat (with meat)

I try to make mincemeat in the middle of November. That gives it time to do its thing for a month or so before it’s needed.

This year…somehow didn’t happen, which is why I’m making it now, less than a week before Christmas.

Browsing the web for spice ratios, I came across a recipe for “traditional” mincemeat – with meat in, not just dried fruit.

I’d already soaked the currants and grated the apples and squeezed a million oranges and lemons (i.e. all the prep work) for my own recipe so I decided to split the mixture three ways – with meat, without meat, without brandy – and go from there, in this case directly to a shop willing to sell me Christmas biscuits and steak at 9pm. 😉

The recipe called for approximately ⅔ fruit to ⅓ beef or lamb. The preminced beef in the supermarket was mixed half-and-half with pork. I looked for steak instead. I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to proper cuts of meat so I bought 700g (total) of three different cuts of beef. Two posh Irish steaks from the deli and two reduced-price Brazilian steaks from the prepackaged fridge section. When I got them home and opened them, one of the Brazilian ones smelled really bad so I abandoned it. That brought the ratio down to 4/5 fruit to 1/5 meat, but I figure it’s still way more than usual and I’m not following any other part of the recipe so whatever.

I left the uncut steaks to marinate in the almost-mincemeat overnight.

This morning, when I came to chop them up, they fell apart. Especially the remaining Brazilian piece. The poshest one was the only one I had any chance of cutting into cubes.

Not cubes

A kitchen full of the smell of lemon peel and simmering mincemeat is a pretty good thing :).

Spot the meat mix:

(left)

I think it’s bizarre how different the mixtures are turning out.

Looking forward to testing how they taste in pies…

On flying by night

Flying really late at night after everyone else has gone home has some advantages..

Mostly that everything is empty and none of the shops try to sell you things.

On cross continental travel

My brother and I wandered out of the shop and back to the car. I stand and wait for him to open it.

My brother: *waiting for me to get in, looks round* Uh.. This one’s mine… *points*

Me: …

Turns out I’d been waiting to get into the driver’s door of the car next to his.

I am way too used to being a passenger in Germany…

On rage against ridiculous rules

It’s the last day of my holiday and I’m on a train back home. Just one (three counting the local trains at each end) with no changes between Düsseldorf and Berlin (which is a very good thing considering how much luggage I have* and how often the lifts are broken).

Besides being tired and achy and looking forward to getting home and having a bath, I am currently incredibly smug and incredibly angry in fairly equal parts.

***

I booked a ticket for myself and my bike in advance. For unknown and uninteresting reasons, the train carriages are in a different order today and the space I booked doesn’t exist at all. There is still a fairly large bike compartment though, so I set up camp here in the corner.

I have a seat, my bike and luggage was on the train and out of the way and there was enough space for multiple people with suitcases to get on at the same station and wait until they find a seat.

So far so good.

When the ticket lady checked my ticket a couple of hours into the journey she told me that I had to hang my bike on one of the allocated bike hooks. I told her it was less in the way as it was and she just repeated that I had to and added that there would be stress if I didn’t.

After a while she went away and I went back to what I was reading.

Cue the next ticket lady’s entrance.

Ticket lady 2: What did my colleague ask you to do?

Me: *shrugs*

TL2: She told you to hang your bike up on the hooks, didn’t she.

Me: Mm. It would be in the way if I did that.

TL2: We will need the space if other people with bikes get on the train.

Me: Mhmm.

TL2: Hang your bike on the bike hooks, now.

Me: Whatever. *hangs bike on hook*

We now have the following situation:

My bike is now on a hook. It is officially conforming to all the rules and regulations concerning bikes on trains.

However.

The hooks are arranged in such a manner that you can fit the maximum number of bikes into the minimum amount of space with access to each of them separately. The theory is good, in practice it only works if there are no people in the area at the same time.

Unfortunately the train before this one was cancelled so there are a lot of extra people on board. It’s not bursting at the seams but there are a lot of people who haven’t found seats in the main passenger areas and are sitting in the bike section.

My bike is now perpendicular to the windows. It is about two thirds of the width of the carriage and there is a fold-down seat directly behind it. That leaves approximately 30cm between the back wheel and the-smallish-kid-on-the-fold-down-seat’s knees. Everyone who wants to walk along the train has to squeeze through the gap. After already squeezing past the smallish-kid’s family, and before squeezing between a foolishly placed dividing wall/electricity box and a lady with a large suitcase.

I feel sorry for everyone getting on or off the train with a suitcase or a buggy, and for the smallish kid who has to stand up to let them through, BUT, I take great pleasure in watching the (large :)) ticket lady squeeze past. If anyone complains I will refer them back to her too.

***

Just to clarify, I don’t think rules (and their enforcement) are automatically unnecessary, but I am 100% against enforcing rules purely for the sake of it, to the detriment of other good things like comfort.

Not that I am personally affected one way or the other. My seat is protected by the electrical box. At least until all the bike hooks are taken. I’d have to move then. It’s unlikely though – no new bikes have arrived in the compartment since I moved mine and I doubt any will. It’s November. The chances of five more bikes needing space on this train is remote.

🙂

* I’ve been back to my friend’s house and picked up all the things she brought back from England for me.

On being a good photographer (or maybe just on taking lots of pictures)

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.

Click.

“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..

Click.

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.

Click. Click.

Click.

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: