On the beach :)

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Just to show I’m still ok – it would’ve been very rude to write while everyone was trying to show off their new toy – a brand new tablet…

On beach parties

Originally, we wanted to spend the day on the beach. We packed a picnic and a bottle of water, swimwear and a couple of towels, and off we went.

We got there just after high tide, and the dryest sand was damp. Damp sand never stopped us before so we sat down and ‘set up camp’. I paddled a bit, and DB stared at the waves a bit. I looked for green stones in the black sand, and DB lay back and let the sunrays dance on his stomach.

It didn’t take long before the wind came to join us, shortly followed by his friends fog and rain. The sun decided the beach was too crowded, and disappeared.

Not long after that, we were back in the car and the beach party continued without us.

***

Instead of a day at the beach, we spent the day driving round the north of the island.

The map promised us scenic roads, with views across the valleys, the fog presented us with a view most tourists will never see – the island is not known for its fog. If we’d painted the car windows white, it wouldn’t have changed much.

***

At the most northern point, we parked with the intention of finding a café. We took three steps away from the car and three hurried steps back again.

Despite all our organisation, we had no jumpers with us, (well, nothing substantial, I almost always have a long-sleeved-something with me) and the combination of wind, fog and drizzle wasn’t really all that inviting, especially as all the cafés had open fronts, so we abandoned that idea too.

***

It’s a good thing our apartment has a kettle!!

On royal knackeredness

Happy Three Kings day! 🙂

It doesn’t say where they came from, but it was probably a long way, and I bet they were knackered when they finally reached Bethlehem.

Unlike me, who is knackered without excuse. DB and I spent the day driving round the island, stopping whenever it looked interesting. Hardly physically strenuous.

This morning, like pretty much every other morning we’ve been here, we didn’t get up until gone 10am. It’s not quite 8:30pm now and I’m back in bed. I can’t work out how I can be so knackered from doing so little, but hey. There it is. And I slept for a couple of hours before dinner too….

Ho-hum.

Tomorrow I get to meet the Spanish eye doctor – hopefully everything’s good and I can stop, or at least reduce, the eye drops 🙂 (I have to wake up in an hour and a half for the last dose of the day).

G’night peeps!

P.s. Thank you all for all the comments on the last few posts. I will hopefully be able to reply tomorrow when I visit someone with wifi 🙂

On searching for sunglasses

I bought two pairs of sunglasses in England last time I was there.

For Autumn in Germany they were fine.

However. They’re no match for the Spanish/Canaries sun. Especially when my pupil right is artificially kept wide open (far wider than if I’m trying to see something in the dark) by the eye drops. The sunlight hurts, even through the sunglasses.

They are apparently ‘category 3’. I asked every beach shop if they had category 4, in the hope that they’d be darker, but none of them did. In the end, I settled for a pair of hot pink rimmed 3s, with mirrored effect… They are my new best friend, and I don’t go anywhere without them, including supermarkets and museums…

I also got a ridiculously wide brimmed hat.

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Good thing I’m not all that self conscious…

On flying [semi-]blind

(Written Jan 2nd, uploaded today, Jan 4th, because I have wifi!)

Last night, over yet another family dinner, we discussed how we were going to get to the airport. DB’s dad had already agreed to take us, but there are at least a million variables to be taken into consideration. Whether we’d drive to their house, or have him drive to ours. Which car to go in. Where to park the other car (“What other car?!” “The one we don’t take to the airport..” “That one stays exactly where it is on the drive..” “Oh yeah, we don’t need to take it anywhere” “No. (Duh)”). After we’d gone through all the complicated stuff, it was time to choose a time. We decided between 6:45 and 7:00 would be a good time to set out, tending more towards 7:00.

***

At 6:39 this morning, DB’s dad rang the door bell. ARGH. So much for relaxing mornings. Thankfully we’d finished packing last night and just needed to get the last minute things together. I forgot my algae tablets* in the rush, but they are voluntary (though very helpful), so it’s not really a problem.

We got our stuff in the car and headed for the airport.

***

The roads were as good as empty, which can’t be said of the airport. ‘Bustling’ doesn’t cut it, neither does ‘popular’ or ‘thriving’. Jam-packed is closer to the truth, but doesn’t imply the 30+ minute queues, just to get into the queue to check hold luggage in.

The queue for the queue lead past, or rather through, the arrivals gate, and past the café, resulting in unwanted pushing and shoving of the people who’d just landed, and all the people who were waiting to pick them up, and the people who wanted to buy coffee, and the people queuing for the queue. And all the queue jumpers. (Queue jumpers make me mad. The barriers are there for a reason, and unless your flight’s been called or you have a very good reason for pushing past me, I can’t find it in me to smile at you..).

I don’t exactly mind queuing, as long as I know what I’m queuing for, and that everyone is going to get the same whatever-it-is at the end. If I have a deadline, like a plane to catch, I’d like there to be a chance to achieve it legally. It shouldn’t be necessary to jump queues. I see no benefit in checking your luggage in before everyone else, except maybe choosing which seat you want… unless you happen to be in an airport where all destinations use the same check-in-desks. Those are my least favourite airports.

I find Stansted airport brilliant. There are a few others which are just as good, but mostly less well known, or at least not as busy, so I’ll go with Stansted in this example. Each destination has its own check-in desks, and the boards show you where to stand. Once you’ve handed in your luggage, you’re directed to the hand luggage scanners, and from there the gates are well signposted and there are even times written on the signs to tell you how long it will take to get there (gate 37, 4 minutes this way ->). Passport control is just before the gates, and there are toilets at regular intervals along all the corridors. Easy.

Berlin Tegel is, through no fault of its own, drastically and chronically overfilled. The new airport hasn’t been completed yet, and all the passengers have to go somewhere. I can see that. Even without glasses.

What I don’t understand is the logic behind making all the check-in-desks open to ALL the passengers. The leave-it-to-the-last-minute people (like me) have no chance to roll in 10 minutes before their check-in closes and still fly.

***

Anyway. Just over an hour after we arrived at the airport, we arrived at the check in desk.

The nice lady-behind-the-counter took our passports and flight coupon and was about to press the button to let the conveyor belt steal our luggage, when something clicked in her head, or on the screen. “Um, I can’t check your luggage in here. You’re supposed to be in the next hall. I’ll print your boarding passes anyway, then you’ll have to run to hand in your bags.”

Uh. What?!! We’ve just spent an HOUR standing in the wrong queue???? But this was the place to be for all flights with this airline…?? Wasn’t it?
Apparently not.. It was the place to be for all destinations apart from ours.

Oh joy.

We ran past the queue for the queue we’d just been in, and launched ourselves at the nearest check-in desk in the other room. The not-quite-so-nice-lady-behind-the-counter looked at our flight coupon and said all flights with Airlines XYZ are next door, and pointed back to where we’d just been. We said we’d just come from there. It took a while for her to suggest we ask at the furthest desk (but at least in the same room). We dragged our bags up to the third desk of the morning, and the remarkably-unfriendly-lady-behind-the-counter told us she’d just closed check-in. We were too late to fly.

BAM.

Arguing and pleading had no effect. There were notices up, and it wasn’t her fault if we ignored them. Our bad luck.

Or not, as the case may be.

Good luckily (;)), we had the boarding passes to prove we’d stood in the wrong queue. We’d been checked in. We were on the books (or at least registered in The System).

She sighed (and huffed and puffed), and turned her computer back on (better than blowing the house down). It was probably more hassle to log us out of the system than to print the stickers for our bags. That’s my assumption, so I could well be wrong, but she didn’t seem like someone who would change her mind just to do us a favour.

A few minutes later, our luggage went off on a private journey to wherever luggage goes, and we headed towards the hand luggage checks.

Just as we turned away from check-in, a man appeared, who was also supposed to be on our flight. Mrs Officious was not amused, and refused to let him fly. We were going to be late enough as it was and she wasn’t going to break the rules.

I didn’t have much time to feel sorry for him, since it was fast approaching boarding time, and we still had to go through hand luggage. And that meant queuing up. Again. Quelle surprise!

***

Over the last few days, there have been several terror warnings issued around Germany (and as far as I can make out, the rest of Europe), so the security checks were extra vigilant. The queue moved slowly forwards, while the clocks raced.

I nearly always get fumbled at airports. I don’t know why. I must have magnetic blood or something. I go through the gate and automatically go to the woman fumbler. On the rare occasions when I haven’t set the alarm off, I make my way back to the trays of belongings and try not to look too confused.

Today was no exception. I just got back from being fumbled, when DB was called into a miniature office to rescan his bag – too many electronics. The security man scanned each item as we unpacked the camera, and the tablet, and the tiny radio with pull out speakers, and the phone charger, and… “okay, that’s enough, we don’t need to see the rest”. We were dismissed.

It was 9:03. The plane was due to leave at 9:15. Boarding was officially started at 8:50. We were a little bit screwed.

However. There’s no point giving up before you have to, and they were unlikely to fly without us, if our luggage was on board. We headed towards our gate….

9:08

There are some days when things turn out ok, despite everything. This seems to be one of them, because there hadn’t been any steps available and boarding had been delayed. (Also maybe because DB’s Dad picked us up that much earlier than planned… ;))

***

The plane didn’t take off until 10. That’s 3/4 hour later than planned, giving us a chance to get our heart rates back to normal :).

Also, the man who tried to check-in after us would have had plenty of time to check in his luggage….

 

* Astaxanthin

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On bright lights (and hospital beds)

Sometimes, I think I should just stop making plans.

I mean, I know they never work out the way I intended them to, so I could save myself the bother of making them in the first place.

Also, maybe God would stop laughing at them/me.

***

This year, the company I work for closes between Christmas and New Year. This means I have ‘ZwangsUrlaub’ or compulsory holiday.

I was planning to relax until Sunday, doing jigsaws and folding stars and making Gingerbread houses (which I still have to post, sorry) and other Christmas Things, and then spend the compulsory week off work (Mo-Fr) tidying up my corner, finding the bottom of the washing box, hopefully finally getting some paintings finished, maybe even getting some pictures on the wall, before flying away with DB on Saturday for 2 weeks of sunshine and more relaxing (dear theoretical burglars, please note – we have housesitters with a dog).

We were also going to visit a couple of DB’s friends and celebrate the new year with fireworks and copious amounts of food (me) and alcohol (DB).

What I wasn’t planning on doing, was spending time in hospital. Not as a visitor, not as an outpatient and most certainly not as an inpatient.

***

Turns out I have Keratitis and have the dubious privilege of at least one, probably two, possibly more, overnight stay(s) in hospital where the night-nurse has the dubious pleasure of waking me up every couple of hours to drop eye-drops into my sleep-deprived eyes.

***

This is my bed:

Hospital bed with fairy lights
“I want to see the [fairy] lights tonight” – adapted from Richard Thompson’s ‘Bright lights’ lyrics
Apparently I’m the first patient to bring fairy lights with them.

However, it appears to be a Good Thing because it means I can leave them on and the nurse doesn’t have to turn the main lights on and wake everyone up.

***

According to the doctor I saw after 4 and a half hours in the waiting room, and who shined multiple very shiny lights in my eyes, it (Keratitis) can be a dangerous thing to have.

Mine doesn’t seem too bad, but I could use any spare prayers you have…

(Eyesight is crazily important, and I’m going to do all they say I need to do to get better, but they’re contemplating cancelling my holiday – to ensure that I can be monitored – and that would suck big time. DB needs a break, and we chose not to book cancellation-insurance, so the money would be gone too…)

***

Thank you 🙂

***

P.S. I’ll write some of the background story tomorrow..

On making mincemeat of it – part 1

Every year, I make a load of mincemeat, for myself, my family, and anyone else who wants some.

Every year, I make it up as I go along, and no one’s complained yet.

This is part 1 of the recipe – insofar as it can be called a recipe – for 2015.

***

A word of caution to anyone who wants to actually use this recipe:
Please wait until I’ve finished and got it into jars, BEFORE starting. I tweak recipes as I go, and that’s probably annoying for people who follow instructions… (or who live further away from shops than I do).

***

Take one huge saucepan…

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…the rind and juice from 8 oranges (ca 2kg) and 8 lemons (ca. 1kg)…

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…16 grated apples (or half grated, half chopped) (ca.3kg). I took the cores out, but I suppose you could leave them in…

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…6-8 packets (ca.1,5kg) of raisins/sultanas, checking for bits of twig first…

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….a tub of chopped prunes/dried plums…

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…a tray of dried figs…

…4/3 cup of soft light brown sugar and 4/3 cup of soft dark brown sugar. (It probably doesn’t matter what kind of sugar, and I might add more tomorrow)…

…and a lot of allspice (2-3 tablespoons).

Stir well, and leave to sit overnight.
(A couple of pictures are missing – I’ll add them later)

On not being rockstar material

Argh. Written but somehow not sent last night…

***

It’s Sunday.

I have been ‘on the road’ since Thursday. That’s 4 days.

4 days isn’t exactly a long time.

Not really, in the big scheme of things.

But.

Thursday certainly seems like a long time ago.

I am knackered.

I even fell asleep on the sofa at last night’s birthday party*.

It’s really really good to see all the people I rarely see otherwise, but I’m not capable of keeping this pace up for long.

I have a 7 hour train journey home tomorrow, and a colleague’s birthday party and a day trip to a specialist on Tuesday. After that, life’s back to normal** and I can [hopefully] get enough sleep again.

There is NO WAY I could go on a 6 month tour – somewhere new every day and a concert or two every night would probably kill me….

***

* and apparently while pressing ‘publish’……

** commuting and working and gardening and looking after the house – which used to feel crazily busy, but will seem relaxing compared to the last few days 😉

On SatNags and Maps

I wrote this ages ago, but somehow never got round to posting it…

***

Last summer, DB and I went on a road trip along the south coast of England in a weird and wonderful VW van. The van is truly wonderful in all sorts of ways, but its weirder habits are a little bit annoying. One of its favourites involves playing with CDs (as opposed to just playing them like normal cars). The game starts the same way playing CDs does, you poke them into a slot in the dashboard one at a time. Then the fun starts. They spin round ever so fast, making strange noises and come out etched with sparkly spirograph patterns. The game can be played repeatedly, but after a while the patterns aren’t as pretty and look more of a mess. The van especially likes playing this game with expensive CDs. It’s very most favouritest are the ones with maps on them. The special VW ones which cost a small fortune every couple of years.

After playing the CD game with the van a couple of times we bought a map. It was a Good Map, the sort where the page order makes sense and doesn’t have Southhampton next to York on a double page spread (Our German one has the equivalent. Don’t ask). Also, the sides of the pages have arrows with a page number in each directions so you can find the next part of the map.

When we got back to Berlin, DB’s Dad bought a SatNag. It was cheaper than getting a new CD for the van.

Technology is a wonderous thing.

People are too.

Some people have incredibly good ideas and other people are incredibly good at making them work. Later, other people take the ideas a step further and make them even better.

For example, maps are a Good Thing. Someone started drawing directions, the next person coloured them in and the next bundled them into books. Someone decided to use satalites to make them more accurate and the next person took the printing stage out of the equation and let us use the satelites almost directly.*

Satalite Navagation is another Good Thing.

Having someone tell you where you have to turn left or where you can find the next petrol station is really useful if you’re on your own. Fitting a stack of road maps into a device the size of a phone is a genius idea, even more so when you consider how easy searching for miniture villages or specific motorway junctions becomes.

However.

Sometimes it isn’t the idea that counts.

Also, sometimes, good ideas don’t need improving.

We discovered this when we borrowed DB’s Dad’s new SatNag for the Christmas journey from Berlin to my parents house in picturesque (and very rural) south England. He bought a new one after the old one mysteriously went missing in about March. He said we’d lost it, we denied all knowledge and said he must have lost it*. He said he hadn’t seen it since we used it when I moved house. We agreed that we’d used it for that journey, but said we’d given it back when we arrived. He refused to listen to us and said…

Except it doesn’t matter what he said, the argument didn’t get us any closer to actually finding it so he replaced it. Simple as that.

Since then, he’d turned it on a couple of times, mostly to see whether the nice lady approved of how he drove to work, but none of us had driven anywhere ‘foreign’, or even more than 200km away.

As sensible organised people (count me out of this one, I can’t take any responsibility here), we decided to test the thing before setting out. We wanted to know where we would be driving and how long it was going to take. I was satisfied with the version Google Maps had thrown at me, but apparently it’s better to look at things the way it’s going to be in real life.

After about an hour faffing about with the new-fangled interface and typing in all kinds of things, DB was incredibly miffed (and a little bit outraged) to find that the car would fall off the edge of the known world just outside Dunkirk.

It appears some genius decided to bring out SatNags with “Europe” on them, but not bother to including Britain. Croatia’s on there, Greece is on there, even most of Russia is on there, but no England. The marketing department must have thought they could make a fortune out of selling the 4 (or 5) updates separately**. The old SatNag had England on it, and set the whole “you lost it” – “no, YOU lost it” debate off again.

It took 4 of with 2 computers and a laptop the best part of 6 hours to decide there really, REALLY was no England on the stupid thing, and that there was no chance of getting an update for less than the price of a new SatNag.

Hmm.

We set off regardless and hoped for the best.

About 350km from The Edge Of The World, we found the road map. Complete with handwritten recommendations for good campsites ;).

***

It rained half the way across Germany, all the way across Belgium and through the tiny part of France which leads to The Edge of the world. It was still raining when we fell off the edge, and also most of the way to Dover. When we got there, it cleared up just long enough for the sun to come out, and for me to say, “SEE! It DOESN’T rain ALL the time!”, before it started to get dark. Apparently the rain not only appears to have a deal with The Continent, it also has a deal with the dark and the wind. Whatever. It kept us company all the way home.

The map was just as good as it was last year.

I distinctly remember more fish and chip shops on the coast front though. It took us the best part of an hour of driving round in circles in the rain before we finally found someone willing to sell us something to eat. Admittedly it was far too early for dinner, but we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and were hungry.

The rest of the journey was incredibly straight forward. I looked at the map, looked at the signposts, pointed out which lane we should be in, informed DB well in advance where we should turn off, what road number to look out for. All that kind of thing. And I was the water monitor ;). (Opening bottles while driving has got to be at least as dangerous as pressing the loudspeaker button on a mobile…)

We got home (to my folks) a little bit later than planned, but we didn’t get lost, or miss a junction. (Except the one we avoided on purpose because of traffic jams).

That’s a lot more than I can say about the journey back.

***

We found the original SatNag in the pop up table in the back of the van. (The table wasn’t in there as I moved house – the van was full of my stuff.. Whatever.)

Obviously we were chuffed to bits to have found it and duly plugged it in to charge. It took a bit of getting used to after the new one, but we eventually got the SatNag set up to take us to the tunnel on the way back to Berlin.

Right from the beginning she had odd ideas of where to go. I got the map out 20 minutes down the road because I couldn’t remember EVER going the way she was directing us. Despite me trying to look at the map as well, we got lost, took wrong junctions, changed lanes at the last minute and generally had a lot small heart attack moments. The nice lady didn’t recognise some of the roads, said helpful things like “exit the motorway NOW” while we were in the fast lane. She didn’t say anything when we headed into instead of round London and I ignored her when she told us to use the minor roads which ran parallel to the motorway.

I vote we stick to map reading in future.

* Or something like that. (twice ;))

** Or they were banking on Britain leaving Europe…………….

On unhappy dogs

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His owner’s on holiday. He is very unhappy, and unhappiness is best twinned with hiding in small places. This was small place of choice today.

On potential existence

I am on my way to the embassy.

My boyfriend booked – and his mum paid for – a weeks holiday in Lanzarote. It’s something like an Easter present, and something like a ‘You-must-have-a-break-before-you-have-a-breakdown’ mission. Having spent the last year in an unending battle with exams, quitting work, moving house, renovating, decorating, unpacking and furniture building, I think we deserve it.

We’re flying out on Saturday.

At least, we might be.

Flying involves passports, and I still don’t have one. I don’t have a job yet either, but that’s not really essential to flying, especially if someone else is paying.

I phoned the embassy as part of the research for my existence, and they told me they could issue me with a temporary passport, for a fee of 121€.

The holiday was a very good deal, so we decided to split the cost between us.
I made an appointment, and am on the way there now.

There’s a long list of things to bring to the appointment, and I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten one.

I really hope they don’t mind….

According to the embassy it isn’t an identity document. However. My future employers said I can use the temporary passport to sign the paperwork, and bring the real one when it arrives.

Wish me luck!

On landlords, strange noises and holidays

Well.. that was weird.

I was in my dining room, with music on, when I heard a noise in the hall. It sounded like something opening; a door or a cupboard or something. Living by myself means if I’m not opening anything, nothing should be being opened. So I went to look.

Apparently my landlord had heard a noise too and come to investigate. Only he’d heard a different sort of noise and created the one I heard by letting himself into my house.

Hmm.

I’d told them (technically I told his wife) I was going away for Christmas and not told them I was back, so I suppose I don’t mind them checking that everything’s ok… Not sure I appreciate them coming in without ringing the bell though. Even if ringing when you’re sure enough that whoever you’re visiting is away to make it necessary to check everything’s ok is kind of silly. But if they’re not there, they won’t know how many times you ring, and if they ARE, then it saves yourself the embarrassment of being caught red-handed breaking into your tennant’s house like my landlord just was.

Now to look for the ‘Original Noise’, the one he’d heard, the one that caused all this breaking unlocking and entering.

‘peep-peep-peep    peep-peep-peep   peep-peep-peep’ (his description of The Noise)

Sounds like an alarm clock to me. Or a baby chicken.

I don’t have any baby chickens. And all my alarm clocks are unplugged (ooh! must remember to plug them in over the course of the day) so the only thing that could make peep noises is my phone. Since I got up it’s been lying on my desk in the dining room. Silently.

Hmm.

It’s a mystery. I will have to look for stray chickens.