On driving several tonnes of memories across Germany with no brakes

Wrote most some of this during the breaks in Friday’s adventure. I originally wanted to write about each step of the journey as it happened, but sometimes it was more important to participate than observe so I missed some lots of bits out, or wrote fragments instead of sentences. I thought about posting as was, but I had some time to kill on the flight and wanted to make it more readable so I’ve chopped and changed and added as necessary..


13:00 – motorway services carpark (where I bought my coffee)

S and I arranged to meet at the rental office at 8. I missed the train I wanted to catch so by the time I arrived she’d already sorted everything out and was raring to go – the helpers were booked to arrive soon and she had a couple of things she wanted to sort out before they turned up. All I had to do was hand over my driving licence (they gave it back afterwards)) and pick up the keys and then we could go.


The van is huuuuuge!! And has the turning circle of a block of flats. (Or at least a middle sized house). The place we borrowed it from has a lamppost directly next to the exit. Guess who dented the van before they’d even driven 200m….

Ho hum. We luckily have a good insurance policy.

Then we got a tiny bit lost on the way to S’s house so the helpers had to wait for us and S had to work round them.

They worked quickly and we were on the road half an hour earlier than we’d planned despite everything.

And now we’re on the first loobreak.

It’s windy and there are roadworks and it’s looking like rain, but there are no traffic jams (yet).



15:00 ish – Supermarket logistics centre carpark.

We’ve stopped because we have no brakes. Or at least dodgy brakes. Or not enough brakes. Or something.

We were driving along a motorway, minding our own business when the dashboard suddenly lit up like a rather monotonous Christmas tree (or a traffic light party).

I had no idea what some of the symbols and abbreviations meant, but some of them were red and I know red lights mean you should stop. The display screen told us to consult the handbook, but I didn’t fancy reading while driving and I’m against my dashboard telling me anything while I’m on the motorway, so we took the next exit and stopped in a logistics centre carpark.

According to the display and the guide to dashboard lights, we have no ESP, no ABS, no ASR, no hill holder…. Nuffink.

We consulted the handbook.
The handbook was almost entirely useless – it basically told us that a) it was something to do with the brakes and b) we should consult someone knowledgeable.

That we had no brakes can’t be quite true because I did bring it to a halt.

S is on the phone to the rental company to find out what to do next.

I used the time to smuggle my way into the logistics centre to use their loo. (If you don’t close the main door properly behind you, there will be someone who uses opportunity to follow you into the building..).

Life is never boring…

(Also, it didn’t just rain after we set off again earlier, it feels more accurate to say the sky fell down).


16:15 ish – still in the logistics carpark

A repair man is apparently on his way.. he is supposed to be here by 5… We originally wanted to be at the new house by then. That was honestly unlikely to happen, but we could have probably made it for just after 6. No chance of that now.


16:50 – still not going anywhere

I wrote: “New loo – lorry driver shed – renovation and lots of dust”

This was good. I walked up to the gatemen at the edge of the lorry park and asked if I could use the loo. They said they didn’t have one and they couldn’t let me onto the grounds to get to the main building. I asked where I should go instead, and they pointed me in the general direction of a garage. When I asked how far away that was and said I was on foot because my car had broken down, they admitted that they did indeed have a working toilet but that it was very dirty due to the renovation work going on. I was welcome to use it if I didn’t mind the rubble.

It was very rubbley, but still a lot better than a lot of motorway loos ๐Ÿ˜‰


19:00 ish – van repair workshop

The repair man arrived (at the carpark) at 17:something-late.. He’d got caught in a motorway closure and resulting traffic jams, and a journey that should have taken just under half an hour took him almost two.

He was friendly and helpful and thorough and unplugged things and tested things and checked things with a computer.

It turned out that something to do with the ABS/rear brakes was broken. I could either sign something to say that I was personally responsible for any accident that occurred on the rest of the journey, or we could get it repaired before continuing Essenwards. We were already so late that the unpacking helpers would be gone when we arrived, and I really didn’t want to be responsible for any more accidents, so we decided to get it repaired.

He couldn’t repair anything in the carpark in the dark, so we followed him back to the workshop.. slowly and carefully.

We now have a drinks machine with free cocoa/coffee/water and a couple of sofas to play with ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m going to sleep for a bit while they work on the van.


Midnight – at S’s parents’ house.

We got in, alive and well at 23:15 ish.

The last entry was as I was trying to sleep at the workshop…

No such luck. Or more luck, depending on how you look at it. Just as I was getting close to sleeping, they came back and said we could go – everything was mended :).

We drove the last 270something km in approximately 4 hours (including refuelling and getting lost in a car park). That’s incredibly slow for German motorways, but I’m a wimp and it was windy and I didn’t want to overtake all the lorries. I’m not good at overtaking on a good day in my car. On a crazy day like today in a 20something foot van, with less than enough sleep, I was even more reluctant than usual.. It’s amazing how much wind you don’t notice in a car..

S’s parents waited up for us, and we had soup as a kind of midnight snack while we recounted the days events.


I think, on balance, we did really well, considering, even if we could theoretically have done better..

On getting sentimental about cutlery and cheese graters

I’ve been here almost two years already, and, until yesterday, still had a couple of boxes in DB’s parents’ cellar.
I didn’t unpack them when I first moved in because we (DB and I) still had the crazy hopeful idea of knocking the kitchen and dining room together. One side of the wall* was already down, and adding more things to the miniature kitchen, purely in order to repack them a few weeks later seemed ridiculous.
Then DB’s parents reorganised their cellar and the boxes were buried.

I’d missed things occasionally, and always assumed they must still be in a box and tried to get by without. Mostly I missed kitchen stuff, useful things like serving spoons and lasagne bowls. Like a decent grater. Like the chopping board I also used as a cake board. Like the skewers for testing said cakes. Like the cutlery I spent months looking for before finally finding a set I liked, then deciding it was too expensive for cutlery but choosing to splash out and buy it anyway, because it felt good and I liked it and because why on earth not?! Back then, I apparently had a lot of free thinking space for thoughts about cutlery.



As I said, the move was almost two years ago, and we still have half a wall and separate kitchen and dining room and external boxes.

Perhaps the only way to encourage change is to start accepting what already IS…..


Anyway. (again)

Yesterday, we went caving (‘cellaring’??) and came back with two boxes of kitchen stuff, two boxes of clothes I probably no longer fit, an ancient flatbed scanner, a couple of towels and a cushion.

As I was unpacking, I was amazed at just how much stuff I was really happy to see again. (Also at how much stuff I’d packed expecting to unpack again soon. Things like spaghetti and cocoa powder.)

I always thought I wasn’t materialistic. I’ve generally not been bothered about second hand stuff or having the newest whatever. BUT. Apparently I have the ability to get very attached to cutlery.

I never knew a person could get attached to cutlery. I might even have worried about someone who said they were.

It still felt good to unpack it though. Really good. Like I’d been missing a part of myself and not just a handful of forks.



You can worry about me now. I won’t mind – I have my cutlery and a cheese grater!

* The wall is basically a row of wooden posts with a wooden fence on each side and with insulation in the gaps. DB and a friend took down one of the fences and took out the insulation before figuring out that they might need some way of holding the ceiling up before they could remove the posts….

On baby fish – part 3

(Late March 2014)

At 3 1/2 weeks old, baby fish are still really really small, as in, small enough to be barely measured in millimetres.. They are also incredibly fast swimmers. Adult discus fish can swim fast but don’t very often, they can spend hours practically not moving. The babies didn’t spend 3 seconds not moving.

The DB set about catching them with a net and carrying them from the big aquarium to their new home. I counted them as they entered the water. The process took 2 evenings, with a few days in between to give the fish a break. Stress is very bad for fish.

There were 20 the first evening, and another 17 the second. Two were so successful at hiding/refused to be rescued so we left them where they were.

One of the two didn’t make it, but the other one grew up all the faster for it. Much faster than the others. It had all the secrete from both parents to itself.

Of the 37 babies in the new aquarium, 3 didn’t recover from the move.

(Is it bad to say “5 down, 34 to go”?)

On bookshelves

I moved to Berlin in January.
Most of my things moved in after me.
Most of them still live in the boxes we moved them in.

For the last few months my bookcase looked like this:

No[t much] longer!

First, the DB chose a good space for a bookcase.


Then we measured it.

Then I used Draftsight to make a plan of the space and of the way I wanted it to look and a separate plan of how to get all the lengths into the fewest number of planks (with the least waste).

Then we (the DB, his Dad and I) went wood shopping. We got the people in the wood shop to cut the planks for us, because we spontaneously decided to buy oak instead of pine* and would’ve burnt our way through it instead of cutting it.

After all that, we spent the weekend sawing, glueing, drilling and screwing. DB’s mum spent her weekend cooking for us and making sure we remembered to eat.

I would love to say I had to tragoon them all into it, purely for the sake of the word, but they were willing victims. I think wanting their respective houses and cellars back helped.

First we built this:


Then we built this:


And then it was finished. ๐Ÿ™‚


And that was the end of another good weekend.

Now all I have to do is oil it, sand it, oil it again and wait for it to dry (or soak in or whatever oil does) and empty my books into it.

No rest for the wicked, huh?

Still. My mother says only boring people get bored…..

* it was half price ๐Ÿ™‚

On walking the last miles home

It’s very strange to be walking back to somewhere that in a few hours will no longer be ‘home’.

I left the party just before midnight, walking the stretch of road from the station to my flat.

At just gone midday I was on the road with the last of my possessions on the way to Berlin.

12 hours can make a huge difference.

Even if I go back to visit, even if I get off at the same station, I can’t see any reason why I would walk that stretch of road. Even if I do, I wouldn’t be going ‘home’.

On decorating

My new room’s* usable!! ๐Ÿ™‚

After weeks of shopping, drawing, discussing, clearing out, cutting, painting, and washing every flat surface numerous times, my new “creative corner” is usable ๐Ÿ™‚

Notice how I didn’t say finished… There’s still a whole lot to be done. Things like putting pictures up, buying a rug, putting up (read: sweet talking the DB into putting up) some shelving for my stuff, joining the extension lead(/power strip??) to the wall etc etc etc…

But it’s usable.

I’m sitting on my new second hand chair at my new desk, writing my meister projekt this post on my laptop with a huge new second hand screen that you can turn sideways (if you can figure out how to make it talk to your laptop). Behind me is the standing lantern and in front of me is an original retro bendy lamp. My desk has a hole for the cables and there are amazing wonky shelf-boxes on the wall.

Today is another good day.


*I’m moving house soon, which is upsetting because it means leaving my amazing old house behind, but cool because I’m moving in with DB and because new things are just generally cool ๐Ÿ™‚

On social inneptness

(however that’s spelled)


Move house more than once as a kid?

Have unregular mealtimes? and bedtimes?

Live ‘out in the country’?

Ever not have ‘the Thing’ eveyone had?

Been homeschooled?


If you have artistic parents give yourself several bonus points.


I was witness to a remarkable discussion this lunchtime where any one of the factorsย above make your chances of becoming an intergrated member of the community slightly smaller than that of a colony of Giraffes moving to the south pole to chase the butterflies. (they went on to say that anyone who gets run over by a bus can only blame themselves, and that death is better than disability, but that’s not relevant to the post)

If you can tick more (or all) of the boxes, just get out. Don’t even bother looking at the drawer, never mind climbing into it. ๐Ÿ™‚

Welcome to the world of social inneptness ๐Ÿ™‚ Or community disability. Or something equal to horrifyingly-unable-to-fit-in.

What they said sucked.. but you know what? On balance, I think I’m pretty happy not squeezing myself into any drawer which contains people who make such statements.