This month has been appalling for cycling – I have managed just 33km, which is four commutes by bike.
This is firstly because the weather was less good, I spent some time in the UK, we had our new kitchen fitted so much less spare time (we had to prepare everything) and also I had a cold which gave me a lingering cough and I did my best to keep warm. But still, this is my lowest month’s distance ridden since I started recumbent triking/velomobiling. But sometimes these things just happen.
This means that for once this blog post won’t be boring you with velomobile tales (except to say I have attempted to fix my malfunctioning Schlumpf Mountain Drive with a new switch button but will need to test it on longer rides to see if the fix is permanent).
So… not much to say about bikes. What’s next? Cakes?
Cakes will come later, as usual. But there are still some things to report about September this year.
A visit to the UK
I had my annual visit to hospital in the UK to check out my arm prosthesis. These visits to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital are always on Thursdays so Klaus and I drove via Eurotunnel on Wednesday evening, arriving at my Mum’s house at 11pm.
Mum lives in a small village north of Ipswich in a lovely 16th century cottage.
Klaus really enjoyed staying in such a wonderful English cottage, although we both have to duck to pass through the doorways on the ground floor.
On Thursday we drove to Walthamstow where we parked the car and then got the Tube into central London. After checking in and having my x-ray we popped out of the hospital to the Tesco Express around the corner to buy some lunch. Klaus was very pleased to discover a German sandwich!
We were seen very quickly at the hospital and had the usual conversation about taking care of my prosthesis and not doing any dangerous activities, and then it was time to leave. It’s always a feeling of relief and so we stopped at a Caffe Nero for coffee and cake.
The quality of cakes in large chains like this isn’t great and I did notice a definite difference between the tastiness of the cakes I usually have in Germany!
That evening we went out for a proper British curry (at my request). The curry house in Ipswich does a 5-course meal for £11 each which is good value.
We also had ice cream for dessert (not exciting enough to photograph!)
The next day we had a visit from my sister and two of her children, and the following day my oldest friend Lindsay. We also found time to pop to Marks & Spencer for me to buy some jeans, winter boots, the obligatory smalls, and Klaus also had some success with trousers and jumpers. Here he is with my Mum surveying M&S, the expat’s favourite haunt when back in the UK…
Once we walked out of M&S in Ipswich we saw another coffee shop and as we still had plenty of time on our pay & display parking ticket we took Mum for coffee and cake.
Once again the cakes were slightly disappointing. I know some great cafés for cake in North Essex/Suffolk but they are generally not to be found in main high streets of towns.
We left on Sunday morning and drove back to Folkestone for Eurotunnel, meeting my chum Charlotte at Trosley Country Park for cake and coffee on the way. It was lovely to see Charlotte again, but as we set off back onto the M20 there had been an accident and we had to do a diversion. We missed our Eurotunnel train but fortunately were put on the next one so it was only a slight delay.
We arrived back in Kempen at 7 in the evening on the Sunday. Driving the long way round takes quite a long time (8 hours door-to-door) but is considerably cheaper by car than taking the Harwich-Hook of Holland ferry but I do prefer the latter and we have decided to use that for our visit over Christmas.
The new kitchen
As mentioned in a previous blog post, the kitchen in my flat was very basic and once Klaus moved in with me and we decided to do a lot more interesting cooking we found the limitations of the existing kitchen very frustrating. So we ordered a new kitchen from the local furniture place (as well as a new couch) and then had a six week wait.
This was actually a good thing as we had lots of preparatory work to do. Last month I detailed the electrical works that we did to prepare for the new kitchen, including increasing the number of power sockets from 3 to 14 and making the 3-phase supply reach the other wall so the hob could be moved.
This month saw the rest of the work. This involved having the contents of the kitchen spread about the flat which was quite tricky at times as to make a cup of tea you had to find the fridge in the spare room, the kettle in the kitchen and the teabags in the lounge.
I ordered a new fridge freezer and that arrived two weeks before the kitchen was due. We had to hang the door the other side and this was something we did ourselves. It went very well and we only had this item left over at the end:
Our electrician who is a family friend said he could come over and complete the wiring one evening during the week so he duly arrived with some high-quality sockets etc and went about fitting them.
We hadn’t fixed a couple of the socket bases in place as they were where the tiles had been (which had been removed after the electrician had last visited) but he said he would like them to be anchored with plaster/filler so Frank set about that straight away.
The electrician had done a fantastic job and he left us with the sockets for the items Frank had just plastered as that would need to dry; Klaus and Frank could wire them up themselves.
Big thanks go to Peter who gave up several evenings to do our kitchen work and regaled us with tales of his Amphicar rally in Bremen recently. He’s a top chap!
We had to give up the second weekend in September to further Kitchen preparation. On the Saturday Klaus spent the day wallpapering
and on the Sunday I painted the walls and ceiling (the ceiling required 3 coats in places) whilst Klaus lay in bed with the man-flu. His cold knocked him out for a week and he was still coughing 3 weeks later. I caught it after 2 weeks of course.
The following Saturday the old kitchen was removed by some more friends of Frank and Gudula – it would be going to a new flat owned by the son of one of their friends and he had arranged a couple of friends to help dismantle it and move it out.
We would have to survive two days with no oven or sink – but of course tea can always be made with the kettle in the bathroom and the microwave was still in action.
Once the kitchen was removed Frank and Klaus wired up the remaining sockets as the plaster had now dried.
With a few more bits of touch-up paint by me and a small additional area of wallpapering by Klaus we were ready for the kitchen delivery!
Here is a panorama of the whole room ready for the new kitchen.
Klaus had taken three days off work to oversee this. I went to work at 7:30 in the morning on the Monday morning, wondering what I would find when I returned home!
Luckily he sent me photo updates throughout the morning…
As it was slowly being built up Klaus took the opportunity to put the plaque behind a floor unit.
We had discovered this plaque when removing the old kitchen – with the first date from 2010 on it.
I showed it to Frank and he took it away; he returned it a day later with the new kitchen date on it so we could hide it behind the kitchen again. And you can just make it out here!
Work continued throughout the morning.
The wall cupboards were more tricky because of the cabling that went all through the walls – in the end the chaps fitted rails which they then hung the cupboards from.
When I got home at half past one they had made very good progress and they finished for the day at about 4pm with probably only two more hours to do.
We enjoyed a cup of tea in our kitchen and, of course, using the dishwasher for the first time!
The next morning I went off to work again and when I returned everything was finished!
Klaus had also tested all our pans; unfortunately only three worked with the induction hob:
So I knew we would have to buy a few more, especially a larger one. But that is life!
Klaus went out for a much-needed cycle ride as he had been stuck at home for days and I baked my first cake, a lemon drizzle, which was reasonably successful but a bit over-browned.
It took a while to stow all our food and other kitchen items which were distributed all around the flat but we have plenty of room and are getting used to where everything is. It’s a very easy kitchen to use with everything to hand and of course the dishwasher is a mega bonus! I am really pleased we went to the effort of getting it done and we are already enjoying cooking together.
I did buy a couple of good quality induction pans. One of them, the Titanium Wokpfanne, had a rather unfortunate description on my receipt!
I invited friend Babs round to celebrate the new kitchen with cake and made a Käse-Sahne Torte. Then the next day I had some work colleagues round too and made a Victoria Sandwich Cake and a Banoffee Pie for them.
I have had rather a lot of cake over the last few weeks as my colleague Birgit had a birthday and gave us all a slice of this fantastic cake.
And Rohallah the young man who lives here also made his first ever cake, a cheesecake.
Klaus has already cooked up some very impressive meals and we are really enjoying choosing together what to eat and experimenting a bit with food ideas. Which will not help the waistline, but life is short!!
The new couch
When I went to the furniture store to buy the kitchen my original plan was just to buy a couch but I got distracted.
Anyway, we had decided to buy a new couch as the two old ones that we had in the lounge weren’t ideal. The old black leather one wasn’t comfortable for anyone was wasn’t a small dog and the larger red one which I liked was a hand-me-down with room for only one person to stretch out in comfort. Now there were two of us we needed something that we could both lounge on.
So wandering round the local furniture store I bowed to the inevitable and ordered what almost all Germans have – an Eckcouch or corner sofa. It was from a quality brand called Musterring and we got to specify the size of the two halves, the feet, how high it was, whether it had an armrest that can fold down to be a pillow etc. It’s quite hard choosing a sofa in Germany as you have so many options! This also means it also took 6 weeks to come after ordering. But come it did, a week before the kitchen was fitted.
It came in two halves but the first of these was very large and the chaps had great difficulties getting it from my hallway into the lounge.
There were mirrors on the doorframe to this door and they warned me they might be damaged. I said this was OK as we had already removed the mirrors from the other doorframes and had planned to do these ones in due course too. So they pushed and pushed and the sofa went through with two chips out of the mirrors in the doorway.
…and, as I discovered despite the delivery chaps trying to hide it by leaving the packaging material lying on it as long as possible, the couch had also been sliced open.
This was very disappointing but they told me they had warned me. I thought the warning was just about the mirrors, but there you go. The couch was only covered with light plastic, not even cardboard. One of the chaps did a repair with a sewing kit and staple gun and because of where the rip is (right on the base, not under any load) it shouldn’t matter – but it was rather disappointing for my expensive new sofa!
Here it is in pride of place:
And here is my celebratory piece of chocolate cake!
A week after the couch was here the kitchen had also been fitted and we were able to sort out the lounge a bit more (it had been full of old kitchen stuff). We still need to get rid of the old red couch which may go to Lara who has a new flat in Berlin but in the meantime it is in a corner of the lounge. But pride of place in the lounge is my new rug…
I tried to resist it for a month but when Klaus said he had no objection then it was clear it would end up on my floor… It matches the new couch perfectly you see!
A trip to Greetsiel
The following Saturday I was still too coldy to cycle so we decided to do a day trip to Greetsiel on the North Sea. This is a three hour drive (which ended up 45 minutes longer because of an accident) but I was nice and warm in Klaus’s car and it was enjoyable watching the world go by.
Greetsiel is lovely!
There are huge dykes built all the way around – and from this post with high water marks you can see why!!!
Poppy had come with us on this trip and she really enjoyed smelling all the smells of a new town.
After a walk around we decided to find some cake. Most places were rather full or didn’t allow dogs but we ended up going to the café in this windmill.
There was cake!
The journey home was easier and we had a good day out. This sort of trip would be better if we stayed overnight but I had to play my flute in church the next morning so it was just a day trip but really relaxing and enjoyable.
Life in Kempen
The local farm has made his pumpkin caterpillar again. It’s great!
And I loved this vehicle parked in the local Aldi car park. A local no doubt popping in for his shopping…
Part of the reason for not cycling so much at the moment is that my work is really busy. I am non-stop from when I arrive at about 7:40 in the morning until I leave at just past 1pm. It’s quite stressful having full-on work the whole time and not being able to complete all my tasks (the customer I am responsible for has hugely increased their work with us) but I look forward to a two week break at Christmas, plus Klaus and I are having a short break in Berlin in October and probably a weekend in Dresden in November too, so there is much to look forward to. I must get out on my bike again soon!