Six Wheels in Germany – May 2021 (Month 86)

Activities this month

This has been a rather active month for various reasons which I will go into below. But on the sport side, I reached one milestone:

This was 100 runs since I started, with 360km run in total.

And then two days later I did my best ever 5k run with a time of 35:33 (almost two minutes faster than my previous best, which is shown above). And I hadn’t particularly planned to go faster, I just felt like I was doing OK and tried to up the pace a bit. Hopefully under 35 minutes will be possible when the weather is warmer.

As a result of that run I stood on the scales and had surpassed my target, going under the 75.0 kg mark.

This was mostly dehydration and I was back over 75kg again the next morning, but by the end of this month I was decidedly under 75kg (74.1 kg on 31 May) and am now in weight maintenance mode.

What this has meant is that I have had to buy a lot of new clothes and send loads of old clothes to the charity bin. This gets expensive but that’s life. I have set aside some of the good clothes for my sister so if I ever get to visit the UK she will get a couple of boxes full of trousers, tops and my wonderful winter coat too!

I didn’t do much cycling this month, with just a few work commutes and a couple of leisure/utility rides.

Red = velomobile, purply-blue = run and green = either walking or triking

Klaus and I have also continued our regular walks, each evening after dinner and at other times too. We are accompanied by his daughter Lara when she is visiting but Poppy is still recovering from her torn cruciate ligament so is only able to walk about 400 metres at the moment, so her walks are separate. Or she takes the lazy option:

Although the weather has not been great this month we have been treated to some very impressive skies.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

And we had a very nice display from the Wistaria on our garage.

Poppy’s rehabilitation

As detailed last month, Poppy tore her cruciate ligament and had to have an operation and bed rest for two weeks. After her bandage was removed we had to start very slowly exercising her more as she got used to the leg and was able to start building up the muscle again.

We have got into a routine with her now where she has 2-3 walks outside per day, a maximum of 400 metres, and also several visits to the garden. She is still a bit funny about drinking out of her water bowl but enjoys the chance to drink from the fountain in the garden.

When with Gudula and Frank downstairs Poppy has to be tied to a table or held on the lead as they have largely parquet flooring which is too slippery for her and risks damaging her leg. So her territory is under the dining room table which is a pretty good spot as she can see the kitchen, lounge and terrace from there!

When she is with us she has a little more freedom from the lead as we now have carpet runners in the hallway so it is not slippery for her. This means she can wait at the door of our flat to inform us she would really like to do something more interesting with her day than watch us read the internet.

Her leg has improved markedly over the last few weeks. There were a couple of days when she overdid it a bit and was lame for a short while but the leg is clearly getting stronger now and although her stamina for walking is a poor shadow of her former self, she has started trying to jump up on the bed, chairs and even escaped Gudula’s clutches and came up the stairs to our apartment. We are still stopping her from jumping up as it could damage her leg but she clearly feels loads better in herself in that she tries to attempt it.

She has understandably got rather bored with the whole situation – not being allowed to walk freely around the house, not being able to choose who to see, and of course being carried around everywhere has given her an inflated sense of her own importance. She has started to become a little dominant, particularly to Klaus who she has nipped once and warned with barking three times recently. So she has lost a few privileges (sleeping on the bed, sitting on our sofa) and is sleeping in her crate in the hall and having to stay on the floor while we tower above her. She will hopefully get the message soon enough. The first few nights in the crate she barked a bit in the middle of the night but she now listens to the radio station Absolute Relax in the night and that seems to do the trick, she sleeps all the way through now.

Qe are really looking forward to when she can roam around the house on her own as having doors shut everywhere is very annoying, and no doubt she is also looking forward to this time!

Cycle rides

Klaus did quite a lot of riding on his trike this month, enjoying the nice weather when we had it!

I accompanied him on a couple of occasions, once where we stretched our legs to the north.

And on another occasion to treat ourselves to an ice cream in Kempen one sunny evening!

Most of the rest of the time he went out for evening rides after work to decompress and enjoy the views.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

I tend to use my Milan only for commuting and for shopping at the moment as Klaus’s velomobile is off the road. Having used the car for shopping more recently I got a bit carried away with the quantity of food at Aldi one day.

Fortunately I managed to squeeze it all in! (Yes, Millie is very dirty inside – lots of dust picked up from being the garage)

And one time when I was out in the car (shock, horror!) I spotted a familiar figure outside Café Poeth and stopped to have a chat.

This is of course chum Uli who has been cycling regularly throughout lockdown. He is an inspiration to us all.

An update on our guests in the garage…

Last month I reported that robins had nested in our garage and there were some chicks. We were careful not to disturb them too much but a couple of times when getting out a bike we saw the parents were not in the garage and took a couple of photos

Six baby robins

They looked like they would soon be fledging

And then one day…

Empty nest!

For several days we saw both robin parents in the garden and the others could hear the baby birds calling from at least two places (it is outside my hearing range due to hearing problems). So hopefully at least two of the chicks made it. We hope to see Mum & Dad again next year. The garage seems to have been a fairly safe place for them, and definitely more successful than the letterbox last year!

Work and mobility

This month has been rather significant with regard to my work situation.

I have worked at the food production facility in Kempen (a powder blender) for almost five years. In March 2020 I needed several weeks off due to a breakdown following work overload and some difficulties with a particular manager. Early this year I had to work from home for two and a half weeks to avoid another breakdown as I was right on the edge – same causes. And then this month it happened again, this time with the manager trapping me in my office and hectoring me about work issues whilst I was in tears and unable to talk and asking him to leave. For me that was the end as I felt it was bullying behaviour, and I feel he has also been gaslighting me in the past. I could no longer work with this person.

I went to the doctor to get another sick note as I needed to recover from the stress and shock of this last meeting and could not face seeing this manager again. I took the two weeks to think through all the options and possibilities but there was only really one solution as nothing will change at the company. So I decided to resign. This isn’t something one generally does in Germany as it can look a bit dodgy on the CV but my health is important to me so, after discussing my options with a lawyer, I decided to go ahead and resign.

I arranged an appointment with the company owner and explained to him that I felt I needed to resign, that my boss’s behaviour had been what I considered to be bullying and that I did not see any way I could continue working – with such a small company there is no way they could find me a role where I would not have to work with this man. The company owner couldn’t offer any assurances of alternative work arrangements so he accepted my resignation. I had another two week sick note and have two and a half weeks’ holiday in June so I only need to work one week in June, which I said I would do from home as I don’t feel able to face the bullying manager and my office is too near to his to risk it.

Once I had made this decision and carried it out I felt a real relief, the stress of the job over the last year and a half has really taken its toll. Several colleagues have left and one of my closest colleagues is also leaving at the end of June so it feels rather like the end of an era, but I hope is the gateway to a new opportunity.

I had already been applying for jobs over the last couple of months as it was obvious things would not improve in my current company. It’s not so easy for me to find suitable part time work, particularly as I was really limited to the Kempen area due to having to cycle there. So I decided that in order to give myself more opportunities, and because the lack of a car had been a bit awkward when Poppy was having vet visits every two days, I would buy myself a second-hand car as a little runabout.

And when one has the chance to buy a car for just occasional use it can be a nice small one. And what could be smaller than a Smart? I also fancied the Cabrio version so although Frank my landlord, an Automeister (car mechanic of a high standard) advised me to avoid the cabrios as they can leak, I went ahead anyway! I have never had a cabriolet and as I am about to turn 50 I think it might be time!

So Klaus and I started researching different cars, including asking advice from a velomobile friend Christian who has four Smarts. Although he is a big fan of the earlier version, the 450, which he felt had more character, we decided that the next version, the 451, would be more suitable for me. I test drove a few – there was one in Kempen which looked good but didn’t drive too well, there was a lovely one in Willich in my favourite colour but didn’t have power steering and I discovered I needed that due to my weak arm, and then we decided on Cabrios anyway (these other two were the coupé hardtop) so had to cast our net a bit wider for a cabrio with power steering.

We saw there were two in Wuppertal, one my favourite blue colour and a bit cheaper and a second one in the same beige/gold colour as my Skoda Roomster and 500 Euro more expensive. So we decided it was worth a trip to Wuppertal, although one of the garages said we could not have a test drive due to Corona rules.

We arrived at the first garage where they had the blue cabrio and it didn’t look good – it had clearly been there for ages as there was moss and grot on the softtop. I asked for a test drive and they initially said no but I said I wouldn’t even consider it without so they changed their mind and started jump-starting it so we could have a drive. Whilst they were doing that Klaus was checking it over and he very quickly identified that the underside of the floor mats was wet – that means leaky roof, so no way. We didn’t even have the test drive, there was no point.

So on to the next one, where we knew we couldn’t have a test drive. The car salesman for this one was much nicer, but he was selling it on behalf of a private person so it would not have the full dealer warranty etc.

We checked it over and it was dry inside and looked really nice. The service book was perfect apart from the most recent service but we knew it had had one as there were markers on the oil filler cap etc with a date from 2020. They just hadn’t put it in the service book.

It had its HU (like the British MOT) with a year to run but the HU is normally for two years so we told the seller that if they did a new HU we would buy it. He let us test drive it up a private road beside where it was parked (it had no number plates on so could not be taken on the road) and it seemed fine. We tested the roof, all the buttons etc and everything was fine. So we agreed to buy it!

In Germany the registration of the car changes when it goes to a new owner, so I would have to get it registered and get the number plates before I could drive it away. We also needed to of course pay for it. So we had two more trips back to Wuppertal, once to pay for it and to receive the paperwork (Fahrzeugschein and Fahrzeugbrief) and the second to collect it, bringing the number plates with us.

In order to register your car you need the paperwork and also an insurance certificate. The insurance turned out to be rather expensive as this was my second car – although my other car (the Skoda Roomster) is used by Gudula and they give me the money for insurance and tax, it is still insured in my name so my 15 year no claim bonus was not extended to my second car – I got the maximum 4 years instead. So the insurance cost me about 150 EUR more than I was expecting but ho hum.

Once I had the insurance number I needed to visit the Zulassungsstelle (Car Registration Centre) in Kempen to get the car registered to me and the number plates made up. The problem is, the first appointments were in early June, more than a month after I was looking! Because of corona they only have one person serving at the service point instead of six, and you need to pre-book – not much luck when you have to wait a month!

There is a separate service where you can pay a company to do all this for you, and I ended up taking that option. They did a good job, supplying me with all the paperwork, the number plates, the green Environmental sticker etc. This would cost me about 55 EUR to do it myself and I had to pay them 120 EUR so it wasn’t appalling but it is still something I could have done myself if I could have got an appointment. But the number plates were ready the next day – a similar number plate to my Roomster but with the numbers marking out my birth day and month, whereas the Roomster has my birth year. So if both cars are parked together you can work out that it’s my birthday soon!

Here is the car with its shiny new plates.

Top down

And another bonus, this tiny car fits in the tiny garage we rent for the trikes. We will have to fold them both up and squeeze them in a corner in order to get the Smart in, but it will be worth it in winter to keep the worst of the weather off.

Photo by Klaus

And here is our little family going for a test-drive, all three of us fitting in a Smart!

And of course it needed a name. Inspiration came to me when I was hanging out the washing – the car is now called Leonardo di Cabrio, or Leo for short.

And some more good news…

Germany is rather behind the UK with Coronavirus vaccinations and I am not on a priority list but one of Klaus’s work colleagues knew of a doctor’s practice that had some spare jabs. So Klaus went and got BioNTeched one evening after work (the doctor was in Mülheim, where Klaus works), and Klaus mentioned me and that I had a couple of health issues but nothing that would get me on the list. The doctor said he might have some spare AstraZeneca the following week and would I be interested. Klaus said he thought I would and indeed I was.

So last week I had my first AstraZeneca dose, having first discussed with the doctor the risks as I am a woman of almost 50 years old and Germany only normally gives AstraZeneca to women over 60. However, I think it is much safer for me to have this jab than to wait possibly a couple of months for BioNTech or Moderna. The second jab with AZ will be in seven weeks’ time, which means I should be fully vaccinated by the beginning of August. Hopefully the UK will be back on the safe-to-travel list so I can go and see my family.

After my AstraZeneca vaccination I was pretty knocked out, with chills, headache, joint pains and general malaise. I had a full day in bed, and then next two days felt very lethargic with a headache. Fortunately on the fourth day I was pretty much back to normal except with a large itchy red area where the jab was done. I now need to watch for the signs of the rare blood clots but I know these are very unusual.

It’s my 50th birthday in a couple of weeks and our original plan, to cruise with Cunard on the Queen Mary 2 from New York to Southampton had to be cancelled, due to Corona. Plan B was a visit to Berlin but the hotels are still not open there, so we decided instead to visit Austria and are staying for up to two weeks in the flat belonging to one of my oldest friends, Lindsay. I have stayed there many times over the last 25+ years (I went with her to Austria when she first viewed it!) and Klaus went with his daughter a couple of years ago. We are planning to take the trikes and do some triking as well as hiking and relaxing. As we will both have had our first vaccinations more than 22 days before we are there, we class as fully vaccinated with the Austrian system, so that will give us some more freedoms. In Germany you are only fully vaccinated after the second jab.

Anyway, onwards and upwards, I am so relieved to have had my jab and to have a date for the second in July. It feels like a little taste of freedom already!

Cakes this month

Here is my gallery of cakes this month. Not very many, but good ones!

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Six Wheels In Germany, Velomobiles

Six Wheels in Germany – April 2021 (Month 85)

Activities this month

This month continued with activities on most days. I run every two days, for 30 minutes or more, with a rest day in between. I cycle to work in the velomobile and Klaus and I have also done a couple of trike rides.

Here is the Wheel to show you where I have been.

Green = velomobile or walk, red = trike, blue = run

As you can see, I did 272 km in total. That splits out as:
169 km cycling
53 km walking
51 km running

Pets and Wildlife

This month is largely about Poppy the dog.

This is because she has rather been in the wars – as has my bank account!

It all started when she started limping a little on a back leg. She does this now and again, we had assumed she had a touch of arthritis as she is almost 11 years old. It also often happened when I have pain in my artificial elbow joint – related to weather and the wind – she would also be limping.

So when she started limping we ignored it for a few days, but it didn’t seem to be getting better. This was unusual as it usually only lasts 2-3 days. Of course, the end of this time coincided with the weekend so it was actually about 6 days after she first started being lame that I took her to the vets. We had also wondered if she had a problem with her guts as she looked rather wider than she should do.

So off I went to the vets with Poppy reluctantly in tow. They tried to feel around her stomach but she tenses up totally when at the vets so they couldn’t feel anything. They decided to take an x-ray of her leg to see if they could see anything – they do this without sedating her but holding her down so the vet said that it wasn’t a brilliant x-ray but it looked rather as though she had torn her cranial cruciate ligament (equivalent to the ACL or anterior cruciate ligament in footballers). They said this would require an operation to repair and that they couldn’t do it in Kempen but referred me to the small animal clinic in Duisburg.

Fortunately I had the Wednesday off as TOIL so phoned the clinic in Duisburg and arranged to come in at 8:30 on Wednesday morning with Poppy. They said she should not eat after 6pm the night before as presumably they would take some x-rays under general anaesthesia.

So on the Wednesday morning I trundled off to Duisburg (fortunately our side of the river Rhein so I didn’t have to participate in the massive traffic jam for the A40 bridge) and once I had registered had to wait outside – with about another 8 dogs – as we were slowly called in by phone. Poppy had worked out this was a veterinary surgery so was not happy, and when it started to snow I was regretting not trying to park in the vets car park as the car was a long way down the road. I was just trying to decide whether I should go and get the car so we could wait in the warm when the vet phoned me and asked me to come in.

We then had a consultation with a young lady vet who had the same problem as the vet in Kempen with trying to work out if she had a gut problem. The vet said the next step was to do an ultrasound to see if there was anything inside pressing on a nerve in her leg to make her lame.

So Poppy had her second ultrasound in the last twelve months… and didn’t like this one either! However it showed all her organs were fine, no tumours, just the expected changes in an 11-year-old dog. She had some gas which was probably making her look a bit wide – we wonder if she might be slightly lactose intolerant as she gets yoghurt pots, or it could just be one of those things. But this wasn’t a big problem. So the ultrasound was good news overall.

Back to the consultation room with the vet and she said they would take x-rays. This might take up to a couple of hours so I should go home and they would phone me. If they needed to operate (if it was the cruciate ligament tear) they would do it straight away. Expected cost 1000-3000 EUR depending on which operation had to be done.

So I went home without Poppy and waited.

The vet phoned after an hour to say the x-rays showed it was indeed the cruciate ligament and that they would operate, but that they could do the simpler operation, extracapsular repair (also known as the De Angelis technique or lateral suture technique) – which is the traditional surgical method for a ruptured cruciate. This is basically a bit of dental floss holding the joint in place and eventually the bones grow around this so if the dental floss breaks then the joint is still stable. This is good for smaller dogs. So anyway I said to go ahead and they asked me to call a few hours later to see how she was.

All went well and they said there was no damage to the meniscus, which was good. I could pick her up a few hours later. Fortunately Gudula was able to come with me as it is rather hard for me to hold Poppy for a long time with my one good arm – and negotiate doors etc at the same time. So we drove together back to Duisburg and picked up our very sleepy and very gloomy Poppy, with Gudula holding her in her arms on the way home.

The vet had told us that Poppy needed to have complete rest for the next two weeks. The only time she could move around was for the toilet. Which meant crate rest.

She was wearing a lampshade to stop her biting at the massive dressing on her leg.

And she was feeling very sad about it all.

I was actually impressed by the vet bill for this treatment as it was less than I was expecting. Here is the itemised list for those who can read German – with VAT it ended up at 1.099 Euros. A cycling acquaintance in the UK who is a vet thought that was an excellent price.

I went out immediately to buy a second crate as we knew we didn’t want to have to carry a crate up and downstairs the whole time – Poppy’s mega-boring crate rest would be partly with us and partly downstairs with Gudula and Frank, so she had a bit of a change of scenery.

She slept the whole afternoon and would not drink or eat. We took her outside for a pee but nothing happened, not particularly surprising as she hadn’t drunk anything that day.

That night she was in the crate in the bedroom with us but was crying a lot. She hates the lampshade of course. We neither of us slept well because of the dog whining and squeaking. Klaus was going to work at home for the next two days so she would not be alone during the day.

The next morning she managed a pee eventually which was a relief. We gave her only wet food with her antibiotics and painkillers – she loves this food so was quite happy about that! I am allergic to the antibiotics she was given so Klaus had to handle them, and I had a few pairs of rubber gloves in case I needed to dispense them sometime.

He said she was quite noisy during the day, which isn’t optimal when he is doing video conferencing. Once I was home she sat with me on the bed and slept. I decided to attach one of her leads to the bed head so I don’t have to hold on to her the whole time and we realised this was a very good safety feature which means that should could sleep on the bed between us at night and we would know she would not be able to jump off the bed. She usually sleeps on the bed anyway. It would also mean she could be without the lampshade as we would hopefully notice if she started chewing her leg.

So the second night she was on the bed with us and this was a lot better. She was still mega sleepy and rather clingy, but we had a better night’s sleep which is good for me as I do very badly with lack of sleep.

The next day we had to take her for a dressing change at our local vets. And thus started the interesting parade of leg colours – she would need the bandage changed every two days for a fortnight.

First change was a nice turquoise with blue stars.

In the photo above you can see she is lying on the bed with the lead attached. She is comfortable like this and is safe in that she cannot go anywhere.

I had told the vet that she hadn’t yet done a poop and the vet thought that was OK for a little while, but we would of course keep an eye on her.

When no poop had arrived by Sunday morning we were getting a bit concerned – she had had her last poop Wednesday morning. On our blackboard downstairs we were writing down when she did her wees (pipi) at the beginning and we had a space for the poop but with a big 0. And then eventually, Sunday afternoon…

This was a real relief, and everything was soon back to normal. She still won’t drink much water so she gets her dried food soaked in water with lots of extra water so she takes her required liquid intake through her food. She has a water bowl available in the crate but she rarely drinks from that – although the fountain in the garden is apparently OK sometimes.

The next vet visit was another bandage change two days later. This time we had a pink leg with purple spots.

Gudula had also told me of an alternative to the lampshade, a blow-up soft pillow around the neck, and we bought one for when Poppy was in the crate. She found it much more comfortable and was OK about wearing it.

Because her ears really got in the way with this lampshade and were also getting into her food I gave her a haircut in the garden sitting on the grass. Shockingly short ears but they are less in the way now!

On her next visit to the vet for a bandage change we went for a pink option.

She had started to walk a little more now. At first she had bounced her back legs together to get around but she was now walking in a more normal manner although with a stiff leg it was rather tricky. Pooping and peeing both looked rather awkward and she tired very quickly and asked to be picked up. She was only allowed to walk when in the garden for a pee or poop for these first two weeks, and it will be three months before she is allowed to walk normally or jump up on furniture (we will probably need to get a ramp for the furniture anyway). The big problem with this injury is that the other leg has to compensate and do more work and in 50% of dogs the second hind leg cruciate ligament tears too. We don’t want to go all through this again!

When she is in the crate and alone (which is not very often as someone is usually in so she is in sight of them in the crate) we have big brother to watch her, a webcam so we can see what she is up to. Sleeping, mostly.

We also have the option to spy on her in the dark!

Gudula often collects Poppy from the crate in the morning and takes her downstairs so the dog has some company… and I have evidence of the dog-napping:

For the fourth visit for a bandage change we were treated to a different set of leg decorations – the giraffe.

She had to be on the lead the whole time – out in the garden and also in the house if we were not directly holding her. She was mostly on the bed when with us as that is more relaxed for her but if she was on the sofa she had to be on the lead to prevent her jumping down. As you can see, with dog on the lap it can be difficult to manage everything.

The next vet visit was after 10 days and it was time for the stitches to be removed!

The leg was looking good and the swelling had gone down but you could already see the muscles were wasting. And she came out with a yellow leg this time.

Apparently not impressed by yellow with green bones

The yellow was a good colour choice as she decided to go for a pee on uneven ground later and managed to shoot the leg. It didn’t show up too badly on this bandage!

She was clearly walking with more and more confidence but equally we could see the muscles on her left hind leg wasting and she was often stiff as she has few ways she could sit with it.

After the yellow bandage her last was a rerun of a previous colour, the light blue.

And then two days later it was time for the bandage removal after 2 weeks. This went fine, and I was amazed at the price. I had estimated around 500-750 Euros as it was one vet and one vet assistant for 20 minutes, 7 times, plus new bandage materials. And the total was…

138 Euro, which I consider excellent value!

After the bandage removal Poppy was not willing to put any weight on her leg. She gave it a good clean and nibble first

But she would not put weight on it, holding it high. We knew that after 3 weeks her muscles would be very weak and it would feel weird, but when the next day she didn’t want to come out of her crate and wouldn’t walk, just flopping down on the grass, I made another vet appointment. She had seemed very unhappy and we were concerned that she seemed unwilling to walk at all. We could straighten and bend the leg without it apparently causing her pain, but she would barely touch it to the ground, and seemed not to want to walk at all – perhaps the other leg was also now bad.

I was actually pretty concerned about her as Gudula had commented how lethargic she seemed. She perked up a bit once I put her in the car but was clearly disappointed to be going to the vets again.

The vet said that basically Poppy has a ‘Denkfehler’, an incorrect thought, about the leg. She hasn’t used it properly for three weeks and it feels wrong so she thinks she can’t use it. The vet also thought she might well still have pain and possibly nerve damage and as she was no longer on painkillers it was worth giving her some again. She had an injection painkiller and I was given some tablets to take away, and also an exercise to encourage her to use the bad leg.

Later that evening we had small success where she dotted the leg down onto the ground a couple of times, but the next morning whilst eating:

Later in the garden she walked for 10 seconds or so with all four legs, so she is on the road to recovery.

We are now in the ten week long stage where we gradually build up her strength in that leg by very, very short walks (maybe an extra ten minutes per day per week!). She is still not allowed to jump at all so must be on the lead at all times or in the crate or otherwise tethered so she can come to no harm. She is dealing with it rather better than I actually expected as I thought she would be far more bouncy and boisterous, but we are just happy that she came through the anaesthetic OK and is on the mend. Gudula and Frank have been brilliant too at looking after her, so she isn’t on her own very often and has different scenery to look at during the day.

Hopefully next month I can report that she is able to go on short walks outside the garden and that we are having no more vet visits apart from the two checkups we have booked for her leg.

And some wild household members

Those who read my blog last year might remember Robina the robin who nested unsuccessfully in our letterbox. She abandoned the nest after laying seven eggs and before any hatched. But the letterbox was not the best location for a nest, it has to be said.

So that was that. Or so we thought.

One day as I was over by the bins in the back garden I saw a bird fly into the garage through the open access door at the back. I went round and opened the main garage door so the bird could get out and thought nothing more of it.

Then a week or so later whilst faffing about in the garage looking for some tools I noticed something high on a shelf which wasn’t normally there…

What was this mystery pile of leaves? It was really up high right by the runners for the garage opener so I couldn’t see but I was able to hold my phone up high and take a photo…

Another nest!!!

We assumed it was Robina the robin again, although we didn’t initially see her in there. This spot is about 50 cm from the previous nesting spot in the letterbox, just the other side of an up-and-over garage door. But then I caught sight of a robin sitting on the nest peeping at me.

As soon as we knew she was nesting and laying in the garage we obviously made sure that the back door access was always open. I was worried we might scare her by opening the garage as it is noisy and would completely change the amount of light in the garage but I have to access my velomobile for commuting. We would risk it!

After a few more days Robina was always sitting on the nest when I twice per day opened the garage door to get my velomobile out or return it. She was hard to see but when you opened the garage she would pop her head up to look and it was just possible to make out her face and her red breast.

And then one day when I opened the garage Robina wasn’t sitting on the nest. So I took the opportunity with my phone in hand and snapped the following:

And then a few days later…

Six (?) baby robins!

Mum and Dad are constantly flying in and out of the garage with food for them. They were lucky as Gudula was doing a lot of garden work including verticutting the lawn so there were lots of worms and insects around.

A few days later when no adult bird was on the nest I took another shot. This time I only count five but I guess one could be hiding.

We are wondering if they will poop on our velomobiles when they fledge!

And talking of velomobiles or bikes in general, we have now been given access to a garage just across the road where we can store our trikes and bike spares etc. The added bonus is that it is lockable! So we have both trikes there rather than 400 metres down the road in the other garage that we were previously using. The house to which the garage belongs is being used for seasonal workers for the asparagus and strawberry picking and is too small for modern cars so we will probably be able to use it for many years, which is great news! It has a slightly leaky roof and is very low down to get in (I will undoubtedly bang my head on the garage door multiple times) but it is brilliant to have it and to have secure storage that we can see out of our lounge window. We still have trackers on the bikes that are in there so we can know if something moves – we originally had a tracker on the garage door so we would know when it opened but the vibrations of passing tractors gave us too many false alarms.

Poor Klaus’s Emily has now also been moved to the ‘spare’ garage, and his trike Malcolm has been brought to the main garage, as Emily has once again broken her gear hanger. This happened once with Humphrey and once before with Emily. It’s not something we can repair, it has to go to Dronten (and we are not allowed to travel to the Netherlands anyway at the moment) so Emily is out of action for a while. Fortunately the weather has been OK for triking.

Food this month

This month Easter came and went without much of a difference to the daily life in semi-lockdown. However, what was rather lovely was that the Production Manager at work, who used to work for local bakery Stinges, made us all an Easter Hare bread thingie and also gave us a hard-boiled egg.

Because of the carbohydrate I ate the roll over two days – it was tasty!

I treated myself to a new gadget this month – a Kenwood Kmix mixer. It has already seen good use in making cakes.

I did a bit of recipe experimentation and made these keto cupcakes with Frischkäse/cream cheese icing.

As we live round the corner from the Asparagus Farm we have also been buying up their cheap asparagus (broken pieces) and turning it into some very tasty keto soups. Creamy and buttery!

Super salad / soup or salad?

The nice thing about living near this farm is that they also sell strawberries (yummy!) and we can do some great photography of the asparagus fields too!

Photo by Klaus

In Germany we still aren’t allowed to eat out due to Covid but ice cream bars are open and so Klaus and I went on a short ride to Hüls one day to meet one of his work colleagues (who has a cool Van Moof bike) and to share an ice-cream with him.

I had just got Millie back after having her indicators repaired and rather annoyingly the lights started playing up again – my Lichtkanone started flickering on and off and then died completely. As neither I nor Beyß have much enthusiasm for more Millie Wiring Experiences at the moment I have said I will leave it for now and bring her back to him in the summer to get it fixed when I can use the trike. I have a removable torch I can fit to the Lichtkanone to give light for my morning commute if needed but otherwise she has enough lights. I do so wish that when the Milans were built they had put decent wiring in them – it looks like this is a problem in the spaghetti junction box again.

The everlasting electrical problems in Millie are a bit like my Mum’s leaky heating system issues at the moment. She has a leak of water somewhere and has had the local gas man checking everywhere, lifting tiles and floorboards. Eventually they found a leak and it was repaired but lo and behold there was another one somewhere. Mum paid a fair bit for a special leak detecting man to come and check it and he said where the leak was but the latest news is that the gas man has searched everywhere this man said, removing kitchen cupboards and concrete, and cannot find the leak. Mum has to fill it with water four times a day so it’s very annoying – and has also taken several weeks already and it’s still not fixed. Here’s hoping the leak detecting man can come back and find the REAL issue.

Reaching some goals

Another food-linked item this month. I was delighted that, exactly 6 months after starting to watch my calories a bit more and to track my carbohydrate consumption more closely, I hit my target BMI of 25.

I started at a BMI of 30.4 and a weight of 94.2 kg on 26 October…

And hit BMI 25 on 25 April, which translates to 77.5 kg weight.

You can see that the weight loss was fairly smooth over the time. The big dip at the end is the two weeks of Poppy’s leg problems as I have been worried about her and that always puts me off my food! I plan to go down to 75kg and then go to weight maintenance mode, but at the moment it is hard to imagine eating much more as I am not hungry at all and really enjoy the food and quantities that I am currently eating. I have had to spend a lot of money on clothes as I am now wearing size 40 jeans and at the beginning I was wearing 46. Fortunately most of my tops are still wearable if rather loose.

And today, the last day of April, at a weight of 77.3 kg my BMI was below 25. The NHS were very nice about it too!

The last time my BMI was within the ‘healthy’ range, in fact the only time in my life since I was a child, was between 2000 and 2003. 18 years later I have managed it again and I hope to stay within the healthy range from now on. We shall see!

Klaus’s daughter Lara has also been eating keto for over two months and she is also doing brilliantly well – she has lost 10 kilos in under ten weeks. We are always looking for interesting new meal opportunities with her – but she is much stricter with her carbs than we are (which is good and right at the beginning). I can eat 70-90g carbs per day without the hunger pangs returning so I am lucky in that aspect – I have a chocolate praline or two a day and also sometimes a small bowl of popcorn if watching TV (my little treat). Anyway, kudos to Lara and it’s beginning to be really noticeable in her face and she feels very good with the weight loss. Another six months to a year and she should reach her goal.

At work my colleague brought in some pastries and I did eat the one she gave me. Very tasty!

Talking of work, I had a week of using Klaus’s car to travel to work as he had to work from home. This meant my usual bike parking place was unused by me and when I next cycled to work I had to ask the chaps to clear a bit of space for me in what was previously my bike shed as it has become a general storage area.

And why had I been driving to work? Why was Klaus not in the office for a whole week?

This was because he had an accident whilst out walking with me and sampled the delights of bog-snorkelling. We were walking along a forest path near our house and there were some deep puddles. I walked around them but he decided to jump one. The jump went well but on landing his foot slipped. He managed to get his weight forward but then lost his footing and landed superman-style into the next puddle, taking most of his weight on his right hip and thigh. His iPhone was in his right thigh pocket.

I found his glasses for him which had landed in a puddle and he got up laughing – it was an impressive bit of balletic jumping.

Puddle to the left of the photo was the landing zone

He was worried about the iPhone as his entire weight had landed on it but amazingly there was not a mark on it.

We walked home knowing that he would probably suffer a bit over the next days. It seems the phone transmitted a very impressive bruise through his thigh which made all his muscles lock up and he was unable to drive his car for five days as he couldn’t move the accelerator foot safely. He couldn’t go up and downstairs either so stayed in our flat for 4 days straight. It was good for Poppy who was just back from her operation as she had company, but it was painful for Klaus! The bruise was never that mega on his leg but most of the damage was done in the deeper tissues. All healed up now, as well as the large graze on his side, but he won’t be jumping any more puddles for a while!

So that is my report for April. I will leave you with a nice sunset over the fields near our house and we will see what May brings… Klaus’s birthday for one!


Filed under Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Six Wheels In Germany, Velomobiles

Six Wheels in Germany – March 2021 (Month 84)

Welcome to spring!

I am starting to write this blog on Monday 29 March as I have a day off work (the last of my Christmas holidays that I was unable to take). The sun is shining, the birds are singing, we have some daffodils on the table in the lounge and Klaus is working at home beside me. So it’s a good day!

Cycling and running this month

Millie spent almost the entire month at Beyß in Straelen having her indicators replaced. When I got her back we realised that the rear light on the Lichtkanone had failed so she went back to Beyß a few days later and he then identified that the LED was no longer working and ordered and fitted a replacement. As I write this she is ready, I just need to go and collect her.

As Millie has not been available I have been riding my trike for commuting.

Red = trike, green = velomobile, blue = run

I used to include Screenshots from my software Ascent which showed how many kilometres I have ridden/run etc. Unfortunately the software seems to have become buggy and no longer synchs with Garmin so I have had to give up with it. Suffice it to say, I am not cycling very much these days but it is winter! I am, however, doing well with my running and go out for 30 minutes three times per week. I may not be fast but I am consistent!

I have been using Alfie and have been unlucky enough to have two flat tyres in one week. The first was fair enough:

This was at work so I replaced the tube and was on my way within five minutes. The next morning the tube had half deflated again so I changed it again but I think it was a valve problem as I couldn’t find any holes when I checked the tube.

As I had actually got round to repairing a tube (and found some vulcanisation glue that wasn’t set solid) I decided to go through the drawer full of tubes than needed repairing. I did 10 in total, here are most of them at the post-repair testing stage!

We had a mini heatwave at the end of March which meant that I was out running without wearing a buff on my head. I found again that my Apple Airpods Pro, which I use to listen to music whilst I run, tended to get loose again – this is because sweat from the ear seems to reduce the seal they have. I have very small ear canals, it’s a problem for the hearing aid when I wear it, and I was rather worried an Airpod might fall out (they have a couple of times in the past) and be run over by a passing car or eaten by the dog. So I decided to buy some Airshokx which are bone-conducting headphones. This means they don’t go into your ear, they are positioned in front of it and the sound is transmitted through the bones in front of your ear.

Sound quality isn’t as good as the airpods but it is perfectly acceptable and it is good to have my ears free – I can hear all other sounds whilst running, and have discovered my shoes are quite noisy on mud left by tractors!

Life in Germany

Coronavirus is taking a turn for the worse here in Germany at the moment with a very slow vaccination campaign so we are expecting some more restrictions to be brought in soon.

So our life continues pretty much as it has for the last year – Klaus working from home two days per week, we only go out to the supermarket or for exercise, and we only really see Lara his daughter. So we live a quiet, retired life but that suits us and we are much luckier than others that our jobs have continued mostly as normal.

Poppy the dog finds lockdown relaxing too!

One nice thing is that the weather suddenly got rather good and sunny so we have had some lovely evening walks!

Photo by Klaus

On one of the days that I went to Aldi I noticed that they were celebrating British Week! Now most of the British things are items that we don’t eat but it was good to see them. I did buy a bar of Dairy Milk Caramel (which made me feel a bit sick when I ate it!) and also some wine gums and whiskey for Klaus, but otherwise I was able to resist the goodies.

I was amused to see a new brand of cold tea (who wants to drink that stuff anyway???) in our local Edeka. The product name doesn’t work quite so well in the English language.

As one of my chums said, “two full cups please!”

Colleagues moving on

At work this month we have had three colleagues say goodbye. One was a temp, Anna, who had been there for four months, but the other two have been working with us much longer and will be very much missed!

Our Lab/QS colleague Rashmi got a new job that more fits her education (two masters degrees!) and so we said goodbye with some flowers, chocs and a poster with pictures of us all. We have really enjoyed working with Rashmi – me particularly as we spoke together in English, one of her five languages!

And then on the last day of March my other colleague Dorothee, who had been with us for three and a half years, moved on. Doro’s father Uli is one of my cycling chums so I actually knew about her before I knew her, so-to-speak. I’ve really enjoyed working with Doro too and we will miss her.

A new kitchen gadget

Over a year and a half ago when Klaus and I were on our Bodensee cycle tour we stayed with friends Christoph and Anna and I ended up in a long conversation with Anna about Kenwood Chefs. These are food mixers and they are very good and long lasting – my Mum had one for decades. Anyway, Anna had just recently bought one and was singing its praises.

Fast forward to this week and having once again sprayed myself with cream when using the hand mixer, which I use almost every day for various Keto goodies, I decided it was really time to join the real world and get a Kenwood. What was a bit of a bonus was that Penny were selling the entry-level Kmix with a reduction of almost 100 Euro so I snapped one up and it now has pride of place in our kitchen.

I haven’t yet used it in anger as I had to wash all the bits and bobs but tonight I shall probably make a mascarpone mousse and see how it performs. This will also help me in my cake making of course, as I made a Keto Chocolate Cake (pics below) this month and gave my arm such a workout trying to stir the thing that I was rather pooped afterwards!

Cakes this month

Here are a selection of cakes this month. I bought some from Büllhorsthof for Gudula, Frank and Nils when they were here – so most weren’t eaten by us!


Filed under Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Six Wheels In Germany, Velomobiles

Six Wheels in Germany – February 2021 (Month 83)

Hello everyone!

I’m writing this on the last day of February with the windows open and the sun shining in. The dog is basking in a patch of sunlight and Klaus and his daughter Lara are chatting whilst I sort out my photos for this blog. A relaxing Sunday and hopefully the start of spring.

A piece of good news, at least from my side, is that Klaus’s divorce finally took place after regularly being rescheduled. The whole divorce procedure took 3 years after the obligatory 1 year apart so it has dragged on. He is waiting with trepidation for the bill from his solicitor.

We both had the day off work for his divorce and treated ourselves to a celebratory piece of cake afterwards.

Cycling and running this month

Here is where I have been this month – as you can see, only one velomobile ride and and two trike rides (one of which isn’t showing for some unfathomable reason).

I have done much more running than walking, and was very pleased to do my fastest ever 5k run, where I managed the 5k in 39 minutes 30 seconds – my previous fastest was 41 minutes. Due to the snow this month, plus time constraints due to work, I have not been able to do as much running as normal, but I am still happy with what I have achieved. The running, walking, sensible keto food and reduced cake intake has meant I have had to spend money on clothes as my current wardrobe is all a bit big. This could get expensive!

This month I have only ridden my Milan once when taking it to Andreas Beyß in Straelen for some replacement indicators. The post has been very slow so he has not yet been able to complete the job as some replacement indicators he ordered had not arrived. So as I needed a vehicle to get me to work (my time as Work from Home has come to an end) Klaus and I went to Dronten to collect my trike. It had been there since last July when I asked Gerrit Tempelman to give me new batteries and to improve the cabling for the motor. He completed the work in September and I paid for it but due to COVID-19 we didn’t go to collect the trike. But now, five months later, it was really time to collect it.

So Klaus and I set off for Dronten on a sunny Saturday morning in Klaus’s new car (he has changed from an Opel Insignia to a Skoda Oktavia, so a bit smaller) and were able to pick up Alfie and be home in time for lunch. I have done a short test-ride in Alfie and all seems well, he has new brake pads, chain tubes, two batteries (a 13 AH and a 17 AH, so plenty of energy!) and charger, brake and gear sensors for the motor and much tidier cabling.

Tidy cables in a sheath next to the boom

The batteries are no longer mounted on the back of the seat or in my sidepods but on the rack at the back, with a very neat fixing solution. Looks much better and weight over the back wheel on a recumbent trike isn’t a bad thing anyway for traction purposes. My panniers still fit as they affix to the bar a little way down the rack side wings.

Ages ago Klaus bought the more comfortable seat cover and so I inherited his seat cover (Alfie’s old one was very threadbare after 46,000 kilometres) so I fitted this too and he looks much tidier.

I am looking forward to the chance to do some triking with Klaus now the weather has improved somewhat.

A new work environment

Klaus and I have both been working from home quite a lot over the last nine months.

We originally bought one pretty cheap desk thinking we would share it but that didn’t really work out. So I bought a very narrow desk (as there wasn’t much space left in our spare room!) and used that for my Macbook Air laptop, with my 10 year old iMac 27 inch used as a monitor for the Mac laptop. The laptop very rarely leaves the desk.

I got a bit stressed at work this month and so worked from home for three weeks to give me a bit more peace and quiet. And the narrow desk became more of an issue. So we decided it was time to arrange for a proper desk, rather than using two cheap ones.

This was the original situation.

My desk (80 cm wide and 50 cm deep, with pull-out keyboard drawer):

And Klaus’s desk on the right, much larger:

He had the printer under his desk. We print about one sheet of paper every two weeks, which is usually a recipe that I have found for something Keto and tasty. So it wasn’t really needed but we couldn’t completely get rid of it.

As this room is also Lara’s bedroom when she visits, space is rather tight – we used the window sill for my file folders for my tax etc which wasn’t very tidy.

So anyway, we discussed over a few days what were the best options and decided in the end to buy one large kitchen worktop to use as a desktop, to put legs on it and then to buy two under-desk filing cabinets for storage. We also decided to buy another cupboard to keep our files in.

That cupboard came first, and Klaus built it.

As you see, there seems to be something missing! This is where the two drawers should be built but when he unpacked the kit:

The company said they would send us the two replacement drawer bottoms separately so he went ahead and built the rest.

I put up my narrow desk for sale for 10 Euros (it only cost me 50 new) and someone picked it up within a couple of days. We were very profligate with the 10 Euros and treated ourselves to a kebab that evening!

The worktop we ordered was cut to size for us – 220cm wide and 75cm deep (so deeper than a normal desk). We also ordered five legs and a cable tidy. Eventually all the items arrived and we were able to build the desk.

We have now divided up the space equally (so we each get 110cm rather than Klaus having 120cm and me 80!). He also bought himself a new widescreen monitor as he used to have two monitors which actually take up a lot more room and weren’t so well matched.

I also bought a stand to raise my monitor a little and to allow me to have the Mac laptop below it, so if I need to access the laptop it is easy. I bought the monitor raiser from Amazon and couldn’t resist when I saw this description in the autotranslated text:

I can’t think of the last time a furniture supplier was bothered about fatigue of my cleavage.

Anyway, here is the setup after we put it together. We are still waiting for a second set of filing drawers which will replace the box with the Union Jack on it. The printer is on the window sill so we can still use it if necessary.

Of course, I am now working back in the office, probably all the time now, so this extra space isn’t so vital for me but it is still nice to have a tidy desk and to be able to tuck my back chair under the desk when I am not using it.

Sunshine and Snow

This month we had a lot of snow which, whilst not uncommon for Germany, lasted longer than normal. The dog loved it!

After a couple of days it became very dry and cold.

Klaus’s old car needed the Standheizung on for 45 minutes to clear some of the frozen snow on it.

Someone built an ice sculpture out of thick slices of ice.

Someone else had annoyingly knocked the top off it by the time I was able to take a photo.

We often see hares running around but they were definitely not so stealth with this weather!

Poppy loved it but was not happy with having to wear her coat. But we didn’t want her to get cold so she had to be Little Red Riding Hood.

We had the snow for more than a week but then, in two days, the temperature went from minus 7 to plus 14 and suddenly everything was green and the snowdrops were out.

Corona in Germany

Germany has dropped the ball on vaccinations and Klaus and I have no idea when we will be offered one. However, the government did send me two vouchers for 6 masks at a reduced price (2 Euro for 6).

We are not very sure why I got this, as Klaus didn’t – unless it is related to the fact that I am registered as disabled in Germany. Who knows, but I picked up my 12 masks for 4 Euros and have also been able to get some at work when I am there.

Glassfibre Internet

For over a year we have been waiting for glassfibre internet to become available in our little hamlet and they have finally started laying the cables near our house. It’s fun to watch them, and also impressive to see how quickly they can dig up brick driveways, lay the cables and then re-lay the bricks. They drive around with Dutch registered vehicles but most seem to be Eastern European – they are certainly working hard although had to take a break during the snow.

Cakes this month

It was another poor month for cakes, but good month for the diet.

A Keto Peach Käse Sahne Torte I made – it was very tasty!
I celebrated Shrove Tuesday/Pancake day with some real pancakes as a treat. That’s Stevia powder on the top, not sugar though.
My colleague Doro celebrated her birthday and brought in a tray of different bakery goodies for us. I love Quarkbällchen so was very happy to snaffle these!

So a short report for February because nothing much has happened (except for the divorce, which was very important!) We live in hope that we might be able to do a bit more outdoorsy stuff in the summer, if the Corona rates go down, but we will have to see.

Enjoy the springlike weather and bleibt gesund!


Filed under Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Six Wheels In Germany, Velomobiles

Six Wheels in Germany – January 2021 (Month 82)

Well hello everyone.

This German calendar used to belong to my grandmother and is about the same age as me.

We have survived January – and this will be a short blog post as basically nothing has really happened. Germany is in lockdown which means you can only meet one person from another household – that is Klaus’s daughter Lara. Apart from seeing her, we are staying at home or going out for a walk or I am going for a run 3 times per week.

So here are my exercise statistics for the month of January:

And here is where I went:

As you can see, I did some more cycling than last month – this was mostly made up of commutes to work as I started the year back in the office. It was a rather stressful time and so in order to enable me to work more effectively, plus due to new recommendations from the German government, I worked the last January week from home and will work at least the first week of February also at home.

“Your papers, please!”

One thing I managed to do very early in the year is pick up my new paperwork as a German citizen:

The photo makes the German passport look larger than the British one but it isn’t.

There was quite an interesting difference in the decoration inside too. This is the first page – British passport on the left, with lots of lovely flowery language.

My Mum also got a new passport this month – one of the new blue ones which doesn’t mention the EU. Her pages inside are rather plain whereas my UK passport has lots of pictures of various British things such as a telephone box, underground train, the Angel of the North etc.

Life in Germany

Because it has been pretty cold this month, we required Poppy to put on her fleece when walking with us, especially after I gave her a haircut. She is not impressed by this.

This month Poppy has been able to go on holiday. Lars visited from Berlin and took her back with him for a two week visit, she will return in early February. Berlin had a lot more snow than us – we had proper snow on just one morning, it looks as though Berlin has had several days of snow and Poppy has been enjoying it.

As you can tell from the lack of info in this blog post (yes, we are almost at the cake gallery!) it’s been a very quiet month. We have watched quite a lot of TV compared to normal, and I also completed the puzzle of the UK that my sister gave us for Christmas. I did this with Lara Klaus’s daughter in an afternoon.

So January started quietly. Klaus and I have not done much except stay at home or go for walks outside. He is working from home about 2 days per week but has to go into the office on some other days.

Klaus has also been trying out interval fasting (16:8) for the last three weeks and it’s going well. This means that you eat with an 8 hour window and fast for the other 16 hours. I have been doing this for over a year, and it just means for me (and him) that we don’t have breakfast. Because we both eat low carb this is easier than it sounds, although Klaus has found it a little challenging on quiet mornings when there’s not much to do.

He has been using various protein shakes to supplement his calorie intake as otherwise he was rather under-caloried for the day. By missing breakfast (he used to have yoghurt with apple compote and blueberries most mornings) he was also missing out on 300+ calories. As he also decided to stop eating peanuts as they are too moreish we realised he was probably only having 1800 calories in a day which isn’t really enough, so he started having a protein shake after his salad lunch. That seems to work really well for him and it helps him to feel satisfied and full. He has tried 3 different brands of these shakes and they all seem to work equally well but some have a better mouth feel than others. He makes the shakes with full cream milk rather than with water as some of them recommend. My workplace are going to start selling this stuff in the future and so our Christmas gift from work was the kit (a special shake mug thingie, and a 200g sachet of powder) and he has been using that each day. When he goes into work he has to take the milk in a separate flask as the work shaker kit isn’t waterproof enough to trust for the journey to work.

Cakes this month

I have been experimenting with some more keto cake recipes just to make things more interesting. I have had a couple of successes.

Low carb Apfelstreusel (has a small amount of wholemeal spelt in it)
Keto cheesecake – tasty but rather crumbly!
Apple cake from Gudula
Apfelkuchen from Gudula
Himmelstorte from Tönisvorster Obsthof. Well worth the 25km round trip!
Cake from the local café Poeth – we walked back with it
Poeth again
Poeth again

So that’s it for January – very little to report! Life continues, we are fortunate to both have jobs that we can do partially from home and that we live in the countryside so can go out for nice walks. We are glad to see that the number of corona infections seems to be reducing in Germany and also in the UK, and also that Klaus’s father and my mother have both been able to have vaccinations (both Pfizer BioNTech). We hope that they both stay safe!

I hope to have a little more to report for next month, we shall see! Stay safe / bleibt Gesund!


Filed under Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Six Wheels In Germany, Velomobiles

Six Wheels in Germany – December 2020 (Month 81)

Happy New Year!

I would like to wish all my readers a happy new year 2021.

Happy New Year from Auntie Helen!

For those of you who comment or send me messages through the Blog, I really appreciate it. It’s good to know that people are reading and what they find interesting.

But before we get stuck into 2021 which will be a big year for me (my 50th birthday looms!) I should recap a bit about December 2020.

German Citizenship

I reported last month that I was delighted to have been informed I was eligible for German citizenship, following the process of applying for it early (due to Brexit). I had to take a language test, to prove I was especially integrated into German life (the head of the local ADFC bicycle club wrote a letter to the Foreigners Office informing them of all the voluntary work I had done) and had to also gather lots of other information about salary, pension, knowledge of German life (the Citizenship test) and various other bits. It was a complicated form but in the end I was informed my application was successful and that my Urkunde would be available soon.

The process was very quick for me, and eventually I received my letter from Stadt Kempen to say I needed to come and collect my certificate. There was a little ceremony (socially distanced!) where I agreed to abide by the German laws etc. And then I was handed a very handsome pack of information…

Very nice embossed folder
Covering page of a letter welcoming me to citizenship from the leader of Kreis Viersen
(sort-of equivalent to the council leader for a Borough Council)
My citizenship certificate, only valid with both stamps (from Kreis Viersen and also from Stadt Kempen). Although they dated it 17.11.2020 I only actually became a citizen after agreeing to the German rules on 02.12.2020

What does this mean for me? Well, I am writing this blog post on 31.12.2020 as a European Citizen with all my rights. Tomorrow, if I didn’t have German citizenship, I would no longer be a European Citizen with the right to move to a different country, study in a different country, live outside of Germany for more than six months without losing the right to return, etc etc. So it’s really important to me, especially as I am living with a European and it’s a possibility that he might one day get a job in a different European country.

The day after I got this certificate I had my appointment at the Rathaus (Town Hall) to apply for my German Passport and my ID Card (Ausweis).

I had had to get new photos taken of me, which were fortunately a lot better than the last lot! I had my fingerprints taken too.

The passport and ID Card are ready for collection and I have an appointment to pick them up at the beginning of January from the Rathaus (all these kinds of bureaucratic things are done in the local town halls in Germany, rather than in a central place such as the UK uses).

Christmas in Germany

This year’s original plan was that my sister, her husband, two of her children and my mother would all come over for a week at Christmastime and we would celebrate British Christmas on 25 December (as usual). Klaus’s daughter Lara would come over for British Christmas, as the Germans celebrate their main Christmas event on the 24th. That would all fit well.

Of course, due to Corona my family could not come over from the UK (I wrote in October about having an early Christmas with my sister and Mum during my weekend visit to the UK). Fortunately Lara was still keen to come for Christmas Dinner. I confused them by informing them that Christmas Dinner was around midday – surely ‘dinner’ is an evening meal. Not at Christmas. Right.

Klaus is not one for decorating the house but I wanted to get a tree to put the presents round so bought a very small one and fixed some coloured lights to it and a few decorations I already had here.

The presents were for Lara (she was getting an iPad and an Apple Pencil with contributions from several family members, plus a foldable bluetooth keyboard from me) and some presents for Klaus and I from my sister. She sent us a care parcel before Christmas which included some much-needed items, such as stuffing mix and bread sauce.

The whole Christmas Decoration thing was made more manageable to Klaus with a bit of assistance…

And for me, of course…

Büllhorsthof take-away cakes

I had originally planned to have six days off work at Christmas, which was almost two weeks in total with the public holidays, but it was so busy at work I was asked to work those days and so worked up till December 23 and then three days between Christmas and New Year too. I was back in the office for the first time in several months, and in the New Year I think I will probably be in the office also – sharing a relatively small-ish office with a colleague, which isn’t ideal in these Covid times. But there are some advantages to be back in the office – the connections with colleagues are hard to keep by email alone!

Anyway, so for Christmas Eve we planned a relaxing day as I was tired from work. However, I wanted to make the trifle that we would have on Christmas Day (using some custard I bought back from the UK in August). Once again it was an Anglo-German trifle, so not entirely authentic. Trifle sponges aren’t really a thing in Germany so I used a lemon Gugelhupf which did a reasonable job of the base. We have dozens of sachets of Hartley’s Sugar Free jelly that we brought back from the UK as I make Klaus some Keto Gummibärchen with jelly every couple of days, so that was authentic. The custard layer also, of course. And then we had the issue of cream, as the Germans don’t have double cream like we do – so I whipped up some whipping cream instead. I used some defrosted Fruits of the Forest in the trifle too.

So I made that on Christmas Eve, and then started to think more about the Yule Log I had promised Lara. Normally my sister makes these (I never have) and she buys a chocolate swiss roll and then ices it with butter icing. Swiss rolls aren’t so popular in Germany but they were available in larger shops (according to the supermarket websites) so I went to the huge Real Futurestore in St Tönis but they had sold out. So I bought a random cake thingie I hoped I could use. The next day I was in another supermarket and saw they had jam swiss rolls there but no chocolate ones.

But on Christmas Eve I started thinking that to ice this cake I had bought wasn’t great as it looked rather dry and plasticky – and not very log-like. So I did some googling and decided I would have a go at making a real swiss roll.

I didn’t have a swiss roll tin but I had a smallish square shallow baking tray which I thought would work for a half-sized swiss roll. I found a reasonable-looking recipe on the internet for which I had the ingredients and had a go.

It worked surprisingly well! The buttercream is so shockingly calorific that I found an alternative recipe for the inside of the swiss roll that used Frischkäse (cream cheese) in place of half the butter. So the finished cake would be marginally less shockingly calorific!

For the icing I did of course use the full monty buttercream icing. And then I made a beginner’s error of cutting two logs off, rather than one, so it looked a bit weird at the end. But…

It then proceeded to take up way too much room in our fridge, so I had to get out the coolbox and use that for the cake.

So my very relaxing Christmas eve was slightly less relaxing than planned but I was happy to have created a couple of traditional UK desserts for Lara to try (she’s had my trifle before and she likes it a lot!)

In the evening Klaus cooked Bratwurst mit Rotkohl (sausage with red cabbage) which is really easy and quick. It’s not particularly a traditional meal for Christmas Eve in Germany – that is usually a Kartoffelsalat mit Wurst (potato salad with sausage) which can be prepared before everyone goes off to church and then just the sausages are heated up after church (and German sausages can just be popped into a saucepan of boiling water for a few minutes as they are pre-cooked). But Klaus fancied Bratwurst and it’s a nice easy meal and we enjoyed it.

Christmas Eve in Germany isn’t actually a bank holiday for the whole day, just a half day. I presume people used to work in the mornings, then come home, put up the Christmas Tree, go to church, eat the Kartoffelsalat and then send around the presents. Father Christmas doesn’t leave stockings on the bed in Germany, instead they have Niklaus who gives some presents on 6 December.

I woke on Christmas morning with a familiar feeling of a weight on my feet – I remembered it well from my youth, the feeling of a Christmas Stocking bulging with satsumas, nuts, chocolates and a few small wrapped presents. But this time it was the dog, as Father Christmas hasn’t come to me for decades now but the dog has taken to sleeping on my feet.

I made a start on food preparation whilst Klaus went to pick up Lara. I had to turn this:

Bisto onion gravy out of shot!

into Christmas Dinner for 3.

I had started looking for turkeys in the local supermarkets a week or so before Christmas. Turkey crowns aren’t a thing in Germany, and there were few turkeys in evidence, but a week before I noticed Aldi were doing a 1kg turkey breast joint and that would definitely be enough for three of us. I waited a few days so I could buy one with the correct expiry date and went on my way home from work on 23rd December to buy one. Disaster! Aldi had sold out. They had chickens to roast but it should be a turkey!

It was turning dark and I don’t drive in the dark (my vision isn’t good enough) so I decided I had enough time to pop to Lidl in Kempen to see if they had turkeys; if not I would get a chicken. So I drove to Lidl and fortunately they had the 1kg turkey breast joint too. Phew! Christmas disaster averted!

But I wanted to attempt to stuff this turkey. Anna had sent me some Paxo (hurrah!) but I decided I also wanted some sausagemeat in it. You can’t seem to buy sausagemeat separately in Germany so when Klaus bought the Bratwurst I asked him to get one extra which I could use in the stuffing. And he did. I had also bought some very small pre-booked Bratwurst for pigs in blankets; I thought they wouldn’t be that good, and the bacon isn’t really quite right either, but actually they turned out fine!

Preparation started at 09:30 and I served up just after midday. I didn’t take any photos as I was too busy being the chef but I will tell you what we had:

  • Roast turkey, stuffed with sausagemeat stuffing
  • Pigs in blankets (small sausages wrapped in bacon)
  • Roast potatoes
  • Brussels sprouts (steamed)
  • Cauliflower (steamed)
  • Carrots (steamed)
  • Roast onion
  • Extra roast stuffing
  • Roast courgette
  • Bread sauce
  • Onion gravy

I personally don’t like cranberry sauce so said to Anna not to bother sending any.

It actually turned out very well. It was a bit tricky managing everything to be ready at the same time as I had to stir gravy and bread sauce whilst checking everything else – plus we didn’t really have anywhere to warm the plates and serving bowls. Klaus carved the turkey with the posh new knives he has bought this month.

So we sat down to eat and Lara seemed to enjoy it very much. I certainly did, I loved the bread sauce… I made enough for 8 people and we ate two thirds of it that day (I had Christmas Dinner Mark 2 reheated for Boxing Day).

Lara is actually a vegetarian but had decided for Christmas she would eat meat as a treat (she’s a veggie for animal welfare reasons rather than not liking meat). Which was rather convenient as we had three different types of meat with our meal! Nut roasts don’t seem to be a thing in Germany.

We ate far too much of course and Klaus and I aren’t used to carbs so found the bread sauce very filling. He felt like he had overdone it a bit, I was OK ! So Klaus waddled around for the afternoon and Lara and I, who were both OK, just took it easy! We needed a break before the dessert which was…

Yes, Christmas Pudding. I don’t actually like this so it was just for Klaus and Lara. For those who don’t know, Brits make this pudding about three months or more in advance and it includes dried fruits, carrot, stuff like that, and it’s often got alcohol in it (this one had cognac). It’s a very rich, fruity cake thingie. And then you pour flaming brandy over it. I took a short video below of the brandy conflagration.

Klaus and Lara ate the Christmas pudding (they were sharing one tiny one that my sister gave me when I visited the UK in October) and I started on the Yule Log which had turned out rather well!

I explained to Lara that presents normally happen after Christmas Lunch but she was so excited about her iPad that we decided we would do the presents in the morning. She was thrilled by it, and Klaus and I had a few presents from Anna too… including this wonderful embroidery she did for our loo!

Anna showed photos of her renovated bathroom at home a few months ago and I saw this and requested one. Her bathroom only has 4.5 stars so ours is a step up!

We had a relaxing afternoon watching the film Notting Hill and then helping ourselves to trifle and Yule Log. We ate almost the whole Yule Log on Christmas Day!

I think Lara enjoyed her English Christmas and I really enjoyed the food. As I said above, we had Christmas Dinner Mark 2 on Boxing day, with trifle of course. We didn’t get chocolates or anything as gifts so were back to our normal keto food on the 27th December and we felt better for it.

Cycling this month

Another very poor month for cycling although I have done a lot more walking and running.

And here is the list below of all activities in December.

Just five cycle rides, and two were to-and-from work. Total 87 km.

And running, 42.88 km.

Notice on 14 December I did my longest run of all time (again), this time 7.6 km running with a warm-up and cool-down walk tacked on. I was pretty pooped after that for a couple of days though.

And the overall statistics for exercise that I have tracked in 2020:

Not even 6.000 km in total! So this has been one of my lowest years of cycling distance since I took it up in 2007 but it has been an unusual year for many of us. Anyway, I’m not chasing records or distances anymore, I just want to enjoy my cycling and other activities. I took up running in July so I am pleased with my distances there too.


I remember many, many years ago talking to Andy Allsopp, another recumbent rider in the UK, and he told me that my cadence (pedalling speed) was too slow and that I should really try to increase my cadence.

I hadn’t actually measured my cadence at that time but he could see it was slow. The thing was, I tried to pedal faster but I just couldn’t really do it – or not for more than a minute or so anyway. It made me extra tired and felt unnatural. I am a lady with large thighs and moving them that fast just felt wrong. This is clearly a me thing as friend Jochen here in Germany also has impressive thighs and he has a really high cadence. But over many years people recommended I increased my cadence but it just wasn’t possible – pedalling at anything over 70rpm made me exhausted very quickly.

Here is a screenshot of my velomobile rides up till August and I have highlighted in pink the average cadence column. This is only rides over 10km as other rides might be commuting where things are a bit different (not wearing cycling clothes, for example).

Since I bought a cadence sensor a year or two ago, my average cadence has been around 60-64. If I look at our long tour to Bodensee my average cadence was as follows for the days: 66, 63, 61, 61, 59, 60, 62, 62… you get the picture.

And here is the equivalent for the last four months of this year:

As you can see, there has been a big increase, particularly my last two rides.

Do you know why? I think I do. It’s the running!

What I have discovered since completing the Couch to 5k programme, and having continued running 3 times per week, that I automatically pedal faster in the velomobile. Not only that, I have found myself often switching off the motor as I don’t feel that I need it. The higher cadence means that the motor is not providing as much power anyway (my version of the Bafang doesn’t like spinning at much more than 70rpm, from what I understand) so it isn’t helping me as much anyway. Plus with the limiter at 25 km/h it’s off a lot of the time anyway.

I feel a lot more energised when riding the velomobile now, and it feels much more natural to cycle at a higher cadence – and it is not exhausting me. So for anyone else out there who struggles with a low cadence and wants to try to increase it a bit, maybe a bit of cross-training jogging, if you haven’t tried it before, might help!

Visiting Ralf

On the 6th December Klaus and I did a mini Nikolaus Tour (the ADFC run one every year!) to visit Ralf. We hadn’t seen him – or anybody else really – for months. So we arranged to cycle to Grefrath and meet him there and then we would pick up a cake somewhere and eat it at his house.

Ralf no longer has his velomobile but he has a lovely new Ebike and so was able to ride with us, except for on the very fast downhill towards Lobberich.

The place we had planned to buy our cake was closed but we went on to a bakery which had a colossal queue outside but it was worth the wait!

Mozart Kuchen – with marzipan and pistachio
Käse Sahne (with Ralf’s Flat-Coat Retriever in the background!)

We enjoyed spending time with Ralf and his wife Anke, socially distanced within their house of course. We really hope that next year we will be able to see more people and start some of the social activities again, but we are very aware how fortunate we are to still have jobs, a home and to still find each other’s company great!

Other news

Poppy had to go to the vets this month as she had a weird ear – I thought it was an ear infection but it turns out she has grown a wart in the ear and so it’s not cleaning itself properly. We’re keeping an eye on it and cleaning it out a bit ourselves – she is not impressed by this.

However, despite the vet visits her life is still pretty good. She has become very helpful in the kitchen.

Apparently dogs like Wurstsalat

She is also quite good at fending for herself when out and about.

Klaus and I didn’t have many cakes this month but we did do a short 20km ride to St Tönis to collect a slice of their Himmelstorte (Heaven’s cake).

And Gudula experimented with a new cake which was very tasty (we got two very large portions of this one!)

I found some Nori Blätter in the cupboard so made Keto Sushi for when Lara visited.

It’s very tasty and filling. The cauliflower rice works well too.

On the six days I had back in the office this month, I got a lift from Klaus 3 times, walked twice (with Klaus collecting me) and cycled once. Walking through the underpass under the Kempener Außenring I noticed this graffiti:

“U get what u give.”

I thought the writer of that had a point.

As the year draws to a close I haven’t planned any resolutions for next year. I am setting no cycling or running goals. We both hope that we will be able to have a few holidays next year but will see how that pans out. Klaus’s divorce should hopefully take place in the beginning of January (it keeps getting delayed!) and we will be pleased when that chapter of his life is closed. I look forward to getting my German passport and ID Card – at the moment it doesn’t feel that I am any more German than I was before I got my citizenship but now I can vote in the general elections here and play my part in society more.

And in seven or so hours the Brexit Transition Period ends. I hope the next few months aren’t too bad for those in the UK. I know postage between the UK and the EU will be very difficult to start with and that lots of bike parts suppliers from NL and DE have said they won’t ship to the UK until it all settles down. Fortunately my M&S order got here before everything got blocked at Dover. But with Covid and Brexit it all seems a bit stressful at the moment. Here in Germany the Covid situation is not good. Two colleagues at work have had it but are now recovered; having worked from home for nearly three months I was pretty safe but now I will be back in a shared small office and my colleagues (I work with several, often in their offices) don’t like to wear their masks all day. We will see how it pans out!

Best wishes to you all for a relaxing, healthy and blessed 2021.


Filed under Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Six Wheels In Germany, Velomobiles

Six Wheels in Germany – November 2020 (Month 80)

More Good News!

Last month I started my blog with the great news that I had passed the German exam required for my citizenship.

Well, I have even better news this month!

It started with an Email from the Ausländerbehörde:

For those who don’t understand German… “Your citizenship certificate is available!”

Yes, I have been awarded German citizenship following my expedited application after living in Germany for less than 7 years (the normal minimum).

A couple of days later I got the official letter in the post, complete with information on what I have to pay.

So I transferred across the 255€ for the payment for the citizenship. I also made an appointment to receive the Citizenship Certificate which will be early in December (so you will have to wait for next month’s blog to read about that). I also have an appointment with the Town Hall to apply for my passport and my ID card.

I cannot tell you what a relief it is to me to retain my European citizenship with all the benefits that entails, plus I was allowed to retain my UK citizenship (the last sentence in the letter above). It will be good to be able to vote in German general elections and to be considered a true part of society there rather than just a visitor. Thanks again to Hartmut and Andreas of the ADFC who helped me with the letter about my voluntary work.

Cycling this month

This month has been very poor for cycling. Partly as I have had zero commuting (working from home at the moment due to COVID-19) and also because it’s been pretty chilly so Klaus and I haven’t wanted to go out riding at the weekends.

This is where I went – lots of walks and runs, not many cycle rides

I lost one of my velomobile Strava QOMs too… velomobilists in the know will understand why when they see this:

I guess Eva was only slightly faster than me…

It’s worth noting that Eva is riding the new Snoek velomobile which has been developed by It’s a small and very fast velomobile and she’s doing some impressive times in it. It’s always good to have more variety of choice in velomobiles and this one, although probably more of a racing machine, seems to position itself in a gap in the market (for smaller riders). Good luck to with it!

Photo from

I have been keeping up with my running/jogging though, going out for 30 minutes or more every two days.

I am getting slightly less slow and my average heart rate is becoming a little lower whilst running so there are small signs of progress, but I won’t be worrying Mo Farah any time soon.

“Massive run effort” sounds quite cool!

Klaus and I have both also been a bit more careful with our food this month (being stricter Keto) and I have lost 5kg and he 3kg so that is going well. I had added a few kilos after our München holiday earlier in the year plus my weekend in England so it was time to shift them by being a bit more aware of what I eat, and it is working well. I shall carry on a bit longer, see where I end up on the scales.

Other events

November was meant to be the date of Klaus’s divorce (which had already been rescheduled 4 times) but unfortunately his lawyer caught COVID-19 a few days before so it was postponed again. He has a new court date which is early January so we hope it will go through then.

Home Office

As I mentioned, I have been working from home now for about six weeks, with Klaus also regularly working beside me.

Helen’s workspace on the left, Klaus on the right

Over that time it’s become clear that I had to improve my workspace slightly. I had a normal Apple QUERTY Keyboard with number pad which filled most of my roll-out desk space so I had to have the mouse at a higher level than the keyboard.

This meant over time that I was sitting twisted a lot of the time, so I ended up investing in an Apple Magic Keyboard with the German QUERTZ layout (makes it much easier to produce the letters öäü and ß). This keyboard is much narrower so I can have the mouse on the same desk level as the keyboard. I then bought a separate bluetooth number pad for times when I might need that, and it works well as it also doubles-up as a desktop calculator.

As you can also see from the photos, I had to buy a chair as Klaus and I had previously been sharing his office chair (not very efficient when you both work from home) so I got another Back Chair/Kneeling Chair. I have had them for over 20 years and get on really well with them, plus I can hide it under the piano if I don’t need to use it for a while.

I like working from home and as I did it for nearly 10 years before when freelance I am good at structuring my day and working efficiently. However, I do miss meeting my colleagues and am often a bit out of the loop on work things, but I don’t expect to need to be back in the office in 2020 (unless someone else is ill) so I expect this will carry on for longer. Which I don’t mind.

More gadgets

As Lockdown will be around for a while I decided to get the final remaining Apple product that was missing from my system…. you can see it at the bottom of this list (please note my Airpods Pro are not listed on here)

I seem to be well-supplied with iGadgets

But of course the next issue was that the television is pretty small so Klaus decided to use his Christmas bonus on upgrading that, from a 32 inch to a 55 inch, and I chipped in too. All TVs now are Smart TVs and this was not necessary for us as the Apple TV takes over that function, but it seemed you can only by TVs with these features.

Anyway, we bought a good QLED Samsung TV and then realised that it does duplicate almost everything that the AppleTV gadget does, so I decided to send back the AppleTV – it was nearly 200 Euro after all. The Samsung remote control is much less nice than the AppleTV one, plus we could steer the AppleTV through our iPhones and iPads which was great, but this convenience is not worth 200 Euro.

Klaus’s daughter also asked for contributions towards an iPad for her Christmas present so Klaus ordered the iPad Air for her and also an Apple Pencil (she will use it at school for note-taking) and I will get her a mini bluetooth keyboard for Christmas. Her gadget will fit in well in our household, although her phone is a Huawei so she will have to learn a new operating system. But she’s a teenager so these things are almost automatic!

The Outdoors

Poppy has continued enjoying all our attentions and lots of walkies.

What’s been interesting on our walks and runs is seeing the progress made with the cable laying for the glassfibre which we should hopefully have fairly soon. The cables arrive on giant cotton reels and are laid beside the road and then the verge is dug up (usually relatively simple round here as there are just roads with fields either side), the cable is buried and the trench covered up. It’s a team of Dutch workers doing it (well, their vans have Dutch number plates) and they seem to manage a fair amount each day.

A cable end left waiting for some connectors

In our hamlet we also had a COVID-safe version of St Martin, a local tradition where normally there is a big procession through the town/village with children with home-made lanterns. It’s a really big thing in Kempen normally but of course this year most events were cancelled. However, there was a very small socially-distanced procession in our hamlet. I went out just before and saw the preparations – banners, lanterns, people waiting outside to see St Martin go past on his horse with his helpers.

As you can see, despite being November we have had largely blue skies. It’s been rather cold though, so it’s been a bit bracing with the winds when out on walks.

There aren’t that many events to write about as of course we aren’t really allowed to go anywhere because of COVID-19. However, when I knew I had my appointment to get my passport and ID card I knew I’d need to get some new passport-sized photos. So I arranged with a photography place in the centre of Kempen to go there on Saturday morning at 10am to have my photo taken.

Klaus and his daughter Lara came with me, and Klaus took a photo of the bustling centre of Kempen, a popular town for shopping and cafes.

It’s so sad to see the town empty because of COVID.

The cinema is shut of course.

And the bakery, where we bought Lara’s rolls for breakfast, had rather a lot of signs on the door warning you of the dire consequences of not fulfilling the COVID requirements…

Although eating Keto means generally not eating out/take away I wanted to celebrate hearing I had got my German citizenship so Klaus and I arranged for a delivery from Ela, one of our favourite restaurants in Kempen. We always eat the same thing there, the Vorspeiseteller (starter plate) for two, and I wondered if we would get it in lots of individual pots as a delivery. No, we got it on a full size proper plate!

The Pide bread was wrapped in the foil but the Vorspeiseteller was just arranged and then covered in cling film. They told us to give the plate back next time – and we will definitely order again as it was very tasty and they delivered quickly.

Cakes this month

We didn’t have many cakes this month as we were being stricter Keto and also not going out on the bikes much. But there were a few…

Keto Blueberry Soufflee by Helen
Keto Cheesecake by Helen
Pfirsich Schmand from Büllhorsthof
Keto soufflee with more blueberries!
Keto blueberry mascarpone cake by Helen

And I have to say, the Keto blueberry souflee is a triumph. It’s not very strict keto (has Puddingpulver and milk in it) but I can fit it in to my daily carbohydrate allowance as I am luckily able to eat up to 80g carbohydrate a day and stay in ketosis, so I am enjoying this as a treat now and again!

I am finishing this blog off on a cold and windy Tuesday afternoon, and have just heard that my colleague has tested positive for COVID-19 so it is still doing the rounds in this part of the world. Klaus and I have stayed at home most of the time and we hope that we might manage to miss the illness and that the vaccine will be available too. We want to do more travelling next summer so really hope we can visit Berlin again, once holidaying is allowed.

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Six Wheels In Germany, Velomobiles

Six Wheels in Germany – October 2020 (Month 79)

Good News!

I will start my blog with some great news (for me at least). The results of my German exam for my citizenship application:

I passed my German exam! And I passed well too, with 18 out of a possible 20 score (pass mark is 12, but you have to get at least a 3 in every item). I wrote extensively about this last month, that I was less sure about the written work and the spoken section (Schriftlicher Ausdruck and Mündlicher Ausdruck) but in the end I got a 4 for these both. This means my entire mark is equivalent to a C1 result and I needed ‘only’ a B2 to get citizenship.

I immediately emailed this certificate (without the important info removed/covered!) to the Ausländerbehörde and I hope to hear soon about my citizenship application. I got an Out-Of-Office from her so I know she won’t even be looking at it for two weeks, but hopefully by the middle of November I might have heard something!

A quick visit to England

A long time ago I vowed never again to fly with Ryanair and, in fact, to attempt not to fly at all. I last took a flight four years ago, to Tenerife to holiday with my Mum.

We all had so many plans and Corona put paid to them. Same for me, as I discovered I could fly from Düsseldorf to Stansted with Ryanair for 10€ each way, going out on a Friday and returning on a Monday (the only two flights per week). My principles of not flying, and not flying Ryanair, crumbled at this point as this was an opportunity to visit my Mum that I shouldn’t miss. So I bought the flights and waited to see if I would be able to use them – if England became a risk area for Germany then it was perhaps not wise, although I had the following week off as holiday (booked ages ago, with plans for Berlin which we cancelled due to the high level of Corona there, so I would have had time to Quarantine).

I told my Mum a few days before my visit as it looked like it would go ahead; I hadn’t wanted to tell her much in advance in case I had to cancel it – with just 20€ for the flights that wouldn’t have been an issue. Although I then had to buy a special Ryanair cabin-size suitcase/rucksack as their allowance is very small. In the end, a 20 litre rucksack designed for Ryanair’s special dimensions worked out fine for me for a long weekend.

Mum was very pleased to hear that I would visit and my sister Anna came up with the great idea of us having Christmas Dinner. Theoretically this year Anna and her family and my Mum are coming over here for Christmas in Germany but we all thought it rather unlikely that would actually be able to happen. So Anna managed to find a turkey crown, some mince pies, a Christmas pudding, Brussels sprouts, pigs in blankets etc and the plan was that Mum and I would go to Anna’s house on the Saturday and celebrate Christmas a bit early.

Two days before my flight the German Robert Koch Institute updated its Risk Areas… they added East Midlands and West Midlands. But fortunately Stansted Airport, my Mum’s house and Anna’s house are all well away from those areas, as they are in Eastern England and the South East. So it was looking good! However, the night before I set off the county of Essex placed itself into Tier 2 (more restrictions) which meant that we could not visit Anna there. However, she was still allowed to travel to Suffolk to visit us, so the Christmas Dinner would now take place at my Mum’s house, although Anna would bring all the food with her. She pre-cooked the turkey the day before (she herself is a veggie so brought along a Nut Roast) and prepared the rest of the food so she could just bung it in the oven/steamer at Mum’s.

I had a flight at 07:10 from Düsseldorf so Klaus dropped me off at the airport by 5:45am. I wasn’t sure how long everything would take in the airport, haven’t flown for several years and didn’t know about the queues at security, but it turned out to be very quick. I was airside after about 5 minutes (I had done my boarding card online a day before) and had plenty of space to sit down.

I had a while to wait so bought myself some breakfast at a Düsseldorf bakery (a filled roll) and a bottle of water and sat down to wait.

Everything was very efficient, as one would hope, and we started boarding the plane. I had an aisle seat on the very last row on the plane (Ryanair constantly try to upgrade you with emails and messages but I was adamant I would only pay 10€ for my flight) and we ended up with three of us on that back row, with the window seat a lady with a crying baby. The plane was clearly not full so the lady in the middle seat moved, saying she couldn’t cope with the baby crying. I stayed put but eventually everyone in the last row on the other side of the aisle moved forward and so there was an entire row with a window seat available. I said to the lady with the baby that I wasn’t moving because of the crying baby but because there was a window seat and she said she would do the same; I had felt the other lady was rather insensitive with her comments when she moved. The baby had stopped crying anyway after a few minutes.

So I had a window seat to myself but the weather wasn’t the best.

The flight was just 50 minutes and was fine. After we landed Klaus messaged me that he had been following my flight on FlightRadar24. Although I was on a Ryanair flight the plane was a Lauda Air Airbus.

We arrived safely at Stansted and made our way out. I knew I had more than an hour to wait for my National Express Coach to Ipswich (I wanted to save my Mum the early morning drive to Stansted) so I had plenty of time to look around. Stansted had very efficiently converted a vending machine to masks & hand gel.

I decided I needed a cup of tea so found a seat at Costa in Arrivals.

Hooray again for Tea drinking in England – you order a cup of tea and you get the right product, with milk too. Such a relief!

That killed 15 minutes of my time, so I then went walking around, checking out where the Coach Terminal was. There was a waiting room there so I sat there for a while too. The wait wasn’t too bad as I had my trusty iPad Mini with me.

The bus arrived and they checked our temperature before we boarded. I was apparently 23.7 so was looking remarkably well for someone extremely hypothermic!

Inside the bus was very plush, with a camera so we could see any imminent accidents and a USB charging port in the back of every seat. There was also theoretically wifi but I don’t bother with that as Klaus and I only use about 10% of our data allowance per month as roaming is still free (until 1 January 2021 I guess).

We had to wear masks the whole time, as we had in the airport and on the plane, but this is now normal so it was no problem for me. The journey was £16 plus £1 booking fee which I thought was very good value. We drove down the A120 through Braintree, then Marks Tey, Colchester (it was fun to travel through my old hometown from the elevated bus position) and then up the A12 to Ipswich.

The bus actually arrived a bit early so I was at the bus stop before Mum arrived. I asked the driver if where he stopped was the same bus stop for the return journey and he said yes, as I had already booked to stay at a hotel by the airport on Sunday night and thought I could save Mum a long drive to take me back to Stansted. The bus stop was also for normal local busses and had no sign anywhere that it was a National Express stop!

Mum arrived a few minutes later and off we went in the car. Due to rules in the UK I had to sit in the back seat and wear a mask in the car.

Rather than going straight home she suggested that we stopped for cake at Glasswells, a local furniture store which has a good café. I agreed to this, unsurprisingly.

I was delighted that they had Banoffee Pie on the menu – I haven’t had that for four or five years. Very tasty! And of course a proper cup of British tea.

We then went home to Mum’s and I settled into my room – the spare room. When Klaus and I visit we usually stay in the main bedroom (Mum’s room) as the bed is a lot larger, but this time as it was just me I didn’t need to turf Mum out of her refuge.

I was fairly tired after the travelling so we just chilled out in the afternoon. It was a bit cold and windy in England so we had no great desire to do anything much!

As you can see, the autumn colours have definitely arrived!

My special request for the evening was a curry (take-away, of course) so we checked the menu and had a very lovely evening meal. We were stuffed full afterwards!

Mum and I shared one dish of rice as we (and my sister) all suffer from a weird thing with our oesophagus where rice or bread can kind of get ‘stuck’ in our throats and makes us sick, so we try to avoid them. Mum has significant problems with rice (I don’t, fortunately) so we shared the rice as she didn’t need much. My problem is with bread but fortunately not with naan bread so I had one of those too – or half of it, as I was too full (the other half for breakfast the next morning). The fact that Mum, Anna and I all have this weird throat thing (and Anna and Mum have had all the medical investigations and they have found nothing dodgy) shows that it is some kind of genetic thing. Anna’s eldest daughter said that she also seems to be starting it too. Fortunately it doesn’t prevent us eating chocolate and cakes.

The next day was our alternative Christmas Day!

It started off rather well with crumpets. Someone on the YACF cycling forum had been talking about crumpets and I realised how much I missed them and lo and behold Mum had got some in her fridge! So I had a crumpets with melting butter breakfast. Yum!

As mentioned above, I also had the second half of my Naan bread.

To keep us all socially distanced, we decided to open up the Garden Room (which Mum doesn’t use in colder weather) as there are three separate sofas there, so she turned on the electric heating early in the morning and it was nice and warm once Anna arrived.

Anna had bought a box of Christmas goodies!

The Selection Boxes included a Cadbury’s Double Decker and seeing as Klaus and I had just watched an episode of the Grand Tour (Clarkson/Hammond/May thing) where they were eating one, and Klaus didn’t know about them as they didn’t have them in Europe, I bagsied the Double Decker from one selection box to take home to him. In the end I took the entire selection box as the items (without box packaging) fitted into my suitcase. But note, the Double Decker was 40g and in the normal shops they are 58g or 120g! So Selection Boxes are for small appetites. Which does not describe me, nor Klaus.

Here is Anna working hard at cooking everything in someone else’s kitchen with someone else’s baking trays, utensils etc.

And here was the result…. perfect!

For those who are not expert on a British Christmas Dinner, at least Auntie Helen’s Family Style, this meal had the following (not all visible on the photo above):

  • Turkey with stuffing
  • Separate stuffing balls
  • Pigs in blankets (sausages wrapped in bacon)
  • Roast potatoes
  • Roast parsnips
  • Yorkshire puddings (not normal for Christmas, but we couldn’t resist)
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Roast onions
  • Bread sauce
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Gravy

Of course we were full to bursting after that lot so had to wait an hour before we could eat a slice or two of the Yule Log, made by Anna.

Rather ingenious that the holly berries were raspberries – she couldn’t find any glace cherries.

She had also brought along a Christmas Pudding but I nabbed that for Klaus so he could have one for our Christmas in Germany, with who knows how many people (probably just us two and his daughter). It’s a very alcoholic one with brandy, port and cognac – and of course he knows about setting it on fire with brandy before eating. I don’t like it myself so it’s all for him and Lara.

We had a lovely time with Anna – and it’s the only Christmas ever with just the three of us. We seemed to have a lot more time with so few people and it was rather lovely.

Here we all are:

Anna disappeared off with the leftovers for her hungry hordes and Mum and I chilled out again.

The next day we decided to go for lunch at The Railway, a pub in Westerfield near Mum’s house, as they did a proper Sunday Lunch. So we both went for the Roast Beef of course.

We had originally not thought of having desserts but then when I saw there was crumble with custard on the menu my resolve weakened.

Mum chose the cheesecake which was also a good choice!

As I mentioned earlier, I had decided to take a room in a hotel at the airport for Sunday night as my flight was at 7:30am on Monday morning and I didn’t want Mum to have to drive the two hour round trip to and from Stansted in the dark. She dropped me off at the bus stop for the National Express in Ipswich and we said goodbye – we have no idea when we will see each other again.

A grand total of three people got on the bus, which was the last that would run on this route for the time being – National Express is suspending the Ipswich-Stansted route as there aren’t enough passengers. Rather a shame, particulary for one of the passengers who was talking to me at the bus stop as he works at Stansted; he now has a nightmare train journey via Liverpool Street.

The bus was very blue inside!

The journey to Stansted was easy again. I had booked the Hilton/Hamptons hotel which is just along from the terminal – it was about a five minute walk.

I assume because of Corona the price was excellent – £62 which included a breakfast which started at 04:00. I checked in and said I would have a hot cooked breakfast at 5:30am.

I ate my dinner of turkey sandwiches and olives in my room, washed down by tea.

The next morning my alarm went at 5:00 and I was downstairs with my suitcase for breakfast at 5:30.

There was some self-service food but they also brought me a cooked breakfast which should keep me going for the 50 minute flight.

Then it was just the five minute walk back to the terminal, very easy. I will definitely take this option again if the prices are still manageable.

There was a lot, lot more going on in Stansted Airport once you got through security than in Düsseldorf. All the shops seemed to be open and there were even more shops than last time I travelled through. I bought Klaus a proper-size Double Decker as I decided I would need to eat the 40g one from the selection box. Despite transporting the Christmas pudding, several Selection Box items and some paperwork from my Mum I still had a bit of room in my case and was rather tempted by a nice teabag tin but things are terribly overpriced in the airport and my tin fetish should not be encouraged.

It was Lauda Air again.

This time I had a middle seat and someone next to me in the aisle. When they closed the doors the Stewardess asked the chap in the aisle seat to move to the emergency exit row, which he did, so I now had the entire row to myself and sat by the window again. So I have done well for my 2 x 10€ (although I also had to invest 20€ in the suitcase).

The view of the sunrise was rather lovely!

Once we landed I made my way out through passport control and had to find the railway station. Klaus was working from home that day but couldn’t be out for the time it took to pick me up from Düsseldorf but would collect me from Kempen which was very handy. So I would need a train from the airport to Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof and from there the Kempen train which runs every 30 minutes.

I ended up using the transit suspended railway to get to the railway station so that was cool, and then I had a ten minute wait for the train to Düsseldorf. I had tried to buy my ticket at the ticket machine without success but I did manage to buy it on the App – 12.80€ which was not bad I thought.

When I arrived at Düsseldorf the train to Kleve/Kempen was standing waiting on the opposite side of the platform so that was very easy. It pootled its way through Krefeld and I was soon arriving in Kempen. Klaus was already waiting for me on the platform with Poppy – he said only about 20% of people were wearing masks although it is a requirement anywhere in the railway station. It was noticeable that Poppy didn’t recognise me until I was standing right in front of her – I think she was probably hoping it was Lars that Klaus was picking up from the station and was looking out for a chap!

It was lovely to see Klaus and Poppy again and nice not to have to get the bus to St Hubert and then walk home the 1.5km from there. Klaus seemed pleased with the Christmas Pudding (which we are saving till Christmas) and we ate our Double Deckers together. Strangely some of the other selection box items had disappeared the evening before…

I was really lucky to travel when I did as two days after my return the whole of the UK was classed as a Risk Area so I would have had to fully quarantine when returning.

Coronavirus reaches our home

Although the part of the UK that I visited was not a risk area, my workplace asked that I took a Corona test before coming back to work.

After a bit of back-and-forth with work because I didn’t qualify for a test under the German rules so would have to pay for it myself (and I wanted to check work would refund me), I booked online for a test in the evening. The testing centre is just down the road from my workplace.

We had to queue to register, but fortunately there were only 3 in the queue when I got there. Registration swiped our health insurance cards and then gave us info flyers for us to take home and of course the swab giant cotton bud thingie in a plastic tube and a document to hand to the nurse.

My paperwork with all personal detail removed of course!

They had asked me why I wanted a test and I said my workplace requested it. I had booked the test as a ‘self-payer’ but from the form it looks like it may be covered under the ‘Contact Person’ reason. We will see if I get an invoice in due course.

Actually having the test wasn’t too bad. I know lots of people say it felt very uncomfortable but I was OK with it and if I had to do it every day then that wouldn’t be too much of a trauma. But I do also seem to be one of the lucky ones who doesn’t suffer so much from pain and discomfort with medical things generally.

Anyway, about 40 hours later I got this notification:

And with further information:

So this was good news, although it didn’t affect our decision to self-isolate. We had decided to do this anyway as it turned out both Frank and Gudula had caught Corona. They had been on holiday in Leipzig and Frank started to feel unwell so fearing that it might be COVID-19 Gudula drove him home overnight (she was still OK). We were very surprised to hear in the morning that they were back, as they were due another four days of their holiday. Frank had most likely picked it up the week before when he was on a walking holiday with friends – all 4 of the men on the holiday ended up Corona-positive, and as a result two of their wives (although notice that two wives avoided it).

Unfortunately, Gudula then became very unwell and ended up spending several days in hospital, fortunately on a normal ward and not in intensive care. We were very relieved when she was brought home again.

Their Corona tests came back as positive, which was not too surprising. Although we are not technically the same household, we decided we should do our best to self-isolate and so both worked from home and we didn’t go out except to walk the dog (we live out in the countryside) and to do a bit of grocery shopping, also for Gudula and Frank who had come back from holiday to a relatively empty fridge. They weren’t particularly hungry but we got them a few bits and bobs.

We are both quite good at keeping ourselves amused at home so self-isolation isn’t such a horror as it is for other people. Nevertheless it was good to have a variety of things to do, and one of these was getting back to puzzling. I did this one that my sister sent me for my birthday.

It took me three days before it was completed, but I was working all mornings on my real job and only puzzling in the afternoons whilst Klaus was still at work!

Both of us working from home meant we had to buy a second office chair as we only have one decent one – so I got myself another Back Chair/Kneeling Chair as I get on well with them and it can be stored under the Grand Piano when not in use!

Our Apps remained green despite Gudula and Frank’s positive test until suddenly one day…

It gives you instructions on what you should do:

So once again I booked a Corona test, even though the last one had just been six days before and since then I hadn’t really been out. Klaus’s App had also gone red although his last dodgy exposure was apparently 10 days ago (when I was in the UK, but when he and his daughter went to the supermarket – she also had a red App with the last exposure 10 days ago…)

Strangely, the next day my App went green. On the basis that I had had a Corona test a few days before, and that there were rather a lot of people needing them, I decided to cancel mine. Klaus went ahead with his yesterday so we are still awaiting the results. When he went there was a MUCH longer queue – 23 people in fact, and he had to wait 45 minutes in the queue for registration.

His App had gone green again before the test but he thought it worth going ahead with anyway. His daughter has also been tested and she was negative.

Frank and Gudula have slowly improved over the 10 days or so that they have Corona. Frank is now officially out of quarantine although he’s still not doing much and Gudula gets her freedom tomorrow!

In celebration of this today (Saturday 31 October) Klaus and I made a pilgrimage to Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof to buy some restorative cake for Gudula and Frank, now they have started to get their senses of smell/taste back. As it was a long journey we got cakes for both today and tomorrow, including Rohallah their foster son in the bounty!

We are very relieved that they are both on the road to recovery. We have heard of several more cases around here so Corona is definitely in Kempen. I will be working at home again at least next week and Klaus will take as many Home Office days as are appropriate, although his company keeps everyone very well distanced in the offices. As I share an office it is rather difficult to distance from my colleague and as I am able to work from home, this may continue for a while – although one of us does have to be in the office due to using a special label printer etc. I don’t mind working from home as I enjoy it and work effectively, Klaus ends up doing loads of overtime and getting up in the middle of the night to right reports and things so I am not sure it is as ideal for him.

Cycling this month

I have not done much cycling at all this month – holidays and self-isolation don’t make it very easy. Plus we have both slightly lost a bit of the drive to cycle so much. All my cycling was commuting except for two leisure rides.

Green is cycling, blue is running
Cycling this month

You may have noticed above that I mentioned ‘running’. Yes indeed. After reaching the age of 49 and a half I have taken up jogging. Slowly. But I thought it would be good to do something other than cycling and my sister seemed to enjoy her running, having done the Couch to 5k programme a couple of years ago. So I got myself organised with some decent running shoes, my AirPods Pro twinned with my Apple Watch (don’t need to carry a phone) and the NHS Couch to 5k podcasts; I have now completed the 9 week course (took me 12 weeks due to pulling a muscle in my side in week 4).

I did my first 5k on 24 October (it was definitely 5k, not sure why my Rubitrack software shows 4.96 as Strava and the Apple Watch say 5.03) which took me a lot longer than the traditional 30 minutes – it took 41:48 – but I am not a fast cyclist and I am obviously not a fast jogger either. I’ve enjoyed the Couch to 5k programme and haven’t actually found it that hard.

Now I have reached 5k I have decided to do some intervals training to see if I can increase my speed so the last two runs on the screenshot above are Intervals. The first, on 28 October, was cycles of 30 seconds of running and then 2:30 of jogging (with a 5 minute warm up walk recorded first), then the next time I tried 1 minute running and 2 minutes walking (and recorded the warm-up and warm-down walks as separate activities).

Turns out my 1 minute running, 2 minutes walking average speed is not much slower than my only-jogging speed, so maybe this may improve my jogging speed. I shall find out tomorrow when I will do another half hour jog (with 5 minutes walking warm up and 5 minutes warm down).

Klaus and I did manage to go out on a ride on Hallowe’en, partly to try to burn off the large Büllhorsthof cake that we had. It was a beautiful day.

Despite being mostly self-isolating this month, before all that really kicked off we were pleased to welcome a visit, by Velomobile, of Dirk, the new owner of Celeste, Klaus’s former Strada. He came to see us and was not empty-handed…

Whereas when we had a visit from fellow Velomobilist Thomas, who wanted to pick up some Velomobile calendars that had been delivered to us (we were a distribution hub!) he gave us warning when he was 20 minutes away and we put the calendars in front of the garage door so he could pick them up from us without coming too close. We spoke to him from the doorstep and he kept a good 6 metres away. It is slightly a feeling of a leprosy colony in our house at the moment!

Although one person who is very unbothered by it is Poppy.

Although, saying that, I had expected Poppy to spend lots of time with Gudula once she came out of hospital and needed comforting, as Gudula is definitely Poppy’s Number 2 human (number 1 being Lars who is in Berlin). But Poppy seemed rarely to be downstairs with both Frank and Gudula, even though they were in the house the whole time. We are wondering if she can smell the COVID and doesn’t like it as only in the last two days, when Gudula has improved a lot, has she started visiting them again. Interesting.

Other news

At work we have a new colleague to help us in the administration department of our food ingredients production facility. Lena started off learning everything about my customer (I am key account manager for our biggest customer, a Russian food company). She is currently sharing an office with me (well, not in Corona times) and it’s been great having her with me. My colleague Lothar, who used to sit in the office with me, is helping another of my colleagues with some different work.

Anyway, Lena informed me fairly on that she is rather good at cake baking and made us a wonderful example of her art. Here it is on my label printer:

It tasted as good as it looks!

Cakes this month

Most of the cakes have been featured above but here are a few others.

Klaus and I are both carrying a couple of extra kilos and so we are trying to shift them. It’s not really from cake (as cake is a normal part of our diet) but I ate lots of carbohydrate food when in England and it takes a while to get it out of my system. So at the moment we are being a bit more careful with what we eat and we are already feeling better for it.

Here’s hoping when I write next month’s blog there aren’t more Corona cases amongst our friends and family, but that seems a forlorn hope. Keep well everyone!


Filed under Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Six Wheels In Germany, Velomobiles

Six Wheels in Germany – September 2020 (Month 78)

In September we had a mixture of fairly warm weather and also some very chilly days. My cycling distances are generally down this year – not particularly because of Covid but more I suppose because I have achieved a lot of my cycling goals and I don’t want to overdo it!

Cycling this month

Most of my cycling this month was commuting. I had just three non-commuting rides and the major theme of each of those three was cake!

333km cycling this month

And here is the list of all my rides.

Sooo….. about those cakes!

Klaus and I took a short trip to Café zum Schafstall for some of their nice cake!

A minor disaster was that I forgot my teabags so had to have a German tea – it was, of course, most disappointing!

A visit from TimB – for cake of course!

On our Bodensee tour last year we stayed one night with TimB and he accompanied us for three days on our riding. I have known Tim since the first Spezi when we met up – he had been helpful before I arrived in Germany with velomobile advice. We tend to see each other at Spezi and at Oliebollentocht each year.

Anyway, Tim contacted us to say he was going on a cycling holiday around Germany and would pass our general area. Of course we invited him to overnight with us and we would take him for breakfast cake the next day!

Tim duly arrived (5 minutes ahead of his scheduled arrival, not bad timing after riding from Bonn!) and we had a steak meal with him and Lara (Klaus’s daughter) before Klaus drove Lara home. Tim had his cycle gear laundered which is always handy! His Milan SL fitted into our garage between our two velomobiles.

We took Poppy out for a walk.

The next morning Tim was keen to head off reasonably early and as Büllhorsthof opens at 9:00 that was fine. We left home just after eight and took him on our lovely scenic ride along the lanes towards Kevelaer.

We arrived at Büllhorsthof and arranged our normal parking!

I had told Tim of the delights of the Etagere so of course he had one (so did I!)

Klaus stuck with his normal Pfirsisch Schmand Kuchen.

We waved goodbye to Tim as he headed off towards Rees for his ride and made our way home again. It was great to see him!

Sternfahrt – Cake in Willich

There are a group of Velomobilists from the Rhein/Sieg region who meet once per month somewhere for cake. Klaus suggested they came up to Willich and enjoyed some food at Landcafé Streithöfe where we have often visited. They agreed this was a cunning plan and Klaus arranged it with the café. In the end 27 people came.

On the morning Klaus felt rather coldy so decided he shouldn’t come. It was a shame but we have to be careful in these Covid times! So Thomas (Speedastir) who had arranged to ride with us came to pick me up and we rode on to Willich. Thomas is mega fast normally so he had a very slow ride with me but it’s always nice to ride with other people. We arranged to meet early on purpose so that we would be the first there, as the nominal hosts.

The café has only the outside seating areas open and they are in two separate sections. For us they had set aside the courtyard area which is excellent. It soon started to fill up with other cyclists, including Jochen our chum from Kempen who we haven’t seen for ages. Even Klaus’s old Velomobile Celeste came along from Düsseldorf, piloted by Dirk.

There were also two trikes (Norbert and Elke), a two-wheel recumbent and also a guy on a normal bike.

We had three Alpha 7s parked side-by-side

Lots of DFs, Quests and a couple of Milans.

Jupp had brought his drone along and took this great picture!

Drone image by Josef Janning

I had one slice of cake whilst waiting for the rest to arrive and managed to resist additional slices. Christian W made good use of time and ordered two slices of cake to arrive at the same time as soon as he sat down!

It was good to chat to lots of friends and meet a few new people. Various odds and ends were swapped around, including this very impressive sprocket/Ritzelpaket which was enormous and formed out of just two metal pieces!

After about an hour and a half the groups started to head out again.

Thomas and I then rode home and after he dropped me off he headed up to Kleve where he lives. He had quite a long ride for the day, for me it was just 50km. It was great to see everyone though and I am sure we will have another meet at Streithöfe before too long as they are so helpful.

Rescuing Carsten

Last month we enjoyed the weekend of the Hex ride with Fritz and Biggi, as reported in my last blog. There we met many Velomobilists, including Carsten who lives in Belgium. He headed off to Flensburg after the Hex and was then riding back to Belgium.

One day when Klaus was on Kurzarbeit (i.e. not working) he read in the Velomobilforum that Carsten’s bottom bracket had sheared. He was entirely unable to ride further. He had got it welded by a local garage but they didn’t feel it would last very long. So as Klaus was at home, and Carsten was in Rees (about an hour away by car), Klaus said he would come and pick him up and drive him to Belgium.

So Klaus headed off to Rees with a few luggage straps – but no proper roof bars. His car has roof rails but you cannot tie things to them (slightly weird design). So when he arrived and they discovered immediately that a DF velomobile does not fit in the colossal Insignia estate car, they fixed it to the roof with the straps going through the windows.

The blanket was on the roof to protect the paintwork from the wheels but was quite noisy at speed. However, Klaus took Carsten safely home, had some dinner there and then came back with some beer-flavoured Belgian chocolates courtesy of Carsten and his wife.

This whole episode reminded us why we are looking more to our trikes for rides away from home – they are just so much easier to deal with if something dramatic happens on the ride as they will fit in pretty much any car.

Wonderful commute

My morning commutes have been lovely again.

Unfortunately now my entire commute is in the dark so I don’t see much except the road in front of me. The Milan’s lights are very good so it’s no problem to see where I am going, just disappointing not to enjoy some of the beautiful scenery.

More Millie Maintenance

I think last month I mentioned that Millie’s indicators had failed (again). I repaired them with two new LEDs and rather than siliconing them in place I taped them because silicone was such a hassle last time. However, the tape just doesn’t stick well and I noticed on the way to Streithöfe that my front right indicator wasn’t flush with the hole in the carbon but was hanging a bit inside – and not really visible.

I decided I would have to do the job properly with silicone, even though it would mean a mega effort next time one of the LEDs failed to scrape away all the old silicone. At least now I have the special silicone remover fluid!

So I waited for a nice warm afternoon when I would have plenty of time and, with Klaus’s help, turned Millie over. This meant that gravity would be on my side when sticking the indicators in place.

I had bought a small can of silicone with a built-in trigger system and it worked well. What I needed to learn was that you have up to an hour to adjust the position of the indicator once the silicone is poured so I don’t need to panic.

I let it dry for two hours, then turned Millie the other way up. Yes, the indicator was nicely in place! As I had the open can of silicone (and didn’t know if it would dry out over the next day, so it might just be a one-day option) I also siliconed the rear indicator on that side, which was also just held in by tape. This had a slightly dodgy connector to the poor-quality original cable which indeed failed so Klaus re-stripped the cable and added a new connector; it’s getting horribly short in there, so either I will need to solder on an extension one day (with almost no room to do it) or one day bite the bullet and get the whole thing rewired (not a nice prospect).

Both indicators were now working and nicely in place but it was massively obvious that they are not as bright as the ones on the other side. I had bought them through Ebay and they should be 3W (although the others were 1W) but they are much, much fainter. In bright sunlight not really visible. I suppose I should change them AGAIN but I just can’t face it – and in the winter the lights are visible for my commute in the dark. I guess they will fail within a couple of years again and I can then replace them with better ones. At least this time they aren’t soldered into the wiring but instead connected with the spade connectors so changing them should be easy enough, just the wretched silicone removal headache.

And then a week later Millie gave me another surprise. On my way home from work, just as I was pulling up outside the house, I heard a loud “ping” which I assumed was an acorn or stone in the wheel box. But the next morning, when I tried to set the parking brake so I could get in, it didn’t work – not surprising when I took a look at the parking brake on the tiller.

There should be a brake cable running up to the circle with NB printed upside down on it! You can see the frayed ends next to the metal bar (the parking brake).

Now brakes are a right pain on a Milan with the closed wheel boxes so I was very unenthusiastic about this. As I didn’t feel it wise to ride the bike to work I stole Klaus’s car (he was working from home) and took the lazy option. I was moaning to everyone at work that I would need to spend an hour lying on the cold paving in front of the garage stripping all the skin from my knuckles when trying to refit the cable.

Although that was one step further than I could actually achieve when I got home. Searching through our multiple boxes of bike bits ‘n bobs, I discovered we had three replacement gear cables (two very nice jagwire ones) but zero brake cables. How annoying!

So I jumped in the car again and went to the bike shop in St Hubert which was actually open (the two times I have tried it before he has been shut – long lunch or Ruhetag or something). He sold me a brake cable for 3 Euros.

The first problem was that the knobble on the end of it was wider than the gap between the two brake levers – just. I had been able to get the old knobble out with a bit of poking with a screwdriver but no chance with the new one. So I would have to disassemble the tiller area.

This was not as tricky as I had thought, needing only a spanner and an allen key. Once I had released the brake lever from the tiller (although it was partly still held in place by the remaining brake cable) I could squeeze the knobble from the new brake cable through and it fitted into place. I then oiled the sheath of the cable and fed the new brake cable through until it came out of the front wheel box.

I then needed to guide it correctly into the brake gubbins and pull everything tight. It was hugely too long so I cut off about 50cm of cable to start, so I had a bit more space to work.

I had screwed the brake lever on the tiller back together and now I did the brake cable adjustment so that the cable was at its longest length. This helps to hook it over the Sturmey Archer brakes in the wheel which are very tricky to reach inside the wheelbox. I had expected to take up to an hour to do this but actually managed it in about five minutes, only needing to readjust the length of the cable stopper once.

I then turned the bike the right way up again (it had been on its side) and adjusted the cable length at the tiller end. In just a few minutes it all seemed good! I took the opportunity to adjust the other brake which was a bit loose and now I have two very decent brakes on Millie. The job was much less bother than I had feared so if I have to do it again I won’t be so nervous.

At home in Kempen

Poppy continues to enjoy life in Germany.

However, the weather has got a bit colder and so we have to be careful, when sitting on the bed, that she has not burrowed under the covers. Sometimes there’s not much of her to see…

We took her for a walk along the Rhein at Lank-Latum/Meerbusch and she was rather shocked by this crab.

These are pests that were introduced into the Rhein and they have no natural predators. This one was still alive and Poppy was definitely wary of it – I think it surprised her by moving when she thought it was dead.

Photo by Klaus

Having a dog around the house is nice as sometimes it can be a bit lonely – here is a sad message from my phone to me (although Klaus was in the next room…)

No-one to share with…

My German language test

Last month I talked about my German citizenship application and the urgency to get everything completed before the end of the transition period on 31.12.2020, after which point I would have to renounce my UK citizenship in order to take up German.

The Ausländerbehörde have allowed me to apply early for citizenship as I can demonstrate I am well integrated (my voluntary work with the ADFC over the last six years) but I also have to prove officially that my language skills are B2 or above. So I had to urgently find a suitable B2 exam.

I found the opportunity to sit the TestDaF exam in Duisburg. Although TestDaF wasn’t something the lady at the Ausländerbehörde had previously used, she contacted the institute and they told her that the exam would prove I have B2 or higher, so the lady said it would be OK. She wrote to me “please send me your exam certificate for B2 so I can decide on your application.” By this we assume that all my other documentation is acceptable and she needs nothing further from me except the language certificate. So that is looking very positive!

TestDaf is split into four sections:

  • Reading comprehension (Leseverstehen)
  • Listening comprehension (Hörverstehen)
  • Writing (Schriftlicher Ausdruck)
  • Speaking (Mündlicher Ausdruck)

Unfortunately, it is hard to know what my level is as my writing and speaking have lots of grammatical mistakes (genders of nouns and endings) but the impression given by TestDaF is that grammar isn’t as important as being able to give over an idea and to use more complex sentence structures to show your knowledge of the language.

Here is what the TestDaF Institute says about this for the written piece of work:

Sind die Sätze im Text miteinander verbunden, d.h. ist der Text kohärent? Werden unterschiedliche Konjunktionen verwendet? Sind die verwendet Konjunktionen sinnvoll?

Besteht der Text hauptsächlich aus einfachen Sätzen (z.B. Hauptsätze) oder finden sich auch Nebensätze? Werden die Konstruktionen variiert?

Wie breit und genau ist der Wortschatz? Sind die verwendeten Begriffe passend? Werden z.B. Verben variiert?

Gibt es sprachliche Fehler im Text? Treten diese oft auf oder nur manchmal? Kann man den Text trotz einiger Fehler noch verstehen?

My translation of the above:
“Are the sentences in the text linked to one another; in other words, is the text coherent? Are different conjunctions used? Are the chosen conjunctions suitable?
Does the text mainly consist of main clauses or are there also relative clauses? Is the construction varied?
How wide and accurate is the vocabulary used? Are the phrases used suitable? Are, for example, verbs varied?
Are there language errors in the text? Do these occur often or just sometimes? Is the text still comprehensible despite many mistakes?

And how do they mark it? There are three levels (TDN3, TDN4 and TDN5). TDN3 is B2, TDN4 is between B2 and C1 and TDN5 is C1. I have to get at least TDN3 in all four sections to pass the exam. Here is how Wikipedia explains the language skills required for TDN3 in the TestDaF exam:

Reading that, I should have no problems with the writing and speaking aspect, but one never knows!

For comparison, here is what is required for the highest level (TDN5) which I always achieved when marking my Reading Comprehension and Listening Comprehension (the first two boxes below):

As I wrote last month, I bought several practice papers and also used the two available on TestDaF’s website.

Preparing for a mock exam, even as far as removing my smartwatch and having my traditional watch instead!

For these you can see the correct answers for the first two sections but of course there are no answers for the writing or speaking sections, thus the difficulty in evaluating my level.

I was getting very high marks with the first two sections (95% or so correct) so I had no fears about this, but the writing section was much trickier. I decided all I could do was practise, practise and practise again, as I had to get the muscles in my hand used to writing for an hour again! I also had to learn to structure my thoughts linearly (as with computers if you have a great idea in the previous paragraph you can always insert it – not with handwriting!)

So each afternoon I set the timer for 1 hour and did one of the Schriftlicher Ausdruck test papers. Klaus or Lara his daughter would read them and make comments.

By the end I was getting a bit overwhelmed as so much rides on this exam! It is the key to me keeping the rights I have had my whole life to live, work and retire in the European Union, so it matters a great deal to me. As someone who has already once exercised this right, and moved to another country, how do I know I won’t want/need to do this again in the future? So European citizenship is important to me, and this exam therefore was vital.

On the day of the exam I felt well-enough prepared. I was totally confident on the reading and hearing comprehension sections as I knew I could do these without issue. I was a bit nervous about the written section as I sometimes ran out of time in my practice ones. The speaking seemed generally fine, I had practised that three times (once with Klaus listening, he said it was surely good enough) so that was that.

For the entire day we had to have our phones switched off and in another room. Also no smartwatches were allowed, we could not leave the exam room except to go into the garden, so needed all our food and drink with us. I was fairly well prepared with multiple pens, including my nice fountain pen with which I write more smoothly and legibly, and three bottles of water and a flask of tea.

Klaus dropped me off in Duisburg on his way to work and as I had an hour to kill before exam registration, and was desperate for the loo, I found a bakery with loos and had some calming breakfast cake.

After this I walked back to the exam centre where various other candidates were standing around outside. In the end there were 16 of us and I think the oldest of the rest was 25 years old. I was twice their age! Also older than all the other staff members I saw around. They must have wondered what I was doing there and indeed the lady was surprised when she saw a British passport and said “we haven’t had a Brit do this exam before.” Mainly because the exam is to enable you to study in a German university and that’s not much of a thing in England.

So everything was ready. Here is my workstation before I switched off my phone for the day. We had to wear masks the whole day (I had a spare just in case).

So off we went. The first section (written comprehension) was fine, I think I might have got all 28 questions correct. We then had a 15 minute break (smoking break for half the other candidates!) and then we had the listening comprehension section. Here the sound was played through loudspeakers but I had informed them beforehand I had hearing issues so they sat me right at the front. I could hear fine but did slightly lose track in one section of the Listening Comprehension and as you only hear 2 of the 3 exercises once I know I missed at least one point. Worst case scenario, I got 25 out of 30, which is still a TDN5 (top mark) pass.

I assumed we would now have an hour lunch break before the written exercise, which was the one I was nervous about. But no, she said just 15 minutes. This was probably good as it meant I didn’t make myself too nervous – I had time to drink my flask of tea which I had saved for this section. I had decided tea fortification might be necessary before handwriting for an hour.

The test is one hour of writing and I was rather pleased to see that the topic was household waste and how much people throw out. We had to explain how this could be reduced. The thing is, in my work I deal with some of this terminology – the text talked about “wegwerfen” for throwing out food but I knew of another word, “entsorgen”, which I could also use, which was rather handy. Also I was discussing packaging sizes and of course I know all the terminology (Beutel, Dosen, Verpackung etc). So in a lot of ways this went better than I thought. I felt I wrote it fairly well in terms of grammar, the structure was pretty good and I wrote a lot (not necessarily helpful). I also finished 10 minutes before the end so could read through it again and correct a few endings here and there. So overall I was pleased.

And then after a 10 minute break it was the speaking test. I hadn’t been worried about this but as it turned out I feel this was perhaps my weakest section. Firstly we had to speak into a laptop (we had headphones on) and were warned that if we accidentally jogged the mouse or pressed anything the software would probably freeze and then that would be the end of our exam chance. So I was a bit paranoid! Also it looked to me as though my voice was recording rather loud (they were using the software Audacity and it looked like the sound levels were at maximum) but I of course couldn’t change anything. What is also weird is that there were five of us sitting in the room together and all is very quiet; we all started the exam at the same time, we listen to the recorded voice telling us what we have to do, and then he asks for our name. Suddenly there are 5 random names being spoken at the same time. And this also went for all the answers… the room is quiet, then suddenly we all burst out talking at the same time. I found it a bit off-putting. We didn’t have noise-cancelling headphones and it was definitely weird when I had stopped talking and the others carried on.

I think this affected my answers as instead of stopping when I had finished staying things, even if there was extra time available, I then started waffling on, often searching for words as I hadn’t prepared for this new sentence. And I didn’t just do this once but probably 4 times out of the 7 answers. Really annoying!!! I don’t know why I suddenly started to do this having not done it at all in the previous tests. So I was quite annoyed with myself by the end.

Here’s how TestDaF mark this section:

Wie wirkt die Äußerung als ganzes auf ein*en Hörer*in?
• Wird flüssig, klar und verständlich gesprochen?
• Machen Aussprache und/oder Intonation das Verstehen leicht oder schwer?
• Sind Aufbau und Struktur der Äußerung klar zu erkennen? Kann man dem Gedankengang gut folgen?

Erfüllt die Antwort die Aufgabenstellung?
• Bezieht sich die Äußerung auf das gestellte Thema?
• Werden alle Punkte der Aufgabe ausreichend berücksichtigt?
• Passt das, was gesagt wird, zur Aufgabe und der Situation?

Mit welchen sprachlichen Mitteln wird die Aufgabe gelöst?
• Passt die Äußerung (Register, Aufbau, Anfang und Ende der Äußerung) zur Situation?
• Wie differenziert und angemessen sind Wortschatz und Syntax?
• Erschweren Fehler das Verstehen? Oder kann man trotz Fehlern die Äußerung gut verstehen?

And here is my translation of that (with a little help from Mr Google):

How does the speech as a whole strike a listener?
• Is it spoken fluently, clearly and understandably?
• Do pronunciation and/or intonation make understanding easy or difficult?
• Can the form and structure of the speech be clearly recognised? Can you follow the train of thought well?

Does the answer complete the task requirements?
• Does the speech relate to the topic asked?
• Are all points of the task sufficiently taken into account?
• Does what is said fit the task and the situation?

With which linguistic means are the tasks completed?
• Does the speech (register, structure, beginning and end of the speech) match the situation?
• How differentiated and appropriate are vocabulary and syntax?
• Do mistakes make understanding difficult? Or can one understand the words well despite mistakes?

Having looked through this closely I think I SHOULD have done well enough for all of these points, so despite my verbal diarrhoea which undoubtedly added in some pauses while I was searching for words, I think overall it ought to be good enough.

But I don’t know. And I won’t know until 22 October when the results are released. If I haven’t got TDN3 or above in all four parts of the test then I will have to sit another test (I have already registered for the Goethe B2 exam on 5 December) and throw myself on the mercy of the Ausländerbehörde that they will wait for this.

As I was in Duisburg without a car I needed to make my way home. I walked to the railway station to start the 2 hour journey back to St Hubert via Duisburg HbF, Krefeld and Kempen, with tram, train and bus, but then Klaus sent me a message to say he would be only one more hour in his work meeting and I could go to Mülheim and he would pick me up. So I bought a ticket online to Mülheim, using the Underground to get up to fairly near his office and then walked to the office. The timing was good as he had finished five minutes later and gave me a lift home.

So now I am waiting. And waiting. And waiting for my results. But the exam went well enough, I didn’t have any major disasters, and as this is the first language exam I have taken in 19 years that’s not bad going!

And finally… Cakes this month

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Six Wheels In Germany, Velomobiles

Six Wheels in Germany – August 2020 (Month 77)

August was a month of really warm weather which shifted into rather autumnal temperatures at the end of the month. But there were plenty of opportunities for cake this month, as you will see.

Cycling this month

Here is where I went:

As you can probably see, there were only two long rides in the whole month (both, coincidentally, going to Landcafé Büllhorsthof) and all the rest of the rides were commutes or utility rides or walks.

Here is the list of rides.

Klaus has done a few more bits of maintenance on his new trike Malcolm the Sprint X and he’s working really well now!

And here is a reflection of Millie in the side of Emily.

A new Milan!

Last autumn I had a visit from Kai from Neuss who was interested in velomobiles and came to have a look at our selection. He was very taken by the Milan and his size suggested the Milan SL would be a good fit for him. So he did further research and ended up ordering a Milan SL.

Ten or so months later, his SL was ready. His experience of collecting it was hardly positive, plus he hit a deer on the way home and had to spend hours waiting for the hunter to come and finish it off, and so his first day with the Milan wasn’t too successful. But after a few days’ cooling off he started riding and then invited Klaus and I for cake as we had helped him with his velomobile experience.

So a day was chosen and Kai cycled to us to go with us to Büllhorsthof. He has a very orange Milan SL with some excellent stickers on it (he is in a road racing group and has decked his Milan out the same).

We arrived at Büllhorsthof after a nice ride and parked in our usual spaces.

Klaus decided to go just for the Mandarinen-Schmand Kuchen.

Kai and I had greater cake need so we had an Etagere each (both delivered on one set of plates)

And Kai liked the Himbeer Kuchen so much that he had another one, this time full size.

And then it was time to ride back. Kai had just informed us that he spent half of the ride there freewheeling – he’s clearly already very fast despite not having enough miles for real recumbent muscles yet.

We had a good ride back and then waved goodbye to Kai who headed back to Neuss – he had a total of about 175km for the day. And we enjoyed our cake!

Die Alte Hex

Friend and Velomobilist Fritz had been quietly working away at some interesting cycle rides around his home in Willebadessen (east of Paderborn) and eventually he unveiled a new challenge – Die Alte Hex, a series of cycle rides over 24 hours, with 600km in total. Many velomobilists were invited – and that included us.

Due to logistical issues we couldn’t ride with our velomobiles but Klaus took his trike along. I was there mostly to help out with food and drink for the riders as they would do several circuits, mostly 100-120km, and come back for food/drink/sleep.

Klaus and I weren’t able to get away from work very early (he had a Major Work Crisis just before we left) so by the time we got to Fritz and Biggi’s wonderful home in the middle of nowhere there were no velomobilists to be seen. They were all out doing Hex 1, a route with a whopping great hill called the Köterberg (‘Köter’ is German for dog, so that shows what the locals think of it).

Klaus and I unpacked our stuff, had a bit of a chat then Klaus decided to go out for a short route (Hex 6, officially the Final Circuit) to try to get away from work mode.

He left about 7pm for a 30km route. In the meantime I faffed around with nothing very much but noticed one of the ‘contestants’, who lives in the town where Haribo has a shop, had brought rather a lot with him…

Fritz had really organised everything and he had a board which showed where people were on the course. Most of them started at 4pm which meant they started returning after the Köterberg late evening. They were all complaining mightily about the mega hill. They shovelled in bowlsful of spaghetti bolognese and then disappeared out in the dark again.

Klaus reappeared having enjoyed his 30km Hex 6 although in the dark he had not always seen the friendly cycle paths and had been on the road a bit more than ideal in a trike.

We went to bed but he couldn’t stop thinking about his Major Work Crisis and so woke up at 4 and was unable to sleep again. He decided to go out and try Hex 1 as a bit of gratuitous hill climbing might take his mind off the massive issue he had to deal with at work on Monday. He sent me this picture of the sunrise in the rolling hills.

Some velomobiles were now back from the second course and were having a bit of breakfast.

Klaus was still sending me photos from his ride.

One of the participants was Jockel who had overnighted with us when collecting his Mango velomobile from last year. He has since upgraded to an Alpha 7.

And then Klaus sent me a photo from the top of the Köterberg – he had made it!

I then went out to buy the meat from the not-very-local-but-high-quality butchers, which was a 50 minute round trip. This meant that Fritz could stay at home and look after the cyclists. Once I got back Fritz popped out to buy some more beer (he had underestimated the amount needed) and so I was left alone holding the fort.

And then I got a call from Klaus who had struggled a bit with muscle cramps in his thighs but they had now completely locked up and he was 30km away in Höxter and it wasn’t safe to ride back on the main roads when his legs suddenly could lock up. So I waited till Fritz returned (fortunately just 10 minutes or so) and headed off to pick up Klaus.

He was very cheerful and chirpy although rather disappointed he had not been able to finish the ride. We subsequently think the cramp was caused by a lack of magnesium as his new blood pressure tablets can have this effect so he will take some supplements for a bit and see if that does the trick.

The day was marching on and Biggi decided she only now had time to do the final circuit, Hex 6, so she set off on that one, blasting herself from near the back of the field to first place! She ended up with a very impressive 300km for the 24 hours!

The other riders was slowly arriving back and by 4pm when it finished everyone was back. Everyone had done at least 110km and some were in the 300s or 400s. ChristianW had hit a speed of 120 km/h coming down the Köterberg and Klaus managed about 65 km/h. That shows the efficiency difference between Velomobile and trike!

It was now time for us all to share the barbecue.

We had a really nice evening and Biggi and Fritz as our hosts were given a few gifts. It was nice to get to know some new people.

The next morning we all breakfasted slowly as people left slowly in groups. I rather liked these egg cups Biggi had made – seems to have Penelope the Versatile on it!

And here is the hood ornament on Carsten’s DF.

He had ridden here from Belgium and was now going on further to Denmark or some such far-flung place, then riding back again. He still seems to be smiling though!

This was the view from my window as they all headed off.

It was a really lovely weekend and although everyone complained continuously about the hills, I suspect they will all return for next year’s version.

Oh, and Klaus’s Major Work Crisis resolved itself on Monday – the customer had sent them the wrong product back in different packaging so the major panic was gone. Phew!

Other events

A visit to the Saarland

In the middle of the mega heatwave we had planned a visit to Saarland so that Klaus’s daughter Lara could meet up with an old friend who moved away three years ago.

We had a comfortable trip in the car (air conditioning!) and then arrived in the lovely home where Andreas, Simone and daughter Nastya live. The view out of their lounge window was rather nice!

Andreas and Simone were great hosts and we had some lovely food. Breakfast was very comprehensive (although also very carbohydrate!)

We had barbecues on both evenings which were also very tasty.

Due to the heat we only really ventured out in the morning, but we did have a trip to the Villeroy & Boch Factory Outlet (Andreas works for Villeroy & Boch) and then took a boat trip along the Saar.

We really enjoyed our two days with Andreas, Simone and Nastya and look forward to another visit (or them to visit us) in due course.

The Great Wasps Nest Story

Gudula and Frank planned a barbecue evening with some friends, but realised a few days before that there was a wasp nest in the garden.

It turned out the wasps had built their nest underground in a series of mole tunnels and the nest spread about a metre in each direction. There were dozens of holes in the garden border where the wasps came in and out.

First of all Gudula tried to deal with them by the traditional boiling water method. She wore Frank’s beekeeping equipment but still got stung 7 times and the wasps were unaffected.

The next plan, over two days, was to fill the nest with water. Nils was home and he spent two days with the hosepipe filling the garden with water (from the borehole in the garden, not the mains!)

What he discovered from this was that incredibly dry ground (we were in heatwave) just allows the water to soak away, and that the main bit of the nest was obviously in a well-drained section. Two days of water treatment and there weren’t noticeably fewer wasps, although the lawn was looking much greener in that area.

The next day the solution was arrived upon by Gudula, as you can see from the photo below.

Yes, she is using a hoover to vacuum up the wasps as they come out of the holes. Two full hoover bags full of angry wasps (which ended up in the wheelie bin – so we were very careful not to drop anything sharp in the bin before it was emptied) and there were only a few left. The party went off without any major wasp inconvenience.

And of course Poppy enjoyed the attention and having lots of people to drop bits of food for her.

I took this photo whilst out on a walk with Poppy – look how grey she is!

It must be from all the whiskey! Here she is with Lara, daughter of my landlords.

A trip to England – despite quarantine!

My Mum’s 75th birthday in mid-August was in my calendar as a time when I would definitely visit her. Klaus and I had planned a four day visit using the overnight ferry from Hoek van Holland both ways and were all set to head off on the Friday evening (Mum’s birthday was the following Tuesday).

However, early Friday morning I saw in the news that the Netherlands had been added to the list of places which would require quarantine when arriving in the UK. Oh no! It would start at 04:00 the next morning by which time we would technically be in British waters but not actually ashore.

Klaus had to consider whether it was sensible to make the trip (being in quarantine would be inconvenient!) but in the end he decided to take his laptop in case we ended up stuck. Officially we would only have to quarantine for the length of our stay (4 days), we could travel back before the 2 week quarantine was over, but one is always a bit nervous that the rules could change again! We had filled in the four-page document which we had to bring with us when arriving in the UK.

So we set off to Hoek van Holland having packed slightly differently. We had previously made plans to visit my sister and one of my oldest chums but obviously that would not be possible.

As we arrived at Hoek van Holland and checked in I asked the lady about the quarantine situation. She told us that the ferry would sail faster so that it tied up at Harwich before 04:00 and that the Department for Transport had confirmed we would not need to quarantine. Hooray!

We had posher cabins than normal – this time with a window!

We had a good crossing and were at Mum’s for breakfast cake at 8 in the morning. I had transported six slices of cake from Café Poeth in St Hubert to Witnesham in Suffolk.

On the Saturday we took a quick trip to Ipswich to do a few odd jobs. I noticed this Kebab shop which was a German Döner, rather than a Turkish!

On the Sunday we drove to my sister’s house in Thundersley to celebrate Mum’s birthday with Anna and her family. Due to the social distancing rules my niece and her husband had to wear their masks when in the house but we were sitting out in the garden most of the time so they could remove the masks then.

Gwen (niece) also brought along her dog Chip, the Dachshund/Schnauzer cross.

I had prepared cucumber sandwiches for afternoon tea, and also of course scones and cream.

Meat versions!
Cream tea, yummy!!!

While we were there we also went out for a walk with Chip and also a chance to meet up with my old mate Lindsay and her partner Pip and dog Reggie. Thundersley Common had a lovely path-decoration of painted stones with messages of support during Covid19.

We had a lovely time and also got a great photo of the family – it’s been a long time since we were all together!

I took the opportunity to go to the supermarket where my niece Gwen works (she has a 15% discount) to get all the required items such as teabags, curry sauces, mango chutney and sensibly-priced antihistamines and paracetamols. As there is a limit to how much paracetamol you can buy in one go my sister and niece had been buying them with each shopping trip over the previous week or so and we all got a bit carried away, so I don’t think I need any more paracetamol or antihistamines in the near future!

Monday was a relaxing day at Mum’s, making the most of the cooler weather.

Klaus and I walked down to the churchyard to see my father’s grave.

Back at the house we sat with the Garden Room door open and enjoyed the fresh air!

Daisy the tortoise had found the really hot weather too much, according to my Mum, but she seemed happier in temperatures of 20 degrees or so.

Close-up wildlife photography
The result – Daisy May, about 100 years old…

In the evening we had my treat which was an Indian meal. This qualified for the UK Government’s “Eat Out to Help Out” promotion so half of the cost of the meal was deducted from the bill. So we had a very nice selection of food (including starters) for less than £25 for three people. Bargain!

On the Tuesday, Mum’s birthday, we went to the Railway Inn pub in Westerfield and had another nice meal (subsidised by the Government).

German Citizenship

The countdown to the end of the post-Brexit Withdrawal Period continues. On 31 December 2020 I will lose all my rights as a European Citizen, such as the right of freedom of movement. I will be able to stay in Germany as I am registered here, but would not easily be able to move to Austria, for example.

The rules for German citizenship are relatively clear. Once you have lived there 8 years you can get citizenship as long as you fulfil the following criteria:

• you have an unrestricted right of residence at the time of becoming naturalised, if you hold an EU Blue Card or a time-limited residence permit which in terms of its purpose may also lead to permanent residence,
• you have passed the naturalisation test (knowledge of the legal and social system, as well as about living conditions in Germany),
• you have had your habitual, lawful place of residence in Germany for eight years (this period can be reduced to seven years if you attend an integration course successfully, and can be brought down to as few as six years in the case of special integration measures),
• you have independent means of securing a living (including for family members entitled to maintenance) without resorting to social assistance payments and unemployment benefit II,
• you have adequate German-language skills,
• you do not have any convictions on account of a criminal offence,
• you are committed to the free democratic constitutional order of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany, and
• you have lost or given up your former nationality (exceptions apply with regard to this point, depending on the country of origin; please contact the naturalisation authority).

My German level is good so the 8 years is not necessary. However, 7 years is 1 April 2021, so after the end of the Withdrawal Period. Which means if I took German citizenship I would have to give up my British Citizenship.

However, as you see above in some, very special cases you can apply for Citizenship after 6 years. You need to fulfil all the standard criteria but must also show that you are specially integrated. Which I feel that I am, but I wasn’t sure how to show it. And then I decided, a few weeks ago, to contact the Ausländerbehörde and see if all the voluntary work I have done for the ADFC (German cycle club) might count towards this. I had a conversation with a really helpful lady who said it was definitely worth trying this as it sounded like I had done a lot. She suggested that I obtain a letter from the ADFC which describes what I have done and that I email them a copy and they would let me know if it was enough. This would save all the hassle and 250€ cost of doing the full application if it would be rejected because of this integration requirement.

So I contacted Hartmut, who used to be the vice-chair of the ADFC Krefeld Kreis Viersen until he retired a few years ago. He and I did loads of ADFC events together in my first few years here before I got really distracted by velomobiles. He wrote some very kind words about what I had done and this was forwarded to Andreas who is the current Chair of the ADFC (and who knows me too, although not as well) and Andreas formulated this letter into a kind of official report about what I have done for the ADFC. He printed it on ADFC paper and posted it to me (well, he had to post a second copy as the first one got lost in the post, but it turned up eventually).

The letter arrived and we scanned it and then I emailed it to the lady at the Ausländerbehörde – not the one I spoke to before but her colleague, as she would be responsible for my application.

The following day I had a phone call from this lady saying that the ADFC letter was enough to show that I am well integrated into Germany! That was great news. All I have to do now is sit the B2 language exam, and I have one booked for next week and a second booked for the beginning of December (in case I am ill or something – the exams are rather infrequent) and so I am practising hard for handwriting with a pen as the exam is very long and involves writing one piece for an hour!

So with the chance of going ahead with the application for dual citizenship I arranged with the local office in Kempen to receive all the paperwork. There are often huge reams of stuff you need but as my case is relatively simple it wasn’t too bad – here’s a selection.

I had to include my passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce certificate (translated), payslips, proof of pension, a hand-written CV in prose (four pages long!), proof that I have passed the citizenship test and more. But the list was shorter than it would be after the end of the Transition Period because I was able to check this box below:

This option for me (as an EU citizen) disappears in four months.

Once all was filled in (with Klaus’s help) I arranged to hand it in at the Ordnungsamt in Kempen. This had to be by appointment, of course, and was at 7:30 in the morning the next day as the lady was then going away on holiday for two weeks.

In the photo below you see the thick package of paperwork.

What is missing is the Exam Certificate for German B2 as I haven’t yet taken the exam but the lady at the Ausländerbehörde said it is OK for me to send it later.

The lady in Kempen photocopied every page, so it took her about 20 minutes, and the copies were sent to the Ausländerbehörde, I got to take everything home again 45 minutes later.

After a couple of days I got an email from the Ausländerbehörde acknowledging receipt of my paperwork and asking for me to send the B2 Exam Certificate as soon as possible as then they could make the decision on my citizenship (reading between the lines, it suggests all the other things have passed – hurrah!!)

So I am now working hard on the exam. With the practice papers for reading comprehension and hearing comprehension I am getting very high scores (way above the level necessary) but it is hard to mark the Schriftliche Ausdruck (written piece) and I don’t think I’m doing that as well. Klaus’s daughter Lara has marked two of them I have done, but it’s not about grammatical correctness but more about arguing, putting forward opinions, using a wide amount of language. I also have to do a short section of spoken German which I feel confident about but again it’s hard to actually evaluate the level beforehand. It should be fine as my German level is C1 rather than B2, but still… so much hangs on this! Wish me luck for my exam on 10 September and then the 6 week wait for the results! If I have a disaster then I have another chance on the 4th December with the Goethe Exam (a different one than the TestDAF that I am doing in September) which I have invested 215€ as a backup. Let’s hope I don’t need to do that as the results might not come before the end of the transition period!

And finally… Cakes this month

It’s been a good month for cakes as you will see from the photos below!

There does, however, appear to have been a minor side effect from all the cakes and holidays (eating carbs) which is I seem to be carrying around 3kg more than usual, so I may have to avoid the cakes a bit more in September until it goes away! I’m also trying to be stricter Keto which is fine as we both feel better when eating Keto but you do get a bit in the habit of some other things sometimes!

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