So here we are – eighteen months after I left the UK and I’m still in Germany. It turns out I will be staying – I enjoy life too much here and don’t want to leave. I’m looking for a job and otherwise settling in even more. So there are plenty more blog posts about life for an Englishwoman in Germany to come.
Cycling This Month
Here is where I have ridden this month.
I did the four-day Ruhrtal Radweg with James which gave me a nice lot of kilometres for this month, plus two other 100km cycle rides, so it’s a fairly good score for September!
One of those 100km rides was a ride with Klaus and Claudia where Claudia did her first 100km distance on three wheels – the day after doing 95km and she had done 95km the day before as well. Very impressive!
They both had a day off work, Lara was away on a school trip and the weather was great so we decided to go for a ride to Düsseldorf. This was partly to scope out where I would be having a job interview the next day.
We arrived in Düsseldorf having done a nice cross-country route and found the building where my interview would take place, plus noted that parking isn’t great, and then we rode on to the Altstadt and sat down for some lunch with a view of the Rhein.
After our lunch we realised we could do the nice Erft River ride back which would be another 60ish kilometres and would bring us close to the hundred. We asked Claudia if she felt up to it, as she’d done so much riding recently, and she said she was happy to give it a go – so off we went, being passed by a green DF Velomobile on the way.
We stopped on a bridge to watch the canoeing.
We had a brief stop for tea and cake in a bakery in the middle of nowhere and then pressed on. Klaus had developed a cold and wasn’t feeling 100% but he soldiered on and we did an extra 3.5km to make the 100. It was a lovely day’s ride – being out on the bikes is such a freeing, relaxing experience.
Penelope’s seat cracks
I haven’t ridden Penelope so much over the summer due to the heat, but I took her out for a ride to the supermarket and noticed the seat was a bit wobbly. I assumed it was just the sliders that move along runners on the base that had come loose but when I had a closer look…
So I phoned up Gerrit Tempelman in Dronten and he said he’d see if he had a spare lying about to send to me and if not he’d make me a new one. Excellent service again from Ligfietsshop Tempelman!
Events this month
A visit from James
James arrived late August for a two and a half week visit, which included us doing the Ruhrtal Radweg cycle tour.
Another visit to England
I had a four day trip to England booked for work purposes and for my annual hospital visit to check out my prosthesis in my arm. Unfortunately the company I work for went into administration in June so the work side of things was cancelled – I used the time instead to visit family and to sort out some more things from the UK for Germany (exciting things such as a shoe rack, teabags, books and more).
I cooked bangers & mash for us one day – you don’t get sausages like British Bangers in Germany.
On another day I offered to take my sister out for Afternoon Tea to celebrate her birthday (two weeks early). We ended up meeting at 10am near her house in a very nice little café and having our afternoon tea whilst others were having breakfast.
Here am I with Anna.
And this was our Afternoon Tea for two.
Anna before we dive in.
The sandwiches are gone!
The scones are gone!
One of the cakes from the top layer
Everything has gone!!
It was very tasty and it was great to see Anna again and have a natter.
I also visited my parents for lunch one day and it was lovely to see them again.
That evening friends Gwenllian and Mark came round and, as is now tradition, brought a Chinese take-away with them.
Here we are enjoying it!
And the dessert provided by me (from Morrisons Supermarket).
Thursday was my usual hospital visit and I would be going straight back to Germany from London, rather than heading up the A12 to Colchester again. This was because when I tried to book my return ferry (once we knew my car had passed its MOT) there were no spaces left on the Harwich to Hook of Holland overnight crossing! So I booked a ferry from Dover to Calais, with a crossing time of 9pm to give me plenty of time if the hospital visit took a while (they sometimes do).
Normally we drive to Walthamstow Central station, park there and get the tube in. This time we took two cars as far as Brentwood (where the A12 meets the M25) and left the Honda Jazz with all my stuff for Germany parked in a side road and then drove together in the Audi A6 (which James will have for the next three months now it has passed its MOT) to Walthamstow.
And this is what was in the car underneath the other luggage…
Yes, it’s my Roland digital piano, bought when I went off to University aged 18 and which has lived under the bed for the last ten years or so. Claudia will be borrowing it in Germany and I will be giving her and Lara some lessons.
Anyway, my car was left at Brentwood and we went in the other car to Walthamstow, took the tube to Warren Street and walked to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital. The appointment was for 2pm but we arrived early and had the x-ray by 1:00pm and were called for the consultation at 1:30 and were out by 1:45. Very efficient! All well, see you next year.
So we headed back on the tube to Walthamstow, picked up the car and headed to Brentwood where I said goodbye to James, hopped in the Jazz and headed for Dover.
I arrived at Dover five hours before my scheduled sailing time and luckily they agreed to put me on an earlier ferry and one to Dunkirk (which saves on driving and costs the same) which left at 18:30. I joined the queue of cars which is dwarfed by the massive number of lorries waiting to cross.
Whilst waiting for the ferry I succumbed to some junk food.
Then once on the ferry I felt the need for something healthier to give me some energy for the three and a half hour drive back to Kempen from Dunkirk.
The journey from Dunkirk to Kempen was easy as it was late at night and the roads were clear – I was back by 1am, greeted by the dog and fell into bed. Unpacking waited until the next day!
Sound of Joy Choir sings in Süchteln
I’m a member of the gospel choir Sound of Joy that is affiliated to the Evangelische Kirche in Süchteln. We were asked to sing for half an hour at a celebration event for fifty years of Evva, the children’s work at the church. So Claudia and I went along to sing and Lara (Claudia’s daughter) and James came too.
The singing in Evva went fine and we had been asked afterwards to do a flash mob at an opening event for a former cinema/theatre which was being restored. It wasn’t a real flash mob as we all sang together but it was fun – there were about 25 of us altogether and about 50 other people in the room and we suddenly started singing ‘Lean on Me’.
On the way to the Theatre for the flash mob we’d passed a display of Oldtimer cars (as they call them in Germany) including some rather nice ones!
This Fiat van looked like the steering wheel was at the back!
Last month I attended the Quiz at the Royals Café in Anrath and our team won. This month there was another Quiz and although Sarah from our team was unable to come, cycling chum Uli stood in for her. We also had my neighbours Christine and her husband Andreas in our team of four.
This time round they also served some food – a chicken curry with spicy poppodums!
This time round we were the Quizologists. Look who won!
Once again we won a voucher for breakfast at the café so will have to start using them soon! It was great fun and good to win for the second time. Next month Christine and Andreas are unable to come so I will have to rustle up another team. This month Babs and her husband and some friends were on another team and they also did very well.
Helen babysits – for a good cause!
Those who know me in real life know I’m a bit of a misanthrope when it comes to babies/children. For me, people only become interesting after about 10 years of age when they can talk vaguely rationally.
So it was somewhat of a surprise to find myself babysitting little Lara for a weekend. This was my own fault (!!) as I had offered a weekend’s babysitting to Claudia for her birthday so she could do a longer bike tour, something she hasn’t been able to do on the trike yet. And she was keen to do the tour with Klaus so the date was booked – a Saturday and Sunday at the end of September.
Fortunately for my misanthropishness, Lara is 11 years old so can speak rationally and can amuse herself fairly well. I arrived at their house at 8:30am for a quick breakfast and then Claudia and Klaus set off on their trikes…
One thing Lara was keen to do was some baking. She had this strange idea that I had some kind of affinity with cakes and so suggested we made some Nutella Muffins from a recipe she had found on the internet. So we headed off to my Wohnung (where it’s easier to bake as I know where everything is) and had a go at the muffins.
I basically supervised but Lara did all the work.
It turned out that we put rather too much mixture in each cake case so they overflowed a bit, and the Nutella sank to the bottom, but they were very tasty!
We both did the decorations. I attempted a yellow velomobile and a green trike (with blue wheels). Colours are a bit dodgy but we only had four different colours of sugar butterflies to work with.
We tested one, with the help of Gudula, and decided they were very tasty!
I have to mention here about my personal cake making skills. Way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth I used to occasionally make a pineapple upside down cake which was pretty good. But then I lost the recipe (which was one I had got from school Cookery classes). When we moved to Colchester we discovered the oven is hopeless with cakes – even my mother in law, who is a Master Cake Maker, didn’t have total success when using my oven for cake production. So I kind of gave up.
Arriving in Germany, surrounded by cake, there was no need to make any – as you can buy ’em everywhere (and, in fact, I do). However, following the success of the Himbeer-Mascarpone cake Lara and I made for Claudia’s birthday, plus my Käse-Sahne Kuchen that I made with Ines, I decided that as I had a willing slave I ought to have another attempt at the Käse-Sahne Torte. So I did.
Once again I had the slight issue that my cake tin is a bit bigger than it should be so the base ends up rather thin (and you have to slice it in half – very carefully, with a long bread knife). As you can see, I added Mandarin Oranges for garnish and after it had set in my fridge (which took a couple of hours) we drove back to Lara’s house to hang out there.
Whilst the middle of the cake was setting in the fridge Lara and I did some music together.
On the way back to Lara’s house we stopped at the supermarket to get some food for the evening – I had decided my slave would cook me a pasta meal. Which she did very well!
This was four-cheese tortellini with chicken, onion, courgette and pepper, and a side salad as well. It was very tasty so thank you, Lara!
We played Cluedo (which the Germans pronounce as Cloo-ay-doh) and some card games before Lara decided it was time for her to go to bed.
The next morning after a light breakfast we headed off by bike to Viersen where Lara was taking part in a small orchestra performance. This was the school orchestra which is mainly flutes, brass instruments and a few saxophones/clarinets and some percussion. It was a bit of a surprise to discover they were on a big stage – and Lara was front and centre.
They played for 45 minutes or so and it was good fun. I sat comfortably reclined on my trike. The students play well, considering some have only been learning their instruments for a year, but a small recommendation would be that the music teachers train them how to tune up!
We rode back home for a lunch of the tortellini leftovers (yum) with some fresh bread, followed by Nutella Muffins.
We had lots of messages from Claudia and Klaus who were having a wonderful cycle trip – they had absolutely perfect weather, which seemed unfair as the Ruhrtal Radweg with James had been so wet and cold. But it was lovely to see they had such a good time. They zoomed home and arrived earlier than expected, just after we’d got back from walking Poppy the dog.
When they got back they were pretty tired after two days of 95km with luggage but Klaus had enough energy to eat two slices of the Käse-Sahne Torte (and another a bit later).
I used to play squash when I lived in Kent (not particularly well, but I enjoyed it) and when I was back in the UK I found my racket, shoes and squash balls and brought them back to Germany. Lara who lives here said she would play with me so we headed off to the courts in Duisburg.
It was a bit of a shock to have a clear glass wall behind us so the chaps propping up the bar could watch us running around.
No great surprise that Lara won (she’s incredibly sporty, even if she had hardly played before), but what was most surprising is that although I felt like an old woman for several days afterwards due to muscles being used in new ways, it wasn’t as crippling as I had expected. My legs were OK (presumably from the cycling), it was just my racquet arm and my hips that complained. But it was great fun and I hope we have some more chances to play.
Many of my friends in the UK are familiar with my expertise in collecting Roadkill Onions (harvested onions that have dropped off the tractor trailer onto the road). I was usually able to collect enough onions each year to last until the next harvesting season.
Things are different in Germany in that they grow fewer onions here, they collect them more tidily, don’t drop as many off the trailers and you’re not allowed to pick them off the fields after they’ve been ploughed in (as you are in the UK) so my haul this year was a rather disappointing two. But they were tasty.
It seems that German councils have the same issues as British ones in that they have to use up all their money in a financial year else they don’t get us much next year. Thus some pretty decent road surfaces round my village were resurfaced to excellent road surfaces. Here is Penelope trying out the new Janspfad.
Poppy enjoyed picking up this sweetcorn and proceeded to eat the entire thing. Amazingly she wasn’t sick afterwards!
Cakes this month
Another reminder to all my readers that I have not eaten all these cakes, they have also been eaten by friends that I am with. It’s just to give you an idea of the cakes available in Germany.
Ken the Minister from my church in the UK popped in on his way back from Berlin and I supplied a selection of cakes that we shared. Yum!
This is a picture of my shopping as part of a 50km round trip from home which went via the large Real supermarket in Tönisvorst… healthy fruit pieces and ten Quarkbällchen. A good distribution of healthiness and cakiness!
I also enjoyed another nice breakfast at Mokka, the café near the Rathaus in Viersen. This is their Schlemmerfrühstück.
So I’ve now been in Germany 18 months and have put down very strong roots. My diary is getting more busy with social things as Christmas approaches – including the Willich Choir’s concert of Elias by Mendelssohn-Bartholdy in November – but there is a bit of a blank during the day when I should be at work. I have been applying for lots of jobs and hope something suitable will work out for me in the next few months. Watch this space!