Life in Germany – August 2023 (Month 113)

Welcome to my blog for August.

Last month’s post was a whopper – you’ll all be pleased to note that this month’s is much shorter as not much happened – well, apart from a visit to England by me!

The month started off as all months should – with a visit to a café for some cake!

Café am Weiher

Klaus and I regularly cycle north of where we live into Kreis Kleve and had several times passed a café and Farm Shop near Hoerstgen. Klaus decided we should go and visit, so we set off by bike on the Saturday morning (they are closed on Sundays) and headed to Café am Weiher.

There was outside seating for the café and we needed to walk through the main farm shop area first – which was fairly busy.

Cake choice was actually rather disappointing – they had no cream cakes/Torten of the traditional German kind, they had mostly Streusel-type cakes or Nussecken, that sort of thing. Klaus and I almost always choose a cream cake over a traybake.

Anyway, with a choice of just 5-6 cakes it was easy to make a decision. We were told we had to order at the cake counter (they didn’t come to the table) so I stayed outside having bagged a table and Klaus queued for the cake order.

And queued,

And queued.

After half an hour I went inside to check he hadn’t passed out or done a runner – no, her was still there waiting.

About fifteen minutes later he finally arrived with our two cakes and two drinks (mine was just hot water for tea of course).

He said the staff were catastrophically disorganised and this was part of the problem – also they were extra busy as they had been featured on the television in Germany a week or two back.

The cakes were OK but the wait was not. And then we had to wait to queue to pay as well. So I don’t think we’ll be going back there.

Big events in Escheln

We live in a quiet hamlet 5km from Kempen but, despite the peace and tranquillity, occasionally exciting things do happen!

One day I was at work when I got a slew of messages from Gudula to say the police had stopped her twice on her walk with Poppy to ask if she had seen a Syrian man who was running from the police (he had crashed his car coming off the motorway after a police chase and had fled on foot). She said no, as she hadn’t seen him, but Rohallah their foster son was in the house and he is Afghan so the police recommended that if he went out he took his ID card with him.

There were lots of police cars still in the area when I got back from work, and there was even a helicopter hovering over our house.

Eventually the police cars and helicopter moved on – I don’t think they actually found him. I went out for my run a few hours later and didn’t see anything untoward.

Another visit to Classic Remise

Klaus has been organising the annual gathering of his former colleagues at GE and we would take them to Classic Remise, the classic car storage/sales place. And we would eat a meal there too.

We wanted to check out the restaurant on site so booked a table and headed there an hour and a half early to look around the cars again.

It’s really clear to me that the muscle cars (Porsches etc) have zero interest. But I loved the petrol blue AC and some of the old Jaguars. Klaus has got a bit of a thing about a couple of old Mercedes there – not super-old, just cars that were around when he was growing up. They tend to be unfortunately brown or green colours though and don’t do anything for me!

The restaurant where we had our meal was fine – service was friendly and the food choice was good. The dessert was very good! This should be a good option when we meet up with Klaus’s former colleagues next month.

A ride to St Tönis

August would be almost the last few times we would see Lara before her trip to Canada so she came to stay two consecutive weekends with us (the second weekend I was in the UK so she had time alone with her father).

She borrowed my trike and my SPD sandals and off we went to St Töniser Obsthof which is always a good place to get cake.

As usual I chose the Himmelstorte and was surprised to find that the lady serving me started a discussion on Tetley tea (which her husband drinks). She said he buys them online cheaper than in the UK – which I don’t believe at all, they were five times the cost online when I last looked – but I was pleased to know there was another Tetley fan in Kreis Viersen.

A visit to England

My Mum celebrates her birthday mid-August so back in January I had booked a ferry trip to the UK to be there for her birthday.

I travelled over on the Wednesday evening, so I only needed two days off at work. I took the Sunday night return ferry and so was at work by midday on the Monday.

This time I would be making the journey in Priscilla the SLK. Our previous visit to England was in Zuzanna the Z3, the one before that in Leo my Smart Cabio and the one before that in Murphy the Octavia, so Mum is having a string of different German cars parked outside her house!

I packed my luggage in various soft bags so that they were low enough that I could close the luggage area curtain (which means you can open the roof on the SLK), but in the end this was not necessary as I travelled with the roof up the whole time.

I left for Hoek van Holland at 16:00 and got caught in a traffic jam near Rotterdam. We were stationary on the road for about 10 minutes but as I had plenty of time in hand I wasn’t worried. I listened to podcasts on the journey and arrived at HvH at 7pm. I went straight to the chinese restaurant for dinner (which was very nice!) and of course to use their loo. On the way back to the car (parked at Albert Heijn) I did a bit of extra walking to get my steps goal for the day and stopped for a (very expensive) ice cream.

I didn’t have long to wait to get onto the ship and, as an old hand at these crossings (I have done over 90!) I went straight to my cabin to dump my stuff. This meant basically emptying my rucksack of my overnight gear and then taking just money, phone, teabags and iPad to the communal areas on Deck 9 for a bit of relaxation.

As you can see, it wasn’t very busy. I had bought a pastry for this evening and also a muffin for breakfast the next morning from St Hubert (I know now that I find nothing suitable in Albert Heijn) so I drank my tea from my flask and ate my pastry whilst checking the final weather reports and chilling out.

The view from the window showed it was still daylight as I headed up to my cabin to go to sleep.

I didn’t actually sleep that well, which often happens on the outward crossing. I woke up far too early as well – 5:30am, normal German wakeup time – so decided to get up and dressed and have my tea and muffin earlier than planned.

The ferry had obviously been quite busy as just before disembarkation the lounges were all pretty full. We went down to our cars and had a long wait before we were able to get off as I was parked on the higher level and they had to empty the level below first.

It was also therefore a long queue for the border. I had an appointment with the Osteopath in Langham at 08:00. I thought there would be plenty of time to get there but as the queue slowly shuffled forward I realised I would have to take the direct route, not the scenic, route, in order to be there on time.

Eventually I was through the passport check and driving down the A120 towards Colchester. I made may way to the Osteopath and was faffing a bit once I got there (ten minutes early in the end) but he knocked on the car window. Turned out his Dad had had an SLK and the osteopath loved them!

The Osteopath did his magic on me again – he straightens me up a bit as I favour my right hand side as I can’t carry anything heavy in my left hand. He also pointed out that because I had been slightly twisted that my hairdresser hat cut my hair at the back level with how I was then sitting but now I am straighter my hair is not. First world problem.

I booked another appointment with him for when I am next visiting the UK (October) but this time we made it an hour later so there was no stress if it was slow leaving the ferry again.

From Langham to Mum’s was just half an hour or so and I was soon in Witnesham having a cup of tea with Mum. 

The first thing we did was delivered a dress I have bought to Mum’s friend Viv who is a dressmaker. The dress needed turning up at the hem as it was a bit long for me. So I had brought the dress (it’s an evening gown) and my shoes that go with it and Viv made all the required measurements. She had planned to have it finished before I returned to Germany but her sewing machine ended up with an issue so I said no problem, I can pick it up in October (I won’t be wearing it before then!)

Mum suggested that we go for cake to The Old Store which is a café and bric a brac shop which isn’t open all that often but would be open today. Her friend Margo would come with us. This seemed like a plan so we headed off. Due to road closures we had to go down some very narrow lanes (Mum was driving her fiesta as we had Margo in the back) and there was an oil tanker doing a delivery that blocked the road so she had to reverse quite a long way. Not much fun.

We arrived at the Old Store and I selected a scone – Mum had the Victoria sandwich cake.

We sat outside as it was rather noisy inside and enjoyed the sunny day. Margo is a lovely lady and we were talking about my Scottish road trip as she was doing a trip to the East Coast of Scotland shortly.

We drove back via a longer but less narrow route and I then went for a walk as I was trying to keep my steps (8.000 per day) going. The landscape round Mum’s is lovely with rolling fields and hedges. Despite them having had a bit of rain it wasn’t muddy walking, I just had to keep out of the way of some of the stinging nettles.

The plan for the evening was fish & chips and Mum headed out to get a Pensioner’s Portion for me (which is plenty – and very good value!) It took her over an hour to get to the fish shop, have the food cooked and then come back – I was just enjoying the chance to relax. When the fish & chips came I enjoyed my portion very much!

The next day we both took it very easy – it was Mum’s birthday and we had a relaxed celebration which included having lunch at the Railway where we shared a fish platter that Mum really likes. It was very tasty! And we both went for a dessert too.

Mum had bought me the usual sack of teabags before I came but we also popped to the supermarket for some other bits and bobs and I saw another Tetley sack and thought it worth getting it. When we got home we noticed they were different…

The one on the left is what Mum bought me, and is 440 bags. The one on the right is 400 bags. However, the one on the left has a total tea weight of 0.88 kg and the one on the right has 1.3 kg, so you get a lot more tea in the 400 bags. I have to say, I find the quantity of tea in the One Cup is fine for me so it is a benefit to have 40 more bags in a pack. The price was the same for both.

The next day, Saturday, was the day to visit my sister and family in Essex.

Mum ad I headed there in Priscilla and arrived at Anna’s at about 11:00am. We had a cup of tea and a chat and I helped Anna set the table for the lunch. Look at this plate she had (a set of two, and two matching bowls!)

She had prepared us a lunch of homemade sandwiches, scotch eggs, crisps etc – so not exactly low carb, but I enjoyed it!

The plan was for Anna and I to head to Lakeside so I could do the traditional expat shopping in Marks & Spencer for smalls. I hadn’t been to Lakeside for ages (it turned out I last went 16 years before, but used to go quite regularly with my chum Charlotte when I lived in Tonbridge) and my feeling was that it had gone a bit upmarket. I guess it still can’t compete with Bluewater which is the other side of the Dartford Crossing, but it had few empty units and most of the expected chains were there.

And here a short note – when reading the useless magazines in the dentist’s surgery this month I spotted an article on Harry Kane and his current house… which is in Essex which is in London. I guess Lakeside qualifies for that too.

I was very successful in Marks & Spencer and Anna also got a couple of things she was looking for (including a saucepan in Wilkos before they shut for good). So we felt pleased with ourselves as we headed back to Anna’s house to collect my Mum (who had been chilling out reading a book as she didn’t fancy Lakeside) and my niece Gwen to then go and see chum Lindsay. 

We arrived at Lindsay’s just as she had dried off the dog as he had been in her swimming pool twice after they had finished swimming. And as we were there, Reggie ran in again. It took about 15 minutes for her to catch him again and while she was hanging on to him I had to actuate the button for the cover to go on the pool – which it did very slowly as Reggie tried to wriggle out of Lindsay’s hands (he wasn’t wearing a collar as it was drying after his swim!)

You can see Reggie in the photo below doing his laps.

After we had taken away his fun we sat down for a cuppa and a chat. It’s always good to see Lindsay and have a chinwag – we were reminiscing about when she bought her Saalfelden flat.

We returned to Anna’s to collect the rest of the family and we went out for an Indian meal at the Maharajah on Bread & Cheese Hill. The food was OK but not as nice as some of the other places so we probably won’t go back.

We said goodbye and Mum and I headed pack to Ipswich. It was getting dark as we were driving back and I hadn’t yet fitted the headlamp beam converters to my car (I had them in the glove box) but no-one flashed me at all so I left them off. I didn’t want to reduce the available headlights from a 24-year-old car if possible!

The next day was Sunday and I headed off at 09:00 to Colchester to church at Lion Walk URC. The sun was coming very nicely through the Priory as I parked in the usual (cheap) car park.

I enjoyed the service and then went for a bit of a walk around, nosing in some shops and getting the feeling that Colchester was also turning the corner and becoming a more positive place. The last few visits were just the feeling of decay and shops closing but it seemed to have more life. Which was very good news.

I did a walk again in the afternoon and then got my bags ready for the journey back to Germany. Mum and I had an evening meal at the Railway – they even offered a Schnitzel! (Although I didn’t choose that).

Instead I chose roast pork with Yorkshire pudding.

And dessert of apple crumble and custard for me.

Mum had a brownie.

After this we said goodbye and Mum headed home and I went off to Harwich.

Once through check-in we had to wait an hour in the queue in the cars to await to board the ship. There were a lot of cyclists in the queue too – it’s good to see how popular cycle touring has become.

Eventually we were let on the ship and I made my way to my cabin which, for the first time ever, had internet access within the cabin! Normally I have to go to Deck 9 for wifi. I was still in a standard inside cabin.

I didn’t sleep as well as I had hoped and was awake much earlier than I needed again. I had brought some goodies with me for the boat so had breakfast of a chocolate chip shortbread, looking out of the window at the Maas river.

When we went to our cars and disembarked I was pretty much at the back of the queue for the NL border which took an hour for me to get to the passport check. In this time I was unsure whether I should keep turning my engine off and then back on again to move forward one car length, or whether I should keep the engine running. I did a bit of a mixture of these two but would be interested to know what is best (cooling, battery, etc).

I finally got through the passport check at 09:00 and headed back to Kempen. I popped into home to drop off my suitcase and the few items in my cool bag and then headed to work, where I distributed some doughnuts.

In the end I didn’t have my lunch, just three doughnuts, so that was a really healthy day’s food! 

My colleague Lucia had asked me to get her some syrup sponge puddings/treacle puddings as I had got her some last time and she really liked them. Interestingly, I remembered you could get family-sized ones and she said that would be really good. A day before I set off I saw the following Internet Meme which suggests that these family size puddings are available.

But the reality was I could only find the packs of two single ones so I had to get those for her.

I worked for about four hours (my usual working day is 5 hours) and then it was time to go home as I was pretty pooped. I had to go out for a walk as well as I was still keeping to my steps goal of at least 8,000 per day and all I had done that day was sat in my car driving from Hoek van Holland to Kempen and then sat at my desk. I went out and got my steps so that was a result.

Klaus gets Corona again!

Klaus wasn’t feeling 100% on the Monday that I returned from England and on the Tuesday he came home from work early as he wasn’t feeling good at all. He thought he had a bad cold.

Except on Wednesday afternoon he decided to do a Corona test and it was positive!

I checked with work and it was agreed that I would work from home the next two days (Thursday and Friday) as I had been in such close contact with Klaus. He was in bed feeling very rough for two days, only really emerging on the Thursday and then only in short bursts.

I continued testing myself every day (had to buy some new corona tests – a pack of 50 cost 6 Euros, a bit of a change from the height of the pandemic when they were 2 Euros each!) but remained negative. I had been in the house with Klaus pretty much the whole time and he had been coughing and sneezing but I still didn’t catch it (I haven’t yet had it). Surprising.

He was off work until the following Tuesday. Sunday was the first time he left the flat since he had become ill and that wore him out. He did light work from home on Monday and Tuesday with lots of rests but finally felt OK on Wednesday. We were happy he was feeling better as Wednesday was our last time to see Lara before she heads off to Canada at the beginning of September (she is away the weekend before).

Wedding anniversary and a fire in Kempen

Sunday 27 August was our second wedding anniversary. The original plan, to be away for the weekend at a castle in Oeding, had to be cancelled because of Klaus’s Coronavirus. However, we knew there was an Oldtimer Treffen (heritage car meeting) in Kempen on the Sunday morning and that would be interesting to visit.

However, at 8:08am our phones started going mad with warnings.

This was a warning to keep windows and doors closed, to turn off air conditioning units and to stay inside as there was a fire with dangerous fumes.

Looking out of the window we could see smoke coming from Kempen in our direction. We soon got more information. This info was shared to the Facebook site for Kempen by a chap named Kevin Kostner!

So there was a fire at a chemical plant in Kempen which is in the industrial area of Kempen. So my plan for a morning run was out of the window!

The pall of smoke disappeared after about half an hour, and the bad smell that had been with it too, but we had no update from the official hazard app as to whether we were now allowed to go outside.

So we lit our Wedding Anniversary candle instead!

We ended out going to the Oldtimer Rally and there were plenty of people there. There was no sign of smoke and nothing had been officially cancelled so it seems everything was still happening in Kempen.

The day before I had seen signs for a wedding at Heskeshof, the farm buildings which included the holiday home that my mother and sister stayed in for our wedding two years ago.

On the way back we picked up some nice cakes from Naturhof Been in Stenden Rahm and shared them with Gudula and Frank.

Continuing Education

My colleague Lucia occasionally tries to help me out with my German (although it’s mostly stuck now as I’m not really learning anything new). Anyway, now and again she gets cheesed off by one of my regular errors and tries to help me to correct it.

Our offices are on the first floor and we have to periodically go to the Warehouse (“downstairs”) to deliver or pick up paperwork. When one of us goes we take the paperwork for the other two.

Anyway, Lucia finally got fed up of me saying “ich gehe unten” (I am going downstairs – incorrectly), as it should be “ich gehe runter”. In German the word for “downstairs” cannot be used in the context of going there. Yes, I don’t know why either.

Because I said I would never remember this she provided me with a handy reminder – the chair that I pass every time I leave my desk.

Klaus helpfully pointed out that I could also say “ich gehe nach unten” which would also work and retains the word “unten” that I usually use. Despite this being on the chair for two weeks, and me getting it right occasionally, I still get it wrong now and then so the sign remains for the time being.

One thing I did spot was some text in a German news report which I thought had a spelling error – my colleague Lucia agreed it did, one too many letter fs. The word is the past participle for a dog sniffing out someone.

This is one of those great German words which is also slightly onomatopoeic.

Lara is about to leave for Canada

We had our last evening with Lara before she heads off to Canada. She is really looking forward to the change but will miss her friends and family. She had lots of different leaving dos two weekends before as she will spend the last few days in Germany in Frankfurt visiting her Uncle and of course her Grandfather in Mannheim.

We will be flying out to Canada next May for her birthday which is probably the next time we will see her. I joked with her about her accent – I presume she will start having an American twang! Yuck!

Anyway, we wish her safe travelling and all the best for her au pair year.

And for us… it will be different for us without her visiting but we can keep in contact easily these days.

Next month

September is when it starts getting busier for me at work – and I am already at full stretch. Klaus has a lot of business trips over the next three months but fortunately all within Europe. The weather is getting colder and it will soon be time to pack away the summer clothes but we are hoping the warm weather will hold on a bit longer.

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