Life in Germany – January-February 2024 (Months 118 & 119)

Hello everyone.

The last blog post was short and sad – my Mum had died.

I’m writing this on the 28th February and we had the funeral last week and all the paperwork that I have to do as Executor of her Will is all in hand. Mum’s lovely house is up for sale, I am back at work and starting to grapple with the German inheritance tax as well as the UK version.

As last month’s blog was very short I thought I would write a little bit about January in this blog too. This blog was something my Mum was always keen to read and she often talked to me about it. It’s sort-of my chance to tell the world about what’s going on in my life, but feels now also like telling Mum as I won’t be having the phone chats anymore.

Plans for 2025

The big news, that we didn’t actually tell Mum before she died, is that Klaus and I have decided to move to the UK.

We started discussing it last autumn when we realised Mum would probably need a bit more help and we were so far away. We were also looking ahead to retirement in Germany with its expensive health insurance, plus Klaus had always fancied living abroad, so we discussed it together over several months and decided we would move to the UK in 2-3 years.

He discussed this with his bosses in January to see if there were some opportunities to move to the UK branch of his company, which just happens to be 10 minutes away from where my sister and her family live. He made an appointment with the MD of the UK branch which would be during our holiday in England in February. More on this topic later… but overall all is looking very positive.

Some bike maintenance

This blog used to be all about bikes, velomobiles, maintenance, cakes. Well, the cakes are still a major theme.

Velomobiles can be a bit tricky to maintain as they cover big distances and lots of the important bits are hard to get to. An example with my Milan is the brake cable – it’s a horrible job to change it! About five years ago I had to renew the brake cable on one side as the brake stayed on as it was all rusty inside the sheath. This was a horrible job but I succeeded,

In December 2023 the other brake started to play up, sticking really badly. I valiantly tried to squirt WD40 down there but of course it’s Mission Impossible and the brake got worse and worse. Whenever I stopped it took lots of effort to get the bike moving/release the brake. So it was time to do the repair.

However, with temperatures below freezing and this job usually taking 1-2 hours as it is so fiddly I did NOT want to work in the garage or on the garden table. So I asked at work if I could use their relatively warm warehouse and they said yes! So here is Millie waiting by rows of candles for her maintenance.

I had bought a new brake cable, the weird metal noodle thing that guides the brake around the steering plates, and any other bits and bobs I thought I might need. I had loads of tools, including some good wire cutters etc.

Here you see work’s cat checking out my pile of stuff from the velomobile.

I made a start and was very quickly at a standstill as I just could not remove the old noodle thingie from the steering plate – and could not pull the cable through either. In the end I had to cut the cable right near the noodle and use pliers to try to pull it out – no luck. Fortunately my colleague came and he had a lot more strength and was able to pull out the brake cable eventually. But in doing this the existing noodle was bent out of shape so I really hoped the new one would fit.

But it actually took AGES to get the old noodle off as it had corroded on. My colleague (still being very helpful) thought that it was a fixed part of the structure but I knew it was not as I had done this before. Eventually he pulled so hard that the noodle finally gave way. Hooray!

I was able to clean away some of the rust/corrosion, add the new noodle and then put the cable through the sheath. And here I am at the point where I have to cut the cable to length – a bit scary.

I managed it and after half an hour of fiddling was able to get the rather rusty drum brake cable stopper thingie in roughly the right place. I tightened it up, tested the brakes (too loose), adjusted it again, tested the brakes again (almost right) and then I was done. A colleague helped me by holding the brake lever whilst I spun the wheels (you can’t do this on your own) and I was able to make the fine brake adjustments so they weren’t sticking but weren’t too loose – and each brake was about the same so the velomobile doesn’t pull to the left or the right on braking. I’d one 95% of the work myself, had only disturbed my colleagues for about five minutes, so I hoped that was OK.

I cycled home and SUCCESS!

The brakes were much better than before, they braked in a straight line and I had not completely frozen myself doing this job. Hopefully I don’t need to do any more bike maintenance for a few more years (I don’t count pumping up the tyres in this).

I actually did a bit of non-commute cycling with Klaus when we cycled to the Edeka in Kerken for a Saturday morning shop. Klaus took this pic and you can see a man with a trolley in the background speaking to me. He was saying “is your machine a one-off?” to which I answered by pointing to Klaus’s Velomobile a meter away.

Cake with Bella

My oldest friend in NRW is Bella, who I see a couple of times a year for cake somewhere. She had been unwell for a while but was feeling better so we had made plans to meet for cake at Heinemann in Krefeld (which is apparently a famous cake emporium). Bella told me where to park – and I used a spot reserved for ladies!

It was so great to see Bella again and we enjoyed some very good cakes and a hugely long chinwag.

There was loads to catch up on! Not least that Klaus and I were planning to move to the UK and had actually decided already to move up the schedule because I would need to be around Mum more – we were now looking to see if we could get the move done ASAP.

To England to visit Mum in hospital

IMum had told Anna and I on the Saturday morning that she hadn’t been feeling well for a few days, with a bad cough and feeling very tired and not wanting to eat much. She hoped she would be better so she could attend the funeral of a friend’s husband on Wednesday.

On the Monday Mum messaged us that she had been to the doctor who had sent her to hospital and they were keeping her in. I contacted Mum’s friend and neighbour for an update and she said the doctor thought it was pneumonia or a bad chest infection, but that Mum had been a bit confused which had worried the neighbours, thus they had badgered Mum to get a doctor’s appointment. Anna decided to go and visit the next day (Tuesday) and I would travel overnight on Tuesday and so visit on the Wednesday – to give me a chance to clear it with my work and take a laptop with me so I could work from England. My boss was really good and said I could work from home in England and so could stay until the weekend. This was very good news.

So I booked a last minute ferry and was surprised to discover it was the Stena Horizon. This was because the Stena Britannica or the Stena Hollandica (whichever one it should be) was being refitted.

It turned out to be a fairly small ship and what was most unexpected was that the car deck was out in the open air. So Priscilla had a night on the tiles!

I had to book a 4-berth cabin which seemed a bit over the top for one person but they were pretty much all 4-berth. it was comfy.

The ferry was almost empty, I wandered around the two lounge areas and barely saw any other passengers. There was no Stena Lounge on this ship so I didn’t get my free tea and coffee and pastries.

They had a slightly different selection of food items though – I treated myself to this Ferrero Rocher Cheesecake.

I had hoped to eat at the Chinese in Hoek van Holland whilst waiting for the ferry but it turns out it is closed on Tuesday so I ended up having a massively disappointing kebab – which was nothing like a German kebab, very boring, and cost more. I won’t make that mistake again!

I arrived at Harwich the next morning and as we went back to the cars I noticed mine was covered in salt. As Priscilla is rather old (24 years) and has pristine paintwork I wanted to protect her paintwork so took her straight to a hand car wash in Ipswich.

They did a good job for 7 pounds and it only took ten minutes. I then drove from there to the hospital to see Mum.

When I arrived Mum seemed pretty good, she was chatty and although she initially had an oxygen feed to her nose they took that off her fairly soon after I arrived and she was then able to walk to the loo on her own. Here is Mum with me – this is the last picture I have of her.

We had a good chat and she seemed alert. She was being well taken care of by the nurses on the ward. Anna had visited the day before and had felt Mum looked a lot worse than in the photo I took, she was clearly getting better – and said she was definitely feeling better.

She had several visits from friends and had had a full run-down of the funeral that she had wanted to attend but unfortunately she had to miss it.

There was a Costa Coffee and a WHSmith within the hospital just round the corner from Mum’s ward but I walked outside the hospital grounds to a florist (to get some flowers for Mum’s neighbour) and took the opportunity to buy a YumYum from a bakery there. Which I had when I got back to the hospital.

I spent the afternoon with Mum and stayed until doctors rounds where I had a chance to hear what the doctors said. Mum had pneumonia but her kidneys were also not working quite right and her sugars were high (she was diabetic, on tablets), so they wanted to improve matters before she would be let out.

I then headed off to overnight at Mum’s house, picking up a Chinese take away on the way home which ended up being far too much for me on my own (although I did finish it all). So after some indigestion I eventually fell asleep.

I had agreed with Mum that I would work in the mornings (my normal working hours are 08:00 – 13:00 German time so I worked 07:00 – 12:00 UK time). I only had the laptop monitor so I used my personal MacBook as a second monitor – most of my work is done in the Cloud anyway so I could use both computers.

After work was done I headed to the hospital again to visit Mum.

This time there was a visiting Cockapoo outside the ward door so I had a chat with the owner, and another dog walked past later. Seems that therapy dogs are quite a thing now in hospitals (my first dog Ben the Labrador was a Pets as therapy dog).

I had a salad lunch and then mid-afternoon had a Costa Twist which was rather drier than I was expecting.

What is good is that Costa had all the calories of their snacks and sandwiches so I could theoretically have made some good choices. But I chose cake.

Mum was doing better today, off the oxygen and taking great interest in what was going on around her.

Another woman in the bay had a voice like a Foghorn so we called her Foghorn Lady. Mum heard her entire life story at 120 decibels the evening before but seemed surprisingly chilled about it – I was fed up with this woman after five minutes! Fortunately they were making arrangements for her to go home and she was eventually moved out much later that evening. I was impressed by Mum’s acceptance of this lady, I am much less tolerant!

I picked up fish and chips on the way home and also some chocolates for Mum to give the staff at the hospital. They said she might be let out the next day (Friday) so I was given a list of things to bring back with me on Friday, knowing I might be driving her home.

It was a beautiful sunrise as I started work.

After I completed my work I headed to Ipswich to see Mum again. She was still feeling fairly good and the pneumonia was subsiding. She was still OK without the extra oxygen and was fine to walk around.

Today’s treat was a brownie.

At Doctor’s Rounds he said that Mum could go home for the weekend because nothing much else would happen at the weekend in terms of tests (she had already had loads done, such as x-rays, ultrasounds, numerous blood tests, a CT scan, a heart scan etc). he said she would have to come back Monday morning and should bring a suitcase as she may well have to stay in. She was resigned to this and not too bothered about it, but was happy that she could go home for the weekend. The hospital were happy for her to do this as I would be there for the next day to look after her.

I was slightly concerned that, as I was leaving on Saturday night, Mum would be on her own until Monday morning but Maureen the neighbour promised to look in on her. Maureen would also drive her to the hospital appointment on Monday morning.

So Mum got dressed and I collected the car and drove it to the entrance of the hospital. Mum was wheeled through the hospital to the exit and managed the short walk to my car without problems, although getting in and out of the low SLK was a little harder!

She was so happy to be home.

The next day my sister Anna and my niece Gwen visited. Mum was resting a lot of the time and was happy for me to make her coffee and do some odd jobs. She was enjoying being at home amongst her familiar things. I did the washing for her so she could repack her suitcase in case she stayed in the hospital on Monday. We thought this was a 50/50 chance.

Mum has always been really independent and done things for herself so it was very unusual for her to ask me to do things for her. I was happy to do them, but it was definitely a change from the established situation. And I felt really awful leaving Mum alone on the Saturday night. As it happens Klaus and I had already booked a week’s holiday in England in two weeks’ time so I knew we would have a whole week with Mum then and would be able to evaluate what extra help she might need. Or so we thought.

I left along with Anna and Gwen and we headed to Manningtree for a curry in the Mogul Restaurant.

Leaving Mum had been difficult but she seemed to be doing well and her neighbours were all offering to check on her regularly. She had WhatsApp too and was writing us messages regularly.

Anna, Gwen and I discussed how we could look after Mum as she recovered from her pneumonia. We thought that someone would need to be staying with her overnight so we agreed that Anna would be there Wednesday night to Saturday and I would be there Sunday morning to Wednesday evening. Which of course meant commuting from Germany for me, but so be it. Gwen is in the middle of a year’s intensive training as an audiologist and she could help out a little but has a dog with separation anxiety so she couldn’t do too much.

I told Anna I would buy a widescreen monitor, printer, keyboard and mouse etc that we could keep at Mum’s so we could both work at home when we doing our stint with a decent monitor – we just had to plug our laptops in. I would take the items back when no longer needed as I could use them at home in Germany too. Of course we didn’t say anything about this to Mum yet, but we wanted to know that she would be well looked after.

I arrived early to the ferry but it was one of the big ones again so no outdoors camping for my car!

And the Stena Lounge offered pastries as usual…

I was happy to get home on Sunday morning to see Klaus and Poppy again. He had missed me a lot.

Raymond the Piano finds a new home

One thing I realised about moving to the UK is that my grand piano would be a problem. Our landlord and landlady would not need it in the flat if they were to let it out again.

Because it felt like it was mentally weighing me down I put it up for sale for a notional 100 Euros. The buyer would have to arrange transport.

Of course I got a few stupid enquiries but ended up with one from a German chap in Kempen who was moving into a new flat with his girlfriend and she was a professional pianist. She came and played the piano and liked it – so they bought Raymond!

They ended up using the same transport company who originally brought the piano over from the UK. It seemed it was easier to get it down the stairs than up them!

This was actually a rather sad event for me as I bought the piano in 1997.

Here is Raymond ready to go.

After just a few minutes the keyboard was out.

Wrapped carefully to be transported down the stairs.

And two chaps carrying a piano that weighs more than 250kg down a wooden spiral staircase.

A bit easier once outside.

And here it is in its new home being played.

I am happy that it is now being played by a real expert – the piano is now 100 years old and it is in daily use so it has gone to a great home!

A visit to the Ambiente Messe

The weekend after I had been in England with Mum Klaus and I decided to go and visit his father and also the Ambiente Messe in Frankfurt, the trade fair at which the company I work for exhibits.

Part of the reason to visit Klaus’s father was that we had not been able to get hold of him on the phone for several days which was very unusual. Klaus was very concerned and was contemplating calling the police to break in, when his father finally answered the phone. It turned out his phone hadn’t been showing missed messages. It also turns out that he has to press a button in his apartment every morning to show he is still alive or they send someone to check on him. So he told us that we don’t have to worry about that side of things which was good to know.

We visited Werner for a few hours and then headed off to the Ambiente Messe. There was a train strike so the Trade Fair wasn’t as busy as it might have been – and the main railway station car park in Frankfurt was almost empty!

We decided to go to the Messe first and then afterwards to go to Zeit für Brot, the wonderful bakery that does the enormous Schnecke (doughy twist pastry things). This turned out to be a mistake as they had run out of them by the time we turned up (at 6pm).

Our Stand was using the same structure as last year which is a wall of candles.

We had a good look around, had a chat to colleagues (and got some free drinks and mini chocolates from them!) and I went to visit the stand of one of our Indian suppliers. We did a LOT of walking.

Afterwards we walked to Zeit für Brot (and failed to get our Schnecke) so went to a restaurant for an evening meal where Klaus had previously eaten. It was good food and was delivered by a robot!! I had a healthy sticky toffee pudding dessert.

Klaus went for cheesecake.

Mum back in hospital

As I mentioned above, Mum came home for the weekend but had an appointment at the hospital at 9am the following Monday. Maureen her next door neighbour went with her and Mum was told she did have to stay in and ended up back on the same ward as before.

She had to go back on the oxygen and also was having trouble with her diabetes so they started her on insulin. This was a bit worrying to me as she had been getting better and was now getting worse. I phoned the hospital twice per day (morning and then after the doctor’s rounds in the afternoon) to get an update and the nurses always told me that Mum was eating well, walking on her own, but she was tethered again to the oxygen mask which made it harder to sleep.

Mum was sending Anna and I WhatsApp messages too although they became shorter over the next four or five days.

Anna and I started to think that we would definitely need to be there for Mum when she came out of hospital because this length of stay in hospital means a long recovery. I checked with my work that they would let me work from England for 3 weeks in March as Anna would be away; if work wouldn’t allow it then I had decided I would resign so I could look after Mum with a clear conscience. My work were really good, though, and my boss said he would support me in working from England, so that took a weight off my mind.

Over the next week Mum’s condition began to deteriorate – they struggled to get her sugars and kidneys under control and she needed more and more oxygen. My regular calls with the nurses always had positive news (she was eating well, chatting with visitors) but I noticed her WhatsApp messages tailed off and then she stopped replying (but she did read them) and then the blue tick stopped. The neighbours were all regularly visiting and said Mum was very tired but was still chatting to them when they visited, even when WhatsApp wasn’t showing any activity. She was on a lot of oxygen now and the doctors told me they thought she might have a pulmonary embolism – then it was confirmed. Klaus and I were due to return to the UK for our week’s holiday on Friday night, but on Wednesday I was in two minds whether I should go early to the UK, but that would mean going in a separate car from Klaus. He was feeling very unwell with a really bad cold and was off work sick. So I stayed.

In fact, Klaus was feeling so poorly with his very bad cold that he said he didn’t know if he could come with me to England at the weekend. I told him that if that was the case then I would go tomorrow (Thursday) on my own, he would need to tell me by 15:00 as I would need to set off for the ferry. I really wanted his support, though, so preferred to wait an extra day so he would be with me.

England again

The next morning Klaus was still rough and unsure whether he would be able to come to the UK. He had till 3pm to decide.

And then just as I was about to leave for work I had a phone call from Ipswich Hospital. It was a nurse who had been unable to get hold of Anna. Her message was, “come”.

I told her I was coming from Germany and it would take at least eight hours. I said that I would try to get through to Anna, and eventually I managed to get Roderic on the phone and he passed it to Anna. She had a bag half packed anyway (we had both done this) and so set off almost straight away. Gwen, who was in Llandudno in Wales on a training course, phoned the hospital back to get more details as I hadn’t really been fully functioning when the call came in as I was shocked. After Gwen spoke to some hospital staff she set off on the five hour drive from Llandudno to Ipswich.

I knew that Klaus and I would not get to England until the evening and this would undoubtedly be too late to say goodbye to Mum so we took our time getting ready, making sure we had all we needed for the week’s holiday as well as the two extra days. Poppy would be looked after by our landlord and landlady. Although Klaus was feeling really ill he wanted to come with me and hoped he could maybe sleep in the car.

The Stena ferry from Hoek van Holland is only twice per day so we decided to go the Eurotunnel route, which is lots more driving. I did all the driving as Klaus was feeling bad, which included going over something I thought was some cardboard on the Belgian motorway but turned out to be a plank of wood. It was a nasty bump but we stopped and checked the tyres on the car and it was OK, fortunately.

During the journey Anna phoned us to update us on the situation and what the doctors were saying – they had phoned her whilst she was driving asking if Mum should be put on a ventilator (we both said no). Anna arrived at the hospital and sat with Mum for ten minutes and then Mum died. Anna stayed there a further hour and some of Mum’s friends also came to visit, as did Anna’s middle child Hari, to say goodbye to Mum.

Klaus and I got the news when queuing for the UK border at the Eurotunnel terminal in France. In a weird mirroring of eight years ago, that time I got the message that my Dad had died when queuing for the UK border in Harwich.

The journey in the Eurotunnel was fine, except we had expected to stop and eat first but they let us straight on the train. We had fortunately picked up some cookies at a loo stop in the Netherlands as that was all we really had to eat (well, Klaus had some sweeties too). We had some water to drink and I had a flask of tea but neither of us felt like stopping anywhere, we just wanted to get to Ipswich.

I kept saying “I must remember to pay the Dart Charge!” which is the 2.50 pound payment for crossing the Dartford Bridge/through the Dartford Tunnel to get over the Thames. Reader, I forgot. But so far we haven’t had a demand for payment to Klaus’s company car.

We went straight to Mum’s house as I had told Anna I didn’t need to see Mum in the Chapel of Rest. Gwen was also there, having arrived from Llandudno a few hours before. We spent the evening talking together and had a take-away curry.

Everyone was off work the next day so we met up again (Anna and Klaus and I had stayed in Mum’s house of course). This time Harley was able to come as Anna’s third child, Val, looked after Chip the dog. Klaus spent most of the day in bed trying to get over his cold.

Maureen, Mum’s neighbour, came over to see us and she solved one of our most pressing problems – what would we do with Daisy the tortoise? Maureen offered to take her, which was great, as none of the rest of us could really – at least this year. Daisy was currently hibernating but would need to be moved to Maureen’s shed in due course.

Anna and I were arranging the funeral and dealing with the paperwork following a death. We were both named as executors of Mum’s Will and so we started organising that. I would do the financial side of it, Anna would do things like utilities for the house that would need a UK address for bill redirection.

Anna went home to see her husband in the evening, and Gwen and Harley headed off too, Klaus and I tried to relax but I was working my way through all the paperwork and there was so much to do. I ended up donating Mum’s clothes and handbags to a local charity shop – I remember when Dad died Mum disposed of his clothes the next day and now I see why. Klaus and I were staying in her bedroom and using her wardrobe and I needed to empty it. The only thing that I kept was a black hat – I love hats, it fitted me and it would be what I would wear for the funeral.

On Sunday morning Klaus and I went to my old church in Colchester and Anna drove up from home to come too. It was so wonderful to see my church friends there, many of whom knew about Mum already from my Facebook posts. They were very supportive and it reminded me what a great community it is at Lion Walk URC.

We parked near the Colchester Priory and I noticed a Priscilla-colour SLK. We looked inside – it was a complete mess! Rusty in places too, definitely looking more lived-in than Priscilla.

After church we decided to have a bit of a walk around Colchester – Anna hadn’t really visited before. We got some more keys cut to Mum’s house and after nosing around the town centre (Colchester is somewhere I wouldn’t mind moving back to so wanted Klaus to see more of it) we stopped for cake in a tiny café in Eld Lane. Service was slow and the food was very powerful so Klaus felt rather overdone after he ate his brownie.

I had this fantastically healthy cookie with a blob of caramel on the top.

Next on the schedule was to have afternoon tea at the Shed in Sproughton. Gwen and Harley and Hari and Luke travelled there to meet us, so all seven of us enjoyed sitting in the WW2-themed café for cakes. Klaus felt rather more German than normal sitting there…

As you can see, standard English sponge cakes plus a scone with jam and clotted cream. We were all stuffed after that! We had a look around the antiques and collectibles but it was a bit of a cold day and the place was chilly – plus Klaus was still feeling fairly seedy.

In the evening we all ate together at the Railway pub in Westerfield before everyone except Klaus and I headed home.

The next day, Monday, we had the visit of the first Estate Agent to give us a valuation. His was surprisingly low and in the end we went with a different agent (two other agents gave the same, higher value). We started sorting out the house a bit too. We also visited Braintree Freeport Designer Village in the afternoon, meeting up with Hari, Luke and Gwen and helping Klaus buy a nice blazer and a pair of sneakers.

Anna and Gwen came up and we visited the undertakers. There was a lovely lady, Francesca, who was our funeral director and she was excellent through the whole process. We also had a visit from Charlotte the local vicar who would take Mum’s funeral, and we had some possible dates in mind, which eventually got fixed at Friday 23 February.

On Tuesday I had a visit from an auction site as Mum and Dad had some old paintings and furniture. There was nothing of great value but the auction house would collect some items from us when the house is about to be sold. We also had a visit from a second estate agent who I didn’t like so much.

The next day Anna came up to Ipswich as we had our appointment to register Mum’s death. When Dad died, Anna and Mum did this but it was a new experience for me. The lady there made everything friendly and calm.

Earlier that day Klaus and I had visited the possible venue for the funeral wake, Fynn Valley Golf Club, and it was very nice so we went ahead and booked (Mum’s neighbour Christine had originally made enquiries on our behalf). We also had the third estate agent visit, we liked him a lot and so ended up going with William H Brown.

Klaus and I had been invited by Mum’s neighbours Paul and Christine for the evening and we went over there, and Maureen, Margo and Pete were also there (names we had regularly heard from Mum and who we had met before). We shared some food, Klaus some whisky and had a nice evening, but I started feeling a bit seedy by the end, having finally caught Klaus’s cold now he was on the mend.

On Thursday I woke up feeling awful with the cold. I would have liked to stay in bed all day but there were still things to be done. We also had big plans for the next day – Klaus had a meeting with the UK CEO of the company he works for to see what job opportunities there were. We had arranged to meet Anna and some of the others in Lakeside Shopping Centre afterwards, but the meeting with the CEO did not take place in the office in Wickford but instead in Cambridge, so we had a lot of driving. Klaus did a lot of it as I was feeling so rough.

The meeting with Tony the CEO went very well and we picked up some good information and there are definitely opportunities in the year 2025. We then headed to Lakeside a little later than planned – several of us wanted to get things to wear for the funeral. So we met for a late lunch in the Food Court and then wandered around. We were partially successful – but I was completely successful in having a slice of cake in Marks & Spencer.

This was the final family get-together of this week and it was really noticeable how much time we had spent together and how we had got to know each other more over the time. It was something really nice to have come out of the sadness.

On Saturday Klaus and I were on our own. I still felt pretty awful so we took it easy, getting the house ready for the estate agent photographs on the Monday (they had a key). I had a long list of things to do before leaving the house. I also had to go to the Post Office to get some documentation authorised for some of the banks I had to write to – I had to show proof of address and fortunately the Post Office do a document checking service as this would be tricky in Germany. We also visited a Building Society in Ipswich where Mum had accounts in order to notify them of her death (I had written to or emailed what felt like dozens of different companies and no two companies handled the situation the same, they all wanted different documentation etc). By the way, see the pink printer – it was 8 Euros less than a black one so I thought the colour was survivable for that!

Rather than eating a restaurant meal in the evening we had bought a salad/soup as we felt like we had been overeating rather a lot. We had that and then headed off to Harwich, onto the newly renovated Stena Britannica which had a much larger Stena Plus Lounge with a bigger choice of food to eat!

We were both exhausted from the travails of the week, plus I was feeling very seedy, so I was delighted to get to bed. We had to stop at Lidl in Venlo the next day (Sunday) to get some food as no food shops are open in Germany – it was lovely to be home after such an emotional time, and to see Poppy the dog again. However I was completely knocked out by everything and wasn’t well enough to go to work on the Monday as I was coughing and sneezing the whole time. Fortunately I improved a lot on the Monday and was back at work on Tuesday.

Back to England for the funeral

I hope you will indulge me some more in what is turning out to be a rather long blog post. I am finding it helpful to write about what happened, particularly while it is fresh in my mind (I seem to have an extremely bad memory now, part of getting older).

We had a week and a half back in Germany before it was time to return to the UK for the funeral.

My workplace kindly gave me another two days’ compassionate leave (I had already had two days’ leave when we drove to England the day Mum died), and so we arranged to travel over on Wednesday evening. Klaus worked from home that day and we set off between meetings – he had a couple of Teams meetings from the car as we were driving to Hoek van Holland.

This time we decided to eat our evening meal in Mijn Torpedoloods in Hoek van Holland. We had been there many years before and found it expensive but decided that it is worth paying a bit more for decent food in The Netherlands. It was undergoing a big renovation but they had a table for us in a cosy corner.

They recommended we ordered 3 starters, 3 mains and 3 sides for two people. In the end we just had one starter (bread) but went with 3 mains and 3 sides and to be honest two would have been absolutely fine. The food was really tasty though! It cost us 20 Euros more than the very disappointing Italian meal we had had in Hoek van Holland a few months before, so we decided that it’s definitely worth the extra money for a nice evening meal.

We didn’t have a dessert because of the Stena Lounge… The first of MANY pastries/cakes

We both had lots of cake, pastries, crisps, drinks etc and consequently had quite a lot of indigestion trying to get to sleep!

We both had a fairly bad night’s sleep (it was actually very windy and there were high waves which woke Klaus up) and the next morning we were rather early to the Stena Lounge – before it was actually open!

So we waited in the main restaurant where, as you can see, not much was going on.

Five minutes later they opened the Stena Lounge and they now did more than pastries for breakfast – they had scrambled egg and bacon with toast. And pastries. So I partook generously (Klaus isn’t a breakfast chap so he just had coffee and pastries).

We arrived at Mum’s house fairly early in the morning. It was strange to arrive without her there to greet us.

I checked through the post and did all the necessary and then it was time to go to Ipswich to get ourselves some lunch. Klaus did his traditional visit to JD Sports to look at Sneakers.

We decided to stop for tea and cake somewhere in Ipswich… which turned out to be a café in the Town Hall which was run by volunteers and for the St Elizabeth Hospice (where my father died), So we were very happy to go there, and it was a lovely building.

The cake selection was also good. I had a Bakewell Cake and it did taste a bit like a Bakewell Tart

Klaus had a toasted teacake.

The service by friendly volunteers was also very good. It’s a bit of a shame that it was what might be our last visit to Ipswich before we found the café!

That evening we went for a meal at 16Steakhouse on the Tuddenham Road north of Ipswich which had good reviews. My dessert was this ENORMOUS brownie, Klaus had an apple crumble. We enjoyed the food very much.

Anna and Roderic were heading up to Ipswich after working all day, and ended up arriving just a few minutes before we got back from our meal. Hari and Luke were also coming up that evening (to sleep on an airbed in the Garden Room) but Klaus and I were so tired that we went to bed before they arrived. The next day was the funeral..

Mum’s funeral

After we had booked the venue for the Wake we discovered there would be a road closure – on the 2km section between the church and Fynn Valley Golf Club, the wake venue. The proposed diversion was 20km but there was a slightly shorter one (15km) which I had printed in the Funeral Order of Service. Which was great, except they added another mini road closure the day of the funeral. This was a slight stress as we knew driving round country lanes isn’t something everyone likes doing, but at least the diversions were mostly wide enough, there were only a few short sections where it is hard to pass a car coming the other way.

We got ready and Klaus and I walked down to the church (half a mile) an hour early as the parking area was very small and we expected quite a few people. My former mother and father in law, Jenny and Peter, were already there, having booked a taxi from Tonbridge! The same driver would take them home again later. It was lovely to see them again – the last time was at my Dad’s funeral eight years ago. Jenny had kept in contact with my Mum and they had chatted on the phone a couple of times a year.

My oldest friend Lindsay was also there. She had a very strong attachment to Mum and Dad and it was lovely that she was able to be there too.

The church filled up very well and the service went very smoothly. Village Voices, the local choir that Mum had sung with, sang “The Lord is my Shepherd” which was very moving – and quite tough for some of the singers as they missed Mum. Her good friend Maureen did a reading, as did another choir member. We had two lovely congregational hymns and the Vicar, Charlotte Cook, spoke well – it really helped that she knew Mum too.

After the service the funeral directors took the coffin to the crematorium – we will have a burial of ashes in Dad’s grave at a later date.

We talked to a lot of the visitors and I was amazed to see a friend from Lion Walk URC in Colchester who was there to support me on behalf of him and his wife. I was really touched by this.

Lindsay gave Klaus and I a lift back to Mum’s house so we could pick up the car and drive to the wake. People seemed able to follow the directions of the diversion OK and the building filled up. The food was good, but there were definitely more people at the wake than we were expecting! By the time I went to get a pastry they had run out!

Here is a picture of Klaus and I with my niece Gwen and her husband Harley. Harley and Klaus are bonding well over whisky…

My former husband James was also at the funeral and wake with his wife Serena. It was good to see him again and catch up – and of course talk about Poppy.

James was roped in as photographer for a family shot.

Luke, John, Hari, Moyna, Gerard, Klaus, Helen, Anna, Gwen, Harley

Unfortunately Roderic and Val had already had to leave at this point as they had to look after Chip the dog as the dog sitter couldn’t do the entire day.

James got a random action shot of Klaus and I having a strange discussion!

It was really good to have a chance to chat to the villagers and friends and relatives of Mum in the relaxed environment, and we actually enjoyed the wake (which I wasn’t necessarily expecting). Eventually people started to leave and we headed back to Mum’s house.

We changed back into civvies and then in the afternoon it was time to move Daisy the tortoise into Maureen next door’s shed. As the crow flies the distance was about 3 metres but unfortunately due to the fence we ended up having to move everything about 50 metres.

The first problem was that Daisy was hibernating. Google suggested she would be OK to move when sleeping so I had to get her out of the box and put her, surrounded by hay, in another receptacle and Maureen carried her round to her garden.

Daisy has a very large wooden box which is filled with earth and then has fresh hay on the top. This box was too wide for Maureen’s shed door, it would have to be tipped up on its side, so Klaus and Harley had to get all the hay and earth out – into a wheelbarrow that Maureen loaned us.

The shed was full of spider webs and it turns out that Harley really doesn’t like them so it was a bit of a trauma for him, but he gritted his teeth and did his tortoise duty!

Once the box was mostly empty we managed to wrestle it out of Mum’s shed and onto another wheelbarrow as it was too heavy and awkward to carry. The garden was quite squishy/muddy and the barrow’s tyre was flat so it took the four of us to wheel it to Mum’s front garden, then along the road in Witnesham and then round to Maureen’s. Klaus had to remove the heat lamp on a pole from the box to get it into Maureen’s shed but he managed that without any problems.

They lifted the box on its side and it just squeezed through the shed door, then they refilled it with earth and hay, refitted the heat lamp and it was time to move Daisy into her new home (well, the old box but in a new location). Unfortunately her legs were moving so she had woken up, but we thought it was cold enough she should go back to sleep and Maureen reported that there was no sign of movement later, so we hope the moving didn’t do her any harm.

That evening we went out for a meal together at the Moon & Mushroom pub in Swilland. It was very nice there and we had more chances to discuss the day and how happy we were that Mum had so many friends that loved her.

After the meal the rest of the family went back home and Klaus and I were the only ones left in Witnesham for our last night in Mum’s house – for the time being at least, if not forever.

I would like here to share an email that one of Mum and Dad’s friends sent me – they had got to know Mum and Dad when Anna was in primary school as their daughter was friends with Anna. The friendship had continued even though they moved away, but there were yearly visits. They were unfortunately unable to come to the funeral on health grounds, but sent me this message:

We just wanted to drop you a line to say how much we will miss your mum and were sorry that we weren’t able to say goodbye to Margaret last Friday but her memory will live on in our hearts for ever. 

She was a wonderful friend to us for so many years, as was your dad. In later life she was a calm and reassuring voice on the phone and I managed to speak to her every weekend. She was very proud of you and also of Anna.  She will be a hard gap to fill in our lives and I am sure in the lives of all those who knew her.

I was very grateful for this message and also for the offer they made to keep in touch. Several of Mum’s friends seem to have added Anna and I to their list of friends and we feel very welcome in Witnesham, the village where she lived.

Here is a lovely picture of Mum and Dad that Gwen had – it is comforting to know that they are together again now.

Mum and Dad

A visit to Chelmsford

Our final day in England, the day after the funeral, was a Saturday and we had nothing to do and no family visiting. So we decided to have a bit of a drive around the bits of Essex we were considering moving to.

We had a kind of triangle from Chelmsford to Braintree to Dunmow in mind, as this would be reasonably near to my relatives but hopefully not in the horribly trafficy segment between Southend and London. I cannot cope with all the cars in Southend, Leigh, Hadleigh etc. Furchtbar (as the Germans say).

When we move over next year, the current plan is to rent a furnished flat somewhere whilst we look for a bungalow to buy. Furnished flats aren’t massively common but there were several in Colchester and Chelmsford. As Colchester is a bit far up the A12 we thought we would have a look at Chelmsford (which is where Hari works, and she loves it) so Klaus and I decided to drive to Chelmsford and have a look see.

Luke (who is a Chelmsford native) told us which car park to go for but Apple Maps tried to send us down a non-road and we ended up parking somewhere else but it was fine.

We walked along the Chelmer river passing some of the flats that we had seen on RightMove. Hari had recommended The Secret Garden Tea Room so we headed there to fuel up.

It was a lovely cosy place.

As it was lunchtime and we hadn’t yet eaten anything that day we eschewed cakes and had real food – I had a panini and Klaus a Welsh rarebit (I’m not sure he knew what that was when he ordered it).

Here we are, relaxing waiting for our food.

After our nice food we headed for a walk around Chelmsford.

Klaus did the obligatory visit to JD Sports to look at sneakers.

We also dropped in on Luke’s workplace and said hello to him.

We had a good look around and liked what we saw of Chelmsford – it wasn’t as Chavvy Essex as I had feared!

We had bought three hours’ parking so decided to have a cake before we set forth back towards Witnesham. We ended up going back to the Secret Garden tea Room as their cakes had looked home made and nice – Klaus had a chocolate and honeycomb cake and I had lemon meringue pie. Yummy!

We drove back via Danbury and Maldon to have a look at them. Danbury seemed nice if stretched out (we only drove through) but we stopped properly in Maldon, unfortunately arriving during a huge rainstorm. The high street has cars which makes it less pleasant, but it had various different shops and even an M&S Food.

We stopped at the Maldon Coffee Company for coffee, tea and a cookie and then wandered around some more. Klaus was less keen on Maldon – it didn’t help that there had obviously been some kind of event at the Iceland shop as the staff were out on the street and we had seen some guy running down the road and shouting. Maybe shoplifting, I don’t know, but it seemed a bit odd.

Whilst in Maldon we bought some salads/soup for our evening meal from M&S as neither of us felt we needed to eat much before the ferry journey. We had eaten a lot over the last few days.

We made sure the house was all closed up – turning down the heating etc. It would be listed for sale two days later and viewings would start so I removed and stored the Sympathy cards and made sure everything looked good. We had had a professional cleaner come in before the estate agent photos were taken, although Mum had kept it very clean, it was just a bit spiderwebby again!

After our evening soup/salad we headed off to Harwich and were quickly on the ferry, this time the Stena Britannica. We went straight to the new, larger Stena Lounge and Klaus enjoyed a Prosecco.

Me, I had pastries and cakes!

We had a much better night travelling back and were in the Stena Lounge in the morning for a light breakfast. We watched the Hook of Holland coming closer.

And I watched the chaps sorting out the ropes to tie the ship up – the new Stena lounge is at the bow of the ship so you can see more stuff going on!

We headed home via Aldi in NL to get some supplies (food shops are shut in Germany on Sundays) and were pleased to be back home.

Since we’ve been back I’ve started filling in all the paperwork for Probate in the UK and have also had some excellent help from one of my blog readers, a German tax advisor, who has given me information on German inheritance tax too. The next photo is for her as she told me how much she enjoyed the cake photos.

Birthday cake from the boss’s mother who turned 80

It was good to be home and back into the routine of normal daily life after some very emotional weeks. We also continued plans to move to the UK, which included Poppy getting her rabies vaccination again (it had lapsed) in case she comes with us. She was unimpressed by this but it might be useful next year – she was quite an old dog to have the jab but she’s very fit at the moment so we thought it would be fine, and it was.

Here she is informing Klaus that he should really share some of his peanuts with her.

In conclusion

This has been a really long blog post. I have partly written it for my own purposes, as I have a bad memory for events and often like to re-read what I have written in this blog so that can remember what happened in real life! The death of my mother hasn’t really sunk in yet, I am not sure when that will happen, but I have some wonderful memories of her on this blog over the years as well. Thank you for reading and for the encouraging messages I receive.

Auntie Helen

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