Life in Germany – October 2023 (Month 115)

This month was much quieter – in fact, there’s not much to report.

However, I can start with some good news – Priscilla the Mercedes SLK is back home in Kempen!

Last month I reported that she broke down on the way back from Lübeck (near Hamburg) and the local recovery service were fixing her. It took longer than expected to get the part and then to fit it, and during their testing they felt she was not running well so also changed the Luftmassenmesser (mass air flow sensor) which took a few more days. We then got the report that she was working fine and drove like a racing car.

So we arranged to go and pick her up. It is a 3.5 to 4 hour journey to Sittensen so we could only do it on a Saturday and had few opportunities during the month. Fortunately she was ready on the day that we could go and pick her up.

I felt rather dubious about Priscilla as she had broken down three times so Klaus agreed to drive her back. We went together in his Octavia and I would drive that back and he would drive Priscilla. I also said I would drive behind him in case he broke down.

We left home at 7:30am on the Saturday morning and made good progress, arriving in Sittensen after three and a half hours. I handed over the payment (840€) and Klaus collected the car. The plan was to drive to the café that we had visited before, the Igelbäckerei, which was about half an hour away.

We drove there in convoy with Priscilla driving fine in the light rain – we arrived at the café without her having broken down.

And had cake.

Klaus said Priscilla was driving brilliantly.

It was time to carry on and Klaus said I didn’t need to follow him as he was quite happy she was fixed, plus he needed to stop for some fuel, so we set off and he stopped at the filling station just round the corner from the café.

After about an hour’s driving Klaus called me to say that Priscilla was driving brilliantly and had powered up to 200 km/h with no problems – and she had more power/speed available. This was definitely more than previously.

We then ended up stuck in a long, slow traffic jam which took an hour to cover about 20km. We were chatting on the phone a lot of the time as we were creeping along in the traffic jam – we worked out that Klaus was about 3 km behind me (which translated to about 9 minutes of traffic jam creeping). I commented to him about a little Smart Racetrack I saw beside the motorway with 4 Smart cars about to do a slalom course, we also saw an American school bus going the other way (it passed Klaus one minute after it had passed me – no traffic jam going in the other direction) and various other interesting cars. The slow traffic was boring but as usual we were both glad to have automatic cars – Priscilla has a very nice Creep and Murphy the Octavia has the automatic feature where he will follow the car in front and keep the same distance from it, so you don’t have to use any pedals.

We arrived home with a fully functioning car which was great news. I drove her a few times over the next few days as I would be taking her to England and wanted to be sure she would be fine for that – I needed to rebuild my trust in her reliability.

We also took Zuzanna and Priscilla for a car wash – this was the final cleaning for Zuzanna before she would go into hibernation, and Priscilla needed a good wash after four weeks in the open air in Hamburg.

Priscilla was being washed also to prepare for her visit to Blighty.

A visit to England!

My October visit to England was planned for the middle of the month, which turned out to be during some Weather in the UK.

I decided to set off to Hoek van Holland earlier than usual – sometimes I get stuck in traffic around Rotterdam and I decided I might as well sit in a café in HvH rather than on the Dutch motorway. Klaus was working from home so I said goodbye to him and set off in Priscilla at about 14:30, hoping she would not have any other breakdowns!

This was the first time I had driven her at speed since we picked her up – I had 10km to drive on German motorways so put my foot down and she did indeed power her way along the road. Then we arrived in NL with a maximum speed of 100 km/h which is fine by me.

Despite leaving early I still had some traffic around Rotterdam (well, it was 16:30) but it wasn’t as bad as usual and I arrived in HvH with plenty of time for a walk along the river Maas.

I then went to the Chinese restaurant Ocean City which I had eaten at twice before. They are efficient, always seem to have a table and the menu is also in English.

Once again I ordered their special meal for one which is a good and varied selection – and very carbohydratey!

I took a bit more time with my meal as I was quite early, made the most of their loo and then returned to my car to head to the ferry check in. I arrived there just as the check in desks were opening so had a bit of a queue – I ended up switching to another lane as I realised the window to the check-in lady would be on the wrong side and with the SLK you are very low and it’s hard to hand the passport to someone on the wrong side. So I was in amongst the motorhomes in the queue – couldn’t see very much!

We then had a short queue before boarding, but Priscilla was soon settled on the Stena Hollandica and I headed to my cabin.

I had bought a large pastry in St Hubert before leaving Germany and I had half of it as a dessert on the ferry with a cup of tea. The other half pastry I would save for breakfast.

The crossing was much rougher than usual as there had been a lot of wind and so I did notice the boat moving when I woke up a couple of times in the night but I am a fairly good sailor so was OK overall.

The next morning I had my second half of the pastry for breakfast with a cup of tea.

I had an osteopath appointment at 09:00 which gave me extra time if the border controls were slow (last time my appointment was at 08:00 and I only just made it). Of course, this meant I was one of the first off the ferry and was through border control within five minutes.

As I now had an hour and a half to kill I drove to Manningtree where I parked the car in the co-op (so I could do my shopping afterwards) and went for a walk.

Manningtree was very still and silent as I walked upriver along the flood defences beside the river Stour.

I used to do this walk a few times when I lived in Great Bromley but always turned back when I got to the mini bridge/tunnel. This time I decided to carry on further and to walk back via the road past the station.

When I arrived on the road that goes over the White Bridge between Essex and Suffolk there was a nice wide cycle/pedestrian path that I could walk along, so I did (see on the left of the photo below from Google).

Although you can also see in the photo above that the path narrows considerably at one point where cyclists are expected to cross over and use the other route.

Basically there are two ways to cross the railway – a narrow tunnel underneath or a level crossing above. I decided to walk over the level crossing as it was open at the time.

So I crossed the level crossing and then was faced with this view for the walk down – as you can see, no footpath on the left now for me. So I crossed over to the narrow footpath on the right (where the cars are facing me).

This footpath unfortunately was narrowing and had bushes growing along it which meant I was too close to the road – the cars were passing me with just centimetres to spare.

So I decided this wasn’t safe and turned and walked back, this time to go through the tunnel under the railway. Having my back to the cars whizzing past to go over the level crossing was pretty scary as they just didn’t seem to give me any room.

Now I had to cross the complicated junction you see below (I was walking down the right hand side path here.

In the end I decided to cross where the signpost was, and then cross to the section with the cone, and then to the other side. This was to reduce the distance I had to cross each part of the road as there were lots of cars and they didn’t seem to notice a pedestrian was there.

Now I was walking along the bike/pedestrian path which abruptly disappeared just before the tunnel.

Having already attempted the alternative route over the railway and discovered this was unsafe I had to continue with this route. So I ended up having to walk on the right hand side of the road within the painted white lines through a very narrow tunnel.

I survived this unscathed and then found there was a narrowish path with vegetation which at least meant I was no longer walking in the road in a dark tunnel.

I ended up at the station exit (which was a tricky road to cross), then had to cross more roads to get onto the path into Manningtree.

You can see my total walking route below.

And here is a closer look at the railway crossing.

What did I learn from this? Pedestrians are not expected to walk this route. Although the odd thing was I had passed two walkers going the other way when I was on the White Bridge so I was not the only person to try this!

Anyway, it was a refreshing walk of 3km and I then went round the supermarket buying my salad for lunch and also a few things that I wanted to take back to Germany (which turned out to be overpriced in the Co-op, I should have bought them in the Tesco that I visited three days later and saved myself 20% or so…)

I then drove to the osteopath. He lives down some narrow country lanes in Langham and I had the deep joy of a wing mirror collision with another car. I was squeezed right over and the other car had some room and we bashed wing mirrors. Mine folded slightly in but there was no scratch on it, amazingly. I was also surprised that our mirrors were at the same height as my SLK is low and the car was a Zafira or something.

That reminded me of the country lanes in the UK with their hedges and muck on the road and why I like driving slowly when using those roads! I was just so lucky that Priscilla’s paintwork wasn’t damaged.

The osteopath Richard Kemp did his usual magic (and it costs half the price of the osteopath in Germany) and then it was time to head to Mum’s.

It was once again lovely to see her again. We had lunch together and I went out for a short walk later to the churchyard. That evening Mum went out to buy me some fish and chips as usual – she gets the pensioner’s portion which is plenty!

The plan for the next day was to visit The Shed in Sproughton for lunch/cake. I had been there a couple of times before and it is is interesting as it’s a bric a brac/antiques place which also has a WW2-themed café. The cakes are good there.

We decided to take Priscilla so we set off in the rain, heading the country lanes route to Sproughton.

I was a bit surprised to see so much water on the roads in places – and I had to go through some puddles. As the journey continued the puddles got deeper and for a couple I waited until someone went past me to see how deep the puddles were (the SLK is fairly low and I didn’t want to upset its electronics with water – having just spent 840 € on replacing electronic bits!)

Eventually I decided it wasn’t wise to continue as the puddles seemed to be getting deeper and were horrible brown run-off from the fields. I said to Mum we would retrace our route and take the main road into Sproughton.

So we drove back, passing Mum’s house and then continuing down the main road from Witnesham to Ipswich.

There was a fountain of water coming out of a drain in the middle of the road and just round the corner was another deep puddle. I decided to stop in a lay-by and wait until another car went past to see what the puddle was like – I judged it as too deep when the car went through, so plans to go to Sproughton were cancelled. There was also the possibility that as the rain was continuing the puddles would get deeper.

We had a minor issue of no planned lunch but we had some soup and bread from the freezer, along with some cheddar Mum had bought for me. So that was fine. However, the evening meal would also be an issue. I decided I would try for a takeaway and see if they were delivering later that day (if the road improved). Mum wasn’t sure that anyone delivered to Witnesham but I discovered 13 restaurants on Just Eat that would deliver there. Most were Indian or Kebab, but there were a couple of pizza places and one with good reviews where the minimum order value wasn’t too high (Mum didn’t want any).

At about 4pm I decided to go for a walk to see what the puddles were like and to evaluate my chances of getting a take away delivered.

As you can see in the photos below – it was very watery! The second photo in the pair is the view a day later when I went for another walk to see the results.

And a bit further towards Ipswich, Tuddenham Lane:

And then what turned out to be a 50 metre long puddle where the River Fynn flows under the road (normally!)

This all looked a bit unpromising for my take-away, but I ordered it an hour later, making sure to choose “cash payment on delivery”. And, amazingly, the guy arrived fifteen minutes early with my pizza and sticky toffee pudding and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream… He said the drive had been OK.

The next day was visiting Essex day, when we would go and see my sister. Anna had told me months ago that there was a German café in Leigh and we should go and visit it, so we arranged to have lunch there and Anna’s friend Suzy (who I went to secondary school with) would also be there as she lives round the corner.

It was a rainy day and parking in Leigh is tricky but eventually we found somewhere to park and walked to Anke’s.

I had a little chat with Anke in German – she then started talking to my sister in German but was met with a very blank look.

We ordered our drinks and my tea was served to me by a German but it was proper tea! Hooray!

We had soup to start with and then a slice of cake. The only really German cake available was a Käsekuchen so I had a slice but it was actually fairly standard, nothing exciting.

Suzy had a cup of their coffee and the mugs were from Hamburg.

Whilst waiting for the soup I had to go and move the car as we had parked in an area which only allowed parking for one hour and Suzy said the traffic wardens were quite keen in the area. She said we could park in her parking space and so came with me in the car to find her spot – a very tight squeeze behind some houses. This was in a Fiesta and she tells me she has a Fiat Multipla which she parks there – I am very impressed!

After the cake we went back to Anna’s via my friend Wowbagger (knocked on his door, no response – turned out he was on the loo and heard the door knocking but didn’t get out in time) and then stopped to see Gwen my niece and her dog Chip. And the AA Man who was fixing the spark plugs on her car.

It was then back to Anna’s house and we all headed off for a curry at the Mumtaz Mahal in Benfleet. Anna had the mixed vegetable dishes which once again meant we had a very long wait but the food is great.

The next day was Sunday and so I headed off to Colchester for church at Lion Walk URC. After the service it was good to catch up with some of my friends there, and then I went for a short wander around Colchester. I stopped at Hall Farm Shop in Dedham on the way back for some cake for my work colleagues and also filled up my car at the cheap Esso on the A12. The fuel economy was not so great on this trip (the 9.14 litres per 100km). the second item is the journey back from Hamburg where Klaus was driving at 200 km/h for some short sections, so the 9.8 is not bad there!

I had bought some lunch in Colchester so had that back at Mum’s – she was out at a concert in a church. I packed up my things to get ready for the ferry journey back that evening.

Mum and I had our traditional evening meal at the Railway Inn in Westerfield before I headed back to the continent.

Roast Pork with Yorkshire pudding
Apple and Rhubarb Crumble and Custard
My last cup of decent tea!

After our meal Mum and I said goodbye and I drove to Harwich and checked in for the ferry. This time I had to show them my German passport as well (normally I just show them the UK one when leaving the UK). They said this is a new rule related to which passport I used when booking (which is the German one as I am leaving the EU when I start my journey). Security also stopped me for a check – under the bonnet (I couldn’t find the bonnet release lever for ages in the dark – I told them the car was new to me (but I’ve actually had it six months!!), with a mirror under the car and then in the boot. They asked me to open the boot and had a quick look – and the security guy joked to the security lady “don’t confiscate her cake” and she said “it’s lemon drizzle cake anyway, I don’t like it!” We agreed that Victoria sandwich cake is probably the best but I said my colleagues would probably find the lemon drizzle cake more to their tastes (as they are German). With that I was allowed through security and my cake wasn’t confiscated, hurrah.

The ferry turned out to be very full – I hadn’t realised but it was the beginning of half term in the UK, so there were lots of families. I ended up with exactly the same cabin as on the way out though, 10102, which is the first Single Inside cabin in the numbering system. So it looks like when I booked this trip back in January 2023 I was the first to book this type of cabin!

I had a bit of proper English food for the cabin (cookies) so ate one of those with the tea from my flask and then had an early night.

The following morning I was one of the last off the ferry. This was a bit frustrating as Klaus was heading off from home at 11:00 to take a taxi to Düsseldorf airport for 5 days in Italy. My satnav said I was expected home at 11:05 when I set off from Hoek van Holland, having finally cleared passport control. And when I was five minutes from home I got a message from Klaus that he was in the taxi on the way to the airport so we didn’t get to see each other between our trips, which was a shame.

However, I was able to collect him from Düsseldorf airport at the end of his trip the following Friday which saved him (or his firm anyway) a payment of 110€. It seems that taxis are expensive!

Poppy the dog

Poppy has seemed to get much fitter this month. She’s still deaf and perhaps also becoming a bit less intelligent, but she has been able to extend her walking distances and can easily do two 4km walks in a day.

At the beginning of November Klaus and I have four days in Berlin and as we need to take Poppy with us I invested in a car seat where she is fixed to the seat (so she doesn’t fly forward in a crash). Here she is trying it out the first time.

And after another visit to the vet to get her nails clipped (I have to do this every two months as they have started growing really fast). She had a manicure and pedicure for 35€ from an extremely qualified beautician – the head vet at the practice. All those years of study to cut Poppy’s nails (with the help of a vet assistant and me – for one wriggly little dog!). Anyway, afterwards Poppy chilled out in her new basket which was good practice for our trip to Berlin in November.

Other news

This month I was contacted again by friend Inge who borrowed Celeste many years ago and we kept in touch, but lost touch a bit during Corona. She wrote to me as they are looking for more singers in the choir she attends and we met to chat about it.

In the end I decided against it as the practice times were not very suitable for my lifestyle, but it was great to catch up with her and share some cake!

And talking of cakes… Klaus and I made a trip by car to Café zum Schafstall in Twisted as we hadn’t been there for a while and were feeling under-caked. We had these two beauties:

So that’s October – the clocks went back (unfortunately I forgot to reset the dog so she woke up rather earlier than we would have liked) and so it’s now dark in the evenings but still light as I cycle to work at the moment. That will all soon change though!

Best wishes to you all and I will write next month about Berlin, Innsbruck and more…

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