December was another quiet month (apart from Christmas).
I’m writing this blog at 22:00 on New Year’s Eve and Klaus has enjoyed a bottle of wine so he will probably be falling asleep soon (don’t think we will make midnight!) so I will have to keep this very short!
The month started with a gift from the company at work that does our deliveries/collections, Spedition Kleine. They gave us an advent calendar truck with chocolates…
I shared it with my two colleagues so we each had one chocolate every three days.
Interestingly my colleagues Janita and Lucia ate all their chocolates at once – I spread them out over the month and had my last one on my last day of work (which was the 19th December, I had two weeks off for the Christmas break).
However, the chocolates were rather small!
Mini Honeymoon to Bad Arolsen
In December we had another mini honeymoon, this time to the Schlosshotel at Bad Arolsen. We had driven very close to this hotel not too long ago.
I had been off work a few days before we went as I had a cold but it seemed to be clearing up reasonably by the weekend so we decided to go ahead with our short break.
It was a bit pricier but turned out to be really worth it as it was a lovely hotel and we had Half Board which included a really good evening meal.
On the way we stopped off at another café for cakes – which were once again very nice!
It was raining in Kempen when we left but there was snow in Bad Arolsen and it all looked rather lovely!
We dressed for dinner and sat briefly in this alcove looking over the valley.
The place had some nice Christmas decorations and everything was high quality and comfortable. The staff were good too. Our room had rather complicated electrics for the lighting etc but we worked it out in the end!
Our evening meal was good value and tasty and in this really lovely space with windows so you could see the outside.
The next morning the buffet breakfast was really excellent with a Full English available (including baked beans!) so I really enjoyed that.
However because of my cold I was coughing so we decided we should head home rather than faffing about too much.
Rather than eating in a café on the way home we decided to stop off at our nearest decent cake emporium and get cakes to go, we also got some for our landlord, landlady and their two foster boys. Here were the cakes that Klaus and I enjoyed.
My cold got slightly worse again so I worked the next two days from home – once I had got over the sneezing stage I went back to work, wearing a mask whilst there.
Although I was able to work I was still coughing a lot and it took me 12 days before I felt that I was getting back to normal. I had done several corona tests which were all negative so it was just a cold but it did knock me out a bit – and loads of other people at work and in our social circle also got this cold.
Just as I was getting better Klaus came down with a similar cold (although possibly not from me as it took him so long to catch it!) and he was really knocked out for a few weeks. He first came down with it when in Karlsruhe for work – he had driven there in the afternoon, checked into the hotel, gone for his evening meal and then gone to bed. He woke up two hours later with an appalling sore throat and realised he was feeling really rough so he drove straight home the next morning without going to his meetings. So that was a completely wasted trip to Karlsruhe and the hotel bill for the company! He couldn’t work, felt really rough with fevers and chills, and he wasn’t really able to get up properly for about five days. We had lots of warming soups when we were coldy.
Klaus was ill over a week of his holiday, which in Germany means you can actually get the holiday allowance “refunded” but he didn’t apply for that.
He ended up with some kind of post-viral tiredness which at the time of writing is still there, so he has to pace himself. But he is improving and we hope that in a week or two he will be back to normal.
The World Cup
I am not really into football but made an exception for a few World Cup matches.
Here I am watching England playing France… with German commentary.
Of course Germany went out rather early. Which made this sign on a bridge on the A40 rather incorrect.
For the final, Gudula and Frank offered for us to watch it together with Nils and Lara who were visiting – and as Klaus’s Lara was with us we decided to go ahead. Klaus was still pooped so stayed in our flat but Lara and I joined the madness of football plus pizza.
Poppy used to be interested in football when she was younger but didn’t seem that enthused this time.
I wanted France to win (our war with them is less recent than our war with Argentina) but it was a great match to watch.
A couple of days later Lars also arrived for Christmas and Poppy was as usual really pleased to see him, although she doesn’t seem quite as fixated on him as she used to be.
Christmas in Kempen
I didn’t do much decorating of our flat – last year I bought a mini Christmas Tree but this time I just put up my Weihnachtspyramide.
We had a cold snap in December so Poppy wore her red jumper for walks. We had feared the cold would give her hip/back problems again but she seems to be doing rather well this year and was always happy to go for walks and her stiffness in standing up didn’t last long.
We had a work Christmas party this year in an Italian restaurant in St Hubert. We had a buffet meal but the desserts were fun with some profiteroles as well!
It was nice to spend some social time with my colleagues. I had planned to wear my Christmas Hat with Flashing Lights but Klaus said that isn’t the thing in Germany, people don’t wear Christmas jumpers etc, so I left it behind. My boss arrived just after me and he was wearing a Christmas Jumper with flashing lights! This is, apparently, an unusual thing though and he was the only one with Christmas decorations.
So I decided on my last day of work for me (19 December) I would wear my Christmas Hat with the flashing lights, and I also decorated my velomobile. This was the first day I felt well enough to cycle after my cold, so I only commuted by bike on 1 day in December!
My colleagues all liked the velomobile and thought my hat was wonderful – I was photographed by the mother of the company owner and she sent the photos to her friends to show how weird the Brits are at Christmas time!
It turned out to be rather cold that day, see the temperature display on my computer!
And it also unexpectedly snowed so I had a bit of a snowy final commute home.
We normally celebrate Christmas in England with my Mum (when Corona isn’t causing lockdowns) but this year Lara wanted to come with us but would need to celebrate Christmas with her Mum so we planned to travel to England on Boxing Day. We decided Klaus and I would visit Klaus’s father in Mannheim on Christmas Eve (which is the main Christmas event in Germany).
It’s just over three hours to drive to Mannheim but the roads were clear. I drove there as Klaus was still feeling quite seedy from his cold. His father had prepared potato salad with sausage which is a common Christmas meal in Germany.
I had brought along a trifle for dessert that I had made.
Whilst there we got notifications that someone was in our flat – we have a movement-detecting camera in the flat and it caught Lars and Rohallah stealing our table!
This was all agreed in advance – we have a table that extends to double-size and the family use it each Christmas (on the 24th) as they usually have more than 10 people. This time we could watch them disassembling the glass tops and carrying it away.
We spent several hours chatting with Klaus’s Dad – it was the first Christmas Klaus had spent with his parent for probably over 25 years!
Klaus drove us home, again on really empty roads so it was easy travelling.
The next day was English Christmas Day. I spent the morning making more trifles and then Lara came to us late afternoon. I cooked the full English Christmas dinner so turkey with stuffing, bread sauce, vegetables, gravy etc. I forgot the sausages/pigs in blankets though! And we enjoyed the trifle for dessert. Lara and I then watched Love Actually in German (called Tatsächlich Liebe) and I realised I didn’t remember the film at all. But it was very cheesy.
The next morning we headed off at 9am to Calais for the Eurotunnel. The Stena Ferries were expensive and the timing wasn’t ideal so we decided to go for Eurotunnel this time but it was a lot of driving. It was 3.5 hours to Calais from Kempen, then there was a delay with the trains so we had a Starbucks while we waited. It would be 2.5 hours from Folkestone to Ipswich so nearly 6 hours in total in the car.
Klaus’s name misspelling was seasonally correct!
We eventually got onto the train and had our lunch that we had brought with us – salads with chocolate pudding dessert (and some more healthy apples!)
We had arranged to pop in to see my friend Charlotte in Tonbridge on our way past on the M20 as I hadn’t seen her for years. She invited us to visit her at her Mum’s where they were having a small post-Christmas get-together with her brother, his wife and their three children. So we dropped in for an hour or so and chatted to them all. Charlotte’s niece Jocelyn is considering studying Music with German at University so she talked to us about the German they had learned at school. Lara and I were both dumbfounded to discover they didn’t learn grammar such as the dative case for GCSE. How is it possible to do German without knowing the dative?
Anyway, it was time to head to Suffolk round the M25 and so off we went. I did all the driving in the UK which is easier for me, plus Klaus was still feeling pooped from time to time due to his cold.
We arrived in Ipswich and as we were peckish we stopped off for fish and chips.
This was from a new to us Chippy called Codfellas and it was very good – Lara and I both had Scampi and chips and Klaus had Cod & chips. We brought out spoils with us to Mum’s and it was great to see her again.
The next day we decided to head to Aldeburgh for a wander around. It was pretty cold that day (and windy) so once we arrived at Aldeburgh we almost instantly found ourselves in a restaurant where we could have a warm lunch!
We wandered around Aldeburgh a bit, including looking in a bookshop (Lara has a weakness for them). I also collected some stones from the beach for my hurricane lamp/Windlicht from work which has an uneven bottom. I washed the stones, took them to Germany and here is the Windlicht with them!
We didn’t find a convenient open café for afternoon tea so we went to Waitrose in Saxmundham to buy some cake (coffee and caramel, which was very nice) and got ourselves some fresh soup and bread for our evening meal.
The next day we had arranged to visit my sister and her family in Essex.
Anna prepared a Christmas Dinner Leftovers lunch for us which was great (I finally got my sausages!) and she had loads of different desserts including Christmas Pudding, Mince Pies and, for me, a Yule log. yummy!
After a very generous lunch a car-load of us headed off to Battlesbridge to visit the antiques centre there. I think I had last been there about 25 years ago. It was a very successful trip for me as I found a lovely pendant necklace which my Mum bought for me for my birthday (which isn’t until June, but hey!) And then I struck absolute gold. On the third floor of the building I saw a rack of vintage clothes and something caught my eye – it was a dress with matching bolero jacket. It looked lovely but the size was 8-10 (well, Canadian sizing but English equivalent 8-10 or German 36-38). Now I sometimes need a size 12 / 40 in dresses so I wanted to try it on but there was no changing room. In the end we found a quiet bit of the shop and Anna and Lara stood in front of me while I tried it on over my t-shirt but I couldn’t zip it up. Too small. Really disappointing.
We had a cup of tea at the pub in Battlesbridge and looked at a few more places before heading back to Anna’s.
Socks the cat was willing to play with us!
And then it was time for our evening curry, this time at “Village Indiya” in Vic House Corner in Hadleigh. It was good and there were some different food choices, but Klaus was feeling pretty pooped now.
Here is Lara with my niece Hari. Cousins together.
We headed off home after the tasty curry, it was a long drive back to Mum’s but we had had a lovely day.
I kept thinking about the dress – maybe it would have fitted if I hadn’t been wearing the t-shirt when I tried it on.
We had already arranged to meet Anna in Tiptree the next day, and I sent her a message to say I kept thinking about the dress and she said she would stop off in Battlesbridge on the way and ask if she could return it if it didn’t fit me – I could try it on in the tea room in Tiptree. This seemed like a plan, as the dress was reduced from 360 pounds to 34, so a colossal bargain!
We couldn’t book a table at Tiptree as all the bookable tables were reserved but we got there at 12:00 and were able to be seated. Here is Anna looking at the amazing cream tea we ordered!
It was three layers, starting at the bottom with sandwiches with gooseberry chutney. Yummy!
Followed by a middle row of scones with jam and clotted cream (I didn’t get a good photo of this).
With the final course some little cakes which were very tasty although a bit sweet for Klaus’s palette!
And the dress?
Anna had indeed bought it, the chap had said she could return it that day if it didn’t fit. So Anna and I headed to the disabled toilet which had lots of space and I tried it on – and it fitted! I had to breathe in a bit to zip it up but having eaten carbs for several days I was more bloated than usual so it should be fine when I eat normal lower-carb food again. It is a fantastic dress and it suits me very well.
Here is a picture of it back home hanging – I can’t model it as I am still too carb-bloated!
The icing on the cake was that Anna has decided to buy me this dress for my birthday (which is in June, so she is very much forward-planning). It’s lovely and a complete and utter bargain!
After the lovely cream tea in Tiptree we said goodbye to Anna and she headed off home – we went to Tesco in Tiptree to buy a few supplies for Germany. We didn’t need to get much this time, especially as I am planning to visit again in early February (on my own this time) so can top up the teabags then when I have an empty car just for me.
Lara and I did a couple of walks to the Book Exchange Telephone Boxes and found some good books. I delivered two back that I had bought in Germany (but in the English language) and will return some others next time.
That evening we had a meal at The Railway pub, which has become a tradition on my last evening in England. The food and service was good as always. I just photographed Klaus’s Apple & Rhubarb Crumble with custard.
We normally take the overnight ferry home, leaving Harwich at 23:00, but we were returning by Eurotunnel so were heading off the next morning instead. We had to put some more diesel in Klaus’s car (he gets free fuel in Germany but unfortunately we had to pay for this!) as the total distance travelled for this holiday would be about 1.500km in total.
We packed up the car the next morning and set off at 8:30am. We had already arranged to meet Charlotte again as I’d had very little time to chat to her on the way down and I wanted the opportunity to see her. We went first to her flat in Tonbridge where she made Klaus some proper coffee (he had been missing that!) and also gave us some vegan millionaire’s shortbread which was really nice! Vegan options are coming on in leaps and bounds it seems.
We then went to the Vauxhall pub in Tonbridge (it used to be called the Chimneys when I was there!) and had lunch. I enjoyed a steak and ale pie!
We had a good two hours of nattering and then Klaus reminded me we had to get going for our train. So we headed off down the M20 again and joined the Eurotunnel queue – again our train was delayed but not badly so, about 45 minutes. So we had a tasteless Starbucks while we waited.
Once through the tunnel we had 3.5 hours to drive to Viersen and Klaus took over the driving again now we were on the continent. It seemed a really long way and by the time we had dropped Lara off and driven home it was 10pm. We had left Mum’s at 09:30 CET and stopped for three hours with Charlotte so it was a really long travel time. I said to Klaus I’d rather pay the extra for the Stena ferry in future, especially as we had to top up the car with diesel which we don’t need to do with the Stena ferry as we save 800km of travelling.
But it was good to be home again and Poppy was pleased to see us.
And now I am finishing writing this at 23:30 (so you can see it has taken me an hour and a half to write this!) and it is almost 2023, so I will wish my readers a happy new year and an enjoyable and peaceful 2023. Let’s hope 2023 sees freedom for Ukraine, improved health for many and more stability and honour in politics. I can but hope!