Six Wheels in Germany – May 2021 (Month 86)

Activities this month

This has been a rather active month for various reasons which I will go into below. But on the sport side, I reached one milestone:

This was 100 runs since I started, with 360km run in total.

And then two days later I did my best ever 5k run with a time of 35:33 (almost two minutes faster than my previous best, which is shown above). And I hadn’t particularly planned to go faster, I just felt like I was doing OK and tried to up the pace a bit. Hopefully under 35 minutes will be possible when the weather is warmer.

As a result of that run I stood on the scales and had surpassed my target, going under the 75.0 kg mark.

This was mostly dehydration and I was back over 75kg again the next morning, but by the end of this month I was decidedly under 75kg (74.1 kg on 31 May) and am now in weight maintenance mode.

What this has meant is that I have had to buy a lot of new clothes and send loads of old clothes to the charity bin. This gets expensive but that’s life. I have set aside some of the good clothes for my sister so if I ever get to visit the UK she will get a couple of boxes full of trousers, tops and my wonderful winter coat too!

I didn’t do much cycling this month, with just a few work commutes and a couple of leisure/utility rides.

Red = velomobile, purply-blue = run and green = either walking or triking

Klaus and I have also continued our regular walks, each evening after dinner and at other times too. We are accompanied by his daughter Lara when she is visiting but Poppy is still recovering from her torn cruciate ligament so is only able to walk about 400 metres at the moment, so her walks are separate. Or she takes the lazy option:

Although the weather has not been great this month we have been treated to some very impressive skies.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

And we had a very nice display from the Wistaria on our garage.

Poppy’s rehabilitation

As detailed last month, Poppy tore her cruciate ligament and had to have an operation and bed rest for two weeks. After her bandage was removed we had to start very slowly exercising her more as she got used to the leg and was able to start building up the muscle again.

We have got into a routine with her now where she has 2-3 walks outside per day, a maximum of 400 metres, and also several visits to the garden. She is still a bit funny about drinking out of her water bowl but enjoys the chance to drink from the fountain in the garden.

When with Gudula and Frank downstairs Poppy has to be tied to a table or held on the lead as they have largely parquet flooring which is too slippery for her and risks damaging her leg. So her territory is under the dining room table which is a pretty good spot as she can see the kitchen, lounge and terrace from there!

When she is with us she has a little more freedom from the lead as we now have carpet runners in the hallway so it is not slippery for her. This means she can wait at the door of our flat to inform us she would really like to do something more interesting with her day than watch us read the internet.

Her leg has improved markedly over the last few weeks. There were a couple of days when she overdid it a bit and was lame for a short while but the leg is clearly getting stronger now and although her stamina for walking is a poor shadow of her former self, she has started trying to jump up on the bed, chairs and even escaped Gudula’s clutches and came up the stairs to our apartment. We are still stopping her from jumping up as it could damage her leg but she clearly feels loads better in herself in that she tries to attempt it.

She has understandably got rather bored with the whole situation – not being allowed to walk freely around the house, not being able to choose who to see, and of course being carried around everywhere has given her an inflated sense of her own importance. She has started to become a little dominant, particularly to Klaus who she has nipped once and warned with barking three times recently. So she has lost a few privileges (sleeping on the bed, sitting on our sofa) and is sleeping in her crate in the hall and having to stay on the floor while we tower above her. She will hopefully get the message soon enough. The first few nights in the crate she barked a bit in the middle of the night but she now listens to the radio station Absolute Relax in the night and that seems to do the trick, she sleeps all the way through now.

Qe are really looking forward to when she can roam around the house on her own as having doors shut everywhere is very annoying, and no doubt she is also looking forward to this time!

Cycle rides

Klaus did quite a lot of riding on his trike this month, enjoying the nice weather when we had it!

I accompanied him on a couple of occasions, once where we stretched our legs to the north.

And on another occasion to treat ourselves to an ice cream in Kempen one sunny evening!

Most of the rest of the time he went out for evening rides after work to decompress and enjoy the views.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

I tend to use my Milan only for commuting and for shopping at the moment as Klaus’s velomobile is off the road. Having used the car for shopping more recently I got a bit carried away with the quantity of food at Aldi one day.

Fortunately I managed to squeeze it all in! (Yes, Millie is very dirty inside – lots of dust picked up from being the garage)

And one time when I was out in the car (shock, horror!) I spotted a familiar figure outside Café Poeth and stopped to have a chat.

This is of course chum Uli who has been cycling regularly throughout lockdown. He is an inspiration to us all.

An update on our guests in the garage…

Last month I reported that robins had nested in our garage and there were some chicks. We were careful not to disturb them too much but a couple of times when getting out a bike we saw the parents were not in the garage and took a couple of photos

Six baby robins

They looked like they would soon be fledging

And then one day…

Empty nest!

For several days we saw both robin parents in the garden and the others could hear the baby birds calling from at least two places (it is outside my hearing range due to hearing problems). So hopefully at least two of the chicks made it. We hope to see Mum & Dad again next year. The garage seems to have been a fairly safe place for them, and definitely more successful than the letterbox last year!

Work and mobility

This month has been rather significant with regard to my work situation.

I have worked at the food production facility in Kempen (a powder blender) for almost five years. In March 2020 I needed several weeks off due to a breakdown following work overload and some difficulties with a particular manager. Early this year I had to work from home for two and a half weeks to avoid another breakdown as I was right on the edge – same causes. And then this month it happened again, this time with the manager trapping me in my office and hectoring me about work issues whilst I was in tears and unable to talk and asking him to leave. For me that was the end as I felt it was bullying behaviour, and I feel he has also been gaslighting me in the past. I could no longer work with this person.

I went to the doctor to get another sick note as I needed to recover from the stress and shock of this last meeting and could not face seeing this manager again. I took the two weeks to think through all the options and possibilities but there was only really one solution as nothing will change at the company. So I decided to resign. This isn’t something one generally does in Germany as it can look a bit dodgy on the CV but my health is important to me so, after discussing my options with a lawyer, I decided to go ahead and resign.

I arranged an appointment with the company owner and explained to him that I felt I needed to resign, that my boss’s behaviour had been what I considered to be bullying and that I did not see any way I could continue working – with such a small company there is no way they could find me a role where I would not have to work with this man. The company owner couldn’t offer any assurances of alternative work arrangements so he accepted my resignation. I had another two week sick note and have two and a half weeks’ holiday in June so I only need to work one week in June, which I said I would do from home as I don’t feel able to face the bullying manager and my office is too near to his to risk it.

Once I had made this decision and carried it out I felt a real relief, the stress of the job over the last year and a half has really taken its toll. Several colleagues have left and one of my closest colleagues is also leaving at the end of June so it feels rather like the end of an era, but I hope is the gateway to a new opportunity.

I had already been applying for jobs over the last couple of months as it was obvious things would not improve in my current company. It’s not so easy for me to find suitable part time work, particularly as I was really limited to the Kempen area due to having to cycle there. So I decided that in order to give myself more opportunities, and because the lack of a car had been a bit awkward when Poppy was having vet visits every two days, I would buy myself a second-hand car as a little runabout.

And when one has the chance to buy a car for just occasional use it can be a nice small one. And what could be smaller than a Smart? I also fancied the Cabrio version so although Frank my landlord, an Automeister (car mechanic of a high standard) advised me to avoid the cabrios as they can leak, I went ahead anyway! I have never had a cabriolet and as I am about to turn 50 I think it might be time!

So Klaus and I started researching different cars, including asking advice from a velomobile friend Christian who has four Smarts. Although he is a big fan of the earlier version, the 450, which he felt had more character, we decided that the next version, the 451, would be more suitable for me. I test drove a few – there was one in Kempen which looked good but didn’t drive too well, there was a lovely one in Willich in my favourite colour but didn’t have power steering and I discovered I needed that due to my weak arm, and then we decided on Cabrios anyway (these other two were the coupé hardtop) so had to cast our net a bit wider for a cabrio with power steering.

We saw there were two in Wuppertal, one my favourite blue colour and a bit cheaper and a second one in the same beige/gold colour as my Skoda Roomster and 500 Euro more expensive. So we decided it was worth a trip to Wuppertal, although one of the garages said we could not have a test drive due to Corona rules.

We arrived at the first garage where they had the blue cabrio and it didn’t look good – it had clearly been there for ages as there was moss and grot on the softtop. I asked for a test drive and they initially said no but I said I wouldn’t even consider it without so they changed their mind and started jump-starting it so we could have a drive. Whilst they were doing that Klaus was checking it over and he very quickly identified that the underside of the floor mats was wet – that means leaky roof, so no way. We didn’t even have the test drive, there was no point.

So on to the next one, where we knew we couldn’t have a test drive. The car salesman for this one was much nicer, but he was selling it on behalf of a private person so it would not have the full dealer warranty etc.

We checked it over and it was dry inside and looked really nice. The service book was perfect apart from the most recent service but we knew it had had one as there were markers on the oil filler cap etc with a date from 2020. They just hadn’t put it in the service book.

It had its HU (like the British MOT) with a year to run but the HU is normally for two years so we told the seller that if they did a new HU we would buy it. He let us test drive it up a private road beside where it was parked (it had no number plates on so could not be taken on the road) and it seemed fine. We tested the roof, all the buttons etc and everything was fine. So we agreed to buy it!

In Germany the registration of the car changes when it goes to a new owner, so I would have to get it registered and get the number plates before I could drive it away. We also needed to of course pay for it. So we had two more trips back to Wuppertal, once to pay for it and to receive the paperwork (Fahrzeugschein and Fahrzeugbrief) and the second to collect it, bringing the number plates with us.

In order to register your car you need the paperwork and also an insurance certificate. The insurance turned out to be rather expensive as this was my second car – although my other car (the Skoda Roomster) is used by Gudula and they give me the money for insurance and tax, it is still insured in my name so my 15 year no claim bonus was not extended to my second car – I got the maximum 4 years instead. So the insurance cost me about 150 EUR more than I was expecting but ho hum.

Once I had the insurance number I needed to visit the Zulassungsstelle (Car Registration Centre) in Kempen to get the car registered to me and the number plates made up. The problem is, the first appointments were in early June, more than a month after I was looking! Because of corona they only have one person serving at the service point instead of six, and you need to pre-book – not much luck when you have to wait a month!

There is a separate service where you can pay a company to do all this for you, and I ended up taking that option. They did a good job, supplying me with all the paperwork, the number plates, the green Environmental sticker etc. This would cost me about 55 EUR to do it myself and I had to pay them 120 EUR so it wasn’t appalling but it is still something I could have done myself if I could have got an appointment. But the number plates were ready the next day – a similar number plate to my Roomster but with the numbers marking out my birth day and month, whereas the Roomster has my birth year. So if both cars are parked together you can work out that it’s my birthday soon!

Here is the car with its shiny new plates.

Top down

And another bonus, this tiny car fits in the tiny garage we rent for the trikes. We will have to fold them both up and squeeze them in a corner in order to get the Smart in, but it will be worth it in winter to keep the worst of the weather off.

Photo by Klaus

And here is our little family going for a test-drive, all three of us fitting in a Smart!

And of course it needed a name. Inspiration came to me when I was hanging out the washing – the car is now called Leonardo di Cabrio, or Leo for short.

And some more good news…

Germany is rather behind the UK with Coronavirus vaccinations and I am not on a priority list but one of Klaus’s work colleagues knew of a doctor’s practice that had some spare jabs. So Klaus went and got BioNTeched one evening after work (the doctor was in Mülheim, where Klaus works), and Klaus mentioned me and that I had a couple of health issues but nothing that would get me on the list. The doctor said he might have some spare AstraZeneca the following week and would I be interested. Klaus said he thought I would and indeed I was.

So last week I had my first AstraZeneca dose, having first discussed with the doctor the risks as I am a woman of almost 50 years old and Germany only normally gives AstraZeneca to women over 60. However, I think it is much safer for me to have this jab than to wait possibly a couple of months for BioNTech or Moderna. The second jab with AZ will be in seven weeks’ time, which means I should be fully vaccinated by the beginning of August. Hopefully the UK will be back on the safe-to-travel list so I can go and see my family.

After my AstraZeneca vaccination I was pretty knocked out, with chills, headache, joint pains and general malaise. I had a full day in bed, and then next two days felt very lethargic with a headache. Fortunately on the fourth day I was pretty much back to normal except with a large itchy red area where the jab was done. I now need to watch for the signs of the rare blood clots but I know these are very unusual.

It’s my 50th birthday in a couple of weeks and our original plan, to cruise with Cunard on the Queen Mary 2 from New York to Southampton had to be cancelled, due to Corona. Plan B was a visit to Berlin but the hotels are still not open there, so we decided instead to visit Austria and are staying for up to two weeks in the flat belonging to one of my oldest friends, Lindsay. I have stayed there many times over the last 25+ years (I went with her to Austria when she first viewed it!) and Klaus went with his daughter a couple of years ago. We are planning to take the trikes and do some triking as well as hiking and relaxing. As we will both have had our first vaccinations more than 22 days before we are there, we class as fully vaccinated with the Austrian system, so that will give us some more freedoms. In Germany you are only fully vaccinated after the second jab.

Anyway, onwards and upwards, I am so relieved to have had my jab and to have a date for the second in July. It feels like a little taste of freedom already!

Cakes this month

Here is my gallery of cakes this month. Not very many, but good ones!

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