Six Wheels In Germany – Month 20

November 2015

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

This month has been less of a cycling month for me – various other things getting in the way. Nevertheless I managed almost 550km which leaves me 510 by 31st December to hit my target of 10,000km for the year.

November statistics

And here is where I rode this month.

November rides

Bike maintenance

Last month Penelope was treated to various bits of maintenance. This month it was Alfie’s turn.

I noticed on the Ruhrtal cycle tour in September that part of Alfie’s rack had broken. Because it was making an annoying rattle I decided to remove it for the winter (when I don’t really use it, I use the Velomobile for shopping), but found that was also not possible. There were pins holding in some support arms and I just couldn’t get the pins out.

I managed to remove most of the rack and just had two arms and a wider section still attached to Alfie’s frame, which I cable-tied out of the way. Alfie was much quieter to ride without the rattling rack. But I did want to remove the rest of the rack.

So of course my landlord Frank came to the rescue…

Removing Alfie's final rack parts

He had to hammer out the pins. One side worked well, the other was so stuck that he had to bend it off using brute force. This is what it looked like afterwards.

Dead rack arm

And here is Alfie looking a bit more bare at the back end.

Rack arm removed

Whilst removing the rack various bushes crumbled away and some parts of the rack were clearly no good, so I had already contacted ICE to ask their advice. Their advice was that they would send me a new rack (this is an old design, but they had a lightly-used one lying around in the bits basket), so I said yes please and they sent it to me.

Package with rack bits

Here it is unpacked.

Replacement rack

It was missing the shaft that holds the big flat piece to the trike and this was one of the parts that we couldn’t get out of Alfie’s frame, and whose bushes had really worn away so there was a lot of play when moving this. So I emailed Neil at ICE to see if he could suggest a safe way of removing this shaft without damaging it so it could be reused. He made some suggestions but managed to find a replacement, and the bushes, and posted them to me. Once again, fantastic service from ICE.

I haven’t yet done the final bit of this job as there’s no great urgency (I’m not using the rack) and removing the old shaft is a job that Frank is planning to do. He brought a tool home from work which he thought would do the job but unfortunately Alfie’s frame was slightly in the way. But Frank likes these challenges and I am sure that he will have success very soon!

Alfie has also had a VERY big birthday recently… Well, he’s only four and a half years old, but he’s had some mega attention from me over the last few days with a big upgrade. I will write a blog post about this in a few days’ time so stay tuned!!

Helen’s birthday cycle ride

My birthday was in mid-June and my present from the ADFC chums was a led ride with food stop. Due to the difficulty of arranging a date that six of us could make, it ended up taking place at the end of November (and with four out of the six – Herbert and Klaus were unable to come).

However, we were blessed with a great weather forecast and the planned trip was to Museum Insel Hombroich to visit.

Track for Birthday Ride

Hartmut and Jochen collected me from home. Hartmut was wearing shorts!

Setting off Hartmut in shorts

We set off, I was in Penelope with my woolly hat on because it was a bit chilly. Hartmut had planned an excellent route and we went at a comfortable pace (the others are both much faster cyclists than me).

Cycling to Hombroich

We met Uli just before St Tönis and the four of us continued in the sunshine towards Neuss and Hombroich.

Sunny cycling

We arrived, locked up the bikes and went to the reception area to buy our tickets. Unfortunately they wouldn’t allow Uli to bring his bike into the parkland as there was a no bikes rule, despite the fact he can’t walk very far. They said he could use a wheelchair – but he didn’t have one with him on his bike. So we had to agree to meet him (and Jochen, who would go with him) at the cafeteria which was easier to reach and Hartmut and I would walk through the park (which included stairs). I felt the woman at the reception was rather unfriendly and unsympathetic to Uli. Oh well.

I was cheered up by this information on the wall. I always like to think that plants are grateful when I don’t step on them.

Grateful plants

There are various buildings which have artworks in, plus some antiquities.


I have to say I’m a bit of a luddite where art is concerned and prefer old-fashioned stuff that looks like something I can recognise. The old artefacts I liked though!

Walking through the park we were less than a metre from a nutria (like a giant rat) which was very unconcerned by us.


Nutria running away

Hartmut and I walked round to the caféteria where Uli and Jochen were waiting – with their bikes. They had risked cycling within the park and got away with it so far!!


We set off for the next stage of our ride – a visit to the Hombroich rocket station that was just round the corner.

Uli and rocket station

Penelope is often mistaken for a rocket so I decided it was a good place for her to visit!

Helen and Penelope at Raketenstation

Rocket meets Rakete

At old rocket silo

Of course, as with pretty much any German place that I visit, there was a cake opportunity.

Rocket station four of us

I chose an orange cake. Hartmut had a spinach quiche rather than cake – most unusual! But he washed it down with a couple of beers so normal service was resumed.

Helen and Hartmut with cake

Jochen also enjoyed a beer.

Jochen and beer

Uli took this picture of me – I had emptied my Bag Of Things that I carry around with me so they could see how I have everything I might need when out and about!

Helen with bag contents

We rode back into a pretty strong wind. Not too much of a problem with the velomobile but harder work for the rest. They all came back as far as St Hubert and then Uli left for home. Hartmut and Jochen came for tea and an apple cake I had made for them.

Tea and cake post-ride

A really enjoyable day, a nice 87km ride for me (the others did over 100km) and some great company.

Fahrrad Stammtisch

Once again I attended the Fahrrad Stammtisch in Kempen. I really enjoy these events, a chance to chat to friends and eat a nice meal. I often order the Baklava dessert which is different every time but this time the restaurant Ela really triumphed – look at this wonderful fruit salad, including persimmon:

Baklava with persimmon

Here we all are in a photo from Uli’s camera.

Fahrrad Stammtisch

And here I am with Uli.

Helen and Uli

Life in Germany

Last month was quite sporty with squash and badminton. This month has not been so sporty, party because of the cold weather but mostly because of laziness on my part. I have spent some time making my Wohnung more of a home for me as I will now be staying here indefinitely.

My first purchase was a washing basket to replace the cheapo blue plastic one I had. I had spotted this in the supermarket Real and it looked pretty good. Here are all the parts when I opened the box.

Washing basket parts

I did a good job of building it and it is now in my bathroom and performing very well (if a wooden washing basket can be said to perform)

Washing basket completed

My second purchase was a chest of drawers (known as an Apotheke Schrank, chemist’s cupboard) from Dänisches Bettenlager, a bed shop.

Apotheke Schrank Box

I unpacked everything and found at the very bottom (naturally) the instruction leaflet. It was an IKEA-style leaflet with pictures which involve a fair bit of interpretation. But what was quite clear was that it said it was a two-person job and would take three hours. Yikes!

Apotheke Schrank instructions

Fortunately Nils (son of my landlady) was at home and clearly a bit bored as when I asked if he wanted to help me he jumped at the chance. It turns out it was his first furniture build.

Apotheke Schrank 1

Apotheke Schrank 2

Apotheke Schrank 3

Apotheke Schrank 4

The finished product fits very nicely in my bedroom.

Apotheke Schrank completed

Many thanks to Nils for his help!

The third set of furniture building involved a trip to IKEA to buy a pin board for my wall. I failed on the pin board (didn’t find one) but managed to buy several other bits and bobs, including two items of furniture which I assembled on my own.

I had measured a space in my kitchen for a large recycling bin (my current one has collapsed) but my eye was caught by this ‘Rollerwagen’ as some additional workspace as well as storage so I bought it and assembled it.

Rollerwagen pieces


And the last item was what I knew as a Billy Bookcase but is now a Gradby. I already had one white one so bought another (which showed that the first one had become rather off-white in the meantime…)

Gradby Bookshelf

This was to make space for my CDs which I had brought back from England.

A quick dash to England

My Dad’s a bit under the weather so I decided to pop over to England and visit my parents. Because I had quite a busy diary I decided to do two overnight trips and spend the Tuesday with them, so leaving Germany on Monday late afternoon and getting back around Midday on Wednesday. This was taking the Hoek van Holland to Harwich ferry which is the luxury option!

Ferry cabin

And I was very organised this time with a flask of tea and a fake Snickers to eat before the sailing.

Ferry supplies

The first surprise was that when arriving at the UK border every car was individually checked. This was very quick for me as I had the load area open and it was clear I had no passengers. I guess they were checking for the escaped Belgian man who had masterminded the Paris attacks.

Arriving UK border

I arrived in the UK at 6:45am so drove to my house and swapped cars with James (I will now be using my Audi). I also loaded up all the things I was going to take back to Germany including lots more CDs, a few items of furniture, bike tools, car tyres and more.

Pile of things to take back to DE

Car full of stuff

After a quick visit to Colchester to M&S for the traditional expatriate underwear purchasing session it was time to drive to my parents’ north of Ipswich.

It was lovely to see them and have a good chat. Mum had made us a curry too!

Curry with parents

Followed by the quintessential British dessert, a trifle.


Here I should mention that I actually made a trifle in Germany for Klaus, Claudia and Lara. It was tricky as I couldn’t find trifle sponges, there was no strawberry jelly (only raspberry which I don’t like as much), and they don’t have double cream. At least I had some custard left over, and was able to buy some fruits of the forest to go in it. Anyway, they seemed to like it.

Helen's Trifle

So back to England. I had a very enjoyable time with my parents catching up and generally chatting. We also had some cake of course.

The weather was really abominable with very strong winds. I checked the forecast for my ferry crossing back – rather exciting!

Gale forecast

The reality was that the captain on the ferry said it was Force 9 gusting to 11!!!

Anyway, I gave myself plenty of time to get to Harwich and popped into Morrisons the Supermarket in Harwich to buy some supplies (more teabags of course, custard, some English newspapers for friend Uli, some biscuits for Christine etc).

I joined the queue for the ferry, expecting us to be let on at 21:00.

Queue for ferry

Sadly this was not the case – the ferry had been delayed sailing over from NL (no great surprise due to the huge headwind it must have experienced) and we didn’t load until 22:30. The boat was really rocking as we drove on too, which is unusual – it’s usually steady as a rock!

I expected a difficult night’s sleep due to the huge waves and wind but the reality was it was fine, I slept very well and of course due to the ferry delay was not woken up at too ungodly an hour (7:30am instead of 6am). There was another delay at the border in NL where they were checking cars again, but I was eventually on my way back to Kempen.

When I arrived home Poppy was delighted to see her favourite car again.

Poppy helping unpack car 1

She had to check all the seats are as comfortable as she remembered.

Poppy in car

Despite a lot of travelling (350 miles, two North Sea crossings) doing a trip like this wasn’t particularly tiring and it was enjoyable. Last-minute ferry prices are a bit scary so I have bought a lot of crossings for 2016 with a special offer and I can change or cancel them free of charge if I don’t need them so hopefully I can make use of them when I next want to visit my parents. I’ll be back there again at Christmas of course.

Anja (Mrs Jochen) has a birthday party

I was very pleased to be invited to Jochen’s wife Anja’s 40th birthday party, which would be the traditional German barbecue outside.

Jochen was in charge of the barbecue all night and did an excellent job!

Jochen's party him barbecuing

I brought along some Apple Roses I had made.

Jochen's party apple roses

In a brief break from his Grilling Jochen came and sat with us and wore a strange cake table decoration on his head.

Jochen's Party Jochen with cake hat

Hartmut appropriated one of Anja’s presents…

Jochen's Party Hartmut 40

And Andreas demonstrated his self protection for walking around Krefeld at night (yes, this is allowed in Germany, unlike in England).

Andreas with knife

It was a great party and another enjoyable chance to chat to chums.

Rolf’s silver wedding celebrations

Sometimes the world is full of strange coincidences and happenings. Getting to know Rolf is one of these. I first met him in Manningtree in the UK but a year later moved to within 30km of his house and he has extended his hospitality to me many times.

He and his wife Petra were celebrating 25 years of marriage and I was invited. The event was a lunch after a church service at the evangelische Kirche in Waldniel but I went along to the service too (in the Velomobile), and really enjoyed it. Rolf’s wife and daughters are all extremely musical, as evidenced by this piece of equipment that was played during the service.

Rolf's event harp feet

Rolf's event harp

The church hall was filled with friends of Rolf and Petra, which included Adelheid from the Süchteln choir (we had already discovered we both knew Rolf) and HaJo the velomobile rider who I met at HBK last year. He was accompanied by Ursula, friend of Gabi who was unfortunately not able to come. I was the only person who arrived by velomobile which was a surprise.

Rolf's event seated in hall

There was an excellent spread of food!

Rolf's event cheeses etc

And cake.

Rolf's event cakes 1

I enjoyed this marshmallow cake made by one of his daughters.

Rolf's event marshmallow cake

It was great to chat to Rolf, Hajo, Ursula, Adelheid and others and wonderful to celebrate such a special occasion with Rolf.

Two concerts

November is the date of the Willicher Musikprojekt concert, for which we practice the entire year starting in January. This year it was Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s Elias (Elijah) which was previously unknown to me but which I grew to like more and more as we practised.

The day before the concert we had a full rehearsal with the orchestra in the church in Anrath. Gudula my landlady came along to listen, as did Uli for a little while, and reports were that it sounded good. Certainly the acoustics in Anrath church are very good!

Anrath Kirche 1

Choir rehearsal

Here was the view from my vantage point.

Anrath Kirche 2

The actual concert was on a Friday evening and we met in a local Bierhalle for the warm-up singing before the concert.

Concert Einsingen

The concert went really well. Obviously I have no photos as I was singing but Klaus was in the audience and said it sounded really good and took this pic from his side-on view.

Anrath concert Klaus photo

It was great fun and I am really looking forward to next year’s performance which is Messiah by Handel (although in German).

The second concert was just a week later and with the other choir that I am part of, Sound of Joy.

Sound of Joy concert poster

This was in a church in Dülken that I had not visited before (inside anyway, I have visited the exterior of all churches in Kreis Viersen).

Duelken Church 1

Duelken Church 2

The concert was free of charge with a retiring collection for refugees and it went very well – the audience were so appreciative that we did two encores!

The following day we sang three songs as part of a church service in the Evangelische Kirche in Süchteln so it’s been quite a musical month for me!

Next month I will be going to the last of these concerts in Bonn:

Bonn Carol Service


At Klaus’s house I have infected them all with the tea-drinking bug as you can see from this photo of Claudia’s preparations for a nice cuppa…

Cups of tea at the ready

Claudia doesn’t speak English but we communicate fine. However, written communication can be a bit harder as I don’t get the tone of voice so sometimes I use a translator App to help with her messages. But you occasionally get odd results…

Amitava saha

Since when has feeling unwell been feeling Amitava Saha? And what the heck is Amitava Saha????!!!!!

Did you know that Germans don’t know the film ‘The Sound of Music’??? How is this possible! Anyway, I bought the DVD with English and German soundtracks and watched it with Claudia and Lara (in German eventually as the subtitles were too quick for them). They enjoyed it but I have to say it wasn’t the same having the songs in German…

The Sound Of Music


My Nachhilfe continues with Carole and also with the son of her neighbour who needs a bit of help in English. Carole often supplies me with cake!

Cake from Carole

I also had, for a very brief time, a teaching job in Essen with two PhD students.

Essen Uni

They wanted help with speaking English as part of their studies in Philosophy and their advert made its way to me via Christine. We had two sessions at Essen Uni which was enjoyable but then their Professor announced he would pay for their English lessons (they were funding it themselves) but with the Uni’s English teacher so that came to an end. But I think they may get me to do some proof-reading for them. I’m still doing proofing for various people but am not having much luck with proper job hunting. Due to the approach of Christmas I’m not doing much in the job-hunting department, I’ll try a bit harder in the New Year and will enjoy my free time over the next month.


Karneval has started again and I went once again to Lara’s Proklamation for the children’s carnival prince and princess. Yes, it was as bonkers as last time!Proklamation ticket

Proklamation 1

Proklamation 2

Photo of the month of me…

I am regularly to be seen looking at my phone (of course!) and Klaus snapped this excellent pic of me when I was unawares.

Helen on phone

Last month Claudia got the excellent photo of me in Burger King (the ‘Hot Blondie’ photo!) so I am very grateful to that family for actually getting photos of me where I am not gurning!

Poppy goes on holiday again

Poppy has a fabulous life for a dog.

For example, she gets to regularly go for a walk to Aldi wearing her posh fluorescent jacket.

Poppy at Aldi

She is somehow able to snuggle under the covers when I freshly make the bed

Poppy in bed

She has an automatic dog food dispenser for when I’m out at feeding time so she can lie in front of it and try to force it to open through ESP

Waiting for food

And then she gets to go on holiday without me! Once again Gudula and Frank were travelling to Berlin to visit their son Lars and as I was going to be out for the whole day on the Saturday (for my birthday cycle ride) and they wanted to take her to Berlin anyway she went away for the four-day trip.

Poppy loves Lars very much and you can see that in these photos.

Lars and Poppy 1

Lars and Poppy 2

Here Lars took Poppy with him to University, to the Evangelische Hochschule Berlin, and she is sitting in on a lesson about Betreuungsrecht.

Lars and Poppy at Uni

She had a great time and was apparently very well behaved. It was extremely quiet here without her!

Cakes this month

Apfelmohn Kuchen

Apple cake 2

Carole Cake

Mini Gugelhupf

Orange cake at Raketenstation

pecan pie

Raspberry cake

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