I think Martha enjoyed using the sewing machine. Oma helped her make a skirt using fabric that she likes, featuring Mirabel from the film Encanto.
While Liesel was sewing the more technically difficult parts, Martha and I played a half-hearted game of skittles in our long hallway.
On taking Martha home, we were invited in for a minute. We left several hours later, having joined the family and the other grandparents for pizza. Both the children were in great form, a reminder that going to school really does sap their energy.
I do like seeing the multitude of colours of the fallen leaves: crimson, yellow, amber, gold, beige, chestnut, red, ochre and, when the Sun’s illuminating the ground, glowing and even flaming in hue. The thought of shuffling through the piles of leaves isn’t as attractive as it used to be, I am more aware of what might be lurking, hidden in the depths.
Autumn is coming into our block of flats. I think a couple of leaves blow in every time someone opens the door. Can I be bothered sweeping them out again? No, don’t be daft.
Watching the cyclists and pedestrians in Northenden, still wearing what might be thought of as light, Summer clothing, is very reassuring. Sometimes I feel odd being the only one still out and about in shorts and a t-shirt (not that I’m bovvered) but until it becomes really cold, I don’t really need to put on more layers.
And it’s so peaceful when a convoy of electric vehicles drives by, so much quieter than the infernal combustion engines that most cars, including ours, still possess.
It still surprises me that whatever time we go out for a walk, locally, we see as many buses that declare themselves ‘Out of Service’ as we see actually in service, taking passengers from place to place. I’d be interested to see the drivers’ shift patterns: do they really start and stop at any hour of the day?
Liesel and I haven’t been out litter-picking for a while, we really should get back to it. But recently, we saw a few young men on our patch, picking litter while wearing hi-visibility vests. Is that the new uniform for Wythenshawe Waste Warriors? Or were they on community service? Neither of us felt brave enough to ask, just in case they were indeed axe murderers.
Liesel wandered along the road for this year’s flu jab. I was scheduled to get one as well, but my appointment was cancelled. As an official old fart, the recipe for my flu jab is slightly different, and the pharmacy had run out.
A partial eclipse of the Sun was visible from the UK, but I assumed we wouldn’t see anything because of cloud cover. But no, it was clear enough. I took a couple of pictures with my phone. The Sun was far too bright really, but, somehow, by luck, the phone camera’s internal workings conspired to present a much fainter image of the eclipsed Sun.
It’s that time of year again. So glad I don’t have to walk into fresh spiders’ webs as I plod up people’s garden paths early in the morning. But the engineering involved is still pretty impressive.
I was quite happy to visit the local community library to pick up a book that Liesel had reserved. I took her library card. But of course, it was about to expire, so I had to have the ticket updated. While there, I asked about mine. It too had expired but the volunteer assistant renewed it for me. So, what book? It describes the Coast to Coast walk, from the Irish Sea to the North Sea, a trek that we’re thinking of doing next year.
In the library, a young lady was setting up a story time for young children. She had animals. I was invited to stay. I didn’t want to take up space, but I did ask the librarian what sort of animals. ‘She has cockroaches’. ‘I’m outta here’, I replied, after a millisecond’s careful consideration. No need to see cockroaches that close up thanks, we’ve seen plenty in the wild, in the tropics.
These flowers outside the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Assembly Hall were glowing in the sunshine. It seemed possible to squeeze the orange juice out them.
My other errand was to drop off a bag of plastic at the Co-op, the plastic that our local authority can’t or won’t accept for recycling. I felt very welcome at Quirky Misfits when this chap greeted me at the door.
Inside, I was introduced to a corn snake. A 5-week old that was having a kip in the tank. More zzzz than ssss on this occasion.
The snake attracted the attention of all the children that came in, too. Much more interesting than the cockroaches would have been, I think, and I look forward to seeing it again when it’s fully grown, about five feet in length.
The Wednesday walk was disrupted for me, pleasant though it was. I went to the Post Office to post a letter for Liesel. I waved my phone at the machine to pay, and it was rejected. A second attempt failed too. Luckily, I had cash in my pocket, probably left over from a couple of weeks ago when I had to pay the barber with cash.
It’s along story, but the problem was nothing to do with my phone, or the card, or the bank. It’s because I had the temerity to delete my Google account last night. It gave me a warning, a long list of things that might be affected, but I wasn’t concerned about any of those things. I’m pretty sure Google Pay wasn’t on that list. What a shame though that the only way I could find to stop Google nagging me to pay for more cloud storage when I didn’t even want the free storage, was to delete the whole account.
And sever the links to who knows how many other features. Grrr.
My card now works. I tested it in in the coffee shop just along a bit from the dental practice where Liesel went for a scan. But then I tried to use Google Maps to find a route home. It couldn’t find one. Again, the problem was that this app was connected to my now deleted Google account. I’ll never understand why this should prevent it from finding a route home though. Yes, it won’t be recording where I’ve been, but that’s OK, I don’t care that they don’t know where I’ve been. Grrr
Oh and another thing. Yes, we went to Altricham. But at one point, we were in Timperley and/or Trafford and/or Sale. I think it’ll be a long time before I sort out my Manc geography, with all these places and place names that overlap. I thought Chessington and Hook were confusing enough: where is the boundary?
‘Two coffees please. I’m sitting over there and he’s sitting over there.’
It’s not that Liesel and I weren’t talking to each other, it’s just that Liesel was sitting over there with the ladies, and I’m not a member of the Women’s Institute. So after enjoying my coffee, I walked home from Didsbury, in the sunshine, a perfect, colourful Autumn wander.
At home, I am still in battle with Google. All I want to do is close or delete the account and sever all Google’s tentacles that inveigle their way into far too many aspects of my online life. But, according to one site:
“… That said, Google Photos app has its quirks. Apart from not providing a satisfactory user interface for device folders (other albums in the gallery), it’s difficult to delete photos. Sure, you can just press the delete button, but that removes the photo from everywhere, the phone as well as the cloud storage.”
Which is exactly what I’ve been worried about. So to avoid this, I have to move the photos on my phone to a secret new folder that Google doesn’t know about. And make an external backup. Plus, you can’t ‘just press the delete button’ because there isn’t one, not in an obvious place anyway.
It’s reminiscent of my 30-year battle with bindweed. You have to get rid of every molecule or it just comes back. Trying to delete a Google account is also like an annoying game of whack-a-mole. Just as you think you have a handle on the situation, up pops another message saying what else will be affected. Or, more prominently, if you want more storage, it will cost so much per month. I don’t. I don’t even want the 15 GB free storage I seem to have acquired. Please release me, let me go.
For some light relief, I dipped into the news. You’ll be the first to know when it’s my turn to be Prime Minister for fifteen minutes. Or I could take a leaf out of the government’s handbook and blame everything on Putin’s war in Ukraine.
In other news. Helen has been allowed to donate blood in Australia at last. They’ve not wanted English blood for decades because of mad cow disease. The reward was crisps and gluten-free crackers. I much prefer our custard creams and bourbons and shortbread biscuits. Her new pad is slowly taking shape, building furniture, shopping at Costco with a friend, what an adventure!
For October it’s been quite warm, which makes it easier to get up and go out for a walk around the neighbourhood. We joined two well-being walks this week.
This advert caught my eye and made me chuckle but I probably won’t be shopping there any time soon.
Liesel and I collected Martha and William from school later than usual this week. William had been at After School Club while Martha was studying Performing Arts. Ironic then that at home, it was William who took to the stage to perform a couple of songs using Makaton signs.
No, it’s not really a stage, it’s just the coffee table that he’s not meant to stand on.
Mummy and Daddy went out so we fed the children, and tried our best to make sure they were in bed and asleep at a reasonable time. It was a real pleasure reading to them, something we haven’t done for a long time. And really fun to watch William making up a story that involved the fate of his mouse. Poor old mouse. As he moved around William’s bedroom, the mouse had to fight off the fox that threatened to eat him for dinner. Then after climbing the door, the Gruffalo threatened to eat the mouse for dinner. Mouse escaped, thank goodness, only to be eaten by the snake who was carefully concealed under a blanket.
Not a good day for mouses really, as I found a lost Mickey in Wythenshawe.
Well, strictly speaking, it’s probably a young child who’s gone missing, we know exactly where Mickey ended up.
Here’s a tip. If you want to meet someone in Wythenshawe Forum, agree to meet under the clock. It’s just as iconic as the clock at Waterloo Station.
While I was in the Forum, Liesel was walking around Wythenshawe Park with her WI buddies. I’m so glad she shot some wildlife.
The radio show this week is about Honey and bees and for some reason, it took a lot longer than it should have to edit to the right length. Got there in the end though!
Never let it be said that Liesel and I don’t know how to have a good time, whether together or separately. On this fine Saturday, Liesel went for coffee with her WI chums leaving me to my own devices at home. But not for long. I paid a quick visit to Wythenshawe Forum for my Covid booster jab. No chocolate biscuits on this occasion, but neither did I have to rest for 15 minutes before being kicked out. All I need now is my flu jab and I’ll then consider myself fully Winter-proofed.
The walk home, the long way, took me by the river where I was delighted to see the heron attempting to hide on the island.
There are of course a zillion things more romantic than a Northenden sunset, but we have to make do with what we can get.
I have been tempted to paint a mountain view on the windows, but that idea has been vetoed by my wife. What about a stain glass window, then? If not mountains, what about a beautiful seascape? Nope. And nope.
We paid a return visit to Jodrell Bank where we met up with Jenny and Liam and the children. It’s been a while since we were last there, and the layout of the place and the car park all seemed unfamiliar.
We watched a couple of short films in the Dome, and even though it was warm and dark inside, I didn’t fall asleep.
The main attraction was the playground, where William and Martha had a great time climbing the frame and spinning fast on the mini roundabout made from an old washing-up bowl.
We had lunch before wandering over towards what should be the main attraction, the James Lovell radio telescope. On the way, we encountered some strange, almost extraterrestrial lifeforms.
We also admired pictures from the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition, now in its 13th year. I would love to claim credit for these photos, but I didn’t spend hours, days, even weeks, outside, in the cold, taking multiple time exposures and stitching together several elements. I just walked along a path and took a few quick snaps with my phone.
‘High clouds on Jupiter create intricate and beautiful shapes that swirl all over the planet. To get a colour image when there are only three colour channels (red, green, blue), some sort of filter-to-channel mapping must be done. PixInsight was used for the rest of the processing: custom white balance, deconvolution and wavelet transformation for detail enhancement, contrast and saturation curves. The resulting image, in CIE-LAB colour space, was then converted to RGB.’ – Sergio Díaz Rulz
This Image takes the Annie Maunder Prize to a new level this year. By using real data from a NASA research programme, the entrant has managed to encode the filters used to study Jupiter into shape and colour, creating a new and unique way to see the largest planet in our solar system.”
‘When I took this photo it was -16°C and the air was filled with small ice crystals that made this halo possible. This regular 22° halo is more commonly seen around the Sun. The moonlight needs to be quite strong to make the halo visible, so it’s more common around the days of a full moon. To the left you can see the city lights of Östersund, Sweden, and in the foreground you can see the tracks from a rabbit that hopped up to the trees.’ – Göran Strand.
“I really love this picture as it beautifully captures the Moon in a way we rarely see it, showing us that even on a calm winter’s night, it can still take your breath away.” Melissa Brobby, Judge.
The fly is a bit annoying but feel free to believe it’s an alien spacecraft if you like.
Martha was impressed at the scale of the telescope, even if she didn’t quite understand how it worked. We tried to walk around it but sadly, some of the grounds are out of bounds. William and Martha enjoyed the scientific exhibits outside, demonstrating such things as the conservation of angular momentum. I’m sure there used to be ‘toys’ to play with indoors too, but as I said, it’s been a long time since our last visit.
For some reason, the children weren’t interested in the wooden radio telescope prototypes that I found behind the scenes.
On our baby-sitting day, we collected them both from school and brought them straight back to our luxury apartment. Mummy and Daddy were off to school for Parent Teachers evening. I told Martha it was so the teachers could tell the parents how bad the children had been. She immediately corrected me, “How good we’ve been!”
At home, using some colourful, fallen Autumn leaves, some washi tape, paper and sellotape, they had fun making some bookmarks. At school, William had made a card each for Oma and Grandad which was very cute, even if his teacher had to help spell ‘Grandad’.
For the radio show this week, I played lots of black music to mark Black History Month.
Something went wrong with uploading to Mixcloud, I had several attempts and it didn’t work. I wondered at my incompetence, or if I’d hit some limit that I was unaware of. But no, it turns out there was a problem on their site. So, overnight, all three of my attempted uploads successfully completed. Anyone looking at my profile would wonder why there were three shows with almost identical names! Technology eh?
In medical news, I visited the dentist, the hygienist and the barber. My neck feels much colder now. I also visited a periodontist for the first time since we moved away from Chessington. I won’t go into details but you know that song Unfinished Sweet by Alice Cooper? That. On the way home, I thought I’d go for a wander in Wythenshawe Park while I processed a lot of information. I texted Liesel and we agreed to meet there.
We had a nice walk around the park, following the new cycle/pedestrian path. It looks pretty good, although it ‘s recommended that you cycle in one direction only, widdershins. In places, there are extra loops and bumps and challenges for wannabe mountain bikers.
It started raining a few minutes before completing the circuit so we arrived back at the car a bit more damp than planned.
On TV, we’ve been watching the World Track Cycling Campionships and feel a bit sad that some of our favourite cyclists from 2012, London Olympics, are no longer competing, and we don’t know the current team nearly as well.
Well there I was, as I often am, lying in bed listening to a podcast, when I hear my name being called. Liesel is walking to Didsbury in fifteen minutes time and would I like to join her? Well no, not really, I want to hear the end of the show and then maybe another one… But no, I got up, got dressed, and we had a very nice walk by the river.
As always we looked out for the heron but he was hiding out somewhere. Instead, we saw a pair of shags and a swan on the river. A swan? That is very unusual.
Autumn draws on apace as witnessed by the very pretty Autumn crocuses along the river bank.
At Fletcher Moss, we had coffee, and I had my breakfast: a veggie sausage and fried egg barm. I knew it would be messy but I also knew it would be delicious. It was. And it was. I had to wash the yolk and ketchup off my fingers afterwards.
I don’t mind mushrooms in a dish, just not as the main component. But today, if I’d asked for mushrooms in my breakfast barm, I know they would have been really fresh.
You can pick your own right here. It looks like the weather recently has been highly conducive to fungi taking over the planet.
Liesel and her WI buddies were stationed outside the Co-op in Didsbury, handing out flyers telling people where they could recycle items that the local council can’t deal with. Sadly, we didn’t bring one of these very informative pamphlets home. My mission was to buy some filo pastry. Not in Didsbury, I couldn’t. Three shops don’t sell it and the other one had sold out. If it wasn’t for the fact that I was walking up and down the High Street, visiting each of the supermarkets at least once each, adding to the step count, I might have been a bit miffed.
Ford Lane is easily flooded whenever it rains, but we successfully negotiated the puddles without being splashed whenever Stirling Moss or Lewis Hamilton drove raced by on their way to their golf course.
Jenny and Liam have been married now for a few weeks. I said I’d post more of the official photos. Well here’s one.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, Helen is moving into her new home. New furniture, new carpets, new address. We can’t wait to go and make ourselves at home there, somewhere in Brookvale, NSW.
There is now of course a huge pile of packaging to be disposed of. Sorry, Helen, we didn’t keep one of those flyers for you. But I suspect your local authority does things differently anyway.
My solo walk to Didsbury was rewarded with a massage. I hadn’t realised that all my muscle were so stiff. It was a good work-out, not necessarily for me, but I did feel much better afterwards.
The Wednesday walk in the rain was wet and wonderful. Added to which, I got papped back at Boxx 2 Boxx afterwards!
One of the highlights of the week was going to the cinema. Without looking it up, I can’t remember the last time we were in a movie theatre. We saw Moonage Daydream, the first film about our favourite alien superstar sanctioned by the David Bowie estate. It’s a roller-coaster ride of Bowie music, interviews, videos, remixes, over two hours of Bowie magic. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s even only slightly interested in Bowie’s life and times and philosophy.
This was our first time at The Light in Stockport, a cinema recommended by Jenny, even though she hasn’t been there herself. Yet!
Another highlight was visiting the gym in Wythenshawe. Liesel swam for a bit. I spent some time on the treadmill and the exercise bike. But the woirst thing was, I forgot to take a pound coin for the locker. That’s the real reason I wasn’t totally motivated.
Here’s a book recommendation. I really enjoyed this one.
It’s a period of history that we don’t know much about: the Roman invasion of northern Scotland. The characters and story are all very well written. It’s one of those stories that you don’t really want to finish. You want to know what happens after the events depicted. Highly recommended. Sisters at the Edge of the World by Ailish Sinclair.
The radio show this week was themed around Germany, in light of our recent trip. So, a few German musicians, some German music and songs that mention Germany, or a German city. If you missed it on Wythenshawe Radio, you can catch up here:
I fell asleep to the internal echoes of Eddi Reader only to be woken up three short hours later.
Skip this paragraph if you like because here I will list all the things that went wrong. A proper whingefest if you like. I’d booked a taxi for 3am. The service had been totally reliable on previous occasions, but today, there was no sign of a cab. The three of us (me, Liesel and Leslie) were standing outside like an ugly flytipped sofa, waiting, waiting. No message, no email. After ten minutes, I went online and booked an Uber. He was five minutes away, so that’s not too bad. I went online again to cancel the original cab. Just as he turned up. I told him he was too late, and he replied by saying ah yes, the cancellation had just arrived. Now if they’d sent a message at 3am saying he was going to be 15 minutes late, that would have been ok. But again, a lack of communication caused a problem. A minor problem, yes, but an unnecessary one. On the way to the airport, I looked at my email to check my electronic boarding pass was still there. It wasn’t. Yesterday, I clicked the option to add it to my Google Wallet. Ok, it said. Well, I don’t know whose Google Wallet it was sent to, but it wasn’t mine. And it seems that in the process, it deleted the email because, well, obviously, I shouldn’t need it any more. I restored the email to my inbox, and took a screenshot of the QR code. Just in case. Not my problem I know, but I did feel sorry for the lady in the next queue to ours who wanted to go to Nigeria but she didn’t have the relevant travel documents with her so she wasn’t able to check in to her flight. So of course, I started to worry that I too might need extra documentation to travel to Germany. Security is always a lottery. This time, the Fast Track Security queue, for which you can pay an extra £5 to join, was upstairs, while Normal Security was downstairs. Today, we had to remove all electronics, and, for the first time ever, this included toothbrushes and shavers, anything with a battery inside. But we didn’t have to take our shoes off. Although I found out later that Leslie had had a pretty good pat-down and had had to remove her footwear. I groaned when I realised that again my bag had been pulled aside. Inside, in the depths of my toiletry bag, the officer found a tiny tube of toothpaste. So small that I hadn’t seen it when I recently repacked the bag. So small that it had somehow got through security when I flew back from Anchorage last time. ‘Let’s fill our water bottles’ suggested Liesel. But could I find a water fountain at Manchester Airport Terminal 1? Nope. I’ll just fill the water bottles from the water jugs at one of the coffee shops then. Nope. If you want tap water at one of these places, you have to line up and ask for it. What else? Oh yes. I don’t like escalators when the handrail moves at a different speed to the stairs. You either fall over forwards or keel over backwards. You don’t? Oh, it’s just me then. Actually, I felt nowhere near as panicky as I had on my last flight. The queue for Leslie to check in was long, yes, but we could see it was making progress. And, we had plenty of time.
Liesel and I took it in turns to visit a couple of the coffee outlets for a sort of breakfast. Yes, we had lots of time to pass before our flight. Too much time maybe, but I wasn’t going to worry about that.
The flight from Manchester to Frankfurt was uneventful and I kept my beady eye on the steward as he handed out the chocolates. The plan was for Liesel and me to escort Leslie to Frankfurt and make sure she caught the right plane back home to Anchorage. This we did and, bonus, she didn’t have to go through security a second time at Frankfurt. It was a quick farewell in the end and I think Liesel and I will both miss having her Mom around.
We now had a couple of hours to kill at Frankfurt Airport before catching our train. I thought I’d seen enough of the place after several bus tours around the ginormous airport over the last few months, but no, there is plenty more to see. The border official let us through without any awkward questions: nothing about Covid nor stuff we were bringing into the country and, I’m glad to say, no awkward questions about paperwork that we didn’t know we needed.
This band of merry musicians put a smile on everyone’s faces as they oompahed through the airport.
The railway station was a reasonably long walk away but we were glad to get the steps in. At least it was all under cover, we didn’t have to go to the outside world at all.
There are designated smoking areas which of course we’re no longer used to, so every now and then, we’d walk through a cloud of carcinogens. The worst place was on the platform for our train, so we didn’t hang around there longer than necessary.
It’s just over two hours on the train from Frankfurt to Freiburg and the time flew by. I read a good chunk of my book and glanced out of the window now and then, but the landscape didn’t really engage as it passed by at 160 kph.
Our hotel was not even a ten minute walk from Freiburg station. Yes, we’re in a hotel, a Best Western, also known as Hotel Victoria. We settled into our very comfortable room in what is one of the most eco-friendly hotels in one of the greenest cities in Germany. Allegedly. All the power in the hotel is generated from solar panels on the roof, wind and, er, the burning of woodchips.
We dined at a Morrocan restaurant just round the corner and we were surprised that they only took payment in cash. So, while they kept Liesel hostage, I went for a walk to get some money out of a machine. The machine conveniently located next door didn’t recognise my card. The machine all the way back at the station did so I took out as many euros as I was allowed. On my return, I was pleased to see that they hadn’t got Liesel to do the washing up for them.
Rain had been forecast for most of our time here, so the sunshine on Sunday morning was a bonus. We walked into town, the old town, where we admired the architecture, commented on and tried not to trip on the cobbles, noticed and tried not to impede the progress of the many cyclists in town.
The Visitor Information office is in the old town hall, next door to the new town hall. I downloaded an app that guided us around the town: at least the commentary was in English. There’s a lot of history here, including an old Roman wall, very similar to the one in Chester, what’s left of it.
I mentioned the cobbles. Most streets are cobbled, and there are smaller stones at the sides, for pedestrians. In places, there are mosaics. This is one of the first to catch my eye, outside the town hall, der Rathaus:
Guildford is just one of Freiburg’s several twin towns and sister cities in and beyond Europe, each of which is marked by one of these mosaics, contructed using pebbles from the nearby Rhine. Guildford has been home to such luminaries as Nobel-prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro, code-breaker Alan Turing and is the birth place of musician Mike Rutherford, DJ Tony Blackburn, and, er, me.
While sitting in the square waiting for the 12 o’clock chimes, we were mobbed by a swarm of sparrows. They detected my phone and were about to depart but they were just a second too late… The main danger though was bonkers. They’re like conkers, only they fall out of trees and bonk you on the head. There are chestnut and horse chestnut trees all over town, you can’t walk anywhere without encountering chestnuts or their spiky cases.
Oh look. In my bag I have some salt-peter, some sulphur and some charcoal. I know, I think I’ll go out and leave these random chemicals unattended on the stove. Boom. I’ve invented gunpowder. Actually, this story is attributed to a monk, Bertold the Black, who supposedly lived in Freiburg in the 14th century. There is a statue here honouring the monk for his invention, even though the Chinese beat him to it by several centuries.
Other features that you can’t avoid in Freiburg are the tram lines and the little canals alongside most of the roads. These drainage ditches are dry most of the time, and if you’re unlucky enough to fall into one, you’re destined to marry a Freiburger. Children play with little wooden boats when there is flowing water in these Bächle.
We never made use of the service but we saw quite a few of the bendy trams in Freiburg. The Cathedral tower is an impressive 116 metres tall, and the building is, by coincidence, 116 metres in length. Just as you’re marvelling at the architecture and the stone masonry, you turn round and encounter some absolute kitsch, totally out of place.
Before you ask, no we did not buy a souvenir cuckoo clock.
No new buildings in Freiburg can be higher than the top of the Cathedral tower. There are over 100 gargoyles protecting the fabric of the building from the worst of the rain. Most are monsters or people, but this one is the funniest.
We admired many of the mosaics that remain outside shops even though the shop itself may have changed usage over the years. I don’t mind posing for a photo so I was delighted to sit next to this knife.
This chap is just one of many who we saw embedded in the walls around town. The steps here lead up a hill which we decided to pursue on another occasion. And sadly, even the most aesthetically pleasing of towns and cities have their unfair share of graffiti artists. Arstist? Vandals.
Here is another mosaic that we liked, and then we found out its significance. You wouldn’t want to be taken to The House of the Black Cat, because that’s where the local executioner, the hangman, lives.
Of course I checked the window display of this record shop, and was surprised but mostly disappointed to find absolutely no reference to David Bowie. So my theory needs a slight adjustment: Every record shop still existing in the UK has, in its window display, either a David Bowie record or some other David Bowie merchandise.
By contrast, the destroyed synagogue’s memorial fountain is quite moving. Its shape reflects the ground plan of the old synagogue and the mirror-smooth surface is the perfect place for reflection. Literally.
We dined at a Thai restaurant just round the corner from our hotel. It was Sunday and we hadn’t anticipated that most places would be closed. There was nothing wrong with Thai Chi, for that is what it was called. The experience led me to suggest that more restaurants should have model villages inside their dining tables.
Monday started with another big breakfast in the hotel before we set off through the town and back to the stairs that we’d abandoned yesterday.
The Monday market was set up in the Cathedral square, with lots of well presented, fresh produce, 27 types of ham, 49 species of sausage, 56 varieties of cheese and best of all, 19 types of locally baked bread.
We didn’t buy anything now, but later on, on the way back, we did buy a punnet of raspberries.
I would like to tell you how many steps there were, but I soon lost count. Eventually they gave way to a path which was quite a steep slope. We were determined to reach a certain point though, however long it took, however many times we had to pause to catch our breath or just to admire the view over the town. And the views were spectacular. We kept a close eye on the Cathedral tower, waiting for the moment when we would be looking down on it. We were gaining altitude pretty fast, or so our bodies thought, but that tower was keeping its place.
On passing a small group of students, we realised that we too could have taken the funicular railway but we’re glad we didn’t! Nor did we ride it back down later on.
There’s a playground on the hill too, in which the equipment resembles weapons of war. Bizarre, I know. The cannon could be used as a slide or a tunnel. The poles are lances and spears.
I was surprised to see vineyards here too. Surprised because, at the bottom of the hill, by the stairs, there was a sign saying the the path would be closed whenever it’s too icy or covered in snow. We’re at the edge of the Black Forest here and obviously it must get really cold in Winter. So, not an ideal environment I would have thought for growing grapes. I suppose they know what they’re doing!
On and on and up and up. The well-laid path gave way to a dirt track. Proper signage was replaced by spray-painted red arrows on trees and rocks, directing us to our goal for the day, the viewing platform that we’d seen from way down below in the city centre.
I’m always on the lookout for comfort stops, although I felt this one was just a bit too exposed. But it was just a few hairpin bends away from Schlossbergturm or Aussichtsturm Schlossberg or Castle Hill Tower.
We sat down for a few moments admiring this very basic structure, before setting off to climb the 153 steps. Do something scary every day. I climbed steadily to the top, and I mean the very top, as high as I could go. It is very hard holding on that tightly to the handrail while trying to take photos without dropping the phone while the whole edifice is swaying in the wind which is now so much colder than it was at ground level, some 35 metres below. Although it seemed much further away, from my scared vertiginous viewpoint. Another surprise was being joined by Liesel whom I’d left sitting on a bench way down below, ready to catch me or anything I dropped.
Each of the steps has a message from someone who’d sponsored the construction of this viewing tower. I like Klaus’s: This tower has always been a dream of mine.
This picture was taken from the top and it doesn’t reveal at all just how much I was shaking at this point.
Near the base of the tower is a display which incorporates a pair of binoculars. And if you look through these, you see an image of what the site looked like hundreds of years ago, when there was a castle or a fort here.
Walking back down the hill was a bit easier, but you couldn’t totally relax with those gradients. At the first sign of a coffee shop, we stopped, me probably more eagerly than Liesel.
We dined in an Italian restaurant that evening. Yes, of course I had a pizza. Then back at the hotel it was time for some pampering.
This device doesn’t offer a full-on pedicure, but I was able to give my feet a really good scrub.
Tuesday started with a big hotel breakfast and then a long, long pause in the proceedings, in our room, reading, doing puzzles, neither of us wanting to move. Or something. Liesel gave in first and she went out for a walk. Then after a few minutes, I decided to move too. I was still listening to something fascinating, so I thought I’d visit the hotel gym and have a quick walk on the treadmill while still connected to my podcast. I managed 25 minutes but I hope I can get over the tedium of this form of exercise when we get home and make full use of the gym in Wythenshawe, the one we so rashly joined last week.
I met Liesel outside later despite the rain, but usefully, the hotel had plenty of umbrellas to choose from.
It didn’t take long for us to pack and move out the next morning. We left our bags at the railway station while we looked around the Cathedral. Even though there are big signs asking visitors to stay silent, I was surprised that it was so quiet inside, given how many people were walking around.
We paid a return visit to one of the cafés we’d visited a few days earler, only this time we sat inside for our coffee and tasty treats.
We walked back to the station and spent time exploring while waiting for our train. One retail space was full of vending machines, selling everything from snacks and drinks to items of clothing and toothbrushes. It was a bit like Japan in that respect. There was even a popcorn machine, but Liesel wasn’t tempted to use it.
Something happened at the railway station but we never did find out what. An alarm went off, and everyone was evacuated from the station concourse. Those of us already on the platform waiting for a train were allowed to stay. The train ride back to Frankfurt was uneventful. This was followed by a ten-minute walk to our hotel for just one night. And not even a whole night, as we had another early morning flight. As luck would have it, the railway station, our hotel and the airport were all within walking distance of each other: or maybe Liesel planned it that way?
Our alarms were set for 5am. Walk to the airport, through security, to our departure gate, coffee and quick breakfast, flew to Manchester, taxied home, collected the mail and that’s it. We’re back. Did it really happen? Yes. The rest of the day was a blur. I was occupied but I can’t tell you what I did. A quick walk in the drizzle but I timed it badly, no massage for me today.
On Friday, I met up with some people to talk about Thrive Manchester, what can they do to support people and how can whatever that is be better publicised. Boxx 2 Boxx is a great venue for such meetings.
At home, I made progress on a couple of my ‘to-do’ items. The lists still grow faster than items are crossed off, of course.
The radio show this week, recorded before we left for Germany, was Hundreds and Thousands. It was approximately the hundredth show I’ve put together. You can hear it here: