Monday, March 26, 2007

Am I really a granddad?

Yes, I am, although it is hard to believe sometimes. Before I would always say that becoming a dad was the greatest moment of my life, possibly because I did not have to go through any pain, although I helped with that prophylactic breathing, which was very modern at the time over thirty years ago. But now, coming up to my granddaughter A’s second birthday, I am not so sure, or have I just forgotten? When I saw her, and held her, for the first time in hospital, it was like a true miracle, the ultimate experience, something truly atavistic. I think my brain spun around a few times out of sheer excitement, and my heart was pumping furiously. That was the moment I lost it again, my heart that is.

I had travelled up to Sweden from Germany the day before, and on the ferry between Puttgarden in Germany and Roedby in Denmark my phone rang. It was my son who said ‘Hello granddad, you have a granddaughter.’ Can you imagine words any sweeter than that? Of course you can’t! She is one of the wonders of the world obviously; but yes, yes, I know there are millions more, I’m sentimental but not that sentimental. Nevertheless she is my special wonder.

I had forgotten how small they make them these days. She was so tiny! See for yourself, she is five days old in this picture, nicely tucked up with her friend, Snow.

Who’s a Clever Boy Then or The Continuing Saga of The Squirrels

I was intending to write something about the joys of being a grandparent but I was interrupted by some furry acrobatics of the highest order. Remember the pictures of the squirrels? Well, I lengthened the chain of paper clips to prevent squirrels from eating the bird food, thinking it would do the trick. I had not counted on the determination of our furry-tailed friends. Just take a look at this four-minute video clip. I believe I have to extend the hanging arrangement much more.

One positive thing that came out of this squirrel show was the discovery that if the branch is very flexible and moves at first attempt to move out on it, the squirrel withdraws and seeks an alternative, perhaps the easy pickings on the ground. I understand much better now why squirrels are such good survivors, just look how persistent this one is; aaand… I do not spend all day watching wildlife through the patio doors, honestly.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


One major disadvantage of being an expat is understandably not being able to attend birthday parties in the family. But adding to the traditional card and phone call with singing, I am now trying to use my new blog to celebrate a birthday of a loved one.

So, ‘GRATTIS’, dear sister! We hope you are all having a good time and not only a virtual birthday cake!

Leave you with a photo of my sister and me after Sunday school quite a long time ago.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Breakfast al fresco

Just wanted to try posting a video clip from last August in our French garden. It is very short, but you kind of get it straight away! It was nothing like the weather today.

Beautiful Day...

I simply had to go for a run this morning, something I sadly have neglected for many months, and I could feel it. I was 'listening' to my knees in particular because I know from experience that they are rather vulnerable after a period of less exercise. I had to take advantage of the glorious weather, and it felt fantastic; through the forested bit, out onto the the roads between the fields, past the little lake with the popular restaurant, a minute's pause and then back again.

It gave me a tremendous boost of satisfaction, so I have to repeat it tomorrow! When I returned and was warming down I looked up towards the sky and saw this beautiful sight, cherry blossom, lining our street.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

How do you know it is spring in Germany?

Just check how many of all ages are out walking, jogging, roller-blading, bike-riding and horse-riding. Absolutely gorgeous day today! Walking through the forest you hear a cacophony of forest birds, along country roads you hear and see larks and lapwings and, passing a farm, the geese try to discourage you from getting too close. They can be pretty loud. So after one hour’s walk we stopped at a Gasthof for refreshments, as did this rider. He parked his horse in the bike park area. Is that legal? Well, he does not seem to care, because where would anybody stick the parking ticket!?

Friday, March 09, 2007

Cheeky Monkeys a.k.a. Squirrels

Well, wouldn’t you believe it! It seemed safe to hang balls of food in a plastic net from a small branch, but no. I was completely flabbergasted at seeing a squirrel performing a brave balancing act in order to get to the yummy seeds. Squirrel Junior was the first one to find the tempting ball of food. How he managed to stay up is anyone’s guess, but he used his tail to good effect. He even grabbed the food with both paws and tried to pull it off straight up, but the metal paper clip and the net were too strong for him, and he nearly tumbled to the ground in his frenzied attack.

Later Big Daddy Squirrel turned up, probably having been informed by Junior, and continued depriving the little birds of their added nutrition. How thoughtless of them, big bullies! I wish I had had a full battery in my digital camera so I could have filmed it, because the show Squirrel Junior put on was beyond belief. Big Daddy was a more experienced and strong individual and he held on comfortably just munching away until I opened the patio doors. He then gave the opportunity to this little fellow to fatten himself up.

(Photos taken through a glass door with full zoom, which explains the slight blur.)

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Once again Liverpool have demonstrated their phenomenal ability to make it in Europe. They knocked Barcelona, the European Cup holders, out of the competition on Tuesday. The Reds did that in front of the two American tycoons who now have secured enough shares to control the legendary football club. The new owners will inject money into the club, sufficient funding for a new stadium, which is not bad, and perhaps strengthen the squad with some top class players. I only hope they don’t try to make the team play with an oval ball, because that would be very bad!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The joys of a holiday home

At half term we went to our house in Normandy, where we had not been since the autumn. After the usual stop-over in Amiens we arrived in the afternoon on Saturday, in time to air the house and go shopping at Super U. And boy did we need to air it. Old stone houses have a tendency to soak up the rain water through the floor tiles and also pull it up inside the walls, which we know all too well. But we were astonished to find the new upstairs bedroom in a slightly sad state. Despite the fact that we had had the chimney capped and fitted with a ‘Chinaman’s hat’, because of the wood-burning stove, and cracks in the pointing also repaired, the chimney, which runs up at the end of the bedroom ( ex-attic), was ominously dark. Since we keep that room locked when we are away due to the risk of field-mice roaming round the whole house, the heavy rain in the winter that had forced its way in, had not been dealt with. There was even mould in places. Our neighbours said later that it had rained for long sustained periods, worst winter in six years. So the ground was absolutely saturated and the house acted as blotting paper as well as letting rain in from above. I am only happy it did not join in the middle, so to speak. Luckily it was decent weather, so we could take stuff out and leave to air outside with all doors and windows open.

All week we had a good fire going in the stove, which, with the help of the electric heaters, soon raised the temperature and dried it all out. We ran out of logs and had to borrow some from our friendly neighbours. Then we just pottered about, read books and papers and were lazy in general. But the following Saturday we had new firewood delivered by a farmer, four m3, which turned out to be a full horse box which he had pulled with his old, nearly clapped-out car. It took an eternity to shift it all and stack it in the shed. My body protested even two days later. But when we go there next time we will have firewood to burn, literally. I bet it will be a sunny and warm Easter just because of that, Sod’s Law, you know.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Site meter

I just installed a site meter that hopefully will keep me informed of any visitors. It feels a bit odd looking at the lack of statistics so early on but it is part of the slow and methodical build-up I suppose. Got to get my teeth into some more proper writing soon!

Sorry about the bad visual joke!

Well, well,well...

It is not easy being a Liverpool fan sometimes. They lost on Saturday despite better chances, most of the play etc, to arch-rivals Manchester Utd, 0-1 in extra time! But if you support a club, you support them even on a bad day. West Ham fans have my sympathies though; they seem doomed now.

I can at least enjoy some lovely spring weather now. Nature is bursting out of its winter coat and the birds are getting very busy in our garden. I am not an ornithologist but it is quite nice to sit looking through the patio glass doors and watch all the bird activity. They come to feed right outside the doors so I feel a bit like Bill Oddie or David Attenborough on telly. Our regular garden visitors are great tits, blue tits, robins, long-tailed tits, crested tits, greenfinches, nuthatches, tree creepers, green woodpeckers, spotted woodpeckers, blackbirds, magpies, jays, various warblers, chaffinches, and I am sure I have missed some others. But the greatest entertainment is the squirrels playfully chasing each other up and down and around the thick tree trunks. It is like peekaboo on speed!

Leave you with a few flowers from yesterday.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Gone public

I have now let the cat out of the bag; this blog is now out there in blogger-space. It is obvious to any reader that I have only just started blogging, but I'll take it from here. Must check now if I can find my blog out there.

Things are shaping up

After having visited a few blogs for inspiration, ideas and links to various sites where you can get some techie stuff, I have now really got into the swing. Among them is a blog that I found in an article in an expat publication. The article was on expat bloggers in Germany, and that's how my blogging ideas got going, rather slowly, since I signed up in the autumn of 2005 and left it all dormant for nearly 18 months. The blogger, Mausi, is a Canadian woman who lives with her German husband and bi-lingual kids in northern Germany and writes about her family life and in particular about cooking, illustrated by wonderful pics of food. Not that I am a food freak, although I get peckish every time I see those dishes, but she has also many 'linked' friends. It is a pleasure to read her blog, so I have put her link on my page in gratitude for being my door to the blogging world. As a further tribute to her I insert a photo of some saffron buns, a Swedish tradition on 13 Dec, when Lucia, the Queen of Light, is celebrated.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Now then..

At last sitting down with a cup of tea and Amy Winehouse coming out of the PC speakers. Yes, I know she is not exactly a role model for budding singers but blimey can that woman sing! She seems to have a strong self-destructive streak the way she lives her life, but how can such a young artist first record "Frank", a jazzy masterpiece, and then several years later "Back to Black", a gem of soul and R&B? I only hope she manages to record a few more albums before she kills herself with 'pills 'n needles'! Oops, that was a bit crass, wasn't it?

Anyway, I have now developed (slightly pretentious) my blog further. It is the usual thing with computer software, you need to spend time to get to know it, as all bloggers know all too well I guess. Since I have so many national loyalties I thought it would be a good idea with some flags to liven it up a little. Maybe they will feel like a nuisance later on, but they fly only softly and gently, so maybe not. Then there is the issue of Links; I could initially only think of two obvious ones since I quite like football. Oh, by the way, the rainbow is from the French countryside, as are the two previous, rural photos.

Oh, one more thing, I am now listening to a singer from Cape Verde whom I stumbled upon on the iTunes website. She is called Mayra Andrade, sings in Portuguese, wonderful music which is a mix of African, Brazilian, Portuguese..... music, relaxed, fascinating and sensual. I do not understand much of the lyrics but I just listen to the sounds of the language, her voice and the music itself. Truly caressing sound waves!