Thursday, December 18, 2008

Way Up North

Trapped in glass and silver It is time to head up north to Sweden for Christmas and New Year. We hope for green driving conditions but a bit of frost for the celebrations. Stuff the car with Christmas spirit and presents to have a lovely time with family; that's what it is all about.

They don't have to be as big as this though. We will relax and enjoy until we feel like this.

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Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year


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Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I have not written a post about all the birds in our garden for quite some time. They are still fascinating to watch and the number of species is impressive, which is partly explained by the fact that we live in a very wooded area and that our garden backs on to a small copse.

I don't spend a lot of time idly watching garden life, but even when you cast a fleeting glance through a window you might see something interesting. The other day I suddenly noticed an unusual bird under the feeders where many other birds also feed since birds on the feeders drop seeds all the time, some by mistake, but also because they have their favourite seeds and simply discharge unwanted ones.

This bird looked like a big finch with what looked to be a very powerful bill. He also did not flinch an eyelid when other birds came and went around him; he was obviously high up the pecking order by nature. He just flicked his head, all that was necessary to make smaller birds fly off. I had never seen this bird before, I was sure, and I stood there observing, trying to memorise colours and shape. Then I rushed upstairs for my European bird book.

I looked through all 550 pages plus just to make sure I did not miss it, and I came to the conclusion that, despite the fact that the colours did not quite match neither the book's nor the RSPB Bird Guide's colours, it must be a Hawfinch.

According to the information I found I had been rather lucky to catch a glimpse of this rare visitor.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Grandfather

AA Pic of the Week 125 w I am thinking of buying myself a new camera in the new year, and as I was navigating through some of my pictures this one caught my eye. It is one of the many slides that I have had rescued. Camera, I said to myself, old Henrik's camera. In the mid 1960's, when I think this was taken by my father, cameras looked like this, which perhaps will surprise younger readers. Although it might have been even older, most likely from the fifties.

The majority of photos of my grandfather depicts him as a serious man, not often laughing. But he did laugh, just not in most photographs. The camera and the coffee cup are very representative of our visits, in particular to my grandparents' summer house in Ljunghusen. We always sat outside round the coffee table and he always had his camera close at hand. At least that is how I remember it.

What makes this picture even more appealing to me is the fact that he has this gentle smile on his face, and his hair is standing a little on end. He looks like he is up to something. What?

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

This Could Only Happen in Germany!

This is the time of year not only for Christmas shopping of presents but parts for your car too. In recent days I have sorted out our cars, winter check/service and also bought new winter tyres for the new Volvo. As can be seen in the photo, the hub caps are not on yet, but will be tomorrow. I was surprised when they were not included by default and insisted they got me some, because I think the tyres look pretty ugly naked like this.

Winter tyre

So I went for the low-energy, lazy option of letting the garage do it all, even storing the summer tyres for a modest fee. Why get dirty and sweaty if you don't have to? So there I was, on my way home behind the wheel, thinking how sensible I had been to get some winter tyres, looking possibly slightly smug but most of all relieved that it was done before they were really needed. I tried to detect any difference to the driving with these tyres and I believed I could sense a slight stiffness, hardness in them, but nothing much. As I was doing this my eyes swept across the dashboard routinely and a little sticker just below the hazard light button caught my attention. It showed the recommended top speed with these winter tyres.

Speed restriction

210 km/h is roughly 130 miles per hour! That is the maximum speed the car can do anyway according the manual I believe. I wonder what the sticker might say for summer tyres? 300 km/h? I could not stop laughing. This could truly only happen in Germany!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Christmas Shopping

Duckhead soft plastic Duckhead says: It's hard work isn't it, Christmas shopping? In and out of shops, standing waiting, looking at this and looking at that, comparing prizes, guessing sizes, 20% off, 3 for 2, no wrapping service, wondering what you bought them last year, the question of the right colour, feet starting to ache, back starting to complain, Christmas muzak everywhere, arms getting heavy, stomach beginning to rumble, crazed shoppers jumping the queue to the check-out, a freezing car waiting for you in the cheap outdoor car park, and yet we do it every year.

But that is not why I look a bit queasy today; that is the Irish pork spiked with dioxin I had last night! I wonder if a pint of Guinness would help?

Friday, December 05, 2008


No, I have not made a typo in the title.

I was talking to Mrs S at lunchtime, and I referred to a phone conversation earlier in the day when I had spoken to a friend (little Noah's mum) who is not into blogging, yet. I explained about how easy it was to set up a basic blog and how you could manage and moderate it. She mentioned comments I have had, and how there seemed to be people who are regular visitors/commentators.

In my conversation with Mrs S I used words/expressions like bloggers, blogger friends, blogger acquaintances and other visitors for various people. So, a blogger blogs, a visitor visits, but when do they become blogger acquaintances and friends, I ask myself? Somebody you know a little is an acquaintance, who can later develop into a friend, you might say.

Then I misheard something my wife said, and I knew instantly that I had found the Word. She said blog links, but I heard blogling! What a perfect new word for people, other bloggers, you communicate with. It does not matter how close you feel to them, how you define them, they can all be your bloglings. I think the word has a positive ring to it. Instead of saying "Oh, darling!", you can now say "Oh, blogling!" or "Oh, my little blogling!". If you have very strong feelings you might get slightly confused and call somebody "snogling" by mistake. Tread carefully!

Am I silly or mad? (Please don't say yes!) No I just love words and languages, and to sometimes have fun with them like this. Somebody's got to come up with new words. Why not blogling? What do you think, my bloglings?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Stumbling Blocks

At Your Feet 175 w

Walking along the pavement of the famous Königsallé in Düsseldorf I saw two metal cobbles next to each other. I had to bend down to take a closer look and see if there was any inscription. Yes there was, and it revealed the names of two people who had lived there; they were not famous people, but people who somebody wanted to remind the world about. The message was instantly clear to even a non-German speaker.

Remembrance metal cobble 1 DuesseldorfRemembrance metal cobble 2 Duesseldorf

The place names on Hulda Hornstein's cobble were all too familiar. When I researched the names on Walter Erle's cobble I found out that Heilanstalt Grafenberg was a mental hospital on the outskirts of Düsseldorf and Hadamar was a similar place a little further away which was part of the Nazi euthanasia program between 1941 and 1944. Out of more than 5000 Jews, only 57 returned after the war to Düsseldorf.

I also found out that these cobbles or blocks are called "Stolpersteine" (stumbling blocks) and that there are more than 100 of them all across the pavements of Düsseldorf, and they are part of an art project by Cologne-based artist Günter Demnig.

These chilling reminders of past history are today at the feet of all the Christmas shoppers in Königsallé with its posh, up-market establishments. With all the brightly-lit shop windows, does anybody look down long enough to discover these shiny "Stumbling Blocks"?

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

My Father

AA Pic of the Week 125 w This week's picture is three and a half years old. It was taken the day my father met his first great grandchild, Amanda, who was 6-7 weeks old. My father had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and was sometimes not quite with it and did not understand what was going on and who the people around him were. Luckily he was not particularly confused this day and at this moment, and when he got to hold his great granddaughter you could see an understanding spark in his eyes. In the picture, his face reflects an awareness of the importance of the situation and I don't know who was the happiest and the proudest of us three; me, my son or my father.

This was Amanda's first visit to her father's family's hometown and it was my last visit to see my father, who passed away ten weeks later. You can see why I treasure this photograph.

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