Friday, April 26, 2019

The pirate ship

I was going to post one of those stories that I sometimes do, featuring various toys doing odd things. Took all the pictures back in January, when the house was still decorated for the holidays. I just couldn't come up with an interesting end to the story, though, so it never got finished.
So here are the pix. Think up your own story.






Monday, April 15, 2019

oh, is it spring already?

ok, ok, some blogging for you. yes, it has been a long time. a long, long time.
Nothing much has been happening, not recently, not since the Card Player died.

It is spring outside. Early spring has been happening since February. The apricots flowered weeks ago; they are pretty much leafed out now. Then came the cherries and the plums and they are mostly done now too. Last up are the apples.
I like the apples best, with their bright pink outer petals.
Alright, I'll tell you about the gardening.

I've been eager to get out in the dirt, though it is still officially Too Early for that. Too much risk of a hard frost, and indeed just yesterday the apricots lost a lot of their tiny fruit to the cold night.
I turned over a couple of plots of dirt, and buried old potatos along the left side of the veg patch, along the clothesline. Tomatos get too tall, the sheets get tangled in them. Spuds are short.

Most every morning I go see if they're peeking up yet, but they are not. Also planted are some onions, coming along fine, and peas & salad seeds. Nothing up but the onions, which I suppose is just as well since tonight again it may get to -1°C. Whenever I turn over some ground and come across a lost spud from last season, it's always got great roots, but no leaves yet. They know what they're doing.
For the aromatics, the rosemary is going gangbusters, much to the pleasure of the bees. The sage is trying to keep up, but it's set back by the cold nights. The different thymes have sprouted new leaves, and the raspberries & currents at the back have new leaves.

You can't resist tomatos. 70 cents a plant at the Sunday market. I've got 4, safely in pots where it's warm, and some green beans sprouting.
Mostly for the veg it's hurry up and wait.
Eggplant, zucchini, cabbage, leeks, hot peppers. All will wait.
Part of why it's so frustrating to not get on with planting is that the lawn was halfway up to my knees in places.

My electric lawnmower had a bad contact and was out of action or I wouldn't have let it get so wild. Jerome came over on Saturday and messed with it. A broken bit of plastic was all it took for nothing to work. So he took a bit of wood and stuck it in there where the plastic used to be and now the thing turns on when you squeeze the handles, just like it used to. As a nice knock-on, when I release the handle it doesn't stop immediately. It'll stop in a minute if it gets jiggled right, but with a solid hour of mowing ahead of me, it's a relief not to have to squeeze constantly. Yesterday the mowing took 2 hours, and I didn't quite finish, but took off instead with Mericia to go shopping.

In previous years, you may have noticed the unmowed patches left here and there. Cat playgrounds! Used to drive JP nuts; he thought it looked sloppy. Yeah, so? Well this year I decided to change the areas for not mowing. So I shaved off the patch by the apricots. Ew. Now that looks shabby! The larger areas at the back I didn't completely mow, just gnawed around the edges. And then I left three new patches, places with interesting flowers growing. we'll see how that develops.
Then the other thing that makes it seem like it should be past time already to get the garden in, is that the flowers are all coming along fine. The daffodils have come and gone. The tulips and the camellia are in full swing. The irises and lilacs are about to burst. Those renonculus and poppies in the planters don't count; I picked those up at the market last weekend. Gotta plant something.

I have a section full of azaleas and rhododendrons, but they're not doing well. I think they get too much sun in the afternoon (though not until 3 pm, because of the shadow of the house). Maybe I can move them (but where to?), maybe they don't have the right soil (possible, though I have added bags of the 'right' dirt a couple of times). If the lilacs would just grow faster and get some shade going, that might do the trick. I have a deal with Mericia to trade lilacs this year. She likes the white ones, and I like the dark ones. She has only dark ones in her yard, and whenever I shopped for lilacs at the gardening stores, they never had the dark ones. So I have white and pink and 2-tones. We'll cut each other bouquets in a couple weeks, and if you're nice to them, lilacs will sprout roots from cuttings. Then I may just plunk a dark lilac among the sad rhododendrons and let it take over.
The worrying thing is there's no water. In February I emptied the tank that collects water from the roof into the well, thinking that the rain would fill it again long before I needed to water the yard. No sense in sending the overflow into the sewer system. Usually it rains plenty in March & April.

We've barely had a drop since. A drizzle now and then. I've not yet set up the pump to draw well water, but I've had to water since March, and I am on to my summertime habits of collecting grey water from the kitchen and warming my shower into a watering can to empty on the yard later. Some people will not understand the sense of these measures. Just run the tap! But what did Granddad's conversation revolve around, when I was a kid? Undocumented laborers, and the price of water.
ooo, I almost said a bad word. "Wetback". My grandfather would never have said anything else. It seemed like such an ordinary word at the time, that I did not even know it was a bad word until high school. It was just the word we had for the illegal laborers that came up from the southern border.  Not until we moved away to a different (though not less discriminatory or intolerant) universe did anybody say 'Hey!'.

And the goat is still here. She has not gotten away yet.


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

train to Kiel, anyone?

Left Clermont on the 8:30 to Paris, which conveniently arrives just at lunch time. Across the street from the Gare de l'Est we spied an acual sit-down restaurant to restore ourselves before going on. Ah, a burger place. Go to France to eat burgers. D ordered the pseudo-pad-thai, which was not a better idea.

We promise ourselves not to do that again.

Then the 13:55 from Paris to Karlsruhe. Nice TGV, cruising along at 316kph, but once across the Rhine they don't have the right rails, so back down to regular train speed. In Karlsruhe at 16:25 we have time to pick up German snackage as we change quays for the 16:51 to Hamburg. D gets some sort of pizza item (didn't we just say not to do that?), and I opt for a ham & cheese sandwich on some fun bread with seeds stuck on it. And an apple pastry. Karlsruhe to Hamburg is long. We will need sustenance. The apricots and peanuts and oreos and chocolate in the backpack may not suffice.

On the French trains they roll a cart through selling food and drink, and depending on the train there may be a 'dining' car. No real dining, just a fixed area to buy the same stuff that's on the cart, with a handful of tall tables to stand and eat at. On this German train there's also a dining car, but in first class at least, the train guy comes around and takes orders, then serves you at your seat with real cutlery and glasses and everything. Neat. 

Ohhh, neater, they have rhubarb among the flavors of fruit juice. Well, I think, ew. D thinks neat! It's a thing now.

The Hamburg train is running late.
It's only 10 minutes behind, but we have only 8 to make our last connection. They make announcements in German, the a much shorter version in English, and it's not clear what's happening. The train person assures us that the train to Kiel will be delayed to wait for us. OK. But delayed how much? What if we can't find our way around the station fast enough to catch it?

We arrive at platform 12, and the train to Kiel was announced at platform 5, and we have 5 minutes.
We heave the luggage off the train and make our way to the escalator, but it isn't easy to do anything quickly with so many people doing more or less the same thing. There's not going around the woman with the stroller.

So I spy "Kiel", but it's platform 7. Kiel looks good to me, so what if it's not platform 5? Well, the extra hour to wait... So down the escalator to the right platform, and onto the train, where we are about the last passengers to jump on. And off we go.

Ooof, got it.

There's almost nobody here. There's a screen to tell you what's going on, but it only gives the time, not the route or the next station. I didn't have time at the station to look at how many stops we'd be making, but eventually we find a little schematic of the regional routes, and we try to figure out which line we're on. Could be the orange, could be the red, could be a lot of things. The sign said Kiel was the destination, so what does it matter?

We were supposed to get in at 23:00, but we started about 5 minutes late. At 23:05, the lack of announcement for Kiel isn't worrisome. At 23:15 it is.
And then the PA has lots to say, blablablaKielblablablablablabla.
Er, alright. Our station is the end of the line: just stay on until we get there.
Then we stop somewhere we don't see on the map, and I think we're so close that they just don't list everything because there's not space on the tiny map. So we have to be just a minute away.
Several minutes later, a new station is announced, and this time I just keep looking at the map.

Oh, there it is. And there's the last one. They're way over here where we weren't looking for them at all.

We gotta get off this train.

Next stop Schleshwig. Let's take it! We can get a new train, or a taxi, or lodgings, or something.
Mmm, there is NOTHING here at the station in Schleshwig. Middle of nowhere. The five other travellers all bolted into the darkeness of the north German night. The lights are on at the station, but it's boarded up and undergoing renovation.
There are two trains going back down the line. One to the station where we paused several minutes on the way up, and where apparently they split the train, with the head cars going meekly to Kiel, and the others off into this dark hinterland. That one is coming by in just five minutes, so get over there if you're going. Only, once in Neu-whatever, we'd still have to find a train to Kiel.
The other one doesn't come by until 0:07, but it says it goes where we want to go. The map appears to corraborate this news - there is a line from here to there.

Finally here it comes.
It's a teeny little one-car job. No splitting this train, with one for Kiel and one for Bora Bora. We get on. We make every village and car-park stop imaginable from Schleshwig to Kiel, and we get there at 1:15.

Just a little bit late, but we have guaranteed late arrival at our hotel. Time for bed.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Venice again

Early in the morning we crept into Venice, wending our way through the lagoon, around the various islands. The ships really have to stick to their channel, and go super-slow so the Wake doesn't swamp other boats, the quays, whole islands...
On the way in, we followed one cruise monster, and were followed by another in a majestic parade. Come to think of it, on the way out we took this same route, following three other ships. No crossing a ship going the other way - possibly not room for that!
We lucked out so well on our B&B a week ago, I was hoping we'd have something just as nice this time. No such luck. Slightly more expensive than B&B Corner, the new place was just as well placed, being just two minutes walk from the Rialto Bridge. But location was really all you got. The room was small and boring, though clean. Bed, a single straight chair, tiny desk, tiny nightstand, nothing else. The bathroom stank of mildew. The kitchen area was off-limits, and there was nowhere to just sit around and relax.
The guy running the place seemed nice enough when he let us in, but then we never saw him again. Just a place to crash. I don't even remember the name, or I would tell you to never go there.


You can just wander around forever in Venice. It's never boring, even the quiet parts; or ugly, even the run-down parts. You just walk around, then sit for an espresso, then wander over a bridge, along an alley, and stop for a snack, visit a chapel or a palace, decide where to dine - indoors or al fresco?
All things, alas, must come to an end. Time to go home. Back to work, back to laundry, back to the cat. Poor little Sienne has been all alone for more than a week, not counting the short visits from Marc (just the time to fill her bowls and change the litter, not time to sit and pet).

Thursday, February 22, 2018


Then after Mykonos there was a whole day of boring cruising. Most of the time we were not close enough to shore to see the distant hills going by, marking the miles. Sometimes there was a ship in the distance, usually a tanker, occassionally a sailboat.
That is all.
The activities on the ship are not very interesting. There are two pools, small and very crowded. Apparently in one of them somebody has a bad bathroom accident. Really gross. Plenty of lounge chairs on the top decks, but it's windy up there. Indoors there's the dance floor (lame), a gym (eh), a theater (worse than the dance floor), and of course unlimited food and drink.
I finish my knitting, and a couple of books.
One useful thing we do is sign up, for once, for one of the organized outings for our stop in Kotor, Montenegro. It's a boat trip around the fjord, and it seems that making an early start will be the best way to be sure we actually get any boat trip around the fjord at all. Indeed that turns out to likely be true, since when we go down and board our little touring boat there doesn't seem to be any easy and nearby way to reserve anything else. By the time you got a boat, you wouldn't have time to enjoy it (All aboard at 1pm - not even time for a local lunch) Good idea! 
Making our way down the fjord, where Kotor sits way at the end. I Watch from our balcony as the sun gradually reveals the mountains all around.
Our pilot, coming to guide us in.
We loom so large above the town! For a while, the height of the slopes on either side lets you forget what a behemoth we're on, but once up to the quay, it's just like in Venice. It doesn't seem right to be so much bigger than everything normal.

Here's the island that's the main objective of the tour. There are two islands, one behind this one with just two buildings, no trees. The Woody one is a monastery, with, I think, 8 monks and a handful of chickens. Access is of course limited to monks.
The other, man-made one, has tons of visitors as one tourist boat after the next comes up to the dock to pick up or drop off. There's a whole fleet waiting some 100 meters out, waiting for the proper time to pick up their group. There must have been a dozen groups at the same time as ours.
In the high season you might really have to book ahead to visit, since dock access is very limited, and only so many people can crowd in at once. Interesting to know that the island is built of sunken ships, all piled up.
The town on the Mainland is neat. Lots of wealthy people have vacation homes on the slopes above or along the waterline farther up the fjord. Lots of handcrafts for sale. Some beautiful textiles, though we're warned that if the price is too good it's likely a machine-made knockoff imported from China. Sad! I'd like to support the local businesses - the whole chain from prime materials to labor to marketing, not just a seller of imports.
It would be really nice to have an hour once we get back to Kotor to poke around town and discover things. As it is, we get back with just time for a quick stroll and an ice cream. Good ice cream, minty.

Off we go again. Good thing I had the ice cream, because I prefer to spend our promenade back out of the fjord looking from one side to the other from the top deck, rather than down below having lunch. It would be good to have lunch, but when will I be coming back here, to tower over islands and boats, and pass by chapels perched on hillsides?
Might be a while.
Maybe next time I'll have the guts of my camera cleaned by a pro before leaving home, so I won't have all these spots to clean up. That's dust on the Inside, not a dirty lens - I can change lenses and the spots are the same.
Bye, Monténégro! One more stop and it's back home and to work...