Tuesday, 20 July 2010

More perky

I am feeling a bit more perky today. I actually started to feel better yesterday evening. No idea why. Today I gave myself a list of things and accomplished them. OK, so the list consisted of going into a building, looking at a piece of paper, sending a text message and then doing a few things on the Internet, but I did it all! Go me!

Then (then being after I wrote the list, but before I started to accomplish things on it. My time-line is not excellent), in a fit of responsibility, I took out my biological waste, which consisted of two tea bags and some cereal on which I poured milk which smelled fine, but looked, shall we say, gloopy. Not a good look for milk. It does have a big advantage, though – I was able to salvage most of the cereal by scooping the really nasty bit out and putting the rest in another bowl. This pleased me – gluten-free cereal is not cheap, and this has something approximating real chocolate in it.*

While I was accomplishing this great feat of preventative flat maintenance (avoiding both fruit flies and bad smells), I decided that I would go to the bike shop over the road if the time was after 2pm. As it was 1.58 at the time, I gave myself a day’s grace and went into the basement to get the bike (phew – that was a close shave!). On the way up the basement steps, with the considerably heavy bike by my side (well, at arms length ahead of me – I find that if I lock my arms straight it makes pushing the bike up the cunning slope at the side of the steps that much easier), I was accosted by a man.

When one of my schoolfriends tells these stories, they always end badly. I have been involved in a few myself. She has a strange man magnet, I think. Hers normally start, “I was (insert place and activity here) and this really strange man started talking to me/started to follow me/was minding his own business until I started to talk to him and thus sealed my own fate” (note that she doesn’t actually say the third option, but I have been involved situations with strange men and her more times than I care to remember, and the last option does occur in times of crisis involving lost hikers and a need to know whereabouts on the map we are. At least two times in Wales alone). My stories end better. They usually give me houses, or something.**

This man asked me if I needed a bike. In German, of course. I wonder if he was the Russian man who fixes bikes and is rumoured not to speak much German but to be good at English. If he was, the rumours are not to be relied upon – his English was almost as bad as my German. However, he showed me a bike chained to a nearby railing, unchained it, and motioned that I was to try to ride it. I did this, and marvelled at how diminutive it felt. I think that it was the perfect size for me, but my perception of what a bike should feel like has changed somewhat over this past week. I rode it round, noting that it uses the pedals to brake, like a Dutch bike (although it has a “standard” brake, also), and that it felt like a bike (which is a good thing) He said that he would come to my flat this evening.

This evening, he did indeed come to my flat. He took me to the bike again, greased its chain, and got me to ride it round again. Then he put it in the basement for me. He pointed out that it has no lights (well, no dynamo to power the lights) and I said that I had a rear light, but not a front one, but that I could get them both (note that the conversation was not nearly this succinct – it involved a lot of gestures and, at one point, the English-German dictionary (thank you, Henry – it’s excellent!)). I do need to obtain a screwdriver now, also, but I think that I can manage that.

Alas, that means that I must once again go buying things tomorrow. I have no idea which is the cheapest place to buy cycling accessories. I get the impression that my local supermarket is not it. Perhaps Lidl is the way forward. If only Germany knew about Home Bargains (aka Half-price or less). I don’t understand why countries make do without Home Bargains. I wonder if Germany has an equivalent. I already found the Superdrug equivalent, and was delighted to find a shop which is waay better than any organic chain I’ve seen in the UK (and, in some ways, better than Lancaster’s own Single Step shop. Not in all ways, though. This shop is clearly out to make a Profit). It has teff (flour and non-milled), and everything! But no general cheap shop yet.

It is amazing how expensive some stuff can be in Germany. Take tea, for example. I am paying 10 cents a tea bag. For an English person to pay that much is ludicrous. I can’t afford to support that habit! I just did some maths and discovered that I am accustomed to paying about 5 pence per tea bag. Not such a big difference, then. The paper wrapping on every tea bag does feel a bit excessive, though. A cup of tea is not an occasion – it just happens.

Some things are a lot cheaper, though. Those little holders you can get for felting needles are ¼ of the price, compared to the UK, for example. Also, there is some tasty fruit juice which costs 89 cents for 1 ½ litres. It’s not all that specific about which fruit (I think there are 12 of them, so presumably they blend them according to seasonal availability)

There appears to be some sort of party going on around here somewhere, judging by the music. I cannot imagine that the other people who live in this block like it very much... The not so good thing is that I feel slightly sad that I am not invited. Listening to the music, though, it sounds as though it isn’t a very good party. I remember those. Very awkward. I suppose it is for the best that I am not invited.

Wow – the double glazing here is excellent. They have just closed the window and suddenly the music is just a little background noise. I imagine that my neighbours don’t mind the noise at all if they like to keep their windows closed. Oh, the marvels of German buildings.

Ooh – they’ve opened the window again. The party is happening in the next room. Wow. This building was built well. The music is terrible, though, and the lads there sound like a load of thugs (here’s hoping they don’t find my blog and work out who I am!). The girls have started to sing something very annoying.

For the past three nights, it has been so cold that I have had to sleep underneath my duvet cover, not on top of it. I think that tonight I could be closing the window, also.

I feel ever so guilty, though. I should so be a Catholic. I feel as though I am being bad listening to the music, and that I should turn it down. Ah well – I shall revel in the reflected badness of it all, and feel like a rebel. They can’t pin anything on me! If people knock on my door demanding silence, I shall just mumble in English, and that will make them be quiet! Mwah ha ha ha ha!

Midnight, and the party appears to have stopped. What sort of a party is that?

12.30, and it is in full swing again. I think that the lads have gone, as ABBA has started. It is a big improvement. It is “Knowing me, knowing you”, though. “Breaking up is never easy, I know, but it’s time to go”. Great. Just what I need. Britney Spears. At least it is nothing to do with me this time – last time I heard it, it was coming from my common room. Very embarrassing for all concerned, especially those who decided on the music. I don’t get the impression that they realised that it was embarrassing, though, so I didn’t say anything. How would they have shown their faces again after that?

Argh! James Blunt! I wish that people didn’t think that his music was so abhorrent. If they thought more of it, I wouldn’t have been subjected to input on the TV which means that I can identify some of his music and dislike it with authority. I much prefer not knowing what it is that I dislike. Somehow, the dislike is harder to put up with when it is defined. Also, they forced me to think about the music, as opposed to simply letting it wash over me.

Oh – they didn’t finish that song. Is he so bad that even people who choose to listen to his music, and go to the trouble of obtaining it, can’t listen to the end of the track? Poor guy. Did you know that he’s really posh? Do you realise that admitting that I know this makes me feel a little bit bad inside? But it is my duty to ensure that you are informed of Relevant Facts, when deemed appropriate. As I am the one doing the deeming, we can consider that this timing was indeed appropriate. But if you are better at deeming than I, please do speak up.

In other news, I have people coming to visit me. One friend is rumoured to be coming the day after tomorrow, and staying until Sunday, and Mother and Anne are due on 4th August for a week. I have the transport problem solved as long as I fix the puncture on the fold-up bike, and Anne doesn’t mind riding a Dutch bike. I think that I would really be better finding another bike for her, though. If her braking by use of pedals ability is anything like mine, there will be Incidents. This is one accident-prone child. Hmm. Had better see what I can do. Mother will be riding the “new” bike – her idea of a big enough bike is much smaller than mine, and there is no way she would be prepared to ride the large bike. Which I have just decided to call Hubert. The little Dutch bike is Franzi. It seems like a Franzi to me. The “new” bike doesn’t have a name yet; I’ll keep you posted. I am absolutely sure that you are on the edge of your seat with anticipation, so I will try not to take too much time. Naming bikes is a serious business, though. One cannot name a bike until one has taken it through its paces. It would be a mistake. The name might totally not suit the bike and then one would have to change it, or have a bike with an unsuitable name. Imagine the shame! Not only would one be the crazy person who gives names to a variety of inanimate objects, but one would be seen as having poor judgement.

Louise might visit, also. We shall see. It occurs to me that the weekend she is thinking of visiting could well be while I could be visiting the parents in France. That might not be good. On the other hand, it would be cheaper to entertain her than to take the train to the other side of France! Unless she takes exception to a braking system in the pedals, also. If she has an accident, it could get expensive. If she makes me buy a new bike, it could get expensive. I don’t think that she has that much power, though, and she certainly shouldn’t know my PINs. (Notice my cunning use of no superfluous words! Please note that I actually say “PIN number”, though; I am not actually suitably committed to the cause of Not Saying Things Wrong,*** because it sounds quite strange omitting the “number”. I am inconsistent in my use if correct English, and should be punished. But you’ll have to find me first. Do try – I could really use the company right now.)

*I always wonder why people put real chocolate in these things, though. It’s like ice cream – the chocolate can’t melt because the ice cream is too cold, and so you get chocolate which you can’t taste, which has a weird texture. With the milk in cereals, the chocolate stays similarly cold and weird. However, the chocolate pieces are small and heavy. They sink to the bottom of the bowl. This means that I get a mouthful of chocolate at the end, which I can then hold in my mouth until it warms up and I can taste it. It turns out to be a lovely way to end breakfast.

**Well, the first house in which I lived after ceasing to be an employed person living in student accommodation came to me when I was accosted by an old man in the street asking me if I needed a house. As a matter of fact, I needed one rather urgently. He only charged me twice as much rent as I was prepared to pay, which was about half of the (very cheap – this was in Lancaster) market rate – it was the summer holidays, and one can get some very good deals at times. So that ended very well indeed. The flat in which I am currently living was also offered to me by some guy. He obviously has a well-developed sense of trust! To live up to this trust, I have learned how to put the bins out (very complicated in Germany, although most of the complication comes from not being able to understand the descriptions of what goes in which bin), and have only spilled tea once! That is some sort of record for me, I think. The tea, not the bins. I can usually understand the bin concept and did, in fact, work for two weeks as Queen of the Dustbins in Taize. Although nobody called me that. But I totally was.

***Or, perhaps, Not Saying Things Incorrectly.

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