Thursday 28 February 2013


I think it must be my favourite town in Germany.  Of those I've visited so far anyway.

We've had a quiet couple of days with me spending the mornings working while Claudia and Tamara are at work and school.  Yesterday afternoon Tamara brought Kara Sina home with her to work on English homework.  Susanne came to collect Kara Sina later in the afternoon so it was great to see Susanne again too.

After having walked past the box of Easter decorations in the living room for days I decided to put them about myself this morning.  I'm not sure the arrangement is up to the usual standard but the box is back in the basement.

Then, later this afternoon we went to Heidelberg.  It's just the loveliest place.  There is an extremely long main street in the old town - a mile long I just discovered - that is lined with interesting shops and cafes.  At every corner there's quaint side streets to peer down.  I don't think I'll ever tire of visiting.  Tamara had a few shops she wanted to see so we went our own way and met up at Starbucks for coffee.... Starbucks!!!..... in Heidelberg!!!!  My favourite of the shops is the Christmas shop called K├Ąthe Wohlfahrt.  I added to our collection of Christmas decorations today....  flat pewter ones so they'll be easy to transport.

On one side of the main street in Heidelberg is the river Neckar and on the other there is a fantastic old castle.  Mick and I went there by train from Speyer when we were here in 2007 and he enjoyed the visit to the castle.  We'll have to do that again some time this year.

Photos :
1. - 2.  Claudia's house - the first of the snow
3. They are cigarettes at the checkout!
4. - 12. Heidelberg at dusk
13. Christmas decorations
14. - 16. Easter/Spring decorations

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Schnee !!

Snow !!

When I got up this morning it was snowing... much heavier than yesterday.  I decided an opportunity to walk in such pretty snow was too good to pass up.  First I took Angelina the dog (who is home with me today while Claudia, Tamara and the 3 boarding girls are all at work or school).  She was happy to come out but obviously didn't fancy a long walk as after a while she began to look back.  I took her home and went back out by myself.  Angelina is having her spleen removed on Thursday so perhaps it was her upset stomach and not the snow.

Oh, it was so lovely to walk!  I held up my camera to take a photo of me in the snow and as I walked on a young woman walking her dog offered to take one for me.  "A better one" she said in English when she realized I wasn't going to be able to have this discussion in German.  As it turned out I don't think it was a better photo at all.... I only saw when I got back that she took it the moment I lifted my hat from my face.  Funny though.

I made sure I took a photo that included the roundabout at the Speyer cathedral.... somewhere between the painted circles on the road and the huge ones that appear every mile or two wherever you go in England. 

Monday 25 February 2013

German Easter craft market

We went for a drive to a nearby town to check out their Easter craft market.  The Germans seem to love decorating their homes and there's always lots of eggs, chicks and bunnies on show.  The market itself was nice to see... although I can't buy a thing because I couldn't fit another item in my small wheelie case.  More interesting were the museum displays relating to the adjoining "castle".  There was a large collection of laundry paraphernalia.... dozens of irons, washboards, washing machines, packaging and signs.

Across the road there was more with rooms covering different themes.  Of particular interest to me were the women making lace and the lace and stitched shelf edging.  The room with old dolls houses, miniature trains and carousels was nice too.  I thoroughly enjoyed the visit.

Something I remember clearly from my first ever visit to Germany in 1999 was seeing a cigarette machine on a street corner. They are still here today.  In Australia, the advertising of cigarettes is banned and supermarkets are not allowed to display them for sale at all.  I always notice that there are more smokers here than at home now.

A walk around Speyer

I'm spending this week in a familiar house - that of my friend Claudia in Speyer, Germany.  It's a lovely old town and I always enjoy staying here.  I had a very early morning flight from Birmingham, leaving at 6.15am which gave me the entire day with Claudia and her daughter Tamara.  It's not been so long since I've seen them this time as I was here at the beginning of December. 

We spent the day catching up and then took Angelina the dog for a walk in the forest.  It's was snowing as we walked... the dry, fluffy snow.  Lovely.

Claudia's household aren't early birds like me so I'm usually up and about an hour or two before them.  It's so peaceful to go walking around the town on my own... especially a Sunday morning when there's few people out.  I was out just after 8am this morning, doing my tour of the town.  It snowed lightly most of the way but as I headed back it got heavier..... enormous floaty flakes.

I've been here many times before and have taken the same photos over and over.   But, so that I'd have record of my visit this time I took some again.  I love the amazing old buildings here, the cobbled streets, the cathedral (built between 1030 and the 1100's... can you believe that... it's not a typo!), the old city wall and town gate (built between 1230-1250), the main street, and the glimpses down side streets of quaint old houses.


Friday 22 February 2013

A week away coming up

Yesterday I did dog sitting duty and minded little Banjo from nb Ferndale.  Some of the folk in the marina were having a day out to lunch, the theatre, and then dinner.

Last night I chatted on Skype to Claudia, my friend in Germany.  By the end of the chat I had tickets booked to spend the next week at her place.  So tomorrow I'll be off!

This morning I had a walk to Aldi with Diane and we were lucky to be offered a ride back to the marina by Dot and Gordon who had just collected a hire car for the weekend.

Thursday 21 February 2013

Loo day

Tuesday I had Ed, who was recommended by the marina, come out to replace some "bits" of the loo system.  I'd ordered a service kit.  Mick had intended to do this but by the time he gets back we'll be itching to get cruising so decided it was worth paying someone to do the job.

This won't be anything new to other boaters but for our friends and family back home... here's my day....

I’m up early to try and get work done.  I have 3 hours completed when I look at the clock and see it’s 11am.  

I knew I’d need to have the bedroom empty before Ed arrives and he’ll be here about 12.30 so I figure I better make a start…. knowing it wouldn’t be an easy process.  First I fold up the duvet…. as well as I can anyway because it’s a particularly thick one.  So I’m trying to keep the duvet in as small a parcel as possible, which is impossible.  As I squeeze it through the door into the bathroom I knock down the box of tissues and the little tidy bin.  I’ll get them on the way back.  Cross over the bathroom to the opposite door and the towels are swept off the towel rails.  I’ll get them on the way back too.  Then through the doorway into the dinette, knocking down the sock drying hanger that’s on the rail.  The hooks go flying and the hanger is in a mess on the floor.  I’ll get them on the way back.  Now….. do I put the duvet in the dinette or keep going to the living room?  I’ve still got the pillows and sheets to go so figure I’ll put the duvet on the armchairs.  Reach the next doorway… maybe it would be better to hold the duvet up higher but the doorway is narrower at the top and after an attempt I'm worried I'll know the smoke detector down.  So...  lower but I swipe the kitchen utensils that hang on hooks beneath the end of the benchtop.  More hooks and more stuff all over the floor.  I’ll get them on the way back.  I can’t believe it’s taken this long to move an entire 14 feet along the boat!  Through the kitchen I decide to lift the duvet above my head and almost throw it onto the armchair on the other side of the cooktop. 

Then come the pillows and sheets.  I take them one by one, not wanting to cause a repeat performance of the chaos on the floor, and stacked them in the dinette.  As the cushions and porthole bungs are also stored on the other dinette seat and the small suitcase is also there it’s a mountain of stuff now. 

Coats and shoes are all stuffed into the bedroom cupboard, my little “bedside box” is in the bathroom, the extra mattress section that’s used to make the bed wider is on its end at the bottom of the bed.  The mattress itself is a nightmare.  It’s heavy and there’s just nowhere to manoeuvre it.  Where's Mick when I need him! If I put the mattress beside the bed I won’t be able to get past and Ed is going to need to be able to get into the space beneath the bed from that side.  The only option is to try and stand it on it’s end at the bottom of the bed.  I struggle and struggle with it and eventually get it so it’s hanging half off the end of the base of the bed.  Dragging a heavy mattress across a slatted base isn’t easy at the best of times. When I try to stand it up it keeps collapsing back on the bed base.  After about 10 minutes of wrestling with it resting on my head I manage to squeeze it back so it’s wedged against the ceiling.  My hair is like a birds nest on top of my head.  It still makes it very difficult to get into the boat as the little shelving unit at the end of the bed prevents the mattress being pushed across far enough to leave a walkway but it's as good as I can do

As I walk through the kitchen I look at the dishes and it reminds me I need water.  The tap was frozen first thing this morning so it had to wait.

  1. Put on boots and coat from the cupboard – knocking the mattress back onto the bed in the process
  2. Get the mattress wedged against the ceiling again
  3. Go out the back door and check the tap is running now. The sun's out but it's still cold
  4. Walk along the pontoon to the front of the boat and unzip and roll up the cratch cover
  5. Return to the back of the boat and carefully pull out the hose reel
  6. Connect the hose to the tap and unwind the hose from the reel
  7. Very carefully lay the hose across the back of the boat and then down the length of our pontoon alongside the boat – taking care not to let it slip into the water.  I know Mick doesn’t give a hoot if it drags in the water but it’s not very pretty in there at the moment and I can’t stand the thought of that slime ending up in our water tank. I have to keep going back and moving it to the centre of the pontoon as I go
  8. Climb into the cratch to open the front door to get the “key” for the water tank cap.  The front door is locked
  9. Walk back down the pontoon – careful not to trip on the hose – in the back door – squeeze past the mattress which again collapses onto the bed (this time it's staying there until Ed arrives!) and through the boat to the front to unlock the door
  10. Lift the mat from the cratch floor to open the lid of the water tank inlet 
  11. Clamber out onto the pontoon to reach the end of the hose and lean in to poke the hose into the water tank
  12. Back out onto the pontoon to walk to the back of the boat and turn the tap on and collect my sandwich that's on a plate on the rear hatch
  13. Return to the front of the boat to wait – when it’s full and starts overflowing I’ll need to squeeze a kink in the hose to stop water going everywhere while I drag the hose back to the tap to turn it off

Just as I finish my sandwich my phone rings – it’s Ed and he can’t get onto the pontoon through the security gate.  The water tank is about 3/4 full so I squeeze the hose to get it out of the front of the boat and dangle it over the edge of the pontoon while I hurry back to the tap to turn it off.  Then down to the gate to let Ed in.  

Another go at wedging the mattress against the ceiling to keep it out the way. I show Ed the slatted panel that forms part of the base of the bed so he can access the loo pump.  Of course it’s against the wall, not on the walkway side so he has to lie across with his head buried in the cavity over the other side. 

After lots of digging out instruction books for the loo, ringing boat chandleries looking for a "bowl seal" which I should have ordered, and turning power and water on and off and on again, the worn out parts are replaced and we can try flushing the loo.  But when I turn the pump on nothing happens.  Ed dives back under the bed base to discover that an electrical connection has come loose.  Power back off, sort out the connection, power back on and we hear the pump start doing its thing.  I flush it several times, waiting in between and it’s all good.

Ed packs up his tools and off he goes.   I have a chat with Ray and Diane who are sitting on the bench seat up by the walking path.  I know I still have the dishes to do and the mess to tidy up so I don't linger.

I look around at the chaos of the boat and start the process of putting it all back together.   When the bed is made and everything’s tidy,  I’m about to sit down to work again and something tells me to flush the loo one more time.  I press the pedal…. nothing. I text Ed but he’s well on his way to his next job.  He rings and explains to me where the loose connection is.  It means I’m going to have pull the bed apart again. 

I turn off the power to the loo pump.  I take away the duvet again, and the pillows.  I pull out the extra section of mattress and stand it at the end of the bed.  There’s no way I’m going into battle with that mattress again so decide I’ll just crawl underneath it and remove the panel of the base of the bed with the mattress on my head.  I can’t see a thing.  Down to the front of the boat for the torch then back under the mattress.  How on earth do you hold a mattress up with your head while lying across the base of the bed, shine a torch in the cavity and use two hands to push two wires together?  I’m really not sure if I want to laugh or cry.  I hold the torch under my chin and somehow manage to get the wires together.  As soon as I let them go they come apart again.  The connection is way too loose.  Back to the front of the boat to rummage through the storage beneath the front steps where Mick keeps tools etc.  I eventually find a roll of electrical tape and return to my cave beneath the mattress.  I can’t hold the wire, the torch, and unroll the tape at the same time.  Back to the kitchen and cut a length of tape that should do the trick and back under the mattress.  At last it’s looking like it should work.  

Turn on the power again, try flushing the loo and yet again put everything back in order.    I see the water hose is still out on the pontoon and remember I haven’t finished filling the water tank.  Back outside to complete that job.  By the time I put away the hose reel and get back in the day is gone!  

Photos : What a difference from this morning to this afternoon

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Another tea party

Last night I placed a grocery order with Ocado and they called me asking if it was ok to come early because they had another delivery to the marina.  Fine with me... in fact I would have chosen the earlier timeslot if it had been available.  When I went out with one of the marina trolleys, Gil and Malcolm were out in the carpark with a trolley too.  I think we should ask Ocado if they'll give us a delivery discount if we order our deliveries to come together.  Most weeks there is more than one.

I got a good few hours work in before and after Ocado and then I had planned a walk into Stone for this morning.  Diane came along with Banjo the dog. I had a couple of things to collect from the post office, the most important being some pre-cut hexagon papers from my very favourite quilt shop back home : Threadbear Quilters.  Mick had been in to collect them for me and posted them so I could go on with my sewing while he's away.   I just discovered there is a Thread Bear in Surrey so I might have to check it out!

We walked the towpath into town as there hasn't been rain lately.  It's so much nicer when it isn't ankle deep in mud.  By the time we returned to the marina it was after 1pm.  There was a red helicopter beside the marina building.  A different one to the other day.  It seems they come for coffee or lunch but today would have been a disappointment as the marina was closed.

I didn't bother returning to my work as there was only 40 minutes until afternoon tea.  I finished packing away the shopping, washed the dishes and got my coffee in a thermal mug.  As I went down to the back of the boat to get my shoes, I did a really good job of catching my last 2 toes on the edge of one of the doorways.  Oh my goodness.... I was hopping around in agony.  It's something that always reminds me of my mum as she's the accident prone one.  I ended up putting on a pair of padded boots instead of my shoes as the boots are much looser. 

We had the usual suspects in attendance and an enjoyable chat.  The talk is turning to where everyone is planning on heading first when they leave the marina.  I'm becoming more aware of the fact that some of these people whose company we've enjoyed so much will be cruising off in the next 3 or 4 weeks and we might not see them again!  We'd like to think we'll see them "on the cut" but who knows.

Roly was particularly keen to discuss toilets today.  In fact, he said "Can we go back to talking about loos?" when the discussion veered away.  His interest was composting loos as Gil has one and Ray and Diane had been to visit Carol and George on nb Rock n Roll and they have a new composting loo.  I still can't get over how much time we spend talking about toilets.... or toilet paper.

So now it's back to work for another few hours and a much appreciated delivery of coal from Roly (the man with a van)....  and I have my 2nd last toe turning blue.

Boaters teaparty photos : 
1. Dot & Gordon, Roly
2. Gil, Diane & Ray
3. Jim - looking like he's resting his chin on the thermos
4. - 5. Joan and I - I don't remember why the silly face but there's rarely a serious moment at afternoon tea!