Thursday, March 31, 2011

I have these theories.

While I realise I could probably drone on about Barcelona,  I'm sure nobody really gives a rat's tiny behind.  Usually these kind of descriptions end up sounding like,  "I was there and you weren't" .   So that would be two reasons.  Besides,  just go to google.

 It occurred to me a long,  long time ago,  that there are certain sounds known to man (like mankind,  not just men)  that give us that certain sense of well being that we all crave.   Sounds like birds chirping or the wind in the trees.   This is probably why we plant trees in the cities.
That's pretty simplistic I know,  but stay with me.
 I would like to submit to you that ancient man,  and perhaps even pre-historic man,  took great delight in the sound of the hearth.   Not only is there the crackling and snapping of the wood as it burns,  but there's also the smell and sound of cooking what ever critter he managed to hunt down that day.

Of course,  not everyone these days can hang a slab of meat over the hearth,   but there is a reasonable facsimile.

 I give you therefore,  the grill.

Let me also caution you.   If any man tries to tell you that they don't BBQ or use a grill,  there's something wrong.  Somehow their DNA has gone screwy.
I'm sorry,  it's as simple as that.   You want to migrate somewhere north of the Arctic Circle and eat whale blubber?   That's just not right.  Admittedly,  your enemies are going to leave you alone,  'cause they think you're nuts anyway.

 See,  putting raw meat on an open flame,  with the subsequent sound and smell,  is something that we are all pre-wired to appreciate.   It's something primordial.  It's in our DNA in the same way that,  in every dog there are remnants of wolf DNA.  It's irrefutable.

It's debatable whether it's a good thing or not,  but up to this point,  the internet does not provide anything more than sight and sound.

No smells.

I can live with that.

So,  here to awaken your primordial DNA,  I offer you the following:

Click on the grill below.

And you would not believe how long it took me to do that.  (the whole,  "click on the picture for a video"  thing)


And now,  I'm off to the hearth.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

That metal thing.

See,  many many years ago,  when I was an afternoon shift caretaker at a school known by many as "The Hawk"  (and you know you are)  I worked with a fellow whose first language was Portuguese.    Technically he was from the Azores,  but no matter.
Not only that,  but he only got to about grade three back home there so needless to say,  his communicative skills were somewhat diminished.
He had certain convoluted ways of saying things,  that apparently only I could understand.
 Within a very short time span,  it became blindingly obvious,  that any time he needed to communicate to the rest of the staff,  muggins here (that would be me) would be pressed into service to "interpret". 
Oh joy.

I didn't really mind too much,  although I wasn't quite sure just how I ended up with that particular job,  especially if you consider that it's not really a "marketable skill"?  
Ah,  the hidden joys of "seniority".
And how I could go on about "seniority",  but that would just be too long winded.

 So you have to imagine that there were moments earlier on,  when I had nary a clue what he was talking about.  Hadn't learned the lingo just yet.

It's now a different time,  a different language,  and a different country,  but I had one of those moments this morning.

 This is right around the time that Travelling Companion and I have had our coffee,  I'm well on my way to making her lunch,  and she's just about ready to head out the door.

 It went like this:

 "I need that metal thing."

 (me) "Huh?"

 "You know,  the metal thing.  That piece of paper!"

 This is me now trying not to panic.   I have no clue.

 Think Bob,  dammit think!

 "Do you mean,  the Meldezettel ?"   

 "Ya ya....whatever."

How I was able to miraculously leap to that idea is really quite astonishing and I have to say,  I really don't know how it happened,  but there was some context.   It has to do with someone,  somewhere getting around to preparing our taxes for us.  So they need a copy of this particular document. 

 So apparently,  I'm living with someone who does to the German language what my little Portuguese speaking associate would do to English.
 Again.  Oh joy.



Monday, March 28, 2011

Slept in my own bed!

It's a curious thing how planes trains and auto-mobiles can eventually wear a person down,  but I even managed to sleep in this morning until some time before nine.   Mind you,  with the hour time change,  I guess you could say it was some time around eight.
 Didn't get in this morning until 1:00 a.m. thanks in part to having been booked on Fly Niki's last flight out of Barcelona.  Had really nothing to do with the airline,  so I'm not going to berate them or anything,  and all in all the flight was quite pleasant.  For some unfathomable reason,  I was up in row 2.  Not sure how that happened unless it has to do with being a solo traveller,  and that all the couples want to sit together?
 It seems that Barcelona airport on a Sunday night is a tad busy when it comes to landings,  and I did notice when we were finally on the taxiway headed for take off,  that there was a string of landing lights from planes lined up on approach.
 That was the reason given for the delay,  which was at least somewhat forthcoming on the part of the pilot,  and they did do an admirable job of turning the plane around in what seems like around 15 minutes or so.  That's not too shabby.
There,  I've given my fair shake to Fly Niki,  even though they're still not my first choice.

 So,  what about Barcelona?

 It's OK.

 The weather was fabulous,  as I'm sure going there in the summer would be just stinkin' hot,  and I wouldn't recommend that.  We had day time highs in the high teens,  which certainly works for Travelling Companion and I.  Never once did I wish I had worn shorts,  so consistency weather wise is always helpful,  especially on the packing front.
 I'm not about to upload the roughly 150 pictures we took.  And I'd hasten to add that I tried to restrain myself.
The car that was rented for us was a very nice ride,  as it was an Audi A4 "Avant",  which the Brits would call an "Estate Wagon",  and we'd most likely call a "Station Wagon".
 Now,  I'll admit that that's a bit of a big car for city driving,  but I'm either fearless or stupid.  Not sure which.
I mean,  I drove the A6 in Paris fer heaven's sakes.

Plus,  on Sunday we had to check out of the hotel by noon,  and had offered to take one of Travelling Companion's associates along to the airport,  so actually having enough room for that much luggage was a bonus.

And when I say,  "rented for us", by that I only mean that someone's admin assistant made the arrangements.  The funding came out of our coffers,  and it wasn't exactly cheap,  but once in a while I suppose it's OK to loosen the purse strings.  I'll only quote prices when something is a dealski.  Not when it's on the other end of things,  and this was well over there on the other end.

 We did get to see the big construction project that's been going of for the last hundred years or so.

Just the outside though,  since there was no way we were standing in line for what looked like over an hour to take a peek inside.  Plus of course they charge admission,  since the money is needed to keep the project going.
The Spanish government certainly can't afford to help.  They probably couldn't afford the admission,  but that's not a topic for this blog.

We managed to walk all the way around the outside and see it from all the different angles.

Seriously though,  I see enough throngs of people in Vienna.  I just didn't want to even approach the front entrance.

From certain viewpoints,  it looked to me like a huge wax project,  but where the wax had started to melt.

It's pretty impressive I suppose.   But really,  if you want to be truly blown away,  go to the airport,  get on a plane to Cologne,  and take a look at the Dom.   It's bigger,  no charge for admission,  and it's finished!   The only work they do on that one is upkeep.
Your mileage may differ.

 I think that's going to be just about it for today,  since I had the pleasure of bringing back the big suitcase and well,  it seems I no sooner get going on something,  and another load has to go in the wash.
So I'm just going to stop right there.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Heading out

Not that the frequency,  or infrequency of blog posts is going to be affected in any way,  but this morning I'm off to the airport and then on to Barcelona.  The chances of any kind of update from the hotel are pretty slim,  and there's no way I'm carting along this laptop.

I also just noticed that the time stamp says Thursday  March 24th,  and it's not.   I guess I'm never on here this early.   Something to do with having left the time for this computer on "back home" time.  It's Friday,  trust me.

Of course,  sleeping in is never any kind of a concern,  since I'm sure I've been watching the clock for the last couple hours or so.  Therefore,  it's only 6:30 a.m. and I'm ready!
It's not that I'm that anal retentive or anything,  but else does one do?  May as well get ready.
 I'm pretty sure that it's not the flying itself that puts me on edge,  but all the pieces that have to come together to get there.  Once I'm on the plane and in my seat,  I'm perfectly content.
Boarding pass is printed out and at the ready.   Even have the train tickets ahead of time.  There was a suggestion that I should leave the car parked at the airport for the weekend,  but that's just crazy.   I could rent a car and drive it there for what that would cost,  so it's U-Bahn (subway)  and then Schnellbahn from Wien Mitte.     Schnellbahn="commuter train",  I guess?
Anyway,  that's only €7,20   and that's also for the return ticket. 

And I don't have to drive.

That's about it really.  There's a couple little things to fart around with,  like empty the dishwasher,  wash my plate and coffee cup from this morning,  since we've always had this thing about not wanting to come home to even one dirty dish after a trip.

OK,  maybe that is a bit anal after all.

Have a fine weekend.


Meet my new "Friend".

When I walked out of a school one day in May of 2008,  it somehow never occurred to me that I should rush right out and buy an extra plunger to ship off to Europe.   I guess I just figured there were certain items that I could simply leave behind,  and that would be that.


Whereas most people get up in the morning and perform certain "ablutions",  I find that my schedule in that department can be somewhat erratic.
 I may have alluded to this in the past,  in a round about sort of way,  but for a few years now such has been the case that outings or certain activities have had to wait until "certain issues" have been dealt with.
 Am I being obtuse enough?

Oh,  and I'm not alone in this,  but I'm not about to start naming names or times of day, or night.  Best to not go there.

 Turns out,  yesterday afternoon around five o'clock I suddenly realised I had better go for the "big one",  only to the discover that when I flushed,  the results were not exactly spectacular.
 There was no spillage thankfully,  but you may recall that I've spoke at some length about the peculiar type of "ledge" toilet that we've been blessed with,  and when all is not well in the flushing end of things,  there can be a certain amount of "debris"  that tends to get left behind.
Um,  "high and dry",  as it were.


Actually,  I seem to recall it was more like,  "Oh shit..."

The exhaust fan wasn't really helping.

 I had a fleeting thought that maybe the plumber had somehow sabotaged my crapper, (he had to go) but quickly realised it probably had more to do with some tired meatballs I had flushed a couple days ago.
Damn those meatballs!  They must have got caught crossways.
 Mental note.   Old meatballs are definitely going to have to go into the garbage,  and I'll just have to suck it up and make a deliberate trip down to the bin.
 Can't be helped.

The reason I mentioned the time is because thankfully the stores were still open,  and I had this glimmer of a hope that Müller might have the required item.   Usually when there is a particular item that I'm hunting for,  it can never be found,  but I'm actually thinking I've been living in this country long enough to begin to hope to know where to find stuff.
Note the careful wording.

That's usually the point at which we end up packing up to move.

So now this is the second plumbing issue in as many days,  and if these thing "happen in threes",  as the saying goes,  I'm going to be really upset.  I know "shit happens",  but c'mon!
Sorry,  I couldn't help myself.
That just slipped out.
I'll stop now.

In other news,   got the usual evening phone call from Travelling Companion,  which is the norm when she's away,  and in typical fashion I asked the question as to how her day had gone,  and it would seem that it was a bit of a long and tiring one.
Sometimes it's one of those goofy "team building" exercises where they have to make a Sherman Tank out of peanut brittle or some such thing,  but this time around it was a bit different.
Apparently a huge group of them got trucked off to an orphanage somewhere and they had to do some sort of manual labour.


 There was among other things, some fence building involved,  along with some other tasks for which none of these people were at all equipped.
Just occurred to me:  Fence.  Orphanage.  What's with that?

  It's a noble thing to volunteer,  and certainly in the case of an orphanage,  quite often the efforts are both needed and appreciated.
 The thing is,  these folks are essentially office workers.   There are worker types in blue shirts with either their name or something like "Facilities Services"  embroidered on one of their shirt pockets for this kind of work.
So at the time of her phone call,  she was back in her room for a little rest after having been on her feet for a good four or five hours.  Remember how I was telling you about her knees,  and how they're pretty much shot?
Not enough painkillers to really take off the edge it seems.

Then later, they were all going to be herded onto buses to go somewhere for dinner!

Such fun!

I didn't need to reflect on the matter for too terribly long to realise that being here at home trying to get my shit to go down a tiny hole wasn't such a bad deal after all.

I'd like to point out that I really struggled with the "labels",  but I'm pretty sure having a stupid "lay and display"  toilet fits in with "cultural stuff".
I mean,  where else?  Technology?  I don't think so.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Back in hot water.

First of all,  it was oh so nice to sleep in this morning.  I should qualify that by saying "sleeping in"  still means waking up around 6:30,  but that's heaps better than 4:00.
 Since we were up so early yesterday,  I hadn't really noticed that it was a tad cool in the apartment,  but didn't really think too much about it,  since the thermostat does have some sort of "set back" function that kicks in around midnight,  and I figured that was the deal.
Later on the sun came out,  and I was plenty comfortable.
It wasn't until I had a shower later in the day that I began to realise that there was something not quite right in the hot water department.
It's not like I like my showers as blistering hot as does Travelling Companion,  but a little warmer than sort of "tepid"  is always nice.   And....the longer I stayed in there,  the more uncomfortable it was getting.
See,  we have a combination water heater/boiler arrangement,  that has worked just tickety boo since the day we moved in here back in November of 09.
That is,  until yesterday.
 Something to do with not enough water in the system?  The little display was flashing "F-22" which,  after quickly checking the pressure gauge off to one side that was showing absolutely no water pressure at all,  gave me the hint that not all was in order.
You'll note that "F-22" is suspiciously close to "F-U"?   Pretty sure some engineer had a good chuckle over that one.

 I was able to wade through the service manual,  and had a pretty good idea where all the parts were,  but the solution wasn't jumping out at me, and any information on the internet was not for our particular model.
So I ended up having to *gasp*  call a plumber.

 I know I'm not overly keen on letting trades people in,  but this guy was actually pretty good.  The one thing that I was missing was a length of garden hose,  since you have to bring water from the domestic water side of things into the boiler jacket,  and I had no way of doing that.

Here's a look at our naked boiler,  since I've taken all the panels off.
Down on the lower left you can see some copper bits,  which is where the hose is hooked up,  which is then attached up there in the middle on the right where you can see what looks like a hose bib.

 That would be the "Füll- und Entleerungshahn",  just in case you needed to know that.

So I've spent the last couple hours learning a lot of plumbing jargon in German that I may or may not remember,  with the exception of that word "Hahn".

Now,  we're a little sensitive in our North American lingo when it comes to certain farm animals and their names.  We would of course prefer to call a male chicken a "rooster",   whereas if you were to approach a chicken farmer in the UK and say,  "Excuse me sir,  but could I see your cock?",  he would think nothing of it,  and quite simply take you out back to the chicken coop.
Wouldn't he?

Well,  I would certainly hope so anyway,  and just to be on the safe side,  I'm still pretty sure I'd ask to see his male chicken.  No need for any misunderstandings.

Even when it comes to plumbing,  we still prefer to call it a "faucet"  as opposed to a "cock",  or even a "pet-cock".  Just don't go there!

Now that I think on it,  this is probably why a Dutch family I used to know thought it would be unwise to Anglicize their name.

  It was "deHaan".

Not so sure that would have worked.

In German,  (and well,  Dutch)   a "Hahn"  is simply a "cock",  whether of the plumbing or barn yard variety it makes no difference.   That other kind is another word altogether.

Get your mind out of the gutter.

And on that little snippet of some of the intricacies of the German language,  I bid you...

Good Day!



Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A little Stress at the Airport.

Not for me particularly.   My eyes popped open at precisely 3:47 a.m.,  which gave me time to get up and switch on the coffee so it would be ready before the alarm went off at four.   I was already back here by 5:40 or so and had a brief lie down,  which is the only reason I can actually get a couple neurons to fire in my pea brain at the moment.
 This morning was another one of those early mornings to the airport.     Why on earth do flights leave at 6:30?  Actually,  I sort of have a sneaking suspicion,  and that is that all of the discount airlines get relegated to the crappier times,  while Austrian gets their pick.   I noticed this when trying to book a flight to Rome for Easter.   We could have gone with Alitalia,  and since Rome is one of their hubs the arrival times were at a decent hour,  but the cost was prohibitive.   So for considerably less money (like,  a third)  we figured it would be yet one more morning to get up early.  *sigh*
See,  Travelling Companion is at a big pow-wow for the rest of the week in Barcelona.   I think I've mentioned this at some point.  Sorry.
I'll be heading there on Friday.
My flight,  by the way,  is at 10:30 with,  you guessed it,  Austrian.
My,  aren't I lucky?
Although I've been told that the car that is waiting for me will have a "sat-nav"  as the Brits like to call it,  I'm pretty sure that all I'll need to do is point the car towards Barcelona and the hotel will start to become visible in fairly short order.   My impression is,  this ain't no "Motel Six".
If you click the link,  it will open in a new window.  It's a pretty intense website,  so if you have dial-up,  it might take a while to load.
Now,  reviewers from Tripadvisor rated it down around #131 out of 558,  but my impression is that the cross section of reviewers from Tripadvisor are somewhat parsimonious,  and others are simply hard to please.
"There was too much chlorine in the pool!"  (or some such drivel)
Really?   Who cares?

There was an email that I received with the details,  and without really counting all the names,  it looked like there were going to be close to a hundred participants.   There's not going to be any "room sharing"  (like it was once suggested in Serbia,  but that's a whole other story)  and everyone is there until Friday.   Gah!
Good for the Spanish economy I suppose.

Since all of Travelling Companion's flights are sorted out by a travel agent,  sometimes the choice of airline takes second fiddle to just getting her there. 
Take this morning for example.
Turns out the airline in question was "Fly Niki".   Now,  I've been on Fly Niki before,  and it's a discount airline,  and that can be OK for the most part. I just found that having my knees pressed into the seat in front of me for an hour and a half wasn't really a whole lotta fun.   They do "feed" you.  Note the word "feed" in quotation marks.  Could have brought my own sandwich.  Really.
 So fine,  that meant that the luggage she was taking had to be checked over in Terminal 1a,  which means then having to cross the road to get to the proper terminal to get to the plane.   I think there's also possible a bus involved.
 That particular aspect wasn't on Travelling Companions agenda when she called later from Barcelona to let me know she was relaxing in her room.  
First of all,  with the discount airline program,  the luggage restrictions can be a nuisance.   Naturally,  having enough "stuff" for the rest of the week meant her bag was overweight.   So right there,  that was an extra €20.    Bit of a false economy there,  since that isn't coming out of our coffers.
Then,  since that was a bit out of the ordinary leading to her being somewhat distracted I'm guessing,  she didn't realise until she had gone across the street to the main terminal and through security that she had left something behind!   Not good.  
I hesitate to say what that "something"  was,  but it was kind of important. 
 It seems that you can actually get back out,   but you have to go out through one of the "exits",  whatever that means,  and then go back through the whole procedure all over again.
She did in fact call from Barcelona,  so she must have got on the plane. 
This we know.

 Also thankfully,  she was met at the airport and driven to the hotel.
 I'm usually on my own in that department.

 I'm reminded of one of those things that I am no longer permitted to say out loud any time we're at an airport together: "Just think honey,  some day we may never have to do this ever again."

I just keep that to myself.


Monday, March 21, 2011

That March Break thing.

Any minute now,  many folks that I know will be dragging themselves out of bed to head back to work after enjoying something we refer to north of the Mason Dixon line as "March Break".   In some parts I know it's called "Spring Break",  but using the term "spring" is a bit of a stretch in some areas around our Canadian home. 
This would be why Facebook has started to be flooded with pictures of beaches and peeling skin.  At least one person mixed it up a bit by coming over to Europe,  even though it was with about 40 high school kids.   Not really my idea of "getting away",  but hey,  it was fun to look over pictures of some of the places we've been.
 One of the odd little quirks of working as a normal grunt in a school was,  March Break was a bit of a non issue for me.   That was OK.  I just showed up at work as usual,  except there was nobody there.   Well,  except perhaps one other Caretaker.
Such bliss.
I recall one particular time having to pick someone up at Toronto airport at the end of March Break,  and I was once again reminded why taking my holidays whenever I pleased was not such a bad thing after all.  That is to say,   not during March Break.
The last week in June comes to mind as a good time,  which also happens to be the last week of school,  with usually some of the hottest days of the year.  Nobody really wants to be in a schoolhouse during that week. 
There are "play day" activities,  the school is hot and humid,  there's water everywhere from kids with drink bottles.   Gawd,  I have to stop thinking about it,  or I'll have bad dreams tonight.

There were also a couple times when a jaunt off to the sunny south some time in December was also welcome.  Didn't see any academic types at the airports.  I think they were doing report cards, or whatever it is they do.

 Around here in Wienerland,  last week was pretty much a normal week.  The kids get a week off in February,  but the country is basically divided up into three sections,  so that not the entire population is on the ski hills all at once. 

 As we all know, (we did,  right?) the 19th was the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day,  and although we avoid any demonstrations or parades like the plague,  we did see one example of somebody making some sort of statement.   There was also a considerable amount of giggling going on,  but that might have had something to do with the manner of their demonstration.  They were going with some sort of "two per shirt" program.  Possible some sort of cost savings measure.

We saw this bunch on Saturday on the way to the Naschmarkt.  I guess they were going to try to make their way through the crowds?  We had no desire to find out how that was going to work,  especially in light of the wooden spoon/saucepan noise making arrangement.
We stayed well away.

The only other significance that March Break had for us,  was that it was during March Break three years ago that Travelling Companion made her first visit to the UK and then on to the Netherlands.

Can't believe three years has gone by.

Funny thing too was,  the fellow who was her boss (in Canada) at the time suggested to her that she should go First Class,  and that they'd cover it.
Pretty hard to argue with that logic.
On an overseas flight,  being in First Class can make a world of difference.  As it just so happened, on the leg from Birmingham to Amsterdam,  where she was once again in First Class,  there were some associates who ended up on her flight,  but who were booked back in steerage. 

The fellow she was taking over for happened to be on that flight and said something to the effect that,  "We don't normally travel First Class".
And yes it's true,  normally they don't travel First Class,  since most flights within Europe are of a reasonable length,  such that sitting back in steerage isn't that much of a big deal.  

But what do you say to that?  "I feel your pain"?  "Well,  good for you"?  "Would you mind closing the curtain?".

Actually,  "Bite me" comes to mind,  but that wouldn't be something Travelling Companion would ever say.  


Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Failure to Communicate.

We're usually pretty clear on the major things like,  days and times for airport retrieval and the like.
But every so often....

Just a minor thing,  and I'm pretty sure I won't have to spend a night in the box.
I do however,  think that I cannot eat any more whipped cream.
 See,  there's only so much that is used for the particular type of apple strudel that Travelling Companion (and others in her lineage)  make.
 Now,  I'm claiming "the idiot didn't know",  since I bought two of the little containers,  and there was nary a mention that that would be exactly 100% too much.   The focus was more on whether or not I purchased the right kind.

See?  Never good to lose ones focus.

I figured anything with 35%  butterfat,  or whatever they're talking about, is gonna whip,  so I had very little doubt about that end of things. 
I clearly stood alone in this belief, since there was a certain amount of scepticism (bordering on derision) until things started to get considerably fluffier.
Even though I didn't have anything close to a back up plan,  I didn't panic.  (Um,  stores are closed on Sundays!) I figured I'd keep whipping this stuff until either the motor on the little whipping machine gave up,  or my arm fell off.  Losing an appendage would probably have been the only way out. 

Looks like whipped cream to me!   Thankfully.

This is how much was left over after the proper quantity was taken out for the strudel endeavour.  See the problem?
So the initial sense of accomplishment, along with being pleased over not losing my arm, was quickly replaced by not wanting to waste a whopping €.79 worth of whipped cream.   I mean,  that's some sort of crime,  isn't it?

Being the resourceful type,  I did conjure up a banana split concoction with some dried cranberry and ice cream,  with copious amounts of the creamy nectar. 

Not too bad I might add.

No picture.   I ate it before the idea occurred to me.

Just now I had a small dollop with the recently finished strudel.  Don't tell Travelling Companion of this particular transgression.  The strudel must stand on its own,  and should never be accompanied,  or sullied by anything like ice cream or whipped cream!
The horror!

I've never laid claim to being a pure-bred.

My tummy hurts just a little.


Friday, March 18, 2011

It's all good.

Not much on the go today.   Typical Friday.  Think I have dinner sorted out,  that kind of thing.

 I've only touched on this briefly over the last few days,  but for several weeks now, we've been having some really,  really fine weather,  which is exactly why I can't really bitch and complain about the rather gloomy crap we've been going through for the last day or so.
I have rain gear.
It's no big deal.
I'll probably even suck it up and stand outside over the grill to cook us up a couple steaks later on.
 For some bizarre reason,  and maybe it has something to do with having spent the first ten years of my life of a farm,  but after a few weeks of dry weather,  I start to think that we actually need some rain?
I guess some baggage you can never get rid of.

I do find though, that if it's crappy like this for weeks on end,  that the gloom tends to enter my subconscious to some extent.  I'm trying not to be too melodramatic here,  but let's just say living in Puerto Rico for a year,  where it was sunny every single day, did wonders for my disposition.   I think there were two whole days there when it actually rained all day long.   Other than that,  there was the predictable noon time shower,  which only changed in intensity and length according to the season.  Well,  and geography.   Our place looked out over Mayagüez,  and you could set your clock to the rain coming in over the mountains.
It didn't take me too long to figure out that if I was going into a store around that time,   even though it was a bright sunny day out,  carrying an umbrella along was a pretty darned good idea.  I mean,  it's not like the pounding rain was exactly cold or anything,  but you'd be soaked through to the bone by the time you got to the car.   There was also very little warning.  Sunny,  beautiful one minute and pounding rain two minutes later.
At first I felt a little self concious about carrying along an umbrella,  but then realised that my fellow shoppers had theirs as well.   You'd think that would have been a clue the first couple times I got soaked,  but somehow I didn't put the two things together.
I'm just so clever that way.
Now of course,  having recently lived that year in the Netherlands,  I'm pretty sure we now have at least a dozen umbrellas of various shapes and sizes,   strategically placed at home,  in the car,  or at the office.
Curious thing,  how that works.
I started off our collection with the one I bought in Puerto Rico.  I think it was at K-mart. Right around noon time as I recall.
It's the extent of what I consider to be a "souvenir".

You may have come to realise that at no time have I mentioned tsunamis,  earthquakes or radiation.  I'm sure there has been enough "reporting"  and speculation on those subjects elsewhere.  I'm not going to go there.  All I'll say is,  the media does tend to sensationalise to some extent,  depending where you are and what you have available.   Reporting is fine,  but there is a point there when the big splashy tabloid type of "what is Charlie Sheen going to do next"  kind of crap starts to get on ones nerves.
I'm just using that as an example of news that I really can't use,  that's all.
 And really,  if you're going to get us all paranoid about radiation,  then I guess we'd better cut out going to the dentist,  or the doctor,  and for heaven's sake,  put down that cell phone! 
 OK fine,  that last one was a different kind of radiation,  but for some folks,  fear mongering without facts is so insidious, that such a technicality would only be a footnote.

That's it,  I'm done.

 I just wanted to now throw in this one little story below for one of my nieces who has the distinct privilege of driving a transit bus in a large city not too far from our Canadian home.

First,  let me qualify the sarcasm.

 Here in Wienerland,  as is the case in most of Western Europe,  public transit is something that is used by people from all walks of life.   I mean,  sure we have a couple robberies now and again,  but that usually happens at some wee hour of the morning,  and it usually involves the perps not being the most clever bunch.   True to form,  it doesn't take too long for the cops to splash their mugs all over the media,  and and in fairly short order,   somebody either snitches on them or they get caught through some other means.
See,  Big Brother is watching in many public places,  so you'd better be wearing a hoody if you think you want to rip someone off.
 During the day of course,  everyone from well dressed business types to those of perhaps less fortunate means can be seen on the buses,   subways and street cars.
The other thing of note is,  the drivers of said vehicles never need come in contact with the riding public.   What a blessing.
I mean,  you see the bus driver there,  but he/she doesn't have anything to do with collecting fares.  If you want to risk being a "Schwarzfahrer"  and possibly get caught and fined on the spot,  it's not the bus driver who has anything to do with it,  it will be the "ticket police",  or whatever they're called,  who will want to see your stamped ticket.
I've never been asked,  but then again I don't ride that much since I think public transit on the whole tends to suck.

Having made note of the fact that transit users are from all walks of life,  it would also appear that some of them might not be the sharpest knives in the drawer?   See,  stepping out in front of a moving street car?  Not a good plan.
It's the "Schon wieder: Frau lief in Straßenbahn"  story.

I just included the whole page,  but the newsworthy bit of the thing is that this is the second time within a few days that someone has stepped out in front of a street car on the same line!
Keep a sharp lookout on route 38 people!
There was no mention as to whether it was the same driver (that would suck)  but that he did need a half hour or so before he wanted to get back on that particular horse.   A little shook up maybe?

So just a little message for my niece:

Even though you do in fact have to deal with the dregs of society every minute of every day,  (bless your heart)  at least none of these booze addled nare-do-wells has managed to hurl themselves under your bus just yet.   Do however, keep a sharp lookout.   I'm sure your stopping distance is way better than a street car.
Hope I haven't jinxed it.

Crap,  now I'm starting to worry.

Oh,  and just a little question for the crowd that wants all bike riders to wear a helmet.   It says she suffered from head injuries,  does this mean all transit riders should be wearing a bike helmet?
Just wondering.
Speaking personally,  I could probably do with either elbow pads or knee pads if I came off my bike,  and God help me if I fell on my bum hip.   But stepping out in front of a street car?   I'd think then I'd definitely go with the helmet plan.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Worse than homework.

OK so,  the first order of the day was to put in a decent effort at looking over some sort of report that Travelling Companion has to write up/modify/make sense of,  and offer any suggestions in terms of this thing we call the English language. 


 I really and truly think I'd sooner tackle an essay on the cod fisheries off Newfoundland,  but that's not what is sitting there waiting for me at the table.
 I then figured I'd take a little break in the midst of sourcing out some crazy terminology that was included (turns out,  it's just poor usage and will be removed)  and thought I had better book our Easter weekend trip to Rome.

 More agony.

 In the whole time that we've been living in Europe,  and at all the hotels we've stayed at over the last two and a half years,  there have really only been a couple places that I wouldn't recommend.  Don't worry,  I put my two cents worth on Tripadvisor,  so that others could have a heads up.
Each of these times,  they were booked by someone else.   Hm.
One was in Belgium,   like that's a surprise,  and another one was in Denmark.   The one in Denmark would have been just fine except that the hallways smelled like someone opened a keg of stale beer and let it run out on the carpet,  and in spite of there being other rooms available,  the front desk put us directly over a street where construction started really,  really early in the morning.   Any place that hires staff who,  perhaps in spite of being pleasant, are either that stupid or uncaring,  need not be visited by me ever again.
Now that I think of it,  they were both part of a "chain".   Funny about that.


The third place was right here in Wienerland,  (well,  out in Strebersdorf) and that had more to do with the management being the cheapest tight wads I've encountered in a really long time.   For example, when there are two guests to start with,  and then one of them leaves to go back to The Netherlands,  why would you remove the bedding from the unused side of the bed?  Was there a shortage?  Did they need the pillow elsewhere?  It was only a thin crappy thing,  I can't see that it would have made that much of a difference,  but putting two crappy pillows together to make one half-assed decent one would have been kinda nice,  don't you think?

You think I'm kidding.  Even I can't make up that kind of stuff.

Mind you, there have never been any really truly bad experiences,  since the internet is chock full of all kinds of information if one is willing to do the research.  If you end up in a hotel with bedbugs for example,  then you either don't have the wherewithal to even stay in a hotel to start with,  since you're going for the cheapest deal out there, or you're just a dimwit, and have no right to complain.

 That's the thing,  the information can be found.

Not only does one have to do the research,  but each snippet of information has to be taken with a grain of salt.  Different people from different cultural backgrounds have differing expectations.    Like,   maybe it's OK to take away the extra pillow.  I mean,  it could go missing or something.  Maybe there's some sort of "pillow black market"  that I'm unaware of.

 Just one more thing,  and then I'd better get my nose back to the grindstone.

 The hairdresser story.

 It turns out that the assistant didn't really leave as a result of "stress",   although that might have been a reason given so that she can now collect some sort of unemployment while she tries to figure out what she wants to do with her life.  I didn't really get into that in our conversation.
Apparently she no longer has hairdressing in mind as a life long career.    She and the boss lady were at some sort of conference the week before,  and the story as I understand it was that her eyes were opened to certain levels of productivity that she figured she'd never be able to achieve (if she wanted to go out on her own I'm assuming)  and so she just packed it in.   No warning,  just a letter of resignation.
The only thing I could offer was that perhaps she didn't want to disappoint her mentor with a long drawn out process.  Other than that,  no clue.
Now,  herein lies the big difference when it comes to being able to speak the lingo or not.   See,  Friseur Lady and I converse only in German,  whereas one of the reasons that this place was chosen was that Friseur Lady could also speak English.   To some extent.
The thing is,  this goes back to that notion that the Austrians think they can speak English,  but the fact of the matter is,  sometimes the proof is not in that particular pudding. 
 That,  of course brings us right back to the papers that are spread out on the table to which I'll need to shortly return.  It too was written by a German speaking person who thinks they speak English.  It's mostly a smattering of business phrases that appear to be lifted from other documents,  but wherein the meaning has been somewhat buggered up.
That last one is a highly technical business term,  by the way.

Just thought you should know that.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Into the madness.

See,  today is the first business day that it's been really comfortably warm,  with the outside temperature on my trusty thermometer edging slightly north of 20°C.   I had this fleeting urge to hop on the bike and maybe pedal my way down to the Naschmarkt or wherever,  but realised that as it was approaching noon time,  the car traffic would be a little heavy.   Little did I realise that there was scarcely room on the side walk either.   I'd ask the rhetorical question,  "Where do they all come from?",  but judging by the amount of Slovak,  (or maybe Czech,  I'm not sure)  and Hungarian I overheard,  I think I have a fairly good idea.    Maybe there needs to be a tad more Sunday shopping?  Mind you,  I don't think that would make a difference.  It's just flippin' crowded.
Apparently the city hall types are still talking of making Mariahilfer Straße into a "Fußgänger Zone".
Maybe that would help*.
See,  in case you forgot,  in the last city elections,  the Green Party got just a wee bit stronger,  so now there is a  "Vice-Mayor" who just happens to be the leader of the Green Party.

 So nice that they all get along.

 At least I suppose they do.  I sort of gloss over some of the political goings on,  and that has nothing to do with the language.  I tend to gloss over the political goings on back home too.  That is of course,  unless it's something really repugnant like the big mess of a waterfront project in Burlington.
Believe it or not if you go to google,  which will conjure up just about any site on the planet,  and type in "Burlington waterfront mess",  it will take you to the appropriate story.

That's kinda sad.

Anyway,  where was I?

 So after my trek down to the bakery,  jostling my way through the crowd,  I decided to remain here and bake another banana bread instead.
'Cause that makes sense,  right?
I actually had this idea I'd do that yesterday,  but I find that whole baking thing to be a solitary activity.  Best to stay away from the critical eyes of you know who.

Besides, yesterday we actually went out!

Try not to pass out.   It was nice weather all weekend,  although the only activity of note on Saturday was Travelling Companion's visit to the "Friseur"  just down the street from us.   The appointment was for 9:00 a.m.  and she didn't get back until almost 11:30 a.m.   If it wasn't for the fact that it's a five minute walk down the street I almost would have sent out a search party.
Something to do with the Hairdresser Lady's assistant having to take off six months due to stress?
Hey,  maybe there's a whole dynamic going on there that I'm not quite aware of,  but the whole notion is a bit foreign to me.  I've heard of Caretakers having "stress"  and thought that was a load of hooey as well,  so maybe I'm just insensitive.
I'm going in tomorrow for a little "shear terror" of my own,  so I'll be sure and ask what that was all about.  Trust me.

I'll try not to make a face.

Yesterday morning  there was a motion on the floor to head down to St. Augustine's Church,  but we sort of dawdled just a tad too much,  and figured we'd head to the Schatzkammer instead.
Turns out,  since we were walking right past the Church anyway,  we were in time for Communion,   and to listen to the organ player do his usual grand exit at the end of the service.
The congregation always gives this guy a round of applause at the end of his grand finale,  which he certainly deserves,  but to me it always seems some what out of place?   Mind you,  I'm certainly not the "go to"  guy when it comes to Church decorum.   Well,  except perhaps for the notion that your bleating little children should be left outside.  Other than that I have no opinion.

So what about this "treasury"?    Basically,  it's one huge walk in vault,  as can be seen by the serious steel door at the entrance,  complete with the big wheelie thing on the front.   Kind of like this one...

Just an example folks.

Looks like they don't want anyone going in there after hours.   There was no flash allowed,  so some (most of?)  my pictures are a little shaky,  but even if by some strange reason using a flash had been OK,  everything is in glass cases for the most part anyway.
I'm not going to bore you with too many pictures,  and if it weren't for the fact that I had bought a yearly pass last year,  I think I would have been a tad annoyed for having gone.

That last one is a big rug they'd throw over a guy if he was getting crowned.   Something like that.

 OK so,  we were able to hang in there for the whole place,  even though my hips were starting to hurt and Travelling Companion's knees were on fire,  and we listened to just about all the entries on the little talking box thingamajig,   which I highly recommend,  by the way.
Now let me tell you why I would have been slightly annoyed.  See,  it's one thing for an artist or architect or whoever to come up with some really cool painting, sculpture or building.  It makes no matter where the inspiration comes from.
All of these artefacts however,  were created with the view of showing oneself as being just about the best thing known to man.   "Holy" in fact. 
So think of this now.   Here's a lump of gold,  a bunch of precious stones,  now make me a crown.   Oh,  and if don't do a good job,  I'll have you killed.   Now there's inspiration for ya!

See,  if you go into the Smithsonian for example,  you might see a collection of things that have been created for the betterment of mankind.   All of these things were simply created to show how much a certain class of people were better than the rest of mankind.
I suppose that if I had been born into nobility right around that time I could have mustered up the wherewithal to be a pompous assed jerk too,  but that's besides the point. 

Don't get me wrong.   These are all very cool things,  but at some point about two thirds of the way through,  I began to think,  "Weren't the people in the middle ages living in abject poverty?"  Hmmmm.
I think it was also right around that point that one precious artefact started to look like the next.

My hips,  and the painful look on Travelling Companion's face were telling me it was time to leave.

So I guess that was a "once in a lifetime".

I think the banana bread is calling me.

 Have a fine March Break.

*at this point in time I'm no longer willing to help you with your German.  Sorry.
See "google translate"....


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

When my eyes don't deceive.

I wanted to say something like,  "Questions and Answers",  but that just sounds too deep.  Sorry,  if you're looking for depth, try looking down a mine shaft. 
No depth here.
What I'm talking about is the trivial little things that make me do a slight double take when innocently pondering the view over the city. 
Once in a while I meander up onto the roof to do a first hand evaluation of the weather.
OK,  so that sounds a bit pretentious,  sometimes I just want a breath of fresh air,  and to see what there is to see.  Besides,  the conditions can be somewhat different down at street level,  so trying to figure out how much winter clothing is going to work is mostly a big guess.

This is one of those times when I might mutter something under my breath that I can't exactly put into print right about now..

What the ??

Seems odd that the people below him appear to be not moving,  yet he is.

OK so,  I just figured that maybe that's one little area of the building that needs to be tidied up from time to time,  and headed on out the door.
(It's that morning walk thing)

 Funny thing too,  as I stood on the street corner down below and tried to catch a glimpse of this guy doing his little sweeping job,  I realised that nobody,  and I mean nobody ever bothers to look up.  I was starting to feel somewhat self concious.
You could be rappelling off a building fixing to break into a bank,  and nobody would ever notice.   Maybe it's part of not being the proper "city boy",  but I'm always looking up,  especially around construction sites.   While I can't claim that there's all that much in my head,  I would just as soon not have it get walloped by some big nasty spanner* falling from above.

And by the way,  what hair brained architect thought it would be fashionable to put this goofy looking cantilevered slab on the side of the building?  I'm sure at some point in the design stage,  they all gathered around to "ooh and ah" at this really cool feature.   Then of course,  when the builder saw the plans,  I can well imagine his first reaction was that of a long sigh of quiet desperation.

But I digress.

So just now I was once again topside putting away the bird feeder.  The chickadees that had been coming around have been pretty scarce lately, and the only visitors that we've had have been these big ugly things that make nothing but a mess.  Not cleaning it up any more.  And yes,  I'm talking about birds here.

It turns out there was a follow-up plan...

OK then.
Starting to make a little more sense,  and the colour is certainly in keeping with the notion of being fashionable.   Not sure why you wouldn't just paint the underside,  where it can more readily be seen?  It's certainly not like this is some sort of waterproofing membrane.   I mean,  there's a big freakin' hole there.

At least in these two pictures it's more obvious that his safety harness seems to be attached to something.  You wouldn't get me up there to start with,  safety harness or no.

And that would be today's big contribution. 
Thanks for stopping by.

Be sure and tip your server.

*we'd tend to call it an "open ended wrench",  but I prefer the sound of "spanner".


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

At least I was up.

My original thought was to perhaps briefly go back to bed this morning after taking Travelling Companion to the airport,  but that never seems to work anyway,  so I figured I wouldn't bother.    I think it's the coffee,  and I know better than to try to function without it.

By the way, the traffic is really great at 5:30.

It also doesn't help to wake up before the alarm goes off either.  I hate that. I seem to have very little difficulty lying in if there's no need to haul myself out of bed,  but just as soon as there is any kind of reason,  the last two or three hours are interrupted by checking the clock.  We never set the alarm on normal work days.   Muggins here is the alarm clock.  I have no idea how that works either,  except to say that my eyes just seem to pop open around six or so.

With the possible exception of elevator issues,  it's pretty darned nice living on the top floor.  When it's sunny out,  it's sunny in.  When the wind is high, well it can be a little bit disconcerting,  and of course when it's really hot out,  we're just glad to have air conditioning.   But overall,  I'm pretty content with the top floor program.  I can actually go out doors without having to go down to street level.  Pretty nice.

The only other slight issue,  is that something along the lines of four times a year all the chimneys either have to be inspected or cleaned.   Today was a cleaning day.  Actually,  it was only this morning for about an hour,  since the boys started at around seven.
While I realise it's pretty peaceful here since I don't have music blaring or even a TV as background noise, and therefore any kind of noise on the roof is quite noticeable,  I could have sworn someone was starting to build another dwelling up there!
I think I've mentioned this before?  The "herd of cattle on the roof"?
I'm exaggerating,  but not by much.

Since this building was built in 1908,  it stands to reason that the apartments below have fireplaces,  since that could very well have been the only way of keeping warm in the past.  In speaking to one of my neighbours down stairs,  I was surprised to hear his apartment had four fireplaces!   So not just for aesthetics.   Everybody's chimney was getting a good reaming,  now let me tell you!

I should apologize that I haven't been including too many pictures lately, but there hasn't been that much that's really picture worthy.  I'm not about to run upstairs to take a picture of the chimneys either.   Down below a couple cafes have set out their summertime tables and chairs,  although it's been a little too cool to be sitting outside just yet.  Other than that,  not much else going on.

Oh,  forgot to mention,  we did have guests for dinner on Saturday night.   That was pleasant.  At this point in time I'm fairly comfortable with my choices at the butchers,  so I'm willing to risk grilling up some steaks.   It's one thing to make an unpleasant discovering if there's just the two of us,  but one needs to be confident in what's ending up on the plate when there are guests involved.
Although Travelling Companion and I haven't gotten bored with each other just yet,  it's always nice to have some company to yak with.    The gentleman is a young fellow who works at the company that cannot be named,  and we'll be looking for him in the upcoming Vienna Marathon.  Word is he went out and ran something like 25k on Sunday.  And...I think it was actually farther,  but I forget.  If I got it wrong I apologize.  Hopefully nobody will be checking on my facts.*

For those of you who may not know (and I know I sure didn't)  the Vienna Marathon is kind of a big deal.   The bonus is,  Mariahilfer Strasse is part of the course.

 How exactly I'm going to be out there at the right time to catch him as he runs by is still a bit of a mystery,  but I'll try to figure it out.  Picking someone out of that kind of crowd is a bit of a challenge.   You need to go to the website there and have a look.   It will open in a new window.  Don't fret.
 If you do happen to take a look at the video of Haile Gebresellassie,  you'll need to either really pay attention, or be able to read the German subtitles.   I found myself reading the German,  since his Ethiopian accent is kinda strong.   He probably won't be that hard to pick out during the race,  since I'm guessing he'll be well out in front.   He's kind of like,  I don't know,   the Michael Schumacher of racing?   Hard to describe really,  but it seems those connected with the marathon are all excited that he'll be here to run on the 17th of April.


He said he was going to retire after some issues at the New York Marathon last November,  but then shortly thereafter announced he had changed his mind.   Hopefully he'll do better than Schumacher after his post retirement return.

We'll see.

*If you don't get my snide jokes,  I'll happily explain.   But I shouldn't have to.


Friday, March 4, 2011

A typical Friday.

Sort of.
 For the last few weeks,  German Teacher Dude has been coming for his weekly visits on Fridays.   He seems to like Fridays,  it's OK I suppose.  Just means some extra cleaning up to do is all,  but that's pretty much par for the course on a Friday.
So,  in addition to that,  I'm also occupied with moving some files from one drive to another,  since I had another one delivered this morning.
Now before you start wondering if I'll have to build a separate storage facility for all these drives,  let me explain.   It was a replacement.
 A couple weekends ago,  Travelling Companion and I were watching a movie,  and at one point she said, "What's that high pitched sound?".   I hadn't really noticed since I have this thing called tinnitus,  or at least that's what I think it is, so I just figured the high pitched sound was coming from inside my head,   like it always does.   So when she said something,  I realised that maybe it wasn't just me after all,  and started to try and figure out where it was coming from.   Turns out the most recent Seagate drive that I had bought was running a tad hot and making a bit of a nasty sound.   Eventually we ended up with an "I/O Error"  on the screen.

Not good.

 After letting the thing cool down,  I managed to move the files back onto my back up drive and ship it back to Media Markt on the Monday morning.  
They give you 14 days to send anything back,  pretty much "no questions asked".   They do include a form to be filled out with whatever box that needs to be ticked off.  Mine was "defekt".
Now,  I realise that I'm probably not a very trusting person when it comes to dealing with bureaucracy,  so I wasn't about to order a new one until the money was safely back in our bank account.   This took a few days.  They actually answered one of my fill in the blanks kind of correspondences,  and explained that returns are done on Tuesdays and Fridays.
I still wasn't giving them any more dough until I had my money back.   This ain't no factory here,  and it's not like we have some sort of revolving account going on.
 Anyhoo,  I remembered to check the account on Wednesday and lo and behold they had actually done what they said they would do (although it did take them a few days)  so I placed and order for another drive that afternoon.
Funny thing though,  I think they process their orders in a similar fashion,  since nothing started to happen until the next day.
Here's the thing,  and I'm sure I'm the only one on the planet that thinks this is cool,  but as soon as they ship, they send an email,  with a link to the postal service letting you trace your package.
I didn't even have to look anything up.
So I had a pretty good idea this morning just when the delivery guy would show up.   It wasn't the little guy this time,  but another of the postal delivery dudes whom I had seen in the past.

Track & Trace
Shipment data received
3/3/2011 1:45:15 PM

Item distributed
3/3/2011 8:39:04 PM

Item distributed
3/3/2011 8:40:10 PM

Item distributed
3/3/2011 8:41:07 PM

Item distributed
3/3/2011 8:42:20 PM

Item is out for delivery
3/4/2011 6:45:37 AM

Item delivered to consignee
3/4/2011 9:11:42 AM

Not quite sure what was going on between 8:39 and 8:42,  but that box was getting scanned a few times there.
Mind you,  I'm not overly thrilled that they use the term "zip",  when they're actually referring to a post code,  but I'll suppose I'll have to let that one go.

I'll just repeat now that I'm not much of a "city boy",  but am I that much of a bumpkin to think this is pretty neat?   Maybe I'm just showing my age.   I do still remember how to use a rotary phone after all.

There's a dial on the front.....

oh never mind.

Have a fine weekend.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

At that difficult age.

On many levels.
We spent a quiet weekend even though we had tossed around the idea of going somewhere,  possibly down to the Natural History Museum,   but when it came right down to it,  we gave it a pass.  I'm more or less content to stay at home,  and Travelling Companion gallivants about the continent enough in planes trains and auto-mobiles,  such that if she doesn't feel like heading out into the crowds,  I certainly don't argue.
I think that I might have mentioned on more than one occasion that I'm not really much of a "city boy"? You might also think that considering our present geographical location (something wrong with my syntax there,  but I can't be bothered)  that we should be "out there"  trying to take in as much as possible.  Therein lies the difference between being a tourist and actually living here.   We'll get to see whatever it is we want to see in due time,  and if we don't,  we don't.
I can live with that.
 The other aspect of the "difficult age"  has also to do with having the physical wherewithal to trudge around from venue to venue.   I try and make a point each morning to get out and hoof it a few kilometres to get the blood flowing and ward off the inevitability of increasing my girth,  but after twice climbing the six flights this morning,  the third time coming in meant giving in to taking the elevator.  After a few years running around on concrete in a couple different jobs over the last say,  thirty years?  parts of my chassis start to complain after about the second trip.   Not quite ready just yet for the dreaded hip replacement,  but I sure as heck can predict the weather with some accuracy.
I don't think I need to elaborate.
In addition to that,  Travelling Companion's knees are pretty much shot.  Something to do with playing ice hockey as a kid with zero protective equipment.   At least that's the theory.  We don't have new knees on order for her just yet either,  although that particular procedure couldn't come any time too soon.

 The other aspect of being at a difficult age has to do with the ageing and eventual demise of friends.
 Many years ago when I worked as an afternoon Caretaker in a school quite close to our Canadian home,  one would from time to time encounter members of the academic staff who hadn't quite bolted out the door with the rest of them,  and with whom one might happen to strike up a conversation.
It just so happens that I can muddle along in yet another language other than German,   and having spend a few days over the previous years supply teaching French Immersion,  it wasn't too much of a stretch that I should stop and chat with this one particular French teacher,  who was the Core French teacher for that particular school.   "Core French"  is what I would like to refer to as the "Dark Side" since,  instead of "French Immersion",  where the kids spend all their blissful hours at school using the French language,  "Core French"  is taught to those who are taking it because it has been mandated by the Ministry of Education.   Not so much bliss.
That is to say,  they really don't want to be there.
I eventually got sucked into the vortex of supply teaching Core French,  and I even supply taught grades seven and eight,  but that's a whole other horror story.  (Once those hormones kick in?   *shudder* )
This is why I refer to it as the "Dark Side",  and which is also the reason that I have such respect for anyone who is willing and able to do it.
So a friendship began.
 What further drew me to this person was that not long after working there,  and in the course of our almost daily chats,  she let it be known that not so many years before,  she had had a liver transplant.   She was always very stoic about it,  and felt that in spite of the burden of the serious physical drawbacks,  one of which was always being tired to the point of near collapse,  having the transplant was better than the alternative.

I had never until then met a person with that kind of courage.

On our trips home, since coming to Europe,  we try and get around to see as many friends and relatives as we can,  and there were times when she was just too tired to leave the house.  Happily we were able to see her along with a group of friends at Christmas.   

It breaks my heart to say this,  but we lost her on Sunday.   This was something that she knew would happen,  as did we all.  One never thinks though that it will happen so soon,  or that a visit can be one's last.

Now please forgive me while I briefly step up on my soap box.

It was only because somewhere,  someone signed an organ donor card that she was able to live as long as she did.
This is really something to consider.   By that I don't just mean signing some little card.
What I mean is, I would have never met her,  nor her husband,  with whom I've become good friends,  nor would his brother have met and then married one of their teacher friends. 
I'm sure the list could go on and on.   There's a whole series of gatherings,  laughter,  trips in the motorhome.....

All because someone signed an organ donor card.

It's something everyone should do.