Saturday, 31 July 2010

A forest walk...

I'm surrounded by a forest here and the access roads provide bridle paths and walking routes. We have a number of Red Kites nesting around here and they are currently teaching their youngsters to hunt. So are the "Windhovers" - more properly, Kestrels - and the are fascinatng to watch as they soar and hover watching for mice and other delicacies. Unfortunately my camera skills have so far not been up to catching a picture of any of them.

We currently have a plague of field mice, and the kestrels and the kites are happily reducing the population - as, I'm sure, are the owls, though we rarely see them.

Madam Paddy Cat, or as our German Vet has labelled her, Ein Ninja Norwegiese Waldkatze, has discovered that there are mice in the garden. She is busy trying to find where they hide as soon as she wanders out and I expect that any day now we will start finding her contributions to the larder lined up somewhere. Last night was quite amusing as she spotted one and put on a burst of speed to get close, then did a lengthy stalk. The mouse escaped, but I think it is probably recovering at home from a spell in the mouse equivalent of Intensive Care after the fright it got.

Madam then spent around an hour investigating every movement in the garden, particularly in the areas the mice have been active. The old lady may be almost twenty, but her hunting skills are obviously still active.

Ce la vie, I'm off now to take coffee and Kuchen at a place called Schlaefer's Kopf, one a Hunting Lodge for the nobility, I think owned by Kaiser Wilhelm II, and now a restuarant and tea room with a stunning view of Wiesbaden from it's mountaintop. Mausi, lucky lady, is in Strahlsund, bathing and sunbathing. She tells me the sea temperature is 19*C and the air temperature is 23*C. Sounds perfect to me, wish I was there!

Friday, 30 July 2010

Venturing forth ...

Well, with Mausi up in Strahlsund, the Monk needed some provisions, so a venture to Koom Valley was required. Now this may not sound like much, but the Monk is not the most competent German speaker, and most of the shopkeepers and assistants don't speak a great deal of English. So, this was a trial of both the Monk's ability to find his way to the supermarket and from there to butcher and baker and his ability to communicate his needs to the people behind the counter.

Driving is getting better, this business of being on the wrong side of the road means that I'm changing gears with the wrong hand. OK, at least I did this years agon when I briefly owned a left hand drive VW Beetle in South Africa (And drove it on the correct side of the road!), but it's taking a bit of practice to get used to it again.

I digress, at least I got to the Toom Supermarket without mishap and, surprise, surprise, managed to find everything I was looking for. At the checkout I even managed to get the "Bitteschoen/Dankeschoen" ritual right. Even better, I then managed to find the route to the butcherand to make several purchases face to face with the lady actually uderstanding me!

So maybe these afternoons spent trying to learn German are beginning to bare fruit...

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Publishing Harry

I have now submitted my final edited draft of Their Lordships Request, another of my "Harry Heron" series, to AuthorHouse and expect to hear from them in the next couple of weeks with the "Galley Proofs" to correct and sign off. This book is a prequel to "Out of Time" and "The enemy is within", covering the voyage aboard HMS Spartan that leads Harry, Ferghal and Danny to their date with destiny in the Indian Ocean.

From the promotion blurb -

When Midshipman 'Harry' Nelson-Heron and his life-long friend and companion, Boy Seaman Ferghal O'Connor transfer to the new '74', HMS Spartan, they are about to embark on a voyage that will take them to New South Wales, India and Arabia. In the two years this covers they will fight storms, pirates and the prejudice of their seniors. Harry will grow from a starry-eyed idealist into a practical and determined youth and Ferghal become a competent seaman.

But no one can anticipate the fate of these boys as their ship departs from Bombay on the voyage home and a meeting with the distant future.

In a parallel story, Harry's twelve times great nephew is the Captain of a new starship being built for the North European Confederation. NECS Vanguard will be the most powerful ship in her class when she is completed. Captain James Heron prepares his ship and his crew for their first commission and voyage to the stars, unaware that their departure will bring him face to face with the past - and solve a family mystery. Their Lordships Request concludes with both parties moving into position for the realisation of that destiny ...

And here is a short "taster" to wet the interest....

Harry found himself dancing a little jig as he waited on the loading and watched the xebec slowly opening the gap between herself and the Maid of Selsey. He realised that it was her oars which made it possible for these ships to escape so rapidly and he shouted to the Gunner’s Mate as that worthy indicated the guns were ready, “Aim for the oars. If we can cripple those she will be easy meat for the Spartan!”

The Gunner’s Mate gave him a strange look. Then nodded. “Very good, sir. You heard him lads – make sure of them, take the outriggers as your mark and wait for my signal.” He paused until all the captains indicated readiness then bawled, “Fire!”

The four guns leapt backwards in a ragged broadside. The men sprang to reload and Harry dived for a port to see what had happened. The smoke eddied clear and he saw to his initial delight that more than half the oars on the xebecs port side were a tangled, shattered mass.

Then he felt the cold clutch of horror as he saw that the oarsmen attached to them were now broken shattered rags. As he watched some of the survivors began to struggle to free themselves, hindered by the chains he could now see held them to their benches. His horror turned to rage as he saw the corsairs attack these wretched scarecrows with whips, forcing them back to the effort of rowing.

He leapt back from the port and said, “Gunner’s Mate, I want each gun aimed and fired at the gangways and the quarterdeck of that ship.” He did not notice that his voice was suddenly deeper and firmer. “I want as many of those fiends destroyed as possible – see to it, Mister Bates.”

“Aye, aye, sir!” The Gunner’s Mate looked at the child suddenly become a man and ordered, “Dudley, stand aside there, stand by the training spikes, this bastard isn’t going to escape.”

Harry watched dispassionately as the Gunner’s Mate pointed each gun as carefully as he could and fired. The first struck on the decorated transom raising a great shower of splinters, the second struck nearby, but obviously caused more damage for the ship slewed round, exposing her side to the next shot which struck a mast and sent a shower of splinters scything through the corsairs clustered near it. The fourth shot, by lucky chance, struck near the xebecs bowchasers, overturning one gun and careening off it to scythe through another cluster of men gathered at the fore end of the ship.

Further firing was rendered unnecessary as the sky darkened under the shadow cast by the towering canvas of HMS Spartan as she tacked across the Maid of Selsey’s stern, her ports open and her great batteries run up and ready to fire.

On the corsair, panic ensued as the pirates scrambled to throw themselves into the sea even as Spartan’s broadside began to thunder across the intervening space. Harry turned away as the lightly framed xebec disintegrated, torn apart by the smashing power of the great thirty-two pounders of the lower battery and the lighter twenty-fours of her upper tier.

“Don’t fret for the slaves, sir,” the Gunner’s Mate said softly. “At least now they will be free, not like the poor sods on this tub.”

“I shall hope that at least they die quickly then,” said Harry bitterly, still not aware of the change in his voice. He went to find the lieutenant wondering where Ferghal was and praying that he would not be among the dead on the forecastle.

“Master Harry,” Ferghal called to him. “You’re safe then.” His relief was evident in his voice.

Watch this space for news of its publication and where to buy it!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Let them eat cake...

Watching the news on BBC World Service today I was struck by the item featuring the new Olympic Village being built in London’s East End at Stratford. The backdrop was a vast new stadium and it immediately put me in mind of the Coliseum in the closing years of the Roman Empire. The Roman politicians found a very convenient way to distract the populace and to bolster their own popularity – stage more “games” and sate the poor with spectacles. Provide ‘circuses’ of gladiators, chariot racing and other ‘sports’ to keep them amused and distract them from the crumbling bureaucracy, failing infrastructures and plethora of external threats and ‘little wars’ slowly strangling their prosperity.

This seems to be endemic now. South Africa spent billions building sports stadia in all its major cities when there were already venues that could have been upgraded or expanded. The money spent on the two weeks of football fest could have been used to provide proper housing and health care, but went, instead, on a feast of football played by overpaid “stars” just as the Romans eventually found their Gladiators were the best paid and wealthiest men in Rome. Never mind the salaries and pensions of the bankers, take a look at what football and other “sporting” stars are paid today and ask yourself; “Why?”

The UK Taxpayer is currently funding the building of a large number of huge stadia and the accommodation that will house the competitors. Admittedly, the majority of these “stars” are not among the mega wealthy, but the money being spent on this spectacle is – it would fund a small nation’s development for probably two or more years! The budget started under Blair and his spendthrifts at a paltry – to some – £3 billion, but has now topped £9 billion and, despite assurances of ‘savings’, will, no doubt continue to rise.

As I look around me at all the “Sporting” pursuits I see increasingly that the ‘sport’ has been replaced by the spectacle. Vast sums of money are spent on motorsport, yacht racing (I used to enjoy a bit of fun competitive sailing until it became almost a blood sport to some.), running is now backed by big money, so are cycling, riding and almost all the track and field sports. To be competitive today you need the big money behind you to ensure you have the tailored running shoes, the specially built bicycle, the ultimate racing hull and, of course, the freedom to do nothing but practice, practice, practice…

Again one has to ask the question: Why?

There are, of course, several answers to this. For the politicians it distracts attention from their incompetence and corruption. There is no greater photo opportunity than to be photographed or filmed shaking hands with someone who has just boosted national pride or prestige by winning some International event. For the person backing the event, it is advertising, a chance to get your company, your product or your services associated with success. A small outlay leads to large returns for the successful backer – just as it did in Rome.

For the man in the street, the person who ultimately pays for it all, there is the great buzz, the feeling of triumphant association when his or her ‘star’ wins, be it a team or an individual. The same went for the Roman Games, a winning Gladiator enjoyed pop-star status, money, property and even entrée into the Imperial Court and his ‘fans’ basked in his success. Marx had it wrong when he said religion was the opium of the people, spectator sports, spectacle and envy are.

What are the benefits for Britain, for South Africa, for New Zealand (About to stage the Rugby World Cup) in spending these vast sums to put on these spectacles of self-indulgence? The promoters argue, probably with justification, that the construction brings ‘jobs’ to an area where there may not have been opportunities before. They will argue that the fans attracted to the venue bring business for the local shops and therefore the residents. They will also argue that it satisfies the emotional and social needs of a community.

The politicians will argue that ‘the people want it; they want to feel proud of their country/city/nation’ in a successful staging of these games. They will also argue that the development ‘brings urban renewal’ to a ‘rundown estate’. I suppose it does, in much the same way that Nero found the burning of the poorer districts of Rome useful. It moved a large part of the poorer population out of Rome and allowed him to ‘redevelop’ on a grand scale. There will also be arguments that it will bring in ‘long-term’ jobs, overlooking the fact that these tend to be at the lower end of the pay scales and the more menial. Factories (derelict), office buildings (rundown), and even some housing and public amenities have been cleared to make way for the Olympic Village and certainly the flats will become “social housing” in the future, but is this really what is needed in that area. Previous attempts to house large numbers of socially dependent families in blocks of flats have not produced the result desired, rather they have created “vertical slums” with massive social problems for everyone.

What of the jobs? OK, so there will be better connections to public transport from this area, but will that increase job seeking? I’m not convinced of that. Nor am I convinced that these “Games” are anything other than a huge expense for the taxpayers who must fund the opportunities for the politicians and mega wealthy businesses, to make even more money at our expense.

Call me cynical if you like, but this looks more and more like a way of keeping the populace happy will the nation burns…

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Football crazy ...

Forget the Vuvuzelas, I got sent this by one of my Irish friends.

Remember that goal by the French Team that got the Irish knocked out of the World Cup? Remember the French denials that Thierry Henry handled the ball in the set up before the score? Well, there is a priceless cartoon joke posted on YouTube.

So now you know the truth of the matter...

Monday, 26 July 2010

Let it rain...

Having spent yesterday afternoon in the garden we need some rain, the recent hot spell has at last given way to some cooler weathe, but, while south and east of us there is a lot of rain being delivered by the clouds, over us in our maountain fastness, its been a bit more patchy. Part of the problem is, of course, the fact that we are in the mountains. Rain tends to fall most heavily against the windward face and less so on the leeward side. When you are sort of "in between" the two you get the overspill from one side or the other.

We have some large rain water barrels we use to water the garden (Mains water is metered here in Germany!) and at present two of our barrels are about one third and one is empty. We need more rain... Please?

Saturday, 24 July 2010

The Cat in Charge...

Madam Paddy Cat has settled in well here in Taunusstein, but while I was in Iran, she developed a trick which we are now struggling to get her to stop. She wakes up at around 05.00 and demands her breakfast. Loudly. Persistently and without let-up until someone surrenders.

As Mausi has to get up anyway at 06.00 we could do without this morning battle of wills, something my son found he faced when he was looking after Madam before we came to Germany. As he put it, on the morning she 'decorated' his duvet with what he calls a 'technicolour yawn', forcing him to race to the washing machine and, in ambush, step into a deposit she had made earlier, he realised that he had underestimated his enemy. She has learned quickly that, at the first strident "Miaaaow!" my instant reaction is to swipe at her with my pillow. So, she hides behind Mausi, only sticking her head 'over the parapet to repeat her 'Miaaow' in response.

Now that she has discovered that Mausi won't play ball either, she hides just outside the bedroom door and sqwarks around the edge. My sock missiles have the effect of silencing her for perhaps five minutes, but just as you are drifting back into that precious last hour's sleep - "Miaaaow!" erupts to shatter the moment.

My sock bombs don't always find the target, my 'aim off' doesn't always get the right ricochet, but we are at least getting to the point where Madam has learned that if she waits for the radio alarm to come on - she gets fed. It's taking a while and sometimes we 'forget' and don't wait for the alarm. The Battle of Wills continues unabated...

I'd love to know what got it into her tiny mind that waking her people up at 05.00 to give her breakfast would endear her to any of us...

Friday, 23 July 2010

Fingers crossed...

I received a response from a publisher yesterday, requesting that I send them the full manuscript of the novel I have written on the life of St Patrick. This morning I sent them the whole thing in an electronic file, as requested.

Now follows the anxious wait while they read it, dissect it and ask their marketing people if they can sell it. I'll just keep praying I think, chewing finger nails isn't quite my thing. Besides, I've been here before with my other books - only to be brought down to earth with a resounding crash. So, if anyone knows any ways to guarantee acceptance - let me know...

Hopefully the good Saint will himself be pressing the editor...

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Images of Conflict

The Postulant and the Monk have been exchanging emails on the subject of the images the media love to promote always painting the military in Iraq or Afghanistan as brutal killers attacking innocents and causing the probelms there. The image that started this discussion can be found here.

As I pointed out, I cannot see a member of the Taliban or an "Insurgent" in Iraq showing the same care for an injured child. Both would be more likely to strap a bomb to the child in the belief that this somehow "serves Islam." The Postulant makes this point extremely well in her reply.

I was thinking about that this morning – there are people in all areas of life who are so determined to hate a person or particular group of people for a perceived wrong, that they’re impossible to negotiate with and will even hurt themselves in their quest to make the other party pay. The only way to change their perceptions is to hang back and wait for them to see the light, which takes a frustratingly long time with so many people profiting from spreading fear and distrust. Imams have too much to gain from hatred in the middle east, political agitators the world over have too much to gain from promoting their own pet causes. I even saw it recently in people who work for charities – all of them believe that their particular cause is the most worthy cause and anyone who disagrees is subhuman and not worthy of even the most basic respect. It’s a form of hysteria! The only way the world can improve is if the majority learn to take a step back from the emotional maelstrom that their manipulators operate in and calmly evaluate things for themselves.

Sadly, as I have replied to her, most of us are too lazy to check what we are being fed and too innured in the mantra of the left that this form of hysterical promotion of any given 'cause' is "moral" to act sensibly and refuse to go along with it any longer.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Making slow progress

Studying a new language is full of surprises, some of them pleasant and some of them a little frustrating. My German is making slow progress, partly due to the fact that my learning skills in the anguage department are taking time to get the cobwebs out of the gears and start the wheels turning.

Having said that, my vocabulary is starting to expand, my understanding of the use of "Der/Die/Das" and in the plural of anything "Die" is coming along. So is the declension of verbs which take -e, -st, - en, or -e in the singular (1st, 2nd and 3rd person) and -en, or -t on the end of the word for the plurals. Don't forget the gender, because that can throw a spanner as well. And then there are the preositions...

Oh well, if you want to live in a country that doesn't speak English, you'd better learn the language. It could be worse, we could be trying to master Polish I suppose.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Great weather...

A high pressure system sitting over Germany named Beowulf by the weather gurus, has brought us some beautiful days and nights lately. Breakfast this morning on the patio in the fresh coolness was enlivened by Madam Paddy Cat who discovered mice ... She has now spent the morning hunting and though she hasn't caught anything she's certainly stirred up the field mice! I think a few of them are recovering from near coronaries at present.

Well, now the grass has been shaved, though it is looking a little brown in places and desperately needs a couple of days of "soft soaking rain". The storms of a few nights ago have flattened several fields of wheat around us and that is bad news for the farmers concerned as once the wheat lies down, a nasty little fungus called Ergot gets onto it. Ergot is halucinogenic in small doses, poisonous in larger doses. It has now been discovered that the Salem Witch Hunting and probably other Witch Hunts in Europe and the UK was triggered by Ergot infected wheat being used to make flour (The poorer folk in Salem farrmed in marshy conditions that promoted the spread of the Ergot and this probably happened in the Fen Country of the UK as well.). Cooking doesn't kill the toxin, it may actually help concentrate it, so, once baked into the bread ...

Now I'd better get some editing done so the next Harry manuscript can go to the publisher... Salad again for lunch methinks.

Monday, 19 July 2010

New "Harry Heron" adventure ...

I've decided to publish a new "Harry Heron" adventure through AuthorHouse again having negotiated a very good deal with them. The book is titled "Their Lordships Request..." and sets the scene for the events described in Out of Time. It traces Harry and Ferghal as they join the "new" HMS Spartan and, in parallel, the building of the "new" NECS Vanguard under the command of Captain James Heron, Harry's twelve times great nephew.

HMS Spartan takes Harry and Ferghal, and the Powder Monkey Danny Gunn, on a voyage to Australia and then Java and India. Harry meets the Sultan of Oman and does his bit for diplomacy, and in the two and a half year voyage grows from an eager, but immature twelve year old to a self-confident and relaible fifteen year old. His 'enemy' the bullying Midshipman Barclay, also undergoes a change as they fight storms, insects, sharks and even jellyfish on their journey which leads them to Muscat in time to learn that the Peace of Amiens has broken down.

Captain Heron has to face a number of challenges in preparing his new ship for service, not least being the bureaucrats who persist in trying to "make savings" by compromising on safety and effectiveness. The Vanguard's people overcome these efforts by vigilance and determination, but it also reveals that there is another set of players in the background, with whom a reckoning will soon be required.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Life explained!!


One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.

"One is Evil - It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

"The other is Good - It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee replied, "The one you feed."

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Eagles may soar ...

One of those funny sayings that emerge in 'folk-culture' as a counter to some of the 'management speak buzz phrases' that infect our communications. One I stumbled across recently says it really well - "Eagles may soar - but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines." It's one of those truisms that really leaps off the page and describes so well some of the passengers who climb onto every gravy train.

In any organisation where the Politically Correct or the Management Culture has been imported and imposed by the Management, you rapily find that soaring with the eagles is a bad career move, being a weasel is a good one. The Management Culture we now have seeks out a rewards "Yes Men", mistaking them for "Team Players". Geerally they're not, they're weasels and weasels are self interested predators. So are eagles when you come right down to it, but an eagle generally has a much better view of reality as he soars above the scuttling weasel slinking along close to the ground.

Ce la vie, given the choice, I'll take the eagles as team mates anyday. I've never liked weasels, so I'll take my chances on being sucked into a jet engine sometime.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Problem ICE

It seems, according to todays papers, that the ICE trains "Climate Control" plant is unable to deal with sustained temperatures of over 32*C. The investigation has also revealed that the decision to install this plant, rather than a more robust system, was made by the accountants on the basis of cost. For me this is yet another proof that "Cost/Benefit" analysis is often deeply flawed and fails to consider all the factors which may be in play in any extreme situation.

Such considerations are often simply reduced to a "number" in the assessment which is supposedly considering two of the factors involved - Likelihood/Frequency and Impact/Severity. This is put into a sort of scale, so the assessor decides that an event may only occur once in every thousand journeys and yet it may have an impact, when it does, of crippling an operation. So a "score" is assigned of - say -9 on the Impact/Severity Scale and perhaps a 3 on the likelihood. Now the assessor has a choice. Likelihood is low, though severity of the event is high. The choices are spend the money on reducing the likelihood or simply put aside money to meet the possible damage/repair costs. This is where the accountants that infest Boardrooms step in. These gys can tell you the cost of every paperclip, but not the value to be gained by using one.

Now the questions are reduced to "How much will it cost?" Once they have decided that the frequency of an event, such as days when temperatures are above 32*C, is low and the number of people likely to be affected is relatively small, the accountants will insist that "compensating anyone affected" is less than investing in installing more expensive and more robust equipment, the dice are caste. This is what decided a small reduction in the overall length of a major family car in the US. It saved the manufacturer $200 per car, but it put the fuel tank into the crumple zone inside the luggage space. In a rear end impact the tank could be ruptured, dousing the interior and the occupants in petrol.

The manufacturer reasoned that only about 12,000 people might be killed or injured out of sales totalling half a million world-wide. The $200 per car saving, they reckoned, was worth the risk. Pity about the 12,000 of course, but profit came first. That manufacturer was almost put out of business by the subsequent lawsuits and has only recently been saved by further the US Taxpayer from the results of further bad decisions based on "Cost/Benefit" analysis.

I wonder when we will learn?

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Another rejection...

Well, I suppose you have to collect a few. Another "Rejection Slip", this time from Acorn Press, for my latest "Harry" manuscript. I guess there's no alternative but to keep plugging away and trying to get an acceptance from someone.

Though they haven't offered any critique as to why they didn't feel it was their market, I get the feeling it may have been outside of the genre they are looking for - fantasy/adventure seems to be their mark even though they knew from the outset this book did not fit that mould.

Ce la vie. Continue the search!

Monday, 12 July 2010

Superheated ICE....

The ICE (Inter City Express) high-s[eed trains are the pride of the German Rail system, Deutche Bahn, and usually they are the last word in comfortable rail travel, even the "Standard" Class having comfortable seating and all the amenities. However, the heatwave we are having here has evidently exposed a small design flaw or equipment deficiency. Passengers have had to be treated for dehydration and heat exhaustion on a number of these super trains in the last day or s as temperatures inside them soared to above 50*C.

The cause is simple. The airconditioning plant cannot deal with sustained high tempertaures in the 40*C range.

Worst affected were several school parties. Their train ended up stopping in Hannover where some of the children needed to be treated in hospital for dehydration. Other trains have also had to stop running in various cities and the passengers transfer to the Regional trains which seem to have been better able to deal with the heat.

Having travelled on one of these Regional trains on Saturday, I can tell you that its A/C system functioned extremely well.

We now need the predicted thunderstorms to cool us down and wet the ground, our garden needs it.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Busy and hot!

The last couple of days we've been busy showing the Postulant a bit of this corner of Germany. Our vist to Mainz took in the Gothenburg Museum, the Dom (Of course) and would have included the Museum of Roman Ship Transport - except it was closed for renovation of the roof and apparently is being re-organised as well. We had planned to spend some time in the cinema as it's airconditioned and the temperatures were soaring, so we went early to see Shrek 3. It was hilarious, even though it was dubbed in German, the 3D really gets it going and brings it right out to the audience.

Great stuff. Supper at a Cafe called Alex just off the Romer completed the day and then it was home in the heat to the Taunus.

Saturday we planned to spend on the Rhine, catching the ferry cruiser from Rudesheim. It calls in at Bingen and one or two other places before passing through the Lorelei passage and reaching St Goar. Here we had lunch and visited the Museum of Dolls and Teddy Bears, the Evangelical Church which has some stunning windows and a decorated interior. Then, in temperatures now in the very high 30's, caught the train back along the Rhine to Bingen. A short walk from the station saw us on the passenger ferry across the river and back in Rudesheim.

Travelling further along the Rhine towards Wiesbaden brought us to Eltville where we had a fabulous supper in "Das Gelbhaus", a terrific restuarant on the edge of the town. The building is medieval, half timbered and decorated and flanked by the old town, the former monastic buildings with their fabulous rose gardens and a vineyard. Sitting on the open verandah next to the vineyard we all tucked into delicious salads washed down with cool drinks, Apfelschorle and a grape juice "schorle". The "schorle" is a mix of pure fruit juice and sparkling water and on a hot day, is very refreshing.

When we arrived home our little weather station informed us that, while it was 25*C inside, the outside temperature was 37*C. The news advised us that it had hit 44*C in Frankfurt and over forty in Wiesbaden. We eventually managed to fall asleep with the windows wide and the covers as light as we could manage. The clear skies suggested no change in the weather overnight, but a storm woke us with the flicker of lightning at around 2am, necesitating closing the window partially. The lightning and the thunder though stayed some distance away, giving us only a short shower and a lot of wind.

Today has been slightly cooler, it's 34*C as I type, but we have high hopes of somerain or a storm to cool it down a tad for the next few days. Now I'd better get the BBQ going!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Titanic Exhibition

Today we met the Postulant and then went inti Wiesbaden for lunch. Seated in the Markt, in one of the open air cafes we enjoyed a wonderful lunch, then turned our attention to the Titanic Exhibition in the Markt Kelder beneath our feet. It proved to be an excellent choice in the heat.

The exhibition brings the ship and the story to life in a fascinating manner as you follow the route through it. From conception through building and fitting out you are led gently through the passneger fittings, through the artefacts - some genuine and some replicas - interlaced with photographs of the people. The whole is explained on a recorded commentary as you go and you can, of course, stop and consider aspects or replay a bit of the commentary.

By the time you reach the end you have realised that this was a truly international tragedy. Almost every nation in the Northern Hemisphere lost people on this ship and the complete passenger list and the entire crew list is there at the end of the exhibition for you to see and consider.

Well worth the money and the time spent viewing it.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010


The Monk and Mausi have been busy preparing for a visit from The Postulant. The next few days will be busy and posting may be very intermittent.

Do bear with us!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Getting started in German...

Getting started in a 'new' language isn't easy even though something over forty years ago I had enough to make myself understood with a few German-speaking friends and odd cousins. Never having got beyond a sort of child-speak stage I am now struggling with declining articles, variations in pronouns that make English look simple and verbs that change according to pronoun and tense.

The pronouns change according to gender, so you have to get to know whether a thing is masculine, feminine or neuter and some things you would think are obviously "neuter" turn out to be masculine or feminine in German! A good example is in the Communion service where "The Body of Christ" becomes "Der Leib Christi" and "The Blood of Christ" becomes "Das Blut Christi". The "Body" is masculine, but the "Blood" is neuter. It gets more complicated when you hit composite nouns, because now it is the last sylable which determines the gender. But now I'm jumping ahead to far for my own good!

For now I had better get to grips with -

Ich wohne
Du wohnst
Er/sie/es wohnt ....

and the plural gets even better ...

Wir wohnen
Ihr wohnt
Sie wohnen
sie wohnen

OK, that's enough mayhem for the rest of you for today. I'd better get back to my exercises and crack on. I have to master at least the basics as I've booked myself a place on an Intensive Language Course offered by the Volkhochschul, in Wiesbaden and it starts in eight weeks time...

Monday, 5 July 2010

Marking birthdays...

On Saturday we celebrated Mausi's mother's birthday. We began with a breakfast of melon, smoked ham, bread rolls and champagne or Buck's Fizz in the shade of the plum tree in the garden. With eleven round the table it was most enjoyable even as the temperature began to climb we all managed to stay in the shade and to enjoy the gentle breeze which, from time to time, brought a welcome coolness.

By lunchtime though, the temperature had reached around 35*C and still climbing, so we re-arranged the table down in the basement family room which remained a much nicer 20*C and set up the chairs and crockery and cutlery for the afternoon tea session and fourteen more guests. Then Mausi, her sister, Mum and I all took a short rest in cool spots before the new guests arrived at 15.30. By this time the temperature outdoors had hit 37*C and still going up, though there were some huge thunderheads building to the south of Dietzenbach...

Now, you will be wondering about the German v Argentina game. Yes, we watched the first half, yes, I was shouting for Germany, and yes, it was a great game and a fabulous score!

And I'll tell you that the basement was ideal, the cakes superb, the tea and coffee perfect and so was the company.

The storm was brief in Dietzenbach, but enough to cool the air and Mausi and I got home at around 21.30 to find that we had had a great deal more rain here than in Dietzenbach and the air was pleasantly cool as we went to bed. A great celebration and a great game of footie. What else is there to ask for?


Sometimes the lengths the "Warmists" will go to in order to frighten their foot soldiers and scare more tax money out of the politicians just gets stupid. I'm not going to comment further on tthe article I found at Watt's Up With That?

It is entitled Ponderous Pachyderrms Prevent Permafrost...

Read it for yourselves and you'll see exactly what I mean.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Independence Day

I hope all my friends in the US will have a great Independence Day Celebration.

Their idealism is to be admired as is their work ethic, the freedoms they have under their constitution should be the envy of the world, not the target of those who hate freedom. Its worth defending, its worth aspiring too.

Sometimes though, I get the impression that their "Liberal/Left" hate the constitution, hate the freedom it gives, and wish to destroy the US as it is and create in its stead yet another nation of minorities with clashing cultural ambitions and tinpot dictaors running rackets in every community.

Long may Independence Day mark the continued success of a bastion of Western values and freedom.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Birthday celebrations...

WE are off to Dietzenbach today to celebrate Mausi's mum's birthday. It's a feast in two halves, one in the morning and another group in the afternoon. AS the weather promises to be fine, clear and HOT, this should be interesting.

At any rate, we intend to make this a special day for her, a grand dame in every sense.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Heat and waste disposal...

I guess that summer has arrived at full strength here in the Taunus. The temperature for the last several days has been in the high 20's Celsius and threatening to get hotter. This is, of course, a typical feature of a "Continental Climate" and as the land heats up and stores the heat, the night time cool down - particularly here in the low 50* latitudes where the sky is still light at 23.00 - is quite small. So we go to bed warm, and wake up warm.

Today is going to be a stinker - already over 25*C in the shade.

At least the efficient waste disposal system here in Germany is hard at work. Last night we cleared a whole lot of junk and unwanted furniture from the basement. This morning a large "crunchy-munchy" truck arrived and proceeded to load a mattress, the metal bits and one or two other things we were discarding. Crushing these into the huge load bin, it then moved on, leaving all the wooden stuff behind with the shouted assurance that "Das Holzwagen kommt!".

"Das Holzwagen" turned out to be another "crunchy-munchy" truck and the furniture was chucked into the load bin, then the crushing scoop got to work. In short order the bulky furniture was just so much splintered wood chip, no doubt now on its way to a chipboard or MDF plant!

There is quite a bit more to be got rid of, but as this is mostly electrical goods we have to take these to the disposal site ourselves. Recycling is a serious business here, even garden waste is shredded, mulched, bagged and sold as fertiliser. Not a lot goes into landfill in fact. Bought some cold drinks from the supermarket? There's a deposit on the plastic bottle - take it back and you get a refund. Beer bottles, cold drink bottles, even water bottles are all deposit refundable. Glass bottles are all reused, plastic bottles are shredded, remixed and reformed into new ones or, and here's a surprise for all you "fleece" wearers - turned into "fleece"...

Now there's a thought next time you put it on. You're probably wearing a collection of old cold drink bottles.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

The problem with Rome...

A lot of the discussion in Germany recently has been about the Roman Catholic Church and the abuse that has emerged has fuelled a rather angry debate in some quarters. Part of the problem for the Roman church is the fact that it has, for centuries, tried to be both a spiritual and a secular authority and power. To a very large extent the problem is the 'vision' of the church itself, which is that the 'church' is the ordained ministry and the laity are simply there to support it.

The laity are not expected to understand theology, not expected to contribute to the governance in any meaningful way or to have any say in important discussions within the church. One part of the problem here is the insistence on a "celibate" priesthood. Now, I have no doubt that many priests are celibate, but almost every one I have ever met has, at some stage, 'fallen from grace' and not been able to observe this completely. Rome actually quietly condones some priests long term 'affairs' rather than try to forbid such relationships and this, in itself, is a form of abuse. Unmarried clergy advising couples on "marriage" are often drawing on theory rather than experience to the extent that it becomes totally irrelevant to real life. There is another aspect to thisin that the Roman clergy tend to mix socially only with other clergy or with those of the "yes, father, no, father," persuasion and they - again I am drawing on the experience of a friend and former Roman priest - and lose touch with real life and real issues for their congregation.

The decision making process in the Roman church is done in the rarified atmosphere of the Vatican, generally in language and in academic terms beyond the grasp of the average person and this, in turn, allows the media hacks to seize upon and twist every utterance, every decision and every doctrinal statement. Opening the window and letting the laity take a larger part in the process would encourage more of the lay members of the church across Europe to be more activ in their 'ministry of the people', a very large element of the Gospel charge to every believer which seems to have got lost in almost all the traditional churches in these last years, but which is particularly noticeable in Rome.

How will this change? Of that I am not certain. The Pope is on record as saying he does not fear being a "remnant" of the "true faith" - presumably that 'faith' being the very narrow vision of the Vatican's ultra conservative wing - so we should not expect him to change anything in his lifetime.

I do know that the Roman church needs urgently to at least open consideration of the following: -

- Married clergy,
- Birth control and sexual practices,
- the role of women in the church,
- the claim of Papal Infallibility,
- recognition of and co-operation with other Christian Churches.

The first of these dates to the Middle Ages when the monastic orders managed to gain control of the Vatican and imposed the "monastic ideal" upon the clergy. Even as late as Cardinal Wolseley in the UK priests in some areas were married and the Cardinal himself had a "partner" though she was never described as his "wife". Birth control has to be recognised - before the human population grows beyond what is sustainable, a point that may already have been reached. It is all very well to argue that human sex is "purely for procreation" and must therefore be only used in that context is overly simplistic and a refusal to recognise that sex is a natural activity between humans and has been since the dawn of time. Of course it should be 'special', but to say it should occur only when it is desired to achieve conception is simply unrealistic.

Rome refuses to address the role of women in the church, other than in non-ordained supporting roles. Again they refuse to recognise that the early church made extensive use of women in ordained roles seen as equal to the male counterparts as deacons (NOT deaconesses!) and there are suggestions that many were even "presbyters" (Priests) and several examples exist of women who may well have been Bishops. Post the Synod of Nicea women's roles were downgraded and relegated progressively to a subordinate one, but as late as the 8th Century, the Coptic Church recognised Mary Magdalene as their "Apostle". Part of this was due to the spread of "Arianism" with even the Bishop of Rome adhereing to the Arian Heresy as late as 310 when Martin of Tours began the fight back and the restoration of the doctrines of St Paul and St John.

The doctrine of Papal Infallibility is a major issue for many Christians, and it is of fairly recent date. Even the claim of being the "One True Faith" doesn't bear close scrutiny since there are a wide range of documents in existence that show that for the first thousand years or so of the church's history the faith that was shared by Orthodox and Catholic was essentially the same - except for the claim of the Pope's to being "Successor of Peter" and therefore the Supreme Authority. There is in fact no evidence that the other Apostles ever acknowledged Peter in that role except as their "pater familias" and certainly don't seem to have deferred to him in matters of teaching or practice!

Probably the single issue which causes more pain between the churches than any other is Rome's refusal to recognise any other communion. That is probably the first and most important issue Rome must address in the coming years. As a famous Roman once remarked - "United we stand. Divided we fall." If Christians cannot get around the same table at least some of the time, our faith will be relegated to the dustbins of history and our civilisation, founded upon Christian teaching, will vanish with it.