An easy day for me today. The girls went off to a behind-the-scenes tour of Tarzan, the musical so I had the morning off and went out beneath ominous skies to play a bit of golf with my favourite scorer – myself. According to my scorecard I did quite well. It turns out that the behind-the-scenes tour was so good that the girls have decided to buy tickets to the afternoon showing. Ariane wisely predicted that the last place I want to be on a Sunday is in a musical so has just called to tell me I have a day off.
Men are bit like cats. We only need a short time to return to our instinctive feral ways. So rather than use all this unexpected time to make myself a proper meal I have been picking at stuff out of the fridge, had 3 cups of coffee, shut myself in the loo for a good read of the Sunday paper and finally had a bath. A bit of aimless wandering around upstairs in my underpants and a T-shirt was next on the agenda until I realised that Formula 1 is on so I can settle down for a sleep on the sofa shortly.
Before all this free time, I did get some excercise on the golf course. I drove to a fairly isolated course in Hechingen which is about 30 miles south of here at the edge of a hilly area they call the Schwäbisch Alb. The course is usually empty, fine by me, and is in a lovely spot just below one of Germany’s many castles. In this case it is the “Burg Hohenzollern” castle. You can just make out the castle on the right hand side of the picture above. There has been a castle there for over 1,000 years but the current version was built in the early 19th century and is a fine example of over-the-top neo-gothic pointiness. It’s exactly how a German castle should look. We once walked up there with the kids and it does look spectacular, but all I can remember is that you could buy ice-cream in the kiosk at the top. Considering it is such a spectacular building in a wonderful setting, you would think it would be a huge tourist attraction. There are visitors, of course, but it doesn’t seem to get that much publicity. Germany is full of spectacular-looking castles so you really have to have something special to compete.
While I was hacking my way around the golf course, the sun made a brief appearance and suddenly everything looked beautiful. We have had so much rain that the grass looks particularly lush as soon as a ray of sun hits it. The fairway looked so inviting that I managed to hit my ball right into the middle of it for a change. It’s a good job I did because just a few feet left of my landing spot was a small pond – also looking picturesque. As I walked past the pond I noticed that there was a life-ring on a post next to it. It really was a small pond and working on the assumption that people on a golf course can see, you would have to be really stupid to fall in. I expect there is some regulation saying that near every pond with a certain depth, you must put a life-ring. I can see it makes sense where kids might play but this seemed like overkill.
Usually, even though we love our rules here in Germany, there is a fair amount of common sense involved around health and safety regulations. In one of my first posts I wrote about the click-locks on petrol pump handles and the fact that you can buy alcohol at petrol stations everywhere. It’s up to you not to drink it when driving. I was once invited to visit the main forge at Mercedes and couldn’t believe how open everything was. The place was a fascinating mix of brand new technology (robots were doing most of the work) and very old industrial stuff (the oldest presses were from the 1920s). All around us were large open-topped metal containers into which the robots were dropping bits of recently forged red-hot metal. If I had felt the urge I could have reached in and burnt myself spectacularly. I didn’t feel the urge. The chap showing us around commented on the openness. Previously they had tried to close everything off and make it foolproof, but they found that they still had more incidents than their arch rival Toyota. So they visited Toyota and saw that the working environment was much more open, that the individual had more responsibility. A machine which might be completely caged-in with just a small access area for the operator would be more open – but there would be two footprints painted on the floor and a warning that this was the ONLY place you should stand. Apparently it worked and people took to it. I’ve seen similar psychology used in a car park in Stuttgart. Instead of lines which you should not touch if you have parked neatly, there are coloured rectangles which you should try to get all four wheels on. The quality of parking is better.
One thing I really don’t miss are “Fire Doors”. I stay in a lot of hotels in England and the one thing that strikes you immediately is… fire doors everywhere. Those double wooden doors with wire-reinforced glass and the signs “Fire Door keep closed at all times”. I suppose it’s because there is so much wood used in British building but how can it be that the rest of the world seems to survive without these irritating doors every thirty feet? What architectural super-trick have they discovered in Europe which stops their hotels burning down without having fire-doors? Perhaps we will never know.
So there you have it. The Germans are relaxed about fire doors, but if you fall into a pond while playing golf somebody will be able to throw you a life-ring. I’ve rambled myself into a corner and can’t think of a witty way to finish this post so…