I enjoyed myself yesterday. The weather was very hot again, but as usual this year the next cold front was forecast and thunderstorms were expected in the night. It had become so hot and sticky that everyone was quite looking forward to the next cool-down. But first thing in the morning the weather was perfect. For a change I didn’t walk to the bakers but decided to take my bike. I have discovered a new secret pleasure… cycling without a helmet.
On my little ride yesterday I was thinking about the risky things we used to get up to as kids. I can remember one particular weekend when I cycled with my brother and a friend, Rob Muirhead (now a respectable dentist) the five miles from Rawdon to Reva Reservoir along busy main roads with no helmets – they didn’t exist back then. You could rent sailing dinghys at Reva reservoir so we lied about being able to sail and were soon whizzing across the windy reservoir in a boat we couldn’t really control. It didn’t last long, though as after a few beats we capsized. An angry overseer fished us out and helped right the boat. We cycled home and no doubt had a good laugh about it. This will have been around 1980 before health and safety had been invented.
And so, my three minute cycle ride at six in the morning wearing no helmet and only flip-flops on my feet took my body to Bäckerei Schimpf, but my mind to the careless summers of youth. We don’t want to set a bad example for the kids and I feel a lot happier knowing they are wearing helmets but a cool morning breeze brushing over my bald pate is a good way to start the day. And anyway they were still asleep at that time of the morning.
We are starting to see a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, and the pressures of work have eased just a little. This meant that Ariane and I both felt like relaxing a little yesterday evening and attended the annual Schlemmen am See event in Böblingen. Once a year, the local restaurants set up tents and open-air eating areas around the small lake in Böblingen. There is live music and of course the usual mobile bars serving excellent cold beer. I can’t think of a good one-word translation for “Schlemmern” but the event more or less means “enjoying good food by the lake”. And that’s exactly what we did.
It runs from Wednesday to Sunday with three separate stages for live music and about 50 different tents serving food and drink. It was pleasantly busy yesterday evening – you could get a seat if you were patient but it wasn’t so full that you had to wait ages to get served.
Some of the colleagues from work came along so we had enough people to fill up a Biertisch. It was so hot when we arrived that I was really, really, really looking forward to that first Pils. I offered to get a round in for my companions and I was the only one having beer and it arrived first. The rest of my group from work were all female and there was a fair degree of dithering before they were able to choose a drink and even more time until they all arrived. If I had been back in England I would have already half-emptied the beer but in Germany it is important to always wait until everyone has their drinks and never to sneak a sip before everyone has clinked glasses and said “Prost”. Clinking glasses has to be done properly too. This means that you must gently tap your glass against the glass of everyone else at the table – and look them in the eyes at the same time. There were six of us there so that means 30* separate glass clinks until everyone is ready to drink. By that time I was so thirsty that I did a high-speed multi-glass clink with the briefest of glances at everyone around the table and finally got to my drink. It was just what the doctor ordered. And because I take the doctor’s orders seriously, I had a few more before the evening was done.
After the first round of drinks, Ariane joined us with our kids in tow and we sat down under some trees a sensible distance from one of the stages where a pretty decent cover band kept us entertained. The singer, Kristin with a K as she calls herself, is the mother of my daughter’s best friend so we felt a bit special because we knew someone on stage. The girls from work got along well with our girls, the music was decent and the food was fine. It was just a very pleasant evening. The Germans do this sort of thing really well and I thought how some of my friends back in England would have enjoyed it.
After a while our girls started flagging so we decided we would watch the fireworks and then head home. It was still a lovely warm evening and we enjoyed the show. We were on our way home at 11pm but the party was still going strong. I took a picture for you just before we got the the car…
* in case you were wondering how I arrived at this number: each of the six people clinks glasses with five others (you can’t clink your own glass with yourself). 6 x 5 = 30