Phew, what a month. Just over four weeks ago, I had returned from a peaceful holiday in the Lake District and was looking forward to another couple of days off before returning to work. The company was running well without me, as one employee politely but clearly pointed out, so I should enjoy some more time off before getting back in the saddle. On the second day off I met my successor at the company I had worked for between 1999 and 2014 for a “friendly chat”.
It turned out that a few key staff were leaving my old company and would I be interested in rejoining to help sort things out? To cut a long story short, I said yes. I also ended up agreeing to sell my own company during the process. Since the “friendly chat”, things have been very hectic. Lots of decisions to make, negotiations to complete and things to sign. I started officially last month. It was an extremely busy month, but I’m pleased with how it went.
So that’s why my blog disappeared there for a couple of months.
Back at home, things have also been hotting up. About a month ago our neighbour phoned up and asked if he could come over and get us to sign a petition. This sounded ominous. This particular neighbour, Herr Martin, is what they call here “sehr engagiert” (very engaged) when it comes to local politics and council affairs. My heart sank as I heard Ariane saying it would be no problem for him to come over.
It turns out that he didn’t want to create a protest group against the carpet-bombing of Aleppo – his concerns were closer to home. Our street is to be resurfaced over the next six months and the pavements will also be replaced. Because we have worked out that just tarmaccing everything leaves the rainwater nowhere to go except into the drainage system (which is already full because it’s raining) most of the pavements are being re-done with “Pflastersteine” – bricks. The gaps between the bricks and the fact that they are usually made with fairly porous material means that the rainwater drains off quickly and doesn’t clog up the drainage system.
For some reason, though, the council has decided that rather than the dull but practical bricks which are usually used, we will be getting a sort of cobblestone pavement with large spaces between the cobbles filled with fine stone-chips. They have already put some of this type of pavement down in the middle of the village. It looks nice and fits in with the old houses there. Unfortunately it’s not good for high heels or anything with wheels. It doesn’t make sense for our street to have these cobblestone pavements for a number of reasons – all of which are neatly listed on Herr Martin’s petition. The houses on our street were mostly built after 1960 – no need for olde worlde cobbles, they just look silly. The street is the main route for everyone to get to school or kindergarten. It is highly frequented by vehicles with small wheels (scooter, skateboard, pram, pushchair). The giant gaps between the stones are going to be treacherous, although if you push a pram quickly enough you will be getting a free shoulder massage. And then there are the stone-chips. The relentless sweeping / snow-clearing which is the national sport around here is going to be a nightmare. There will be no stone-chips left in the gaps after about half a year – they will all have been swept away and sitting nicely in a pipe somewhere clogging up the drainage system.
As you can tell, Herr Martin’s petition did convince me. Apparently it’s no more expensive to get the no-stone-chips, small-gap-between-stones pavement done instead – so why not? Well, why not indeed. In order for the decision to be re-considered we need to get 200 signatures. This is not a problem because as soon as you see the photo of what we’re supposed to be getting it’s obviously silly so people sign immediately. Herr Martin has enlisted the help of a few others and I expect the signatures to be gathered quickly. Then the “Gemeinde” (council) will reconsider. In order for them to change their decision they will be tacitly admitting that they didn’t make the best decision first time round. That is probably going to be much tougher. But hopefully the scales will fall from their eyes and they will see sense.
The stone chips did it for me. I can still remember the famous summer of 1976. It was so hot and dry that the water supply was turned off for a short time. We had to collect our water from a stand pipe at the bottom of the close. Unfortunately 1976 was also the summer that the local council chose to resurface our road. The technique they decided upon was to lay down a load of sticky tar and then chuck tonnes of stone chips on the the tar and after that… well, nothing. In no time the gutters were full of stone chips – great for kids. I remember sitting on the kerb scooping up handfuls of semi-tarred stone chips and, of course, throwing them at my friends. We must have come home every day with filthy dusty and tar-flecked clothes for our mums to wash. Except there was no water for washing. Happy days. Later in the summer we built a mountain of stone chips on the small grassy traffic island at the top of the close and would ride our bikes round in circles “one-handed” collecting or depositing the aforementioned stone chips. The grumpy old man (for every street has one) at the end of the road once came out shouting at us to stop because we were making a mess and also making him dizzy and it was like watching a “Whirly-Gig”. If he had really wanted us to stop, he would have been better off not introducing the word “Whirly-Gig” into our vocabulary. We probably stopped for a minute, before having a laugh and carrying on.
If we don’t do something in Schönaich about the impending stone-chip pavements I fear that I am going to end up being the grumpy old man on the street complaining about the mess. I really don’t want that to happen so I will gladly join the protest and sign the petition.
P.S. Update – Herr Martin was victorious. No stone chips for the Bahnhofstrasse.