As mentioned in the previous post, we had a proper winter this year. It hung on for a long time and until a couple of weeks ago it seemed that spring would never arrive. No leaves on the trees, snow still lingering in shady spots, a freezing East wind and lots of grey sky. Then suddenly, summer arrived. We have skipped spring and were engulfed by a heat wave where temperatures rose into the high 20s and even threatened to touch 30 degrees in some areas.
Nature quickly decided that it had some catching up to do, and so there has been an explosion of blossoming flowers and trees everywhere you look. If you don’t suffer from hayfever the world looks wonderful. If you do, it still looks pretty good, but through streaming eyes which aren’t open very much because you are constantly sneezing. That’s been me for the past week. I am especially allergic to birch pollen, and normally have a miserable couple of weeks in spring which fortunately passes so I can enjoy the rest of summer.
This year, the birch trees and raps plants are blossoming at the same time and both produce a deep yellow pollen. At present, it is everywhere. Parked cars are quickly draped in a yellow film and after the occasional rain-shower all the gutters and puddle edges show mini pollen-drifts. Being able to see it makes things worse and there is probably a pschyosomatic element to my hayfever. It’s grim, anyway. Rain is forecast for tonight and temperatures are expected to drop so perhaps the birch trees will stop behaving like hormone-crazed teenagers and get themselves under control for a while. Until then, I resort to a combination of black coffee (seems to help), Lorano (drowsy-making small tablets) and eye drops.
During these few early summer days, Dad has been visiting – or “Opa” as he is known to my daughters. Noel was 80 last year and we had decided to buy him an e-bike to mark the occasion. This proved to be more difficult than expected as the online company in England that said they had just the model in stock that would suit perfectly, subsequently called to say that in fact they didn’t have it in stock. But they might be able to get one in six months time. Seeing as we’d already paid in full, this seemed a bit rich so we eventually got our money back and decided to shop for one in the old-fashioned way when Noel came to visit us in Germany.
People seem to use bikes more for just getting around in Germany than in England , so when e-bikes came along it was just a natural progression. Within a few minutes drive, there are four large shops each with hundreds of e-bikes to choose from. We soon found “the right one”, which was given a quick test ride round the car park before we paid up and Noel rode it back to our house. I had a quick ride on it later just to see what the fuss was about. They really have got it sorted. There are four power settings from “Eco” right up to “Turbo”. The motor is smart enough to know when you need more or less help by measuring the pressure you are putting on the pedals and above a certain speed (15 miles per hour) there is no help from the motor. The striking thing is how natural it all feels. When a hill approaches, you apply a little pressure to the pedals and the motor kicks in smoothly to help you up. It never feels unpredictable or uncoordinated.
Noel was delighted, and we were soon off on a quick tour between the fruit trees and through the woods. When electric bikes first came out, everyone thought it was something to help old people stay on two wheels. But recently I have noticed a new trend – some of my friends, some of them quite sporty, have “crossed the rubicon” and bought themselves e-bikes. One of them summed it up nicely: “I had a 4000 Euro mountain bike which sat in my garage making me feel guilty. On the few occasions I went out I never went far and came back completely knackered. Now I go three times the distance, and come back tired but can still walk. And what’s more I actually enjoy it. I’ve also started to use the bike to get around again. You can ride in normal clothes and not be covered in sweat after the first minor climb.”
I have a (not expensive) push bike and a motorbike in my garage, both of which get too little attention, so I won’t be buying an e-bike this summer. But I am sure that I also won’t be waiting until I am 80 to get one. I think e-bike adoption will go the way of “smartphones”. At first nobody could understand why you’d want more than a device with which to make a phone call or send a text. Now virtually everybody has one.
Of course, under normal circumstances I would have been out training hard on my pushbike during this early summer weather – but it’s the hayfever you know. Means I have stay inside and slob around on the sofa. Doctor’s orders.