The Benediktenwand near Llengries in Bavaria

Saturday – another Groundhog Day. Every day since mid March the sun has shone, the wind has blown and the lockdown has continued. We seem to be getting our weather in multi-week chunks now. For six weeks in February and March we were battered by various storms rolling in from the Atlantic every three days. Trees were uprooted and fields were flooded and then along came Corona and the weather stopped. We are living in a slightly greener version of Southern California. I wish it would rain.

Due to this unseasonably long period of warm dry weather, the trees are going crazy. I know the birch trees are spreading pollen because I wake up sneezing every morning. I’m used to this – birch pollen ensure that for three weeks every year I have snotty hayfever symptoms. I take my tablets and use eyedrops so am able to deal reasonably well with it now. Before people knew that sneezing was not a Corona symptom I would get some funny looks but it’s otherwise no big deal. More irritating are the spruce trees that are having a bumper spring spreading their yellow pollen everywhere.

Every five or six years the spruces have a so-called “Mastjahr” (mast year) with a much higher pollen production than usual. I have lived through a few of these, and they are spectacular. In my younger days when the dust in my flat was thick enough to absorb the yellow pollen without me noticing, I thought it was quite cool. I specifically remember when I first encountered this phenomenon – it was during the spring of 1992. Back then I worked for a paraglider manufacturer and was working at a trade-show/flying-meeting in Bavaria when I saw the effects of the Mastjahr for the first time. After I’d done my shift on the stand I was allowed to go flying in the late afternoon. I took the chairlift to launch and took off into gentle rising air. My plan was to fly along to the end of a long ridge behind take-off and then return for a nice beer in the landing field. To make it along the ridge and back I would need to circle up in several thermals (warm currents of rising air). Normally there is a skill to finding thermals – you need to have a good understanding of micro-meteorology to guess where a thermal might be and use your powers of observation to look for clues such as circling birds or insects being pulled toward the lifting air. But on this day, no such skill was needed. Every few hundred metres you could see yellow pollen-filled columns of rising air. It was the easiest “cross-country” flight I’d ever done. The paragliding equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel. I loved it. I had a wonderful flight along the “Benediktenwand” (see pic).

Times have changed. I don’t find the yellow pollen so helpful any more. Being a middle-aged owner of a house with a patio and garden furniture takes all the fun out the pollen. It’s terrible this year –  which isn’t even an official Mastjahr! We were covered in spruce pollen two years ago so everyone thought we’d have another 5 or 6 year break until it happened again. But no, the dry spring has apparently upset the rhythm so here we are again. Everything is yellow. Cars really show it. I live in the middle of Mercedes territory and everybody cleans their cars religiously – except for now. There’s no point. As soon as you leave the car wash, a film of fresh pollen settles again. I am a poor car-washer and used to having a grubby vehicle so I take some comfort in knowing that the pollen is irritating the good burgers of Schönaich more than me.

Ariane had a day off yesterday and decided to spend it working in the garden. This involved a thorough cleaning of the garden furniture (which is black) which proved to have been futile after an hour of pollen bombardment. I did think of commenting, “Yellow is the new black” but seeing as I had no involvement in any of the cleaning I thought it better to keep a low profile.

The good news is that on Tuesday the high pressure system will collapse, and we are forecast to get a whole day of rain and possibly thunderstorms. I’m looking forward to this. I’m already dreaming of the air being cleansed and seeing little yellow streams transporting the horrible stuff away. No more hayfever, no more yellow car. Bliss.

Bis bald,



4 thoughts on “Yellow

  1. Alan

    Yellow – there’s you mentioning paragliders and me thinking parachutes, and also expecting some Coldplay reference 😉

  2. Rosita Whittall

    You write so well, Matthew – it’s as if I can hear you talking to me. Latest blog interesting and informative as usual, thanks so much.

    Fond mother xx

    Sent from my iPad



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