Thursday, June 28, 2007

Enjoying the Arts

June 16 - July 1 is the Bucks Visual Arts event. Basically for these two weeks, many painters, potters, jewellers, photographers, etc etc from around Buckinghamshire open their studios up to the public. This is the 22nd year it's happened and apparently over 400 artists are involved. I think that's pretty impressive, getting 400 people to let the public wander around their work and creative space for 2 weeks for free. Even though Cookham isn't in Buckinghamshire, there are still a couple of artists who participate. It's a husband and wife team, Dennis and Juliette Palmer. She paints and he takes photos. They have a wonderful display of work out for you to see. They were very friendly and kind (washing off Lena's soother after she had dropped it outside) and quite happy to have us just come in for a look. They have been to some interesting places in pursuit of their art. I really enjoyed seeing the work and having a look around the place.

They are the only two artists who are located in Cookham, but there are a few others scattered about nearby, from Hurley to Marlow to Bourne End, plus many more throughout Bucks. If you have the opportunity this weekend, I really recommend you visit one or two of them. Because we can all do with a little more beauty in our lives. Want to know where the nearest studio is? Go to the Visual Images Group website:

Sunday, June 24, 2007

6 Months

We celebrated 6 months of parenthood this weekend. Champagne and homemade pizza for the dinner. I think in the future we might have a mid-year birthday party for Lena in June, as having your birthday 2 days before Christmas is tough to celebrate properly.

In honour of the occasion, I present a small selection of photos of the reason for the celebration, taken over the last 6 months.

And a fresh off the camera memory card today:

Friday, June 22, 2007

Short News

A few snippets of news in the life of us.

Lena is eating solid food, 3 meals a day now. Parsnip, carrot and potato is well-liked, as is zucchini. She is also quite adept at eating Italian breadsticks. I'll try and add a video over the weekend. At first it was tough to remember to actually feed her 3 times a day (to go from none to 3 times makes a big difference), but I've gotten used to it and she certainly doesn't let anyone forget now.

My allotment is coming along nicely. Except for any leaf crop - the slugs are winning the battle there. I tried to do some work to keep them down on Wednesday, but it's been pretty wet the last couple of days, so I don't know if there's anything left now.

Speaking of the weather, it has been wet this week. Although it's a shame really, I'm not complaining because it has eased my hay fever. I only ever get it in June, so hopefully it will tail off soon. I never had hay fever until I moved to Germany, so I would not be impressed if I find that I have more allergies moving to a new country again. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

And the final bit of news, I saw Queen Elizabeth up close and personal yesterday. Well, up close through bullet-proof glass of her Bentley. Her and her posse were leaving Windsor Castle, heading down to Ascot for Royal Ascot. It was a bit breezy and cool with showers yesterday (Ladies Day, by the way), but I'm sure she didn't get as chilly as we did on our visit. It was pretty nifty to see her, she drove down the Long Walk after our stroll along it. One thing I noticed in the brief pass as she went by is that she has lovely skin. Very nice porcelain grandmother cheeks. I hope all her grandkids appreciate them. And her of course.

And that's the week in brief.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Cookham Festival

We went down to the Cookham Festival yesterday. It was a fete put on by the Scouts. I thought it was nice, even though we went down really late so missed out in some of the entertainment and tombolas (raffles to you North Americans). We had a plate of lovely Piri Piri, a spicy chicken dish. It features heavily in the following video. It was followed up by some scones and washed down with beer, so we spread the wealth about.

What I find hard to believe is that some people in Cookham think that they shouldn't bother with all these little fairs and fetes. That they are overdone. Geez, two weekends with little local festivals and they too much. Hardly a legitimate complaint if you ask me. As I've always said, some people are happier being unhappy than happy.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Present and Past Times

It was a lovely weekend just gone and I found myself missing Munich on Saturday. One specific thing about Munich. Beergardens. Beergardens in Bavaria aren't like the ones here in England. In England, if a pub has an outside space that's not on the street, they call it a beergarden. That's not a beergarden in my opinion. A beergarden is a wonderful thing when properly done. It's an area usually shaded by chestnut trees. There are rows of beer tables set up and you just pick one that suits you. If it's busy, it's very normal to share a table. You go up to the counter and buy your drink. In Munich the usual offers of drinks would be regular beer (Helles), wheat beer (Weissbier), shandy (Radler-a bicyclist, to be precise) or a wheat beer shandy (Russ'n-a Russian, strangely enough). There are usually other drinks on offer, along with short list of non-alcoholic drinks, but those 4 drinks are the main ones you'll see in a beergarden. Now this next step is what I really like. You can then head to the next counter and get some food. Or you can skip this step and eat the food you brought yourself to the beergarden. Because in a proper beergarden, you are allowed to bring your own food, only the drinks have to be bought from the operators of the beergarden. This makes it a reasonable option for everyone for an afternoon or evening out. Families, pensioners, young adults and students can afford to spend the day there, not just people with a lot of disposable income. The beers are naturally not as cheap as you could get at the store, but considering that's all you have to buy and there's no one rushing you along to buy another, it's very easy to just buy one and sip slowly at it. Well, maybe not easy to sip, as it tastes so nice on a warm day. I'd love it if I could find something similar here in England, but I'm afraid it's unlikely.

As much as I miss beergardens, England has lovely bits to it too. On Sunday I had a pleasant experience that I never had living in Germany. I went to a school fete, or fair. It was the Cookham Rise School fair and I decided to go since it is literally only minutes away from our house. It was very busy, which wasn't surprising considering the weather. Of course in Germany they have fairs too, and I've been to many of them, especially in Pullach. But this one had more of a homey feeling to it. Most of the fairs in Germany have stands that seem to all be professionally run. Meaning the local restaurants put up a stand. Maybe the Scouts will have a stand, but that will be the only one that's not done by a business. But the school fair seemed to be all done on volunteer basis, to raise money for the school. There was a stand to buy hamburgers or hot dogs and another to buy drinks, all being run by parents and family as far as I could tell. They had a wheelbarrow race course, a chance to try and shoot a goal against some the Wycombe Wanderers (see here for my post about them), a 2nd hand toy sale, a 2nd hand stuff sale, a kids' raffle and an adults' raffle, a silent auction, facepainting, plus a few other things I can't remember exactly. A lot for just a few hours on a sunny Sunday. I didn't spend long there, but I could see how someone with school age kids certainly could! It was enjoyable and I hoped they raised a lot of money.

So although summer has brought a point that I miss in Munich, it seems there's other things to fill the gap here in Cookham.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Passports and Presents

We received some presents for our birthdays this week. C. gave me an allotment gardening book and G. got a shirt. We got a package from R. & T. which had a couple of CDs and a game - Trivial Pursuit. This is an updated version; Trivial Pursuit the 90s. I thought I would have done well on this but I was sadly mistaken. A lot of the questions were very UK-based and I had no chance to know the answers. For example "Which former Olympic swimmer became Gladiator Amazon?" The answer is Sharron Davies. Why do I have no chance of knowing this? One, because despite her being perhaps a household name in the UK, she's never won an Olympic medal, so I wouldn't know her because of her impressive medal count. Two, she was on Gladiators, a show that never was broadcast in Germany. At least not the British version. About half the questions are like that. Another quarter are guessable and another quarter you could know the answer to it, despite not having lived in the UK. So in the end we did get a winner. It was fortunately all colonials playing, so we were all at equal disadvantage. If we played with a Brit, they would clean the floor with us, I'm sure.

In other news, Lena's passport returned from the Home Office and she has been given a visa to remain here. Same length as ours, 5 years. After that, we could apply for permanent residency or for British citizenship. Since 2 April 2007, applicants are required "to show that they have sufficient knowledge of language and life in the UK in order to qualify for settlement". So I'll be keeping that Trivial Pursuit game close at hand in case it comes to taking that Life in the UK test...

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Feast Day

The weather has once again turned glorious and we enjoyed pancakes with maple syrup out on our patio this morning. We are also heading out for dinner somewhere tonight, but it's being left a surprise for me. Details another day perhaps. And here is a video of Lena feasting on butternut squash puree.

Enjoy your meals today.