Beach Days

September has been kind, apologising perhaps for the months that preceded her. We have managed to squeeze in a couple of truly glorious beach visits and even just a few hours on the sand, watching the water (or the kids flipping about in it) does wonders for the soul, doesn’t it. When we lived in Bavaria, and before that, when I was in Münster for eighteen months, I always felt slightly claustrophobic. The places I lived were truly lovely – have you seen Münster’s Prinzipalmarkt– aber trotzdem, I never could shake this feeling of being stuck. When it rained, or snowed, that darkness was entirely oppressive, unshakeable, inescapable.

When I moved home for six months in 2012, I went to the beach with my mum a week or so after landing. It was the middle of winter but the sun had shone every single day since I had arrived. (I remember counting fourteen days straight of blue skies and sunshine, in August, our winter, and wondering how I was going to go back to Germany.) We had some things to do up at a house my Nana used to own on a beach called Macmasters, one of my favourite spots in the world, and so we drove up on morning. I went down to the water while Mum did some things up at the house, and standing there, as the surf crashed and thrashed, I realised I had failed to identify one thing my life in Germany didn’t have; water. I knew I missed my family and friends, I knew the scarcity of work in our town had killed my sense of purpose. But I didn’t know how profoundly I had missed water. Lakes don’t cut it for me, as lovely as they are to visit when there isn’t any other option. I missed the coast, I missed that sense of utter openness, the width of the world spinning out from the shoreline.

It helped, then, very much that I was in love with a Kieler, and he missed the coast as desperately as I did. I don’t know what we would have done if his application to be moved back north hadn’t been granted. I do know my life in Germany is what it is because we are near water.

In my humble opinion, the best beaches are east of the city, backed by sweeping countryside. When we lived in the city, for a quick Ausflug, we usually hit the closer beaches. Smaller, more crowded, not as beautiful, but quicker to get to – plus there was the novelty of the cruise ships going out to Norway and Sweden, and passing weirdly close to the beachgoers bobbing out in the flat water. But it’s worth the longer drive because the beaches further out are truly something.

We stuck die Lüdde in the water at four months old. It was a hot summer up at Macmasters Beach and so began her love affair with water. Der Lüdde is as fearless as his sister; both of them could stay in the water for hours. Indeed, die Lüdde kept running away when it was time to go after an afternoon of swimming and ice cream last week, despite shivering and being suspiciously blue of lip. I think she knew she had to enjoy it while it lasted; beach days this summer haven’t been plentiful and we are beginning to, albeit slowly, hunker down for the cooler months. She won’t know herself in Oz over Christmas.

Let’s hope the slide into Autumn is a kind one. And please, not too much rain.

 

Autumn Lurking

There is an approaching postal vote in Australia (regarding marriage equality, because no, Australia hasn’t quite been able to gather its shit on that issue). I can’t vote in it, because despite being a citizen, I have not been a resident in Australia within the last three years. There is an approaching federal election here in Germany. I can’t vote in that one either, because despite being an employed, tax-paying resident of this country and raising two little Germans to boot, I am not a citizen. Ain’t life funny.

I thus find myself in a purgatory of sorts, but not one that doesn’t befit the ordinary state of things as an immigrant anyway. (We inhabit the in-between as a matter of course.) I have no say in what happens in my country of birth, nor my country of residence. I could, of course, apply to become a German citizen and relinquish my Aussie citizenship, thereby earning the right to partake of democratic processes here, but forever be a tourist in my own country. I haven’t quite unpicked that knot; perhaps I never will.

You know what else has been a purgatory of sorts? Summer 2017. Save for a few lovely, hot, sticky, sunny days (full of ice cream and sprinkler runs and barbecues) we have hovered somewhere between sort-of-cold and sort-of-warm since a rather lovely June. It has been wet and windy, occasionally humid, sometimes a bit hot, slightly stormy, quite often really, really rainy … but mostly not really anything at all. It’s like summer, real summer, just failed to get off the ground. Failure to launch. Summer, a season I so often associate with yellow and blue, has been, this year, very green and quite grey.

And now, now autumn has crept into our mornings, stealthily and possibly wearing a cloak so we don’t recognise her and wonder why the hell it’s 12 degrees on an August morning. It was foggy and cool this morning, and I felt the overwhelming desire to light a candle which I always want to do during colder weather (a coping mechanism that gets one through months of winter grey). The fog burnt off and we had ourselves a warm, sunny summer’s day and I thought, oh August, you sly old fox – hobbled as you are, you’ve still got a few tricks up your sleeve.

With a summer running out of tricks, and autumn lurking, I found myself writing a nesting to do list the other day. There is spring cleaning, there is autumn nesting. Autumn nesting ensures that, when winter comes, the kids’ jackets are big enough and stockings and boots fit. It ensures the cellar and shed are cleared out and the car is cleaned of its yoghurt smudges and sand. Red wine slowly replaces white, summer clothes that should fit this Christmas in Oz are stored, and anything der Lüdde has outgrown is put in a pile for other babies.

Semester starts soon, which means it’s back to work for me. And die Lüdde, well, she starts Kindergarten. My little girl. So it isn’t just the leaves that will change around here and, like I always am when change initially looms, I feel simultaneously resentful and excited, at once ready to jump in but also desperate to stall the march of time.

It seems, even in purgatory, there is progress.

 

 

Long Read: A Cup of Tea

I wrote this for a writing course on identity and social issues I took part in a couple of months ago. In the original, the names are printed in full. I changed that in publishing this piece. It’s long – you may want to get a cup of tea. 

***

They arrived a little before the wave. A brother had already moved to Kiel with his family, and had helped with their application. It would have been Spring 2015 when they arrived, taking up residence in the spare rooms of the Evangelische Kirche, which owned the apartment block behind it in which I lived. I remember speaking to the Hausmeister one cold afternoon, a tiny man from Bavaria who never stopped talking. He had asked the church if he could use those rooms for a refugee family; he had always wanted to do something good, and here was his chance.

They came with their young son and quickly, proudly, stuck an A4 piece of paper on their front door with all their names in huge, neat lettering. (Months later, a friend of mine would refer to that sign as the sign with the ‘strange names on it’ with no malice to her words. But still, the word ‘strange’ caught me by surprise.) Every morning, the father, A, would walk outside and stand on the front pavement, looking around, his hands in his pockets and shoulders raised against the chill. He always smiled, he always said hello, he always seemed to be taking in the world around him. In the afternoons, he would stand and watch his son cycle the length of the street and back, over and over again. I would learn later, that it was a form of therapy for the boy, who walked with a severe limp. On the bike, though, there was no sign of the limp and he looked as free as any other child who cycled their bikes up and down the pavement, on the way to school or the playground. As the weather warmed in the Baltic sea city they now called home, the family would sit outside in the small, hedged-in courtyard, smiling and waving at passers-by. Our upstairs neighbours, a Pakistani family whose children had been born in Germany, sent their young son with his Syrian friend to have a cup of tea and make them feel welcome, just like they had shown up at our door when we had first arrived, with gifts for our new baby. As summer ended, the family downstairs began a German course, a requirement if they were ever going to find work. Their son, a quiet, polite boy, started at a special needs school. The bus picked him up in the morning, right outside their front door, and dropped him home every afternoon.

It was early Autumn, a few months after they had arrived, when I noticed she was pregnant. I was too, and one afternoon we met in passing outside their front door and gesticulated at our growing bellies. She didn’t speak German, nor English, and I hadn’t a word of Kurdish in my arsenal, but judging by our roundness we were due around the same time. She asked me in for tea, but I didn’t have time and I promised I would drop in soon. Her name was H.

The wave came that Autumn as the world’s walls collapsed and hundreds of thousands of desperate people streamed into Europe. The boats were relentless, humans washing up on Greek shores, children face down in the sand. The Greeks were going out in their boats and hauling people to safety, taking food from their kitchens and passing it out to the shell-shocked people squatting on beaches. It seemed their islands would sink with the weight of the world. People marched across countries, undeterred by fences, the promise of a quieter, more fruitful life pushing them north. Germany’s Chancellor opened the doors to her country. Wir schaffen das, she said, all too aware the last time humanity had moved in such numbers, was as a result of a war her country started. It startled her country, this flinging open the doors to their homes without warning, but Germans gathered at train stations to applaud the newcomers, the streams of relieved, exhausted, bewildered faces. Posters appeared in the windows of Kiel, ‘Refugees Welcome’ and the Willkommenskultur was named word of the year. It was chaos. Government offices were overrun, overworked, understaffed. Deutsch als Fremdsprache courses were full, backlogged, the Foreigner’s Office could only offer appointments months in advance. My own visa came up for renewal in the midst of it all, and I was granted a thirty second appointment in which we organised a piece of paper indicating my status as a working resident so I could leave the country and return legally; there was no time to organise my new visa properly. Germans were in turn proud, determined, frustrated and scared that their leader had bitten off more than she could chew. More than they could afford. Europe was already shaky; there was the issue of Greece, there were terror attacks, there was the slow and steady ascent of right wing politics. Nevertheless, we watched from the comfort of our warm apartment, my belly growing and my toddler safe and fed, as shipping container villages sprung up to house the refugees, and old buildings were repurposed, as the promise of a cold winter nipped at everyone’s ankles. I will never forget that Autumn. I will never forget the feeling of being part of a country able to dig in, roll up their sleeves and offer hundreds of thousands of weary human beings a safe place to rest their head. There were clothing drives and food drives and book drives. There was doubt and hatred and misunderstanding and fear. But there was also a tremendous amount of heart.

Winter came and it was cold. I could still zip my own winter coat over my belly, and we wrapped ourselves in scarves and jumpers and counted down to flying away from the depressing drizzle of Europe in January. After Christmas, during which my daughter was showered with gifts, her Oma and Uroma offering to buy her next pair of winter boots, we flew to Asia leaving behind the wet, icy days and the close to a million people unprepared for them. Before we left, I collected bags of children’s clothes, raincoats and jumpers – my daughter had, from birth, been given so many clothes, some she only wore once. She had four raincoats. She had gift cards for shoes, waiting to be spent. I gave the clothes to a clothing drive organised by a student of mine.

I didn’t have time for that cup of tea with H for a long time. Life with an 18-month-old, a young marriage, part-time work and keeping up some semblance of a social life – it was busy. We’d wave at each other in passing, as I pushed my toddler past her kitchen window, en route to music class or playgroup, or ran for the bus to get to work on time. She got bigger, I got bigger, a pram appeared outside their front door and A began locking the gates every evening to keep it safe. I would see her cleaning the church windows in the afternoon, or welcoming her son home from school, standing in the front door wearing Hausschuhe but I rarely saw her outside. In the meantime, her husband had taken to exchanging some commentary on the weather with me, when I passed him in the morning. ‘Kalt,’ he would say, rubbing his arms, or I would roll my eyes and point at another rain-filled sky. We both came from warm countries; this port city with its cold, grey winters and brisk, crisp springs would always be too cold.

My son was born in the late Spring, at the end of a gloriously, unseasonably warm May. He was late, but came quickly, and as it always does when a new baby arrives, our world shrunk to include just the four of us. Five days later, H and A’s son was born. I knew this only because my midwife, who came to check on me daily during the first ten days after my son was born, had also been enlisted downstairs.

My midwife was small and sprite, always immaculately dressed. She drove a glossy red Mini Cooper and came to us fresh from a holiday down in Switerzland. Although she could speak English, she chose to speak German with me, an unspoken signal she wasn’t going to cater to my foreign whim, and that I was perfectly capable of conversing auf Deutsch. Germans are like that. She would gossip with me a little, about clients, even about colleagues. I had delivered two babies, now, at the hospital she worked at and we would tell me bits and pieces about staff I was familiar with. Nachsorge, after care, is something trained midwives do as a side job, on top of their regular work delivering babies at the hospital. All women who give birth in Germany are entitled to daily Nachsorge house calls for ten days after the birth, paid for by their health insurance. My midwife’s English skills meant many of the mothers she did Nachsorge with were foreign. There was the young mother whose own overbearing mother was getting in the way of her milk coming in. My midwife would shake her head crossly as she cradled my son and checked his belly button, telling me of the mother’s insistence her daughter bottle feed. ‘You have to keep the baby at the breast, otherwise the milk won’t come’, she would say, or, ‘stress can stop the milk, but they won’t listen to me.’ There were stories here and there of her time living in Florida, or tidbits from the staff at the hospital in which I had given birth. And there was H.

‘I am working with your neighbour,’ my midwife told me one day, deftly weighing my tiny son and making notes on a chart. ‘The lady from Syria downstairs. She is doing well, but it is her third, so she knows what she is doing.’

‘Her third?’ I had only ever seen the son.

My midwife looked at me, her bird-like eyes bright. ‘They had a daughter, she died in the war. She was asleep in her room when their apartment was bombed. They all survived, but she didn’t.’

We’d meet on the street after that, H, A and I, crossing paths as summer took off. I’d wave at her through her kitchen window, or as I passed her pegging washing in the small courtyard.  We compared babies and checked in on each other, using the handful of German words she had learnt from a class she’d had to drop once the baby was born, and from her husband who was still studying, or her son who had picked up German in that effortless way children acquire languages. Her baby, R, was tiny and always well swaddled. She’d cluck over the courtyard fence when she’d see my son without a hat, or outside when it was too cold. I realised, one day, that she rarely went outside because she was always too cold. Once, I saw her preparing to take R for a walk in the pram. It was around 14 degrees, I was considering taking my jacket off. She was wearing a winter parka and a beanie and didn’t look at all pleased with the notion of being outside. She must have thought I was mad, whenever she saw me pushing both kids through the winter sleet to playgroup.

When the babies were nine months old, I ducked downstairs one afternoon for that cup of tea. It was blustery and cold and I left my husband with our daughter so I only had to bring the baby. I was welcomed at the door and given slippers, something I had grown accustomed to after years in Germany. Ad gave me a tour of the rooms; the kitchen, their bedroom, their son’s room, the bathroom and the living room. The long living room with its linoleum floor had three mismatched sofas forming a U around the coffee table at one end, and a TV sitting on a pine TV bank at the other end. Their older son was still at school. R was rolling around in a walker someone had given them. Their daughter smiled from a framed picture.

H had brewed tea and there were bready, chocolately German treats, Nutella stuffed croissants in individual wrappers. She apologised for her German as she poured tea, and A took his seat and pulled a small desk towards him. On it, was his German homework. He read it out to me asking for my help with pronunciation. I assured him my German was sub-par, but helped him where I could. A had been going to German class daily since arriving. He needed his B1 certificate before he could look for work. Fifteen months of a daily German course had not yet yielded a B1 certificate. He wanted to work, anywhere, he could have worked, he should have worked, it would have helped him learn, helped him grow a social network – but without his language certificate, he was stuck. So he kept going to class, kept doing his homework, kept watching his son cycle up and down the street, kept engaging passers-by in conversation to practice his vocabulary. He had a funny habit of hitting his forearm when he couldn’t remember words. We muddled through, tripping over grammar, making countless mistakes, but we got the gist of it. Germany was wonderful, German was hard, the weather could be better. But look at what they had, look at what they had been given. All I could think of, was look at what they had lost.

He was a lab assistant in Syria, and H was a teacher. They had a daughter and a son and an apartment. They had family, an education that meant something in a system they knew. They were part of a world and a language they understood. I had left my family and the world and language I understood, willingly, for that luxurious thing called adventure. They had left to escape the bombs that had killed their child, taken their apartment, and rendered their education null and void. Of course, they were good refugees. Educated and grateful, like they all should be. I see the bad refugees, too, the sullen men who hang around at the bus stops, resentful and frustrated. You hear about the bad refugees, the ones who follow women, who harass women, who assault women. The ones who bring plans of fresh terror. But A and H and their boys, they were quiet and beautifully behaved. They went to class and did their homework.

We moved before I could get down there for tea again. We found a little house with a little garden, a place to raise the kids that was safe and green and quiet. As I packed up our apartment, I put aside toys for R, and found a German textbook I no longer needed, for H. I gave the textbook to A one afternoon and he thought I was just showing it to him and tried to give it back. The day we drove the moving truck from our city apartment to our new village home, I put the toys on their front doorstep. No one was home, and I didn’t have a pen or paper with me, so I simply left them on the doormat and hoped they might know who they were from.

R would have turned one last month, like my son. He is ein Deutsches Kind. They have been in Germany now for just over two years. There are still some signs in people’s windows but the shipping container villages have gone, and Germany is wading through the long process of settling hundreds of thousands of foreigners. The language courses are still booked solid, but the government offices have quietened a little. There is still doubt and fear and people setting fire to buildings. There has been fresh terror from people who hid amongst those simply looking to live. It is still muddy and messy and exhausting and the world has shifted shape. Aber wir schaffen das. A and H may never speak perfect German, but their son will. They will fold into their generation of Germans, along with my children, and they will tell their stories and remember their daughter, and we will all talk about the horrors of war and how it must never happen again.

And one day, humanity will move again; it always does, the world endlessly shapeshifting.

 

Pubs, Rambles & Rain

I swapped the north of Germany for the north of England last week, in a trip that was the first time I got on a plane by myself in … years? I spent the first half of my twenties travelling by myself or with girlfriends, the second half with my now husband, and the first couple of years of my thirties will go down as those spent studying the worst ages to take a child on a plane (my pick: 18 months, what a shocker). It was rather bizarre to sit in the departure lounge with a mediocre white wine and absolutely nothing to watch or wipe or feed or change or warn or, really, do.

The trip that ultimately led to my moving to Europe after my studies was a round-the-world-backpacking-without-a-backpack situation, with two of my oldest, dearest friends. I still, every now and then, as I go about my days inhabiting and travelling around this part of the world, get jolted by memories of that trip, prodded to the foreground of my conscience by a scent or a particular coloured light. Especially the light. It’s different up here, warmer in autumn, duller in winter, whiter in spring.

It was then, I suppose, rather fitting that the first solo trip I have taken in a while, was one to attend the wedding of my backpacking-without-a-backpack buddy, as a bridesmaid alongside the third point of our travelling trio. I left the kids at home – for the first time since having them, oh the emotions – and hopped a bus to Hamburg, a (delayed) plane to Manchester, a train to Sheffield and a small Ford Focus (driven by one friend, directed by another, and filled with the voices of three friends catching up after a few years apart) to a village in the middle of a very beautiful nowhere.

When one is in storybook England, one must partake of such things like rambles and high teas and pub lunches. We only had a few days, but we gave it our best shot and probably spent around 50% of our time in the pub across the road from our B&B. Indeed, there was a very long pub lunch that slid seamlessly into a pub dinner, all of it washed down by bottle after bottle of Pinot Noir. But it was necessary – how else does one write a bridesmaid speech?

It was only periodically sunny and cool enough to have the Aussies in boots and leggings. The only comfort I drew from such bleak end-of-July weather was the fact that clearly this summer has been a bust for other parts of central Europe. The nice thing, I suppose, about this part of the world is how everything seems to suit the rain. The old trees and houses, the corner pubs, the wildflower and green gardens, they look as pretty in the drizzle as they do the sunshine. And it’s not like one ever really leaves the pub anyway – you can go from the morning pot of tea to your evening pint (or generous pour of wine) without ever actually moving.

Back home, the kids seem bigger, the garden greener from its summer of rain and I’m off the prosecco and Pinot Noir for a while. The next trip will be out to Oz with both kids during which  I shall look back on my glass of mediocre wine in the departure lounge and laugh hysterically.

Gardening + Growing

Driving home today, from yet another trip to Ikea, this one sponsored by the need for terracotta pots and to give a bad-tempered child a change of scenery (as opposed to the need for any of the three million tiny things you never knew you didn’t have until you moved) I pulled over to take these photos:

Aren’t the colours just extraordinary?

And just the other night, the sky looked like this:

Days are, at the moment, full. Full of growing kids and marking exams during naptime and small house renovations and plotting novels in the shower, novels that probably won’t be written for a few years yet, because I am not one of those people who can burn the midnight oil anymore. (My darling son burnt all of the midnight oil I had in the tank, after refusing to sleep through the night for the first year of his life. I’m in the process of drilling for more.) They race and plod by and they are, of course, extraordinarily colourful. Even on those interminably long, rainy, grey days, there is colour.

As I lurch into adulthood here in Germany, I am finding I spend an inordinate amount of time at either the Baumarkt or the garden centre. Our garden is a work in progress, with things the previous owners planted, popping up here and there, often utterly foreign to my non-European eye. Oh and having to consider genuine seasons, the first frost, Winterhart, immergrün, pulling up and replanting each spring, buying annuals just for the short burst of colour they bring; my garden, like my gardening knowledge, like my adulthood in Germany, is a work in progress.

I bought dahlias today, and gardenias yesterday, the latter because the smell reminds me of summer days at my Pa’s house, the former because they were pretty and colourful and half price and I guess I may as well see what they look like in a patchy part of the garden bed. Three gentlana scabra blau joined the dahlias, because I googled them in the garden centre and they look beautiful in bloom and blue is always good. I have no idea what I am doing, but we’re learning.

July has been cool and rainy, with a few humid sunny days here and there. Now, when it rains, I say things like, ‘oh well, at least it’ll be good for the garden’ and realise how much I sound like my mother, herself a genuine gardener. Her first job upon visiting last month was to tell us how to get rid of this awful floor cover, and consult on an immergrün fence solution, and prune the apple sapling and convince my husband to leave the plum tree.

Another part of the lurch into adulthood seems to involve a sudden , keen interest in window shopping for furniture. We drove out to an antique/furniture/garden shop/cafe wonderland the other day, to get some fresh air after a day of relentless rain that had meant being cooped up all day along with the racket of the attic renovations. On the drive over, through little villages and past old farmhouses and paddocks of drowsy cows, we passed a beautiful old house with a wildly green and colourful summer garden, and a large pig quite in amidst all the blooms. What a dream; a big, blooming garden and a pig.

We traipsed through looking at stupidly expensive pieces, considered an old restored school table. Die Lüdde went looking for snails and cows and I poked my head into the garden shop that was alive with roses and Löwenmaul. God, now that I think about it, the whole afternoon felt like something my parents used to do when I was small; the horror of realising how cyclical life is!

And so the days, they race and plod by, the kids getting bigger (much, much too quickly) and the days getting shorter.  And we wait; for a hot and sunny August, for the gardenias to bloom, the grass to fill in around the newly planted pear tree. And as the garden grows, as my children grow, as much as I do not realise it, caught up in the everyday, so do I.

 

 

 

Sunday Ausflug: Strawberry Picking

When, a couple of weekends ago, Sunday delivered 26 warm and sunny degrees, we headed north-west to a farm in a village on the other side of the Nord-Ostsee Kanal. It is strawberry season up here, a season vastly preferred to the one that precedes it – Spargelzeit – and one that means summer with all of its strawberry cake and Erdbeerbowlen is here. (The thing is, the weather up here throughout May and June is so temperamental and indecisive, that sometimes you need to look to markers other than the sky to assure you of seasons.)

Strawberries at this time of year are the reddest, fattest, juiciest things, often times the size of golfballs. They are so ruby ripe you have to eat them within a day or two of picking or purchasing, otherwise they turn. This is not a problem for my son, who would eat 1kg in one sitting if I let him (his sister is more the raspberry type).

We went a bit rogue at the strawberry patch and began (unintentionally) picking in an area not yet open, which meant for a few blessed moments we had access to vast bunches of untouched berries. But even once we joined the hoi polloi and continued picking, there was an absolute glut. The toddler picked and ate, the baby just ate, and we took over half a kilo home with us (which, frankly, could have easily been a kilo but we practiced restraint).

Strawberry season has still got a few good weeks in it, so I have a feeling we’ll be back among the rows soon. And when we have gorged enough, it will be time for cherries, then raspberries and blueberries. Ah, summer, I do love you.

 

 

 

 

Landeier

One of the many, varied perks of the parents being in town, is being able to leave the house without a child. It is a luxurious feeling indeed, to sit in a French cafe/boulangerie with a vat of coffee in front of me and not one little chubby hand in sight. The number of things I could do, uninterrupted, is intoxicating, the chances of me surfing aimlessly until playgroup pick-up high. But for now the coffee is hot, the music cinematically Frenchy and the quiet lovely, so I shall fill you in on what we have been upto.

May brought the warmth with it, finally, ending a long, slow crawl towards tee-shirt weather. Even though my parents find the evenings too chilly and my Mum takes her windcheater everywhere with her, while the Germans – and I – wear short pants and sleeves. The roses are out, the beaches are full, life has, as it always does this time of year, migrated outside.

Now that we have moved out of the city, and into a more rural setting I see more thatched roofs than I do glimpses of the fjord, more blindingly yellow Rapsfelder than stately Altbau apartment buildings. The kids are outside all day everyday, their hair whitening in the late-spring sun. Whereas my parents’ previous visits have been punctuated by walks to the water, or drinks at the schickimicki Seebar, this time round we are seeing more of the north German countryside, in all of its green, ever so gently rolling glory. We have taken a couple of drives, and go for daily walks around our new village, seeking inspiration for the garden. Everything is in full, heavy bloom – the bees are pollen-drunk and the garden centre we braved on the long weekend was teeming with people desperate to plant their annuals and get maximum blossom enjoyment during the warmer weather.

We took Mum and Dad to the Freilichtmuseum and almost had the 40 hectares to ourselves. Die Lüdde picked tiny daises to try and feed the goats, rode the carousel, and we all hopped a ride on the train. Last time we were there, it was for the splendid Herbstmarkt and everything was red and golden and cosy, the air smoky and cool. This time it was warm and cloudless, the sky blue and sunny. One could even say the sky was a cornflower blue, and as naff as that sounds, it is somewhat fitting given Germany’s national flower is a cornflower. Did you know that?

We went back to our favourite animal park, the wonderful Arche Warder. Der Lüdde reminded me how new everything is to his one-year-old eyes, and how much more he is taking in as the days swish past in the blink of an eye. I forget sometimes, to be honest, how quickly the world is opening up to him, concentrating more ofteen on the experience of the older, verbal child.

We’re in for rainy weather which will probably last all the way until the end of Kieler Woche. But that’s okay; it’ll be good for the garden.