Sunflowers and cucumbers

I have a sunflower at last! One of the flowers opened up in the rain today. It was one of the smaller, sickly-looking plants so I was not expecting to get a flower out of it at all but here it is with a bee hard at work. It’s lovely.

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We also picked our first cucumber today. I’ve never grown cucumbers before but it was surprisingly easy. I couldn’t think of how to take a selfie with this cucumber without people getting the wrong idea – maybe it’s just me but cucumbers look like giant penises. So I added a spoon to the photo instead.

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And then we chopped it up and ate it!

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Harald: my Butchers and Bicycles MK1

I got Busby back about a month ago now but I have been continuing to ride Harald on a daily basis. I think this is probably an endorsement for Harald. He does have some shortcomings but I can’t think what other bike I’d rather ride. Even if I had all the money in the world I’d probably still choose Harald. The main reason is he fits my 9 and 6 year old so comfortably. Most other cargo bikes are designed for toddlers. He’s also light and wonderful to manoeuvre.

In case you’re wondering Harald is my Butchers and Bicycles MK1 whereas Busby is my very old Bakfiets.

Harald has a wonderful lockable compartment which I have become attached to. I put my Hövding in it so I don’t have to carry it around and sometimes also my coat.

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There’s also plenty of headroom for the kids.

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The rain cover is really well designed and is easy for the kids to zip up and unzip when they’re inside. This is important because it means I don’t have to stop when I hear the inevitable, “Mum, it’s hot” or “Mum, I’m cold”.

The downside of Harald is that it’s really hard to deploy the stand when the kids are inside. When the bike is empty it’s easy. But with the kids inside I’ve given up now and I stay seated and wait for them to climb out. If they climb out when I’m not on the seat the bike will tip forwards. It’s a design flaw.

The bike must have been designed by a man because it comes with the most uncomfortable seat. This was easy to fix with a jelly cushion.

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I also wrap the heavy chain around the seat post to provide a bit more stability by distributing some of the weight on the back.

I’ve had a couple of people ask me how I find it without the electric assist. No-one ever asked me the same question about Busby and Busby was 10kg heavier. Why not?

I don’t regret my decision to go without electric assist. It is hard work cycling uphill but that’s part of the reason I cycle: it’s good exercise and keeps my legs toned. It’s not supposed to be easy. People pay thousands of dollars in gym memberships to go and sit on a stationary bicycle and then they spend hours of their life sitting in a car. I don’t have to go to the gym or pay for a gym membership because I get the same workout going to the shops. It’s very efficient and doesn’t cost anything. It’s also fun. However I totally understand why people might want the electric assist especially if they live somewhere very hilly and/or commute over great distances. But I haven’t found a need for it. My legs are all the electric assist I need.

Harald has more WOW power than Busby in terms of the response I get from people when I’m cycling around. Kids in particular are completely in awe. I used to get this with Busby too but it has increased exponentially with Harald and I’m lapping it up:)

Tall things

I took this photo in Aberdeen this evening. Check out the ladder! Is someone really going to climb all the way up there? It’s also not just one ladder but several all tied together. What are they thinking??!!

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One of my sunflowers is so huge now. It just keeps growing taller and taller and there’s still no flower. Am I ever going to see a flower or is it just going to keep growing up and up and up?

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Countesswells Woods and a strange dream

I have just been to the best children’s party I’ve ever attended. Ok, so maybe that’s not saying much: children’s parties aren’t exactly known for their entertainment value to adults. But this was different and I can honestly say it was an enjoyable and even relaxing experience. The words “Children’s party” and “relaxing” don’t usually go together in the same sentence but in this case it was true.

It was a birthday party for one of Elizabeth’s friends and was held in Countesswells Woods which is on the outskirts of Aberdeen. It was run by a group called OWLS – Outdoor Woodland Learning School – and they got the children building dens, gathering twigs for the fire, and toasting marshmallows.

Countesswells Woods was so beautiful. I’ve never seen such enormous beech trees and the forest floor is a carpet of ferns.

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The children loved building dens. Here’s Elizabeth’s:

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They made their own pizzas and cooked them under the fire.

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And toasted marshmallows.

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I had a strange dream last night. I dreamt about a dress I saw on the web some months ago and liked but haven’t thought about since. For some reason it turned up in my dream and I woke up feeling certain that I had to buy it. Unfortunately the shop had sold out of all sizes except size 14 which is too big for me. I ended up buying it anyway and will get a dressmaker to resize it. Is that madness or what?

Back in civilisation

We’re back in Aberdeen after a lovely break in the Cairngorms. The wifi at the place we stayed was so bad that I didn’t write very much on my blog while we were there. I couldn’t even load the site on my laptop. However I was able to publish photos using the app on my phone. I’m too impatient for one-fingered typing so it was photos only but it’s such a beautiful place that sometimes words aren’t necessary.

The first thing I did when we got back was cycle in the pouring rain to Newton Dee. It’s not more than 15°C today and I was in one of my sleeveless Nuu-Muu dresses and a pair of gum boots – I must have looked a sight – and completely drenched when I got back but I loved every second of it. I had the biggest smile on my face the entire time and I wasn’t cold at all. I love this climate.

Here are some photos from the last two days. I love old bridges and this one is one of my favourites. It’s Victoria Bridge and it crosses the River Dee over to Mar Lodge.

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Pulling faces at the Linn 0f Quoich.

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Braemar Castle.

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Ben tried on a tweed jacket at a shop in Braemar. When you become a professor you’re supposed to wear tweed. It was £250 so we didn’t buy it. In any case a professor’s tweed jacket should look a bit scruffy and worn with patches on the elbows. This one looks too nice.

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Ben’s mother and her partner are visiting us and we took them to Tomnaverie Stone Circle. Humans placed these large rocks here more than 4000 years ago. I find that fascinating. No-one really knows what purpose they served but one theory is that they were used by farmers to track the seasons.

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Harald has been Wapuued

I finally did it! I plastered Wapuu stickers all over Harald. These are the Wapuus of Europe.

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I also took another selfie of my sunflower which is now taller than I am. Five days ago it was about up to my eyes (pic here). Now it’s over my head. I’ve discovered there’s a downside to having a new camera with a really good resolution: it shows all the wrinkles, damnit!

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A poppy from the garden.

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Ben has been awarded a chair

There has been some good news this past week, despite all my misery over the trees. Last week Ben was promoted to professor of pure mathematics. In the UK this means he now has a chair. I have no idea why they call it a chair but when Elizabeth was explaining it to Daniel she said, “It means he’s reached the highest level in the game” and Daniel immediately understood. In the UK, Australia, and New Zealand it goes lecturer, senior lecturer, reader, professor. There’s also sometimes two grades of senior lecturer, depending on the university. Congratulations to Ben. It’s definitely well-deserved.

In other good news I finally got a new iPhone. My old iPhone 4S is nearly four years old and I dropped it in Vienna and smashed the screen. I had hoped to get it to four years but almost four years is still pretty good. I’ll probably replace the screen and keep the phone for posterity but I now have a shiny new iPhone SE which I got to try today at Newton Dee. I think the photos are much better than my old one. What do you think?

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I’m thinking of plastering Wapuu stickers all over my bike. Is that a good idea or not?

 

Depraved local authorities and Brexit

My chalk protest message on the street washed away with the rain yesterday. So I wrote it again last night and again this morning and I’ll continue writing it over and over again until all my anger and grief is gone. Or until I run out of chalk.

I didn’t think they would really do it. Why? Because it’s a decision which makes no sense to me and no reasonable person would destroy a tree-lined street unless the trees were dying. Why was the suggestion even tabled in the first place? Local authorities are supposed to protect our urban trees, not destroy them. It’s not my duty to protect trees from the local authority.

I have lived in lots of cities around the world and never before have I seen such blatant disregard for the local environment and such wanton waste of public money by a local council. I had heard rumours about the Aberdeen City Council and now I witness the depth of their depravity for myself.

Am I less angry today? Maybe a little.

I haven’t mentioned Brexit yet but it has been on my mind a great deal. Ben and I both voted to remain in the EU like the majority of people living in Scotland. It wasn’t an easy decision for me at first and I did consider voting leave. My main concern about the EU is the 40% of the budget that is handed over to land owners. This is what is known as CAP – Common Agricultural Policy. It is for this reason that forests across Romania are being cleared; the land owners have realised they can get paid just for clearing the land. They don’t need to grow any food or raise any animals on it. All they need to do is destroy the forests and drive away the wildlife. However it’s impossible to have any say in this and try to change it for the better if we’re not in the EU. When I realised this my decision on which way to vote was easy. We need to be part of the EU if we want to have any influence.

Brexiters never campaigned on this issue though which is puzzling. This is the single, most concerning aspect and they completely ignored it. George Monbiot has a good article about it in, The shocking waste of cash even leavers won’t condemn.

Westminster has now descended into chaos. No-one knows what will happen next. The pound is at a 30 year low and we’re on the brink of recession, all things which were expected. The only good thing for us is interest rates will probably fall now which will be good for our mortgage payments.

Bird song no more

We’re in the paper this morning.

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I’m still miserable about this. We used to hear bird song from our bedroom but that is no more. All we can hear now is the heavy machinery on the street. I spoke to one of my neighbour’s this morning who said she cried all day yesterday too. She similarly cried two years ago when they removed the trees from across the road. She said the council also tried to remove a tree from her own backyard for no good reason but they were able to fight against that because it was on their property.

As always I find comfort in writing and I wrote in chalk on the road this morning.

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Healthy trees felled by ACC against wishes of No. 3😦 And for no good reason.

I approach my whole life in such a way as to reduce my environmental impact. I don’t own a car, I don’t eat meat or dairy products, I only fly when there’s no alternative and most of our holidays are local, I also cycle and walk everywhere. The City Council tell me they can’t afford to make it safe for me and my children to cycle around the city. Instead we have to dodge cars, trucks, and buses. And yet they have the money to remove healthy, mature trees and replace the entire footpath at great expense. Sometimes I wonder why I bother?

Goodbye trees :(

A part of me is dying right now. The Aberdeen City Council is killing the remaining few mature trees on our street because they’re afraid of being sued. Once upon a time our street was so beautiful that artists painted it. Here’s how it used to look:

Murray_Terrace.jpgHere’s how it looks right now:

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To say I’m upset by this is an understatement. The council is full of old men without testicles and no taste. They don’t know a beautiful thing when they see it. Right now I’m bawling my eyes out. I’m so sad but so cross at the same time. I hate them. I hate them all. Human stupidity is infinite.

This street will never, ever look like it once did. They’ve put in new, younger trees but they’re much smaller and will never have the grand majesty of these copper beech trees even once they reach maturity, decades from now.

Two of my friends on the street said they objected to the removal of the trees originally but that they were outvoted. One friend also had numerous trees over her back fence and these were also removed by the city council despite having a TPO (tree preservation order). Apparently only the city council can issue a TPO but they can also remove it at will. Who protects the trees from the city council?

What’s growing in my garden?

Gardens change dramatically with each season in this part of the world so I thought I’d post some more photos of my garden now that we’re well into summer. The last post like this was back in May.

Last winter I scattered wildflower seeds in the garden and the annual cornflowers have just started flowering. I’ve never seen them before in my life – the foliage in Brisbane is very different – and they’re just lovely. I also have perennial cornflowers but they’re not the same. Annual cornflowers are more delicate and a very vivid blue. I like them a lot.

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The sunflowers I grew from seed in the greenhouse and eventually planted outside have survived and are doing well. Sunflowers can grow outside this far north after all. I don’t think it’s their ideal climate; it never gets hot here and I think they prefer higher temperatures but I can see the beginnings of a flower at the very top so I’m hopeful. The first one I planted outside is almost as tall as I am and I’m 175cm. I took a selfie of the two of us.

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Some garden photos. I need to fill in those gaps.

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I ate my first cherry tomato yesterday and there are lots more about to ripen.

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If you were a plant which one would you be? I think I’d be a camelia because they like the shade and flower in winter. They also don’t have any thorns and make good tea.

Bathtubs for the garden

I took this photo outside the front entrance to the 25Hours hotel in Vienna. I love that they’ve got old galvanised bathtubs filled with plants! They’ve also done a good job with the plants where the mix of colours, textures, and heights is pleasing to look at.

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Most hotel entrances are sterile places devoid of plant life. You don’t need to spend lots of money on expensive pots. An old bath tub can look just as good if not better.

Before going away I was worried about my garden here in Aberdeen, particularly the plants in the greenhouse. I moved some of the plants outside so they’d get rain and the remainder I hooked up to a drip-feeding bag. Only it didn’t work properly and most of the water was still in the bag when I got back. The strange thing is the plants seemed to look better after my absence. I think I was over-watering them.

Does anyone know what this plant is?

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There are a few in my garden and when they first appeared in spring I thought they were weeds. However I left them just in case and now they have developed these enormous pink buds. I can’t wait to see what the flowers look like.

Photos from WordCamp Europe 2016

I work with so many wonderful photographers that I’ve stopped taking photos myself when I’m around them. There are always so many terrific photos that come out afterwards which other people have taken. Here are some of them.

This one was taken by Elio.

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We look like gangsters, don’t you think? It looks like I’ve got boobs in that photo but in reality they’re non-existent. Maybe it’s a trick of perspective? The photo reminds me of this one from Reservoir Dogs:

Source: http://www.indiewire.com/2012/10/5-things-you-might-not-know-about-reservoir-dogs-250511/

At the WordCamp party on Saturday night there was a photo booth. Photo booths are popular things at parties now. What does that say about us? Are we all narcissists? I’m going to be even more narcissistic and post some of them to my blog:)

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It’s pretty silly but lots of fun. All the rest are here.

A selfie from the same party with Matt Mullenweg. Stefan (on the very left) took this one.

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I always get nervous around Matt because he’s a bit of a celebrity as well as my boss. The effect of this is that I try too hard not to look like an idiot which has the effect of making me look like an idiot. I’m sure there must be a word for this in German: the idiocy that is inevitable when trying to avoid idiocy. If there isn’t already a word for it then I think we should make one.

But my favourite one of all is this one, taken by Tammie. I’m pleased she chose black and white because it was horribly hot that day and my sweaty armpits are less noticeable.

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Look what I did in Vienna!

On my last night in Vienna it was a friend’s birthday and a small group of us got together to celebrate.We went indoor skydiving at Windobona. Here’s the video of my first minute of flying.

It was exhilarating and harder than I was expecting. When you first start the trainer stays in there with you. I’m not sure how many goes you need before you can start doing somersaults and nose-dives but I was pretty stoked just to float on air. It’s definitely worth doing if you get the chance.

Haus Der Musik

Beautiful things make me happy. How about you? By beautiful things I mean art, music, trees, flowers, sculptures, architecture – that kind of thing. Vienna is flush with all these things and I feel inspired after our trip there.

Even the public gardens were artistic in their own way. Gardens in Aberdeen tend to be neatly laid out with mass plantings of the same flower evenly spaced apart. They’re too neat and orderly. In Vienna the gardens looked wild with a mix of species all crammed in together. They were not messy or neat; they were beautiful.

It’s not just the gardens and art galleries that are creative; Vienna has also produced some famous musicians like Mozart, Strauss and Beethoven. What is it about a city that so much creativity can be concentrated in one place? Yesterday we visited the Haus Der Musik, a museum of music with lots of touch and feel exhibits. Music from Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, Haydn and others plays throughout the museum. It was wonderful.

Our favourite exhibit was one where you get to conduct an orchestra. The orchestra is a recording which plays on a large screen while you wave a baton to control the tempo. Wave the baton quickly and the music gets faster; wave it slowly and the music slows down. Daniel went a bit crazy, going from fast to slow with every second hand-wave and the effect of this was to upset the orchestra who got fed up and basically told him he was crap at conducting. It was all pre-recorded and rather funny but Daniel got upset. He had another go but the second time was anxious about upsetting them again and getting it wrong. Fortunately he did it perfectly and they were happy. He conducted The Blue Danube. The music gives me goose bumps.

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Vienna, WordCamp EU, and Gustav Klimt

I have been remiss in not posting anything for days and days but I have been so busy. WordCamp EU 2016 is now over and all I can say is, WOW! It was so huge with over 2000 people turning up and more than a hundred volunteers. The best part for me was seeing old friends and making new ones.

It has been torturously hot in Vienna every day until today with temperatures around 33°C. When we left Aberdeen it was about 12°C and so we really struggled with the heat. The thunderstorm finally arrived last night and with it, a cool change.

WordCamp was held in the very lovely Museum Quarter in central Vienna in this building:

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Some talks were in the neighbouring Leopold Museum which was just lovely. Imagine sitting listening to all things WordPress with art in every direction. How inspiring!

I spent a fair bit of time at the Jetpack booth:

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And then on the last night there was a ball with a photo booth.

All my life I have wanted to see Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss, and today my wish came true. It’s bigger than I was expecting and the gold, so sparkly. We were not allowed to take photos of the real painting but they had a fake for selfies in a neighbouring room. Here we are with the fake:

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Apparently Gustav Klimt had an insatiable appetite for sex and fathered three known illegitimate children. Perhaps because of this no-one is 100% sure who the woman in the painting is.

We’re staying at the very cool 25 Hours Hotel. I love this place! All the staff here seem to have tattoos and nose rings – I wonder whether it’s a requirement for the job? I knew it was the right place to stay when I saw the sign out front:

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This is my kind of place.

Art is everywhere, even on the wall above our bed. To complement this theme our room came with juggling balls and a hula hoop.

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The entrance to one of the hotel restaurants looks like this:

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Here’s a lounge area in the lobby. You can’t really see it in the photo but the coffee table is a see-saw although you’re not supposed to sit on it.

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There’s a kids’ museum here and just outside is a giant waterbed covered in astroturf. This is a photo of Daniel attacking me.

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I’d love one of these for the school playground back in Aberdeen.

 

Smelly feet

At what age do children stop embarrassing their parents? At some point the tables turn and parents become embarrassing to their children instead of the other way around. Is that right?

We were on the train this afternoon and someone with smelly feet removed their shoes. Daniel spent the next 5 hours (slight exaggeration) saying very loudly, “Yuk, who has stinky feet? I can smell someone’s smelly feet ….” or words to that effect over and over again.

I probably shouldn’t complain since I think it highly likely I’m still a source of embarrassment to my own parents.