Saturday, April 05, 2008

Brushing off the cobwebs

The last two winters have been very mild here in Germany’s Rhine Valley so our folding bikes have been used throughout the darker months. We do our local errands and occasionally dash off on the rough tracks in nearby woods on crisp sunny days. In February a run of frosty mornings followed by spring-like afternoon temperatures tempted us to lift down our mountain bikes, pump up the tyres and dislodge the odd spider. Not that the run over the farm roads to visit friends in the next town but one really merited the MTBs but, maybe we’d run into a cowpat or find the road blocked by earth tremor. It just seemed the right kind of weather so we pulled on the wind proofs and persuaded our elderly legs into can-can position over the crossbars and headed north. Without saying a word both of us set off at a cracking pace round the edge of the town and alongside the drainage ditches running parallel to the Odenwald Hills to our right. Birds were twittering in the bushes, the hills rose in greens and browns, and we arrived at our friend’s house slightly out of breath and ready for coffee, cake and conversation. The return journey’s pace was more moderate, perhaps as a result of being tempted by strawberry topped tart and delicious cheese cake. As we returned the bikes to our cellar, both of us were convinced that spring really was around the corner and we’d be biking longer routes very shortly.
We should have known better for the weather gods still needed a bit of winter fun and a series of violent storms blasted through our area, destroying lots of trees and causing a few deaths. The German weather service give names to low and high pressure systems, which people can give as presents to their loved ones. We’re not sure that we’d like to be remembered as ‘low Neil’ which wreaked death and destruction across half a country or ‘high Judith’, responsible for the worst drought since records began, but there’s no accounting for folk. Expeditions by bike were minimal, necessary journeys close to home as the weather nastiness rose to a crescendo over Easter. Snow, which had held off all winter finally coated the garden and the Odenwald hilltops were white for days as temperatures hovered in that unpleasant range just above freezing. On Easter Sunday we caught the tram into Mannheim, bought an English Sunday paper at the station and marched for 40 minutes along the Rhine upstream before and even more rapid about turn to catch the tram home to warmth, cups of tea and a (home-made) hot cross bun.
A week later temperatures were back at mid February level and we could cycle by Brompton into Mannheim to buy our weekly fix of news from home. It was wonderful, after our enjoyable bike ride, to read about the tribulations of the new T5 at Heathrow. Schadenfreude can be so enjoyable, especially when no one has been hurt physically. What a turnaround could have been achieved for ordinary public transport, plus storage facilities for cyclists at bus and train stations, with all those billions of pounds. There would be no prestige, little razzmatazz but quite possibly all might have gone according to plan, and saved the planet to boot!

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