Tag Archives: England

Magpie and Wren (and bonus Red Kite)

Went for a walk locally in Aldermaston Wharf today, mainly to get in some practice with the DSLR and the big lens, having not used it much (or better, hardly at all) over the last 6+ months (mainly due to my heart surgery, where I wasn’t able to lift it for several months). Not an awful lot exciting about today, I managed to get some decent shots of a Magpie in a tree and of a Wren trying to hide in the undergrowth. Not to forget the obligatory Red Kite. I’m still fascinated how they can twist their bodies.

(Click on the pictures for the larger versions)

March walk in Woolhampton

Yesterday I bought myself a new ‘travel and cargo trouser pocket camera’ (a Panasonic Lumix TZ100 ), as my old one simply wasn’t good enough anymore and was starting to show signs of its age. Today was a ‘walk day’ as part of my ongoing recovery from my heart surgery, so I took the camera out for a walk to the gravel pit lakes near Woolhampton. Here are a few early spring impressions from the walk:

(Click on the pictures for the larger versions)

Step 1 of another journey complete

When I applied for a job 22.5 years ago after graduating from the Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg in Germany I don’t think I would have imagined in my wildest dreams something I’m doing now. And with that I’m not talking about recovering from heart valve surgery. Said job turned out to be in Swindon in England while I had been born in Germany and had lived most of the next 26 years in Germany (apart from almost a year in the US for an internship).

In early 1995 I boarded a ferry to Harwich to start what at that point I probably thought was going to be just an episode in my life. I don’t know for sure but I think most if not all of the other foreign hires hired at the same time have long since returned to their countries of origin. But 22 years later I’m still here (with one short interruption 1998-2000 where my then employer sent me to Munich in Bavaria. Which as a northerner born in Bremen is a foreign country as far as I’m concerned). I’ve changed employer and I’ve moved home from Swindon to Aldermaston Wharf, but otherwise I’m still here.

Having been in the UK for so long I had started to think about it a few years ago: Naturalisation. Applying for citizenship. I feel the UK is my home now. Germany feels more and more like a foreign country (especially as I only go back to Germany a few days every year, if that. There have been years where I didn’t go at all). I find myself defending my chosen home against unjustified (and sometimes even justified) criticism. I find it more natural to speak, write, think and dream in English than in German. But apart from reading up on it a bit on the internet I hadn’t done a lot about it just yet, it was just on the radar. Then the Brexit vote came along.

The Brexit vote changed a lot. For a number of people I know it means they don’t feel welcome here any more. Some are making plans to move back to their country of origin (or elsewhere), others I think have even already done so. For me the plans I’ve had in the back of my mind have become more urgent. I’ve decided to stay and sit it out, make the best of it. I might regret it if the UK really goes down the drain as is entirely possible. I’m strongly against Brexit (as are millions of others, which is often forgotten) and think it’s one of the dumbest ideas ever. But I don’t feel it’s right to run away from the place which has become my home, with all its faults. I don’t feel it’s right to run away from all my friends which have given me enormous support and mean a lot to me. So I’ve decided to push ahead with naturalisation.

Picture of a UK residence documentation card
My Permanent Residence Card

The first step of that was to apply for a Permanent Residence Card. After a few weeks of gathering all the required evidence that I had legally and lawfully lived in the UK while exercising EU treaty rights (or something along those lines) I sent off my application in very early October, just before I left for the hospital for my operation. Then the nervous big wait began. I had read that processing an application could take up to six months (especially since the Brexit vote as the Home Office has been inundated with applications) and that in some cases applications were rejected for formalities. Today the both dreaded and anxiously awaited large A4 envelope (because of all the documentation to be returned) was sitting in my letterbox when I arrived home. When I ripped it open as soon as I was up in my flat one of the first things I saw was what you see in the picture. Relief, everything was fine. Step 1 of the journey is complete, I’ve obtained my Permanent Residence Card.

Now on to the next steps. I’ve got to pass a language test (I’m fairly confident about that, I know the differences between their/they’re/there, you’re/your,  it’s/its and should have/should of) and I’ve got to pass the Life in the UK test (which apparently teaches you such important things like when and where the first curry house was opened, but not which telephone number to dial in an emergency. But then I know the latter anyway). So the next few weeks, may be even months, will be spent studying this:

The Birds and the Berries

No, not the birds and the bees, the birds and the berries. Stop being naughty. For the last almost three months I haven’t been able to fully use my camera due to my heart surgery. Almost all the pictures I’ve taken were with the phone, except for the ones of the roses, but for that used the lighter ‘normal’ zoom. As I was limited in the weight I was allowed to lift I was unable to use my big (and unfortunately rather heavy) telephoto zoom lens. Only recently I’ve been allowed to start lifting more and on the 3rd Christmas Day (i.e. the 27th of December, the bank holiday in lieu of Christmas Day falling on Sunday) I decided to give the big lens a first go. I had spotted a number of birds going into a tree with red berries to feed. Not being used to lifting the heavy lens any more I wasn’t particularly successful, these three pictures I thought just about presentable:

(Click on the pictures for the larger versions)

I only lasted for about 10 minutes, then I really started to notice the weight of the heavy lens. Still a long way to go until that part of my body will have fully recovered, but I’m happy that I at least had a start now and have something to build on.

Some of my musical favourites of 2016

Some of the mostly new (but also some slightly older) music I enjoyed in 2016:

Obviously have to start with Teenage Fanclub. While I haven’t got a fixed ranking they will always be in my top 3 favourite bands. Here’s their offering from this year’s album Here:

The Pixies have been among my favourites for a long time as well, from this year’s Head Carrier I’ve picked the Tenement Song:

Slightly older (released in 2014 to be precise) but I only discovered it this year. Some great noise and energy in this Scottish/Australian/American collaboration:

Another slightly older one from 2015, but I mainly listened to it in 2016. The Welsh contingent with the Stereophonics:

Didn’t really have them on my radar before, but Teleman’s song named after a town in Germany caught my ears this year:

I prefer his work with The Gaslight Anthem, but Brian Fallon’s solo album is also very good:

Another older one but on very heavy rotation this year, from the aforementioned Gaslight Anthem:

By quite some distance the oldest song in this collection, but I keep returning to it. I just love the simplicity of it.

He’s been around forever, his new album with Joshua Homme is rather good:

I thought their last couple of albums were slightly weaker than their early ones, until 2016s Walls, which I think is a fantastic return to form:

What will 2017 bring musically?