Sunday Column (267)

Easter Sunday. Easter hasn’t got a religious meaning for me anymore, I almost forgot it was happening. With the building work to be finished, and with the MIL arriving and us going to a wedding, this is more a four day mini holiday to sort out the house, take a day off from and for the kids, go cycling and sort out some other errands. No, Easter for me is definitely nothing else.

Looking at this, I gain a better understanding why people in other countries don’t even get the Friday off. Life has changed over the years, we get too busy in our lives. Religion, whether you want to classify Buddhism as that or a philosophy is up to you, allows for retreat. For me, and I never saw that going to Christian church when I was a child, the belief in ‘something’ which helps you to focus on yourself, quieten your mind, and engage in nothing, focusing on something.

Essentially it helps you to focus, switch off from every day life, not look at your todo list and not having anything to do or planned or worry about. This can be nice. Almost a treat. This and the overall charitable, caring aspect of religion is what I appreciate.

We tried telling Colin about a guy called Jesus and Easter eggs and that he came back from heaven at Easter. His response was that they already spoke about Jesus in school and had now moved on to ‘Humpty Dumpty’ :-) Kids’ innocence.

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The last two weeks were stressful. The build, the heating not working, the niggles here and there. We believe we are on top of it now. We hope it is all finished, but the decorating. I should really post some pictures once we have the furniture and all in. A great transformation, making our living space so much better and nicer! A nicer home.

It is so important to have a place you call home. A place you feel comfortable in, the kids and wife are happy in. A place to come home to, a place for shelter. Often I wonder, looking at the bigger picture, how many people don’t have that privilege. When I look out into the world and feel privileged because I have hot water and food, a roof over my head.

I don’t want to get sentimental. Of course I am annoyed I had to reset the heating daily for a while. But it was working then. Others don’t have heatings and if I told some people you have to go to the loft to light the heater, they would be happy to have heat whilst we are annoyed at having to manually light it.

So maybe Easter is a bit of reflection too. A bit of looking inwards. Of looking outwards and seeing were we are in the greater scale of things. To understand and make our kids understand that we are actually quite lucky. That the reason daddy goes to work in the morning is to have food and a house, and that Daddy has work should not be taken for granted either.

A first world problem that is I suppose. Comfort. So let’s think of the ones that are less fortunate, and let’s be thankful.

Have a great Easter.

Cheers,
Volker

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Awesome South Downs

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Sunday Column (266)

Crazy is an understatement when I look back at the beginning of this week. By Sunday night 11 pm we finished packing our whole downstairs minus couch and had removed all furniture from the living and dining room. The couch had gone the week before.

Monday at 10 am our builders rocked up. They took notes, discussed how to move the fish tank, which sockets need replacing, where the TV goes, and where to put the Sonos sound bar. By the time I left at 3 pm to catch a plane from Gatwick, the kitchen had gone. The floor had gone. The place looked like an empty shell.

My wife who I hadn’t seen that stressed since our wedding managed to take one kid to a friend and the other to the doctor, back on the rail replacement bus service. It was chucking it down. She organised a three night stay with friends, gave final instructions to the builders and out of nothing presented dinner to the boys.

In the meantime I had to take a taxi to Gatwick as there had been a fatality on the rails. I had dinner, wrote another article, caught up on emails and felt sorry for myself. Still tired from a challenging mountain bike ride on Sunday, I also caught a cold. Tired and exhausted I slept most of the plane journey, thinking how brave my wife had been. And this was only the beginning.

Why we do it? Because we hope that in two weeks time we will have a nicer place: my wife’s dream kitchen, a fire place, a new stereo system, wooden flooring and a nicer home for the kids. We cannot wait.

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Travelling this week: I don’t want to go on about it but going from city to city over the week, sleeping in different beds, having busy days and evenings, can be quite tiring. My colleagues are at a trade show, probably I got it much better to be honest.

It is a good life though too. I enjoy it. Experience. One hotel was dirty and the manager very apologetic; another had the greatest service. I experienced an “ironing room”, rabbits in a foyer and thanks to Foursquare I met with an ex colleague in Milan and another old friend in Milan also – we happened to be at the same time at the same place.

Yes, I enjoy what I do. It can be exhausting, being away from the family isn’t nice, but it is a good way of working, however stressful it can be at times. Oh, and it isn’t as glorious as in the movie “up in the air” with George Clooney. Not yet, I still haven’t got my golden Easyjet Pluscard. Maybe one day ;-)

We came back to an empty shell of house downstairs. Plastering, wet walls, cables hidden in the wall, a new window sun seat in the kitchen, the flooring got delivered and my wife had to paint parts of the wall to make sure we can mount the radiators next week. The floor has been leveled, the fish survived so far and we got an electric hob from next door. We manage. The kids are a bit worried but once they see the progress they should be ok.

This concludes a busy and stressful week, both for the family at home (or away) and me. Next week should get better, we have a home again, Easter is coming up, we got some time to ourselves. Life is good, we shouldn’t, and am not, complaining. Just moaning ;-)

Have a great week,
Volker

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Wee man leaving Milan

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Wee man in Berlin (2)

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Wee man (on a bull) in Berlin

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Sunday Column (265)

As you know I spent last weekend away from the family. On a stag. I didn’t know I could handle (or judgement thereof is down to my companions) that many shots. Never mind. Thinking you are still at uni whilst ‘rocking the dance floor’ coming up for 40….

It is odd to travel without family for pleasure. No one but myself to look after, nothing to worry about but myself. It is a bit selfish but also nice. I enjoyed it and truly relaxed.

This week was different. I flew to Paris late on Wednesday to start a long day early on Thursday. Busy with meetings and work, travelling and working. This is less fun, one is more engaged with work, less relaxed. But that’s what I do, and I still enjoy it.

One thing stays the same: You miss the kids. It is nice to hear that the highlight of school was me doing the school run. Nice to get the hugs and kisses before I leave. I am used to not being there for bedtime but the older the boys get the more I feel that I am missing out on not being there.

Colin suggested I should stop working. I tried to explain to him that this wasn’t a good idea. Whilst we are looking to rent a caravan we cannot live in it forever. A five year old’s mind works in mysterious ways.

But don’t get me wrong. I love my job, my travel and the European challenge. I enjoy what I do, yet need to be stricter in separating work and life, being more in the moment with the kids. I am improving at weekends. I am making it work.

Just this weekend, despite the stress of packing up our downstairs in anticipation of some renovation work, I didn’t even check my phone nor Facebook all day. I spend some quality moments with the boys and enjoyed their company. At the same time of course they are getting easier in entertaining themselves. Win/win as they say.

Next week I am travelling again, yet it is a good thing as the downstairs renovation starts. For the next four weeks, if we can sit in the living room at all, we will sit on chairs. Our couch went on eBay, the new couch will arrive early May. The result will hopefully be amazing. I cannot wait.

I am closing this blog with a video this week. When watching this, I got a lump in my throat and a few tears. This week I got good and bad news, and some very sad news. Life is a roller coaster ride, yet I am very positive about what is there to come. I am so ready for the challenge of it.

What do you think?

Should we sometimes be a bit more considerate with the people we tip…..

Have a great week,
Volker

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Wee man in Paris

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Sunday Column (264)

Giving thanks and feeling sorry for others, or focusing on your own miserable self. That’s a question I asked myself this week. It of course was Monday and I contemplated to work from home. I try to go to the sauna on a Monday night and decided to have a meeting in town, yet leave on time to get home in time.

Being at Victoria station early I followed a friend’s advice to jump on the first fast train to Haywards Heath. Stuck outside Victoria station for 30 minutes we eventually got back and sent on a different train. The train broke down and the later, direct train, overtook us whilst we pulled back. The one we all went on then got stuck at Battersea station for about 30 minutes. By now I should have been home for about 30 minutes. A broken down train and two persons hit by a train in one night. Pot luck.

It was my choice to move to the countryside and pay £4,500 a year for my train travel. I chose to live a more balanced life. Yet, I didn’t sign up for a crappy train service, no value for money which comes up with bad excuses why things don’t work, or why there are delays.

And just as I write my anger off my chest I look around me. People with heavy suitcases on the way to Gatwick airport. People with light luggage on their phones trying to change planes. Mothers with children, elderly totally lost. No internet, no twitter to air desperation. They are worse off. Some might have more time yet need more help and lack of information makes people short wired. Latter is very typical for Southern trains, who don’t even respond on Twitter anymore.

Emotions are high on these journeys. I should be thankful. I made it home that night to a warm place. No, I didn’t go to the sauna, and yes, I had a glass of wine. I am lucky really. That all happened on the same day people found out that the Malaysian airline was definitely lost. One puts life into perspective.

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One has to be thankful for what one created and what has been given to someone. It is not about money. It is not about health. Sometimes it is about accepting that your situation cannot be changed and that you need to get on with it.

Life sometimes throws these big rocks in your path. You just need to get on with it and move them. Or you go around them. Or you find another solution. Either way, no point of worrying about it. Trust things work out in the future. Trust, as Steve Jobs said, that the dots connect moving forward.

Enough philosophy. Enough moaning. Life is good. Actually life is quite good and I am working through a few things that should even improve things further. We are getting there. Always things to improve ;-) Always pushing boundaries.

On Friday I set off to a stag weekend to Edinburgh. I panicked when the flight which was announced as delayed on my app wasn’t announced delayed at the airport. I left late, got there in time, had food, and actually – whilst missing the family – also enjoyed some piece and quiet. My first trip away which wasn’t work related in a long time.

And if life was plain sailing, it would be boring wouldn’t it be? We wouldn’t even know what to do with half of our time. So let’s be thankful for what we have. And let’s give those that are less fortunate than us a helping hand.

In the meantime, enjoy your week,
Volker.

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Here is to the crazy ones

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