Happy Christmas to anyone kind enough to be checking up on me here.
Happy New Year, too.
Here we are in Berlin for an early family Christmas get-together, very kindly hosted by elder son and his partner. I am staying in a beautiful, cutting-edged, stainless steel and polished concrete apartment where my son's partner spends some of her time. She works in Berlin and can cycle to work through one of the many attractive parks. Younger son, his wife and two children are staying in a rather more family-friendly apartment a few minutes walk away through the same park. By family-friendly I mean without a mezzanine kitchen with almost irresistible (to a 15 month old climber) metal balcony and open-tread metal staircase.
I am surprised by how much I appreciate polished concrete and stainless steel. I know I appreciate German efficiency and design, things that work, trains that run on time, and I'm drawn to the relaxed atmosphere of this major city, criss-crossed by so many cyclists and runners.
Children are transported in splendid side-cars attached to the bikes, or in padded boxes over the front wheel. People are keen to be healthy, to remain active. The trains have generous accommodation for cycles (and for wheel-chairs, I must admit). When I was here earlier in the year I was suitably impressed by the nude-bathing in the local lakes. One felt rather stand-offish, keeping one's clothes on, when everyone else - babies, grannies, the lot - had the most complete all-over sun-tans.
There are excellent playgrounds all around. When so many families live in low-rise apartments such as these the playgrounds are essential. They are much appreciated by granddaughter and grandson, who is now walking and keen to have a go on anything, especially if it involves climbing. In fact we spend much of our time admiring the playgrounds and what various people can do in them. Some of the climbing frames are adult-sized, so sons can alarm me was well as grandchildren: "Be careful up there - you're only 35 and you haven't got your gloves on...."
Then we return to the warmth of the heated floors, and uncle and niece can teach each other how to build a Lego space-ship - a special moment of togetherness for a far-flung family.
Seasons greetings to you all, and may all your family times be as valued.