27 April 2016
25 April 2016
Sudden spring has been replaced by sudden winter - but we hope only briefly. While R hastily covered his vegetable beds with various elaborate sheets of plastic (it now looks like Christo was here), I said soothing words to the flowering lilac, which has been replanted to the left of the picture above. I think it will survive.
And now I am debating with my weaker self whether I will cycle to work, i.e.
Ok, people die. Brilliant artists also die. It's sad, yes, but also a reminder. Life ends in death. Mine and yours and all others.
Malick Sidibe died earlier this month.
Janet Jackson once made a great video based on his photography. But I always hear this soundtrack here.
I think I will cycle. Life is too short to spend it sitting in a car.
18 April 2016
16 April 2016
14 April 2016
Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the human race.
My luck has come in again and I have been that adult on a bicycle for the last two weeks now. This is what it looks like every day when I have managed to survive 8 km of busy city traffic. This forest is my antidepressant. What you don't see - and why can I not take a picture on my phone that shows how steep it is? - is that right at the top here in this picture is where the first of two very steep hairpin bends begin.
Camino, the Jakobsweg. There was a time when we were seriously contemplating this trip. Well, maybe in another life time.
I started cycling when I was 5 years old. This bicycle here is actually a fancy electric bike. I have just completed 10,000 km on it (since 2011). It has saved me from a life of miserable chronic illness.
10 April 2016
All weekend my energy has been sputtering like a badly tuned engine and I mostly wandered from bed to sofa to armchair, crossing off things from my to-do list either because I actually managed to do them (bake rhubarb crumble, ironing) or because I've
Meanwhile, R is digging and planting and moving entire sections of the garden to new locations and so on. I watch him fling that spade like a paper kite and I close my eyes with relief.
Last night when I reminded him of the time, he looked up from correcting exam papers and sighed, oh jeezus, they still haven't understood. I don't know how to teach this stuff any longer. Treating viruses with antibiotics! Why don't they listen in class.
07 April 2016
More than three years ago, while researching this long and very slow journey, I visited the remote Kenyan camp of the famed paleoanthropologist Meave Leakey. I recall setting out one morning for a nearby village.
“Is it within walking distance?” I stupidly asked Leakey.
She stared at me, astonished. “Everything is,” she replied.
(and if in doubt, I shall take my bicycle)
06 April 2016
Charles Bukowski was born a short distance away, it's a pleasant enough cycle along the river from where I am right now.
One of these old towns dating back to the Romans and with a medieval fortress right in the middle.
It's pleasant and picturesque, I sat in one of the cafes eating Italian ice cream. But one New year's day we walked around in search of coffee and found only shut doors. These places are hell for teenagers. He would have hated it there, never mind the whole nazi thing which would have shaped his youth had the family remained in Germany.
No leaders, Please
by Charles Bukowski
Invent yourself and then reinvent yourself,
don’t swim in the same slough.
invent yourself and then reinvent yourself
stay out of the clutches of mediocrity.
Invent yourself and then reinvent yourself,
change your tone and shape so often that they can
Reinvigorate yourself and
accept what is
but only on the terms that you have invented
And reinvent your life because you must;
it is your life and
and the present
belongs only to
04 April 2016
30 March 2016
23 March 2016
|Brussels 23rd March 2016|
The stars now rearrange themselves above you
but to no effect. Tonight,
only for tonight, their powers lapse,
and you must look toward earth. There will be
no comets now, no pointing star
to lead where you know you must go.
Look for smaller signs instead, the fine
disturbances of ordered things when suddenly
the rhythms of your expectation break.
We are packing - or rather, I am packing our going-away-for-easter stuff in between short breaks or vice versa, while R is being noisy in the kitchen, listening to the radio, from time to time he shouts something or other upstairs that I fail to understand. I don't understand anything right now.
21 March 2016
18 March 2016
By hard work I cannot make it happen, by being good I cannot make it happen, by self-sacrifice I cannot make it happen, by being clever I cannot make it happen, by being more creative I cannot make it happen. My previous ambitions, reliant on skill and will, are rendered mute, inert, of no interest.Marion Coutts (The Iceberg)
By no effort or will can I change the terms. All I can do is change the approach.
17 March 2016
I have no problem
I look at myself:
I have no problem.
I look all right
and, to some girls,
my grey hair might even be attractive;
my eyeglasses are well made,
my body temperature is precisely thirty seven,
my shirt is ironed and my shoes do not hurt.
I have no problem.
My hands are not cuffed,
my tongue has not been silenced yet,
I have not, so far, been sentenced
and I have not been fired from my work;
I am allowed to visit my relatives in jail,
I’m allowed to visit some of their graves in some countries.
I have no problem.
I am not shocked that my friend
has grown a horn on his head.
I like his cleverness in hiding the obvious tail
under his clothes, I like his calm paws.
He might kill me, but I shall forgive him
for he is my friend;
he can hurt me every now and then.
I have no problem.
The smile of the TV anchor
does not make me ill any more
and I’ve got used to the Khaki stopping my colours
night and day.
That is why
I keep my identification papers on me, even at
the swimming pool.
I have no problem.
Yesterday, my dreams took the night train
and I did not know how to say goodbye to them.
I heard the train had crashed
in a barren valley
(only the driver survived).
I thanked God, and took it easy
for I have small nightmares
that I hope will develop into great dreams.
I have no problem.
I look at myself, from the day I was born till now.
In my despair I remember
that there is life after death;
there is life after death
and I have no problem.
But I ask:
Oh my God,
is there life before death?
13 March 2016
In his Letter to Menoeceus, Epicurus wrote:
For life has no terrors for him who has thoroughly understood that there are no terrors for him in ceasing to live. Foolish, therefore, is the man who says that he fears death, not because it will pain when it comes, but because it pains in the prospect. Whatever causes no annoyance when it is present, causes only a groundless pain in the expectation. Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not. It is nothing, then, either to the living or to the dead, for with the living it is not and the dead exist no longer.
11 March 2016
07 March 2016
I think I will survive. But. Of course, I don't believe he is right and that my last remaining upper molars are quietly rotting away in all their shiny whiteness.
Still hurts but I am ever so cool and brave and grown up. Last night I read about Napoleon and the battle of Austerlitz until the dawn chorus set in. Not in my wildest dreams etc.
04 March 2016
My parents on their wedding day. 1954. Not quite nine years after the end of WWII. Two young scientists with big ideas and bigger plans. Soon life caught up with them.
01 March 2016
not all is lost
Human infants as young as 14 to 18 months of age help others attain their goals, for example, by helping them to fetch out-of-reach objects or opening cabinets for them. They do this irrespective of any reward from adults (indeed external rewards undermine the tendency), and very likely with no concern for such things as reciprocation and reputation, which serve to maintain altruism in older children and adults. Humans' nearest primate relatives, chimpanzees, also help others instrumentally without concrete rewards.
These results suggest that human infants are naturally altruistic, and as ontogeny proceeds and they must deal more independently with a wider range of social contexts, socialization and feedback from social interactions with others become important mediators of these initial altruistic tendencies.
from: Felix Warneken and Michael Tomasello, The roots of Human Altruism, British Journal of Psychology, Vol. 100, Issue 3, pages 455-471, 2009
29 February 2016
22 February 2016
21 February 2016
15 February 2016
The rich people are doing so well (...). I mean, we never had it so good.Warren Buffett 2005
It's class warfare, my class is winning (...).
The global inequality crisis is reaching new extremes. The richest 1% now have more wealth than the rest of the world combined. Power and privilege is being used to skew the economic system to increase the gap between the richest and the rest.Oxfam 2016
Charity is the drowning of rights in the cesspit of mercy.Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi approx. 1825
Today, I am angry.
13 February 2016
10 February 2016
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.
And no, this is neither the Dun Laoghaire pier nor Killiney beach, this is a place called Anse Lazio.
08 February 2016
What is the nub of such a plain grey day?
Does it have one? Does it have to have one?
If small is beautiful, is grey, is plain?
Or rather do we sense withdrawal, veiling,
a patch, a membrane, an eyelid hating light?
Does weather have some old remit to mock
the love of movement, colour, contrast –
primitives, all of us, that wilt and die
without some gorgeous dance or drizzle-dazzle.
Sit still, and take the stillness into you.
Think, if you will, about the absences –
sun, moon, stars, rain, wind, fog and snow.
Think nothing then, sweep them all away.
Look at the grey sky, houses of lead,
roads neither dark nor light, cars
neither washed nor unwashed, people
there, and there, decent, featureless,
what an ordinariness of business
the world can show, as if some level lever
had kept down art and fear and difference and love
this while, this moment, this day
so grey, so plain, so pleasing in its way!
Let’s leave the window, and write.
No need to wait for a fine blue
to break through. We must live, make do.
06 February 2016
The love one has for a child (. . . ) is a singular love, because it is a love whose foundation is not physical attraction, or pleasure, or intellect, but fear. You have never known fear until you have a child, and maybe that is what tricks us into thinking that it is more magnificent, because the fear itself is more magnificent. Every day, your first thought is not "I love her" but "How is she?" The world, overnight, rearranges itself into an obstacle course of terrors. I would hold her in my arms and wait to cross the street and would think how absurd it was that may child, that any child, could expect to survive this life. It seemed as improbable as the survival of one of those late-spring butterflies - you know those little white ones - I sometimes saw wobbling through the air, always just millimetres away from smacking itself against a windscreen.
Hanya Yanagihara - A Little Life
03 February 2016
01 February 2016
. . . a festival of the hearth and home, and a celebration of the lengthening days and the early signs of springBut I don't do any of the dipping my hands into the holy well stuff, not that there is a shortage of holy wells, this is catholic Rhineland, I don't cook special food (I don't cook that much anyway) and no prayers either, no bonfire to purify the air. No blackthorn in our garden.
I am just relieved that once again, the darker months are over and done with, that I am here, still in my shabby dressing gown, with a cup of lukewarm tea, washed up in one piece after another stormy weekend of vertigo and nausea, my ears ringing and booming, finding my bearings. Listening to Luka and the lovely Dublin crowd singing.
Luka Bloom, Don't be afraid of the light that shines within you
26 January 2016
25 January 2016
When we label something good, we see it as good. When we label something bad, we see it as bad. We get so hung up on like and dislike, on who’s right and who’s wrong, as if these labels were ultimately real. Yet the human experience is an experience of nothing to hang on to, nothing that’s set once and for all. Reality is always falling apart.
22 January 2016
Ever since breakfast I have been imagining what I'll do once they discharge me - which they have done by now or this post would not be up. The taxi ride through the cold and sunny Friday morning, searching for the house keys and stepping into the warmth of my messy kitchen. Putting on the kettle and sitting on the old leather sofa, wrapped in two blankets, looking out into the garden with a steaming cup in my hands and the newspaper on my lap. On the window sill, the first little pots are basking in the sun. We'll start with the peppers, R told me last night.
Not looking at the lab report from hell. Not yet.
To think that somewhere on these pages with their secret codes, the bold red type indicating where my blood sample failed to remain within the reference ranges, a hidden message may be waiting.
I am kidding myself. It jumped at me as soon as I got the print out and hastily I folded it and stuffed it in my overnight bag. I can see it with my eyes closed and I wish I would be ignorant, that nobody ever told me about transaminases and inflammation markers and all that shit.
Anyway. Spring is on its way somewhere. Get a move on, hear me.
Ottorino Respighi: Ancient Airs and Dances
20 January 2016
The Island of all Together (English subtitles) from Philip & Marieke on Vimeo.
17 January 2016
The chemistry of the brain’s reward system means that when you receive a favour, like a cup of tea or a lift to work, dopamine is released, and this makes us feel good.
and the world looks quite nice all of a sudden
until you read on to this:
Random good deeds also activate our social brain, which is perked up by the idea that someone is looking out for us. Unfortunately when someone is looking out for us every day the brain doesn’t recognise this as much as it probably should.
12 January 2016
11 January 2016
for the glitter and the stripes
for the hair cut suggestions and the fights I had with my mother
for the wild dancing and shaking of my head until I felt numb and crazy and free
for all the gorgeous snogging on the dance floors
for the glimpse of rebellion you promised me in my youth
for the music
for the music
for the music
07 January 2016
06 January 2016
The journey was dark and rainy and the train was late. I almost tripped over a sleeping Hungarian sheep dog in the hush hush silence of the first class compartment I shared with two eldery men who knew without doubt that I was only there because of the free upgrade. I am not first class material. The dog ignored me as well.
But I arrived eventually and walked out of the station among cheerful healthy humans. Nobody noticed.
The dinner menu listed more additives than options and it took a bit of persuasion to get a decent cup of tea. I managed to appropriate the chocolate bar from the reception. There are seven Arab, five Russian, three Chinese and only two English channels on the tv. The bed is strangely placed diagonally across the room. And the balcony is inaccessible. Everything is reassuringly labeled in four languages.
All this on the night before my first monoclonal antibody treatment. The adventure has begun. Tada!
03 January 2016
29 December 2015
27 December 2015
24 December 2015
Thus, from one extreme of human evolution to the other, there are no two kinds of wisdom. Therefore let us adopt as the principle of our life what has always been a principle of action and will always be so: to emerge from self, to give, freely and obligatory. We run no risk of disappointment.
21 December 2015
18 December 2015
Meanwhile, R is gardening, what with mild spring-like temps and stubbornly flowering roses and fuchsias and geraniums and more raspberries to pick. In December, one week before xmas. A miracle.
I tidied up most loose ends incl. the desk. I divided up my xmas bonus among the needy, wrote my six xmas cards, still pestering R to write his 25 (Irish families etc.). There will be dinners and bonfires, wrapped gifts for the under 18-year olds, but more or less, that's it for the festive season. I am so mean spirited, you have no idea.
14 December 2015
Only, this beach here is almost gone. Literally. Today, now.
13 December 2015
09 December 2015
The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation. For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.Neil deGrasse Tyson
This quote is here to say, shame on you. Or something like it.