13 April 2014

It's been a good week. In all respects. I cycled to work every day through the forest and the chestnuts are beginning to flower. But we need rain badly.




08 April 2014


Spring is so amazing. I know, the cliché etc. but every year it is such a beautiful shock to the system. All these dynamic forceful changes, every morning another colour, another smell. And the noisy birds, singing and shrieking and mating and digging through the vegetable beds.

Four years ago there were times when spring was all I could hold onto. It feels almost foolish now that I have turned into this veteran of chronic illness. But there was this raw time of loss and grief and this inability to come to terms with something that was never meant to be in my life, at least not in the life I had up to then and imagined to stretch all the way into the future.

Three memories stick out.

1. One of the experts who initially diagnosed me had alerted another of his patients because - so he thought - there were so many similarities in our diagnosis and course of illness and comparing our stories could help me in the long run. He had asked for my permission to pass on my email address and several weeks later she replied. Full of apologies for the delay because she had fractured her collarbone while on a skiing trip. A what? Here I was trying to hold onto the frazzled bits of my former life, every morning waking up to the booming thoughts of the potential of this diagnosis (everything from drug side effects, kidney failure, going blind and/or deaf to, well obviously, death - I do know how to recognise drama) and she has come back from a skiing trip! Clearly, this was a mistake and we were not talking about the same thing here. But yes, we were because she had in fact gone deaf, dramatically within one dreadful night of high fever. And apart from the fact that my hearing was fine again, her list of symptoms was mine down to the finer details. And then she wrote: While I cannot tell you how and when, I can promise you that you will feel better again, that this heavy flare up will calm down once the drugs have started to work. And all I could think: promise? How dare she promise me anything? Look at me, look how ill I am.

2. Some time earlier, a friend had given me a voucher for ten shiatsu sessions, again with the promise that this would make me feel so much better. It did not but mostly because getting there was too hard. On my way to the second appointment I drove down a one-way street in the wrong direction and was almost flattened by an oncoming bus. It didn't help that I am a careful driver (sorry, yes I am!) and that I had been living in this one-way system city for almost 20 years. The shiatsu woman was experienced and kind enough to suggest we postpone. Instead she made tea and told me that, for a fact, our bodies, our cells, our tiniest atoms are there for only one reason: health. And that they/our bodies are continuously working on repair and recovery, always striving for health. Not my body, I wanted to tell her that day but I was too exhausted and not quite sure how to get home.

3. Soon after that I was waiting for my father to pick me up from yet another hospital after a week of tests confirming that I was unable to tolerate the drug I had been taking in high doses for the last three months and that this was possibly responsible for most of the heavy symptoms I was experiencing. So they swiftly changed medications, ran another couple of tests and sent me home with best wishes. There was a small cafe with outside seating and I sat down and started reading the headlines of the newspapers on display the way I always do this. A volcano had erupted in Iceland and brought air traffic to a standstill.  Somewhere too high for me to see the ash clouds were drifting and shifting but all I could see was the sky, clear and blue and calm and so vast I wanted to fly up and disappear into it.

And now, four years later, there it is, like a cut under the skin that will not, will never heal. No matter how hard my atoms strive for health. And yet. There is no denying, I feel complete.


05 April 2014

The monotony of being unwell. Always something out of reach. The sudden bursts of anger, the fever curve of pretend energy followed by exhaustion. Maybe it's all just my imagination, oh leave me alone. And always, another go at it. This is what it takes to be alive.
The moment you accept what troubles you've been given,
the door will open. (Rumi via fb)
 On my way to work, strange creatures look at me in the forest. So strange I snap my pictures and cycle off quickly.






01 April 2014

31 March 2014

Climate change a threat to security, food and humankind

When I was a student in the 1970s the term acid rain cropped up and made its way into our rebellious conscience where we stored it together with all the other stuff which was proof to us that our parent's generation was the root of all evil. Nadanadanada. 

I still have a cutting, an old cartoon from the taz, wrinkled recycled paper, speckled with holes from the various thumbtacks used to pin it on noticeboards above my changing variety of desks throughout the years. It depicts a dreary landscape, barren fields with broken tree stumps, cars and fumes, heavy skies. In the center, a grandfatherly man bends down to a crying child who looks at him with trust and sadness and he says: Believe me, if we had known that driving cars kills trees, we would have stopped immediately!

My father would let out one of his furious snorts whenever he noticed it. In his opinion, this was too emphatic and obviously over simplifying complex issues that will be solved in due course by this advanced society - in which I was for reasons beyond his comprehension and patience unable to participate and pull my proper weight.

But that was then and look, acid rain treaties have been signed and well, yawn.

Last night I was listening to Bruce Springsteen, the double album we bought in 1980. At a time when we were always broke but so full of ourselves, the communes, the organic gardens, food co-ops, alternative education for our home born kids. Life was one long line of exciting rallies, fundraising concerts, peace camps, pickets all the way to utopia and oh, the fun we had.

Anyway, this was the song:

 

And somewhere into the second verse, all R could say was, quite the carbon footprint, driving all night to buy some shoes. And then he said as a by the way remark, life has caught up with us.

And so it has. We have failed. In our arrogance as a species. Today we have been told. But again we fail because seriously, do we actually read that stuff? Climate change a threat to security, food and humankind. The what? Humankind. That's us, remember?

Today I am scared. And furious. But mainly scared. I would dearly love to share in the enthusiasm of Rob Hopkins et al. but right now I agree with Paul Kingsnorth:


27 March 2014

the market in March

all the way from Spain
the first local harvest

last year's onions

all the way from Italy

the hard green ones

delicious wild garlic

the first asparagus of the year

tulips everywhere

25 March 2014

depth over distance

There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called Yesterday and the other is called Tomorrow.

Dalai Lama

A short wintry interlude in this eternal spring.  Could I get a battery indicator, somewhere discretely on the inside of my lower left arm, so that I don't run myself against the walls the next time I think I should be superwoman? Gently flashing in soft pink of green when it's time for a recharge. I am apparently too stupid stubborn to recognise The Signs.


16 March 2014

So yes, this winter has been exceptionally mild and yes, I loved that. Weather wise it has been easy. But other than that. Not so good. Be patient, I tell myself. Things will get better, this stubborn dry cough will ease eventually, your intestines will one day remember how to digest food in general, and all the other loose ends will fall into place, incl. that irritating lack of energy. And so on. I know, even my own eyes get this glazed look when my health is mentioned. 
So predictably repetitive.

But then again, what if this is the shape of things to come? Oh well. Let's not make a mess of it at least. Let's try.

Meanwhile, my inner hibernophile is getting ready for the day tomorrow, just mentally, mind you. Nothing green, no shamrocks or whatnots. I asked my personal Irish prince how to say happy st. patrick's day as gaeilge in Irish, and he said: couldn't give a fuck.
So there. At least I am ready.



This is the story behind the song.

12 March 2014

4 am

You can never tell what it will be like. Could be the clearest moment, silent, calm, hopeful. Could be a dark hole to curl up in, lost and shaking like a hunted animal. That endless stretch of time just before dawn and the first birds. When everything is so much larger, echos inside my head, the drum of my heartbeat all the way to my fingertips.
Sometimes, too many thoughts, swirling and hammering inside my mind, are forcing me to still them with my breath. Other times, I am floating, thinking if this is it, so what.
And always. Daylight, slowly, miraculously.

Last night, my mind was writing a thank you letter to Colm Tóibin. I told him that I read almost everything he has written so far, from back in the days when he had a full head of hair to the first chapter of his latest book. I especially thanked him for writing this:
She ... made her tea as though it were an ordinary Monday and she could take her ease. She put less milk than usual into the scalding tea and made herself drink it, proving to herself that she could do anything now, face anything.
And  before I knew it, I told him about the silent darkness and how one day when I was feeling really low, my child called from the other side of the planet and put on her giraffe costume.


And how this made everything alright  again. Because.

)

10 March 2014

A spring Sunday bordering on summer. The butterflies that were completely absent throughout last year have for some reason chosen early March to make an appearance. And why not, it is after all unseasonally mild after this non-winter. 


There is a rambling sweet pea flowering and I want to say, you are an annual, I planted you out last May, what are you still doing here?


We are still at the kale harvesting stage. Mentally.


But what the heck, we can play this game too, let's pretend it's April and put out the seedlings.






In brightest sunshine, we said good bye to the Douglas fir.


And hello to the new red chestnut.


And in memory of my more rebellous past I manufactured 50 little seed bombs ready to be distributed around the duller parts of town on a rainy and dark night.


While the amaryllis is trying her best to call us back indoors.





Earlier in the day, there were long calls between countries and continents. One of the family has died after a long illness. Someone else's mother, a cousin, an aunt, a friend. There was sadness and relief and the need to talk with the ones we love. And since then, my heart has been whispering to me. I miss my child.

05 March 2014

mid term


First, I get to cut R's hair. The beard he does himself. Next, we go into the woods to loosen limbs and brain cells. And to find more signs of a very early spring.




After that, the house is full of builders, an old tree is felled, a new one is planted, the cat goes into hiding, and my balance organs shut down.

04 March 2014

27 February 2014

driving in my sleep with Elizabeth Bowen

As much as I tried I could not finish the short story I was reading last night. Too tired. It was a beautiful story by Elizabeth Bowen, the magnificent Elizabeth Bowen who wrote Last September. And of course, Bowen's Court, long since knocked down.
The story opens with a woman driving along a country road on a summer's evening, the sun is setting and shadows are slowly covering the distant hills. And of course I was searching for clues and names and eventually placed her on a road coming down from the Galtee Mountains driving south towards Fermoy or maybe even Cork. But it was late, too late now and I fell asleep with the beautiful thought that I will continue reading in the morning.

Some time ago I went to this public lecture. Nowadays, public lectures have to have spectacular themes to pull a crowd, what with all the competition and the internet. This one was called: Learning in your sleep. Actually, it transpired that it's not strictly learning that takes place in our brain while we sleep but that our brain apparently stores and develops whatever we have been thinking about just before sleep. In smart science vocabulary, the offline consolidation of memory during sleep represents a principle of long-term memory formation.
So, we are thinking or reading about something just before sleep and if we are lucky, glimpses of it wander from the temporary storage area inside our brain (where, so it seems, most of what we remember gets lost) to the permanent storage space. And during this process the new stuff sticks onto old stuff and lost memories are rekindled and new memories are formed and so on. There is a lot of clever research done, incl. sniffing rose petals and lavender while memorising complicated rows of figures and shapes before going to sleep.

In my dream last night I was 30 again, driving our battered moke up and up the St. Louis Road and into the forest and then downhill with all the sharp bends towards the coast, past the police station, turning left towards the beach where I stopped the car underneath the large Takamaka trees.
I walked into the almost still surf, north-easterly monsoon, hardly any waves. I closed my eyes and pushed myself under water, resurfacing after a long slow dive. Floating with my face down I could see the sharp colours of coral and fish deep deep below me. And I was overwhelmed by the incredible feeling of being carried, supported on this thin line where ocean and sky meet. The sun was about to set. So close to the equator, it sinks at the count of ten. I turned around and watched the sky darken. The trees were full of birds.

I have had the most wonderful life, so far. I have even been to paradise.




25 February 2014

So the guy who wrote Ghostbusters has died of my disease. Strange feeling.
In the early days, one of the experts told me that had I been diagnosed 25 years ago I would have been dead within six months. But that today, with all the meds and the research and the developments, nobody dies of it - just like that.
Well, some do. But I am invincible.


23 February 2014

Today, an ordinary person can't pick up the phone, email a friend or order a book without comprehensive records of their activities being created, archived, and analysed by people with the authority to put you in jail or worse. I know: I sat at that desk. I typed in the names.
This is a quote by Edward Snowden from yesterday's Guardian. All well and good, I want to say. But no, what bothers me more than anything is the term ordinary person. Because, my dear Edward, you are thinking in a box, your box of ordinary people. Your ordinary people live in Western societies, affluent Western societies. In another interview, you claim that a child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy. You actually claim that mass surveillance is watching everything we do, how it affects the average person. I get your point, don't worry, but when I think about your average person, I also get the arrogance, because with all due respect - and I mean it, you did and continue to stick your neck out for all the right reasons - the world is far more complex and there are children born in all the myriad corners of this planet for whom privacy will never be a concept worth considering. In fact, according to the latest statistics, 22000 of them die every day and not because Bill Gates has failed to supply sufficient mosquito nets or because someone is spying on them. Indeed, maybe they would benefit from a bit of surveillance, maybe less would die. But before I get carried away with my standard rant about causes of poverty, hunger and injustice (which in my book are all man made), let's remember this: Just because we are wealthy - and by gosh, we are - and have iphones, we are not the apex of some imaginary pyramid of advancement.

If we accept that we're all cut from the same genetic cloth, it means by definition we all fundamentally share the same kind of raw human genius. And that brilliance and potential is made manifest through technological wizardry and innovation--which has been the great achievement of the West--or, by contrast, invested into unraveling the complex threads of memory inherent in a myth, or understanding nuances about the relationship between human beings and the spirit world. All of those things are simply a matter of choice and cultural orientation.
 Wade Davis

19 February 2014

The idea of human nature with inherent flaws is consistent with a tragic view of the human condition and it's a part of being human that we have to live with that tragedy.

Daniel Kahnemann

15 February 2014

Four days on another planet. Only four days, three long nights. R picked me up in his space ship and I slowly came back to Earth as he drove along the river in the rain.

During the day and when not examined under clouds of midozolam and various other anaesthetics, I walk the long hallways, those shiny yellow linoleum floors, meeting other patients. Strange, how we all recognise each other here as if we have met before. A young man with many piercings and tattoos tells me he will have surgery tonight. He almost runs from me to hide his tears. A Turkish woman walks beside me for a while, she has no German but uses her fingers and smiles to tell me that she has three daughters and two sons. And with the thumb of her other hand, she introduces her grandchild. She lifts her top to show me the two massive scars near her kidneys and gently pats my belly when I indicate why I am here. When I tell her my age, she lifts her arms and shakes her head and I realise she does not know her date of birth, her age and probably cannot read or write. One of her sons steps out of the elevator and she quickly covers her beautiful long hair with a large embroidered scarf.

My compulsory insurance cover stipulates room sharing. This time, we are three. Which is nice, all in all, and not only because it enables food swapping. I feel very grand giving away everything from my tray except the clear broth I am allowed. 
At night, we talk, tucked into our identical bed clothes, with the lights down and the gurgling noises from the oxygen masks of my two room mates. First, the usual stuff, children, work, homes, family and so on. And then of course, being ill, the treatments, the doctors, the future, the past, the pain, the heart, and so many worries. And before you know it, K talks about her three year old girl, who died of cancer 44 years ago, back in Greece while she was working here sending money home to pay for treatment and M bursts into tears telling us about her horrible horrible marriage to a man who died 27 years ago. Outside the church bells ring, two o'clock.  

Later on, we lie in this strange silence, drifting from sleep into thinking and back again. Tomorrow K will be told that the cancer has spread to her liver. M's granddaughter will promise to look after her when she gets better, please please please. And one of the doctors with a friendly but worried smile will explain procedures to me. Which include a most horrid disgusting 12 hrs of you don't want to know (mainly spent gagging etc. on toilets) and something like 5000 biopsies taken here and there and suddenly it is all over.

Take it easy for the next 48 hrs, they tell me. No lifting etc. Eat what you can handle. Results asap, they promise.







10 February 2014

Tomorrow at 11 am I am to check in to hospital for the whole shebang, four, maybe five or who knows, just three short days of fun with colon and stomach and assorted other organs. I don't expect I will get to eat much. Part of me wants to treat this like any old adventure, cycle there with my essentials, my nightdress and toothbrush tucked into my old red panniers. And of course, cycle back home when I have seen the sights and run out of clean underwear. 
But I suppose I better play the part of mature woman with a nagging chronic illness. Anyway, I feel so much better. It probably was nothing apart from losing a bit of weight.
I'll bring a couple of books and the ipod with my latest collection of radio documentaries and the soothing voice of Jarvis Cocker for long nights. And I'll catch up on life without internet. Last time I was in hospital, I watched two series of Madmen almost nonstop. And now look where that got me.

07 February 2014

Some things seem to get more complicated. Maybe Ireland in the early 1980s was more radical than I thought at the time. I think I was once asked to go upstairs because "granddad was coming". Obviously, I stayed put and he didn't seem to mind.


05 February 2014

I suppose it's all about doing something without thinking. It's nothing really, we all do it. 
Brahms. I just switch off. Especially when it's dark and rainy and the traffic lights change too quickly and I know I will be sitting here in the car for another ten minutes or so. At least. So, no Brahms and no Haydn, no Mahler, no Dvorak while we're at it. None of that stuff for me. Thank you very much.
Honestly, I do try it once in a while. I mean, it is beautiful music. I know that much. Sometimes I can just sit there in silence but most days, I quickly change channels.

Small children love their parents. They can't help it. Small children are like Konrad Lorenz's baby geese, forever following their parents. All that love, that hope, that devotion. And the trust. Thinking of this overwhelming trust my knees begin to shake.

Some days when I am waiting at a traffic light in the dark car just after I switched off the classics channel I want to sit my mother down and look into her eyes all calm and composed. I want to be the small girl I was then and at the same time I want to be the woman and the mother I am now. I want to tell her that small children can feel compassion, that they can understand and that they care, that they watch you and that sometimes what they see can be so big and heavy it hurts. I want her to know, very urgently, that small children need to understand what is going on, that whatever it is, it is not their fault. 
The Sunday mornings, the house full of Brahms, a mother crying in the kitchen, gagging from the smell of frying meat, overcome with black memories of burnt flesh, the pleading voices, the sound of breaking china, the ambulance.
Your children, I want to tell her, will stand out in the cold by the garden gate for long dark hours waiting for the headlights of your car to reappear. They will sit quiet as mice in their room waiting for you to unlock the door again. They are waiting for you to allow a hug and they will promise you to be good, to be quiet. With all their heart, they will promise you anything. For you to be better.
And when it becomes harder and harder over time, still your children will try. Until one day, when it will be easier to pretend, to lie.

And I want to tell her that I know all of this because my own daughter taught me this so beautifully from the day she was born.

04 February 2014

02 February 2014

After six days of swallowing a handful of pancreatic lipase capsules with every meal I can see some light at the end of the tunnel. Faint, but there it is, incl. a cup of decent coffee with hot milk, outside in the spring sunshine. Never mind that spring at the beginning of February is more than odd, if not downright scary.

Of course, I have consulted dr google only after I read my way through a couple of online articles from scientific journals. I know what happens when you do this the other way round.
I have also chosen to ignore the fact that the capsules are made from the pancreas of dead pigs. (In my defence, I can state that I found this out after I felt the first improvements. But still. My inner vegetarian is however too sick to respond.)
At night, when I wake up and listen to the rumbling and painful cramps in my abdomen, sipping more hideous herb teas and hugging a fresh hot water bottle, I discuss my case with my GP. 
I am his best informed patient and he listens quietly while I expand on the probable causes of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, its therapy options and my suggestions on further steps to be taken. I can do this really well. I have seen enough court room dramas to know how to plead my case of mild hypochondria cum panic. Still, it is quite some work and fills the hours nicely until the dawn chorus sets in. 






30 January 2014

Today is day four on my way of recovery from the weekend. I think I am getting better. At least I have started to laugh a little bit about some of the stuff he did and said. A sort of incredulous laughter. Did he really do that, say that and that and that? Yes, he did.
But for the time being I am not answering my father's calls. Just a precaution. I don't want to treat him like shit or - following my sibling's advice - a rude 85 year old child. Or be his rude 56 year old daughter in return. This time, I will lick my wounds a bit longer and then do the grand magnanimous thing of forgive and forget. Anyway, that's the plan.
There is this tall, skinny man I remember, grating apple into our muesli in the warm kitchen of our crammed little flat. He is blowing a lock of his unruly blond hair from his forehead. We know he will tell us a funny story once he is finished and we can all start our breakfast.

28 January 2014

23 January 2014

The GP is still working on it I have been told. So am I. Nibbling bits of toast and sneaking in a spoon of mango yogurt - time will tell. Dandelion tea as well. I am getting somewhere.

Meanwhile I am lining my stomach with sarcasm and dark humour as the world prepares to gather for my father's 85th birthday on Saturday. There will be speeches, there could be amateur chamber music (please no) and there will be the usual gawking and whispering until the first round of bubbly has been downed. After that we will all be at our best behaviour and pretend to be sophisticated academics or something like that.

We will listen to various versions of my father's grand achievements and we will all pretend that he did what he did without the support of a wife who will not be mentioned. And why should she. After all she is long dead and gone and can no longer mess up the ceremony sitting in the back smoking and tsk-tsking and generally showing off her superiority - before and during getting pissed. In her moody condescending way, she was never a rowdy drunk. No, she could put you down and in your miserable little place after two bottles of vodka just as well as if she'd be sober. Probably even better. But I really don't want to remember.
Maybe my brother and my sister and me will exchange a quick look but who knows, we may actually just have a decent enough time. 

And I will wear my new jeans and a freshly ironed linen shirt. I told him I would not do the black dress thing and he laughed and suggested a warm cardigan instead. 
The buffet dinner will be an adventure and I shall cross that bridge when I see what's on offer.

This series of groundbreaking events will be framed by two long train journeys through possibly snowy landscape, the magical river valley and I will be able to watch it all in silence with R doing his paper work across from me, a couple of BBC podcasts in my ear and who knows, maybe a whole bunch of really weird and interesting people will come my way.

22 January 2014

Seemingly my stomach has now almost completely stopped to process food. There is still watery porridge to sustain me in small spoonfulls but all the other stuff, no way. Except for a bit of steamed cauliflower in between. But seriously. I know that the early Irish settlers lived to a very old age with their staple diet of everything made from oats. Although I bet they picked juicy berries and killed the odd animal for a feast.
I love food, I love cooking. 
In my GP's surgery today I asked whether I could just get a new stomach please. One made of rubber or plastic so that my immune suppression meds cannot do so much damage. No luck. Instead I have to wait now for him to call back with yet another action plan.
And of course, coffee sends me round the bend with pain and black tea is not so good either despite the fact that I try and sneak in the odd cup. There is always fennel tea and this fancy concoction from the pharmacy with yarrow, nettle and mint. It tastes just like it sounds, yarrow yarrow yarrow yarrow...
Plus hot water bottles.
This is certainly one way to lose weight quickly.

21 January 2014

stuff we can learn from rats

 Obviously, I am totally against animal experiments in scientific research and I have supported every campaign against it ever since. But there you are, research labs around the world are working with a veritable zoo of animal species. I have edited papers on the most gruesome things: sheep having their knees fractured and fixed with gadgets that are now used to help Olympic skiers and runners and various millionaires back on track, genetically modified rhesus monkeys for the testing of vaccines against cancer and millions and millions of rodents, most of them with inbred diseases, tumours, disabilities etc. are used in research on almost everything.  

The terminology alone is staggering. Animals are usually sacrificed, they are never ever killed or culled. Occasionally, they simply die. If it's part of the study design, that's an ok expression, if not, they are lost to follow-up or, worse, excluded from results. And their living conditions are spotless and under strict observation with protocolled access to chow and water and so on.
Not unlike cattle or pigs and certainly better than battery chicken.

Then again, some of the findings are amazing and what can I say? I have a serious chronic disease and somewhere along the line, the drugs I have to take to stay alive were certainly tested in animal studies.

And rats are amazing creatures. They can teach us a thing or two.



For example, that helping each other is more important and better than eating chocolate.

 When we act without empathy we are acting against our biological inheritance. If humans would listen and act on their biological inheritance more often, we'd be better off.
But rats teach us one more thing. Helping each other means helping everybody, not just our own people. It's something rats learn really quickly and maybe one day, we humans can learn it, too. 
In mammals, helping is preferentially provided to members of one's own group. Yet, it remains unclear how social experience shapes pro-social motivation. We found that rats helped trapped strangers by releasing them from a restrainer, just as they did cagemates.
And when we reach this new level of social empathy - frankly, that should not take us longer than the couple of days it took the rats  - images such as this one will let us open our homes and our hearts and just like our friends, the rats, we will do whatever it takes to help free our fellow human beings from their misery.
from: http://www.mashid.com/

18 January 2014

the curse of the voodoo lily

For a very long time, this bulb is sitting in the rice bowl S brought from Tashkent, ontop of the ancient tv set.
You more or less forget about it until after a couple of weeks it starts to sprout some branches.
And some more.
Now you get out the laser temperature pointer, the one you normally use to entertain the cat - even after S tells you about how this upsets the feline psyche etc. Anyway, you now start to check the temperature of the stem because you know from some clever website that things will hot up - literally - in a matter of days.
As indeed they do. This is what you find one morning and from past experience, you know that you better stay put.
Because within the next couple of hours, things developed into this.
Which is when the smell starts to hit you. A bit like rotting meat, dead mice, cat's piss and tomcat markings all in one. By now, the stem just above the forming leaf is becoming hot to the touch. And while the leaf unfurls in front of your eyes, the stem swells and turns a deep purple.
And before you have a chance to take any more pictures it all collapses most dramatically right there and then and the stink is making you retch. But, hey, what a beauty. The next bulb has started to come alive.