08 August 2020

two songs

Right now, there is a lot stacked at the negative side. And I am not immune to feeling down over It All.
In a lengthy zoom meeting with far away friends last night, we discussed helplessness and being at a loss as to what to do when overwhelmed by the seemingly endless feed of bad news, climate change, mass extinction, the pandemic, the lot.

I haven't got enough energy to always be disheartened, depressed. Feeling hopeless is hard work. Even listing all the stuff that makes me feel upset and hopeless is too much work. 
But unable to turn away. I wish I could.
Anyway, Saturdays are difficult days while my body metabolises the weekly shot of immune suppressant medicine. 

Also, we are having a heat wave. The lawn turned into grey bristle in the span of 24 hours. We covered the greenhouse with the black netting, filled the bird baths, shut the house and let down the blinds. It could be a blizzard out there for all I know. But instead it's still 39°C out on the patio at almost 8 pm.  

So today, I am posting two songs to cheer myself up. To remind myself that we need to bear witness, to be aware, to stay open, to learn, to act responsibly. That nothing is normal, never has been.

05 August 2020

virus bits

First, I invite you to have a brief look here.

So, the virus, or The Covid as my Irish family calls it.

Like so many, I have by now had a couple of virus related dreams. In one of them, I was struggling to breathe and as a result, in the morning, I read through my Living Will to reassure myself that I have it in black and white, no ventilator if in intensive care. It's a thing, I admit but I have watched people on ventilators, incl. my mother and, no. I am old enough.
The other dream comes back in various guises. In it, I meet friends, dear friends, who come bearing gifts and who refuse to wear masks or keep a distance and basically laugh at me for being so vigilant. (There is one of them in real life. She is convinced she'll never catch it or if, just a mild case. We don't mention it.) Anyway, that one scares me a lot.

Our numbers a creeping upwards, ever so slowly and there is tons, I don't exaggerate, tons of information and appeals and catchy videos and songs in the media, tabloid incl., to remain vigilant. It's a shaky calm. In my city, we currently have six patients in intensive care and 21 infected cases.

Virologists now assume that almost half of the infections are caused by aerosol transmission, almost the other half by larger droplets and only about ten percent by smear infections. While the larger droplets fall to the ground rapidly within an area of around one and a half meters - keeping your distance helps here - the microscopic aerosols can stay in the air for a longer time, spinning around and infecting someone in the process. Since they arise not only when coughing and sneezing, but also when speaking, singing, shouting and breathing, it is almost impossible for an infected person to not produce them.

This means that, especially in closed rooms, a distance of 1.5 meters is not necessarily sufficient to protect yourself against infections. Indoor restaurant seating, church services or open-plan offices are all places where many have been infected in the past. If you need to be in such a place, the best option at the moment, apart from wearing a mask, is to ventilate by opening the window, because this ensures that the air is diluted or exchanged. And keeping a distance. Same old. Same old.

As a rule of thumb, the fewer people we see, the shorter we stay in closed rooms and the more distance we keep, the better.

The orange man apparently said something like: "This thing's going away. It will go away like things go away." It's almost philosophical. Almost.

One of the brilliant Monty Pythons sketches is the one about the dead parrot. If you don't know it, watch it here, it's a good laugh and we all need that. Not only because not all things do go away the way things should go away. And then watch the new version here.

In other news, this week was our 41st anniversary - we forgot.
Also, my mother died 21 years ago - I remembered, but only because my sister called me on a pretext.

Meanwhile, it is pink week with grapes:


31 July 2020

You Ain't Goin' Nowhere

Five decades ago, at the end of July, I am living at home with my parents and my big sister and my younger brother. My father has given me the task of reading the map and navigating him on the long journey to our holiday home on the coast in Denmark. This means that I can sit next to him in the passenger seat and not get carsick in the back. I love reading maps. I love school, I play the piano, I sing in a choir and I am so much looking forward to our seaside holiday where I can read all the books I packed. My parents are making jokes about how many.

Four decades ago, at the end of July, I am living with R in a tiny attic flat in Heidelberg and I have just decided to drop out of university with four months to go to my final exams. I know I never want to teach, research or lecture, instead I am working at the hospital, mostly mopping floors and sterilising bits and pieces. R is working for a landscape gardener. In the evenings, we sit by the river making plans about cycling all the way to Ireland. My parents stop talking to me.

Three decades ago, at the end of July, I am living in a small bungalow with a corrugated tin roof in a  tropical African country. I am married to R who is teaching chemistry and biology at the capital's polytechnic, our seven year old daughter is climbing trees and diving for crabs. My job as a business manager at a government training scheme has just come to an end and I am giving away/selling our things. In a few days we will move on to spend some time in India. Back in Germany, after my mother's latest suicide attempt, my father is preparing to run away in the middle of the night, he will be in hiding for several months.

Two decades ago, at the end of July, I am living in Germany again. We have just bought a house very similar to the one I grew up in, R is teaching and our daughter is preparing to move on to study and be an adult. I have just started my new job at the university medical faculty and at the obligatory health check-up for newcomers my blood works have come back with troubling results. I decide to ignore this and instead get ready for a three week long bike trip across Germany with R. My mother is dead, my father rejoicing, now that I am finally where he feels I belong, in Germany and at a university.

One decade ago, at the end of July, I am mostly at home resting in our house and garden. R is still teaching. Our daughter, after years of study, travel and work on several continents, is beginning to settle down on the other side of the planet.  By now, I have been out sick for 11 months and I am in no shape yet to go back to work. I am beginning to accept the reality of a livelong chronic illness. I buy an ebike and slowly begin cycling again, first minutes and hours, then a morning, a day, and eventually, after another year, a whole week. I have started to blog. My father is refusing to understand chronic, but tries to be helpful.

Today, at the end of July, I am still living with R in this house near the river. I am still working at the university, but part time and since mid March, from home during this strange pandemic. R is a retired teacher and a busy gardener. Our daughter is living with her small family on the other side of the planet and the pandemic has cut a big gash through all our plans and dreams. I am a virtual grandmother, my grandchild sings with me via social media. I cycle along the river. My father is in a retirement home. He is unwell and angry.

I blog. Some nights I sleep poorly. I am comfortably resigned. My energy is limited, I am not much in pain. I could miss a lot. I could complain, I could shout at the moon.

I read maps, there are places I think I still want, I still need to go to.

24 July 2020

the keys to paradise

"Putting something called Nature on a pedestal and admiring it from afar does for the environment what patriarchy does for the figure of Woman. It is a paradoxical act of sadistic admiration."

". . . the belief that humanity will soon become involved in a deep and abiding worldwide partnership with nature. Millions of us will commit ourselves to reversing the long legacy of environmental degradation that threatens to destabilize the climate as well as the great ecologies that sustain life on Earth. We must develop a vast stewardship initiative, which will become the great work of our time. Fortunately, there are as many ways to serve the Earth as there are people willing to engage in this vast restoration project. It includes nothing less than stabilizing the planet’s climate as well as saving ourselves."

We could if we wanted to. But, ahh, distraction, distraction. Two days ago, I got sidetracked while I was searching online for a specific white cotton vest for my father and before I knew it, I was contemplating purchasing various underwear items I did not need to restock. I refrained, because: size charts, how do they work? Since then, this link keeps popping up to a site listing "the 10 female clothing items men hate". I am not even tempted, what do I care. As a form of interweb punishment I have since received an invitation, I kid you not, to view bargain funeral cars. There could be a message here.

19 July 2020

virologists rule

If you read just one more article about corona, read this whole interview with Dr. Fauci on Medscape
 One quote:
"Two things. One, I just try to express how much I admire the real heroes on the front line for getting in there every day and essentially putting themselves at risk. I'm operating from a different vantage point where I am, but I almost miss the days of being in the trenches with you. So that's the first thing.
The second thing is that, you know, this is so stressful for all of us. I think we have to remember that we're gonna get through this. This is not something that's gonna be forever. We're gonna get through it. It's gonna be over. And we're going to look back and hopefully say we really gave it our best shot. And it's gonna be over from two standpoints: It's going to be over from a public health standpoint if we get it right, public health–wise.
But I think science and good biomedical research are also going to come to the rescue because we're going to get a vaccine, hopefully sooner rather than later, and we will get effective therapeutics. So for the people on the frontlines and in the trenches, hang in there with us. We're all in it together and we're gonna get through it. So that's my message to them."

Apparently, the number of medical students applying to specialise in virology has quadrupled in recent months. At least at the university where I work. 

17 July 2020

home office

So there I was early, very early one morning, long before day break and even earlier than the birds, too exhausted to go back to sleep. The woman from the corner house, the painter who howls at the moon, had just shattered another glass bottle onto her driveway, throwing it out of her upstairs bathroom window with many curse words and threats. She is not boozing, several time that night it was empty water bottles she threw out, an expensive French brand, volcanic source, with a 1 Euro refund per bottle.

I lay there contemplating again if I should do something, go over and ring her door bell and offer my help and risk getting a bottle whacked over my head. Once again, I reprimanded myself for not having done that weeks ago, before she started with the throwing of glass and china and that walking over there in the dark would be tricky what with all the shards on her garden path. And then I started worrying whether I should wear a mask or not and well, I fell asleep again, dreaming of my mother.
The way she would climb onto the upstairs window ledge threatening to jump because we didn't tidy up our room.

In the morning, I wrote an email to the social psychiatric helpline about the scenario, bottles and howling and cursing and please, please, no police, and ended it with asking for a call back. Then I tried to delete the email but too late.
An hour later, someone called me, one of these firm female voices, professionally emphatic, and we had a decent enough talk and she took down notes and described the possible steps, i.e. a letter offering help, followed by a house call, no pressure, all voluntarily, but possibly not until sometime in August and that we should only consider calling the cops if she keeps it up with the bottle throwing and noise disruption at night and while I tried to frantically pedal back explaining that there was a lot more noise from neighbours revving their expensive cars and leaf blowers and hedge cutters and that it was her safety I was concerned for, the police arrived. I almost started to cry but it turns out, another neighbour was responsible for that and she never opened her door and stayed quiet as a mouse. In fairness, the professionally emphatic female on the phone seemed to get my point and we exchanged numbers and decided to keep an eye on things. Whatever that implies.

Why do I do stuff like that? That woman did not have the time of day for me in all the years we lived here and I have one bad dream about my mother and cannot keep my mouth shut.

In other news, I am officially on holidays. In fact, while busily working from home since mid March, due to pandemic measures, I have lost touch of my holiday entitlement and now must take at least one week every month until the end of the year or else. Also, I was informed by HR that since the beginning of my pandemic related home office confinement I have worked far more than my contract hours and must stop doing that as home office and overtime are mutually exclusive concepts. I reacted by collapsing into a deep semi coma of exhaustion and have now told R that I intend to sleep for the next three days. At least. Seriously.

The video above is the free entertainment laid on for us on the patio. The one below is music for a Friday.

10 July 2020

Surprise, July so far has been cool and wet. Cool-ish and wet-ish. We are holding it together at the fort here, plenty of gardening and housekeeping and home office to bring in the dough.

I sort of lost it for a bit after I read about the risks to airline travel regardless of whatever air filter system gadgets and seat spacing. One of the eminent virologists told a reporter that he would only go on an airplane at a push and then wearing a protective suit and those super duper masks and for the life of me, I cannot see myself on a 33 hrs trip geared up that way, never mind the stop overs. Maybe on a couple of cargo ships? And I read the bit about mild cases who after a speedy recovery have developed neurological symptoms (tremors, balance loss, encephalitis, more here) and then the findings of how the virus attacks heart cells (more here).

Before that, I was skipping about asking people to dig deep into their creative thoughts and to come up with positive stuff and no more hankering after our has-been normal life and moaning about what we cannot change. Acceptance, I shouted with a smile. Should have known I was way over the top.

This is something that happens to other people in other times; something you might imagine, might read about – not experience. But it is real, it is happening. The plague is back. It never went away. Welcome to the future. No, welcome to the present, to the reality of an ineradicable highly contagious and sometimes fatal virus. There might be a vaccine for it at some stage, as there is for measles. There might not be, as there is not for HIV. A reliable treatment might be developed, as there is for HIV. Or it might not be, like measles.

In any event, there is a gap between what we know about our situation and what our gut believes, a gap that creates confusion, promotes outrage over inconveniences, complacency after early successes. We “know” what’s happening, but we don’t quite “feel” it. Our collective gut is still telling us normality is just around the corner. The reality has been slow to sink in because it’s beyond our privileged experience.

As you will yourself into the reality you perhaps start to understand how the millions before you didn’t understand either, didn’t read the signs, didn’t grasp calamity unfolding, were unprepared, were lost in history’s turmoil, thought their mass grave impossible even as they dug it. We’re out of practice. Mass disasters don’t happen here, not in our lifetime. The plagues and total wars and famines and deaths in the thousands and millions are confined to television screens. Even our hard times remain relatively soft in the broader, longer scheme of things. Other people’s individual tragedies have gone on regardless. In groups sometimes, in planeloads. Communities when fire or flood or landslide tear through. Bad, terrible, but this, this indiscriminate imposition … on everyone? And slowly the comprehension comes – it has always been everyone.

The single diagnosis and mass verdict, the individual execution and the genocide: Each one, one person, however many. One person facing mortality. We’re born to this. We will get used to it. Adapting is what we do best.

07 July 2020

We have a bit of a drop in temperatures, even a few heavy showers. But summer, nevertheless.
After the last month's heavy cluster of infections in the meat packing plant and the expected media frenzy about animal welfare and underpaid seasonal workers from Eastern Europe, we wake up to the news that in a neighbouring town, several members of the local Baptist church got symptoms and the entire congregation has been tested and all (!) are positive. All the singing and praising, well done, 500+ people are now in quarantine.

My father has been moved to a geriatric intermediate care facility for the next whatever how many weeks. He is still angry but slowly realising that he has to work on his cunning and charm to make do. The virus restrictions are complicating matters, he thinks we are all scared ninnies but has resigned to play along for a while. Anyway, picture a 91-year old in bed, unable to stand or walk for the next 12 or so weeks if at all, with his phone in one hand and his tv remote control in the other. He has a nice sunny room with a balcony all by himself, meals are served at his wish and a string of physiotherapists, doctors and carers are coming and going, like a hen house, he tells me.
When I call him, I don't get a word in one way or another, I listen until he declares the call finished and afterwards I search my soul for feelings.

Here is a picture of the cycle path along the river, looking north. That spiky church tower in the distance on the left, that's as far as I'll cycle, then I am almost home.

A few weeks ago, one of our big weekly papers asked seven leading experts in the fields of virology and epidemiology (from Germany, the UK and the US) six questions on the corona pandemic.

The last and sixth question was:

When do you think our life will be the same as it was before the pandemic?

These are the answers.

Expert no. 1: I wish I could answer that. I'm afraid we'll have to live with restrictions for quite a while. It will probably only be really normal again if we have an approved vaccine and a good part of us has been vaccinated.

Expert no. 2: Only when we have a vaccine and enough people have been vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. But I also want to ask people to think about what kind of normalcy we want to return to. In many countries, a large number of older people have died in care facilities. I want to ask people to think about the circumstances that led to it. This also includes the underlying problem of neglecting older people. As a society, we can and should do better.

Expert no. 3: The corona pandemic has made many people aware that, despite technological developments, there can still be uncontrollable events that come from outside bringing, in addition to significant medical consequences, also economic and social cuts. A bit of the "lightness of being" has been taken away from modern society.

Expert no. 4: Never.

Expert no. 5: I believe and hope that in some areas, our life will not be the same as it used to be. Perhaps in the future there will be less travel, less presence culture, fewer meetings and more home office and overall improved local structures? The pandemic has shown many inequalities and many weaknesses in our existing systems and I think it should serve as a wake-up call.
I think that many of the good things in life, like close social contacts, being with a lot of people, festivals, big weddings, going out, going out to eat, celebrating, will probably only be possible with a vaccine with the "old" lightheartedness.

Expert no. 6: I think the pandemic will have a lasting impact on our social interactions, on closeness and distance to other people, and on attitudes towards hygiene in our lives. People will be more careful with each other for a very long time, many will avoid mass events for some time and travel differently. We will be ready to invest a larger proportion of our economy to prepare and prevent further pandemics, which will affect different professional groups. Hopefully there will be an intensive debate about media, information, influence and truth - and there will be a fresh exploration of the basis on which social decisions are made and should be in the future.

Expert no.7: Life goes on. After this pandemic, we will have developed a new culture of dealing with each other that will change us in the long term. I sincerely hope that as part of this new culture we will be able to redevelop ease and impartiality.

03 July 2020

songs and pictures

Today, Friday, music day, I have the same song in two versions. There is a third version, which is the one I have been singing to my myself all day.  To the extent that R has politely asked me to cut it out.

And at the end of the week I am also tired. So just some pictures of and from the garden. The raspberry harvest is massive, the freezer is packed, R is making jam and clafoutis.

this year we have a massive raspberry harvest

The blackcurrants are already soaking in gin.

The onions are now drying in the wood shed

and that patch of wildflower is the square experiment, I insisted on leaving a section of the lawn go wild and with a little help from a seed packet, this is what happened. Apart from the poppy, there are eight other different flowering plants - so far.

The grapes ripen while we watch,

the lilies are just lilies

and the feijoa tree is somewhat camera shy, but it is simply loaded with blossoms and every morning buzzing with bumble bees, giving us hope of some fruit eventually.

02 July 2020

imagine the world anew

I try to cycle for while every day, always the same long loop - as we call it -, about 10 km, 35 mins at best. I check the sky for rain and get on with it, despite aching joints or that gruesome tiredness (fatigue, my doctor calls it, ever so proper). First I wind my way southwards through our suburb, past the string of old village houses, timber framed, medieval, low roofs, the playground, the fish shop, the pharmacy, the school yards, the park where elderly men wearing masks play boules, the villas from the Wilhelminian era with their high windows and fancy stucco fronts and topiary framing the garden gates, and so on until I turn sharp left and roll down towards the ferry and onto the bike path along the river. If I needed to, I could cycle north on this path all the way to the Dutch coast or south all the way to the source in Switzerland, always with the river beside me, on and on - I have almost done it both ways. It's nice but tedious in places.
But at that spot, here where the ferry crosses and I have rolled down that small hill, it's gorgeous. The river is like a sheet of blue green wavy glass, swans and ducks and barges and rowing boats, there are the castles on the top of the hills on the other side amid thick forest, the light, the clear air, and I could sing it's so lovely and expansive and pleasant. And I fly all the way back, pedalling faster and faster.

Listen to this short text by Arundhati Roy.
I think more and more that we are facing our one and only chance as humans to find our real potential at last. Provided we can shake off the distractions from these nasty old men and their empty dreams of money and power.

Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.

27 June 2020

"Leggi almeno, tiranna infedele"

Let me tell you about a man I have known all my life. He is stubborn, harsh but fair in his judgements, very intelligent, unforgiving and steadfast. He loves a debate, any good argument, provided it is presented with conviction, knowledge and a decent sense of humour. He abhors smooth talkers, smart alecks, shower offers, fools pretending to be clever. He has no tolerance for dawdling. His sense of direction is excellent. He can name the constellations in the sky without hesitation and recite Homer's Iliad until you ask him to please stop it, that yes, you get his point. Then he will grin. Like a schoolboy.
If asked (but who would dare to) he would name as his principles, decency and punctuality. If asked, you would need to know and recite the five steps of the scientific method (observation, hypothesis, prediction, experiment, confirmation) without hesitating. As regards music, music is for listening, never background noise. He loves opera despite or maybe because of the fact that it puts him to sleep.

He hated the lockdown and as soon as the restrictions were lifted, he picked up all his regular habits. Lunch every weekday at the Italian restaurant, no more meals on wheels in his lonely kitchen. On Sunday a nice drive to the country inn. Shopping every Wednesday (sourdough bread, cheese, fruit, coffee and tea, dark chocolate and shortbread).

His difficulties walking, he claims, are due to being lazy and occasionally, he sets out exercise regimens. On paper only.

On his last shopping spree, with a supermarket shopping cart as his walking aid - as usual -, he found that the lift back to the underground carpark was out of order and since stairs are not an option, he decided to push the shopping cart down the spiralling downhill car ramp. The loaded shopping cart. The shopping cart that has no breaks which pulled him faster and faster down the ramp until he fell and fractured his left leg in several places.

He is stubborn, I repeat myself, I know.

He convinced the people who ran to his help that he was ok and no, there was no need to call an ambulance. With help, he made it to his car and when someone offered to drive him home, he accepted. Reluctantly. Some kind people did that, drove him home, parked his car for him, brought him indoors, unpacked his shopping and reluctantly left him there to walk back to the shopping center car park.
Alone at home, he was scared for a while. (That is my interpretation.)

His biggest fear is illness, he faints at the sight of blood (it's not his fault or weakness, it's called vasovagal syncope) and in any case, in his opinion, doctors these days are too young and uppity.

But he felt weak, physically that is, and in pain and also, what about dinner. He picked up the phone. Eventually.

He is now recovering from surgery, a metal plate in his leg, no standing or walking for at least ten weeks. After 48 hrs of confusion and disorientation, he is now furious with everybody and everything. And to demonstrate his fury, he has removed the venous access, the painkiller infusions and all the other useless stuff.

By the end of next week, he will be transferred to temporary geriatric rehabilitation in a newly built assisted living facility. We continue to stress the word temporary, although we fervently hope it will become permanent.

Currently, he is not speaking to any of us.

Last night, unable to sleep I was fighting waves of pity for him and of course, my fear of finally losing his affection and acceptance forever. By the time the birds started to sing, I realised that in my place, he would not hesitate for a second to pack me off to the next care home around the corner.

19 June 2020

this week

This was the week it rained heavily, some basements were flooded. Not ours. Instead we had a burst pipe in the laundry at 2 am a couple of nights ago. Thanks to my weak bladder, which forced me to get out of bed that hour and eventually awake enough to realise that, no I was not listening to a mountain water fall, we caught it early and spent only a half hour or five turning off the mains and sweeping the puddles into the drain with whatever came handy before getting back to sleep - only joking, not much sleep.

Anyway, it's all fixed now and just before I could catch up on sleep, my father fell and fractured several bones in his leg or legs and now he had surgery and we cannot visit, or only my brother can, from a distance, and he probably will not walk again, not that he has been walking properly for years anyway. But this time round, we are looking at geriatric rehabilitation supposedly starting next week and care home because, in the words of the doctor who eventually was available by phone, the old man is currently very confused. No more living the life of Riley alone and fancy free. However, and this is the sleepless bit, care homes, even the fancy ones he deserves to spend his money on, are not open to new inmates because, you guessed it, the virus. My brother is all cool and, hey it's early days but seriously, I am a mess.

The weirdest thing is that the day before this happened, earlier this week, he called me outside of our schedule (which is unusual to say the least) and said a couple of very nice things to me about me, something he never ever does. He put down the phone in his normal abrupt way but it floored me somewhat. Because my mother, on the day I called her in hospital where 12 hours earlier she had heart surgery, she was sober and sweet and called me by my secret childhood name and said a couple of very nice things to me about me, something she had not done for 40+ years. And that night, her lungs collapsed and she lost her voice for ever and her dignity and eventually, after six hard months, she died in this excruciating, terrible, inhuman way that we are all afraid could happen again despite all the Living Wills we have at the ready.

I don't know why this song is in my head, but there it is. Nothing makes sense anyway.

15 June 2020

mostly lilies

Just figuring out how to insert pictures in the new blogger thingy. A few of the things from the garden right now.

Ethopian lily
Ethiopian lily

New Zealand rock lily

wild strawberries

one of (almost too) many butterheads

muscatel grapes with lily


white lily

12 June 2020

Hot and humid. Watching thunderstorms passing us by. We sit outside after dark and talk about people who have died, how we miss them and how happy their lives were or not. 
This is a different kind of summer.

We didn't really notice very much in the way we designed towns and streets, houses, drains. Didn't really design with anything in mind but us lot. And so, the idea that "outside your house is the outside" isn't quite true. It's actually still human centric social space and can be very dangerous for other life forces.

The end of the world has already happened. The climate crisis is a sign that things have already gone drastically wrong in our, or at least the white western humans' relationships with the world. That doesn't mean it's too late. It just means that the world we thought to live in turns out not to be quite as it seemed. There's this thing that we call anthropocentrism which is the notion of putting human beings at the top of the hierarchy. The end of the world is the end of the idea that humans are the only people who have a world on this planet.

Timothy Morton

05 June 2020

and now it rains

This is the second day of rain, on and off, nothing too heavy, but rain. What a relief. I want a whole week of it.
A young pigeon sits on one of the almond trees outside the bedroom window every morning now, cooing persistently just after sunrise. It is a very loud cooing, let me tell you, but so far I have resisted the urge to clap my hands chasing it away.
The expert called and confirmed that I should continue to work from home and that the reason why so few people with chronic autoimmune diseases have been found to get ill with the virus has nothing to do with secret immune powers but with the fact that chronically ill people know how to keep away from risks.
She also stressed again that this is it for me, that there are no miracle cures and also, age . . . I told her I was on top of it all and happy with my lot and smiled my zoom smile because this was a zoom
doctor's appointment. And when she logged off I cursed the screen and ran to R for comfort. Side effect.

In gardening news, here is our Robin rose (and especially for Roger to stay well).

Also, a flowering stretch and potentially massive grape harvest to come.

The first of many lilies.

As for music on a Friday, I cannot think of anything that could lift my mood. So here is some spoken words from 1977.

02 June 2020

The Republic of Gilead

For a long time we were going away from Gilead and then we turned around and started going back towards Gilead.
Margaret Atwood

It got summery, hot even. We sleep with our windows wide open. There's night scented stock mixed with the smell of dry lawn. I listen. To the artist in the corner house across, she is in one of her manic phases, shouting curses at the moon, banging doors and kicking something down her front path. To the engineer from Palestine, smoking on his balcony, laughing on the phone to his brother in Australia. To the river barges' chuck chuck chuck down on the river. A baby wakes up briefly in one of the terraced houses behind us.

I am thinking, unconnected night thoughts.
Of something a friend mentioned during a conversation, when does a democracy  become an autocracy. Do we even notice? What if looting is all the power you have left in a constant state of injustice? But listen, she said, people see what they want to see. And many prefer to get upset about broken shop windows rather than the real reasons people are taking to the streets. I just can't imagine that this will suddenly change. It's been way too long for that.
(We both sighed, not really involved, but.)

Earlier after dinner, watching the news, I mentioned Gilead and R laughs, you have been watching too many TV series. Checks and balances, come on. But there's this nagging thought, when does a democracy turn into an autocracy and do we even notice, watching from afar? Can democracy across the Atlantic survive with four more years of this shit, kleptocracy, nepotism, corruption? What do I know.

29 May 2020

this summer and next summer

"So often these days, every living thing seems overwhelmingly tender and fragile to me. I can feel angry at the stupidity of those joining crowds and rejecting personal and community protection, but more often, I cry that people are so anxious they’re willing to deny reality. I hear them laughing together on the trail and wonder if they’re robbing themselves of laughing together in a few weeks, or months. Next summer. Ever."

The rambling rose is still flowering like there is no tomorrow. The peonies are rushing it, out in full force at sunrise and spent by dinner time. The lilies are beginning their show and cosmos, well, I don't remember cosmos blossoms in May. But there they are. Maybe I am overreacting and this is just the way things go. A friend from Berlin sends me pictures of racoons climbing onto her 3rd floow balcony, eating the left over crumbs from her breakfast. Here, we wake early to the shreeking of parakeets.
It's a wild world out there.

I am still waiting for the results from last week's botched coloscopy. My shit is no longer blue, took three days to get the dye out of my system. Mostly, I am too tired to get worked up about it. My bet, it's probably just nothing.
My father is leaving short cryptic messages on the answerphone in case the results are not good so he doesn't have to hear anything upsetting in person and lose his shit live.
Anyway, he has decided to fully embrace the easing of the lockdown by inviting his various female companions to lunch. One after the other, mind you. It sounds more flamboyant than it actually is. He just wants company while he eats.

We are watching films and episodes of series and I usually fall asleep half way through. R is not very good at recaps, let me tell you. I know we watched Canadian crime and Danish family drama, also a rather good road movie about a rich kid picking up a refugee in his stepfather's camper van (stolen) and both ending up in Calais. But other than that, it's a jumble.

I have attempted, with some success, to cycle a 10 km round trip along the river every evening. Except for one day when I fell asleep beforehand. I think that happened yesterday.

Friday's music is called Tiliboyo (sunset) and was composed by Foday Suso from Gambia. Played here by the Kronos Quartet. Their album Pieces of Africa is one my all time favourites.

22 May 2020

never a dull moment

 What should have been just another routine medical appointment turned into a rather lengthy painful procedure involving barfing all over the place and full anesthetics and sleeping it off at home - thankfully. Results in a week or so.

We had about seven drops of rain today. The sum total since I cannot remember when. This is the summer we need to seriously consider gardening in a changed climate. Daily watering is not an option. The rambling rose, however, is coping well. Even on a muggy day.

Words for our time:
The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it emotionally.
Flannery O'Connor

The most prominent and most frightening aspect of the escape from reality (. . . ) lies in the attitude to dealing with facts as if they were opinions.
Hannah Arendt

Also, it's Friday. This is music from Sweden.

19 May 2020

everything is going to be alright

flowering horse chestnut

Derek Mahon is an Irish poet, Andrew Scott is an Irish actor.

Today, I think that maybe we can be a society again, not just an economy.

15 May 2020

We will get through


Things to do in the belly of the whale
Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.
Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way
for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review
each of your life’s ten million choices. Endure moments
of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you.
Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound
of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart.
Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all
the things you did and could have done. Remember
treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes
pointing again and again down, down into the black depths.

Twice a week, I sit down and listen to our country's favourite virologist's podcast. He is a scientist by the book, someone who gets excited over a recent study regardless of the findings but because it was done carefully and with a high level of significance and proper statistics etc.
He tries - and succeeds - to explain the whole shitshow of media frenzy and panic stations and political scare mongering in rational, reasoned and factual words.

Our current national situation is, getting there. As long as we can keep the reproduction number (or R value) below 1 and preferably at around 0.75, we can handle the time to vaccine without overcrowding our medical services, using the hammer and dance approach, and in view of promising treatment strategies for those who get a bad case, keep the death rate minimal. 

The way I understand it:
1. The reproduction number, calculated daily by the national public health institute,  indicates how many people one person with the virus can infect. If the rate is equal to 1, it means that one person is infecting another, on average. We are currently hovering at or below 1, which is why a couple of social distancing measures have been relaxed. Should it climb and with it the number of new cases per 10,000 people in a district, we have to run for cover again. We are all becoming experts at numbers here.
2. Time to vaccine is - despite all the negative media headlines - estimated to be 18 months or thereabout, in other words, sometime before winter 2021. It take this from the virologist's mouth and I tend to trust him and his colleagues somewhat more than Tom, Dick or Harry on social media, regardless of how much expert knowledge they have gained from google university.
3. Read about the hammer and dance approach here
4. Promising treatment strategies are being researched in almost all science labs worldwide. I have great faith in this.

Enough of that. It is Friday, time for music.

08 May 2020

Music on this Friday, May 8th

When In first heard this music, as part of a documentary on concentration camps in Poland, several years ago, I felt crushed, burdened, stunned, obviously. This history will never leave us and so it should be. I was born into this history and I have no time for forgive and forget.
I know I am not alone with that thought. There must not be an end to remembering. Our shame would be not remembering.

This is the second movement of Henryk Gorecki's Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. The lyrics are a prayer inscribed on a cell wall in a gestapo headquarters in Poland by a young woman in 1944. It is the Zdrowas Mario, or Ave Maria: No, Mother, do not weep.

Seventy-five years ago, WWII ended. For a long time I felt relieved that both my parents had been too young to join the army, that my father was a schoolboy and my mother, well we don't really know, but not in uniform. She struggled all her adult life with demons and memories, and we struggled with her not knowing what that shadow was that hung over all of us.

Back in early January of this year when we thought life would just meander on the way we expected, I decided that this year we would go and visit all accessible memorial places and historic monuments on the nazi terror. This had been on my mind for years. I must admit that I had avoided this issue for too long but after we visited Dachau a few years ago, I realised that while it was really hard to do, I need to continue. This is not something I can explain very well and R, bless his Irish historically neutral soul, tags along to hold my hand.  So. We got out a map and circled areas and made lists and I downloaded all the visitors' information from the various sites and that was that.
But eventually.

05 May 2020

not quite there

this is from last year but it did look the same this year

Today is one of these days when I tell myself over and over and over that it'll be ok, that we will be ok, that I'll be ok, Eventually. Not today. Not quite. But eventually. Again. A year maybe, two years.


I attempt to explain to my daughter the differences in our mothering. I tell her how glad I am that she doesn't need to constantly fear that her child may turn away from her if she says or asks for something that may not immediately be pleasant, something that could demand an effort, an understanding, a challenge. I tell her that she comes from a different place, that she grew up with a mother who most of all and always wanted her to never feel rejected, who never ever wanted her to feel abandoned the way I did and that this resulted in her occasionally getting away with stuff for reasons . . . I know, Mum,  she responds calmly.

I attempt to explain to my father that just because numbers are down thanks to weeks of social distancing, the virus hasn't disappeared, that risk persons like him - and me - are still at risk. I keep my voice down reiterating the need to wash hands, yes even after getting cash from an ATM where you punch in numbers because someone else may have touched that key pad, and yes even if only one person was there before you . . . and I think how in an ideal world, many years ago, a father may have explained this to his daughter.

. . . the human condition today—an extraordinary and complex level of global interdependence unseen in the story of our species—will magnify the pandemic's effects on a profoundly disproportionate scale. One way or another, this pandemic will touch everyone alive today, thanks to globalization. Much of the result will be tragic. But I try to take heart that with massive trauma comes a new alertness—perhaps in this case, a heightened awareness that our lives are truly interlinked, and therefore must be valued everywhere.

Paul Salopek

01 May 2020

Friday. Music. Isn't she lovely here.

The garden is all purple and pink. I should take pictures. Apple and pear trees are so crammed with fruit we may need to do a bit of thinning out. But the plums and peaches are poorly, could be a virus. Raspberries full of bees right now, enough rhubarb for a decent crumble tomorrow.
Ate my first strawberry and still harvesting lemons in the greenhouse.

Three days ago I was informed that due to the fact that I am, and the official term here is, high risk vulnerable individual, I am to stay away from campus for the foreseeable future. Life goes on but not as we knew it.

29 April 2020

the unimportant comes pouncing

During the last two hundred years the blackbird has abandoned the woods to become a city bird. First in Great Britain at the end of the eighteenth century, then several decades later in Paris and the Ruhr valley. Throughout the nineteenth century it conquered the cities of Europe one after the other. It settled in Vienna and Prague around 1900, then spread eastward to Budapest, Belgrade, Istanbul.
From the planet’s viewpoint, the blackbird’s invasion of the human world is certainly more important than the Spanish invasion of South America or the return to Palestine of the Jews. A shift in the relationships among various kinds of creation (fish, birds, humans, plants) is a shift of a higher order than the changes in relations among various groups of the same kind. Whether the Celts or Slavs inhabit Bohemia, whether Romanians or Russians conquer Bessarabia, is more or less the same to the earth. But when the blackbird betrayed nature to follow humans into their artificial, unnatural world, something changed in the organic structure of the planet.
And yet no one dares to interpret the last two centuries as the history of the invasion of man’s cities by the blackbird. All of us are prisoners of a rigid conception of what is important and what is not, and so we fasten our anxious gaze on the important, while from a hiding place behind our backs the unimportant wages its guerrilla war, which will end in surreptitiously changing the world and pouncing on us by surprise.

Milan Kundera (Book of Laughter and Forgetting, 1975)

We always knew what we were doing. We were so arrogant. We just thought we could get away with it.

24 April 2020

Simply lit
Often toward evening,
after another day, after
another year of days,
in the half dark on the way home
I stop at the food store
and waiting in line I begin
to wonder about people—I wonder
if they also wonder about how
strange it is that we
are here on the earth.
And how in order to live
we all must sleep.
And how we have beds for this
(unless we are without)
and entire rooms where we go
at the end of the day to collapse.
And I think how even the most
lively people are desolate
when they are alone
because they too must sleep
and sooner or later die.
We are always looking to acquire
more food for more great meals.
We have to have great meals.
Isn't it enough to be a person buying
a carton of milk? A simple
package of butter and a loaf
of whole wheat bread?
Isn't it enough to stand here
while the sweet middle-aged cashier
rings up the purchases?
I look outside,
but I can't see much out there
because now it is dark except
for a single vermilion neon sign
floating above the gas station
like a miniature temple simply lit
against the night.
Malena Mörling

One of the friends who so generously go shopping for us told me that her children are eating so much more, too much, she says, now that they are locked down. But what can I tell them, she asks, cut the sugar while there's a virus?

Another friend tells me how her two teenage daughters are trying so hard to be calm und understanding she wonders if they'll explode one day. I wish they would go back to arguing and banging the doors.

Yesterday just before sunset, I started to clean windows, splashing and wiping, whistling my confusion through my teeth. It was dark by the time I was done with it all.

My father asks that we stop calling him every day, as if there's an emergency, he complains. Just stop being so emotional about everything, he admonishes me before I can say a word and puts down the phone. I know all the things he is afraid of and hospitals are on the top of his list.

When R was a college student, his mother had a car accident as a result of which she had to spend six months in traction, that means six months on your back looking at the ceiling, not knowing whether she could walk again.
I first thought someone was telling me a very bad joke when I first found out, years later, during my first winter in Dublin. It had snowed and she was outside with a gang of kids and dogs throwing snowballs.

So, you see, I know we can do this. Nice and steady.

21 April 2020

so much

The night,
In which
the fear's all

Has also
And the

Mascha Kaléko


The dawn chorus, my early morning bird friends wake me. I like to think so. Indifferent as they are to mere humans. I lie there feeling like the first, the only person awake, listening, letting my mind take me to my first thoughts. There is so much I need, want, have to accept. So much. 

It feels strange. But also simple, acceptance. Almost a relief. 

Life is easy, I must be honest about this. Not having to go to work and still being able to work, without problems, from home, this is truly wonderful. There is no other way to describe it. And yet, being told that should I insist to be allowed back to my office on campus, I cannot do so without prior arrangement and that I can only attend meetings in person if all attending wear face masks - something I don't even want to consider asking for. That I need to accept. We are not talking about weeks here.

And the risks, accepting that I am vulnerable, that an infection could - not necessarily but yes, with a high likelihood - be severe and/or trigger a flare up of various autoimmune vasculitis scenarios. That I have to accept. Also, that I have to explain it again and again.

In other words, not only do I have to keep my distance and be vigilant, R has to do it too. Which involves friends going to the shops for us and I need to figure out how to accept these offers for what they are without feelings of being a nuisance.

In conversations I stress that I am not afraid. And I mean it. Or rather, I am so used to being afraid for my health, this is just an extension, another version of what it means to be chronically ill. I have years of experience when it comes to working out my life expectancy, when it comes to withdrawing from, giving up something that felt a part of me, important, life sustaining, because the risks are too high. But watching others having to learn this, that I find difficult to accept.







17 April 2020


(Fun fact: the above sequence of the filming of the concert had to be edited as there was a visible blob of cocain dripping out of NY's nose - I have it from a good source.)

"How excellent that our arrogant species receives this collective slap-in-the-face reality check, waking us two-leggeds up to the simple truth that we are not at all in control, have never really been in control, that we live at the behest of powers—of a complex interplay of powers—far beyond our ability to fully fathom, to predict, or to steer. What hubris to have imagined we could do whatever we want with this exquisitely interwoven wonder of a world! And yet how awful that this lesson must come at the expense of so many unsuspecting human lives, so many innocent souls now shivering with fever and fright as they struggle to draw breath.
We’re finally being forced to recognize that no top-down institution, governmental or otherwise, can fully ensure our safety. That our deepest insurance against disaster is going local—by getting to know our actual neighbors and checking in on one another when we can, participating in our local community and apprenticing with the more-than-human terrain that surrounds and sustains us."

David Abram

16 April 2020

I would like to tell you a few things about this virus and the lessons it should teach us, all the things we should be learning.
I would like to add my voice to the crowd and be heard above it.
I would like to say: fish have returned to the Venetian canals now that humans have stopped polluting them.
I would like to say: the clouds of air pollution over Italy and China have dissipated since people were prevented from causing them with their cars, planes, factories.
I would like to say: up to 80,000 premature deaths which would have been caused this way have probably been prevented in China by the shutdown of the economy.
I would like to say: carbon monoxide levels in the air above New York have collapsed by 50 percent in a single week.
I would like to say: Nature recovers swiftly when we stop our plundering of Her bounty.
I would like to say: lift your gaze, humans.
I would like to say: we can learn from this, we can change.

I would like to say: well, we had it coming.

I would like to say that I know what to do about all this, or what to learn. I would like to teach it to you so that you may learn too. I would like to be a prophet in a time when prophets are so sorely needed.
Unfortunately, I am not qualified for this role. I don’t know anything at all, and I am learning, painfully, that this was my lesson all along.
I don’t know anything at all.

My society does not know anything at all.

Now I will say what I believe: that this civilization will not learn anything from this virus. All this civilization wants to do is to get back to normal. Normal is cheap flights and cheap lattes, normal is Chinese girls sewing our T-shirts under armed guard, normal is biblical bushfires and barrels of oil, normal is city breaks and international conferences and African children poisoning their bodies sorting the plastic we have dumped on their coastlines, normal is nitrite pollution and burning stumps and the death of the seas.
We made this normal, and we do not know how to unmake it, or—whisper it—we do not want to.

But Earth does, and it will.
It turns out that we were never in control at all.
Paul Kingsnorth 

Today the sky is once again so brilliantly sharp and blue, it almost hurts. We are going through the motions, breakfast, work, some exercise, garden, lunch, reading, talking with family and friends, work, dinner. It is not bad, no no. There is little we miss and yet, we miss everything. More than ever I believe we are on a threshold of sorts and fail to see clearly. We are waiting. I think the whole world is waiting.

15 April 2020

the virus and the paddling pool

. . . what happens when we are devastatingly, unequivocally, reminded of our alikeness? Tell me there isn’t something achingly exquisite about scientists—from every corner of the globe—frantically working for one united goal. Tell me this hasn’t reminded you of how honorable and ancient the role of healer is.

There have been reports about people who had recovered from covid-19 disease but who were tested positive for the virus again. Obviously, scary story.

First, read this part of the sentence again: people who had recovered from covid-19 disease but who were tested positive for the virus again. The publications on this phenomenon all stressed that none of the people were actually sick at the time of retesting.

Next, this is how my favourite virologist explained it to me and a million listeners yesterday.

Imagine a full paddling pool with loads of goldfish swimming in the water. Now take a bucket and with your eyes closed dip it in and fill it up. When you pull it up and look inside, you'll see that you've caught lots of goldfish. Not difficult.

OK, the paddling pool is your body, the goldfish are the corona virus load inside an infected body and the bucket dip is the PCR test. Which is the testing method used the world over to find out whether a person is positive, i.e. infected with the virus.

After about 7-10 days of the body actively working on building an immune defense against the virus, in most cases by being sick with fever and whatnots, the virus load has decreased and will continue to do so for a while longer. Back at our paddling pool this means that if you now, maybe two weeks later, dip in the bucket with your eyes closed, you may actually come up with a bucket full of water but no more goldfish despite the fact that there are still some left in the pool. And a few days later, when you do this again, bucket, eyes closed, dip etc., you do catch the odd goldfish after all. Which is why the PCR test can be negative after 7-10 days and suddenly positive again after, let's say, 12 or 14 days.

I hope that helps. It helped me.

13 April 2020

Beethoven in covid-19 times

We happen to live in the city where Beethoven was born - 250 years ago. The annual Beethoven festival usually brings a lot of tourists and occasionally, the hotels cannot cope with the influx so that once in a while, we have ended up hosting a Japanese violinist or a Korean cellist who came to see a dream fulfilled.

Not so this year, for obvious reasons, despite this being the 250th birthday bash of the master.

But things are happening online.

Last week, the Beethoven Orchestra, the city's symphony orchestra, called on musicians of any skill to join them to play Beethoven's 6th Symphony. Anyone who wanted to participate could download the sheet music and play in front of their home computer or smartphone. Whether violin, bassoon, horn or electric guitar - the choice of instrument was left to the amateur musicians themselves. You can spot some interesting instruments and if you live here, even the odd colleague.

As for the social distancing situation at home, I have entered week five. At least I think it's week five but what do I care. Yesterday was rhubarb crumble day, today was anxiety day with scratchy throats for the both of us, tomorrow should be tax return day and after that possibly whatever else day.

In between all this jolly nothingness, we discuss the way of the world and whether a longer lockdown will bring forth better ideas for a new future and if this will be the end of capitalism as we know it. You know, the ususal plotting of aging would be rebels who remember a thing or two, recognising that what brought us here is not only a nasty virus that jumped out of the thin air somewhere next to a sack of rice that fell over in China, but in many cases the way our countries are run, like cut throat companies, dispensing with the stuff that represents the essential buffer in public organisations, leaving us not only poorly  prepared to deal with pandemics or national emergencies, but also catastrophically unable to provide decent and sustainable livelihoods for vast numbers of people even in normal times.
For some this means that due to the fact that there is a shortage of asparagus pickers here, the sky is falling, the sky is falling.
But I get carried away.

09 April 2020

How are you sleeping these days? Are you having vivid dreams?

I read somewhere that dreams tend to be more vivid in times like these. I can only agree. Two nights in a row I have woken up in tears or should I say, from the discomfort of a wet pillow. No idea what the tears were for but maybe I will find out another night.
We sleep poorly, as expected. I wake up with the dawn chorus, as if jetlagged and make tea. I bring the tea back to bed and fall asleep again, the tea gets cold.

Our life is very cosy and comfortable, R has started to work in various neighbourhood gardens. In return, jars of jam and pickles are deposited by the back gate. A banana bread, a bunch of wild garlic.

We lunch outdoors and sit for a while reading and gossiping. I work in my virtual office and just after sunset, we cycle along the river under the moon's silver light.

My sister tells me that she fears for her sanity, being cooped up and unable to go out for her events and meetings. I try and reassure her. I am the social recluse of the family after all but she waves me off impatiently, chronic illness doesn't count, not even ten years of it, this now is much more serious.

We briefly discuss whether we should attempt to cut our own hair now so that a potentially disaster haircut will grow out in the weeks to come or whether we better wait and try the long hair look for a change. After watching a couple of online haircut tutorials, I resign and search for hairbands. I find myself inspecting the news readers' hair styles and come to the conclusion that the male ones tend to go for letting it grow.

A friend calls with a campaign, she wants me to help her press charges so that hospital patients can receive visitors again, at least those who are about to die. She is outraged how this crisis is shaping our compassion in a "twisted way" with people now having to die all alone. I briefly remember my mother's death and some statistic I saw recently about the lack of palliative care in hospitals and the resulting lonely deaths - prior to this virus - but it's not an easy subject and what do I know. In the end, we both express our hope that, when this "hubbub" is behind us, we will find ways to make sure that those in power look at life and death differently.
When I put down the phone I feel overwhelmed by all the changes I have been promised will happen when "this" is all over. 

And our tiny ancient Irish aunt, the last remaining sister of my mother in law, blind and deaf, she is mostly asleep these days in her small comfortable bed in a nursing home shut to the world, shut because all of the staff have been tested positive. This is all we know.

07 April 2020

So, masks. I've been reading and listening. This is what I learned:
All previous evidence about virus load and mask protection has been based on other viruses, not this Covid-19 virus. What we could read until very recently about virus transmission and protection via masks was based on the influenza virus and a variety of respiratory common-and-garden-cold viruses.

But in the last week, two studies have been published that looked specifically at the corona virus and mask wearing. Hurray for science, yes!

I've muddled my way through the two publications (one from a team in Hong Kong, one from a team in Singapore) and in short, they both conclude as far as I get it:

  • Wearing a mask in a possible early stage of the infection could well protect the virus from being released and passed on. However, a simple mask does not protect the wearer from airborne infection.
  • Only highly technical masks that can filter a pore size of up to 500 nanometers would also filter virus aerosols in the room. 
There was another result from the research team in Singapore, which I found reassuring:

The Singapore team also took samples from wiping surfaces in the hospital room where 30 of the infected patient were treated (one patient per single hospital room).

  • In these 30 patients, the virus swab samples were only positive in the first week of symptoms. In the second week, when the patients were still sick, the wipe samples were no longer positive. So there was no virus left on the surfaces.
  • This is due to the fact that patients gives off less virus in the later course of the disease. This gives us important information as to how long a patient is actually infectious. But it also means that at home where we live in our bubble, we don't have to clean all possible surfaces with disinfectants.
As usual, and I say this after 20+ years working as a language editor in medical science, I am baffled by my limited understanding but if I have learnt one thing, it is that there will be an avalanche of further studies testing and retesting these results in different settings.

Anyway, masks, my take on it is, if you are living, working, shopping in a place with widespread community transmission of Covid-19, do wear a mask when not at home.

But remember to wash your hands before you put your mask on, and then again once you’ve got it on. Don’t touch it while you are wearing it. And, if you do, immediately wash your hands. Wash the mask after every use (hot ironing works just as well) and allow it to dry properly before using it again. 

And keep up with regular hand-washing and physical distancing.

Click on sources: Hong Kong study  and Singapore study