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

05 April 2020

03 April 2020

This is a temporary state. It helps to say it.

In the late 18th century, Matthias Claudius (poet) wrote the Abendlied (evening song), a hugely popular poem to this day. A couple of years later, a composer of popular ditties at the time, Johann Peter Schulz, set it to music and this tune is part of our national DNA so to speak. It goes on a bit, seven verses.

Last week, the RIAS chamber choir from Berlin met for a physical distancing recording of verses 1-3 and 7 to warm our hearts.

There are many English translations of the lyrics, I just picked this one at random.

The moon is risen, beaming,
The golden stars are gleaming
So brightly in the skies;
The hushed, black woods are dreaming,
The mists, like phantoms seeming,
From meadows magically rise.

How still the world reposes,
While twilight round it closes,
So peaceful and so fair!
A quiet room for sleeping,
Into oblivion steeping
The day's distress and sober care.

Look at the moon so lonely!
One half is shining only,
Yet she is round and bright;
Thus oft we laugh unknowing
At things that are not showing,
That still are hidden from our sight.

Lie down, my friends, reposing,
Your eyes in God's name closing.
How cold the night-wind blew!
Oh God, Thine anger keeping,
Now grant us peaceful sleeping,
And our sick neighbor too.
So much for music on a Friday. (RIAS btw stands for Radio in the American Sector, one of Berlin's radio and tv stations during the cold war, discontinued obviously, but the choir continues to this day).

Who would have thought that working entirely from home can be so tiring. I had been dreaming of a scenario like this as a super good thing for years and now?
I fly through the first two hours in my PJs with the bowl of cold porridge and the pot of tea for company before I take the shower-and-back-exercise-and-getting-dressed-properly break and let me tell you, it's all downhill after that. I am doling out the stuff and keep track of it all but, whoa, it's a struggle.
And we all know (because we are realistic and grown ups, aren't we) that this will go on for a bit.
Anyway, this is only the first week, there is room for improvement.

The garden is coming along gloriously, not just with all the fruit trees in flower and tulips lined up in colourfull formation, but also because R is there on his knees hour after hour fine tuning the weeding and replanting and literally carving out neat corners. It's Kew Gardens standards, honestly. Every so often, we cram into the greenhouse to get high on the flowering lemon trees and to nip the fresh spinach leaves and dig up a crunchy radish or two.

I could go on in this chatty vein but no matter what, there's this serious dark heavy stuff sitting on my chest. I try to compare it to the weeks and months after Chernobyl but that time was infinitely more dangerous and we were utterly helpless. Which is not the case now. And when I get as far as this in my thoughts, I feel almost stupid. First world impatience etc.

Because what do I have to complain about? I can't go out and shop. But, but, but. I never do that anyway. I can't go out and meet friends. But instead, tons of friends and others have been in touch one way or another, much more than ever. The larder is stacked. We even have fresh asparagus.
Basically, the only thing I could complain about is that our comfortable life is currently somewhat repetitive and that the seaside is an awful long and, let's agree on that, impossible drive away.

Meanwhile, this here from Louise Erdrich's blog:

When people say "this has never happened to our country before" I want to say, "yes it has."  Indigenous people suffered wave after wave of European borne epidemic diseases, which killed 9 of every 10 people.  The trauma continued through the Flu of 1918 and the scourge of tuberculosis.  When treaties were made it was thought that Native people were going to vanish, but no.  We are still here.


Unhealthy anticipatory grief is really anxiety, and that’s the feeling you’re talking about. Our mind begins to show us images. My parents getting sick. We see the worst scenarios. That’s our minds being protective. Our goal is not to ignore those images or to try to make them go away — your mind won’t let you do that and it can be painful to try and force it. The goal is to find balance in the things you’re thinking. If you feel the worst image taking shape, make yourself think of the best image. We all get a little sick and the world continues. Not everyone I love dies. Maybe no one does because we’re all taking the right steps. Neither scenario should be ignored but neither should dominate either.
Anticipatory grief is the mind going to the future and imagining the worst. To calm yourself, you want to come into the present. (. . .) You can name five things in the room. There’s a computer, a chair, a picture of the dog, an old rug, and a coffee mug. It’s that simple. Breathe. Realize that in the present moment, nothing you’ve anticipated has happened. In this moment, you’re okay. You have food. You are not sick. Use your senses and think about what they feel. The desk is hard. The blanket is soft. I can feel the breath coming into my nose. This really will work to dampen some of that pain.
You can also think about how to let go of what you can’t control. What your neighbor is doing is out of your control. What is in your control is staying six feet away from them and washing your hands. Focus on that.
Finally, it’s a good time to stock up on compassion. Everyone will have different levels of fear and grief and it manifests in different ways.  (. . .) be patient. Think about who someone usually is and not who they seem to be in this moment.
David Kessler

30 March 2020

thoughts for a pandemic - a collection part 4

I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber.

Blaise Pascal 

There are two ways this could go. We could, as some people have done, double down on denial. Some of those who have dismissed other threats, such as climate breakdown, also seek to downplay the threat of Covid-19. Witness the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, who claims that the coronavirus is nothing more than “a little flu”. The media and opposition politicians who have called for lockdown are, apparently, part of a conspiracy against him.
Or this could be the moment when we begin to see ourselves, once more, as governed by biology and physics, and dependent on a habitable planet. Never again should we listen to the liars and the deniers. Never again should we allow a comforting falsehood to trounce a painful truth. No longer can we afford to be dominated by those who put money ahead of life. This coronavirus reminds us that we belong to the material world.

George Monbiot

27 March 2020

If this vile virus can do any good at all, maybe it is this: that it will teach us to recognise our fragility. We think we own the Earth; we certainly think we can dominate it. It is salutary to discover that our dominance is based on a very wobbly foundation and that we can only hope to co-exist, carefully and thoughtfully, on this Earth, with our fellow-humans and our fellow-creatures, respecting and managing our environment and its ecosystems.
What this experience teaches us is that as humans, we can only survive in interdependence. The borders and divisions we have constructed to mark out our own territories, what we own, what we defend, are blown wide open by an experience like this – even as we seek to mend the problem by closing those very borders.

Stanislaus Kennedy (Sr Stan) 

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a wallydraigle is a lazy, unkempt or slovenly person.
In other words: me, working from home.
Next week, the boss wants to start telemeeting and facetime chats. I have already installed the tidy office background app and will wash my hair.

It's not funny, this life. I fairly hissed at my neighbours when they announced that they were off on a holiday as of now. This involves driving to the coast, crossing borders. Apparently the rentals for beach houses are unbelievably low and the owners desperate for customers, some of the restaurants promised delivery and as for shops, surely money can buy whatever. What part of "no direct contact, social distancing, only necessary trips etc." did they misunderstand?
They are both in their 70s and have health issues. I hope they come home safe and well and that they haven't transported the virus to polite Dutch seaside villagers.

Just to be clear: When you go for a drive, a day trip long or short distance, whatever, you could become involved in an accident, a traffic jam, a break down, and so on, or you may need a rest stop, get petrol. This will involve people having to get in close contact with you, in some cases even a lot of people.

And bear in mind: There will be a vaccine. It takes time but as far as vaccine science goes, the building blocks are in place. Let's just be patient until the system is up and running. Also, treatment for severe cases, it's in the pipeline. Definitely. The researchers are not looking for a magic cure, a needle in a haystack sort of thing, no, there are already a good few studies on the go, potential candidates. That's the beauty of global scientific networks, all these researches getting their heads together.

Also, it's time for music on a Friday, remember that guy?

23 March 2020

thoughts for a pandemic - a collection part 3


What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

Lynn Ungar 

21 March 2020

thoughts for a pandemic - a collection part 2

Hope is not optimism, which expects things to turn out well, but something rooted in the conviction that there is good worth working for.

Seamus Heaney

 As you move through these changing times… be easy on yourself and be easy on one another. You are at the beginning of something new. You are learning a new way of being. You will find that you are working less in the yang modes that you are used to.
You will stop working so hard at getting from point A to point B the way you have in the past, but instead, will spend more time experiencing yourself in the whole, and your place in it.
Instead of traveling to a goal out there, you will voyage deeper into yourself. Your mother’s grandmother knew how to do this. Your ancestors from long ago knew how to do this. They knew the power of the feminine principle… and because you carry their DNA in your body, this wisdom and this way of being is within you.
Call on it. Call it up. Invite your ancestors in. As the yang based habits and the decaying institutions on our planet begin to crumble, look up. A breeze is stirring. Feel the sun on your wings.

Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers 

Two more examples of leadership:

Jacinda Ardern:

Angela Merkel with English subtitles:

 And one of practical wisdom (Dr Mike Ryan, WHO):

And a message in music:

We are here, tucked up in our luxurious hideout, semi locked down. Bewildered, yes, but surrounded by entertainment and distraction. The experts tell us to expect this to go on until August, September, December, a year.
But first, spring.

Friends, readers. Now that we are in the middle of what we find so hard to define, let us feel it, how strange this time is, how sudden, how forced, how interrupting.  Let's see it as a collective encounter that calls on all of us.

Be well. And if you are short of tp, click here.

19 March 2020

thoughts for a pandemic - a collection part 1

You may have been told all your life that there were certain things you needed and certain things you needed to do, but it turns out that you don’t need most of those things and you don’t really need to do anything. In fact, nothing would be better for the world right now than if we all stopped trying to achieve things and said, “We no longer believe work will set us free, it is the opposite, in fact,” and behaved accordingly. There is nothing to achieve right now except to insist that the only achievement is caring for others, and not caring specially for family or friends, but in caring for every person as our family or friend.

Sarah Miller 

I cannot help but think that every injury and slight and pain, is what gives us value, that life well lived is an accumulation of such.

Louise Wareham Leonard 

And the people stayed home. And they read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And they listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live, and they healed the earth fully, as they had been healed.

Kitty O'Meara

18 March 2020

"we are with you"

This morning, three things happened.
My GP called and told me to stay home.
My boss, the top one, sent me an email telling me to work from home.
My father called to inform me of his bp and temperature readings.

I find all of that reassuring. Not sure what to make of th bp readings but so what. We are both aware of the fact that personal visits, incl. driving from one federal state through three others to a fourth is currently only possible in an emergency and who knows what can happen to a 91 year old not entirely healthy man over the next couple of months or whatever eternity this may take. At least he is in good shape, shouting his scientific insights (all spot on) down the phone.

We are fine tuning our gardening tasks - ah spring, thanks for coming at the right time - and who knows, I may even wash windows. But to be honest, I am just being lazy and useless, reading in bed. The fruit tree flowerting is gorgeous and there's laundry drying in the sun. My subconscious takes note that the patio needing a good sweeping. So what.

On Sunday, we walked in the woods for a while, ate our sandwiches sitting on a log, coffe too hot from the flask. It was lovely.

Here, it's a semi lockdown scenario, schools etc. are closed and shops have started to reserve special opening hours for people at risk, i.e. the elderly. The shelves are not empty for long, we have enough tp. We have had many offers from younger neighbours to do our shopping. The situation may get tougher, e.g. curfew like France, Austria etc. if people don't comply.
At times,  I do want to shake every single entitled know-it-all into submission. But basically, so what.

I went to the osteopath on Monday morning and panicked only briefly until we both had washed our hands thoroughly and she had donned her mask (you do know that hand washing with hot water and soap is more effective than hand sanitizers?). R had a brief meltdown when I told him but he has recovered. Anyway, all other appointments have been postponed. The word is postponed, never cancelled. 

Together with probably millions of my fellow citizens, we are listening to the daily podcast by the country's leading virologist  and yes, we feel informed and prepared. 

An example of leadership in these times (Happy belated St Patrick's day BTW). I am no fan of Leo Varadkar and his party but this is where it's at:

Also. This here makes me - almost - weep.

We have been debating what selection of tunes could go down well here and elsewhere.

Obviously, for the German air force, it would have to be Beethoven's Ode to Joy.

Any ideas?

13 March 2020

new territory

Greetings from an active member of the social distancing movement. We have set up our headquarters here with toilet paper and pasta in the cupboards and indulge in secret hand washing movements at the appropriate times.
As a well experienced social recluse I basically continue as usual and act unimpressed.

There are exactly five door handles I have to touch between home and my lonely desk at work where strict hygiene measures have always been in place anyway. I am waiting for the day when I will get the email telling me to stay home entirely. It will happen. (I am doing home office for most of my work anyway.)

The highlight of our (and the nation's) day is the half hour podcast at midday by one of the leading virologists here who patiently explains the latest findings and developments in words of science, reason and calm.

  • Fun fact no.1: the virus spreads via droplets and fomites during close unprotected contact but this is where all similarities with the flu ends.
  • Fun fact no.2: most transmissions at the outbreak in China have been within households. This means you are unlikely to pick up the virus just walking down the street or having casual contact with someone.
  • Fun fact no.3: there are no indications or science models that promise a slowing down of the virus come spring and summer.
  • Fun fact no. 4: known human corona viruses (seven of these have been around for a while) can stay on inanimate surfaces for up to nine days and there is a strong indication that this new one will be just as persitent (source). But remember, the virus does not jump from the surface into your face, it's your hands that bring it there.
  • Fun fact no 5:  if you wash your hands after touching a person, a surface, five door handles between home and office desk etc. and before you touch your face, your chances of not having infected yourself are high.
  • Fun fact no. 6: kids are not a risk group but can carry the virus to their grannies and granddads who are vulnerable.
  • Fun fact no. 7: we will all get it, or at least about 70% of us. I have never been good at maths but I am beginning to get a vague grip of exponential growth. Ever heard of the lily pond parable?

Regardless of how healthy you are, how much yoga you do, or how many smoothies you drink, you are going to be susceptible to catching this virus. If you get it, it could be a mild or a serious infection. The data so far suggests that severity increases with age and if you have other underlying health problems. So please, let's all behave like we could get infected and not be deluding ourselves that it couldn’t possibly happen to us. And instead of hugging and kissing, let's take care of each other by keeping a safe distance and helping out with practical stuff.

21 February 2020

For what it's worth, I have tried and failed. There was a bit of tsk tsk tsking yesterday when I finally sat down in front of my GP but we both had a moment of hilarity when I eventually got up again, waving my latest sickness certificate (which allows me to stay home until Wednesday). It was her mentioning work life balance that made me smile at first and when I told her how my boss had responded to my calling in sick (how much can you work from home?) we both laughed out loud.

For lack of energy and also because I am somewhat deranged in my mental capacities (hello vertigo), this is a short post. But here's a bit of music from Italy - after all, it's Friday, music day.

Gianmaria Testa

Lascia che torni il vento
E con il vento la tempesta
E fa che non sia per sempre
Questo tempo che ci resta

(Let the wind return
And with the wind the storm
And let it not be forever
This time we have left)

14 February 2020

Currently, I can touch with my tongue seven open sores inside my mouth. Not too bad. I've had more. Once upon a time in my innocence I tried herbal rinses, sage tea, mint concoctions. Now I go straight for the hospital size tube of chlorhexidine forte and lather it on, reeking like a dental clinic.

Things have been rough recently. Don't ask. Winter. Cold air. The News. My aching hands and feet and shoulders and that whole chaotic mess of a compromised body. The exhaustion. Feeling too sorry for myself. The medications. Always that. I am a bunch of  walking side effects. Sometimes it's a bit much. I know it could be worse, don't fucking tell me how to cope. Don't even start.

I am working, I carefully design my days so that I can spend four to five hours at work. My golden hours, my smiling face. Two cups of coffee before I leave home to keep myself upright until I force myself to walk up the stairs of the multi storey staff car park and drive home with the radio keeping me awake. My friends in HR calculated that I have 461 working days left before retirement. At night, I do the numbers, substracting leave entitlements and overtime and public holidays. Like counting sheep.

The news. I read. I watch. I listen.
The Syrian nurse (he really is a fully trained surgeon but has no papers to prove it) who works a floor above me laughs into my face, I am going insane, does it show? Nine years of war and nobody cares.
There is a scene in For Sama (this important documentary is free online) on endless repeat in my head, the scene where the pregnant woman is brought to the underground hospital where the blood runs along the floors and the doctors deliver her baby by emergency cesarian while she is unconscious. The rough way they rub and slap that newborn until it finally finally draws a breath and screams. Life and death in war on earth. This is where we are stuck.

Last week we saw the first bold attempt of the fascist right wing party to uproot our democracy here. They failed.  But, history, people, history.

After breakfast I watch my grandchild climbing stairs with concentration. I will not allow myself any speculations about this child's future. In the evening, R rubs arnica ointment into my shoulders, hands and back and we both believe for a while that it helps.
"Most people want to believe in the idea of a just world. They want to believe that the consent of the governed still matters, so they try to give it in retrospect. Because for most people, these are crimes so enormous they undermine our sense of safety, crimes so big they can’t be allowed to be crimes at all. And that’s a kind of innocence we can no longer afford. It’s happening all over the world, wherever swollen strongmen swindle their way into power. It’s happening in India, in Britain, in Brazil. And wherever it’s happening, the center ground, people who believe in the “decency” of the system, are clinging to the swinging basket of institutional checks and balances, holding their breath as the ground disappears and the air gets thinner, wondering if it’s too late to let go."
Laurie Penny

Today is Valentine's day, that sticky commercial ritual that arrived here in Europe along with coca cola and fast food. Everything is sugar coated if we let it. But remember. Sugar is bad for you.

02 February 2020

Don't be afraid.

The most hopeful day. Today we are halfway between winter solstice and spring equinox. Today is all about the light. The ancient Celts in Ireland called it Imbolc, and celebrated it as a fertility festival, honouring the goddess Brigid. The catholics swiftly made her into St Brigid, as you'd expect.

Brigid, holy or not, is known as the patron saint for good crops and healthy babies, for bountiful milk supplies (both in cows and nursing women), for children born out of wedlock, children born into abusive families, children born after the father has left. She is the patron saint of blacksmiths, boatmen, brewers,  fugitives, and travellers. She looks after midwives, nuns, poets and the poor. Basically, it's good to have her on your side.

In Germany, this day is candlemas day, which is a much holier and churchy day. But whatever legend the church rulers saw fit, even then it's called festival of lights. So there you have it.

Without much ado or ceremonial intent, went out into the gloomy wet garden and cut a few hazel branches and brought them into the house where they are now in a jug of water on the kitchen table, because that's what you do here.

In Ireland, we would walk down to a river or a well and dip our hands in the water. Don't ask. Of all the strange Celtic traditions, this is the one I buy wholeheartedly.

Anyway, Luke Bloom explains it all here:

31 January 2020

Not that I miss it, but it feels odd to finish off January without that winter feeling. If anything, we had maybe a night or two of minimal frost, not a single snow flake and all the sounds and sights of spring. It's not over yet and February can be a real monster. I'd like to think that all this is just a quirky year but well, you know all the science and the patterns and the big picture stuff.

So for a little while, I shall enjoy that we have no winter this year. And I admit that I like it, that I've always dreaded winter and if I had magic powers, would do away with it once and for all.

Anyway, Friday it is, music day (thank you Robin) and this week it's F, so here are the Fleet Foxes singing about winter.

27 January 2020

Today, I spent my time in trains, staring at thick fog and drizzle and rivers and deep forests. Not listening to the podcasts I had downloaded, trying to gather hwat remnants of energy I had after a weekend with the extended clan (25+ energetic people) celebrating my father's longevity (91 years).

He was brisk and to the point, late comers had to sort out their own seating. Presents were refused and simply left behind as threatened. Lunch at 12 noon on the spot, guided tour of the Rococo castle at 2 pm and coffee and cake at 3:30 sharp. Great grandchildren were hushed. My sister had a crying fit because no gluten free cake.  Also, question and answer session on the history and origin of Rococo (think ornamental gold, parks full of topiary and over the top everything), just to check that everybody was paying attention. Like a 13-year old, I mentioned Watteau and got a bonus point. My brother kept his mouth shut but gave me The Look. My sister was still sobbing.
And then the king of the castle got up and drove home in time for sports news. We looked at each other and mumbled our good byes. I retreated to my hotel room and stared at the ceiling for a very long time.

His declared aim is to live at least 100 years (his mother died aged 103) and right now, I could weep at the thought that this is going to happen every January.

Five and a half hours on a train each way provide some soothing but hell, I'll be 71 when he is 100 and maybe I'll pass.

Not sure how and when I'll recover, so forgive if I won't comment for a day or three.

24 January 2020

good times

This morning on the radio, some clever person warned us to wrap up well because of arctic wind. I did that - only the wind was blowing - icy cold admittedly - from the south, and we know the difference between the arctic (north, polar bears) and the antarctic (south, penguins) but let's not be a stickler for details.

So I cycled my cold and weary body against the arctic wind to the osteopath and after I had unwrapped several layers of scarves and sweaters and mittens and hoodies, let her do her stuff, all the proper hands-on kneading and shifting and never mind the mumbo jumbo kinesiology and pendulum chakra incense whatever. It was warm and cosy and generally, I find that osteopath rooms smell very nice, they use some kind of woody linseedy oil. Anyway, when I left the hushed sanctum, the wind had gotten stronger but was pushing me now along the river and there was birdsong, somewhere. It came as a sudden insight, flushing me with all its glory, that at least the weather is going to get better, the days are getting longer, birds will be nesting and leaves will sprout on trees and so on.

Wonderful news. And obviously, I had to sing at the top of my voice.

It's Friday, here's my music for the letter E for Edie Brickell.
All I know about this song is that it came with windows 95, seriously. I remember, when we stood there and listened and thought, computers now have theme songs? Littel did we know etc.
All I know of Edie Brickell  is that song and that she is Paul Simon's wife. Or has been, I don't know.

. . . and do go to hear Robin's Friday music choice, because this is all her idea.

17 January 2020

It's the freakiest show

Friday it is. And as I am a great fan of Robin, I will again tag along with her fabulous idea of music on a Friday.

And because I am somewhat afflicted by patterns and lists and order in my life, I am doing this alphabetically by first letter of the first name.

This is week D and well, obviously, there has to be David Bowie. I could write a long essay here, how David Bowie came into my live when I was a dreadfully lost and bored teenager on school exchange in Grimsby (a town as grim as the name implies), how my stealing glittery blue eye shadow  in Woolworth still burdens my conscience some 40 something years later and yet, how the memory still cheers me on a rainy day. Painting my eye lids blue (and refusing to wash it off with the result that I was expelled from school) may for some be nothing more than pointless cosmetics in poor taste, but for me, on that day, it was a thrilling act of rebellion.

15 January 2020

In some remote corner of the universe, poured out and glittering in innumerable solar systems, there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge. That was the highest and most mendacious minute of ‘world history’ – yet only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths the star grew cold, and the clever animals had to die.
Friedrich Nietzsche

I struggled with Nietzsche (and not just the spelling of his name), he was introduced at a most unfortunate time in my life when I was 16 and philosophy was taught at 2 pm. I vividly remember struggling to not fall asleep in class.  I was a poor student with poor grades but I did have a couple of brilliant ideas at around that time and possibly also later on, but definitely before I started school when there was knowledge sprouting out of every crack around me and all I had to do was watch and ask. That time when I thought that people basically grow up, not just in size but also in knowledge and understanding and that I was going to be one of them, eventually.


But despite the fact that Master Nietzsche was convinced that a woman who has scholarly thoughts must be sexually frustrated, he had a point there about the star with the clever animals. OK, so he got the thing about the temperature slightly wrong but basically, clever counts for nothing.

Today, January 15th 2020, the temperature rose to 14°C, a first for January. In the garden, calendula, Sweet William, assorted roses etc. have been flowering since last June. The fruit and nut trees are budding. There has not been enough rain this winter.

In other news, I am mentally preparing myself to return to work tomorrow. Physically, I am not yet convinced but what could go wrong.

Totally unrelated, here are today's contents of our bread basket.

13 January 2020

be scientifically realistic, demand the politically impossible

In reply to a friend:

Another one of these discussions where I listened sympathetically to your tearful lines of "I feel soo helpless, can't handle it" and then basically, pretending that you don't get it, trotting out the old argument of too late anyway, and that we are lost at the hands of merciless big industry, self-serving politicians, powerful oligarchs, and anyway what about China and India and the world population and blahblahblah.

To which I reply, why so defensive, what do you fear more, having to become active, informed, rebellious, demanding, supportive, loud - or are you afraid of just having to do something that's possibly hard work and most likely will upset your established routines?

What is it you love more, your comfortable life style, your entrenched patterns of food, travel, entertainment plus assorted stupefications - or this planet, this wonder, this home?

Do you seriously want this all go to hell or is it that you could not care less because you'll be dead anyway? You have neither children nor grandchildren, so devil may care?

Do you want to be that helpless? Who told us that we are helpless? Who wants us to feel helpless?

You don't know what you can do apart from refusing plastic packaging (another red herring if there ever was one)? Seriously, for someone who knows how to book cheap travel online, buy whatever you fancy on amazon, watch hours of silly series - you are suddenly acting overly foolish.

You tell me there is nobody 'doing anything' in your neighbourhood? Oh yeah?

There’s a thing I call naïve cynicism, when people strike a pose of sophistication without actually knowing what they’re talking about. I see it a lot with the ill-informed about climate, when they say it’s all over and we lost.
That’s not what the scientists say, and it’s an excuse to give up instead of trying.
Rebecca Solnit

I am constantly reminded that the demands of groups like Extinction Rebellion, who are calling for zero emissions by 2025, are politically unrealistic. And my response to that is, yes, but anything else is scientifically unrealistic.
And political realism is actually a highly flexible thing. Something which seems completely impossible today, suddenly seems possible tomorrow. If you look at the extraordinary ructions taking place in UK politics over the past few months, every single one of them was impossible until it happened.
But you can't bargain with scientific realism. You can't say, let's just suspend the first law of thermodynamics for a few months because it's highly inconvenient. You can't do that.
And I think what's happening with collective action, is that people are shifting the dial of political realism towards the point of scientific realism. And in doing so becoming empowered and leaving despair behind. That's certainly being the case for me.
George Monbiot

Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness - and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we're being brainwashed to believe.
The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling - their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.
Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.
Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.
 Arundhati Roy