29 April 2011

smells and sounds

Sitting on the veranda
reading a very good very British novel
munching on the last bit of the chocolate Easter bunny
poplar seed dropping around me
very still except for birdsong and that lovesick woodpecker
someone next door is roasting something dinner-ish
and I am transported back to Jack's garden in Blackrock
with M in the kitchen preparing Sunday Lunch - meat, two veg and spuds with gravy -
calling out, will you switch on the Hostess trolley love
and Jack, glass of sherry anyone?

27 April 2011

26 April 2011

guess what

She stands in front of me full of energy, her hair all wild damp blond curls. Her shorts are wet and dirty, she pulled them on quickly over her swimsuit. With one hand she holds out a bucket of crab she collected and in her other hand she carries a hastily bunched up lump of damp towel, T-shirt and flip-flops. 

She is all excitement and laughter and her tanned little body simply cannot keep still. She has been out all day on a boat with our neighbours, anchoring at a small outer island to grill the catch and mess about the mangroves. My neighbours have come to stand around her and smile and the oldest daughter hands me a bundle of small fish and in her shy voice and school room English reassures me that all had a good time.

And guess what, shouts my little Irish daughter delighted with herself, jumping up and down below the breadfruit trees surrounded by this friendly African family, I spoke Creole all day and everybody probably thought I was from here!


Very tired at the end of a long day I sit with my cup of tea and watch a documentary about a gentle tortoise's travel across the Pacific. Images of whale and dolphin and big schools of fish expanding and rolling into tight balls, impressive sharks and dramatic manta ray and yellow fin tuna. And fragile coral with teeming specks of little fish like pieces of coloured glass.
And then the miracle of mass spawning. Every year, in one night usually a couple of days after a full moon corals release their eggs simultaneously. And within a short period of time the dark ocean is filled with an incredible amount of shiny pearls, all life.
If you are looking for hope, you find it here.

colourful signs

Three days ago I noticed a large bruise on the outside below my left knee, it's about the size of my palm and blackish purple. I feel no pain and the skin is smooth and firm. We went through the last couple of days and all I can come up with is that I stumbled and probably twisted my left leg a bit last Thursday. R took a couple of pictures to show the immunologist - maybe.

And since yesterday I get blobs of blood when I blow my nose. They seem to come from my sinuses. Not much, but increasingly so. If my head didn't harbour all these potential scenarios for an eruption of my autoimmune volcano I would guess it has something to do with the dry air with its massive load of stingy pollen, but then again I know that a runny nose with blood can be a classic symptom of autoimmune vasculitis. 

Wait and see what happens next. The earth has not stopped turning. In fact, all is glorious colour and sound and smell outside. Too dry, much too dry and still too hot for April but a feast, really and my bits of red and purple fit in quite well.

25 April 2011

reading Hilary Mantel

All of us can change. All of us can change for the better, at any point. I believe this, but what is certainly true is that we can be made foreign to ourselves, suddenly, by illness, accident, misadventure, or hormonal caprice.


For my father's 80th birthday we attempted to do something meaningful. At least we spoke about it on the phone. At least my brother and my sister told me that they had spoken about it on the phone. 
I suggested we each come up with three things he has taught us that have been meaningful or helpful or even had a wonderful influence on our lives. And that we speak about it in short sentences one at a time. Make it snappy if we need to.
Oh no. Three things? What? We'll get back to you.
So instead my sister copied a "funny" poem she found on the internet and in her primary school teacher mode she copied out the relevant sections and distributed them to (her version of )  all of us to learn it by heart.
Well I was stroppy and just read it from the page when it was my turn and later when I finally managed to sit next to him for a brief moment I told him that there are three things he taught me:
1. panta rhei (everything flows)
2. avoid the crowds
3. don't act impulsively if you can help it

Well, he was delighted and my brother and sister shrugged, here she goes again (sigh).

24 April 2011

Glorious sudden spring has mutated into a freakish summer - we know it won't stay like this and at times it's hard to realise that this is April for godssake. There is this smell of hot dry tree bark which reminds me always of endless hot summers and insect bites.
The air is full of yellow dust covering the world inside and outside with a sticky layer. Brings me back to the Golden Desert in Rajasthan, only there it was fine sand, this here is pollen and it stings and sticks. We cough up yellow cake and our nostrils are dry and eyes hurt from it. The river is very low. The five drops of rain the night before last did nothing.
Yesterday the tall red haired guy from the bicycle shop without a second thought gave me a free loan of one of these snazzy e-bikes and so I have been cycling uphill, really steeply uphill for the first time since Sept. 09 and I sat on my bench up in the forest and felt pretty normal for a short while. I can have it until Tuesday morning which should give me enough time to get rid of the feeling that I am cheating. 
And there is this over eager woodpecker which - as I've read -  is normally a shy and wary bird but this one has an unusually loud call, a VERY noisy and loud series of 10-20 'klü' sounds which get slightly faster towards the end and fall slightly in pitch, but not in volume. He starts at 5:30 am and is busy with it throughout daylight hours. I think he is lovesick, looking for a mate, but maybe just defending his realm. But lovesick explains it to me better.

17 April 2011

full moon music

I want to

forever stretch myself in bed with birdsong coming through the open window in the morning
forever stay under the hot shower
forever sit in the kitchen listening to a documentary on the worldservice
forever walk through the garden with a cup of tea in my hand
forever hear S's voice on the phone
forever watch my silly cat mess with the valerian plant
forever feel the wind on my face cycling along the river
forever smell R making coffee

16 April 2011

the present is now

on the walls of the cathedral in Metz

last Thursday

A very still and mild morning on the Mosel river just short of the Luxemburg border. The air was full of those tiny insects you see around fly fishers. Not a sound and not a ripple on the water's surface.

11 April 2011

lilac season

It is a total surprise every spring, again and again. Almost unbelievable that only two weeks ago we were counting every teensy crocus and daffodil and now the garden is a sea of flowers and after dark this incredible smell from the lilacs, almost too good to be true. I feel like pinching myself.

09 April 2011

serious Icelandic music

I remember when S called after she had seen them live at an open air festival and how she described the atmosphere as incredibly peaceful and really good, you know, and R just laughed and said, come on, you were all stoned out of your heads.

06 April 2011

18 months

take a seat here
stand over there
lie down here
hold your arms above your head
turn onto your left side
make a fist
touch your nose with one finger
and now with your eyes closed
breathe in
hold your breath
put this clip onto your nose
do not move
press this button if you need to come out before the end of the procedure
bend forward and try touching your toes
take off your shoes and socks
take off your jeans and sweater
read this
sign here
I will now rinse your left ear with cold water for 30 seconds
you will experience vertigo
these drops will dilute your pupils for eight hours
press here
do not blink during the test
the camera is inside the lens
you can pick up your blood test results tomorrow
your ear lobe will sting for a while

press this button as soon as you hear a sound
these electrodes will feel cold
how do you sleep
how is your digestion
when is the nausea worse
bend your neck forward
turn your head rapidly from side to side
stand upright and close your eyes
what is this scar from

before you go leave a urine sample


an explosion of colours in the garden
the soapy smell of the flowering pear trees
the riot of birdsong with the almost obnoxious woodpecker's call
a jug with a fat bunch of lady's smock on my table reminds me of picking flowers on my way home from school half a life time ago

03 April 2011

dreaming again

In this dream I was forever filing my fingernails and they just grew any old way and this was so distressing. There was no way I could stop them growing.
Another dream and I am sitting in a crowded A&E hall, like a drafty airplane hangar, trying to stop some nurses from getting me into an operating theatre yelling at the top of my voice, it's a chronic condition, an autoimmune disease, surgery is not an option.
And I wake up and think, oh to hell with it, I must get out of here and well again, back to having weird and wonderful dreams.