28 June 2011

so small so big

when you lie down on the hot patio stones at night and watch the stars you realise how small you really are, how obsessed with the minutae of your little existence and how easily you lose sight of the enormity of life and the incredible potential presented to you

26 June 2011

At night waiting for sleep to come I have now started to allow myself to think back over the last 18 months and very carefully, almost gently I am beginning to take stock, compare, look at myself then and now. What comes to mind at times is definitely startling, almost feels like an achievement - last year at this time I was more or less flat out with mega doses of drugs suppressing my out of control immune system, so obviously there are dramatic changes I can observe now - and then this list of all the things that have now become a most unwelcome part of my life starts rolling in my mind and what a struggle it is to accommodate it all and I quickly switch off, or try to switch off before I get too upset. The amount of anger is still overwhelming at times. But at least I am starting to step back and take a look at that anger and I find myself saying, well as interesting as this may be dwelling on it gets me nowhere. And so I try to take another step out of this sluggish sticky mess of ill health and another and another and another and another...
Even going round in circles you can change, surely. Please?

breathing in again

Being able to breathe out
one's unhappiness
breathe out deeply
so that one can
breathe in again
And perhaps also being able to speak
one's unhappiness
in words
in real words
which are coherent
and make sense
and which one can
understand oneself
and which perhaps
someone else can understand
or could understand
And being able to try
That again would
almost be
 Erich Fried

24 June 2011


Mahatma Gandhi’s central belief was that the knowledge, skills and wisdom found in villages should be used for development before getting skills from outside. 

This is very inspiring.

23 June 2011

the garden in June

lily ladies
Bergamot punks
blue beauty
calm valerian


When we think that something is going to bring us pleasure, we don’t know what’s really going to happen. When we think something is going to give us misery, we don’t know. Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. We try to do what we think is going to help. But we don’t know. We never know if we’re going to fall flat or sit up tall. When there’s a big disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story. It may be just the beginning of a great adventure. Life is like that. We don’t know anything. We call something bad; we call it good. But really we just don’t know. 

Pema Chödrön

22 June 2011

Now finally nothing, only a blackbird's song coming in through the open door as if from far away.
The garden is cool now after the thunder storm. The sticky mist of the humid day has lifted. The clouds are turning pink and grey with the sun setting.
I wonder what time it is.

21 June 2011

I can dance in my kitchen, too

never ending story

Attempted to get the house into shape. Three (!) weeks ago I got some storage boxes to clear away some of the trinkets, too many, on the various shelves and window sills. Sturdy boxes, they look good, still empty. I think the bookshelves will remain stacked and stuffed all higgeldy piggeldy until S comes back to this continent and I can bribe her to sort them out. 
My guts are in a mess, welcome back colitis, after a night out with pizza funghi and three coffees and I pretended I was in labour until 4 am reading William Boyd's Any Human Heart  (good good good) and so the night was not all wasted. Probably also too many apricots but this is one sacrifice too many.
Still, as I walk into my office every day I tell myself, stay positive, welcome all offers, be here.
When I get home R is usually somewhere deep between the vegetables picking sugar peas and raspberries. At night, the lilies smell heavenly.

20 June 2011

This morning I happened to see a snippet of a clip of this most awful concert with a totally doped/drunk - whatever - Amy Winehouse. And suddenly this big heavy wave of fear, panic, loss washed over me and I got up and rushed outside and walked up and down in the rainy garden for a bit until it got better. But the thought remained: Is there nobody who loves and cares for this woman to not let shit like this happen?
Amy Winehouse means nothing to me. So what was going on? I have been chewing on this all day. Weird.

12 June 2011

and the lesson is

Sit in the sun, head down, within a prickly vine, in flickery light or open light, and the world will come to you. The sky will come in its time, bringing rain, and the earth will rise through you, from beneath, and make you rich and make you full.

Ray  Bradbury

11 June 2011

the past will never leave us

I don't know how many times I have checked what age my parents were at the end of the war in 1945, how many times I needed to reassure myself that they were both still kids (not teenagers, because being a teenager for me implies listening to the Stones, messing around with hair and make-up and not getting out of bed before lunch. And that's definitely not what they were doing).
In my family, immediate and extended, the stories were few and far between. There were decades of deafening silence. At the time - in school, at home, at family gatherings - there were only sighs and code and the feeling that something big and momentous was kept well hidden. Instead, we had this fixation on careers and prosperity.  After all, the economic miracle had to be performed, the country had to be put back on the map by all these well dressed people driving in shiny cars from their semi-detached homes with the good china on Sundays to the holiday beaches across the Alps, while any mention of the endless pain and suffering caused by Nazi Germany was neatly supressed. 
I wonder how many children my age knew subconsciously that their parents' souls were kept under wraps. I know now that I did.
Of course, I have found out much. The ‘never again/ let’s face history` wave was hitting schools and media at the time I became the bookworm daughter and so, starting with the big picture  - the stuff of documentaries, books and political/historical debate and discourse - I carefully scratched away layer after layer with seemingly innocent questions and comparisons trying to place public figures, politicians, actors, artists, elderly teachers and neighbours, distant relatives, closer relatives, my grandparents... until I had to look at my parents and I found two people with their individual share of trauma and loss and confusion, disorientation and displacement. I know it sounds preposterous and I would gladly just unload my disgust and my anger and my condemnation - and I have done so when I was younger, only to be met with more sighs and more code and withdrawal. There is still so much that I will never know and so much I will always doubt. I picture my mother as she plays with us before bedtime with the songs and nursery rhymes and stories from her childhood and I remember how this memory disgusted me so much later on when I was a teenager thinking how all this was soiled and ghastly.
Last Sunday morning I sat in a beautiful café with my father, part of a gorgeous park full of modern sculptures we had just walked through taking pictures and comparing impressions. According to his guide book, the park once belonged to an equally gorgeous villa - now an artists' retreat  - built in 1946 by a local industrial magnate as a summer residence outside the city. Which immediately makes me suspicious, obviously.
And so there we sat under the trees eating strawberries and cream and I said, come on: 1946 and such a mansion, what did he make his fortune with and how did he manage to hold onto what certainly must have been a large chunk of it through the war and denazification.
And my father gave me this look, this long look and he said: You know, this will always stay with us here in this country, this past will never leave us and believe me, I have carried this shame with me all my life, this shame and this enormous feeling of guilt that I trusted and looked up to people - my teachers in school, my parents, my brothers and cousins - who really must have known what was going on and who did nothing. I trusted them and accepted their judgement. I was healthy and young, I could read and ask. How could I have been so ignorant, so stupid and so inactive!

09 June 2011

let's get a move on

moaning is over, this song made me roll down all the windows of my car
he could be Billy Bragg's little brother, sort of, I mean, listen:

And I still believe (I still believe) in the sound,
That has the power to raise a temple and tear it down.

And I still believe (I still believe) in the need,

For guitars and drums and desperate poetry.

And I still believe (I still believe) that everyone,

Can find a song for every time they've lost and everytime they've won.

So just remember folks we not just saving lives, we're saving souls,

And we're having fun.

08 June 2011

rain in paradise

Got wet from all sides that day with Jack and M and played scrabble in the lodge.


Since the big clean up after the storm mood and energy are down. Muscles ache and soul is sore. Rain outside. The storm washed away all of the rambling roses.

07 June 2011

Pema Chodron says

No one ever tells us to stop running away from fear. We are very rarely told to move closer, to just be there, to become familiar with fear. I once asked the Zen master Kobun Chino Roshi how he related with fear, and he said, “I agree. I agree.” But the advice we usually get is to sweeten it up, smooth it over, take a pill, or distract ourselves, but by all means make it go away.

06 June 2011

summer night

paradise lunch hour

three spicy samosa and orange fizz

the storm

40+ l/sqm rain in ten minutes with the wind coming sideways from the north east after a day of 33 degrees C, all afternoon distant thunder and humidity in the 90s. I get ready to watch the spectacle with a cup of tea while the garden is flooding and the Douglas fir sways dramatically.
After a heavy thud R comes running downstairs shouting and the rowan tree is down bringing the cypress with it partially blocking the road and barely missing the car. But before we can sort that out we are down in the basement where the laundry is flooded with water pushing its way up through the drain and the boiler room filling up with rain washing in through the air vent. Just as we get the buckets ready my fathers calls from upstairs. But it's only the cable and no more French open finals on TV. Well tough, he can switch his hearing aid off and watch the empty screen for all I care.
The next couple of hours we are clearing water from the basement, cutting down a gorgeous rowan tree with the help of our neighbours and clear a container load of fir branches from the road. People come along to help, more tales of trees and street lights down blocking the roads, damaged cars and almost all of the basements are flooded it seems. A smart ass who has watched for a good while and comes over to give advice as he believes we are doing it all wrong gets the finger.
All night we can hear the chain saws and the fire brigades. More to come to day, it's hot and damp and the first dark clouds are moving in. 
Too exhausted to sleep all night. My father had enough and drove off in his smooth silver car listening to Mahler. I want to think he was frustrated he could not help.
Needless to say that this has never before happened here in our calm and sheltered suburb.

04 June 2011

humming along with Radiohead

Humming along with Radiohead I am cleaning the bathroom. While I am pinching my faded Indian wraparound skirt between my legs and squat down to clean the toilet I am thinking how my mother would disapprove of all of this: the music, the cheap cotton clothes, the actual fact that I am cleaning a dirty bathroom. After all the money she invested in me, her bookworm daughter. It was an easy fit, this label, with my older sister being the sporty tomboy, mad about horses and cowboy games and my brother simply being the son. When people ask me where I am from, I am always tempted to say, arrogant academia. My mother’s country. It’s a place where you ask, what instruments do you play and what was your first foreign language at school. It’s a place where sport means tennis or horse riding and where you never ever wear two different patterns and blazers are always dark and jewellery and make-up must be discreet. It’s a place where your ignorant visitors are tolerated with a tight little smile always followed by the standard question, and what did you say your parents do?  It’s a place where the cheap paperbacks are hidden behind the complete works of Goethe and the science books and where music means classical symphonies. Here drink comes in the correct glasses, white wine in small oblong ones, brandy in solid tumblers and vodka straight out of the bottle behind the dining room door. 

I flush down the detergent and move on to close the shutters in the upstairs rooms to keep the heat out. I turn around and there she sits in the armchair, her legs elegantly folded over, cigarette in her hand, the tight little smile again with just that hint of condescension reserved for me and me alone.
Whoosh! I say and clap my hands and she disappears.