31 May 2013

Many thanks go to nmj for this gem.

30 May 2013

the garden, rainy May

Lillies are still in the greenhouse. Iris just started today. Aquilegia and cornflowers almost finished.

29 May 2013

The garden is all green, claustrophobic lushness, buds everywhere waiting for a good stretch of sun and warmth to burst. But those short instances when the skies do clear are not enough it seems. Not a single rose yet, would you believe. The coldest spring in 40 years we have been told. On Sunday it was so wet and cold that we went to the museum to warm up. Practicing for retirement when we'll be poor again and heating fuel will become a luxury.
Too much gallivanting on different continents, too many wild job schemes for a decent pension to accumulate. All those nixers, the barter, the commune stuff, the co-ops, the gifts that were supposedly coming round and round, the exchange society of our idealistic dream years. Plus the years working in paradise where the sun drops into the Indian Ocean every day at 6:30 pm with the birds and their racket in the casuarina pines while I swim out to the little jetty after a long day of work. There is nowhere to enter this stuff on the annual state pension insurance forms. We have a "gap" of about 15 years and it looks like we were living on another planet. Come to think of it, we probably did.

Sometimes I worry about it. But not too often. Not yet. It will work out, we tell ourselves, we will grow more food, build a clay oven, move downstairs, and and and...maybe even discover the true pension contribution of those 15 years of very basic communal living.

24 May 2013

trying to keep warm dancing

23 May 2013

in the rain(y) forest

Well, well, well. It's certainly a cold May. A very cold May, she mutters as she struggles to pull on her mittens (!!!). And not only is it a very cold May, would you believe it, it also rains. A lot, as in: the river has burst its banks, the garden is a soggy mess and cycling is like taking a bath. Mind you, it's also quite pretty out there in the dripping green forest full of birdsong and I did stop to get even wetter but also just to listen.

There is a point of no return when it comes to cycling in the rain. Waterproof gear is tiresome stuff, all that swishing noise, the flapping when the wind gets caught in it and eventually, the sweat accumulating inside. Then again, cycling inside this cocoon through the forest has its moments of calm pleasure. But I admit that I rather get wet, especially when I know that there is a hot shower and a big fluffy towel waiting for me in the not too distant future. And for a while it can be quite fun to lick the rain that drops from my nose. By the time the steady trickle down my back has reached my toes I am usually home. Of course that doesn't go down well with R who will give me a serious talking to about my compromised immune system. And he is right and I promise to not do this every day. Silly really, because in fact I haven't the energy at the moment to do this too often anyway.

14 May 2013

The rain is hammering on my office window, the sky almost black. I can't see as far as the bicycle stand and it does not look like it will improve before I go home. I will get soaked and by the time I'll get home, I'll be chilled and sometime in the night, pneumonia will set in and by tomorrow I'll be dead. Probably. Not at all. Because all we are talking about is water.
For a very long time after the experts had presented me with this diagnosis I saw death around every corner. Every new and strange symptom (well, actually every symptom incl. all my nightmares) sent me round the bend. This is probably fairly normal behaviour when you have been given the potential scenarios of heart/kidney/lung failure and all that shit about going blind and/or deaf. 
I suppose you could say that by now I have become somewhat blasé about it. But only somewhat and only sometimes. I am getting there. Soon I will be completely fearless. There is a thought.

Last weekend we were supposed to be in Luxemburg but as I was climbing down from the cortisone mountain and also because R discovered that he had a touch of sore throat, we cancelled. Instead, we had a really nice weekend at home. Maybe Luxemburg would have been only half as nice. I am getting very good with all the cancellations. In fact, I may start another blog about all the trips we plan and then cancel, my virtual journey around the world.
And another blog about all the recipes I am bookmarking and saving for my gastritis-free future. I could pretend I baked a few loaves of rosemary and raisin soda bread, made rhubarb fool and something fancy with roast new potatoes, fresh spinach and salty Turkish cheese. Lots of olives. Red wine to go with it. And a little espresso.

Last night, this song popped up again which brings me straight back to the early 1970s when I was staying for the summer with my very sophisticated filthy rich godmother who had parties in her garden every night where my 13 year old self learned to dance with the pros.

11 May 2013

the easy option

Sometime last year I realised that I had forgotten the date of my mother's death. I knew it was sometime in August, or July, but the year? My sister gave me this look again: typical, you have always taken the easy option. The funeral I remember. It is not something to ever forget. But not for today.

The last time my mother came for a visit (maybe 20 years ago), she decided she wanted to leave after the first night. This did not come as a surprise, there was always something. (On the previous visit she could not stand the dust on the skirting plus the fact that we were doing it all wrong with her granddaughter.) While I drove her to the station, she told me that I was and always had been too uptight for her taste. That and the fact that we had asked her not to smoke indoors. And some more, but I stopped listening. Just before she got on the train she managed a quick little thank you. She did have a thing about Good Manners.

I will never pick up all the pieces. I want to think that my very young grandmother here is looking at her newborn daughter with wonder and love. That she is excited, a bit nervous, even a little scared, of course, but basically happy. But I know that she spent hardly any time with her child, that there was a nanny waiting once the photgrapher was done. My mother's life is full of stuff like that, a never ending story of loss and riches, loneliness and grandeur, travel, music, intelligence, war and death, hardship, illness, drugs, addiction, rejection, despair and deep dark sad fury.

My life is different. So wonderfully and miraculously different and whole and sane that at times I feel faint just realising this. Some of my innocent goody-good friends occasionally try to get me to do all that forgiveness stuff complete with the self help books and daily moments of gratefulness etc. Even or especially now, so many years after her death. You must, they press on, find closure.

No, friends, the abandoning was complete and it was mutual. I admit that for some, it looks like the easy option. It was my only option.

07 May 2013

lilac wine

Awake in the night I make up my mind to stop making such a big deal about it.
I am done with all these what if thoughts. For the time being. Breathe in, breathe out, smell the lilac through the open window. Don't give me any of this positive thinking crap. I am floating.
The experts spiked my drugs today, this could just be the kick starter of high dose cortisone. Health has become an ongoing compromise of effects and side-effects. Not sure where I am right now. 
But at least I am somewhere. Who knows, maybe I am even here.

05 May 2013

Early summer, there is no other word for it. I tried a few fresh raspberries with the grey porridge, hell, I even ate a pear and half a banana. But went back to nibbling dry rusk and toast for the rest of the day. Too much nausea plus vertigo to do anything else. Doctor's appointment tomorrow.
The cat is pretending to be young and agile, rolling under the pear tree and walking away covered in white petals. 
We did none of the things we had planned to do this weekend. Stuff we had marked on the kitchen calendar weeks and months ago, the crafts fair, the anti-nazi demo, the garden center, the fireworks by the river. Too busy nursing our aches and pains, R complaining the Greek olives gave him indigestion. 
I booked another night for October on the Italian lake, online. I can see myself doing this regularly. There is a 24hr cancellation policy free of charges, 24hrs prior to arrival that is. I am very tempted to book all sorts of fancy places just for the heck of it. Pretend travel, until some booking engine cancels our one and only credit card for wasting their time.
My 3 yr. old grand niece is starting kindergarden tomorrow. (My baby brother is a granddad.) It is a forest adventure creche, three hours to start with, on weekday mornings. All outdoors, come rain or shine, waterproof pants, wellie boots, a sturdy handcart, exploring.
As kids we used to play in a small forest, building dens with sticks and moss, elaborate tree houses. Dangers lurking everywhere. My mother made us matching brown corduroy overalls with bib pockets, perfect for collecting beechnuts. For a while I carried with me a flattened lizard I had peeled off the road. My father eventually showed me how to dry it properly on the garage roof. It disappeared that night.
I can still see my little brother in his short lederhosen, crying and clinging onto a branch far too high for him and my mother arriving on my father's black bicyle, in a white pencil skirt, high heels, climbing up to rescue her little prince. As she brushed the bark from her skirt and lit a cigarette, she hissed at me and my big sister from behind the smoke, don't even dream of coming home tonight.
And so we were in the middle of preparing our bed of leaves, discussing whether we should collect acorns for dinner when my father drove up and opened the car door without a word. He grinned all the way home. I saw it in the rear view mirror.

04 May 2013

Treat every crisis as normal and soluble.

John le Carré

In the early 1990s, I was working in a large bookshop in Dublin, one of these temples of print and publishing, spread over several floors, classical music, children's activities, Sunday opening hours, free coffee and red wine, readings, the lot. This is where families would go for an outing on a rainy weekend. Those were the pre-latte, pre-kindle days. My family occasionally visited me at work but I never really had the time for coffee, let alone reading or browsing. Show me a bookseller who then had the time to read anything apart from sales figures, bestseller lists, blurbs on the back covers and all the invoices and I'll tell you he/she is a fraud.
For a couple of months we had one of those strange bestsellers. It happened every so often. A book would sell like hotcakes without any advertising, anything in the media, often a title from a small, even obscure publisher without a sales rep. 
Anyway, we sold stacks and stacks of The healing power of illness: the meaning of symptoms and how to interpret them. We sold it to young parents, ageing hippies, elderly matrons, priests and nuns, journalists, teachers, even the odd medical person.
The concept was intriguing and at first glance even convincing. Take the common cold. What do the symptoms - coughing, sneezing, sore throat, runny nose, blocked ears etc. - tell us about the patient? Yes, the message is obvious: stay away, keep out, leave me alone, I cannot talk, I cannot listen, I want peace and quiet and so on. Look deeper and bingo, the diagnosis is staring you in the face: too much stress, too much involvement, too busy ignoring what is really bothering you and so on. In other words, you, the patient, have a minor psychological drama at your hands, but luckily, you now have the power to overcome this. 
This nice little pattern is put to work for almost any health issue and reading it you will find yourself nodding your head here and there. Gosh, how obvious. 
I admit I was pretty hooked - and I have a much leafed through copy somewhere to prove it - until I came to the chapter on migraine. Now, I have never - touch wood - suffered from migraine myself but to diagnose migraine as a misguided orgasm in the head? Good grief. 

Illness and health a far more mysterious. And the riddle never ends. Count your lucky stars for every day, every night of well being, no matter how relative in comparison to whatever. And when the shit hits the fan and you cannot get one foot in front of the other, try to remember that your body with all its billions of cells is programmed for recovery. Which takes time and maybe the outcome is not what you expected. Don't get mad. It's hard work.

01 May 2013

It's not that I am desperately missing coffee, after all I have had three cups since January and the last one in particular made my life pretty miserable, but this is spring and there are all these cafes with outdoor seating under the flowering chestnut trees. Try getting a decent cup of tea in any of these. Not. Possible. Sigh.
On the whole the entire health situation is pretty shoddy at the moment. In other words: I feel like shit. Without getting into too much detail.
So today being a public holiday I did all the sensible things I could come up with, such as driving through gorgeous forests, climbing up on the ramparts of a 12th century castle, eating fried green asparagus with too much chili, clicking my way through videos of sleepy kittens online, booking our short October holiday on an Italian lake in a seedy hotel a stone's throw from George Clooney's villa (wishful thinking, it's not even on the same lake), cleaning up what the cat brought in, and now fennel tea, hot water bottle, bed, keeping finger's crossed etc.