30 January 2014

Today is day four on my way of recovery from the weekend. I think I am getting better. At least I have started to laugh a little bit about some of the stuff he did and said. A sort of incredulous laughter. Did he really do that, say that and that and that? Yes, he did.
But for the time being I am not answering my father's calls. Just a precaution. I don't want to treat him like shit or - following my sibling's advice - a rude 85 year old child. Or be his rude 56 year old daughter in return. This time, I will lick my wounds a bit longer and then do the grand magnanimous thing of forgive and forget. Anyway, that's the plan.
There is this tall, skinny man I remember, grating apple into our muesli in the warm kitchen of our crammed little flat. He is blowing a lock of his unruly blond hair from his forehead. We know he will tell us a funny story once he is finished and we can all start our breakfast.

28 January 2014

23 January 2014

The GP is still working on it I have been told. So am I. Nibbling bits of toast and sneaking in a spoon of mango yogurt - time will tell. Dandelion tea as well. I am getting somewhere.

Meanwhile I am lining my stomach with sarcasm and dark humour as the world prepares to gather for my father's 85th birthday on Saturday. There will be speeches, there could be amateur chamber music (please no) and there will be the usual gawking and whispering until the first round of bubbly has been downed. After that we will all be at our best behaviour and pretend to be sophisticated academics or something like that.

We will listen to various versions of my father's grand achievements and we will all pretend that he did what he did without the support of a wife who will not be mentioned. And why should she. After all she is long dead and gone and can no longer mess up the ceremony sitting in the back smoking and tsk-tsking and generally showing off her superiority - before and during getting pissed. In her moody condescending way, she was never a rowdy drunk. No, she could put you down and in your miserable little place after two bottles of vodka just as well as if she'd be sober. Probably even better. But I really don't want to remember.
Maybe my brother and my sister and me will exchange a quick look but who knows, we may actually just have a decent enough time. 

And I will wear my new jeans and a freshly ironed linen shirt. I told him I would not do the black dress thing and he laughed and suggested a warm cardigan instead. 
The buffet dinner will be an adventure and I shall cross that bridge when I see what's on offer.

This series of groundbreaking events will be framed by two long train journeys through possibly snowy landscape, the magical river valley and I will be able to watch it all in silence with R doing his paper work across from me, a couple of BBC podcasts in my ear and who knows, maybe a whole bunch of really weird and interesting people will come my way.

22 January 2014

Seemingly my stomach has now almost completely stopped to process food. There is still watery porridge to sustain me in small spoonfulls but all the other stuff, no way. Except for a bit of steamed cauliflower in between. But seriously. I know that the early Irish settlers lived to a very old age with their staple diet of everything made from oats. Although I bet they picked juicy berries and killed the odd animal for a feast.
I love food, I love cooking. 
In my GP's surgery today I asked whether I could just get a new stomach please. One made of rubber or plastic so that my immune suppression meds cannot do so much damage. No luck. Instead I have to wait now for him to call back with yet another action plan.
And of course, coffee sends me round the bend with pain and black tea is not so good either despite the fact that I try and sneak in the odd cup. There is always fennel tea and this fancy concoction from the pharmacy with yarrow, nettle and mint. It tastes just like it sounds, yarrow yarrow yarrow yarrow...
Plus hot water bottles.
This is certainly one way to lose weight quickly.

21 January 2014

stuff we can learn from rats

 Obviously, I am totally against animal experiments in scientific research and I have supported every campaign against it ever since. But there you are, research labs around the world are working with a veritable zoo of animal species. I have edited papers on the most gruesome things: sheep having their knees fractured and fixed with gadgets that are now used to help Olympic skiers and runners and various millionaires back on track, genetically modified rhesus monkeys for the testing of vaccines against cancer and millions and millions of rodents, most of them with inbred diseases, tumours, disabilities etc. are used in research on almost everything.  

The terminology alone is staggering. Animals are usually sacrificed, they are never ever killed or culled. Occasionally, they simply die. If it's part of the study design, that's an ok expression, if not, they are lost to follow-up or, worse, excluded from results. And their living conditions are spotless and under strict observation with protocolled access to chow and water and so on.
Not unlike cattle or pigs and certainly better than battery chicken.

Then again, some of the findings are amazing and what can I say? I have a serious chronic disease and somewhere along the line, the drugs I have to take to stay alive were certainly tested in animal studies.

And rats are amazing creatures. They can teach us a thing or two.

For example, that helping each other is more important and better than eating chocolate.

 When we act without empathy we are acting against our biological inheritance. If humans would listen and act on their biological inheritance more often, we'd be better off.
But rats teach us one more thing. Helping each other means helping everybody, not just our own people. It's something rats learn really quickly and maybe one day, we humans can learn it, too. 
In mammals, helping is preferentially provided to members of one's own group. Yet, it remains unclear how social experience shapes pro-social motivation. We found that rats helped trapped strangers by releasing them from a restrainer, just as they did cagemates.
And when we reach this new level of social empathy - frankly, that should not take us longer than the couple of days it took the rats  - images such as this one will let us open our homes and our hearts and just like our friends, the rats, we will do whatever it takes to help free our fellow human beings from their misery.
from: http://www.mashid.com/

18 January 2014

the curse of the voodoo lily

For a very long time, this bulb is sitting in the rice bowl S brought from Tashkent, ontop of the ancient tv set.
You more or less forget about it until after a couple of weeks it starts to sprout some branches.
And some more.
Now you get out the laser temperature pointer, the one you normally use to entertain the cat - even after S tells you about how this upsets the feline psyche etc. Anyway, you now start to check the temperature of the stem because you know from some clever website that things will hot up - literally - in a matter of days.
As indeed they do. This is what you find one morning and from past experience, you know that you better stay put.
Because within the next couple of hours, things developed into this.
Which is when the smell starts to hit you. A bit like rotting meat, dead mice, cat's piss and tomcat markings all in one. By now, the stem just above the forming leaf is becoming hot to the touch. And while the leaf unfurls in front of your eyes, the stem swells and turns a deep purple.
And before you have a chance to take any more pictures it all collapses most dramatically right there and then and the stink is making you retch. But, hey, what a beauty. The next bulb has started to come alive.

08 January 2014

D'yer Mak'er

All this here and now stuff is pretty hard work, let me tell you. It was sometime in early December when I gave up on the always-look-at-the-bright-side-of-life way of living. 
For the time being that is. 
At least that's the plan. 
That things will pick up and get better just as the days are getting longer again. 

Tomorrow another expert wants to poke into my body and soul and judging from past experience with ENT procedures, this will involve having warm and cold water poured into my ears until the room starts to spin - or not spin which indicates that a balance organ is kaput. We know that fact but what the heck, let's all have some fun and play young scientist competition. Mustn't complain, mustn't complain, it's all on the house and who knows maybe there will be breakthrough findings.

Meanwhile, my youngest unmarried daughter is gallivanting in (on?) the South Pacific islands which is simply wonderful and we are awaiting her reports and pictures with giddy excitement. As my prince remarked this morning while looking out into the still dark skies, at least one of us is having a great time. 
Whereas here, the weather is confusingly mild, last summer's geraniums are in flower as is the pink rose and the birds are busy in the bare hedge. I want to go out and shush them into silence. Don't get carried away, I want to tell them, it's early January, there could be a blizzard around the corner. And then  what. 
All in all I feel a tad too cynical and smart-ish and I know it will fly into my face soon enough. At least that much is true.

Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something; they come from a sense of poverty. We can’t simply relax with ourselves. We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment. We feel that someone else knows what’s going on, but that there’s something missing in us, and therefore something is lacking in our world.

Tomorrow Jimmy Page will be 70 and tonight I watched R dancing to this song in the kitchen, while he was cooking. It is still magical and will always remain so, the song and of course, my man dancing.
Oh how I puzzled over this song title, in the days of bell bottoms and tie dye shirts, long before I could even speak a single word in English.

06 January 2014

I don't want to be the only person with carrots

Ignore the hyperbole intro and just listen for a while. I love him, I do. But I feel just as helpless.

04 January 2014

a thing of beauty

I love this song. A waulking song in Scots Gaelic sung by six people from Donegal in 1981. At the time, they were mildly famous in Ireland, two brothers and two sister and two cousins, known as Clannad. That was years before the younger sister, Eithne or, as she later called herself, Enya, became famous with her warbling hazy musical carpets which waft away like empty clouds.
We sat in the audience when they played in Dublin, just days after the album had come out. I was wearing pretty much the same type of dress and exactly the same shoes as Maire, the other sister and lead vocalist. Total coincidence and of no deeper meaning but involving a trip to London's Natural Shoe shop in Covent Garden. Which at the time was a tiny little workshop in a narrow lane off the main drag.
Earlier that day I had found out that I was pregnant and I remember thinking that hearing this music will make my baby happy. And it did.
I don't understand a word they are singing but I have been told by someone who actually understands the lyrics that it's about love and love sickness and weaving tartan cloth.
It's called Mlorag`s Na Horo Gheallaidh.

03 January 2014

safe at last

After a series of exceptionally nasty break-ins in this quiet not-at-all-posh neighbourhood we are reluctantly looking into ways of making our modest home somewhat burglar-proof. Wishful thinking, which involves the concept that there are people who want what we have. I try to look at our stash of goodies as something that may be valuable enough to be worth the effort of breaking and entering. Maybe if I put up a sign (sorry, no jewellery, no cash, ancient tv set, all electronic goods five years and older)? Over the years we have hidden away what we consider to be treasures in ingenious hiding places, some of them so ingenious that we cannot find the stuff now. There are at least three house keys buried under meaningful markers in the garden, so meaningful that we will need to dig for days and probably not find a thing.
My mother-in-law hid her jewellery in the linings of the bedroom curtains. We found out when we cleared the room before the house was sold many years after her death. Here, we have no curtains (my father thinks we are living like gypsies - and not in a positive sense) so even if we had any jewellery that option is not available.
Instead, clever people have been coming around demonstrating clever blinds, time locks, light systems, real and fake cameras and all sorts of fancy stuff. With every new gadget they show us I can see my shabby (let's face it) little house turning into an ugly and mean fortress and I think I am reaching the point where I give up. As in: Oh just come and help yourself if you are so needy, I am not going to lock myself into a bullet proof bunker etc. 
But I have been told to stop acting like a child.
So just at the right moment, the star boys, or rather: three little creatures dressed in long shiny cloaks turned up at our door, supposedly representing the three wise kings, magi, wizards whatever. They sang a little song, held out the collection box for the poor and starving misfortunates in the care of the catholic church and scribbled these magic signs above our door: 20*C+M+B+14. Apparently it translates into "christus mansionem benedicat" (may christ bless this house). So all is well again. We are safe, no?