27 January 2015

This picture is a fake, my father never learnt to play a musical instrument. He is posing with his brother's violin. He doesn't sing either, he sometimes grumbles along way out of tune. On Sunday mornings we would find him sitting downstairs, playing his records, symphonies mostly, Schubert, Haydn and Beethoven, while going through his notes and science journals and from time to time, he would stab the air with his pen, conducting his imaginary orchestra.

The window behind him is where he now has his bedroom. It used to be my grandfather's study before the war. After the war and after the American army had moved out - they stayed in the house for four years - my grandparents moved upstairs and the ground floor was turned into an apartment. My father moved into it soon after he left my mother, when he sneaked away with his car load of stuff while she was recuperating from yet another nervous breakdown somewhere on the coast. Apparently, she arrived home to find half of everything gone. My sister told me that he left because of the blood. My father faints at the sight of blood. I have seen this happen a number of times, he keels over like a felled tree. Bang and out. When my mother cut her wrists, he called my sister and hid in the car, she told me. And about the buckets and the sheets and the stains in the bedroom. The off-white carpet. 

I was on the other side of the equator at the time. The last time I had seen both of my parents together, maybe two years earlier, they could not stop fighting and so I took my little girl and together we walked down the street. It was a hot evening and we waited around the corner barefoot until they stopped shouting. I packed my stuff later that night and told my father that it was time for him to get out, too. He just shook his head.

Last week when I called him on his birthday, he was still in bed. I could hear in his voice how he immediately regretted telling me that. Too late. I coaxed it out of him, how he slipped on the last step down to the garden, how he crawled to his car and pulled himself up and drove to the meeting with his Swedish friends and only noticed the pain when he got home. My father is a scientist and to him, the body is a set of plumbing works with chemical interactions and a slightly complicated set of nuts and bolts to hold it all together. Nothing to get worked up about as long as there is no visible blood. 
This week, he calls to inform me that yes, he has seen a doctor this morning but only to have his own diagnosis confirmed. A couple of bruises, so what. The way we all get so worked up about nothing. Tsk. Tsk.

26 January 2015

Really, I should know by now how to handle this. The usual waiting and observing, patiently, gently and with a positive mindset. In theory.
Actually, I am so much better at it. I think I am. I try to. Many people have suffered from a nasty cough and a touch of bronchitis with chest pain and all that exhaustion. Just because I have this autoimmune shit doesn't mean that it's something else. 
Ok, thinking back I can count the times I had anything as heavy as this on the fingers of one hand but obviously, I mean immune suppression, just use your brain, silly woman. 
Well yes, I do realise that this disease likes to dig into the lungs but hell, not my lungs. I am just slowly recovering from a nasty bout of bronchitis. So there.

Oh, and that snow from yesterday? Gone. Washed away by the rain. And the wind will carry me.

24 January 2015

It started to snow just after breakfast. Quite a lot, really. But by tomorrow afternoon it will be gone. I am certain. Occasionally, I look outside and it's still there, unfortunately. Seriously, 24 hours, not a minute longer. I am telling you.
Meanwhile, twelve amaryllis are budding and flowering indoors. Take that, winter, you brute, you!

19 January 2015

Memory is like a dog that lies down where it pleases.

Cees Nooteboom
This is day five of antibiotics and rest and where is the fucking recovery? Shush! Of course it's happening, only in such tiny steps that you need to put on your magnifying glasses to see it. What did you expect?!

Easy does it. I should know. Champing at the bits is a waste of precious energy.

17 January 2015

auris interna

Tinnitus: January, thin rain becoming ice

Now footsteps on shingle. Make of it what you will. Sea-birds roost
on the breakwaters, accustomed, of course, to twilight.
The spirit-lamp in that house on the headland could easily fall
and spill
and the fire burn all night. Some time later, a subtle ghost,
yourself in memory perhaps, might well set foot
up there amid clinker and smoke, the whole place silent and still
except you bring in the tic of cooling timbers, and then the birds
in flight.
Now chains through gravel. Make of it what you will.
David Harsent 
(from today's Guardian)

Some of them are mine, too. At night, the fairy flies by my right ear tinkling her bells, a mean fairy granting no wishes. On most days, in my left ear, a steady wind is blowing through a vast field of swishing dry sugar cane in central Mauritius while I am leaning my head out off the window, seasick and cold so far below the equator. But most of all, the hum, deep and low, that old river barge slowly passing through my left ear, forever and ever. There is no harmony, no rhythm, no pleasure in it. And no surprise any longer. To be at the mercy of such tiny events inside the minute magic spirals of my damaged inner ears, even that had to become part of my life. Mostly now, tedious, boring. So what.


15 January 2015

Bear with me, I am coming out of the fog. My head throbbing, my voice like Rod Stewart's after a full concert, and the coughing, well I think it sounds pretty damn impressive. I tried to do this nicely, thyme tea with honey, plenty of rest and fluids, but no, the lab report was nasty and so plan B or rather antibiotics for five days. We shall see. My intestines will have a fabulous time.

Imagine a very unhappy teenager in a small grey town in Northern England sometime in the early 1970s, she doesn't understand most of what people are saying, she has been kicked out of school because she refuses to wear the ridiculous uniform, especially not that awful bowler hat. Her host family doesn't know and so she walks around town, spends hours in Woolworths when it rains, sampling the blue nail varnish and the glitter hair spray. She wants to feel so very much aloof and haughty and cool but really she is scared and lonely. With her last money, she walks into a hairdresser's and points to the Rod Stewart poster. Hair with attitude. She needs that now.

Happy 70th birthday Rod Stewart, you wear it well.

13 January 2015

. . . contemplate how human beings a century from now will view those of us who lived in the era when climate change was recognized, and yet there was so much more that we could have done. They may feel utter contempt for us. They may regard us as the crew who squandered their inheritance, like drunkards gambling away a family fortune that, in this case, is everyone’s everywhere and everything. I’m talking, of course, about the natural world itself when it was in good working order. They will see us as people who fiddled while everything burned.

Many people believe that personal acts in private life are what matters in this crisis. They are good things, but not the key thing. It’s great to bicycle rather than drive, eat plants instead of animals, and put solar panels on your roof, but such gestures can also offer a false sense that you’re not part of the problem.
You are not just a consumer. You are a citizen of this Earth and your responsibility is not private but public, not individual but social. If you are a resident of a country that is a major carbon emitter, as is nearly everyone in the English-speaking world, you are part of the system, and nothing less than systemic change will save us.

Rebecca Solnit

11 January 2015

new word of the day

uhtceare : Old English noun meaning pre-dawn anxiety or lying awake before dawn and worrying.

10 January 2015

Together we will punish the killer. Our punishment will be more generosity, more tolerance and more democracy.

(Fabian Strang, mayor of Oslo after the 2011 Norway attacks.)

If you share my belief that an open society, a democratic open society is the only alternative to any murderous ideology, you must accept how vulnerable an open society is - simply because it is open and messy and multi cultural and mixed and complicated. Let us remain open, diverse and generous, let us refuse to polarise, to dish out blame or separate the world into us and them, let us stay subversive, irrational and above all, gentle.

07 January 2015

remember this

I wake with a sore throat and all the other aches and pains, my companions. It rained all night and the frost is gone, for now. Earlier, I think I did hear a bird call, just once before sunrise. Before breakfast, the it service man calls and accepts coffee but cannot solve the mysterious wifi problems. Because, so he says, this wave of gadgets and clouds with their blue teeth and constant additions and updates and whatnots, it's too fast and too much for mere humans to cope with. He switches a couple of sockets around like a priest performing a secret ritual. We agree that at least the sun has come up.

Once upon a time we lived in paradise and climbed the Nid d'Aigle mountain on a new year's day, up and up the narrow track, through thick humid forest with the odd voodoo doll on a stick or a fish head dangling from a branch, hissing insects, slipping on damp rocks until we finally reach Belle Vue where the skies open and the sun is so brilliant it takes your breath away.

Some mornings, this memory is all I need.

02 January 2015

Cycling through the dark forest after work. I am the only person on this planet. The cold wind finds a tiny spot somewhere below my scarf into my zipped up parka crawling along my chest. The tyres make loud swishing noises when I hit unseen puddles. The clouds open up and the moon shines on me and me alone. Here I go, my hands are freezing, chronic gastritis gnawing away at my stomach, something painful going on between my bladder and my inflamed intestines, cold tears running from my eyes to my ears, my hands are freezing inside the latest thermal gloves, I am 57 years old. I am racing through the dark silent forest with the moon shining on me and me alone. I am a miracle. I am the only person on this planet.

01 January 2015

The sudden snow has thankfully disappeared for a while - I love long term weather apps - and there has been only a tiny touch of frost. I can handle that.
We drove through the cold sunny valley mostly in silence, looking, occasionally pointing out a view.
I am starting this new year in a low mood. Or maybe not. It's life, it's complicated, is it really? The nagging regrets, what have I ever done to deserve this and so on. Oh, the injustice, the outrage, the self pity. 
How could life take away so much from me? My health, my happiness and so on. 

While at the same time I am fully aware, i.e not really that stupid (she hopes), to realise that life has done nothing wrong, has taken nothing from me. Life just goes on, changes and meanders like that godawful river we are unable to step into twice or whatever.

No, the mood is not really low, I take that back. The mood is moody. I start the morning with a talk to my inner teenager about patience and enthusiasm and compassion and soon enough, this eventually turns into a trial run of stepping back and observing and letting things be. Whatever it takes to hold back the deluge. 
A trial run, mind you. Let's wait and see. No promises.

All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little coarse, and. you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice? Up again; you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.

Ralph Waldo Emerson