31 May 2015

the view from the kitchen window today

and the dining room

I am pretending to be perfectly healthy.

27 May 2015

For a long time during my childhood, my big sister was the world to me. We were not friends, we fought daily, about everything, we scratched and bit each other, we pulled hair, we drew blood.
To this day, our relationship is based on a deep current of resentment. At times it's the only thing that keeps us going. On my way to work today, I tried to list what it was and still is that we begrudge each other and, well, it basically covers everything.
And yet, at the time this picture was taken she was my rock, my guardian angel. There was a time when we used to joke that she was my little mother. But that was years ago, we don't find this funny anymore.
We were never close, we never helped each other. We bargained all the time. We never got each others back. When I was found smoking behind the youth club and got expelled for a fortnight, she ratted on me. So in turn I told my parents about her driving this guy's car around the block before she got her licence. And so on.
She paid me real money to do her Latin homework. I used the money to buy her silence when I lied about where I was going at night. And so on.
But I know that I owe her, that thanks to her I have this precious small bundle of happy warm childhood memories (incl. the fights we had), thanks to her massive strength, her protective spirit and her fierce instincts. 
My sister picked up all the pieces, kept the show on the road, pushed us along and told us what to do. Before she could read, she knew how to call the doctor, the ambulance, the police. She knew which neighbours she could turn to, how much she could safely tell them and, most importantly, she knew what not to tell. Never to tell. She figured this out so early and so well, you could think she has forgotten about it, about the things that happened, the threats, the dark locked rooms, the screams and the tears and the overdosing and the blood. I close my eyes and I see her wrapping a sheet around my mother's arm, round and round. She is maybe six years old, biting on her lower lip with the effort. 
It has taken me a very long time to understand the enormity of what she did for me, all these years, that it was more than anyone should ask a big sister to do. I understand that this is why we could never be friends.

23 May 2015

Ireland gay marriage referendum result: Yes vote certain

This is about decency, generosity, love and getting rid of a lot of negative morals, it's about moving out from the shadow of an oppressive church or to quote the Irish minister for equality:
Ireland hasn't just said yes, Ireland has said Fuck Yeaahhh!
This is also in memory of Marcus who in 1985 could no longer face the bullying and abuse from family and colleagues, who slipped out of our reach one tearful night to jump into the river. His body was found a week later.

some background here

22 May 2015

This is my 1000th post. Really? I find it hard to believe but I am not going to count.
All I can say or rather, write is that I love it. No idea where I would be without it and I don't care, this is good.
Thank you for reading and you have no idea, none at all, how I enjoy your comments!

18 May 2015

Hurrah, I crawled to work and made it home in one piece, feeling like a limp something or other, licking my wounds and coughing from a tight chest - that and my croaky voice, oh very dramatic! 
My colleagues full of sighs and tutt tutting queued up to offer to take a blood sample (the joys of working with medical scientists) and so I agreed and well, lots of not so normal parameters, aka a lab report from a tiny hell - hand me the smelling salts, quick. 
Yes, I know sort of hope this will could pass, but still, now I am scared of the things that will come and get me in my sleep.
For crying out loud, I am such a wimp.

17 May 2015

Beautiful May, garden full of blossoms, a bowl of fresh strawberries in my kitchen, green asparagus waiting for dinner, the first juicy apricots . . .
The news full of horror, devastation, cruelty, suffering.

13 May 2015


The little lane leading to the secret entrance of the garden on Monday morning after coming back from the doctor, who told me to stay home for another week. I cycled because it's only a short distance. I didn't tell her, just in case. It was the highlight of my day, the short cycle.
Wisteria above the bicycle shelter at the bottom of the garden. There are worse places to recuperate - or to lock up a bicycle.

12 May 2015

I am asking for quite a stretch in imagination and compassion, but isn't that what being alive is all about?

This morning I was sitting in my kitchen with my head under a towel, breathing in the supposedly healing vapours of thyme and sage, listening to online radio. As my luck would have it I had tuned into one of my favourite Irish stations just as the news came on. Or rather: nuacht, that is news as gaeilge/in Irish. One of the charming little rituals that probably mean very little to most and an awful lot so some people in Ireland. Like the Angelus at six pm, still live on radio every evening.

I can understand three words in Irish: agus (and), buíochas (thank you) and grá (love). When I listen to someone speaking in Irish it's all mystery to me, like an ancient chant.
And then suddenly I heard the word Kathmandu. Another massive earthquake. Oh dear, oh saints in heavens and people on this planet.
Of course, we will all and everyone try and do what we can. Surely. It will involve money. The media will supply us with enough horrific evidence to imagine a fraction of what is happening.

And here comes the stretching because I am now jumping from Nepal to the Indian Ocean. To a place hardly anybody knows. A most beautiful place, paradise. I can honestly call it that because I have lived in a very similar place for a couple of years not too far from there. It has been the best of times for me and for my man and our child. The very best of times. And although we have all had many more best of times since, 25 years later we are all three still homesick for it. 
Which is why I can feel some of the sadness (sagren in Chagossian Creole) you can see in these faces if you please take the short time to watch:

Let Us Return - The Story of the Chagos Islanders - 2015 from Evoque on Vimeo.

And while I have been working too long for human rights organisations to believe that online petitions have any meaningful effect at all, I nevertheless ask you to sign here anyway and hope for a miracle. There is no doubt in my mind that these people need to return and that they can have a happy life there. Not a single doubt.
If you have a bit more time, also watch this video.


09 May 2015

Impatiently, far too impatiently waiting for this whatshallwecallit to be over, an infection, surely,  just a virus, no doubt. Ever heard of sinusitis, that must be it. Collecting my wits in between bouts of vertigo and with a booming head under a towel, inhaling tea made from fresh sage and thyme. Pretending that I've never heard of the ENT symptoms of my disease.  There, I said, my disease. As if I owned it. But at this stage, it doesn't really matter. Believe me, it's not a thing about ownership or - worse - owning up to anything. And just to clarify, I am not battling or fighting here. I have rejected this terminology in connection with illness long before I got involved.
I am not even accepting. There is nothing to accept. (Except for the blessings of this country's "socialist" health system. I accept them gratefully and with a continuous sense of wonder and entitlement.)
In conclusion: Shit happened, I am dealing with it. Some days better, other days, not too well. 
Mostly, I am juggling between distraction and panic, occasionally I glimpse enlightenment. 
I love my life too much to whine - generally speaking.

Theoretically, we are all good here, while in reality, uuugh. Tedious.

05 May 2015

. . . our families contain everything and, late at night, everything makes sense. We pity our mothers, what they had to put up with in bed or in the kitchen, and we hate them or we worship them, but we always cry for them.
Anne Enright, The Gathering 

This being memorial month, 70 years since the end of WW2, we get to watch special features on all channels, in all shapes and forms from the sublime to the ridiculous, every morning in the papers another picture of the president or the chancellor speaking to survivors at various memorial sites (former concentration camps). I watched a couple of documentaries on children and war and I will never even get close to understand what may have been my mother's experience. Frankly, I have no idea. Only snippets, whispered during coffee and cake afternoons with relatives while I sat on someone's lap half asleep. I see her trembling outside the back door, trying to light a cigarette, gagging from the smell of fried meat. I hear her walking through the house at night, crying and muttering, packing a bag of essentials "in case". The larder always full of food, nothing ever thrown away, left-over bread soup. So many mornings with her face hiding behind sunglasses. The sound of a fire siren would send her running for her youngest child, both of them sheltering in the boiler room.
There were tall stories, too. I used to be disgusted about this when I got older, when relatives pointed out that she could not have been there or there at the time or whatever. Well, she was not a good a mother and for me, that was further proof of her failure. But what do I know. What do I know about forgetting and remembering and loss and trauma. For quite some time, she tried to cope, I know that. And yet, with all her arrogance and her high morals and superiority complexes, she was cowering, a frightened animal inside her Chanel suits and fur coats.

Here she is sometime in the early 1950s, at university. I like to think she was happy then. For a while.

03 May 2015

I can't write about the health stuff because last time, when I mentioned the lung diagnosis, my child got mad at me for blogging before telling her. And I understand.
Anyway, I have now reached a far superior level in this game, the one where I juggle symptoms around until it feels as if I can manage a semblance of normal life, ie being a gainfully employed woman with a bicycle. For a while at least. The default settings of this level no longer include being healthy. But this level is so advanced I have already forgotten what that could have meant. Ever.

And on Wed I am going to see my lovely immunologist. But shhh.

02 May 2015

Consider migratory birds, the ones that travel in V-shaped flocks enormous distances through strong air currents. 
Consider the V-shape: it means that one bird is in front battling it out, while the others float in his slipstream. 
How do they get the volunteers to fly in front?  Is it a clan thing, the alpha bird in front? This would make sense from an evolutionary standpoint. 
But apparently that's not the case.

The stuff you learn when you read the newspapers on a Saturday morning. Does it matter? 

Anyway. It turns out that it does, at least to a group of scientists who followed 14 juvenile bald ibises fitted with GPS gadgets on one of their long journeys. Some of the birds were siblings, but most were not related. Flying in formation they changed their positions cooperatively, taking turns so that all the birds got a chance to surf and all did hard work at the front, switching positions automatically and continuously, so quickly that it would be hard to see with the naked eye.   

Ok, it's only birds. But what if we were to follow their example? To do something without calculating the return? To give and take so quickly that we wouldn't even notice and probably not even remember? A scenario where self-interest and helpfulness are not seen as opposites but as mutually dependent. Oh my.