28 February 2018

The days are getting longer, there is a small streak of apricot light low on the horizon around sunset and I feel the connection again, to the natural world around me. But oh, that cold frosty air.

All my life, winter was a hard time, physically, a struggle to keep warm outside and always overdressed indoors.
My childhood winters seemed endless and were cluttered with toboggans, ill fitting ice skates, skies stacked at the back door in a messy tangle of poles and bits of bindings sticking out. In winter, there was always too much to watch out for, too many things to put on hands and feet and head and trying not to lose any of it before the day was over. The exciting races on the frozen canals and carp ponds more than once ended in the discovery that some boys had filled our boots with water and so we were forced to walk home on skates and face my mother, furious because we were late and what did you do to the boots!
In my late teenage winters I wore one of my grandmother's moth eaten fur coats, cut off at waist length and button-less. Waiting for the bus in the mornings, I tried to keep warm wrapping the long hand-knitted scarf - a must have - around myself and smoking too many cigarettes. One day, a brand new dufflecoat, navy and with the correct type of toggles, was waiting for me at home. My mother never said a word. And neither did I.

My mother had a strict regimen of hand-me-downs for clothing and shoes, for mending and darning, stopping ladders in nylon tights with clear nail polish and forever letting down hems. She would sit in the kitchen, furiously unravelling sweaters and cardigans we had outgrown and later, my sister and I fought over the balls of wool to knit yet more scarves.

Once a year, the kitchen table was covered with piles of worn nylon stockings which my mother would cut into long strips (on the bias, mind you) and roll up into fat bundles. These were sent off to the Bethel Institution - a place my mother would never set foot in. Some time later, strangely shaped plaited rugs arrived in the mail, their sickly pale brown nylon hues static to the touch. One or two of them would eventually find a place  in the garage to mop up grease. But as for the rest of them?

Once an item of clothing had finally, at last, outgrown its use, my mother carefully cut off all buttons, eyelet hooks, toggles, buckles, unpicked stitches that held zippers. The buttons were stored in old biscuit tins, in fact they still are. I have three of them here in this room. I played with these buttons, my daughter played with them as did (and still do) visiting children.
The zippers, however, we threw out, seven large bin bags, upstairs in the spare bedroom, when we moved her to the apartment she hated so much.

My mother was not a collector, she had no interest in old buttons. I don't think she ever reused a single zipper.
But, the war, you see. The war. That's what you did in the war.

13 February 2018

the 2100 scenario

Don't build your home by the sea. If you own one by it, sell it and move inland.
And these are very conservative and cautious predictions based on multicenter data models. It could well be worse and much sooner.

If sea level continues to change at this rate and acceleration, sea-level rise by 2100 (∼65 cm) will be more than double the amount if the rate was constant at 3 mm/y.

Climate-change–driven accelerated sea-level rise
R. S. Nerem, B. D. Beckley, J. T. Fasullo, B. D. Hamlington, D. Masters, G. T. Mitchum
This will not go away. It's only 82 years to 2100.

Also: We made pancakes today, because Shrove Tuesday tradition. With icing sugar and lemon juice.

11 February 2018

We learn as we go along. At least, that's the plan. And yet, we drink a fresh cup of strong coffee despite the first signs of stomach cramps fully aware blissfully ignoring all evidence of what the next couple of hours will be like.
This is minor. Just a tiny bit of denial. I accept full responsibility.

Winter tried its thing for a while but the snow did not last and two nights of frost meant nothing. Hear that? Nothing. Crocus and daffs are eager little pushers.

This morning, in our warm bed, we discussed the finer points of Dark having binge watched nine episodes on the two previous evenings (or was it three?), explaining to understand who is who and who is related to whom, what is the lunar solar cycle, why the number 33, is there such a thing as the Einstein Rosen bridge and so on. I was ready to admit that I haven't the slightest idea when R in his matter of fact science teacher voice mentioned that he can handle black holes and gravitational waves, no problem. But that dark matter was in doubt according to latest research. Also, that exoplanets are an amazing concept and nothing to fear.

I feel safe now.

It's a great series, very entertaining, somewhat mind blowing. Don't miss it. The English subtitles are well done, for a change.

03 February 2018


As of yesterday, we are looking into the possibility of spring and beyond, the bigger picture of seasons and the cycle of growth and harvest and rest, using the Gaelic seasonal festivals  for orientation. Now that R has been liberated from the restrictions of a school calendar.

Accordingly, Imbolc is the gateway to our year ahead.  The feast day marking the beginning of the light. Which called for sowing of seeds of the following: two varieties each of capsicum (peppers) and tomatoes, sturdy broccoli, cauliflower, two types of basil and Tibetan gentian. They appear dormant snug inside tiny peat pots in the heated cold frames on the big window sill, but we know, they are busily stretching and growing and expanding as of this minute (!!) and on and on and on.
And this is only the beginning. There are many small bags of ordered and collected and exchanged seeds waiting patiently on R's desk. The man has a plan.

This winter has been exceptionally mild, the two almond trees on the west wall are about to flower.
Today, alas, it started to snow.

In a complete turnaround from last year, when I was on sick leave most of the time and could not take holidays, I am now portioning out my accumulated holiday allowance to be sick. It feels very secretive and only I know that I am cheating.
I try to pretend and make a show of coping. Yesterday, after a short visit to the whole food store and the library, I slept for the next couple of hours and when R woke me up, I continued pretending some more.
Mostly, I try to not listen to the hissing voices inside my head reprimanding me, demanding that I face reality and all that other weird shit. Ah! Not now. It seems I have lost any sense of what feels healthy or unwell, I just plow on, crawl through the day and hope for the best, for the next morning. I am so used to it, being well would come as a real surprise now. Admittedly, this latest level of weight loss and exhaustion is new but for now, I have decided to ignore it couldn't give a shit.

We spent last weekend in Franconia, celebrating my father's 89th birthday. He was in top form, everybody arrived on time at the inn, a medieval building once home to the minnesinger (poet) Wolfram von Eschenbach, who wrote the original Parzival (Perceval) story (forget all about Wagner). Of course, this is strictly for tourists, we Franconians just accept it as our birthright, all that medieval history everywhere. We let it shine briefly, just enough to feel somewhat superior and then we ignore it.

As we sat along the tables under the fat wooden beams, eating a proper Franconian Sunday lunch, my father looked proudly around his clan, most of whom are sharing his surname, the youngest barely six weeks old, all on the right track, or so he believes. We played it well.

Franconia did not disappoint (see below). It never does - even on a grey cold January weekend. On the way home, I curled myself into a ball of deep exhaustion, while R drove us home through fog and rain, disobeying the speed limits as usual.

01 February 2018

This music. There should be a better word for it. Something about force, heart, soul, depths.

Hugh Masekela died last week.

In the late 1980s when I was living in paradise, we would listen to this song in silence. My co-wokers, who normally were happily skipping and shuffling to reggae and zouk and moutia and sega, sat motionless whenever this song was played on the radio or from the boomboxes they brought to work.

I may have been their boss, in theory, but when it came to music at work, visiting family, girlfriends/boyfriends, buying and selling of home produce incl. illegally collected seabird eggs or the trading of foreign currency, I was powerless. And reader, I didn't mind one bit. I only tried eating an omelet made from seabird eggs once, too fishy for my taste.

For the men and women in my office, the ultimate shithole country was apartheid South Africa and they told me by the way they listened to this song. 

In my time there and since, I have met a good few people who call this beautiful stunning natural beauty of a country a shithole mostly because the shopping experience is severely limited, there are too many mosquitoes, it is always hot and humid, it rains almost every day, the birds make a racket every evening before sunset, the bats make a racket all night, the dogs bark all day and night, there are children everywhere, and so on.

And I should add nepotism, that terrible African trait whereby members of the ruling clan are given cushy government posts. Plus, backhanding, blatantly corrupt officials, off shore tax schemes, all these strictly African shithole characteristics. No?
The tinier the country, the more obvious they are.
And the rumours of political intrigues, secret prisoners, coup attempts, exiles. Yes, many of them were true. Every week someone would walk up to my desk with secret information, sometimes testing me and if I fell for it, and I usually did, there was much slapping up thighs and laughter.
Paradise was (is) a bad place. Human greed etc.

(But also, free school for all, free health care for all, clean buses running to almost everywhere, more women in government positions than anywhere else in the world, active trade unions, a ban on all plastic packaging, strict observation of environmental protection laws etc.)

I was lucky to see/hear/experience Hugh Masekela live, here in our city. It was a cold night for an open air concert. He had us all sweating and shouting in no time.