29 May 2018

the Robin rose

I took this picture early today while the dew was still out. This May is hot, hot, hot and we are expecting thunderstorms later. Very early this morning, all our alarm notification apps on the various cell phones started beeping and the full neighbourhood grapevine is on alert, heavy rain, clear the basements, tie up the loose peonie branches, keep your fingers crossed for the fruit trees full of tiny apples and pears.

This picture is for Robin, who lost her beloved mother this spring and who once told us the story of a similar rose and who posts such wonderful pictures of the natural world around her.
Thank you.

We now call this rose the Robin rose, the queen of our garden right now.

26 May 2018

There it is again. That amazing urge to be alive. I wake up and walk through the garden.  Eight different roses are in bloom. After breakfast, I carefully go through the motions to get the dreaded sick cert and R walks me back from the surgery under the flowering linden trees and briefly, the scent reminds us of a visit to Paris many years ago with a moody teenage daughter and everybody arguing for a while until life/love caught up with us. A scent bringing back tiny sparks of memories that mean family and us and always and wide open hearts.

There it is again. The realisation that this memory sits inside our cells and all we need to do is lift our heads to the trees and say, Paris, laughing quietly.

To say that my health is rapidly improving would be an overstatement, but often within overstatements are kernels of truth and frequently at the nub of a kernel can be found the essence of possibility. See, I actually have the energy to type out such a convoluted drivel of a sentence.

Like so many people attached to Ireland one way or another, I spent a good part of the last two days on various news and social media sites following the run-up to the referendum. It's a lot more than voting for the right to have an abortion and I won't go into it. There's others who have done a great job explaining this.

As with the same-sex marriage referendum of 2015, tens of thousands of Irish people working/living abroad travelled home to vote (there is no postal vote for Irish citizens abroad).
Following #hometovote can restore your idea of dedication and may even make you cry.

But then this: Yesterday, a train service from London to meet the ferry in Fishguard (Wales) crossing to Rosslare (Ireland) was experiencing some hold-ups and delays. A considerable number of Irish people were on that train who would now miss the boat and thus their chance to vote in the referendum. Several passengers used twitter et al. to alert the railway co. and the ferry operator and both responded, providing a bus to bring the passengers to the boat, while the ferry operators agreed to wait until everybody was on board.  There were massive cheers from the other ferry passengers.

Life is a string of anecdotes that keep me afloat.

21 May 2018

the only thing to do is simply continue
is that simple
yes, it is simple because it is the only thing to do
can you do it
yes, you can because it is the only thing to do
. . .
and surely we shall not continue to be unhappy
we shall be happy
but we shall continue to be ourselves
continues to be possible

Frank O'Hara 

Not quite, let me add. Not everything. But who am I to ask for more.
My mood is lousy, my health is rough, I am doing all the wrong things and for reasons I pretend I cannot figure out. So yes, another medium sized flare up, unexspected and believe me, I tried to ignore it. But tell that to the vestibular nerves, the clue lies in the term labyrinthitis.

Once I was a schoolgirl on exchange in a strange land, afraid to enter the maze at Hampton Court, when a kind soul explained that upon entering a labyrinth, all you need to do is move with your hand along the right side of the path, never let go, no matter how many twists and turns, and you'll find your way out.

This is me at the moment, holding on to the wall on my right as I move through the house, slapping it with my hand in anger and frustration. And no way out in sight. Certain people are avoiding me for good reasons and so on.

This will pass, we all know that. I wish I was a better patient person.

(Oh. And I am reading all your blogs and in another life, I would comment. Believe me.)

11 May 2018

Spring morphed into a bit of summer, there is the beginning of a drought and basically, my mood is all over the place, incl. a couple of door banging episodes and frustrated shouts of anger to the world at large.
Some days I have to dig quite deeply to find my hidden store of tranquility. But, there it is still, surprise, surprise, once I have exhausted the latest wave of fury and self pity.

My grandmother has been in my dreams, also my mother and the war and I am attempting to sort it into shape and words. But, difficult.

For the time being, there is the garden. I play no part in this, I just watch. And eat.

01 May 2018

Hidden between faded holiday pictures, I find this letter from my grandmother. (The holiday pictures are from my aunt's first trip to Greece, sometime in the late 1960s. My wild aunt, my father's only sister, long dead. Another story.)

Barely two weeks after this letter was written, the US troops arrived and the war was over in Franconia.
The front door of my grandparent's house, now my father's house, is made from strong oak and there is a small window in it. When we were kids, we would climb on a chair and play the game of opening and closing this small window, shouting hello, hello, hello.
It was through this small window that my father, sent there by his parents (go, speak English), saw his first black person, a GI pointing his gun at him, and said "Hello, I am a schoolboy".

My grandmother's birthday is on May 30th. Always celebrated with fresh strawberries and large bouquets of Margeriten (leucanthemum), her favourite meadow flowers.
My father has cried real tears three times in my presence. When his brother died a sudden death in 1965, when Germany won the football world cup in 1974 and when he first told me of his mother's birthday in 1945.
He had gone out early to pick the flowers, the table was set under the plum trees, strawberry cake, when the garden gate opened and there were his brother and his sister, exhausted, dirty, hungry.

1st of April 1945

Dearest E.

Today is Easter Sunday! We enjoyed our Easter baskets, ate fresh fruit salad with sweet curds and later, we even had a cup of real coffee with our apple cake. Our Easter spread didn't look very warlike. 
But when I prepared it, I had to spend more time down in the shelter than in the kitchen. The air-raid sirens went off at 8.30 in the morning and while we were on our way to church, low flying aircraft started to strafe and we barely made it back home unharmed. Since then there has been no end to the sirens. 

We hear that there is fighting in M. and that the Western front is approaching in giant steps. The Russians are already in Vienna. Is there any help for us? When will we meet again? I am keeping N at home with a stomach ache but his school mates are already in uniform.  Still no word from A, all our letters have come back.
Now it is quiet and peaceful but what will it be like tomorrow. Let's not think ahead.
How much would I have liked to climb B hill today but nobody would join me. They are all afraid and hiding indoors.

Write to us. We may not be able to stay in touch for much longer. Please answer.
Everybody sends their love but especially, your mother.

sweet curds: a very German dairy product, I just had some earlier
the shelter was the basement of my grandparent's house
M. is a town about 30 km away
N is my father
A is his older brother, in uniform and at the time last known to be fighting in Croatia or Serbia, but as we found out later, he had already deserted and was walking home
B hill is a local attraction with a viewing platform
I wrote about my father's account of these days here.
My aunt E who had started to study medicine before the war was at the time working in a military hospital in Austria.