31 January 2020

Not that I miss it, but it feels odd to finish off January without that winter feeling. If anything, we had maybe a night or two of minimal frost, not a single snow flake and all the sounds and sights of spring. It's not over yet and February can be a real monster. I'd like to think that all this is just a quirky year but well, you know all the science and the patterns and the big picture stuff.

So for a little while, I shall enjoy that we have no winter this year. And I admit that I like it, that I've always dreaded winter and if I had magic powers, would do away with it once and for all.

Anyway, Friday it is, music day (thank you Robin) and this week it's F, so here are the Fleet Foxes singing about winter.

27 January 2020

Today, I spent my time in trains, staring at thick fog and drizzle and rivers and deep forests. Not listening to the podcasts I had downloaded, trying to gather hwat remnants of energy I had after a weekend with the extended clan (25+ energetic people) celebrating my father's longevity (91 years).

He was brisk and to the point, late comers had to sort out their own seating. Presents were refused and simply left behind as threatened. Lunch at 12 noon on the spot, guided tour of the Rococo castle at 2 pm and coffee and cake at 3:30 sharp. Great grandchildren were hushed. My sister had a crying fit because no gluten free cake.  Also, question and answer session on the history and origin of Rococo (think ornamental gold, parks full of topiary and over the top everything), just to check that everybody was paying attention. Like a 13-year old, I mentioned Watteau and got a bonus point. My brother kept his mouth shut but gave me The Look. My sister was still sobbing.
And then the king of the castle got up and drove home in time for sports news. We looked at each other and mumbled our good byes. I retreated to my hotel room and stared at the ceiling for a very long time.

His declared aim is to live at least 100 years (his mother died aged 103) and right now, I could weep at the thought that this is going to happen every January.

Five and a half hours on a train each way provide some soothing but hell, I'll be 71 when he is 100 and maybe I'll pass.

Not sure how and when I'll recover, so forgive if I won't comment for a day or three.

24 January 2020

good times

This morning on the radio, some clever person warned us to wrap up well because of arctic wind. I did that - only the wind was blowing - icy cold admittedly - from the south, and we know the difference between the arctic (north, polar bears) and the antarctic (south, penguins) but let's not be a stickler for details.

So I cycled my cold and weary body against the arctic wind to the osteopath and after I had unwrapped several layers of scarves and sweaters and mittens and hoodies, let her do her stuff, all the proper hands-on kneading and shifting and never mind the mumbo jumbo kinesiology and pendulum chakra incense whatever. It was warm and cosy and generally, I find that osteopath rooms smell very nice, they use some kind of woody linseedy oil. Anyway, when I left the hushed sanctum, the wind had gotten stronger but was pushing me now along the river and there was birdsong, somewhere. It came as a sudden insight, flushing me with all its glory, that at least the weather is going to get better, the days are getting longer, birds will be nesting and leaves will sprout on trees and so on.

Wonderful news. And obviously, I had to sing at the top of my voice.

It's Friday, here's my music for the letter E for Edie Brickell.
All I know about this song is that it came with windows 95, seriously. I remember, when we stood there and listened and thought, computers now have theme songs? Littel did we know etc.
All I know of Edie Brickell  is that song and that she is Paul Simon's wife. Or has been, I don't know.

. . . and do go to hear Robin's Friday music choice, because this is all her idea.

17 January 2020

It's the freakiest show

Friday it is. And as I am a great fan of Robin, I will again tag along with her fabulous idea of music on a Friday.

And because I am somewhat afflicted by patterns and lists and order in my life, I am doing this alphabetically by first letter of the first name.

This is week D and well, obviously, there has to be David Bowie. I could write a long essay here, how David Bowie came into my live when I was a dreadfully lost and bored teenager on school exchange in Grimsby (a town as grim as the name implies), how my stealing glittery blue eye shadow  in Woolworth still burdens my conscience some 40 something years later and yet, how the memory still cheers me on a rainy day. Painting my eye lids blue (and refusing to wash it off with the result that I was expelled from school) may for some be nothing more than pointless cosmetics in poor taste, but for me, on that day, it was a thrilling act of rebellion.

15 January 2020

In some remote corner of the universe, poured out and glittering in innumerable solar systems, there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge. That was the highest and most mendacious minute of ‘world history’ – yet only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths the star grew cold, and the clever animals had to die.
Friedrich Nietzsche

I struggled with Nietzsche (and not just the spelling of his name), he was introduced at a most unfortunate time in my life when I was 16 and philosophy was taught at 2 pm. I vividly remember struggling to not fall asleep in class.  I was a poor student with poor grades but I did have a couple of brilliant ideas at around that time and possibly also later on, but definitely before I started school when there was knowledge sprouting out of every crack around me and all I had to do was watch and ask. That time when I thought that people basically grow up, not just in size but also in knowledge and understanding and that I was going to be one of them, eventually.


But despite the fact that Master Nietzsche was convinced that a woman who has scholarly thoughts must be sexually frustrated, he had a point there about the star with the clever animals. OK, so he got the thing about the temperature slightly wrong but basically, clever counts for nothing.

Today, January 15th 2020, the temperature rose to 14°C, a first for January. In the garden, calendula, Sweet William, assorted roses etc. have been flowering since last June. The fruit and nut trees are budding. There has not been enough rain this winter.

In other news, I am mentally preparing myself to return to work tomorrow. Physically, I am not yet convinced but what could go wrong.

Totally unrelated, here are today's contents of our bread basket.

13 January 2020

be scientifically realistic, demand the politically impossible

In reply to a friend:

Another one of these discussions where I listened sympathetically to your tearful lines of "I feel soo helpless, can't handle it" and then basically, pretending that you don't get it, trotting out the old argument of too late anyway, and that we are lost at the hands of merciless big industry, self-serving politicians, powerful oligarchs, and anyway what about China and India and the world population and blahblahblah.

To which I reply, why so defensive, what do you fear more, having to become active, informed, rebellious, demanding, supportive, loud - or are you afraid of just having to do something that's possibly hard work and most likely will upset your established routines?

What is it you love more, your comfortable life style, your entrenched patterns of food, travel, entertainment plus assorted stupefications - or this planet, this wonder, this home?

Do you seriously want this all go to hell or is it that you could not care less because you'll be dead anyway? You have neither children nor grandchildren, so devil may care?

Do you want to be that helpless? Who told us that we are helpless? Who wants us to feel helpless?

You don't know what you can do apart from refusing plastic packaging (another red herring if there ever was one)? Seriously, for someone who knows how to book cheap travel online, buy whatever you fancy on amazon, watch hours of silly series - you are suddenly acting overly foolish.

You tell me there is nobody 'doing anything' in your neighbourhood? Oh yeah?

There’s a thing I call naïve cynicism, when people strike a pose of sophistication without actually knowing what they’re talking about. I see it a lot with the ill-informed about climate, when they say it’s all over and we lost.
That’s not what the scientists say, and it’s an excuse to give up instead of trying.
Rebecca Solnit

I am constantly reminded that the demands of groups like Extinction Rebellion, who are calling for zero emissions by 2025, are politically unrealistic. And my response to that is, yes, but anything else is scientifically unrealistic.
And political realism is actually a highly flexible thing. Something which seems completely impossible today, suddenly seems possible tomorrow. If you look at the extraordinary ructions taking place in UK politics over the past few months, every single one of them was impossible until it happened.
But you can't bargain with scientific realism. You can't say, let's just suspend the first law of thermodynamics for a few months because it's highly inconvenient. You can't do that.
And I think what's happening with collective action, is that people are shifting the dial of political realism towards the point of scientific realism. And in doing so becoming empowered and leaving despair behind. That's certainly being the case for me.
George Monbiot

Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness - and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we're being brainwashed to believe.
The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling - their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.
Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.
Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.
 Arundhati Roy 

12 January 2020

Timothy Morton is a British writer and philosopher. Currently he holds a position as professor of English and Philosophy at Rice University, Houston, Texas. He has written quite extensively on his feelings and concepts regarding climate change. I often find him to be just the right voice I need to hear.

And now he has a podcast about our psychological relationship with global warming. He asks, why is it so difficult for many of us to engage with it? How can we cope and what can we do for our planet?
It is a quirky, moving, unusual mix of thoughts, interviews, quotes and music.  Strangely uplifting and I had a couple of oh yes moments.

This mornring, we listened to the second episode and there is an interview with Hilton Kelley about hurricane Harvey and the aftermath and thoughts on the future and I have been thinking of Ellen a lot since.  We, i.e. the basement of our and our neighbour's houses, have been flooded twice during sudden short unprecedented flash floods in the last six years but nothing like what people experienced during Harvey. 
Anyway, this podcast is just half an hour long, and I promise, not at all depressing. 

I hope this link works:

If not, try searching for: BBC Radio 4, Timothy Morton, The end of the world has already happened.

10 January 2020

It's Friday. It's raining but very (much too) mild. It was still dark as I watched my GP this morning signing the certificate which condemns me to stay home for the next ten days. After days of aching joints and sore muscles and a bit of a fever, we agreed that, while it's all guess work, maybe matters could improve earlier. After that I went home and straight to bed and fell asleep listening to excellent podcasts.
I woke up when the rain started to really hammer down and R came inside, cursing that his pruning plans had to be postponed.

Music day it is (thank you to Robin for the idea) and my letter C stands for Cat Stevens, for some time my teenage heartthrob no. 1.

There was a time I could sing along to any of his songs and I am not embarrassed to admit that. I watched Harold & Maude three times in a row one summer, 1975 or 1976. By the third time, I and everyone else sang along to I think I see the light.
Plus, I actually and completely coincidentally met him in person on one of the occasions he spoke about his conversion to the muslim faith. This happened at an exhibition show in Holland Park, London, in June 1982, on the day before or after we got married. It was all esoteric stuff, the beginnings of the organic movement, and he had us sit on the floor and hold hands and think of how everything was connected. As I sat next to him, I felt that connection very deeply but possibly on another level (also, I was pregnant and experiencing my baby's first movements). He didn't sing, he was all done with it, he said.

He dropped from my life after that for no particular reason. He had only been a good looking guy with a lovely voice anyway and I was now a mother.

And then years later, I friend of a friend travelling to Washington was sat on a plane next to him or maybe in the same row, when he was denied entry to the US because of his faith or whatever fear mongering was top of the list so shortly after 9/11. Apparently, he was told this fact while the intercom played his Morning has broken. Totally coincidentally of course.

08 January 2020

Losing my religion

I was raised by atheists. My parents went through the motions of baptism and confirmation (in the predominant denomination in Germany which is Lutheran protestant) and the xmas service with us kids but this was just an exercise of not being different. Occasionally, my father would issue a long speech about the failings of religions and the christian churches in particular but that was it. 

For a while, we, the kids, sans parents, would go to the childrens' Sunday service because at the end they gave out these little pamphlets with stories and quizzes and rebuses. We loved them. My parents abhorred comics, so this was the next best thing. I remember my father waiting for us at the garden gate on a Sunday when we had walked back home, asking about the sermon and shredding it to bits, the stuff we were able to recall anyway. I remember vividly his outrage when we told him that the sermon mentioned the killing of Robert Kennedy. No respect for the dead, no decency, he shouted, they will just use anything to brainwash people.

So - in a part of the world littered with medieval cathedrals, baroque chapels and crisscrossing pilgrim trails -  I grew up godless, without prayers, bible stories, confessions. 

When I was a teenager I went to a Baptist church for while because my best friend in school was part of that church. They had fun evenings with handsome guys playing guitars and I was invited to come along to their youth camps, a summer week by a lake in Sweden, a winter week in the Alps. At that time, I was waiting for god to speak to me. I was 15 years old and I expected him to speak to me in a real voice or at least in a way I could recognise as something not made up by my imagination. Somehow I was convinced that he was most of the time speaking to all of the others and one day soon, this would happen to me. All I had to do was catch up with singing and praying and believing. Although as the daughter of scientists, I wasn't too sure what believing involved. Anyway, there was lots all night singing and prayers and enticing whatnots. And during one of these nights I - somehow fed up with waiting - asked one of the fervently praying handsome guys for guidance and he replied, what do you mean god speaking to you, surely you are not expecting a voice like humans, use your imagination. 
Well. That was my oh shit moment when I knew that it was high time to leave that particular setup.

Still, some nights I am hoping, quite desperately, that I did not make a huge mistake. That there isn't the slightest chance of me, once I am dead, that I will have to watch from heaven how the future unfolds on earth.

If there is one thing I believe it is that, surely, we - i.e. people with the power of language and memory -  figured out at some stage how distinguish between good and evil. Generally speaking.  I realise there are endless variations. We all know what pain is.  And we know that whenever we deliberately cause pain, physically, emotionally, in whatever way to someone, be it a person, an animal, any life form, we do evil.

05 January 2020

belated new year's resolutions

New Year's resolutions are not my thing. I may think up some but then real life starts to interfere.

In recent years, I only managed to stick to two: 2018: no more coffe to go cups, if I need a coffee, I can wait until I drink it from a cup sitting down, and 2019: no more plastic bottles of water - because a, I am never about to die of thirst and b, if really necessary, I can carry a reusable container.

But these here from Woody Guthrie are worth taking a look at, especially no.s 11 and 31-33.

picture credit here

And, of course, we know what else we have to do:

  • Drive petrol-powered cars less. 
  • Ride a bike more or use public transport or walk. 
  • Get solar panels, the sun shines daily and for free. 
  • Think carefully about the food you eat and how it’s grown. 
  • Purchase thoughtfully. 
  • Fly less.
  • Insist that our leaders are serious about climate, and expect them to follow through on their promises.

03 January 2020

B stands for mysteries

And now letter B in my list of music on a Friday (thank you Robin for this).

This song speaks to me in so many ways. And I am not a fan of Portishead or Beth Gibbons in general, just this song. Which I think is near perfect.

It has been a comfort and reassurance. I first listened to it when I was knocked sideways with a diagnosis that since has changed almost all aspects of my/our life here, when the easy way out would be to withdraw into anger and loss and misery. But that would mean to let go of mysteries, of wonder, of that whole shebang of living with all my senses. I try, believe me, I do. It's brilliant at times, not always but we are all going through shit, aren't we.

01 January 2020

love is an action verb, but . . .

The year starts with the smell of baking. R is making flapjacks, or correctly, he is mastering the art of making flapjacks thanks to a large bag of unfamiliar chunky oatflakes that have been refused by the porridge eater (me) and now must be used up. This is the third round of flapjacks in as many weeks. We are approaching flapjack perfection.

Flapjacks are ideal for storage. I realise how ridiculous this sounds - this is definitely not a household where baked goods survive the idea of being stored and we secretly believe that people who open well stocked cookie jars to surprise visitors are doing this out of pure smugness, possibly baking cookies and keeping said jar just for show, which is admirable, I have to admit. Whereas we only bake sweet goods - or flapjacks - when we need to use up something that's been sitting in the larder. Seriously.

In the last couple of years our kitchen has become R's domain and I have to politely ask for permission should I feel the urge to cook or bake, which I do less and less. We obviously continue to argue about the correct way to stack the dishwasher, who isn't anyway, and the golden rule that cooks do not have to clean up still holds. But otherwise, I have become a mere visitor in our kitchen and since R has discovered that there are actual techniques and combination skills involved - comparable to the science experiments he used to oversee during his teaching years - he has created surprisingly tasty dishes.

I am running on maybe 30% of my available 80% but it appears to be completely sufficient for the tasks at hand. This is an improvement on yesterday when I slept through most of the daylight hours and after a short appearance around dinner time, went back to sleep, fireworks and all.

So, happy new year!

This here is what should count as my new year's resolution, and on a better day, I would try and find my own words to express it. Instead, I pulled some quotes from an essay by Mary Annaïse Heglar (the full essay is here):

There’s many different schools of thought about how we should feel about climate change. For decades, the dominant narrative has been that we should feel guilt. Then, there’s the dual narrative that calls for hope. Others have called for fear, or panic. I myself am on the record calling for anger.
But, I don’t always feel angry, to tell the truth. In fact, sometimes I’m hopeful, sometimes I’m scared. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed, and sometimes I’m downright stubborn. (. . .)
That’s because none of those emotions really get to the heart of what I truly feel. None of them are big enough. If I’m honest with myself , what I truly feel is…love.

I don’t mean any simple, sappy kind of love. I don’t mean anything cute or tame. I mean living, breathing, heart-beating love. Wild love. This love is not a noun, she is an action verb. She can shoot stars into the sky. She can spark a movement. She can sustain a revolution.

I love this beautiful, mysterious, complicated planet we get to call home. The planet who had the audacity to burst with life, from her boreal crown to her icy toes at the South Pole. 

A love like this doesn’t live in your heart. She’s too big for that. She’s in your blood, your bones. She’s in your DNA.

When you love something, or someone, that much, of course you’re frightened when you see it under attack, and of course you’re furious at anyone or anything that would dare to harm it.

. . . this love is strong enough to break through the terror. She is hot enough to burn through anger and turn into fury. She can shake you out of your despair and propel you to the front of the battle field.

It’s a love that can also —even in the teeth of these most insurmountable odds — give me hope. If I’m brave enough to accept it. I’ve seen her looking back at me in the eyes of some of the bravest climate justice warriors I have ever met, and I can feel that tickling tingle of “maybe, just maybe, we’ll be okay.”

And before we get all lovey dovey, let's not forget - in the words of the adorable Jarvis Cocker - that cunts are still running the world. We have our work cut out.