29 May 2020

this summer and next summer

"So often these days, every living thing seems overwhelmingly tender and fragile to me. I can feel angry at the stupidity of those joining crowds and rejecting personal and community protection, but more often, I cry that people are so anxious they’re willing to deny reality. I hear them laughing together on the trail and wonder if they’re robbing themselves of laughing together in a few weeks, or months. Next summer. Ever."

The rambling rose is still flowering like there is no tomorrow. The peonies are rushing it, out in full force at sunrise and spent by dinner time. The lilies are beginning their show and cosmos, well, I don't remember cosmos blossoms in May. But there they are. Maybe I am overreacting and this is just the way things go. A friend from Berlin sends me pictures of racoons climbing onto her 3rd floow balcony, eating the left over crumbs from her breakfast. Here, we wake early to the shreeking of parakeets.
It's a wild world out there.

I am still waiting for the results from last week's botched coloscopy. My shit is no longer blue, took three days to get the dye out of my system. Mostly, I am too tired to get worked up about it. My bet, it's probably just nothing.
My father is leaving short cryptic messages on the answerphone in case the results are not good so he doesn't have to hear anything upsetting in person and lose his shit live.
Anyway, he has decided to fully embrace the easing of the lockdown by inviting his various female companions to lunch. One after the other, mind you. It sounds more flamboyant than it actually is. He just wants company while he eats.

We are watching films and episodes of series and I usually fall asleep half way through. R is not very good at recaps, let me tell you. I know we watched Canadian crime and Danish family drama, also a rather good road movie about a rich kid picking up a refugee in his stepfather's camper van (stolen) and both ending up in Calais. But other than that, it's a jumble.

I have attempted, with some success, to cycle a 10 km round trip along the river every evening. Except for one day when I fell asleep beforehand. I think that happened yesterday.

Friday's music is called Tiliboyo (sunset) and was composed by Foday Suso from Gambia. Played here by the Kronos Quartet. Their album Pieces of Africa is one my all time favourites.

22 May 2020

never a dull moment

 What should have been just another routine medical appointment turned into a rather lengthy painful procedure involving barfing all over the place and full anesthetics and sleeping it off at home - thankfully. Results in a week or so.

We had about seven drops of rain today. The sum total since I cannot remember when. This is the summer we need to seriously consider gardening in a changed climate. Daily watering is not an option. The rambling rose, however, is coping well. Even on a muggy day.

Words for our time:
The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it emotionally.
Flannery O'Connor

The most prominent and most frightening aspect of the escape from reality (. . . ) lies in the attitude to dealing with facts as if they were opinions.
Hannah Arendt

Also, it's Friday. This is music from Sweden.

19 May 2020

everything is going to be alright

flowering horse chestnut

Derek Mahon is an Irish poet, Andrew Scott is an Irish actor.

Today, I think that maybe we can be a society again, not just an economy.

15 May 2020

We will get through


Things to do in the belly of the whale
Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.
Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way
for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review
each of your life’s ten million choices. Endure moments
of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you.
Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound
of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart.
Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all
the things you did and could have done. Remember
treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes
pointing again and again down, down into the black depths.

Twice a week, I sit down and listen to our country's favourite virologist's podcast. He is a scientist by the book, someone who gets excited over a recent study regardless of the findings but because it was done carefully and with a high level of significance and proper statistics etc.
He tries - and succeeds - to explain the whole shitshow of media frenzy and panic stations and political scare mongering in rational, reasoned and factual words.

Our current national situation is, getting there. As long as we can keep the reproduction number (or R value) below 1 and preferably at around 0.75, we can handle the time to vaccine without overcrowding our medical services, using the hammer and dance approach, and in view of promising treatment strategies for those who get a bad case, keep the death rate minimal. 

The way I understand it:
1. The reproduction number, calculated daily by the national public health institute,  indicates how many people one person with the virus can infect. If the rate is equal to 1, it means that one person is infecting another, on average. We are currently hovering at or below 1, which is why a couple of social distancing measures have been relaxed. Should it climb and with it the number of new cases per 10,000 people in a district, we have to run for cover again. We are all becoming experts at numbers here.
2. Time to vaccine is - despite all the negative media headlines - estimated to be 18 months or thereabout, in other words, sometime before winter 2021. It take this from the virologist's mouth and I tend to trust him and his colleagues somewhat more than Tom, Dick or Harry on social media, regardless of how much expert knowledge they have gained from google university.
3. Read about the hammer and dance approach here
4. Promising treatment strategies are being researched in almost all science labs worldwide. I have great faith in this.

Enough of that. It is Friday, time for music.

08 May 2020

Music on this Friday, May 8th

When In first heard this music, as part of a documentary on concentration camps in Poland, several years ago, I felt crushed, burdened, stunned, obviously. This history will never leave us and so it should be. I was born into this history and I have no time for forgive and forget.
I know I am not alone with that thought. There must not be an end to remembering. Our shame would be not remembering.

This is the second movement of Henryk Gorecki's Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. The lyrics are a prayer inscribed on a cell wall in a gestapo headquarters in Poland by a young woman in 1944. It is the Zdrowas Mario, or Ave Maria: No, Mother, do not weep.

Seventy-five years ago, WWII ended. For a long time I felt relieved that both my parents had been too young to join the army, that my father was a schoolboy and my mother, well we don't really know, but not in uniform. She struggled all her adult life with demons and memories, and we struggled with her not knowing what that shadow was that hung over all of us.

Back in early January of this year when we thought life would just meander on the way we expected, I decided that this year we would go and visit all accessible memorial places and historic monuments on the nazi terror. This had been on my mind for years. I must admit that I had avoided this issue for too long but after we visited Dachau a few years ago, I realised that while it was really hard to do, I need to continue. This is not something I can explain very well and R, bless his Irish historically neutral soul, tags along to hold my hand.  So. We got out a map and circled areas and made lists and I downloaded all the visitors' information from the various sites and that was that.
But eventually.

05 May 2020

not quite there

this is from last year but it did look the same this year

Today is one of these days when I tell myself over and over and over that it'll be ok, that we will be ok, that I'll be ok, Eventually. Not today. Not quite. But eventually. Again. A year maybe, two years.


I attempt to explain to my daughter the differences in our mothering. I tell her how glad I am that she doesn't need to constantly fear that her child may turn away from her if she says or asks for something that may not immediately be pleasant, something that could demand an effort, an understanding, a challenge. I tell her that she comes from a different place, that she grew up with a mother who most of all and always wanted her to never feel rejected, who never ever wanted her to feel abandoned the way I did and that this resulted in her occasionally getting away with stuff for reasons . . . I know, Mum,  she responds calmly.

I attempt to explain to my father that just because numbers are down thanks to weeks of social distancing, the virus hasn't disappeared, that risk persons like him - and me - are still at risk. I keep my voice down reiterating the need to wash hands, yes even after getting cash from an ATM where you punch in numbers because someone else may have touched that key pad, and yes even if only one person was there before you . . . and I think how in an ideal world, many years ago, a father may have explained this to his daughter.

. . . the human condition today—an extraordinary and complex level of global interdependence unseen in the story of our species—will magnify the pandemic's effects on a profoundly disproportionate scale. One way or another, this pandemic will touch everyone alive today, thanks to globalization. Much of the result will be tragic. But I try to take heart that with massive trauma comes a new alertness—perhaps in this case, a heightened awareness that our lives are truly interlinked, and therefore must be valued everywhere.

Paul Salopek

01 May 2020

Friday. Music. Isn't she lovely here.

The garden is all purple and pink. I should take pictures. Apple and pear trees are so crammed with fruit we may need to do a bit of thinning out. But the plums and peaches are poorly, could be a virus. Raspberries full of bees right now, enough rhubarb for a decent crumble tomorrow.
Ate my first strawberry and still harvesting lemons in the greenhouse.

Three days ago I was informed that due to the fact that I am, and the official term here is, high risk vulnerable individual, I am to stay away from campus for the foreseeable future. Life goes on but not as we knew it.