28 August 2020

In the silence the ever-present past


This is footage from Inis Mór, the largest of the three Aran Islands in Galway Bay, on the west coast of Ireland. It's a wild place, rough and windy. The land is crisscrossed by stone walls, protecting the fields from the wind. About 4  mins into this video, you see Dún Aonghasa, a prehistoric hill fort, one of several Bronze Age sites on the island. But this is not a history blog, so for anyone interested, go here. 

The poem is spoken by Mike Scott of the Waterboys. He wrote it in the early 1980s when the band was living in An Spidéal, a small village on the Atlantic coast, overlooking the Aran Islands and the coast of county Clare. The village is famous for traditional music sessions.

I like to believe that the storm he is referring to at the beginning of his poem is the one we ran away from in October 1981 when we were staying on Inis Mór for a short while. I have very little memory of our time there other than that we walked a lot, were accompanied by all the island dogs, met very few people and smoked our very last joint sitting next to the fort looking out on the ocean. That day, we decided it was time to have a child, one of several, so we imagined. 

Back at the harbour village of Cill Rónáin, the fishermen had started to pull in their boats and gear, windows and sheds were secured and by dinner time, the storm warnings were all around us. Early the next morning we got the last boat back to the mainland. 

This was the time when I started to think of myself as becoming an adult.

21 August 2020

For the last couple of weeks I have been trying out a new approach. It sort of works surprisingly well and I am quite pleased with it. 

Step one: Apply the basic principle of life and death. Or rather life vs death.
It boils down to a quick analysis: Will I make it through the day? And if under the circumstances it seems that I do - and this is obviously so - I'll just chuck out whatever it is that bothered me. Away with it, not worth dwelling on it.

Step two: Discover the basic underlying pattern in your life and if there is none - which is what seems to be the case most of the time. Honestly, the chaos! - make one up as you go along. Divide the day into periods of food intake, dental hygiene, laundry folding, cryptic crossword solving, paid employment, a chapter of whatever book comes in handy, coffee intake, meditation (sort of), fresh air exposure, conversations with other humans, watching R cook dinner and drug taking (purely pharmaceutical).

Step three: If all fails, go online. Or read a book. Or both. 

This is the lake we did not swim in despite careful planning. Pandemically speaking. We did make online reservations for a socially distanced slot - four hours - to access the nature reserve that then allows you to get to the water safely. Alas, thunderstorms. Force something or other winds and flooded roads. We stayed home.
This is a maar, a very deep volcanic crater and the water is clear, cold and black. There are many of these maars in our part of the world, we are surrounded by volcanoes and hills that were formed by eruptions. Some of the lakes send up gas bubbles, so-called mofettes, warning us that there is activity, always. Volcanoes are never dormant.
In my healthy days, I swam across and back, it's about 1.5 km in total, several times. 
It's one of my brilliant memories.

This is Friday's music.

15 August 2020

Our national and regional media reports with disbelief about the deliberate slowing down of the mail system for voters in the US. Disbelief that this can happen and disbelief that apparently nobody can stop it. At the same time, we watch the crowds on the streets in Belarus day after day after day. 
What do I know.

13 August 2020

apple sauce day

Two nights ago thunderstorms washed over us from midnight until almost sunrise. After our first delight and the open windows to let the wind blow through the house, we got grumpier by the half hour and wandered up and down the stairs checking for damage (none) and whenever we had settled down to catch up on sleep, it started anew.

Obviously, we were not in top form yesterday. Also, it got steamy and muggy hot, and before we knew it the sky was closing in with black clouds and not a breath of wind. We got a storm warning from the insurance app and I pulled the router plug seconds before the lightning started. I've experienced my share of thunder storms but this was massive incl. hail stones and water in sheets so dense you could not see through to the other side of our suburban street. 

Today, I made apple sauce from the windfall apples that dropped from the neighbour's garden onto our back lane and cut R's hair, finally. The apple sauce is delicious but the haircut is messy. 

In the early hours before dawn I dreamed that a knife was repeatedly struck in my left forearm. It took me a while to wake up and realise that it was probably the tendinitis in my left elbow spreading down towards my wrist. I got up and leaned against the bathroom mirror while I held my arm under the running cold water. This is nothing, I told myself. A tendon is nothing. Tendinitis is just a minor ailment, even if it's chronic.

Last week I had to see one of the experts. I try to avoid them - like the plague (get it?) but every so often they want to see you in person just to reassure the insurance that I am still here, still chronically ill, still not faking it. Anyway, he is the guy responsible for my ears and the ongoing seasickness and the bouts of vertigo and sinusitis headaches. He now wants to inject cortisone into my ears (intratympanatic steroid therapy). I told him, I want a second opinion. I didn't tell him that I find the idea of no matter how fine a needle piercing my ear drum too scary right now. He shrugged and said, well, the ears are secondary organs, you don't need them to survive. Not like your kidneys. Or your lungs. Or your heart. You need to watch them more carefully. As if I didn't know that.

You have no idea how afraid of death I am some days. And most nights.

On The Covid front, I'll cut and paste as my latest public service announcement from an excellent article by Garret FitzGerald,  director of the Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics at the University of Pennsylvania (the bold markings are mine):

". . . the World Health Organisation estimates there are 165 vaccine programmes under way. This is unprecedented, as is the diversity of approaches to vaccine development. (. . .) Indeed, it is likely we will need more than one effective vaccine if we are to reach the numbers globally that are necessary for effective immunity.

Given the political, cultural, and logistical challenges, attaining the goal of population immunity of 60-80 per cent, necessary in our connected world, is likely to take some time, maybe years.

Population protection in advanced societies with an assured supply of a vaccine by late summer 2021 is a reasonable bet.

Despite politically and commercially-driven promises that we will be protected from Covid-19 by vaccines early next year, this is extremely unlikely. Mass vaccination based on trials of a few thousand patients – as suggested in Russia – would be reckless. 

Masks, distancing, and hand-washing will be the rule for the foreseeable future. In the meantime there is encouraging progress in the development of drugs to curb the severity of Covid-19 and this, as with AIDS, may lead us to a semblance of normality even sooner than an effective vaccine."

 (You can read the complete article here.)




08 August 2020

two songs

Right now, there is a lot stacked at the negative side. And I am not immune to feeling down over It All.
In a lengthy zoom meeting with far away friends last night, we discussed helplessness and being at a loss as to what to do when overwhelmed by the seemingly endless feed of bad news, climate change, mass extinction, the pandemic, the lot.

I haven't got enough energy to always be disheartened, depressed. Feeling hopeless is hard work. Even listing all the stuff that makes me feel upset and hopeless is too much work. 
But unable to turn away. I wish I could.
Anyway, Saturdays are difficult days while my body metabolises the weekly shot of immune suppressant medicine. 

Also, we are having a heat wave. The lawn turned into grey bristle in the span of 24 hours. We covered the greenhouse with the black netting, filled the bird baths, shut the house and let down the blinds. It could be a blizzard out there for all I know. But instead it's still 39°C out on the patio at almost 8 pm.  

So today, I am posting two songs to cheer myself up. To remind myself that we need to bear witness, to be aware, to stay open, to learn, to act responsibly. That nothing is normal, never has been.

05 August 2020

virus bits

First, I invite you to have a brief look here.

So, the virus, or The Covid as my Irish family calls it.

Like so many, I have by now had a couple of virus related dreams. In one of them, I was struggling to breathe and as a result, in the morning, I read through my Living Will to reassure myself that I have it in black and white, no ventilator if in intensive care. It's a thing, I admit but I have watched people on ventilators, incl. my mother and, no. I am old enough.
The other dream comes back in various guises. In it, I meet friends, dear friends, who come bearing gifts and who refuse to wear masks or keep a distance and basically laugh at me for being so vigilant. (There is one of them in real life. She is convinced she'll never catch it or if, just a mild case. We don't mention it.) Anyway, that one scares me a lot.

Our numbers a creeping upwards, ever so slowly and there is tons, I don't exaggerate, tons of information and appeals and catchy videos and songs in the media, tabloid incl., to remain vigilant. It's a shaky calm. In my city, we currently have six patients in intensive care and 21 infected cases.

Virologists now assume that almost half of the infections are caused by aerosol transmission, almost the other half by larger droplets and only about ten percent by smear infections. While the larger droplets fall to the ground rapidly within an area of around one and a half meters - keeping your distance helps here - the microscopic aerosols can stay in the air for a longer time, spinning around and infecting someone in the process. Since they arise not only when coughing and sneezing, but also when speaking, singing, shouting and breathing, it is almost impossible for an infected person to not produce them.

This means that, especially in closed rooms, a distance of 1.5 meters is not necessarily sufficient to protect yourself against infections. Indoor restaurant seating, church services or open-plan offices are all places where many have been infected in the past. If you need to be in such a place, the best option at the moment, apart from wearing a mask, is to ventilate by opening the window, because this ensures that the air is diluted or exchanged. And keeping a distance. Same old. Same old.

As a rule of thumb, the fewer people we see, the shorter we stay in closed rooms and the more distance we keep, the better.

The orange man apparently said something like: "This thing's going away. It will go away like things go away." It's almost philosophical. Almost.

One of the brilliant Monty Pythons sketches is the one about the dead parrot. If you don't know it, watch it here, it's a good laugh and we all need that. Not only because not all things do go away the way things should go away. And then watch the new version here.

In other news, this week was our 41st anniversary - we forgot.
Also, my mother died 21 years ago - I remembered, but only because my sister called me on a pretext.

Meanwhile, it is pink week with grapes: