26 March 2021

cold spring

We are waiting for warmth. So far this year, spring has been cold, mostly. Apart from the freak summer for three days in February. My brother, the family expert due to his geophysics degree, mentions the gulf stream tipping point effects, I try not to listen. (He actually manages a bookstore, has been for most of his working life, so much for geophysics. He is a clever man.)

Today, I am to start my new medication regimen. Yet another monoclonal antibody I will inject into my thigh muscle every two weeks on a Friday evening. I asked R to fold the instruction leaflet (it's actually a fat little booklet) in such a way that I can skip the pages and pages and pages with the possible side effects. He offered to rip them out and store them elsewhere. Yes, please. 

As always, I briefly ask myself, what if they're wrong, what if I'm overdiagnosed, what if I'm actually completely healthy?

Still, I have plans, I am so greedy, I want a really amazing life.

This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.

Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.

If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.

John O'Donohue


23 March 2021

One of the things I want to experience in real life and never have as yet, is to witness a murmuration. This one comes close to what I expect life has waiting for me somewhere. It'll do for the time being.


It was filmed earlier this month in Ireland, on Lough Ennell in Co Westmeath, by Colin Hogg and James Crombie. The story behind this video is here.

Like the fool I am most of the time, I went and got myself yet another vaccine. Yesterday, my GP called to remind me that I only had the first of two shingles vaccines and that this was almost six months ago and hence, time was of the essence. But, but, but, I said. Come in, she replied, it's two weeks since your second covid shot, all will be well. I want you to be covered.

I debated this with my inner idiot and decided that she, the GP, not only has a heart of gold but also that I want to be in her good books so R can get the covid vaccine asap and so I actually baked a tray of oatmeal cookies for her staff last night and this morning cycled over to her office after breakfast. 

After the shot, I sat for the required 15 mins and chatted through the open door with the receptionists about oatmeal cookies. I had no allergic reaction but the ground was somewhat wobbly which I ignored and cycled on to the farmer's market and back home whereupon I went to lie down and fell asleep for a bit few hours. And woke up to the same low bp I had after the covid vaccine. Only this time round, I am ever so cool about it. I even called my father as if I was on top of the world and we debated the failures of our government. We agreed on all points and in the end, he said, and I kid you not, your voice, which is very lively, frees me from some worries.  But he hung up before I could ask him to clarify "worries". 

My brother referes to this as the calendar wisdom replies when the hearing aid shuts down.

Other than that, spring is here. R is digging and potting and as of today, the potatoes are in the ground. I sit and watch the bees pollinating the almond trees. And the pear trees. And the peach trees. Also, the blueberry bushes. Very busy world out there.

21 March 2021


The ultimate, hidden truth of the world is that it is something that we make, and could just as easily make differently.

David Graeber

Over the last two weeks, I have watched the six part documentary by British journalist and film maker Adam Curtis: Can’t Get You Out of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World  "that explores how modern society has arrived to the strange place it is today. The series traverses themes of love, power, money, corruption, the ghosts of empire, . . . it deals with the rise of individualism and populism throughout history, and the failures of a wide range of resistance movements throughout time and various countries, pointing to how revolution has been subsumed in various ways by spectacle and culture, because of the way power has been forgotten or given away." (it's available here)

It is overwhelming, ambitious, clever, creative, a rush of images, fragmented shots, music, portraits of strange anti-heroes, Black Panther, psychedelic dogs, Chinese opera, and all in all very very addictive and fun to watch.  Click here for background and the review from the New Yorker.

It starts with the quote above and it ends with the quote above. And thus it ends - at least for me - on a hopeful note because it refuses to accept that we as humans are unable to act transformatively in the world but that instead, political leaders have run out of ideas for what’s next.

Along the way, we learn that the Ku Klux Klan borrowed its emblematic costumes from D.W. Griffith's classic film Birth of a Nation.

We also learn that the first James Bond director made a propaganda film for Saddam Hussein. And we learn that Bob Geldof's "Live Aid" charity for the starving in Africa was hijacked by Ethiopian rulers to eliminate civil war rivals. 

And this:


 If almost seven hours is too much, just watch part one and part six.

No easy viewing, no easy answers maybe a whole lot of rubbish, but an experience I would not want to have missed.

With the pandemic, paranoia has accelerated but I don’t think it just came from that. People were so shocked by Brexit and Trump, that they started imagining all kinds of dark theories about Vladimir Putin, rather than facing the reality of politics in power – which is that actually you’ve got a shitty society at the moment and you should do something about it.

Adam Curtis


16 March 2021

not out of the woods or beware of the mutations

One week since the second vaccine. I just filled out the requested report on the side effects for the vaccination center which will be part of yet another study on this pandemic.

This is what happened: first six hours, i.e. Tuesday afternoon after the jab, tired and nauseous, nothing dramatic. During the night, shivers, sweating, no fever, more nausea, headache. Next morning massive vertigo, unable to walk straight, headache, nausea, shivers, slept mostly. Second night same story as first. Vertigo and headache stayed with me until Sunday, and by Thursday, that is day two post vaccine, my blood pressure had gone down well below 90/60 every time we checked and my GP ordered me to drink tea, lick some salt and walk around and upstairs when possible to get things going. That eventually did the trick, yesterday was the first fairly normal reading but bp is still dropping from time to time.

It all felt like hard work was going on. 

So, what else. My country has suspended the astra seneca vaccine for the time being, hopefully just for a matter of days. Here, there have been by now seven cases of a rare type of thrombosis, the so-called sinus vein thrombosis - usually there are less than 50 cases/annually.  Six of them were women of younger to middle age.  All cases occurred between 4 and 16 days after vaccination and three of the seven people have died.  In such a rare disease, seven cases within such a short time is significant and coincidence is highly unlikely. My uneducated guess is co-factors (possibly contraceptive pill plus smoking plus autoimmunity plus whatever) and/or vaccine batch related.

And now it's all down to risk assessment.

Then there is this from a brand new publication (read here) by a team of researchers from Harvard, Berlin and S. Africa, not yet completely peer-reviewed (the bold highlights are mine):

Vaccination elicits immune responses capable of potently neutralizing SARS-CoV-2. However, ongoing surveillance has revealed the emergence of variants harboring mutations in spike, the main target of neutralizing antibodies. To understand the impact of these variants, we evaluated the neutralization potency of 99 individuals that received one or two doses of either BNT162b2 or mRNA-1273 vaccines against pseudoviruses representing 10 globally circulating strains of SARS-CoV-2. Five of the 10 pseudoviruses, ..., were highly resistant to neutralization. Cross-neutralization of B.1.351 variants was comparable to SARS-CoV and bat-derived WIV1-CoV, suggesting that a relatively small number of mutations can mediate potent escape from vaccine responses. While the clinical impact of neutralization resistance remains uncertain, these results highlight the potential for variants to escape from neutralizing humoral immunity and emphasize the need to develop broadly protective interventions against the evolving pandemic.

In other words, the vaccine may not (immediately, eventually, yet) bring the desired salvation, "neutralization" means vaccine, "broadly protective interventions" could mean anything from vaccine boosters to ongoing mask wearing and distancing and oh well, have a think.

I went to the farmer's market today and distance-met with a friend in bad shape, someone working in the field of arts, freelance, successful, so busy, we rarely had time to meet. We recalled the years we each happily lived in far away tropical places with the ever present threat of debilitating illnesses. Her years were spent in places far more dangerous than where we lived.

Trying to remain level headed, we agreed that basically we are acting like angry spoiled kids because a virus is messing with our comfort zones. This actually cheered us both up. Go figure.

On a more cheerful note, here is Curt Smith, of the 1980s band Tears for Fears, and his daughter Diva with one of the big Tears for Fears songs that made me swing my toddler on my hips around the room.

15 March 2021

when you have raised a daughter

We women. We don’t have for ever. Some of us don’t have another week or another day to take time for you to discuss whatever it is that will enable you to go out into those streets and do something ... And I want one day of respite, one day off, one day in which no new bodies are piled up, one day in which no new agony is added to the old, and I am asking you to give it to me. And how could I ask you for less – it is so little. And how could you offer me less: it is so little.

Andrea Dworkin



11 March 2021

bear with me

My lovely GP called and ordered me to stay home and DO NOTHING until Sunday night. Just as I had put down the phone, I got an email from the top boss which I opened with the usual sense of resignation and duty only to read that his reaction to the second jab must have been even worse than mine, because, reader, he told me that he himself is staying home DOING NOTHING. 

The earth moved under my feet.

So what does it look like, doing nothing. I edited an urgent research grant application and read through a couple of first results from one of the research projects I have been assigned to. Then I went back to sleep for a while. 

R made lunch and decent coffee and I read all the news, incl. the stuff about the fairy tale people with the netflix deal. This is the stuff I usually read in waiting rooms and I just realised how I miss that kind of "news".

This is a good summary, from an Irish perspective - which I am unashamedly adopting just for a second now:

Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories. More specifically, for the Irish, it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.

Beyond this, it’s the stuff of children’s stories. Having a queen as head of state is like having a pirate or a mermaid or Ewok as head of state. What’s the logic? Bees have queens, but the queen bee lays all of the eggs in the hive. The queen of the Britons has laid just four British eggs, and one of those is the sweatless creep Prince Andrew, so it’s hardly deserving of applause.

I  vaguely remember a debate in secondary school about the pros and cons of monarchy and although we had to do this in English (a foreign language I was more or less unable to handle at the time), there was a lot of derision and mentioning of colonialism and slavery. We were pretty awake at the time.

immune response at work

Got the second vaccine jab yesterday after lunch. This is nothing, I said to myself about three hours later and cycled for a short while through the rain. 

Little did she know . . . 

At around dinner time, I got the shivers and the headache.  Went to sleep. 

Woke up today with massive vertigo, more headache, nausea and possibly every other side effect in the book for the Moderna vaccine. R kindly read them all out to me in a show of concern or possibly because he's mad that he - who is so much older than me - has yet to wait for his appointment.  This is where a rare chronic illness comes up a treat for once. Not that we are competing here.

Called in sick and found out that almost all of my colleagues who got the jab yesterday are out sick as well. 

So I tried the distraction method.  It sort of worked, I continued the ongoing argument with my sister via email and tried to listen to a podcast but found it to blown up, lots of fillers and repeats, how about some editing, I shouted. 

I then tried to fall asleep listening to Colum McCann reading his latest novel Apeirogon. But no possible with this book. It sinks into your mind. Soon I was almost sobbing. 

Next, I sat down with my knitting project and spent the best part of the remaining day unraveling mistakes because, vertigo and headache. Then the nausea took over. 

Also, I got to sign this memo from the vaccine people:

If a vaccinated person comes into contact with the virus, there is a high probability that they will not get ill. At the moment, however, it is still uncertain to what extent people who have been vaccinated can still temporarily carry the virus after contact with it and infect other people. 

In such a case, a person would temporarily carry the virus, but not get sick and it is assumed that the transmission is reduced due to a lower and / or less long-lasting viral load in the nasal / throat area. 

It is also assumed that vaccination has an effect on community protection, i.e. the more people are vaccinated, the less virus circulates in the population (herd immunity). 

In this way, people could also be protected who cannot be vaccinated themselves. 

Ultimately, however, to date there is a lack of scientific knowledge to assess the extent to which the vaccination reduces transmission. As long as the infection process is as dynamic as it is at the moment, all measures should be observed to push back the pandemic and to protect all people as best as possible from infection. 

Therefore, as a precautionary measure - until further study data are available - vaccinated persons should continue to observe the infection protection measures.



09 March 2021

where women rule

Yesterday was International Women's Day.  In my younger trade union days, this was usually celebrated - rowdy and cheerful and exclusively female.  We enjoyed it when the big boss would traipse up with a couple of roses, doling them out like diamonds. What a laugh we had and how he would blush in anger - especially when we found out that his wife had bought the bouquet for him.

Silly. Meaningless.

This year, I found out about these islands in the Baltic sea where women rule. The two islands Khinu and Manija. Wikipedia tells me: As the men of Kihnu have been frequently away to sea, women have run everyday life on the island and became the guardians of the island's cultural heritage, which includes handicrafts, dances, games and music. Music is an especially important part of the island's traditions, and accompanies handicrafts, religious feasts and other celebrations. Ancient runo-styled songs are also important, as is traditional clothing adorned with decorations and bright colours. 

These are such magnificent pictures. I borrowed them from here. There are many more to admire. The photographer is Anne Helene Gjelstad. These images have been published in many media outlets.


 the men have to wait outside for their turn at funerals

this could be is me knitting for the grandchild

and this is for Mary Moon

03 March 2021

In difficult times you should always carry something beautiful in your mind. 


Blaise Pascal

The speed reader in me completed this sentence with "with you" instead of "in your mind". So, yes, it came as a relief to realise it's just in my mind and I don't have to lug around any of the nice trinkets or whatnots that go for beautiful in my life right now.

Difficult times, yes and no. Repetitive, boring times more so for us. Slightly cabin feverish. But seriously, nothing to get worked up about. I had a bit of a row with a friend who lamented the trauma that #thecurrentsituation is inflicting on us. Really? I am not traumatised. Not by a long stretch. But the children, she cried out. Missing school, their career prospects, their social contacts, who will employ them in later life and so on.

Here is what I think. My father missed out on five years of school due to WWII. (Without internet access.) Instead, he was sent to dig air fields, harvest grains, bake bread and clean out stables. He stole stuff, he was often cold and food supply was poor. He also raised chickens in a broken shed, grew tobacco to sell on the black market and discovered his love for agriculture. After the war, he had to wait another year before school could start again. (Without internet access.) And without libraries or any teaching materials because all had been confiscated by the US army to check for nazi content - and why not. By the time he graduated from high school, he had to wait another two years before he could go to university because the returning war prisoners and refugees etc. were first in line. He spent these two years travelling from farm to farm, working and learning. He had a brilliant career as an agricultural scientist, a somewhat patchy one as a father and husband. He had his share of trauma but nothing compared to my mother, who also was an excellent scientist but a most disastrous mother.

When I asked him how his experience compares with what kids are living through right now, he was quiet for a while. I think, he said, I think we must always search for the lessons. There is always something to discover. Don't waste your time feeling sorry. And with that he put down the phone.

Don't get me wrong. I don't want to belittle anybody's fears and worries. I lie awake at night, too. I worry, I fret, I get angry. I am an expert at that. So here is my offer, try to carry something beautiful in my mind.