30 November 2022

in the windiest city of the world

Here I am crawling out of the jet-lag tunnel. The birds start early, intense and right on time for me. I had almost forgotten how ferocious the wind is in this city. Almost. And the lovely squeaky noise at the pedestrian crossings.

Then there`s the light and the strong coffee and the steep stairs and pathways up to my daughter's house. Awakening dormant muscles and taste buds.

I am busy busy busy being here. So much to see and do and feel and experience with my family.

Don't think I'll blog much in the coming weeks but I will read and if time allows, comment. For now, I just want to share this:


So hold your own 

Breathe deep on a freezing beach 

Taste the salt of friendship 

Notice the movement of a stranger 

Hold your own 

And let it be 


21 November 2022

May you be enough and don't want for more.

This morning early, I got the stitches removed from my forehead and since then I have tried to not look at the dent and the impressive upside down cross that could be a tattoo with a secret message for all I care. 

Things are a bit in a rush here as we are about to travel to far away places. Somewhere, sometime during the last two almost three years of lockdown and seclusion, I have lost some of my travel cool, so now I am nervous, double checking everything.  By this time tomorrow etc.

For now, I just want to highlight a few things that made me think, laugh or worry, in any case, stayed in my mind for a while (still).

Trying to make sense of the war in Ukraine, I watched this seven part documentary absolutely mesmerised and feeling foolishly ignorant and appalled and scared and amazed. It's by Adam Curtis, who is a most unique filmmaker, and it's really just a collection of footage from various reports over many years or as some critics said: like looking through a broken kaleidoscope. It will bring you outside your comfort zone but in a very worthwhile way. And you will understand a little bit, or maybe a lot more, who Putin really is and why he is the way he is.

On youtube, for parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 click here. For part 6, click here.

If you can access BBC iPlayer, you find all episodes there, just look for Traumazone and Adam Curtis. Watch the trailer on youtube.


In the coming week, we will cross many borders, departing and arriving in and from several far away countries, all at ease and in great comfort. We will hold up our maroon coloured EU passports and walk through open gates. Never once in my life was I denied entry anywhere in my many travels. 

Hospitality means the right of a stranger entering foreign territory to be treated without hostility. One may refuse to receive him, if it can be done without endangering his existence; however, so long as he conducts himself peaceably, he must notbe treated as an enemy.

(Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Essay 1795)

Hospitality according to Kant is a right, mind you, not an act of philanthropy. In this context, this story by Anna Badkhen, followed me long into the night. Click here to either read or listen.


And here, an inspiring young woman with a great laugh:


And finally, something to lift our hearts. 

17 November 2022

Our dreams are the deepest breath we draw

Our dreams are the deepest breath we draw

This is a line from a song by Irish singer Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin (Owen O'Canavan for all the non-Irish speakers like me).

Over the past four weeks I had three surgeries on my forehead, first to take a sample, then to take out a small tumor and then to take out more tumor after which the hole was stitched up. All in all, the tumor was the size of maybe a pea or a small bean according to the surgeon. There is still doubt as to what type of tumor, a tricky type I have been told, but most likely it's all out. Right now, the stitches are healing very well and hopefully will come out early next week. The hole has a diameter of a five Euro cent coin (22 mm) and this has been covered with skin stretched across and up/down my forehead. I now know what it feels like to have a face lift. Goodness, there are actually women who do this voluntarily?

Today when they changed the bandage, I looked in the mirror for the first time because the young nurse told me that it looks kind of Goth, like an upside down cross. And it does. Still all crusty and black and blue and red but I've been told it will all heal nicely. The nerves just below my hairline are all numb but I've been told that they will recover. 

A bit over a year ago, I had noticed a tiny hard lump on my forehead when I put cream on it. Being who I am I picked on it, absentmindedly mostly, and it started to bleed and I got mad for doing this and then it took ages to close up because it looked kind of deep and cratery. Then it healed up and was gone until it wasn't. And the whole circle started again, me picking and then bleeding and healing, I forget how many times. Also, slow healing of small nicks and cuts is a very common side effect of my immune suppression therapy. So, it took me a while to get myself to a doctor.

Except for two days when there was a steady stream of blood trickling down my face (excellent Halloween disguise!), I went to work and managed to pretend that all was hunky dory. But the nights, another story.

Anyway, almost all done for now. I have plans, starting next week, I am going places. Stay tuned.

And here is the song. 

04 November 2022

It's not about "the climate," it's not about "the environment," it's never been about that. It's about human survival on the planet. Why the heck is that so hard to understand?

01 November 2022

Sometimes there is stuff happening in life - or not happening - that makes any activity in social media seem false or difficult, even dishonest (to myself, because what do you know about my true existence) and basically too exhausting to write about. Stuff is happening, big stuff, too big.

Anyway, moving on to the more mundane issue of shopping, real shopping, not the virtual online kind. 

On Sundays, the majority of German households serves fresh bread rolls for breakfast. This is a ritual and the rolls must be fresh. Of course not every household partakes (ours does not, we are muesli people) but it's what happens for the majority. Now remember that in Germany, all shops are closed on Sundays (thanks to the labour unions and the churches). However, bakeries are allowed to open in the mornings, but only for rolls and there are always long queues of mostly yawning dads or kids with lists of how many and what kind for whom. Fresh bread rolls vary from region to region, have different names and shapes and flour mixes, are made with sourdough or yeast and are too numerous to list here. But this is a standard Sunday selection, the minimum variety any bakery will have on offer.

Some years ago, the parents of an Australian friend of our daughter were visiting Europe and as it happens with friends, siblings, cousins and parents of friends of our daughter, they accepted her invitation to come and stay with us (while daughter is in another far flung corner of the world issuing invitations). And obviously, we went into full hospitality mode incl. German Sunday morning breakfast rolls. For this purpose, I invited them to go to the bakery and join me in the queue.

We have three bakeries in easy walking distance and six more within a three kilometer radius from home. Our Australian visitors had been on a neighbourhood stroll with us the night before and expressed enthusiasm about a cycle trip along the river any day soon. But when we left the house to get the rolls, they walked straight to the car. Imagine their surprise when I suggested walking. They confessed that they always do all their food shopping by car, could not remember any other way, without driving and parking and getting a shopping trolley and filling and emptying and filling that trolley and so on, before driving it all back home.

Now, a bag full of bread rolls is nothing, real shopping is a bit more than that but I believe one of the greatest trick the car industry ever pulled was convincing the world they needed 1,500 kg of machinery to move 15 kg of stuff. Unfortunately, it seems people can only shop by car. That has always been the case. Shops apparently have only existed since there were cars. Haven't they just.

I could go on my high horse here and tell you that we use our bicycles and if need be our bike trailer to do our shopping but we are just two people who grow a lot of fruit and veg right here in our garden and our neighbourhood shopping is indeed in the neighbourhood, as are pharmacies, doctors, libraries, markets (super and farmers'). So, we are not average. Winters are not too hard, it doesn't rain too often, the winds are benign. 

We still have a car. It sits there all shiny and heavy, I occasionally use it on dark days to get to work and back. I think it is lonely.

09 October 2022

It's a slow exhausting slog, this recovery from pneumonia. This time, the impact of the immune suppression shot (a pen injection every two weeks on a Friday evening) is textbook obvious. It sets me one step back to the two steps I made toward getting better every time. Talk about the stuff of a rock and hard place etc.

My father is on the slow path of his systems shutting down. Kidney failure, beginning pneumonia, water in his lungs, imminent congestive heart failure. The way an old body will cease to work. He is comfortable and bored, the carers put him in his wheelchair and on good days, he is angry enough to shout for someone to push him around but mostly, he is just drowsily looking into the far distance. He is now confusing me with my sister-in-law and strange as it may sound, this feel liberating. The few times, I managed to talk to him on the phone, he was, Sabine? Sabine who? Out of sight, out of mind.

I am not allowed to visit while on antibiotics and I am debating whether I should in any case, finding excuses  listing my reasons why it makes sense to avoid the 4+ hour trip (each way). At least I am already the black sheep of the family, so this will not come as a shock to my siblings. I fully disappoint, as expected.

Other than that, there's a war to the east of us, coming closer, or so it seems. We have been following the BBC's Ukrainecast podcast, a mixture of explanation and personal testimony (also available on spotify, apple and many other platforms).

For dictators, freedom, an open society, the individual pursuit of happiness of people must never be successful. That is why Putin started this war, because dictators fear freedom. And that is why he must not win this war, because that would mean that dictators can attack freedom successfully again and again.

Human rights and democracy are an indispensable core of international relations, not luxury issues. They are not secondary or subordinate, they apply not only sometimes, not only when it costs nothing, when it burdens no one, but always. 

Totally unrelated musical interlude:

05 October 2022


You let the logs burn long enough so they made a space between them. You gotta keep the fire new. Every piece of wood needs a companion to keep it burning. Now push them together. Not too much. They also need that air. Get them close, but not on top of each other. Just a light connection all the way along. Now you’ll see a row of even flames.

Louise Erdrich, The Sentence, last chapter

I cried reading the last chapter. I have never read a book that made me cry until now. I also whispered thank you when I closed it. Also not something I have ever done before. I didn't enjoy most of the book, found it hard to get into it but as with all of her novels, I eventually could not stop reading.

What do you get when you travel to the seaside, spend most of your time sleeping, but insist on walking on the beach on your last day? Pneumonia.

But wait, there's antibiotics and also, marriage, which means a man who bakes his secret recipe semolina strawberry crumble to cheer you up.

23 September 2022

self limiting viral infection

Last Friday, a week ago today, I sat down with a colleague for a short work thing, masked in our specially air filtered conference area of course, and I felt this annoying scratch in my throat and immediately my mind said, oh hello, long time no see. Next morning my voice was gone, something R found hilarious, initially. I took a test, no covid, and went back to bed. Things progressed from there and to cut a long story short, several more tests, incl. a negative PCR, confirmed that one of these pesky common and garden upper respiratory infection viruses has come for a lengthy visit. 

And it has been a noisy week. While I have no voice, still, I am barking the house down with coughing.  It has been such a long time since I had something like that. A self-limiting viral infection. 

There used to be time in my life when I would search for the cause, the source, the why and the why now and why me. But the last couple of years have shown that viruses really don't give a damn about our feelings, they take any opportunity out there and we are such great targets after all. Viruses, they just want to have fun. Or in other words, they want to survive too. So, I hibernated for the week, hid under the blankets and read, listened to audio books, watched Italian crime series, slept in between coughing fits, drank thyme tea with honey, ate some soup, and so on, as you do.

Anyway, on Sunday, I will wrap myself in warm layers, doze in the car for a few hours while R drives us to a cute little house with a thatched roof just below the big sand dunes in a village in North Holland and hopefully, I shall be able to make it up the stairs to the top of said dunes to let the sea air clear my head for the next couple of days. That's the plan.

This here is an ultrasound image of a fetus, aged somewhere between 32 and 36 weeks, after the mother had eaten kale.

And here, we see the same fetus after the mother ate some carrot.

This is what science can show us. If you want to read about the research, the how and the why and what these two food groups have to offer for the future of humankind and kale growers especially, klick here(Both images: FETAP (Fetal Taste Preferences) Study/Fetal and Neonatal Research Lab/Durham University/PA)

And here is a poem that tells us where we are in the bigger planetary picture, incl. viruses.


O for God’s sake
they are connected

They look at each other
across the glittering sea
some keep a low profile

Some are cliffs
The bathers think
islands are separate like them

Muriel Rukeyser

06 September 2022

. . . however carefully we live, we cannot escape the effects of ageing. We can only delay them, if we are lucky. Long life is not necessarily a good thing. Perhaps we should not seek it too desperately.

We accept that wrinkled skin comes with age but find it hard to accept that our inner selves, our brains, are subject to similar changes. These changes are called degenerative in the radiological reports, although all this alarming adjective means is just age-related. For most of us, as we age, our brains shrink steadily, and if we live long enough, they end up resembling shrivelled walnuts, floating in a sea of cerebrospinal fluid, confined within our skull. And yet we usually still feel that we are our true selves, albeit diminished, slow and forgetful. The problem is that our true self, our brain, has changed, and as we have changed with our brains, we have no way of knowing that we have changed.

Henry Marsh 

A hornet has come into the bedroom after sunset on several nights now. I am tempted to think it's my mother in her latest disguise. Every time so far, R has successfully chased it outside with his old squash racket. I am halfheartedly expecting another visit tonight.

My father looked at the photographs I brought him, the ones that I secretly call the beautiful pictures, and he pointed at each one of us and slowly said all our names, these are my children, he then announced, and, pointing at himself in one of the pictures, in a very formal voice added, this is their father. He no longer recognises grandchildren, let alone great grandchildren. 



When my nephew, my brother's middle son, came to visit him recently, he got confused with the likeness and believed there was an imposter or possibly a thief in the room. I asked him about that, I stayed very still and as soon as he had left, he told me, I checked my wallet but luckily all the money was still there. This, in fact, was the only complete sentence he produced during my visit. 

Most of the time, he dozed and when I asked him, what that feels like, he said, pleasant thoughts but nothing specific. He pointed to the door which meant we should leave. 

That evening, we had dinner with my siblings and their spouses. We had business to discuss and that we did but we also laughed. And at one point, my sister in law, innocently, I believe, blurted out to me, at least now that he doesn't talk any more, we don't have to listen to him going on and on about your never ending achievements and how you turn everything into gold.

Well, there you have it at last. What could I do but laugh it off and assure them all that no, I never accomplished a thing in my life.

On the long drive back home I got mad at the way R was driving and I believe I raised my voice.

We stopped in a sleepy village in Franconia for a stroll. It felt as if we were the only people alive.


We were both exhausted by the time we got home to our river and we took the ferry across in glorious evening sunlight.

27 August 2022



(read about Layli Long Soldier here)

My father is sinking deeper and deeper into some netherworld of dozing and mumbling. I have only the reports from my siblings and the odd picture they sent me. The latter quite frightening, a very old man unravelling, sunk low in his wheelchair, head forward almost on his chest, eyes closed, mouth in a bitter snarl. His waking times, so the reports, he apparently spends being angry, unwilling or unable to cooperate in whatever efforts of personal hygiene are provided to him, drinking and eating sparingly and only because of the threat of an iv feeding tube. Apparently, in one of his awake moments he ordered the nurse to leave him to die in dignity, whereupon she, while picking up the used tissues and cutlery and papers he, according to my sister, purposefully, drops here and there without any care, replied that to get there he first has to behave with dignity. Ha! As if he could!

I know I have to visit him, see if he recognises me, if I can reach him, meet my siblings, who have great hopes that I can talk some sense into him. I don't think my visit will make any difference. I am not expecting anything. But I wonder how he feels, maybe even helpless, lost, and a small part of me hopes that my presence, silly me of all people, could make a positive difference. This of course is a foolish thought. In the world of my father, I am just a daughter and a distant one at that.

When my brother cleared out my father's home, the drawers of his enormous desk, sometime last winter, he found a box of letters, written by quite a number of women, in German, French, Danish, Swedish, the languages of my father, love letters mostly. Adoring middle aged women he probably invited to the opera or an exhibition in Hamburg or Stockholm or Paris, a weekend in a fancy hotel. Imagine, my brother said with a chuckle, he had several lined up at the same time. 

When I visited my father earlier this year and asked about the other residents of the retirement home, he scoffed, old biddies, ugly as hell, and a couple of old forgetful posers.

And yet, I am scared. Not of his death, but that he may have already forgotten me. That he will look at me and see nothing, none of my glorious achievements, nothing to be proud of. Sixty-five years on, I am still hoping for his approval. Searching for whatever it is I can be thankful for.

22 August 2022

Vaxxed and never got infected (- so far)?

In a comment, Ellen asked me to find out some info as to why some people don't seem to get infected with the corona virus. Today, I spent some zoom time with a group of immunology postdocs and in the end I got the chance to ask them for the latest info. This is what they told and sent me.

To properly find out why some people don't get infected once and for all, you really need to do in vivo research and in vivo means with living people. In other words, you need volunteers and to do this, you must follow strict rules (information on ethical principles for medical research involving human subjects is here). This is not something that's easily done, well, maybe the Chinese do it but are not sharing.

I only know of one study which was done with volunteers, 34 volunteers in fact, who were administered virus particles and then tested regularly. Of these, 18 became infected, the rest not.

In several other observational studies, i.e. watching and following real patients, it was checked how often infected people go on to infect their immediate partners. Of 52 infected people, 26 passed on the virus - exactly half.

But these studies are too small to simply be transferred to society and no way can we deduce from them that about half of all people do not get infected.

However, they at least show that it is possible to not become infected despite close risk contact. And that's really interesting stuff.

So a variety of theories are being investigated and bear in mind, it's early days, let's not jump to conclusions but there's potential. (When I refer to the corona virus in the following explanations, I mean the current virus, SARS-CoV-2. There are many other corona viruses which have given us common colds in the past, these I call corona-like viruses.)

Theory 1: T-cell response. T-cells are white blood cells and play a major role in our immune system, they get their name from the thymus gland were they are formed. T-cells are responsible for our body's immune reaction. They have been investigated for quite some time, mostly regarding their role in cancer and MS and obviously in the last two years in relation to covid. It was found quite early on that some people infected with the corona virus appear to have a strong T-cell response, which means their T-cells reacted very quickly to the corona virus and possibly rendered it harmless before it could multiply to such an extent that symptoms appeared or tests turned out positive. The reason for a strong T-cell response can be genetically determined or due to previous infections, like colds triggered by previous corona-like viruses, providing some defence against infection. This is called cross-immunity. That does not automatically mean that past colds with corona-like viruses give you protection against this one, SARS-CoV-2. Not everyone seems to develop cross-immunity. 

Theory 2: Blood group. The connection between blood groups and the severity of a corona disease has been studied quite extensively by now, so there is lots of data to allow agreement that people with blood group A have a higher risk of a severe infection compared to blood group 0. Also, blood group incompatibility between two people could prevent one from infecting the other. Blood group incompatibility simply means that two people who have different blood groups, for example A and 0, have natural antibodies against each other's foreign blood group. And these antibodies we have against foreign blood groups sometimes also seem to be directed against the corona virus. But again, if your partner has 0 and you have A, that does not automatically mean you will not infect each other, because it is not yet clear when this happens and when it does not.

Theory 3: Sex. More and more research is confirming sex-specific differences in susceptibility to the corona virus. Researchers see a connection with sex hormones such as estrogen and androgen. The current state of knowledge is that women are probably better protected against infections due to a more effective hormone-related immune response - and if they do become infected, they seem to be less prone to so-called systemic inflammation, meaning that most inflammation remains localised, i.e. to the nose or throat,  and can be kept in check by the body's immune response, whereas systemic inflammation is something the body is unable to contain without help, so it spreads to other areas.

Theory 4: Age. Our immune response changes throughout life and tends to weaken with age, regardless of sex. Older people often not only have a more severe disease as a result, but could also be more likely to get infected and have a longer recovery period.

Theory 5: Viral load. The viral load reflects how much virus an infected person has taken in. The viral load can be quite high in the throat or nose. It is generally assumed that high viral loads are also associated with being more infectious. But not every infected person sheds the same amount of virus. Studies of large corona outbreaks have shown that the virus was sometimes spread by only a few individuals who infected many others at once. And symptoms are not a measure of viral load, asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic but infected people have been shown to have high viral loads. So far, only the Ct value of the PCR test can give an approximate reflection of whether someone is infectious or not. (Ct stands for cycle threshold and it indicates how many cycles a PCR test must run in order to detect viral material. The more cycles are necessary, the less viral material is found in the sample.)

Important: These theories do not stand on their own, they play together and strengthen or weaken each other. If you have not been infected so far, you must not assume that you are fundamentally immune. The conditions can be different the next time there is a risk contact - and then infection can occur. Also, this virus is a tricky bastard. But then again, all viruses are.

I can provide a list of reference to published research for anybody who wants sources etc.


19 August 2022

I am done in. For the first time in two years I worked a full week at the campus, no home office. And because it has been - and still is - so hot, I started real early every day. The work was not different but there's the commute, 40 minutes each way. I managed to cycle most days, trying to dodge the heat by going the long way through the forest and racing through the bits of heavy traffic. 

The best part? Giving the finger to car drivers who act as if they own public streets, as if cars are somehow above cyclists in some imagined transport mode hierarchy, that is still a wonderfully liberating gesture. And cursing at the top of my voice, oh how I've missed doing that!

It was only for a week, subbing for a colleague in dire straits.

As much as I love watching this video, I cannot stop wondering how many people came away infected. Because whatever the current mood, the virus doesn’t “spread”. We spread it. We cough, sneeze, sing, shout and breathe it on each other. Without people, this virus would not have a chance.

My father recovered from his second covid infection (brought to him thanks to the lifting of mask and testing requirements for visitors to care homes in the federal state of Bavaria) which was just as mild as his pre-vaccine one but this one has left him confused, disoriented, often unable to speak and he is rapidly losing weight.

14 August 2022

Thousands have lived without love, not one without water (W.H. Auden)

Did you know, that there is more water in the clouds and vapour above us than in all the rivers and oceans on our planet at any given time? If only it would rain. I lived in Ireland for many years and took rain for granted. I watched the film mentioned above here last night, an inspiration.

Because nutrients cycle through the ocean (the process of organisms eating organisms is the cycling of nutrients through the ocean), the atoms of those people who were thrown overboard are out there in the ocean even today. They were eaten, organisms processed them, and those organisms were in turn eaten and processed, and the cycle continues. Around 90 to 95 percent of the tissues of things that are eaten in the water column get recycled.

The sodium of human blood . . . (has) a residence time (the amount of time it takes for a substance to enter the ocean and then leave the ocean) of 260 million years.

Daisy Hildyard (from an essay found here

About thirty years ago, a friend was lost at sea. To be correct, a possible friend was lost at sea. When this happened, we were still at the greeting and recognition state that is common when non-African (white) people meet in the tiny African island paradise we were living at the time. It was only a few weeks or maybe a month since he had arrived with his family, just as we did a few years earlier.

We were in the early stage of getting ready to leave for India, packing and selling stuff, when we got the news. It was evening, we were sharing a dinner with a group of friends when someone mentioned that the boat he had hired had not come in before sunset. What followed were harrowing days and evenings taking turns sitting with the family, making tea, cooking dinners nobody ate, distracting children with endless games of volleyball underneath the jacaranda trees.

It was months later when a merchant vessel picked up the empty boat a very long way north, past the Arabian Sea and the Horn of Africa. I often think of him, out there under the sun in a small boat on the vast Indian Ocean. How happy he was that day we spoke on the most beautiful beach, watching our kids diving in the surf. And I assured him that they all would just love their time here, that the three years of his contract would just fly, that he should cherish every day and so on. I meant it.

And I think of the over 3,000 migrants that died at sea on their way to Europe last year, the 17,000 who lost their lives in the Mediterranean since 2014.

Meanwhile, our rivers are drying out. The glaciers in the Alps are melting at a rate nobody seemed to think possible quite yet. I cycle along my river at around sunset when the temperature has dropped to 30C (85 F). There are still some barges going and ferries but only just and the trees are rapidly dropping their shriveled leaves.

Today, as last week, R joined in a human chain of 35 people collecting 1000 liters of river water in buckets to water the trees in a local park

 The covid patch in the garden looks miserable. But deep underneath the brittle and dry stalks, there is wild thyme and oregano, some small clover and plenty of other greens coming up. I imagine it only needs a bit of rain to see more growth.

And almost a month earlier than usual, we harvested the grapes. According to R's measurements with his hydrometer gadget, they could have stayed on a tiny bit longer for more sweetness but it was us vs. wasps. I fought their corner for about two days.




06 August 2022

 For me, this is an example of true social media. Also, Belgium cities are lovely.

02 August 2022

solutions, solutions, solutions

If you're worried that it's too late to do anything about climate change and we should all just give up, I have great news for you: that day is not coming in your lifetime. As long as you have breath in your body, you will have work to do.

Mary Annaïse Heglar

It's really hot again, the bits of lawn we have left between the flower beds and trees are brown and yellow. Lawn will recover first, I know that, but it looks and feels so bare and brittle. We water as little as possible, mostly with the newfangled drip feeding system R installed earlier this year. The insects love it and sit all along the route. In the morning and evening, when the birds have had their wash, the bees and wasps and all their friends as well as the very small number of butterflies come to the birdbath for a drink. The hedgehog shuffles along after dark to his water bowl. The upstairs bedroom windows are shaded by an almond tree which has been dropping its leaves for the past month but before the sun reaches that part of the house and while I have the windows open, birds sit in it and the robins and some young female blackbirds have started to have a quick look inside, even hopping on the inside window sill possibly for some cooler temps.

We are taking stock for a drought garden future, making lists of what will have to go, what will be replaced with what next year. 

My father has recovered from his second bout of covid and seemingly has decided to stay in bed from now on. He sounds quite content that way but some of my family are quite angry and find it selfish and lazy. Also, if it escalates it could seriously mess up the holiday travel plans of some. My family is so full of surprises.

Back to the reality: There is this fallacy that keeps on coming up. All that talk about how it's too late anyway, that humankind is doomed and people are just stupid and will not change their ways etc. etc. Usually, this is expressed with dramatic sadness and, especially by people of my age set, that tiny bit of relief because we are too old anyway and we know it all. 

I am so sick and tired of it. The way we paralyze ourselves with words because what the heck, giving up meat, flying, driving, all our lovely consumer rituals is much too hard.

So I ask myself: Who do I want to be in this world that is about to ruin itself? Do I want to be someone who carries on with a thousand excuses? Are my life's luxuries more important than my children? Do I want to live in constant and increasing contradiction to my values? - Or should I at least act as if I could contribute to a better future, regardless of whether that future actually happens?

Here is my to-do list, pick at least one that you can do. Sorry, it does not include recycling or plastic waste. It's based on the recommendations of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the intergovernmental body of the United Nations responsible for advancing knowledge on human-induced climate change):

  • Switch so renewable energy sources, even rural peasant farmers in Asia and Africa use solar panels.
  • Conserve and restore forests and ecosystems  (hint: gardens are ecosystems too).
  • Use (and if possible grow) climate-friendly food.
  • Eat much much less meat. In fact, a plant-based diet can save up to 50 percent of a person's greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Define happiness and satisfaction other than through faster, higher, further and ever more.
  • Have hope. Help each other. Love our planet.

This figure is from: IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (for personal, non-commercial usages, reproduction of limited number of figures or short excerpts of IPCC material is authorized free of charge and without formal written permission).

25 July 2022

a very old, old joy

Since it came to Earth, the water has been cycling through air, rocks, animals and plants. Each molecule has been on an incredible journey. When you feel alone, try to remember that at some point the water inside you would have been inside dinosaurs, or the ocean, or a polar ice-cap, or maybe a storm cloud over a faraway sea at a time when the sea was still nameless. Water crosses millennia and boundaries and borders.

Remember, we all have something in common, and that is the water that runs through us.

 Christy Lefteri (from: Songbirds, a novel 2021)

Since 2013, I have been following writer Paul Salopek walking the Out of Eden Walk, along the pathways of the first humans who migrated out of Africa spreading across the planet. He is currently in China and this is latest video.

Whether we like it or not, we are all walking together into a bottleneck new century, with the climate crisis upon us, with gigantic gaps in income, with rising tribalism across ideologies, we face a pretty difficult path ahead, a panorama of uncertainty. The walk teaches me this: That we stand a better chance of survival by walking together, by learning from each other, by listening to each other's ideas, and by pulling each other up as we move forward. There is a very old, old joy in this approach. Every new day on my trail, whether I wake up in a Buddhist temple or the hut of a Sichuan yak herder, the word that floats to mind always as I lace up my boots for another day is the same. It's yes.

Paul Salopek

17 July 2022

same old same old

Late this morning while we were cleaning up the breakfast stuff from the patio, R asked me why I was crying and I touched my face and yes, surprise, he was right. For a moment I was at a loss and then it hit me. I miss my child so badly, I said and then it was over, weird as it was. It is not as if she has suddenly vanished. I mean, she's been living far away for the best part of the last 15 years but we talk several times a week and as R says, she never shuts up, doesn't she.

Now I feel old. Actually, I am old. And ill. And a bit miserable. But other than that, it was a beautiful morning, clear skies, low humidity, bees and butterflies and birds, all the pleasant Sunday noises and so on. The extreme heat is supposedly going to hit us by tomorrow.

these beauties are flowering at last

So let's see. I've been sitting in a doctor's waiting room three, four, five times in recent weeks? I forget. Every visit was an example of careful attention, I have no complaints other than that I had to accept that, yes, this, these last couple of weeks of exhaustion and inflammations here and there and everywhere was a flare up and yes, steroids were called for. And people, cortisone is a miracle drug. If only it would not have all the side effects. The deal was for five days at high dosage and on day four, I was jubilant, no other word for it. Despite the stomach aches and the racing heart beat and the sleepless nights and the mood swings. Hence the tears, I think, but as of today I am coming down to normal grumpy me and keeping fingers crossed etc.

grapes ripening one month earlier than in recent years

When I am visibly unwell, English speaking people usually ask, what's wrong with you? And immediately, I could get all defensive and wish I could reply that there is nothing wrong with me, that - only - something went wrong with my immune system but that's it. 

I don't. I am polite and assume they didn't mean it, that social stigmatisation and - watch out: new terminology - ableism doesn't exist in my circle of friends.

(Ableism is defined as the discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities, based on the belief that able-bodied people are superior. It is, at its core, rooted in the assumption that disabled people require fixing and, very importantly, defines people by their disability.)

The German terminology is somewhat different. Whether doctor or colleague, the question is: was fehlt dir? What are you missing/lacking? I feel looked after when I hear this. I do.

the covid patch gone mad

I know, believe me, that there are more important things in life than health. Of course, well-being is easier to achieve when there is no disease to worry about. To assume that health is the most important thing in life - this is an attitude only healthy people can afford. And I know that too well, I used to be one of them.

When you end up with a chronic illness, you figure it out, you must understand, eventually, that not life itself, but the conditions under which life takes shape are changed.

Or as one medical expert along the way told me ages ago, paraphrasing the words of Viktor Frankl: When you are faced with situations out of your control, you need to adapt to those circumstances. You need to find meaning in that situation. That is, to find what you can learn from it, and discover ways to carry you through.

apricot and cherry season, best of all

When I experience a flare up, I am lost at the very end of a seesaw, in the middle of which I try to balance most of the time. On the one side, the world of the healthy, with all the joys, banalities, tasks and adversities that life contains - all of which way out of reach. On the other side, the world of the sick, which is not necessarily darker overall, but in many ways very different. To achieve balance again and again and to figure out where I am right now, that is the skill - one that I will never fully master. 

Things can only get better. 


28 June 2022

the world today

To our east, not too far away to ignore, a mad man intends to reinvent himself as Peter the Great, at least in terms of violent expansion of his reign. A distant relative with Finnish family ties reports on how their holiday home near the Russian border has been turned into a supply center for all things needed in case of you know what. And it's not only tins of food in the storage.

To our west, across the ocean, Margaret Atwood's Gilead is rising. I listened to a lengthy radio feature this morning detailing how social media, cell phone apps, bluetooth captured travel patterns (google maps, satnav etc.) and DNA stored by ancestry etc. websites can and most likely will be used to track down women seeking abortion, related health care and, eventually, birth control. We have watched our crime series and we all know that a person's DNA can be detected in the tiniest drop of blood, speck of tissue, evaporated sweat salts. And maybe we all should know that maternal DNA (mitochondrial DNA) is found in males and females and can be traced through generations. Think of these massive DNA data banks and how easy it will be to find a woman who left that tiny shred of tissue. All you need is a distant relative. 

Many years ago, there was outrage when a traveller from Ireland was arrested upon entry to the US based on what immigration had found on their amazon order lists - and that was at a time when amazon was mainly trading in books. Under his eye*.

*In Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, this phrase is the prescribed greeting, meaning that someone—a Guardian, a Commander, a fellow Handmaid, God—is always watching.

While, far away to the southeast, across landmasses and oceans, a new public holiday has been celebrated for the first time this week in June. It's called Matariki., which is the Māori name used to describe the star cluster also known as Pleiades. (Māori are the indigenous Polynesian people of mainland New Zealand.) Before sunrise on and around this day during what is New Zealand's winter, the cluster becomes visible as a faint sparkle of tiny dots on the northeastern horizon.

Matariki is aligned with the maramataka, an ancient lunar calendar which synchronises the daily activities of people with the natural world, moon, sun, stars and planets. It uses cycles and phases instead of counting days, weeks and months. 

So here we have it: war to the east, a new taliban regime to the west and celebration of our place in the universe to the southeast. 

All on the one pale blue dot.

19 June 2022

In no particular order, this happened in the last three weeks:

A short but massive heatwave.

For the second or third or possibly tenth time in my life, I had a dose of vestibular neuritis, aka inflammation of the balance nerve. It's all part and parcel of the weird autoimmune disease I have acquired ages ago. Basically, I acted and possibly looked like a drunken sailor in a heavy storm. Actually, no, make that a tourist, a non-sea worthy tourist, incl. some unpleasant emptying of stomach contents. It's exhausting but the euphoria once I was beginning to recover was probably not unlike what seasick tourists experience when reaching the shore. I am not quite there yet, small steps etc. I spent long hours listening to Louise Erdrich reading in her gentle voice The Night Watchman.

On Wednesday, the covid app informed me that I had spent an extended period of time in close contact with at least one covid-positive person two days earlier and that for the next ten days I should test daily, watch for symptoms and isolate. The close contact was at least one person at the ENT surgery, maybe even the doctor who examined me on Monday.  So far, I have no symptoms and all of the lateral flow tests have been negative. But apparently, I can still pass on viral load, i.e. be infectious, although I doubt that. Anyway, this new variant is a tricky fellow. 

For the last three days now I can walk without having to hold R's arm, I keep my food in the proper place and this evening, we even cycled a short distance - in splendid isolation - but afterwards, I felt like a train had run me over. 

The garden is a delight. 

29 May 2022



Somewhere on my desk there is a piece of paper with the covid helpline of my employer, the opening hours of the free PCR testing sites at the university clinic (Monday - Friday) and instructions on what to do and what to mention incl. the information leaflet of my medication.

Two days ago, one of the regular rapid lateral flow tests I am obliged by my employer to administer at home showed a positive line.  I went downstairs and told R that I would not be able to go to the farmer's market after all. Instead, I drove to the nearest testing center to get a conformation PCR test, only they refused to do it because I failed to bring my lateral flow test as evidence. Instead, they did another rapid lateral flow test which was negative. Back home, I briefly dithered between being seriously ill and who cares anyway, but as it was not Monday - Friday, I decided to get on with life and take it easy - my usual weekend activity as it were. This morning I did another test, again negative, and I asked google for information on false positive results with that particular test kit and it turns out that this is a documented manufacturer's fault that happens when the sample size is too small.

I cleaned the bathroom, kitchen and hoovered the hall and staircase, baked a blueberry-lemon cake without icing, cooked Sunday lunch (red peppers, zucchini and mushrooms with fregula and parmesan), had one cup of coffee and went on my usual 10 km cycle along the river. 

Later, we will make tea and maybe have some grilled cheese on toast and some fresh strawberries and then watch the Sunday evening thriller on German TV and the late news.

The tendency to treat my imperfect existence as if it were a shadow of my real life, the one I would be living without a chronic disease, this mental image of my healthy self, it slows me down every time as if all people except myself are healthy and fit and have nothing to worry about.

When you are not one of the seemingly healthy, you need to work hard sometimes so you don't fall out of love with yourself as the illness tries again and again to run the show. At least I need to do that. Cycling, baking, strawberries, it all helps.


25 May 2022

Thank you Dervla Murphy


On May 22nd, three days ago, Dervla Murphy died aged 90. In my wildest dreams, I wanted to live a life like hers, at least the cycling and travelling part. When I read her first book (Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a bicycle), my then bicycle, my only means of transport, was a Dutch High Nelly with three gears and a wonky handbrake and I found it most reassuring that Dervla, before she set off to India in the middle of winter had the gears dismantled from her bike (an Armstrong Cadet men's bicycle from the 1950s) because she did not want to be bothered by cumbersome repairs and no spare parts along the way.

A couple of times, we drove past and once, actually stood in front of the gate to her house in Lismore, but  decided that it wasn't the proper thing to do, call in uninvited on a rainy Sunday. Her dogs went ballistic with barking, so we left in a hurry. I do wish I could have met her in person.

In Ireland, most people know her, know of her. I am always surprised that this is not the case elsewhere.

When we decided - on a whim, literally - to move to paradise, this small African country, with a five year old child, two tea chests of basics, mostly books and a sewing machine, eyes wide open and utterly clueless, I read On a shoestring to Coorg, her account of travelling and living in Southern India with her five year old daughter, penniless and with only a small backpack, and felt completely prepared. In fact, I was going to reduce the stuff we had packed but R stopped me (he had been working in Africa for a couple of years before we met and knew the drill).

This is from Eight feet in the Andes, her book of travelling in 1977 with her, by then, nine year old daughter and a mule from Ecuador to Cuzco. 

They have put down their tent for the night near Huamachucho, Peru, and Dervla has to get up at around midnight ("Nature called") and entranced by the moonlit night, writes in her diary:

. . . there was no stirring of a breeze, no whispers of running water: the stillness was so unflawed that it seemed the sovereign moon, floating high, must have put a spell on our whole world. . . . There is more to such experiences than visual beauty, necessary to mankind yet hard to put in words. It is the beauty of freedom: freedom from an ugly, artificial, dehumanising, discontented world in which man has lost his bearings. A world run by an alliance of self-hypnotised technocrats and profit-crazed tycoons who demand constant, meaningless change. A world where waste and greed are accepted - even admired - because our minds' manipulators have made frugality and moderation seem like failure in the Acquisition Game. . . . I know and have always known the we humans need to escape at intervals from that alien world which has so abruptly replaced the environment that bred us. We need to be close to, and opposed to, and sometimes subservient to, and always respectful of the physical realities of the planet we live on. We need to receive its pure silences and attend to its winds, to wade through its rivers and sweat under its sun, to plough through its sands and sleep on its bumps. Not all the time but often enough for us to remember that we are animals. Clever animals, yet ultimately dependent, like any animal, on the forces of Nature. Whole areas of one's humanity could become atrophied if one remained always within a world where motor-roads are more important than trees and speed is more important than silence.
She was exactly 25 years older than me, we share a birthday and she had a bad case of rheumatoid arthritis in the end. I have been calculating what my life could be like, another 25 years, maybe I can have that, as I already have the rheumatoid like disease.

23 May 2022

garden secrets

Yet another storm is brewing, the weather app is pinging and shouting. Again, we cleared the basement floors, tidied up the garden furniture, shut the green house and with any luck, it'll pass.

The skies on Friday were dramatic. But that was it. Not a single drop of rain.

Others were not so lucky and who knows what this evening will bring.

My new friends, a pair of wood pigeons, woke me at the crack of dawn. The have found a favourite spot in the almond tree outside the bedroom window, where they bicker for a while before cooing back and forth at length and at volume. I have decided to actually not mind this at all. Even at 5:30 am. 

the Robin rose

I had to get up anyway for my immunologist check-up. The new guy is very jolly and we agreed that not much has changed or needs to be done apart from more blood work to figure out the low iron levels and sure, why not, maybe see a phlebologist because of that markedly swollen right ankle etc. etc. We discussed the 30+ hrs travel (two stop-overs incl.) later this year with medication that needs to be kept below 5°C at all times. Not a good fit but there should has to be way. And in the end, in connection with one thing or another, I forget which, he uttered the fateful saying "never change a winning team" (in English) and I tried very hard to keep a straight face but failed. We then discussed at length the origin of this phrase (soccer) and how it found its way into medicine (he did recall an actual lecture with this title) and for the life of him, he couldn't see how a patient as tolerant as myself could find this inappropriate. I told him, he will get there over time and how silly sayings convey not a message that one can trust and that especially when saddled with a chronic illness, these stupid remarks don't get any better when one has to hear them repeatedly.  To cut him short, I uttered WTF (in English) which he thought was hilarious. And so we parted as friends.

ash, black cherry, rambling rose and mackerel skies

On my way back, cycling through the lushest of forest, I stopped at the frog spawn pond but failed to take a picture. As it was still before 10 am, I sat down for a café au lait outside at the French place and then got some of fancy tea, which is black Assam with cream flavouring and blue cornflower blossoms and a punnet of blueberries. My life of luxury.

This here is our covid patch, four square meters in a sunny spot we have left untouched in the bottom lawn since spring 2020. We just mow around it, never water it. Currently, it has about 25 different wild flower species in it, all humming with insects, one small walnut tree and a fat hedgehog moves through it at night. The secrets a badly tended lawn can bring forth. With the help of birds and squirrels and the wind.


16 May 2022

the great dental disaster

It's time now to put this to rest. I am well past it, it happened years ago. I no longer freak out from the minor pain I get when my gums bleed - which happens regularly due to immune suppression.

There is this clever sentiment, often used by instructors in meditation, that toothache is only a toothache because the moment it's gone, we cannot remember what it was really like. But let me tell you that is not true. I used to remember. To the point of panicking.

But first things first. Spring 2007. We are getting ready to visit our daughter who is studying in SE Asia. The flights are booked, the bags are in the process of being packed. The necessary vaccinations are done etc. and I develop a nagging tooth ache. Just as well, we say, let's check our teeth before we head into the jungles. The dentist finds nothing wrong, adjust some surfaces, rinses my gums and we agree that I may need one of these newfangled bite rails, but postpone this until our return. The tooth ache progresses beyond nagging, however, and I am back within 48 hours. This time x-rays without any clue and prophylactic antibiotic. Three days later, I am back with by now considerable pain. The dentists decides to drill into a crown on the off chance that there's a hidden something or other. 

I cut it short here. Nothing was found to be wrong with the teeth but on the morning of our - now cancelled - flights, molar no. 1 was extracted, I drove home chewing on a wad of tissue and cried. The pain got worse. Over the next four weeks tissue samples from inside my mouth were taken to identify possible causes of infection, six courses of antibiotics were administered, two more molars were extracted, countless dry sockets were scraped with sharp spoons, layered with tissue soaked in antibiotics, clove oil and  various anti-inflammatory agents, rinsed and scraped again and again. Eventually, we are now well into summer, a small part of the jaw bone was sliced off. 

By now, I had been given every painkiller known to dentistry, local and full anesthetics when necessary and also when not, people held my hands, stroked my face, wiped my tears. The hole in my upper jaw was no longer infected but simply would not heal. And never for a minute did it stop hurting. It was a fabulous summer for soft fruit and plums but I climbed the walls in pain unable to eat or sleep. 

Enter morphine. It did the trick. No  more pain. NO. MORE. PAIN. But what next? I was not going to live my life propped up by  morphine. Have you any idea what it does to your digestion? By that time, I was on seemingly - forever sick leave, had lost a lot of weight, our daughter had returned and watched with helpless worry. In the end, I found an expert in pain management therapy, who reduced the dosage in minute steps over a period of, I think, two years? And shortly after I had left it all behind me, had briefly chanted "no drugs ever again for me" with the hole more or less closed and healed, I got the diagnosis of the shitty chronic disease and during one of the initial meetings, the immunologist warned me to watch for possible wound healing disorders, especially in connection with inflammation of facial nerves and there you have it.

Unrelated music for balance.

12 May 2022

words and music

Last night in a dream, far away from reality, I heard the words "sharp spoon" whispered in my ear, and I woke up with one of these silent screams - like in the movies. A sharp spoon is a dentistry tool and it is exactly that, a tiny stainless steel spoon with a very sharp edge. I cannot remember how often I heard these words uttered by a dentist leaning over my mouth, as in "hand me that fucking sharp spoon", but every time was gruesome. Maybe I inserted the f word in my memory.

Briefly, (and bear with me, you are all safe) a sharp spoon is used to remove connective and granulation tissue, i.e. bundles of inflamed matter, from the tooth socket when, after a tooth extraction and against all of the rules of dentistry, the gap has not filled with nicely and rapidly coagulating blood. Use your imagination if you wish. This procedure is applied when you are immune compromised or maybe because there's a spell on you and you have spent a seemingly endless amount of time in tooth ache hell.

Anyway, all over and done. Worse than childbirth, believe me. And it's only recently that I have been able to vaguely remember the time this happened, the three months of my life I lived with a large hole inside my mouth that would not heal, without getting a slight panic attack. 

I have no idea where all this dream stuff is coming from now but we are both having various bad dreams, almost nightmares. A sign of the times? I don't know. Life, when I look at it without the bigger picture, is gorgeous early summer, mild evenings, the beauty of a twice/week cycling commute through the lush forest, pleasant work atmosphere, the first strawberries to pick and so on. But, oh yes, the bigger picture. One of these mornings after wake up, we discussed selling up and moving back to Ireland, neutral country etc. and just that day, the state media in Russia showed a clip of a mock nuclear attack. At the end there was only green ocean where Ireland and Britain should be. No use shouting that Ireland is an independent state, nothing British about it. (If you want to watch it, click here). And instead I am getting worked up about a sharp spoon, seriously.

Here are some random garden pictures.

wisteria, horse chestnut and black prunus

sweet cicely under the apple tree

woodruff under the pear tree

And some peaceful music with an amazing cello solo, wait for it.

08 May 2022

I think it was Andrea Dworkin who said - ages ago - something along the lines of to men, women are private property. Or at least, men think this is the case. The way drivers think that public roads are made for cars, never mind the rest of the public. I realise, this is not necessarily the best analogy but I am mostly travelling by bicycle and it is Sunday evening and I have yet to recover from the week behind me while getting in shape for the week ahead. I did cycle today and yesterday and the day before, as a means of getting from A to B on public roads. Also, Andrea Dworkin probably meant right wing men.

Anyway, I have just worked my way through my usual Sunday paper reading tasks and here is my top find.

To All Those Who Dare Rob Us of Our Bodily Choice, I ask you:

What is it about our bodies that makes you so afraid, so insecure, so cruel and punishing?

Is it their singular autonomy or mere existence?

Is it their capacity for immense and unending pleasure – orgasms that can multiply orgasms inside orgasms? Is it our skin? Is it our desire?

Is it our openness that rattles you and reminds you of where you are closed?

Is it the pure strength of our bodies that allows us to bleed and birth and bend and carry and continue on in spite of all the ways you have reduced us and objectified us, humiliated us and disrespected us and tried to shape us into baby-making machines? Our strength that is inherent and doesn’t need to prove itself or show off or rely on weapons or violence to control and terrorise? Doesn’t need to abolish laws, or lie to become supreme court judges or president or rig the decks when they get there.

Do you know this power? Can you imagine it? A power that comes from respecting life, caring for others before oneself, holding communities together?

. . .

What is it about our bodies that make you think you have the right to invade them, determine them, control and legislate them, violate and force them to do anything against their will?

Perhaps you mistake our generosity for weakness, our patience for passivity, our vulnerability for fragility.

 . . .

This is our world now. And these are our bodies. We know what you are up to – this is just the beginning of your diabolical plan to rob us of contraception and marriage equality and civil rights and on and on. This is all part of your desperation to prevent the future that is on the verge of being born – a future where we know our past and begin to reckon with it, a future where we teach critical race theory and the truth about white supremacy and sexism and transphobia.

A future where we care for our Earth and devote our lives to protecting air and water and forests and animals and all living things, a future where people have autonomy over their bodies and wombs and gender and marry who they want to, and don’t get married if they don’t want to, and have babies if they want to, and don’t have babies if they don’t want to. Despite all your lies, strategies and devious ways you are simply never going to stop us.

You have unleashed our fury, our solidarity, our unity.

 (to read the whole commentary article by V (formerly known as Eve Ensler) click here)

I live in a country where abortion is generally punishable for all parties involved but exceptions apply which means that abortion is exempt from punishment in certain situations incl. medical indications such as if the woman's life is in danger or there is a risk of serious impairment of her physical or mental state of health. Also, if the pregnancy is based on a sexual offence such as rape. The costs are covered by statutory health insurance, i.e. everybody. But we are watching. We know there are (mostly) men who are getting very excited watching what's happening across the Atlantic.

26 April 2022


This is the last item from my grandmother's house and thus, my father's home-before-the-care-home and therefore also the last item from my childhood that I have rescued. It is my grandmother's bread bin and has been my father's for the past 25 years. As he no longer needs to store bread, he graciously let me have it. Graciously is a euphemism, it was more, what do you want that old tin for anyway.

When during my childhood, we visited my grandmother we would always have a look into that tin just in case she did have some of her soft home baked rolls in it - not often, usually it was Franconian sourdough bread. My father had the exact same bread in it over the years. 

At the moment it's empty, we spent the weekend polishing 25 years of neglect from its surface and got half way to my grandmother's standards. It's solid copper, you need two hands to hold it. For the time being I am keeping it. If the price of copper soars one day when we are old and poor, we will sell it and live the life of luxury.

I should be sentimental but no. I have a considerable selection of my grandparent's Wilhelminian period wardrobes (2), bedside cabinets (2), too-short bed frames (2), sideboards with cracked marble tops (1), all in full use around the house, and what my grandmother referred to "the vertico", which I am currently attempting to sell because we replaced it with a cheap and nasty but enormously handy ikea press (which we managed to scratch while assembling). The vertico could look fabulous (for a beautiful one, not exactly like mine, click here) but currently it is showing its age and the years of use.  It always stood in the hall of my grandparent's house and held hat boxes, a basket of leather and lace gloves, a shelf of many scarves and most importantly, the fox stole. Next to it was the umbrella stand with the fancy sun umbrellas. Apart from the fox stole, I still have the hats and most of the gloves and some of the scarves and of course, the fancy umbrellas. My daughter played with all of these things as did I when I was small.

I should mention that on the back of the vertico is a stamp by the US army, declaring it as German property item 16 on loan.  The US army had confiscated my grandparent's house for several years after the war.

In other news, we had a good day of rain, we harvest plenty of fresh lettuce, rhubarb, radish and I am watching the baby apricots and pears and peaches and plums. Also, the spuds are pushing up.