27 January 2022

the moral high ground

For me it feels like looking down and seeing for the first time that I’m standing on a minuscule ledge at a dizzying vertical height, and the only thing supporting my weight is the misery and degradation of almost everyone else on earth. And I always end up thinking: I don’t even want to be up here. I don’t need all these cheap clothes and imported foods and plastic containers, I don’t even think they improve my life. They just create waste and make me unhappy anyway. (Not that I’m comparing my dissatisfaction to the misery of actually oppressed peoples, I just mean that the lifestyle they sustain for us is not even satisfying, in my opinion.) People think that socialism is sustained by force – the forcible expropriation of property – but I wish they would just admit that capitalism is also sustained by exactly the same force in the opposite direction, the forcible protection of existing property arrangements.

Sally Rooney (from: Beautiful World, Where Are You)

The last time I have been inside a supermarket was back in July for extra cream when I ran out of it making R's birthday cake (and before that maybe some time in early 2020). I remember that day in July because, unknowingly, I had an infection that required a trip to A&E on the weekend, but there in the air conditioned shopping paradise, I thought I was simply overwhelmed by the variety of cream options. It's not as if I haven't been shopping since, but going to a shop, any shop, has definitely lost all its appeal. Thanks to covid. Not that it had much appeal before. I once fell out with a distant friend, briefly, because she insisted on us spending a day, or maybe an afternoon, I forget, browsing shops and when I realised it was not book shops and that she in fact refused to spend ages waiting for me to finish reading, which apparently is not what you are meant to do in a book shop, she had a bit of a fit and we parted ways for a while, she browsing for whatever and me reading on, before meeting up in a delightful cafe to catch up on old times. 

In our pandemic world here, we have been spending money and feeding the economy, but just not as much. Instead, we have lists for a few delivery and/or online shops. Occasionally, I cycle to the library to return/pick up my online loans. In two years, we filled up the petrol tank exactly three times. 

I miss a few things, goodness yes I do, none of them do to with visiting shops. A while ago, I listened to a zoom talk about inner cities after the pandemic and alternatives to shopping streets and malls and living centers with children and dogs and trees and actual life. What a wonderful dream.

(this is one of many wonderful little videos by Jan Kamensky, for more click here)

22 January 2022

happy birthday dad

When I call my father on the phone, his first words are "who's calling me?", which is his way to avoid not recognising the caller. These days, I have to shout back because he often does not bother to change the batteries of his hearing aid. He usually grants me three, four sentences of exchange before exclaiming how healthy and alert my voice sounds and then he either cuts me off or thanks me profoundly for calling, depending on his mood and based on how successful our brief exchange was. 

Today, he told me right away that there is nothing left for him apart from waiting to die and that he hopes it will be soon and that he won't have to live another ten years like this. By which he means living in a retirement home, confined to a wheelchair.

Today is his 93rd birthday. I know he will have the one allowed person-to-person visit later today and many, many phone calls. I also know that he sits by a table full of gifts to unwrap and cards to read and that there will be a spectacular cake, something he usually loves. But today, he sounded depressed and sad and lonely and my immediate reaction was one of panic. For a couple of hours after he put down the phone, my mind raced through what I should to, what I must do to make him feel better. I looked online for same-day deliveries of more flowers, ice cream, glossy picture books, photographs, interesting magazines, newspapers, more cake, I even looked at the cost of sending a limo round, one fit for a wheelchair and with a driver. Which is when I took a deep breath and got on with my life.

Look, he has been a great father, at times, occasionally and especially when we were little and on holidays. He taught me some important life lessons, valuable thoughts, ideas, concepts that helped me hugely and still do. He is a very clever, well read man and he earned his professional success with his sharp mind and dedication to science. 

But, and the list is long and there's no way to deny it, he has also been shit, really awfully so. 

And I do not want to feel sorry for him.

this was taken ten years ago

20 January 2022

spring is just around the corner

Every morning I wake up with my very best intentions. Honestly, I do. Having established what day it actually is, I make a list of all the purposeful tasks of the day waiting for me and, reader, I feel confident and ready. Every bloody day. 

And then the day is over and I sit here with aching joints and my intestine is screaming murder and the car engine cut out on me on a narrow uphill slope while about fifty or one thousand other cars were close behind me and for three hours I sat in a room with a person whose kid has since been tested positive and my GP doesn't like the shape of my left kidney or maybe the liver or whatever got her attention in the ultrasound and I have to go for another MRI and the city we live in has the highest infection rate in our state and on Monday I get my second (!) booster and, whoopee, the xmas parcel has finally arrived at the grandchild's house. Also, R took the car for a run and found nothing wrong. (Secretly, I still think the virus will get me any day now.)

Here is another nice sheep video.

16 January 2022

Sunday morning

I listened to the statistics, so many will get this disease and another percentage will get that and then I heard someone say that a hundred per cent of all people will die and felt such relief because we are all in this together.

Lani O'Hanlon

11 January 2022

anything you want

This is about all that's left to harvest in the winter garden, for us humans that is.

In the bed behind, there's phacelia growing which will be dug in to prepare the soil for the corn runner bean squash mix. Also, the first little pots with seedlings have appeared on the window sills. It's a start, as every year. 

It's really cold now. It takes me ages to warm up when I have been outside. I tried pretending I am an arctic explorer while cycling along the river. It doesn't make it any easier and for the last two days, I've stayed in pretending to be old and unwell. Instead, after working in my snazzy home office until late afternoon, I do a bit of this and that. Not that there is much of this and that to do. I could roll into a ball and hibernate. But:

I will admit that there are other people who are primarily interested in doing something. I am not. I can very well live without doing anything. But I cannot live without at least trying to understand whatever happens.

Hannah Arendt

My employer stipulates daily self-administered lateral flow testing which means that every morning, R can poke with a narrow white stick into my throat and around my tonsils or rather the space where my tonsils once lived. He enjoys doing this. The things that make a man happy. He has also turned into a kitchen tyrant manager, I am allowed a slot on Sundays for dinner and the occasional banana bread baking. And even then, he walks in to check whether I am using the proper ingredients. As the saying goes, a marriage is an economic relationship built on trust.  

Anyway, I made this risotto with the Brussel sprouts and it went down a treat.

And soundtrack. I taught the chorus line of this song to a gang of kids under the age of seven while driving them to Brittas Bay for a Sunday afternoon by the sea. I shiver when I think that back then we had neither seat belts nor kid's car seats in the back.

All that natter and telling of anecdotes is me cleverly disguising that I am truly deeply scared now. I know from past experience what well-known, middle-of-the-road infections, the ones with medication to treat, can do to my immune compromised body. Basically, always a hard time. So this covid bastard could top it all. 

05 January 2022

true or false

  1. The sars-cov-2 virus is an airborne pathogen.
  2. An infection with this virus is not just a respiratory but also a vascular disease that can attack other organs.
  3. The virus spreads well in indoor settings without proper ventilation (e.g. restaurants), but not when the indoor space is set on a sidewalk or in a street.
  4. In a queue, the virus weakens and dies if it must travel perpendicular to the direction of the queue and it hates right angles.
  5. The virus can only infect people when they are having fun. It spreads at parties and other social gatherings but not in schools or offices and never on public transport or in a taxi.
  6. The virus shies away from perspex, regardless of room size or the size of the perspex shield.
  7. The virus can kill. 
  8. It only infects people who don't wear masks.
  9. The virus causes poorly understood neurological changes and sometimes lingers for months.
  10. On airplanes the virus cannot infect people when they all simultaneously remove their masks to eat and drink when snacks are rolled out.
  11. In fact, the virus will neither enter nor leave your mouth when you eat because the food is blocking it.
  12. An infection with this virus can cause loss of taste.
  13. In classrooms the virus rarely infects any pupils because they are small people.  But when they are in the real world, it's a different story.
  14. Infection with this virus may also cause vomiting, diarrhea and nausea.
  15. The virus replicates in your lungs and airways, but is only exhaled through the mouth so your mask doesn't need to cover your nose.
  16. The virus is literate. If you print any sentence in the entrance of a place including the magic words "...all measures...safety...protocols", the virus understands it and avoids the place, no matter what you actually do.
  17. When someone famous or of high political standing says that they feel "quite safe"  in a particular setting or even at an office xmas party, the virus bows to this superior feeling and stops transmitting.  
  18. The virus cannot spread at political or sports events, but is highly contagious at small family gatherings.
  19. The virus stays well away from anti vaxxers.
  20. This is how you take a nasopharyngeal or nose swap to test for the virus.
Have fun. There is a box with 50+ test kits sitting in our hallway, we are old hats by now and test like there is no tomorrow.

02 January 2022

a book is a gift you can open again and again

I have read 58 books in 2021. I won't bother listing them all.

These are my top three.

Apeirogon by Colum McCann 

The story of Rami Elhanan and Bassam Aramin. They are friends, they are real, you can google them. Rami takes fifteen minutes to drive to the West Bank. Bassam needs one and a half hours for the same distance. Rami's number plate is yellow, Bassam's green. Both men are fathers of daughters. Rami's daughter was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber outside a Jerusalem bookstore in 1997 at the age of thirteen. Bassam's daughter died in 2007 at the age of ten by the bullet of an Israeli border policeman.
(An apeirogon is a two-dimensional geometric shape with an infinite number of sides.)

The book consists of 1001 short sections, about friendship, grief, love, war, peace. I have never read anything like it.

The Promise by Damon Galgut

Reminded me of James Joyce in the way a big story is told via the limited interior world of (just four) people. A book about oppression but mainly told from the double standard viewpoint of greedy oppressors, the point of view of racists, who of course cannot see themselves as racists, but as suffering creatures. 

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

Short novella, not a word out of place.  It defines Ireland’s complex past, a winter's tale of courage - and its cost, set in Catholic Ireland.