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.