26 December 2023

the apple grater

In this part of the world, the show started as always on Christmas Eve at 2 pm when the shops closed. Until Wednesday morning, 27th December, no real live consumerism.

There's the usual string of services (we abstained from) with various themes, for the children, the pets, the elderly,  the homeless and so on. Mixed in were recitals, Händel, Bach, lots of choir singing and a couple of nativity plays. Also without us in attendance.

We did our best. On Christmas Eve, I cleaned most of the kitchen cupboards and we argued discussed which useless gadgets we should get rid off. R made cauliflower cheese and we watched that apocalyptic movie with Julia Roberts. On Christmas Day, we cycled where possible along the flooded river, it was quite spectacular. The third flood in so many months. R cooked the goose and ate it, I stuck to a slice of toast with a ripe Spanish avocado as I was mainly still working on yesterday's cauliflower cheese. Then I finished cleaning the kitchen cupboards and found my father's glass Bircher apple grater, which was sitting in the box with my grandmother's wine glasses, the ones that took on a greenish tinge and according to R. contain uranium. They will have to go.


That apple grater has been in use in the household of my childhood. I vividly remember watching my father grating apples into our muesli while my mother was breastfeeding my baby brother.  

When I was finished with the cupboards, I washed the floors, listening to the Rolling Stones new album. In the evening, for lack of another apocalyptic movie, we settled for a Swedish thriller. 

Today, Boxing Day, 26th, I used the apple grater with my porridge and got sentimental.

In between there were zoom calls and old fashioned phone calls with family and friends and we shook hands with various neighbours the way you only do once every year.

In the afternoon, R checked on the river once more, still high, while my abdomen started its merry game of bloating and cramps and colicking and I resorted to the blessings of a heating pad and distraction aka reading the news.

This is what I found out.

The Kremlin is ruled by an autocratic gang led by Vladimir Putin, who has declared war on the entire West. Iranian-backed militias are attacking merchant ships in the Red Sea, Israel and Hamas are fighting a brutal war in the Gaza Strip and a conflict with the potential for world war is looming in the South China Sea. The drones and cruise missiles that are currently falling on Ukrainian cities could also hit Tallinn and Warsaw or Berlin, Hamburg and Frankfurt. An unlikely scenario? Two years ago, a major war in Ukraine still seemed unlikely.

On New Years Day, I'll clean the oven and the fridge.

22 December 2023

christmas tale addendum

Thank you so very much for your comments, all very much appreciated.

Some points you raised:

To sue or not to sue. That was a difficult issue for me. The reason for suing would have been the fact that the actual surgery that was performed was not what I had agreed upon and for which I had signed the requested legal document. When I finally received the photocopies of my medical file - months later - that document was missing. I could have started my claim there. But as the lawyer explained, the document may have been changed, lost, misplaced, whatever, and still, I would need witnesses to prove what I had signed just as much as the hospital could dispute that. The same for the fact that hysterectomy was never mentioned to me, not even as a possible risk in case of an emergency during surgery, which again the hospital could dispute. Here, hospitals have watertight insurance cover and legal representation. It is extremely rare for patients to win any case and if so, usually only malpractice ones, like botched surgeries or wrong medication. I did not even have access to legal aid and although friends and family offered financial assistance, it was explained to me that a case like this could take many years and if I lose, it could bankrupt us all. Also, having to reiterate the whole story several times and answering a million questions, possibly mostly to and from men, was/is a harrowing prospect. And the best possible outcome? Maybe money, a sense of revenge, a dent in someone's career. This may look amazing in a Hollywood court room drama with Julia Roberts. I did not want to have this fight in my life. I am not that kind of person and I am glad I am not. 

There were two men involved, the head of the gynaecology department at that hospital and the gynaecologist who referred me to him. The department head was an eminent authority, a demigod of gynaecology.  He was a champion of natural birth, non- and minimal invasive gynaecological surgery methods, author of many books and articles. When he died in 2017, the national media was full of eulogies, midwives, doulas, women's groups, all praised his work. I was so convinced that I was going to the right place. I never met him, only doctors of his team and the gynaecologist, who referred me to him, used to work in his team.

By chance, many years later, I met a scrub nurse who worked in his team. When I told her a bit about my case, she nodded and said, yes, it figures, he's an asshole. 

Another aspect is that during specialist training in gynaecology, junior doctors have to perform a certain number of hysterectomies. Thirty years ago, this was at least 20 hysterectomies per year. I don't want to suggest anything that hasn't been suggested before. But you may be able to put two and two together here. I don't think I was mixed up with another patient. In the early 1990s, unlike today, a woman in her mid/late thirties who wanted to get pregnant was advised about age and health risks. As it happened, I was told that another pregnancy may result in a C section and/or eventual hysterectomy after the birth. So someone may have felt the call to speed up the process for me. I still think that.

As for the autoimmune diagnosis and a possible connection, no. That diagnosis was actually quite obvious. I had a clean bill of health in January, cut my foot in March, infected wound turned into sepsis, lots of penicillin April/May, elevated liver values by July, was diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis by the following January. 

Therapy, yes, I've seen two therapists. Basically, the outcome, this is something I needed to learn to live with, not to fight. And yes, if I must have abdominal surgery, I will have every fart in writing, signed copies, the works. I will interview every person involved until I know their children's names and date of birth. I know my stuff now.

As for trusting the medical professionals who look after me? Yes and no. Some have been wonderful and I stick to them but there's always that arrogant odd bastard once in a while. I am fortunate that due to my work - which I started some years after this experience - my clients are mostly excellent medical researchers and experts, many have become friends over the years and often help me understand new aspects of my own medical history.

But the forgiving myself part? Maybe one day. Not yet. Maybe never.

And so to this xmas, here is some xmas-sy kind of music, recorded in the city where J.S. Bach lived and worked.

18 December 2023

a christmas tale

I have never written about what I am going to remember here and I have only ever told this story to one man, my husband. But over the years, I have told it to several women, friends, doctors and even to strange women in those special moments of sudden intimacy, when we can exchange true stories and know why. An empty waiting room, an endless train journey, outside the cinema after a film that has awakened memories. 

In a roundabout way, this post also explains why I blog in English, at least it does that to me. But more about this another time.

To begin, a warning, this is long and it deals mainly with issues of gynaecology.

Thirty years ago, in the weeks before Christmas, something was done to me. I can't find any other words to describe it. Something was done to me while I was having surgery under general anaesthetic for the first time in my life. It was not a botched job on the operating table. I was 36 years old and after lengthy examinations, discussions and even a second opinion I was promised minor surgery to reposition my uterus.

We had postponed any attempt to get pregnant for a second time long before. Miscarriages are painful, physically and mentally, and the ones I had experienced had been exhausting. While I had no problem getting pregnant, I could no longer carry a foetus to term and I wanted to know why. My first pregnancy was easy but our daughter was born suddenly eight weeks before her due date. So when we moved to Germany in the early 1990s and finally had reliable and affordable health care, I found out what the problem was and that there was a way to remedy it. It wasn't necessarily our plan to have a second child, but the idea that it might still be possible and that my other nagging abdominal problems would disappear at the same time was a relief. We were even a little excited and thought that something good was coming, for me, for us, maybe even for us as a family.

About ten years later, I came across the term PTSD for the first time. I had been commissioned to translate a review paper for a scientific journal, comparing research data on the effects of war trauma. It made me think of my mother a lot, but there was also this list of typical symptoms that are part of the diagnosis of PTSD: nightmares/recurrent dreams, flashbacks caused by triggers such as smell, taste or touch, and feelings of guilt. I remember that I reassured myself over and over that I certainly never experienced any war trauma.

When R dropped me at the hospital that December thirty years ago, we found everything very impressive. It was one of the university's teaching hospitals and lots of young doctors in white coats were scurrying through the corridors. In the afternoon, when all procedures had been explained, all papers signed, I was allowed to go for a walk in the park, it was starting to snow. The night nurse helped me get into the surgery outfit and around midnight, gave me a sedative. Routine, she said, so that you can sleep well and not be nervous in the morning. My surgery was scheduled for 6:30 a.m. I was the first one that day.

I've had this dream for thirty years, sometimes several times a week, sometimes not for months. It's not really a nightmare in the strictest sense. I am in a tiled basement room, lying on a hospital bed. I can see a payphone on the opposite wall and I know I have to get up and phone R, he needs to come and get me out of here. But I'm so tired and somehow tied to the bed, I can't get up. When I try to call for help, I have no voice. Sometimes in the dream, there are lots of other people on beds in the room, sometimes I'm alone.

When I woke up and for the first 24 hours after surgery, I kept vomiting, which I was told was a typical reaction to a specific anaesthetic gas. On the second day after surgery, the young trainee nurse who had brought me the medication for the day came back and apologised because she had accidentally added this hormone tablet. But you don't need that any more, she said with a laugh, no more monthly periods, that's actually great, isn't it?

The ward doctor, who eventually responded to my incessant pressing of the alarm button, read to me from my patient file: successful hysterectomy.

I still remember this: we were five women in that room, with various gynaecological diagnoses, cancer, miscarriage, pregnancy complications and me. It was the week of the Rhine flood, the great Christmas flood, the flood of the century, and at night we were lying in our beds watching live on TV as the historic center of Cologne flooded and people tried to get into the cordoned-off alleyways at the last minute to move their cars. I remember my friend Y furiously kicking the ward doors when she heard. When I was asked if I wanted to contribute a nice song or a favourite poem to the upcoming Christmas party,  I walked into the doctor's office, pulling the iv stand behind me and told her to remove all the tubes, while R packed my bag. I had to sign something I didn't even read, nobody said goodbye to me. In the car I leaned against the window and looked down onto the floodplains below the motorway bridge, water everywhere. The next day was Christmas day. We told R's father on the phone, he started to cry.

I find the smell of latex gloves hard to bear, the colour of the red rubber tubing used on ventilators in the 1990s makes me nauseous, only briefly but so severely that I have to leave quickly, and if I touch a balloon or a rubber band I get a splitting headache. Sometimes I think, maybe it's always been like this, you just didn't realise it, don't make an issue of it. But I think I know when it started.

In the months that followed, I functioned surprisingly well, the operation was a complete success, I was told.  My gynaecologist was delighted with how neat everything was healing and what an excellent outcome, really, for me as a woman because after all, only the uterus was gone, everything else still there, he said triumphantly.

Then I got sick, small things at first, herpes blisters, bursitis, UTIs, conjunctivitis. One after the other. Then pneumonia. No end to it.

At some point during those feverish months, I wrote a letter to my gynaecologist, the hospital, the head doctor whose team had operated on me and the ward doctor. I kept a copy of this letter for a long time. It wasn't until this summer that I finally tore it up, because every time I read it, it felt more foolish, much too emotional. My gynaecologist replied immediately banning me from his practice. The hospital sent me my an incomplete version of my patient file only after I had transferred an excessive amount of money for copying and postage. I don't remember when I threw all of that in the bin. I never received a reply from the doctors at the hospital.

To this day, there are times when I am convinced in my heart of hearts that I brought this all on myself, that I knew or should have known what was going to happen, that I was simply too lazy to get out of that bed and walk away. That I was fed up with painful periods and that perhaps deep down I didn't want to have a second child anyway. That I am just making all this crap up because I want attention. And that I certainly never had any traumatic experience but would have liked to have had one because, oh, the melodrama. Stop acting like a helpless ninny, says a voice in my head, it wasn't anything really. Other people experience real trauma. Not you. The voice sounds like my mother's.

I don't remember how or when, but one day I was sitting in front of a doctor I didn't know. I had yet another UTI and needed a sick note for work while our family doctor was on holiday. She asked me the usual one or two questions and somehow I started talking. I know I was very calm, determined to tell all this once and for all and then never again. She stood up, walked round the desk, took my hands in hers and held them for a while. Without asking, she called a lawyer and made an appointment for me, then she called her friend, an older gynaecologist, and made another appointment for me.

The lawyer didn't give me any hope, but the older gynaecologist was my doctor for many years afterwards, and now I'm seeing her successor. 

All that was a long time ago. It has become a chapter in the long story of my life, our lives. A lot has happened since then that made and continues to make me, us, happy and content. I also make sure whenever possible that any doctor I need to consult is a woman.

Some years ago during a routine ultrasound check-up, I was shown how my colon had begun to shift into the space where so many years ago my body had grown a baby and two months ago, I was told that in its new place, this bit of the colon has developed a twist that may need to be treated surgically. I was told that the eventual surgery was easy and that there was no reason to believe I would not recover rapidly.

Since then, I've been dreaming this dream more often. It does not surprise me. I am not afraid of surgery, but I am still not able to forgive myself for not getting off that bed and run from that basement room.


16 December 2023

This is the shape of things to date.

There is a new rash of sores inside my mouth due to the immune suppressing medication, something I have experienced on and off for years. I am used to it, my tongue counts the spots.

We haven't seen much real sunshine for weeks and all the trees and hedges are now bare but early this morning, before 5 am, I heard birdsong. Not a dawn chorus yet, more like a conversation between two or three birds. I was too sleepy to use the app on the phone that identifies bird song.

Most of the days, I am bloated and carry my swollen abdomen almost like a pregnant belly. At times, the corresponding pain can feel like labour, lasting hours. After so many months of this, I am used to it and ride it out. I carefully time my food intake, cut out almost all food groups that seem to have a negative effect, but it really makes no difference and so I wait for the final diagnostic step, scheduled in four weeks, to confirm what will most likely result in surgery. I like to think that I am at ease with this, see it as a problem that has a solution, but who am I kidding. 

A while back, I told R that I will not cook any more dinners or lunches until this has been sorted. I have little appetite anyway, breakfast is the best meal, but even the lightest of lunches can make it all go downhill. Thankfully, I am happy with porridge and semolina gruel and rusks dipped in tea and such like. The Irish travel writer Dervla Murphy lived all her live on one meal a day - breakfast - and a few beers in the evening. I'm not doing the beer thing but other than that, I am functioning surprisingly well. I decided a while back that having a bloated colicky abdomen will not stop me from walking and cycling and shopping, cleaning the bathroom and doing the laundry and so on. It's somewhat restricting social involvement but I am still confident that things can only get better.

I am still waiting on my pension. Whoever said that German bureaucracy was reliable and that Germans are always on time. Could we meet?

This evening, we wanted to join the good neighbours of this suburb by standing around an open fire, singing seasonal songs and sharing a hot beverage afterwards. Instead I hung onto a door frame breathing into my abdomen as if I was in the later stages of childbirth while R rubbed my back. Eventually, things started to shift and I got a good cup of tea. Then we watched cooking shows on social media. The best is this guy here, karadenizli.maceraci, which translates to Black Sea Adventurer. In my opinion, the best cook around, simply for effects, not that I would or could eat most of his food right now. 

08 December 2023

a day that went sideways

Two weeks to midwinter. Reasons to be cheerful. Other than that, it has been overcast for ever it seems. Today, I got up with great determination and housework intentions, nothing too fast or dramatic, I am retired after all. But in the end, we left after breakfast to bring all assembled sleeping bags and iso mats and the camping gear found in this house to the help-for-the-homeless center. I felt like a piece of shit, with my superwarm coat and my thermo gloves and insulated boots, handing over stuff so others may get a tiny bit less cold when sleeping on the streets. Now, according to official news and the social worker friend we have, nobody has to sleep on the streets in this city but many do not wish to sleep in the emergency housing, various hostels etc. for so-called private reasons. I don't handle these scenarios well or even wisely. I just wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. 

We then called into a furniture store and purchased a new red sofa. This is how capitalism works. The sales guy was very nice and keen and we did not ask him where he was from because what does it matter that his German wasn't quite there yet and also, asking the "where are you from" question is racism, I have been told. His jacket was the most gorgeous soft tweed and after the sale was done, I asked if I could touch it and he laughed and said, oui madame. (So my guess is Northern Africa, not said I asked for that reason.)

And now we are looking for a good home for my great grandfather's sofa, which looks a bit like this here 


but somewhere along the line, my grandmother chopped off the legs, removed the back and remodeled most of it. About 20 years ago, I redid the covers - same colour, velvet - and replaced the springs in the seat with hard foam. So nothing like this after all. I have loved this piece of furniture for as long as I can remember despite the fact that it is too low and angular to sit on it comfortably. Everybody in my extended family always disliked it, mainly because my grandmother chopped a potentially valuable antique to bits. That was her way of doing things. When my grandfather died (I was five years old at the time), she reportedly attempted to give away his supposedly most valuable stamp collection by handing out one stamp each to various friends and acquaintances after the funeral. 

My father used to smile and shake his head whenever he came to our house but I thought that secretly, he was happy that I had room for this sofa. But now, my father is dead and a few days ago, I said to R, let's get rid of this thing and here we are.

As it turns out, we do have a picture of the sofa, look here:


Next, we stopped at the art museum bistro for lunch which was awful (mine) and good (R's) and when we got home, my intestines were starting their usual cramp colicky routine and R straight away steered me out of the door for a long walk of distraction before the sun set just after 4 pm. I try not to think too much about the upcoming diagnostic to confirm the gastro expert's suspicion of damage resulting from something that was done to me 30 years ago. Walking helps. We looked into the windows of the grand houses further south, their impressive overpowering but ever so stylish xmas decorations and returned with relief to our under decorated small homestead. 

In good news, I have watched all episodes of three seasons of  Reservation Dogs and have found it be moving and funny and goofy but also heartfelt, honest, emotional and educational (to us here).

I was also introduced to the work of Ukrainian photographer Zoya Shu and in the past days, have spent a long time looking and discovering human life and love and pain in her work. Have a look here.

And now I am sitting here with a cup of tea and a heating pad on my abdomen and R is coughing a bit next door and in two weeks time, we will celebrate the winter solstice.

06 December 2023


We were going to be different parents. Or so we thought. It started when we got married in a London register office when I was already pregnant, the briefest of ceremonial stuff, no party, no family. The baby was not to be baptised (although someone did that behind our backs when she was 10 years old, different story) and definitely no stupid Santa or Easter bunny rubbish, no lies, ever, all questions answered truthfully and so on, we lived in a commune.

Of course, grandparents intervened. Generously, yes, with a twinkle and lots of fun. But in due course, we were left with a toddler who was firmly convinced that Santa existed and that letters had to be written etc. etc. One year, her one and only wish was to be awake at night when - as she was convinced - all her toys become alive. She only asked for it to happen once and specified that she did not want anything else at all. Santa of course failed her. We were all quite upset and disappointed that year.

Then there was the moment when she stopped believing. In hindsight, it was worse than the entire crappy Santa story telling that went on before. I had just picked her up from school, together with a friend, Natalie (whose name to this day is only angrily hissed in this household), and both were sitting in the back of the car talking while I drove. Natalie (hiss) had an older sister and was somewhat more advanced in worldly things. And there she was, telling my daughter, do you know Santa doesn't exist, it's just made up stuff by the adults. I looked into the rearview mirror and saw the shocked expression on my daughter's face. She almost cried but recovered just in time to respond, with a firm voice, so what, I've known that for ages anyway. 

Later that evening when Natalie (another hiss), was collected by her parents, my child turned to me and said, she's an awful liar, that Natalie, isn't she. She always makes up stories about everything. 

And then she cried a bit and we had one of these decisive parenting moments we still talk about to this day.

03 December 2023

key moments in human evolution

The cold is fierce, barely above freezing for a few hours before sunset. The winds are even fiercer, turning from north to west and back to north again. Most of the country appears to be inundated with snow except of course for our stretch of the Rhine valley. As usual. Like the fools we are, we go for long walks hoping for the wind to turn in our favour as we head out. It rarely obliges. Back home, I rub my white numb fingers to get the blood back into circulation. There's mention self heating battery powered gloves but it's only a few short weeks - I hope - and not worth the purchase.

My daughter sent me this late in the night:

It's from Eve, how the female body drove 200 million years of human evolution by Cat Bohannon.

Also, it is the time of year when the mind wonders about another key moment of human evolution. To be living in a world where society thinks it is a good idea that it is economically possible to make a substance, which nature has taken an eternity to produce and of which we have only a very limited amount available, explode it under controlled conditions with great noise in a fraction of a second to drive an engine that whirls leaves and small animals around, turning the valuable, limited available raw material into mostly particulate matter so that our driveways look neat. This morning there was a lovely bit about the different types of dead leaves on the radio. Just five minutes long. I enjoyed the bit about the beech leaves dropping in one go as if called to give up all hope and abandon ship. For more click here (5 m in long).

26 November 2023

November almost over

Aging is another word for living, so it has been said and wise words etc. but somedays the living is bloody hard. I say this from my comfortable home with great privilege, of course. After a 24hr colic attack and nausea, which felt like labour without the breaks between contractions. Anyway, it's over for now.

We are in the dark grey rainy, sleetish, dull November phase of the year.  Feeding peanuts to the jays from the kitchen window every morning is the highlight of our day. After that, we withdraw into our grumpy selves. I cleared out some of the paper files that crowd my desk. How exciting. Last week, the pension people called to tell me that my pension has been finalised and that the statement is "in the post". I forgot to ask what they actually mean by "in the post" and whether this means I will actually find out - if anything - how much I'll get and most importantly, when? But everybody was extremely polite.

I've been thinking about this here for a while. My early childhood was pretty wild, I ran after my sister with a gang of kids around the neighbourhood. We were in and out of each other's houses and gardens, building dens in the forest and climbing trees on good weather days, playing in basements and garages and barns when it rained. School interfered to some extent, also the piano and sports stuff my mother insisted on, but nobody really cared where we went in our free time as long as we were back for dinner.

When I think back to my daughter's earlier years, living with others involved also other kids that were around all the time, big messy gardens and trees to climb, later in paradise, life was always outdoors, many children every day, lots of paddling, swimming, snorkeling, catching fish in the estuary, collecting breadfruit and making charcoal from coconut husks. Years later, when we already lived in this city, a visiting friend from Denmark looked out over the endless rows of cars parking along the footpaths and asked quite perplexed, where do the children walk and play. Later that year, we visited her in Copenhagen in her small suburb where the cars must be parked way outside the living areas and the streets were full of children playing safely.

Modern loneliness masks itself as hyper connectivity. And so people have easily 1000 virtual friends, but no one they can ask to feed their cat. That loneliness, which is really a depletion of the social capital, is extremely powerful. […]

One question I keep asking that I had no idea was going to be so pertinent: When you grew up, did you play freely on the street? … And the majority of the people learned to play freely on the street. They learned social negotiation. They learned unscripted, un-choreographed, unmonitored interaction with people. They fought, they made rules, they made peace, they made friends, they broke up, they made friends again. They developed social muscles. And the majority of these very same people’s children do not play freely on the street. And I think that an adult needs to play freely on the street as well.

For us as adults, that means talking to people in the queue with you, talking to people on the subway, talking to people when you create any kind of group. Book club, movie club, sports club. You stay in the practice of experimentation, doubt, of the paradox of people: You need people very much but the very people that you need are the ones that can reject you.

We do not have the practice at the moment. Everything about predictive technologies is basically giving us a form of assisted living. You get it all served in uncomplicated, lack of friction, no obstacles and you no longer know how to deal with people. Because people are complex systems. Relationships, friendships are complex systems. They often demand that they hold two sides of an equation. And not that you solve little problems with technical solutions. And that is intrinsic to modern loneliness.

  Esther Perel

20 November 2023

limited energy levels

The river has flooded all the pathways along its shore and now I am bereft because it means I have to use the hideous street lanes and back roads for cycling and walking. For the time being. We walked as far as possible yesterday watching the driftwood flowing past and by the time we turned back, the water was lapping across the path.  I had this sudden image of the ground being washed away, which is not something that could happen any time soon. Still more rain to come.

The sun sets before 5 pm now, six more weeks to midwinter. 

A few things that have come my way.

Amazing cats:


A short film:



 An interesting quote:

I think the world is pretty awesome right now – not in a good sense. I mean awe in the sense of just being awestruck by the weight of our historical moment. We really are alive on the knife’s edge of whether or not this earth is going to be habitable for our species. That is not something that we can handle just on our own.

So we need to reach towards each other. That’s really tricky work. It’s a lot easier to come together and agree on things that are not working and things that are bad than it is to come together and develop a horizon of how things could be better.

That’s the only thing that’s gonna let us get out of the mirror world and the reactivity of dumping everything that we can’t stand about ourselves on to other people.

Things could be beautiful, things could be livable. There could be a world where everyone belongs. But I don’t think we can bear the reality of our moment unless we can imagine something else.

Naomi Klein

 And an amazingly skilled and sharp short story to listen to: 

So late in the day, by Claire Keegan 

15 November 2023

Two weeks into retirement, I am back at work, albeit only for two mornings from home (i.e. less pay, two week notice period). It's a bit of an in-between feeling. I am collecting ideas, read through a couple of requests for volunteering (they have been coming for weeks). The spectre of yet another surgery is looming on the far horizon but first more tests which are scheduled for January and February. This means I cannot really commit myself to anything new. So I go for long walks, cycle along the river, watch R dig up the roots from the almond tree that had to be removed and just wait. Made the mistake to look up the surgery procedures and was sent back into my own personal trauma from many years back. 

Which I have pondered during my walks in the autumnal forest, telling myself the whole story again and again. And one of these days, I will need to write it down.

Here we have a glorious young beech tree, aglow in the midday sun, now that the tall trees, having already shed their leaves, allow the sunlight through. 

The Roman historian Tacitus, in the years around 120 AD wrote a lengthy treatise (Germania, which every poor suffering middle school pupil who for regretful reasons opted for Latin as foreign language requirement had to translate) on the German peoples - yes plural, there were many different tribes around at the time- , their characteristics, customs, lifestyle and so on. He wrote at length how these strange blue-eyed, fair-haired tribal warriors saw forests as their sanctuaries, places of worship and home. A lot has been made of this over the years, poems were written, songs composed, lots of glorification and so on. All good, lots of kitsch, yes, but the romantic forest longing is something I would describe as truly German.

But here it is. The nazis knew a thing or two about symbolism and the power of terminology. The German name for beech is Buche and it is one of the most common trees in Germany. They are beautiful, sturdy trees and most people will recognise them. A forest of beech trees is a Buchenwald. But there is only one Buchenwald now and it is not a forest. It was one of the largest concentration camps on German soil. The German name for birch tree is Birke, another much loved tree in Germany. The German word for a meadow surrounded by birch trees is Birkenau, also known as Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest German extermination camp. At least one million Jews were killed there.

Walking through a German forest is a history lesson whether I like it or not. 

Last Friday, as we have done irregularly in previous years, we attended the Kristallnacht memorial ceremony. Usually, this is a short ceremony by the river near the remains of the original synagogue, now a monument, but this time, it was held inside the opera house with a large police presence, security cameras and all bags were checked, long queues, many people.

A former colleague and active member of the local synagogue walked up to me. I was lost for words but it turned out they wanted someone to listen, so I did. This is what they asked me and I paraphrase.

What do you think happens after a ceasefire in Gaza? That is assuming that Hamas actually agrees to one. Hamas has publicly stated that its strategic goal is to continue the war until all Jews are annihilated. So, who will sit down and talk to them? How?

People who live comfortable lives come up with irresponsible political agitation, loaded with huge moral pathos. Who would not be against the bombing of cities? No sensible person, of course. But if you ask about context and consequences, silence. Did people march in the streets of the West demanding ceasefire when Putin attacked Ukraine? When over 190,000 Ukrainian children (still counting) were abducted by Russian forces? 

That is why it is negligent, cheap and dishonest to simply put forward abstract demands (often in the guise of left-wing radicalism or Christian loyalty to principles or similar) instead of embedding them in a coherent political strategy and then thinking it through to the end.

I wish I was Irish or Danish or of any other nationality that would allow me to simply express sympathy.

02 November 2023

All Souls

Today is All Souls Day in Germany. Yesterday was All Saints Day. When I was a kid, both days were public holidays meaning that everything except for churches and cemeteries was shut, TV/radio had only very somber programs and the weather would always be dismal. Two excruciatingly boring and seemingly endless days. Now, only All Saints is a public holiday based on some agreement between the two main churches and the catholics have won. Maybe catholic saints somehow overrule protestant souls. Today, there will be candles lit on graves, basically fat tealights in red holders, and it will look a little spooky after dark walking there. I often walk through the local cemeteries and must take some pictures one day, German cemeteries are basically parks, lots of tall trees etc. and nobody adheres to the no dogs, no cycling rules.

Hallowe'en isn't really a thing here (yet). The pubs and clubs have special drinks or theme nights, but the whole decorating and dressing up, no. I saw one group of teenagers walking down the road but they were not interested in trick or treating, they were heading for a place to hang out and take legal/illegal drugs.

When I was living in Ireland in the early 1980s, Hallowe'en was still Samhain, lots of mythology and bonfires and stuff I did not understand. Especially Barm Brack, or bairín breac, a round soft yeasty fruit bread with a ring hidden inside. And yes, the ring miraculously landed on my plate one day and all of R's family started to whoop and clap. The first crazy Hallowe'en parties with dressing up were becoming  fashionable and one year, we both dressed up as Rubik cubes, very uncomfortable as I remember.

Here the big day, again thanks to the catholics, is the feast of St. Martin, a Roman soldier born around the year 316 AD. According to legend, on the 12th of November, he rode past a starving and freezing beggar. He felt so sorry for the man that he split his warm coat with his sword and gave the beggar one half. During the night, the beggar appeared to Martin in a dream and revealed himself to be Jesus Christ apparently. This is celebrated by the primary schools and kindergartens with lantern parades, hundreds of kids walking behind a person dressed like a Roman soldier sitting on a real horse. The kids carry their home made lanterns and sing special songs. This culminates in a bonfire on a local field and after that, the kids walk from door to door, hold up their lanterns and sing songs and in return get sweets. The best part for most kids is the big fire truck that comes last at the end of the parade in case one or more of the lanterns go up in flames. Also, the horse. The Roman soldier gets mistaken for Santa by some but never mind.

It can be a parent's nightmare, especially the lantern part. These are made in school and I learned the hard way that the required wooden lantern holders sell out rapidly and that teachers have no mercy. My penance is that I now always have a large bucket of sweets waiting for very few kids who make it to our door and we then have to eat the sweets ourselves.

All Souls day is meant to be the day you get your act together regarding death, according to some members of my family, the how and where you want to be buried, what kind of funeral incl. your list of music and readings. I've written my list, a very short one, as I assume that I will not be around on the day, asking for no grave, no funeral (whatever is the cheapest option, I wrote) but if there's time and place, a party. If the religious members of my family should insist on a church funeral (my brother is married to a very lively and persuasive Lutheran pastor), go ahead, I wrote, but only if all of you sing  John Lennon's Imagine.

My mother opted out of it, donated her body to science. We have no idea what happened to it, there is no grave. My father is buried with his parents, for many years he had the letters ready for the shared gravestone incl. numbers and when he lived beyond 1999, got a bit mad at the fact that his set needed more 2s and what to do with all the 9s.

30 October 2023

Anger is a bitter lock. But you can turn it.

Anne Carson

Who knows what will happen now, where the violence will spread and increase, what will happen to those who have been displaced, how the humanitarian situation in Gaza will continue to deteriorate, how much civilian life will be damaged and destroyed. But it will not work without recognising the Jewish experience of defencelessness - and the historical causes of it.  Especially when you were born and raised in Germany, where the Holocaust is our never ending stain.

Five things happened on 7 October. 

First, the Islamist terrorist organisation Hamas murdered 1400 people, the vast majority of them civilians, with a brutality that one does not even have to imagine. The murderers filmed themselves doing it, posted their deeds on the internet, leaving no doubt that the children they were torturing to death, the old and the weak, were not collateral damage of a military manoeuvre, but that there was no other goal to achieve than to murder as many civilians as possible as cruelly as possible. 

Second, Hamas sealed the suffering and death of countless Palestinians, because even if Israel were just an average country with average security needs, there is simply no country in the world that would not react massively after such a brutal massacre. None of what happens in the following weeks, no suffering, no hardship, not a single dead Palestinian child, was not clear to Hamas beforehand. Even if you condemn every act of Israel, even especially if you condemn every act of Israel, you cannot claim that Hamas did not know what they were doing, that they did not willingly sacrifice their proteges if it only meant murdering as many Jews as possible (Jews, not Israelis, because that is the word they use).

Third, Israelis and Jews around the world lost their basic insurance on 7 October. The conviction that a history of pogroms spanning more than a thousand years had finally come to an end with the founding of this state 75 years ago. The knowledge that - unlike generations before - you have a place that protects you when everyone else no longer does. As Hamas announces a "Day of Rage" and calls for violence against Jews worldwide, we hide in our homes and are closer to our ancestors than ever before. For the first time we understand why they did not leave then. Not because they did not recognise the danger, but because they did not know where they could be safe.

Fourth, the problem, by the way, is not that Jews are afraid - some are, some are not, people, including Jewish people, are different - but that they are in danger. Fear is a subjective feeling that should often not be taken into account. When synagogues are attacked, female rabbis stabbed and airports stormed, it is an objective threat situation.

Fifth, left-wing Jews all over the world realised on 7 October that they had made a colossal mistake. It is not always easy to condemn atrocities because those who commit them usually try to hide them. But it's really not hard to condemn people who broadcast live on social media how they torture and murder civilians. It's really not hard to condemn people who murder not as collateral damage of a military manoeuvre, but for the sheer pleasure of it.

In the days following 7 October, the international left could have demonstrated quite naturally that they are as interested in protecting Jews as in protecting any other minority under threat. Remember: 0.2 per cent of the world's population are Jews. They could have, just for a few hours, once clearly condemned Hamas.

They could have shown solidarity with Israel, just once, to prove that criticism of Israel feeds on a commitment to universal human rights and not on anti-Semitism. It could have assuaged the age-old Jewish fear that being murdered bothers a few and delights many.

Those who just shouted "Woman, Life, Freedom" should have consistently supplemented the "Free Palestine" with a "Free Palestine from Hamas". They could have helped - they preferred to escalate. They would rather make fun of dead Jews, they would rather heroise dead Palestinians than seriously try to save their lives.

Nele Pollatschek, born 1988, writer, author and lecturer (Germany)

read also: 

The Decolonization Narrative Is Dangerous and False
It does not accurately describe either the foundation of Israel or the tragedy of the Palestinians.
By Simon Sebag Montefiore

27 October 2023

There is always this one colleague. In the days last week during my good-byes from the work at the campus, I repeated that I never not enjoyed working.  I made it into a thing, said it in English to stress the concept of a double negative - which to non-English native speakers is seen as one of these peculiar, somewhat amusing aspects of the English language. This one colleague wasn't around, they were on a break.

The top boss wasn't around in person either because attending international conferences, back pain, giving talks, the usual, but he did a zoom call to thank me for my work. There is this work ritual that parting staff members get a gift and I had stressed weeks beforehand that I don't want anything, suggested a couple of NGOs for donations in my name. Well, he said, we cannot do this, you've been with us too long, let me come up with something, just a token, ok?  Decent enough of him, we left it at that. 

So this week I received an envelope in the mail from him with one of these stylish, not Hallmark-ish cards, with a long message, handwritten by him, about my work and how much he always appreciated it etc., ending with,  . . . enclosed is a little something, for you to use for whatever you wish, please do so and don't send it back.

Only there was nothing enclosed. The address on the enveloped was handwritten by this one colleague, back from their brake, and the envelope was re-sealed with sellotape. 

Speculations abound. Whatever did happen, it was a clever move.

22 October 2023


When my daughter was about 15, she had a problematic teacher, someone who would stand very close behind the female students, bending over their shoulders looking at their work, breathing down their necks, that kind of thing. Other parents, mothers had warned us, he's a piece of shit, they said. One day, my daughter told me that she had to stand up and keep standing until she figured out how to answer one of his questions, which she could not and thus remained standing during the entire lesson. I was enraged and told her to walk out of class and come to me if he ever did that again. And he did, my daughter appeared at my office the exact moment I got the call that she had left school unexcused. We went to see the head mistress the next day and to cut a longish story short, probably destroyed the man's career, because suddenly other parents started to complain until one day, he was gone.

When I was in primary school, aged seven, the local protestant priest, a jolly elderly man looking like Santa, was responsible for teaching us things like the ten commandments and catechism. There was a lot of rote learning and reciting involved and if you failed, he would call you to the front desk, make you lie across it on your belly, pull down your pants and hit you with a rubber stick he produced from his briefcase. He only did it to the boys. On Xmas, he visited the families in his parish and my mother always had a plate set for him. I remember his jolly laughter booming across our dining table.

Later, when I was maybe 14 or 15, we had a young teacher who was clearly challenged by us, this snotty, noisy, entitled gang of teenagers, and his method of getting our attention was to throw his set of keys at you. When one day he hit me across the forehead, I admit that I purposefully did not duck, I walked to the headmaster's office and complained. There was an inquiry, witnesses were interrogated, it took a while before any of the adults actually believed us and stopped blaming us for enticing his reaction on purpose, but he was eventually transferred. I did not feel any remorse.

This morning over breakfast, I asked R about his experiences as a pupil of this posh Irish catholic boy's school. Not for the first time, because whenever another report surfaces about sexual abuse in religious institutions in Ireland, I run to him so he can reiterate and reassure me that, no, he never experienced any of that. So today I asked him if he was ever afraid of any of his teachers and he said, in a matter of fact way, oh, all of them all the time. How many would use corporeal punishment I asked. Almost all of them, every day, he said. Usually a stick, a belt, across the hands. But the geology teacher didn't hit us, he was a nice man.

Later we danced to Bruce Springsteen in the kitchen.

20 October 2023

Today was my last day at work, I brought in 75 home baked cupcakes (lemon, marzipan, chocolate, apple cinnamon, banana, nutella flavoured), handed over my keys, wrote the necessary last messages, emptied my email account, deleted tons of files incl. all waste folders from my work computer, hugged many people, picked up my mug and my bits and pieces, had a long conversation about working part time for the top boss for another six months (I'll wait and see what his offer looks like on paper) and went home in the rain.

Now it feels like everything is all over the place.  As soon as the rain stops, R will bring me for a long walk.


Night Bird

Hear me: sometimes thunder is just thunder.

The dog barking is only a dog. Leaves fall

from the trees because the days are getting shorter,

by which I mean not the days we have left,

but the actual length of time, given the tilt of earth

and distance from the sun. My nephew used to see

a therapist who mentioned that, at play,

he sank a toy ship and tried to save the captain.

Not, he said, that we want to read anything into that.

Who can read the world? Its paragraphs

of cloud and alphabets of dust. Just now

a night bird outside my window made a single,

plaintive cry that wafted up between the trees.

Not, I’m sure, that it was meant for me.


Danusha Laméris

15 October 2023

work work work

With the end of my working life approaching (the official end of the official one that is, in other words: I shall be paid a pension and must give up my official job at the university), I was thinking of writing about the various ways I have earned my living - barely or insufficiently incl. - in my life, but halfway through I realised that this would be a very long post, too long really.

But for the sake of record keeping, one never knows how long the mental capacities remain intact, here it goes in chronological order with short info on pay scale and work satisfaction:

  • German tuition, first ever money earned at age 16, I was suddenly rich enough to enjoy sex and drugs and rock and roll etc. but essentially a very boring couple of hours every week.
  • Dairy order processing office, the summer between school and uni, now rich enough to include travel in my life, sent 100 litres instead of 10 litres of full fat milk to a tiny shop on my first day.
  • Waitressing, on and off while at uni, who hasn't, not a good way to make money but excellent training in how to handle awkward social situations.
  • Language tuition, summer camp supervisor, general contact to teenage emigrants/refugees mostly from eastern Europe/Asia (families of German origin, a big thing during the 1980s), lots of work, lots of fun, lots of hard human experiences to cope with, too hard at times, good pay,
  • Milking goats, mucking out stables, chopping wood, making bread, yogurt, cooking with and for 12 people on a daily basis, communal living, excellent life skills, minimal to no pay, supposedly on sabbatical from uni.
  • Cleaning hospital wards while contemplating my university career, quite decent pay once I was promoted to assist the night nurses, supposedly (but not really) writing my master's thesis.
  • Manufacturing hard cardboard rolls, e.g. for use inside toilet paper rolls or as soap containers in a small factory in Dublin, one of the physically hardest things I ever did, lousy pay, amazing co-workers, passed out from glue exposure in the second week and quit. Ireland in the early 1980s, dark times economically.
  • Childcare, cooking and feeding, playing, school pick-ups etc. of wealthy family's children, holding hands of distraught mothers who wanted but could not get a divorce in catholic Ireland at the time, barely enough pay to survive.
  • Chair caning, after a crash course from a visiting American furniture restorer, irregular but excellent pay from the rich owners of the fancy manors of south Co. Dublin. Enjoyable working hours while listening to Irish radio, my English language skills improved beyond all expectations.
  • Co-founder, co-organiser of a workers co-op, cooking vegetarian meals, catering for everything from anti-apartheid, feminist, miners strike solidarity, AIDS hotline, you name it rallies. The night before the unexpected onset of the birth of my baby, we had made a massive vat of black bean chili with brown rice for a concert/party to raise funds for Greenham Common peace camp and we danced into the early hours. The money was almost non-existent. We were all in it together.
  • Having a premature baby, feeding, sleeping, feeding, sleeping, learning and so on. No pay, much love.
  • Setting up a "radical bookshop" (i.e. non-profit) at the workers co-op. Long hours, miserable pay, excellent contacts, meeting many international authors, organising readings, getting lots of rewarding recognition and feedback, always well-stocked supplies of children's books, my daughter's private library.
  • Selling expensive ceramics at a posh gallery, burn-out recovery, pay was tied to sales and could be amazing.
  • Implementing co-operation, administration and accounting frameworks in various semi-state small industries in a very small African country against a stiff wind of nepotism and corruption, wonderful co-workers, generally pleasant and memorable superiors, life skill expansions beyond all expectations, decent pay, still the best job I ever had.
  • Bookseller in a large Dublin bookshop, long hours incl. weekends, good pay for the times just before the onset of the Celtic Tiger years, a year that went in a blur with R's mother's rapid decline and death due to pancreatic cancer.
  • Selling whole foods in a German food co-op while going back to university for a translation degree, making new friends, new networks, new everything for the three of us.
  • Editing and translating for medical research projects at the local university, suddenly I am a civil servant, my job is protected even during long absences after I am diagnosed with a serious chronic illness, my pay is regulated by collective bargaining between state and trade unions, I have arrived in the world where my parents wanted me to be. I have never not enjoyed my work.

And now, we will see. 


12 October 2023

I used to think the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystems collapse and climate change. I thought that with 30 years of good science we could address those problems. But I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy… and to deal with those we need a spiritual and cultural transformation and we, (Lawyers) and scientists, don´t know how to do that.


Gus Speth

02 October 2023

back to routines

Monday, October 2nd. It is a hot day, despite the occasional cool breeze. I don't remember days like this in October and neither can anybody I have spoken to. Still, there could well be frost by the end of the week. 

All of the summer visitors have left and are by now safely tucked in at their respective homes. I am slowly realising that for some time now there will be no more large gatherings at the dinner table, no more cooks noisily creating gourmet meals in the kitchen, no more obstacle courses designed around the house and garden, no hide and seek hysterics or story reading before breakfast, changing of towels, filling the fridge, the dishwasher, the washing machine and that for now we two old geezers will have all that time to ourselves again. For what it's worth.  I am only slowly catching up on blogs. Bear with me.

The last load of towels and sheets is drying in the garden next to the brambly bit of the hedge where I pick blackberries every morning now.  

Early mornings start to feel somewhat autumn-ish, but barely so.

There are ten more working days before my official retirement. I go from, oh no only ten more bike rides through the forest, to, thank goodness only ten more climbs up that hill - and this in spite of the e-bike which I got reluctantly - thank you chronic illness - after cycling up there for 12 years, all sweaty achievement.

Today I had the prep day for a three day/two night hospital stay next week to check whether I did actually have an allergic reaction to the local anesthetics during the skin cancer surgery last November. I had to sign a document declaring that I am now fully informed about the risks and that while I will be supervised at all times, cardiac arrest could be one outcome - in which case I have agreed to immediate defibrillation procedures. I mean, who wouldn't. In fact, I was told that my attitude today was a tad too la-di-da. This by a junior doctor who reached maybe up to my shoulder, at a stretch, and please don't think I am putting her down, but I had to fight a smile while I apologised, almost said, sorry mum.

So, on we go into autumn and winter and all it will take is one wrong decision in the Kremlin and we could become refugees. We can only do what Anna did in Frozen - believe me, I have watched it several times by now and know my stuff about Anna and Elsa and Olaf  - which is, move forward step by step. Trust our intuition, follow our body's feelings, keep feeling, keep groping, take risks, keep thinking, always keep thinking, not with a view to miracle technology or technocratic solutions, but with a view solely to the good life for all on our planet.

If you are a pessimist, human history is a history of failure, a history of empires unable to respond to crises. If the glass is half full for you, you see an amazing resilience of humanity to disasters, whether natural or man-made. Probably the second perspective is the more rewarding.

Peter Frankopan

10 September 2023

things are not always what they seem

It is an important and popular fact that things are not always what they seem. For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much - the wheel, New York, wars, and so on - whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man - for precisely the same reasons.

Douglas Adams

Last night we went to the open-air rooftop cinema and watched Oppenheimer, all three-and-a-thousand hours of it. There are three female characters in it, none of them likeable, all strongly displaying the bad and sad characteristics of my mother. I shrugged them off. In my opinion, the film could have been done without them in it. Also, there was a slightly tedious lengthy section in the middle with guys getting in and out of jeeps, hammering and undoing big nails from/on wooden boxes, putting on googles and taking them off as the music reached more and more dramatic levels and then, boom, the explosion and a bit of an action movie momentum. Who could have seen that coming? Me, seriously. But those were the days, scientists, career politicians, the survival of the world depending on some of them being good guys while their women took to drink and went downhill. We cycled home through the dark talking about the war in Ukraine and options and the nuclear threat and that mad man in Russia meeting the other mad one from North Korea so that by the time we got home, we were exhausted, mentally and also physically because earlier that day I had been power cleaning the patio and R had been picking most of the grapes and it was very hot, much hotter than we think September should be.

Also last weekend, we went hill walking. Here.


The hills weren't very high but beautiful nevertheless. We had a specific route in mind but somehow got lost because R said he trusts me (i.e. the walking app on my phone) and while he pointed out the the sun was in the south and west is this way, I mixed up east and west the way I usually do - same with left and right, don't ask, I have been living with this all my life - and we ended up crawling down a steep pathless slope through dense forest to find a proper path. Or rather, I crawled while R skipped ahead like a young stag, bless him. I should mention that I started a fight there and then but he refused to participate as usual. It is so frustrating at times. I had my arguments ready in my mind but all he could say was, shh, hear this? Look up, a hawk! (and yes, there was one, yeah!). We stuck to the forest and when we got out of it, found a pub, well, we knew it was there, and inquired about the cottage even deeper in the forest which we had heard about and decided to rent sometime in maybe January or so, for more walking and dark evenings away from civilisation, and R is getting very excited already.

Anyway, I am really good at reading actual maps.

The next day I spent most of the afternoon on a call to the pension hotline listening to four different songs on repeat and some unusual recorded pep talk (We are giving it all we got!  You are almost there! Hold out! Whoah, we are getting ready to take your call soon!) and remained moderately cheerful and polite with my list of questions when I actually got a live human on the line who cheerfully and politely sorted all some of my concerns, incl. me being able to take time out sometime maybe January or so to do hill walking and spend dark evenings in a cottage in the forest away from civilisation.



02 September 2023

September, hello


what you cannot see is the tons of bees and their friends

It's been a long week, lots of walking and even more cycling as I've temporarily handed over my parking permit on campus to a new colleague with a toddler who needs to be dropped at the campus creche at a certain time so that she's on time herself. As I've only have another five or so weeks of actual work ahead of me before official retirement, I decided to cycle for the remaining days come rain or storm. It sounded great and worked out well during August but yesterday, we had flash floods and extremely heavy rain all day. But of course, I reassured R, I've got all the waterproof gear. Only it wasn't waterproof after the first couple of what?, minutes? Twice I arrived completely soaked which elicited some wonderful reactions from the people I was meeting incl. towels and fresh T-shirts.  


the shape of things to come


I've been asked by a friend of a friend to participate in a project of grandparents writing a letter to their grandchildren about personal mistakes, hard lessons learnt and (optimistic) visions for their future. I said yes without thinking this through. I know that I have been asked because of my involvement in housing co-ops and feminism but that seems to have happened in another lifetime.


one of many, shared with some bugs


At least, while I was cycling through torrential rain yesterday, I started on my list of personal mistakes, muttering angrily to myself against the heavy splattering of fat raindrops into my face.

The garden is slowly moving into autumn mood, although the next two weeks will be hot and there's hope for the grapes and red peaches. I just spent a mellow morning just sitting and reading and watching R doing stuff with hedge clippers and secateurs while the kids from next door were bouncing on the little trampoline singing the Hey Makarena song - only they insisted on Hey Margareta, but so what.  

these peaches will turn dark red when ripe


Back at my list of mistakes and lessons. It remains a great mystery to me how people can believe that our society is unable to adapt to less meat consumption, different energy production, less air travel or cities with bicycle lanes, but easily to a 3 degree Celsius hotter earth.

The one who pollutes the environment must not become richer than the one who protects the environment. At the moment it is the other way round. There are so many opportunities to improve things. I still hold that thought. But sod the housing co-ops, the reclaim the night marches, the pay gap campaigns, the long distractions from what really matters, the last and only issue that we must not pretend we cannot see or understand. I haven't even dared to think of visions yet.

The belief that success in the fight against global warming depends on how much each and every one of us does keeps us from taking the really important and courageous actions required today. Instead, it promotes a consumerism that functions like an indulgence handout in order to relieve our conscience and continue to close our eyes to the reality of the crisis. Capitalism pretends to care about the environment and we even fall for this greenwashing.

Kohei Saito

27 August 2023

So where was I?  My exciting life and so on.

My fancy bluetooth keyboard is probably shot or nearly and most of my week was spent re-reading and re-writing I had labourosly written for hours earlier. Shoddy workmanship, as my daughter would say. Another family phrase which has its origin here:

Now there is a lot to be said about the wisdom of an episode of Father Ted, any episode. And in case you haven't ever watched one, this one is as good as any to start. I do realise we all have to be aware of any triggering, un-woke remarks we may come across in old tv series, but I assume we are all adults, no?

Too much of my time this week was spent resting a hot water bottle on my bloated abdomen, cursing and trying to be stoic. To be honest, this has been going on and off for quite some time in one way or another, which is why I had been to the gastrologist about a hunderd times in recent months. Alas, all his tests have come back with nothing to date. I could have told him that I am neither lactose, nor fructose intolerant, nor celiac and if I remember correctly, I actually did tell him that but now he has it all tested and could tell me back in person that I am neither of these. My friendly GP got it even in writing but faced with my symptoms of which the ongoing weight loss is slowly reaching a somewhat alarming level, muttered something else as the cause but to be certain she wants me to, you guessed it, go back to the gastrologist for more tests. The funny thing is that this is what R was told when he asked dr. google about my symptoms weeks back but, oh boy, will I ever keep schtumm about that because experience has taught me that some experts like nothing less than a patient who has researched health stuff online. Even if it wasn't me.

Summer has reached that point in time when I actually look with a certain longing at my warm sweaters, imagining sitting on the sofa with a hot cup of tea looking out into the cold rainy night. Not there yet. 

Also, I have been gifted a fitbit and am now working up my steps at a fierce rate. Last night, we both reached 13,000 each meandering through the back lanes of the suburbs before we called it a day. By the time I retire, if I ever will, I may be ready to walk across the Alps or maybe to the northern end of Norway. When I not walking, I spent an inordinate amount of time checking and refining my settings on this device which also told me today that I slept 7 hr and 11 min last night, a reading I am willing to discuss as my memory tells me something quite different but hey, maybe fitbit knows something I don't.

Workwise, I spent a considerable amount of time transcribing and translating various talks and conferences. Often, this is all way over my head even if some of it is quite interesting, occasionally with little gems such as this one

Proof implies there is no room for error. Quite simply, that doesn’t exist in the real world. In science you don’t have proof. You just accumulate evidence towards something until new evidence comes along to make it implausible.

I also got into an argument with a local journalist at a small public meeting about climate change mitigation - the things one attends nowadays instead of poetry readings - when he complained about local activist causing traffic to come to a standstill and I loudly replied, no, not traffic, just car traffic. And he then retorted, streets are made for cars and I shouted back, and for cyclists and pedestrians and buses, and some people clapped and cheered and he turned to face me and when he saw that I was merely an old woman, winked at me, shrugged and sat down.






15 August 2023

Briefly, this happened in the last two weeks.

I got up very early every morning, starting with 4:30 am on day one and slowly moving to 7:30 as of yesterday due to a curious but seriously jet lagged grandchild - my welcome gift to the grandchild's parents. We discovered early morning bird call, picked berries or tomatoes, read books on the sofa until someone produced jam on toast (not toast with jam) for us.

An exhausting day was spent in a "theme" park with life size toys, hundreds, no thousands, of overstimulated children, lousy food options but extremely well organised merchandise sections. A masterclass in consumerism. Not sure who prospered most. The grandchild when asked insisted on the fact that R got his feet wet at the pirate pond as the most memorable event.

Hotel breakfast buffets were lovingly rearranged and as usual, the strict German staff mentality gave way to lots of ooh and aah once a four year old guest explained in English that they were searching for  blueberry pancake. 

We met all the relatives and some more.

It rained a lot, mostly at night. 

The ability to score high at memory games decreases with age. 

I got a throat infection with a funny voice. 

There is a mountain of sheets and towels in the laundry looking at me.

Also, about 50 library books are waiting to be returned.

Not a day went by without a moment of terror.

Now I am on a short hiatus before they all come back for more in a few weeks.


13 August 2023

You are not crazy, it’s the patriarchy You’re not a loser, it’s the capitalism You are not old, time’s not really a thing You’re not alone, I’m here You’re made of stars, that’s fucking cool
Ana Božičević 


10 August 2023

So now they buried Sinead O'Connor back in Ireland and the Irish media is slowing down the coverage and memories and special broadcasts. A colleague here in Germany asked, what's all that fuss, wasn't it just that one song she was fanous for anyway? And I am at a loss for words because Sinead was so much more, loved and hated, ridiculed by few, respected and accepted for all of her open admissions of mental health struggles and her complete lack of stardom attitudes. 

I am sharing this letter that was received and published by the UK Telegraph shortly after her death. It came to my attention through the fabulous blog/substack Letters of Note by Shaun Usher.


I was greatly saddened by the death of Sinéad O’Connor. She was a very different person behind her fame.

In 1991, my 20-year-old daughter, Louise, was suffering from terminal cancer, when she received a phone call from Sinéad out of the blue.

Sinéad had heard of Louise’s illness from some source, probably the press, as we were raising funds for our local hospice. My daughter was a great admirer of her and loved her music.

During this long call, Sinéad invited my daughter to travel to London to spend some time with her. Needless to say, Louise was thrilled.

A few days later, she met Louise at Euston station and, to cut a long story short, Louise had the best week of her short life. They dined, they drank, they danced – but most of all they laughed irreverently. Sinéad was at the height of her fame at this time and found it highly amusing that, when they were out, people were asking for Louise’s autograph. Louise returned home exhausted and happier than I had seen her since her devastating cancer diagnosis.

It didn’t stop there: this lovely, compassionate woman always stayed in touch. She sent Louise wine and flowers and letters right up until her death in 1992.

On Louise’s last visit to London, Sinéad gave my daughter her platinum disc for her song Nothing Compares 2 U and dedicated her Christmas record Silent Night to her.

During all this time, Sinéad never sought any publicity for these acts of love and compassion. Today my thoughts are with two remarkable women who, I have no doubt, will be somewhere still laughing, dancing and singing.

Philip Woolcock
Preston, Lancashire


Another story that was shared on Irish radio was from a group of drag artists who regularly received boxes of stage make-up supplies from a woman who gave her name as Magda. Only when one day one of the artists offered to pick up a box to save Martha the postage and arrived at her cottage in Wicklow, did they realise that Magda was a name Sinead had adopted as her own later in life.