20 April 2023


I am bored, the usual boredom that comes with recovery from vertigo. Not yet able to do normal stuff, not quite confident enough to cycle to the library or along the river or anywhere, not keen on walking, not working. I cleaned the bathroom in stages and did some laundry, almost fell into the big basket of dirty towels.

Lots of memories come up at the early hours or late hours, about our wandering years when we stayed with various hippie/non-hippie communes in Ireland and the UK, the bizarre and the wonderful, the diggers and dreamers, the radicals and the feminists, looking for and at times finding a home for a while. Memories of mucking out stables and making apple cider, planting poly tunnel greenhouses, travelling musicians organising wild barn dances into the early hours, magic mushrooms and baking bread, always baking bread. At one place where we lived for almost a year, we baked a dozen loaves early every morning in the Aga stove. It was either milking the goats or kneading the dough at sunrise. Every night, twelve empty bread tins sat waiting on the stove and the starter dough was fermenting in the larder. 

Later when we lived in Dublin, in a ramshackle Georgian terrace house with gashing holes in the floorboards - at one point, you could look right through into the basement from the top floor - I baked sourdough bread and sold it to a wholefood shop run by a guy who later attempted to sexually assault me. He pushed a whiskey bottle into my mouth so hard I fell onto the floor and in the surprise of the moment, him struggling to get his precious bottle, I managed to get out the door and run. 

I never baked any bread after that. R took over. We moved away from Dublin. None of this was due to the assault. 

In our new home, we had a baby, lived in a ramshackle Georgian mansion with a gashing hole in the floor of the one bathroom shared by mostly eight, sometimes more people. R baked six loaves, all that the oven could hold, every second day. The smell scent of freshly baked bread would bring whoever was home into the kitchen and one loaf would be cut, butter melting, honey dripping and eaten up on the spot.

The bathroom in that house was a narrow space on the first floor landing of the beautiful, imposing, massive staircase, separated by plaster boards with a tank and an immersion heater that used so much electricity it occasionally blew all the fuses. At the weekly housing meetings, we debated for ages  whether we should install a shower with an instant water heater and how to finance it and who and when can take how many showers and oh yes, housing meetings. I still get the shivers thinking of it. We did install the shower, our hair started to look good again.

Anyway, bread. I stopped baking because I had a baby and once the baby was weaned, I went to work. When my baby was beginning to speak, her name for me was "back soon".  She had a wonderful childhood in that ramshackle mansion with its walled garden and orchard and lots of shoulders and laps and arms for comfort. She has very little memory of these years.

One of the entries in my notebook-of-ideas-for-retirement is baking bread. I have already glued a clear plastic protective cover on our disheveled copy of the Tassajara Bread Book, I am ready.

16 April 2023

The man got a new lawn mower, solar powered no less. He is happy and the lawn, though shrinking as we allow the wild patches to take over more of and more of it, looks smart enough for a match of tennis. But not our sport and much too cold still.

My employer has started to make suggestions of me working on beyond retirement, which is somewhat flattering and confusing at the same time. Confusing because I have started the notebook of ideas and thoughts of what I want to do when the time comes. A real handwritten notebook no less. I have also already put myself of the waiting list for the book club, the one I have been told about again and again, and they already emailed me to get in touch. I am not good at negotiating and have missed so many opportunities to "sell" myself but maybe now is the time. I have said nothing so far.

The eleven fruit trees in the garden have flowered or are in the process of it and no frost, so keeping fingers crossed. Eleven fruit trees makes it sound like an orchard but the trees are kept smallish, most of them trellised along walls and fence. Three pears, two apples, three plum varieties, one apricot, two peach trees. Plus two almond and one walnut. And a chestnut, of the horse chestnut variety, producing gorgeous blossoms, shade and conkers.

The tulips are in abundance, the grape hyacinths were massive. The forget-me-nots are about to take over. 

So that's the garden.

The latest immunologist, there's a new one at every appointment now, is not happy with the weight loss. Too much, he says, in three months. I explain that I go through phases like that, no appetite, less food, simple. I catch up in the summer, I tell him. He orders more tests which come back fine.

Grief is a strange thing. After my mother's death, I danced with joy and relief. And now that my father has calmly and quietly died in his sleep, no struggle, no drugs, no pain, I expected nothing less. And then I wake in the dark early morning and my mind tells me: I miss him, I miss him, I miss him. I go back to sleep and wake again, go about my day, sort out funeral arrangements, the music and the pictures and the food, with my siblings. R even books a short get-away treat for afterwards. We share memories of my father, silly, awful, hurtful, funny stuff he said and did. We laugh a lot. My employer grants me two days extra leave. Since yesterday, I struggle with a bad case of vertigo, I am seasick, when I move my head, I fall backwards. I walk through the house like a drunk, holding onto the walls. I have exactly ten days to get better before I will have to meet maybe 200 people in a chapel by the graveyard.

I can sleep, but cannot eat.

04 April 2023

De mortuis nil nisi bonum - of the dead, say nothing but good


My father was born in 1929 as the third and last child of Max and Sophie in a busy Franconian town in Northern Bavaria. His schooldays were interrupted by the war but he eventually got his high school diploma shortly after the end of WWII. He often remembered his mother's birthday in May 1945 as a special moment in his life and saw this day as great gift and moment of happiness, because both his siblings arrived back, on foot, from the war on that day and the whole family could be together again, unharmed, drinking coffee in the garden.


His big brother awakened his love for soccer and of course both boys were active in the local soccer club from an early age. As an adult, as long as he could drive his car, he attended almost all the games of this, his favourite club. He generously supported the club’s youth section financially throughout his life.


As a schoolboy, he took care of his grandmother's chickens, and he successfully, so the rumor goes, grew tobacco and raised barn rabbits in his home garden. Certainly the desire to study agriculture stems from this time. His path therefore led him to Munich university, where he successfully completed his studies with a doctorate in agriculture.


As a student, he had the opportunity to spend an extended period on an agricultural internship in southern Sweden. This experience and the contrasts between Germany and a pragmatic, open democracy like Sweden in the early post-war years sparked his lifelong love for Scandinavia.


After graduating, he first worked in animal research, got married and became the father of three children. In 1961, he left academic work when he was offered an exciting position in the newly developing dairy industry. With a lot of heart blood and energy, he took on the challenge and was soon known as a sought-after contact and problem solver. His work also meant that throughout Franconia and beyond, he knew every little street, every hamlet and farm, every shortcut and – importantly - the best ice cream parlors.


For many years, the family spent summer vacations in Denmark and when the children had grown up and left home, his way continued to take him regularly to Scandinavia. In later years, as a pensioner, there were extensive trips to various places all over Europe and the Middle East.


Planning and organizing was not only an important part of his professional life, he also planned and organized in great detail every excursion, hike and vacation with his family and later with friends. From fuel stops to sightseeing, whether historical or scientific, to visits to restaurants or hotels, everything was thought out and scheduled long before the event.


After retiring from professional life, he moved back to his parents' house. For decades he tended the garden and especially the fruit trees planted by his mother and regularly distributed plums and freshly squeezed apple juice to family and friends.

Now he also found time to learn languages, especially Swedish, which he mastered to the point of translating in later years, and he greatly enjoyed French.

He was always broadening his horizons, went on opera and concert tours, and up to a very old age, he planned and enjoyed historical or natural history excursions in the near and far surroundings.


His camera accompanied him everywhere. He documented every event and trip, often to discover and photograph specific rare plants. The family and friends were then presented every year with a self-designed calendar of his pictures.


He was very fortunate that he was able to live independently in his beloved home with the active and loving support of family and friends until his fall in 2020. Accordingly, it was a huge change when he had to move to a nursing home due to a tibia and fibula fracture. But after a period of acclimatization he appreciated the good care he received there.


My father was an intelligent, open-minded person, always interested and ready to talk, he hugely enjoyed debating and discussing any subject we would bring up. He was often surprisingly generous and above all, he was always on time. He will be remembered for his great willingness to help family, friends, acquaintances, and victims of crises worldwide. This was due not least to the fact that he was very content with his life.


He died in his sleep this morning.