27 May 2023

key changes

Agh, things have been tough. This week was a holiday week and I spent it mostly resting because my left shoulder, neck, upper arm, whatever, hurt like hell. This started as a stiff neck three weeks ago, something I let slide, applied some heat when I thought about it. I am right handed, so there is that. I even went to get a relaxing osteopathy treatment not covered by my health insurance. And then I got some abdominal pain (which is an old chestnut with me when under stress) and R delivered me to our GP who sent me to the ER and no, it's nothing to do with my heart (check here for neck, shoulder and abdominal pain as a heart attack symptoms in women). Also, the two guys who occasionally do some house repairs for us were here yesterday and repainted the hall and the kitchen. Of course, I lifted stuff and cleaned and held shelves while R drilled holes and so on. So now I am cursing and have made another osteopath appointment.

The worst is that cycling and walking are really painful and I feel like a beached whale looking with longing at the horizon where everybody is having fun in the sun.

So, limited typing. Instead, I'll drop a few links and quotes that have cheered/enlightened me,


To say that the nervous system is connected to the immune system, and the immune system is connected to the emotional apparatus, all of which is connected to the hormone system, is incorrect. They are not connected; they are the same system.

Gabor  Maté (read the full interview here)


The Mower
by Philip Larkin

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found   
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,   
Killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.   
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world   
Unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence   
Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind   
While there is still time.


You don't care for things because they share the same country, religion or politics. Life itself is kinship.

We should not differentiate between all that breathes.

A quote from All That Breathes, this amazing documentary, watch it if you get a chance. 


And finally, some music, strange to begin with, a bit dull, said R, but then there's that key change just after 6 min. Every time, I feel my chest opening, I want to raise my arms and shout something like, all is forgiven, all will be well. We even discussed the power of key changes in music. 

24 May 2023

the singer with the big, brave soul



Tina showed us women that attitude was more important than age.

15 May 2023

Mother's day

Motherhood is the place in our culture where we lodge, or rather bury, the reality of our own conflicts, of what it means to be fully human. It is the ultimate scapegoat for our personal and political failings. For everything that is wrong with the world, which it becomes the task - unrealizable, of course - of mothers to repair. What are we doing to mothers when we expect them to carry the burden of everything that is hardest to contemplate about our society and ourselves? Mothers cannot help but be in touch with the most difficult aspects of any fully lived life. Why on earth should it fall to them to paint things bright and innocent and safe?

 Jacqueline Rose

When I was small, there were the drawings and cumbersome school art projects, fiddly cardboard baskets and stuff.  My mother put them on display for a while. Three kids meant three of each.

Later,  there was the debate on how the nazis glorified mothers and the day, never really a marketing gig anyway - it was the early 1970s - lost its appeal. One year, probably when I was 15 or so, I bought my mother a set of household scissors, bold and red with a magnetic hook, in a clear plastic box. She recoiled when I passed it to her, she knew quite well that I bought this because in our/her messy household, scissors were always hard to find.

Later, the feminists  helped me along, why celebrate just ONE day? With flowers and sweets? Motherhood as a marketing strategy, sentimental advertising features to demean women's work etc. when you are a mother every day and every night, often single and juggling employment.

And that was that. As for my own mothering life, not a tinkle. Possibly my daughter went to schools that did not buy into the hype. It's never been an issue but then, we are also a Valentine's day-free household. 




14 May 2023

In ancient Greece, the term idiots was used to refer to people who wanted to remain private, only cared about their own stuff, didn't want to get interested in politics, democracy, war. Ancient bourgeois, so to speak.

from Wikipedia: The word "idiot" comes from the Greek noun ἰδιώτης idiōtēs 'a private person, individual' (as opposed to the state), 'a private citizen' (as opposed to someone with a political office), 'a common man', 'a person lacking professional skill, layman', later 'unskilled', 'ignorant', derived from the adjective ἴδιος idios 'personal' (not public, not shared)

The secondary school I was sent to by my father was big on the classics, five years of Latin and three years of ancient Greek were mandatory, in my case it was eight years of Latin because I was a miserable student of all other foreign language requirements (I failed English completely) and the less said about my Greek endeavours the better (well, I can quote the odd party piece, first lines of Homer and so on). Philosophy was a main subject all the way through, the school hall was a muralist paradise dedicated to Plato's cave allegory and there were weekly debating sessions and stoicism weeks where we all had to pretend to adhere to logic, calm and self control over wild passions. It could be fun at times. But at the same time, there was rock and roll and drugs and sex, in that order for most of us.

Anyway. this afternoon I watched the live transmission of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, president of Ukraine, receiving a prize* in the German city of Aachen. The prize was awarded to the people of Ukraine and their president. He looked exhausted. It was a long affair, speeches, music, poetry, more speeches, the Ode to Joy and many people in tears. I felt very European today. Gratefully so.

Basically, we were reminded once again that thanks to Ukraine we can sit on our patio in the spring sunshine with a cup of tea, watching the birds and the bees. Or in other words, if on the night of February 25th of last year, Zelenskyy would have accepted the offer made by the US to leave his country and seek asylum somewhere safe, we could be hiding in our basements. Like a flash, this memory my father once told me, came up. The people of Ukraine are defending Europe because this is what happened on February 25th of 2022.

Let's not become idiots. Now is not the time.


*the International Charlemagne Prize which is annually awarded for work done in the service of European unification. The prize is named for Charlemagne, a Medieval emperor who is considered by most historians as the father of Europe.

02 May 2023


It is strange how, when people die, they exist in a part of my mind where they would have loved this or where they are smiling or where they are one with something or someone or the very earth itself. 

Devin Gael Kelly

My sister asked if we, R and myself that is, want to join them later this summer for a week or two on a Danish island. They are renting a house big enough for six people right by the Baltic Sea. I admit that I am tempted but while I check the website with the oxblood red wooden house, the white gable trim, the patio furniture on the deck facing west, I can hear myself asking her, possibly on day 2, why after we, three siblings, had deliberated and decided in a string of phone calls on wording and design and procedure, she then had the agreed address for condolences from the death notice deleted just before publication and why she decided to cancel the additional publication in the daily paper of our father's birthplace (first answers: that way we don't have to bother sending replies and why waste money when there's only a handful of old distant cousins living there, probably with dementia). So, an isolated island paradise is probably not the place we should be together. We all grief in our different ways. 


On the day of the funeral, it rained heavily and there was agreement that he would have loved it, maybe even made it happen (joke), how he was always concerned about not enough rain for farmers in spring. As half of the ceremony involved walking behind the urn across the cemetery and listening to more speeches and prayers and yet another sermon by the open grave, we all got the message - and fairly soaked. 

At first, I tried to get to know all the people attending but as always, found the various branches of the family tree confusing, and regarding the non-relatives, no idea. My brother was much better and did the greeting and thank-you round in a dramatic fashion on crutches (just had knee surgery) which was much appreciated. And yet, nobody was able to identify the man wearing green socks. I invited him along to the meal but he declined. 

The bit that was lovely and that my father would have loved happened on the previous Sunday when the soccer club of my father's town, the one he had been a members since childhood and which he so generously supported financially, invited the family for a home match. My brother and his sons went, were led to the seat where my father regularly sat and found it decorated with flowers and various soccer paraphernalia. Before the match, two representatives of the club's youth groups - a young woman from Syria and a young man from Ukraine - came on the field and briefly explained how they remember him and how much they benefit from the financial support and his personal interest in their lives. And then the audience, all 2000 of them in this small town stadium, stood up for a minute's silence and then clapped and cheered him for a good while. 

And now, it's all over and done. Downstairs on the dining table, there waits a box of his last personal papers, a few letters and pictures, the original draft of his doctoral thesis from 1957, a booklet of unfinished sudokus and of all things, his hearing aid. 

We drove the slow way home, with an overnight here and there, a long walk in the chilly spring and some wine tasting for R while I slept in the car. We won't be coming back to Franconia for a very long time.