08 April 2024

Shifting baselines is the idea that each successive generation will accept as “normal” an increasingly degraded and disorganized ecology, until at some point in the future, no one will remember what a healthy ecology looks and feels like. Absent any personal or societal accounting of migrating butterflies, winter snowfall, or spawning salmon, future generations will have tolerated so many small losses in population, abundance, and habitat that eventually they won’t know what they’re missing. Worse, they may not even care. 

Heidi Lasher

The last couple of days have been the hottest April days ever recorded here. I know it will get cooler again, more "normal", but this weird summer is confusing. Of course, it's wonderful in a way. Yesterday, I spent the afternoon on a deckchair reading and dozing until the ants began to become bothersome. The smell of various neighbourhood BBQ was in the air and it looked sort of benign. But there is a strange batch of hover flies living under the patio steps. I try to disturb them before they nest and find their way inside. I have never done this with hover flies and the usual approach, the one I fine tuned with the ants, does not seem to be effective. It doesn't help that I just finished a dystopian novel that featured unusual insect appearances as a side story. 

I also made the grave mistake of stopping at the Italian ice cream place down the road when we went for our Sunday constitutional along the river. I had a delicious scoop of Biscoff ice cream and tasted some of R's selection. This is the reason why I am sat here, close to midnight, with a heating pad on my abdomen, waiting for the pain to subside.

Here's a lovely bit of traditional Irish music, not of the fiddly diddly, jumpy Aran sweater type, but the stuff that made me sit up and listen so many years ago.


I could explain now what I have learned about sean-nós singing and how this tradition lives on. I could tell you about the Irish composer Seán Ó Riada, who collected and preserved Irish music. I could also write about the village of Ballyvourney where he lived after retirement and died longe before I ever knew about him and how you have to walk up that steep hillside to get to it, which I did many times to visit friends who had decided to live off the grid there with a newborn baby (it didn't last, thank goodness). I won't go into it, but only this: the voice here is of Iarla Ó Lionáird, musician and ethnomusic researcher, when he was ten or maybe 14 years old - sources differ.

I haven't been back to Ireland in years now. Occasionally, we talk about moving back there what with Putin so close and the fascist party gaining strength in some parts of Germany and their threats of reversing all emigration and getting rid of foreigners but then we say, why leave it to them, why walk away. Anyway, only talking.

04 April 2024

April rainy day

Today, I am in a lousy mood. What else is new. As it is, R has gone into hiding from my snappy remarks.

The thing is, surgery options appear increasingly limited if not completely out of range as it stands right now. One guy I spoke to briefly - a surgeon who called me after a friend asked him to - put it bluntly that my symptoms may only improve marginally after surgery and if at all, only for a couple of years the most. Worse taking the risks? Not really, depending on the time of day.

The alternatives are currently not endless, but out there, including dietary supplements, nutritional guidance and supervision, (limited) medication options to be verified, the obvious life style changes. Main goal, no more weight loss. Forget dinner, as if I haven't done that already. My daughter suggests to concentrate on a culinary breakfast world tour, working my way through the continents, finding stuff I can handle. Trial and error. The rest of the day can go shitface after that anyway.

It's amazing how angry all this makes me. I am tempted to give away my cookery books and delete all bookmarked recipes on my computer. Stick to food as a source of energy, forget cooking.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes contain forty ingredients and you have to start making them six months ahead because you have to grow the herbs from scratch or leave your spices out until a full moon and then you have to lure virgins to dance around them until they are all so exhausted that they collapse and that is a lot to do for a risotto. 

Geraldine Deruiter

Last night I finished reading a dystopian novel (The Uninvited, by Liz Jensen). I could not put it down and read until 3 am, which meant that my dreams were somewhat impacted and today I am missing a bit of sleep. Here is a quote from it.
Humans like to believe they're rational. But the capacity for superstition is part of our DNA … All the things we fear  . . . are as present as they ever were. But they're no longer external. They've been chased indoors. Where we can't let them go.

The nice stuff is still there, I do have reasons to be cheerful. Of course. All the apple trees are in full promising bloom, unlike last year. Lilac week has started. Yesterday, I walked the long route through the posh parts of the suburb where every front garden has a lilac bush. It was simply lovely, plus I listened to the Digestive Biscuit episode of the Blindboy Podcast. Currently, Blindboy, despite his endless swearing and heavy duty Limerick accent, is my daily dose of calm. I think I am falling in love with it all. I am also thinking of getting a decent supply of digestives for my breakfast challenge. 




29 March 2024

good Friday

Isn’t it amazing the way life can seem too short, and intrinsically magical, yet at the same time feel like a long, uphill road, potholed with fuckwits?

Tom Cox

Good Friday. This is the holiest of holy days in the secular country I am living in. Seriously. By law, all parts of Germany observe nine holy days throughout the year, Bavaria, which claims to be more catholic than others, observes 11 holy days. And these are serious holy days, we stay home from work, all shops, restaurants, cafes are shut, TV programs act as if it's a Sunday. As for Good Friday, no music, no dancing, no long nights in clubs or pubs, no sports and so on. When I was growing up, these days felt like heavy weights of boredom, long and cold and often rainy. Today, I watch the rain, waiting for a break so I can go on a walk. The beep from the house across the road a steady reminder of human acts of fuckwittery. 

Many years ago, during Easter break, we were cycling along the river Danube towards Vienna, battling with rain and headwind so strong, we almost gave up. On Good Friday, we woke in a medieval country inn where I had spent much of the night wandering back and forth to the bathroom on the landing across, expecting an imminent UTI but it was just because my feet were freezing cold. We speculated about Good Friday rules and how to get supplies for the day but walked out into a busy market day with not the tiniest inkling of holy whatever. That's Austria for you. Now, in Ireland, it's also just another busy day, as are all other holy days, like Ascension or Whitsun or Corpus Christi. I was seriously shocked when I found out.

Last night, I've read my way through a couple of obituaries for Frans de Waal, a primatologist I greatly admire. On the bicycle tour mentioned above, we visited an exhibition dedicated to his work at the Natural History Museum in Vienna (one the world's most amazing museums, BTW). 

This is one of my favourite quotes from his work (I have posted this before):

 I cannot name any emotion that is uniquely human. There are maybe emotions related to religion — let’s say spirituality — but even for that, I cannot exclude that animals have those kinds of feelings. Who says they don’t? In humans, religious feelings are not expressed in the face. That kind of emotion is not visible. And if emotions are not visible, how can we exclude that it exists in other species?

One of his findings was the fairness concept, explained here:

I could go on a tangent about studies in primates and how this is so amazing and how we should watch and listen, but it's not just primates.  

Pigs have been found to plan and carry out rescue missions to help incarcerated or otherwise distressed fellow pigs. In an experiment, which has been repeated by others , researchers added two small compartments to a barn where pigs are normally kept and both had a window through which the animals could look in and a door that can only be opened from the outside. In the first part of the experiment, the animals learnt to open the compartment doors by pushing a lever upwards with their snout. In the second part, each pig was isolated from the group once and locked in one of the compartments. The other box was also locked, but remained empty. In 85 per cent of cases, the pigs freed the trapped group member from the test compartment within 20 minutes. The longer pigs looked through the window at the trapped animal, the sooner they freed it.

Cows develop livelong friendships with other cows, as well as dislikes. In a field experiment, the "best friend" and "worst enemy" were first determined for each cow. To do this, all the cows in a barn were fitted with transmitters. A type of GPS for indoor areas then records how much time which cows spend together. A cow's best friend is the animal she spends the most time with. The cow it spends the least time with is considered its enemy. Next, the cows are separated for 30 minutes at a time, once with the best friend from the group and once with the animal they has had the least contact with. Most cows started licking their best friend when they met, and when put next to her enemy, started to push her around. 

But really surprising are goats. Goats ask people for help, so to speak, when they cannot solve a problem themselves. Take this test that was originally developed for dogs. The goat is placed in a room in which a human sits next to a plastic box containing a reward. The lid is only loosely in place three times, the animal can easily push it away with its head and eat the reward. The fourth time, the lid is firmly closed. Now, the goat alternates between looking at humans and at the closed box, as if they are asking for help.

The more scientists find out about the behaviour of farm animals, the clearer it becomes that their cognitive and emotional abilities have so far been hugely underestimated. There is still a widespread belief that all these animals are dumb eating machines that have neither thoughts nor feelings and therefore do not need to be treated with particular consideration. However, this has long been scientifically disproved. 

I have milked cows and goats, mucked out stables of all three (and more) types of farm animals, I observed baby goats and lambs being born, bottle-fed some of them, and I have eaten them, lamb, goats, pigs and cows - disguised as ham, sausage, steak, cutlet, mice, bacon and so on. 

I've also eaten octopus, pheasant, chicken, rabbit, hare, venison, duck, geese, even flying foxes, snake and frog legs. Not including fish and seafood. About twenty years ago, I lost the appetite, my inflamed intestine couldn't handle meat too well and slowly it got less and less until I stopped it altogether.

27 March 2024

Here we have two of our pear trees, nicely espaliered and in full bloom. The one to the left is what we call a Williams' bon chrétien, very juicy yellow pears that need to be harvested and eaten/processed on the spot, the one on the right in front is a Conference pear, which looks green and hard but when picked at the right time, is juicy and delicious, good for storage right through the winter. Both trees are about 25 years old.

This is the state of the vegetables to date. The spuds are in, top left, so are a variety of other seeds, and the shallots and the garlic are coming up, bottom left. The white sheet is to keep the bird away and the empty orange halves are supposedly attracting slugs. Every night, R goes out there with his head torch to lift the orange domes and to kill the lot. The bushy thing top left behind the bed is the rhubarb, early and tender. I already made two big lots of rhubarb crumble, lovely to look at but not possible for me to eat this time in my life.

Also, it's the season of wild garlic, some people go mad about it, we just look at it and because it is very aromatic, grow it in a far away corner, simply to remember that we once walked through a forest in County Wicklow where the entire ground was covered by wild garlic but we never noticed the smell until much later back home because we were in our early madly in love stage.

 Plants become weeds when they obstruct our plans, or our tidy maps of the world.
Richard Mabey

 The sun never sets on the empire of the dandelion.

 Alfred Crosby

I met the surgeon and her surgeon boss and they were extremely jolly and upbeat about the future of my intestine. So I sat there and listened to them explaining how they would cut this piece out and push that thing in and how it would be twisted somewhat but, hey, in a good way, and the whole shebang would be completed with a bit of surgical mesh, like a little trampoline. Which is when I raised my arm and asked to be permitted to speak. I mentioned some risk indices, studies on surgical mesh and autoimmune diseases and poor outcome and mortality and reinfection on top of infection and their faces became bored and with their voices a bit sharper, they replied that life is never without risks and that their approach was very neat and that it would actually be performed by a tiny robot inside my pelvic area and when I continued to show signs of disbelief, they declared that in was in fact, tada!, THE da Vinci robot. Yeah, I know about that one, I said. And they got a bit miffed because look what I did to their punch line. We parted as friends though because getting a second or even a third opinion was one of the promises our current minister of health got elected on and everybody is now in love with the idea. Good luck with that, they exclaimed as I walked out. And so I dug into my files of who's who and made one or two grovelling calls and would you know it, I'll see another expert team in June. What's another three months, I tell myself. 

But you see, my daughter who a while back supervised a government department dealing with literally thousands of litigation proceedings on surgical mesh gone haywire in various parts of the human body had firmly shook her head and said, don't go down that road, never, promise me. And, people, I trust her with my life and soul.

Then there's the nutrition situation, which is now at the stage of serious protein supplementation to halt muscle waste.  I am on a protein drinks tasting spree. I had no idea! The variety looks stunning but so far they all taste like liquid cake dough. Who can drink 500 ml of liquid cake dough every day? Not me. So on to powder, equally stunning selections, plant based (like peas), dairy based (like whey) and all the variations thereof with myriad flavourings and non-sugar sweeteners. My first order of "cinnamon cereal whey powder" is currently lost in the delivery and I have started to communicate with the "chat" voice of amazon to get my money back, at least. Yesterday, I fried a bit of tofu in some sesame oil and pretended I was at a food stall in Singapore. But it's not the answer to my prayers.

Also, there is an alarm beeping since last night in a house across from us, a regular strong three-beeps-pause-three-beeps rhythm and the owners are on holiday in France until the end of next week. We had a brief neighbourhood meeting this morning. Turns out that those with hearing aids can help themselves by switching the gadgets off and some of us, including myself, only hear the beep with one ear anyway, but there are others who will have a memorable Easter week. 

Earlier, we attended another online funeral - quite the thing now in Ireland - and sad as it was, this poem was read by one of the daughters of the deceased cousin and you should have seen the face of the elderly priest behind the altar (not amused).


    You Are Tired, (I think)

    You are tired,
    (I think)
    Of the always puzzle of living and doing;

    And so am I.
    Come with me, then,
    And we’ll leave it far and far away—

    (Only you and I, understand!)
    You have played,
    (I think)
    And broke the toys you were fondest of,
    And are a little tired now;
    Tired of things that break, and—
    Just tired.

    So am I.
    But I come with a dream in my eyes tonight,
    And knock with a rose at the hopeless gate of your heart—
    Open to me!
    For I will show you the places Nobody knows,
    And, if you like,

    The perfect places of Sleep.
    Ah, come with me!
    I’ll blow you that wonderful bubble, the moon,
    That floats forever and a day;
    I’ll sing you the jacinth song
    Of the probable stars;
    I will attempt the unstartled steppes of dream,
    Until I find the Only Flower,
    Which shall keep (I think) your little heart
    While the moon comes out of the sea.

  e e cummings








20 March 2024

One of these days, I swear, I am going to start writing that book, the ultimate guide to living with a shitty disease and I'll start with the chapter on how I went on a 15 km walk because I was so very mad at the world and all the unsolved problems in my life and the loneliness of being ill and I may include some of the pictures I took of the sweeping views across the hills and the newly born lambs kicking their little legs on the field and the first fresh leaves of the beech saplings down low in the forest and in the next chapter, I will list the thoughts that rushed through my mind, briefly, before I found the rhythm of my steps and my breath and how after a while, I was humming, some melody, barely melodious, more like counting steps, and how the sound of the windproof jacket as my arms were swishing back and forth, back and forth made me realise that nothing matters and that everything matters and that I can handle it, have always been able to handle it, the whole brilliant, miserable, frightening, amazing catastrophe of my life, how I love it.

14 March 2024

the vegetable year

So this is how it begins. Outside. Inside, it's been busy for weeks with potatoe varieties sprouting on trays throughout the house, seedlings growing on the sunny windowsills and so on.

This is the vegetable plot, all innocent and virginal. It has been used in a four crop rotation cycle for over 20 years, one quarter each for potatoes, brassica, legumes and root vegetables in rotation. This year, the potatoes go in the top left section, half of the rectangular bed, where the compost has already been spread, with brassica in the top field to the right, legumes in the bottom field on the right and root vegetables in the bottom left.  The snaking tubes on the other sections are the pipelines of the drip feeding system and the metal sheets along the top edges are to keep the many slugs away or at least slow their progress. I like to think that the soil knows us well by now, especially the feel and smell of R's hands, who does almost all weeding and digging and planting and harvesting. In a few weeks time, this area will be full of growth, apart from the potatoes, there will be red cabbage, swiss chards and cavolo nero, cauliflowers and broccoli obviously, later in the year Brussel sprouts and winter sprouting broccoli, sugar snaps, spinach, runner beans and French beans, lettuce, carrots, parsnips, onions, garlic and possibly a pumpkin or two.

The tomatoes and peppers and aubergines and melons and some cucumbers will grow in the greenhouse, one tomatoe variety will grow somewhere in the flower beds as we found it thrives there and the zucchini and many pumpkins will grow here and there and everywhere all over the place. I'm sure there will be more, some new experiments, but I'll leave all that to the gardener I am so lucky to have in my life.


This, meanwhile, is where my work is waiting for me. It is supposedly the herb bed but has been overrun by the grape hyacinths - as are many other beds throughout. It started with a narrow row of snowdrops and these fellows many years ago, but the snow drops were eaten by squirrels and the blue grape hyacinths take what they can get, like zombies. It's of course lovely to have all this blue colour but once they are finished, I will dig them all up - and I mean all - and transfer them to a nice scenic cluster in the front of the house. That's the plan anyway. In my mind, it'll eventually look like a flower show entry. 

This will be the first year without the almond trees along the west of the house. It'll mean less shade to the upstairs rooms there but both trees had a virus, fewer and fewer almonds and dropped their leaves by August. Also, the virus was putting the fruit trees at risk so it was them or the apricot and peach trees, of which this young one is giving me much hope. These stone fruit grow very well as trellis trees, a method that was established in 17th century France as the espalier method and we have visited impressive examples in castle grounds across Germany, France and Belgium and R has fallen in love with it.  We also have two espalier pear trees, but not yet in flower.

07 March 2024



Here we have one of our breakfast visitors. By now, they we are well trained and if we are late with the peanuts, there will be a racket.

When I was a kid, jays lived in the forest and did not come into gardens. To find one of their blue feathers was a rare, special event. There was a goldsmith living in our neighbourhood who would make the most beautiful jewellery incorporating jay feathers and my mother promised me a pair of earrings if I find two feathers. I never found two or maybe I did and she had forgotten her promise. Looking through some old books some time after my mother's death, I found several feathers she had collected. Together with her usual collection of pressed leaves and flowers. 


It's supposedly a busy weekend starting tomorrow. I have been invited/asked to attend to a couple of events in town on the occasion of International Women's Day. At one or maybe two of these, I am supposed to act as a whispering interpreter, meaning I sit in a group of non-German speakers and translate what's being said into English. I used to do this a couple of times at conferences and NGO events. It's not as serious as proper interpretation, where you have to pick up every word and sit in a cubicle with headphones (think Nicole Kidman) so it can actually be quite enjoyable and an opportunity to meet interesting people. 

And on Saturday, the teenage daughter of a friend has invited a group of women of all ages for a walk, a meal and a movie, in that order. 

But I think I'll stay at home on both days because, frankly, it's been a shit week. I'll give myself until tomorrow morning early before I call and cancel. There will be others who can do the language work, I know that, so no big loss. My social life is a long string of cancellations these days.

This week I've seen one doctor who had little new insights apart from the fact that two of the surgery options are definitely off limits for people on immune suppression. I am wildly swinging from, ok, so no surgery to, anything, I'll do anything, all within one day. Also, had a lecture on malnutrition by my dentists, no less, and the way she looked at me and my bony shoulder blades sticking out, I could guess what she was thinking. Could an educated, middle-class, not poor woman in her 60s be malnourished in this day and age? Unless she has an eating disorder? By now, there are others who think that too. Maybe it's time I order that t-shirt, the one that says "I love food, but my intestine has packed it in".

Anyway, International Women's Day. It's a minefield these days, using the word woman but I will not go into that. Only to state that I, with all my heart, believe that trans women are women, just as much as I will never accept to be identified by a gender neutral term. I am a woman. To separate the concept of ‘woman’ from menstruation, breastfeeding, pregnancy etc.,  in order to make it easier for some to become an ‘identity’ rather than a tangible, living, breathing, menstruating, lactating, and quite frankly, pretty fucking angry reality, I cannot get myself behind that. Anyway, the minefield. Go ahead, tell me I am backward and out of sync.

So just these thoughts:

The public censure of women as if we are rabid because we speak without apology about the world in which we live is a strategy of threat that usually works. Men often react to women's words - speaking and writing - as if they were acts of violence; sometimes men react to women's words with violence. So we lower our voices. Women whisper. Women apologize. Women shut up. Women trivialize what we know. Women shrink. Women pull back. Most women have experienced enough dominance from men - control, violence, insult, contempt - that no threat seems empty.

            Andrea Dworkin


Some women retrain, or take up volunteering, or fall in love with their best friend, or finally make partner or are squeezed out of the research lab they founded or become yoga instructors or raise surprise grandchildren or learn another language or dive into genealogy or run for local office or quit booze or drink too much or make other people’s problems their business or give up altogether on other people’s problems or cry themselves to sleep or can’t sleep or divorce or remortgage or develop a cackle or get shingles or go into real estate or animal shelters or floristry or online activism or have to look for a new place when the landlord raises the rent, or get fired or roboted out of a job or have menopausal psychosis or family addiction crises or parents with dementia or home subsidence or violent kids or terminal illness.

           Emily Perkins (from her latest novel The Lioness)

There is a wonderful Celtic archetype, the Cailleach, or Crone, who can give us the confidence to embrace this new voice, this new way of being that comes with the menopause, and she doesn’t give a hoot about being different, being outcast or being judged. An older woman, a shape-shifter, a storm-rider and hammer-wielder, she is responsible for the turning of the wheel of the year from golden summer into the restorative rest and regeneration of winter. She is the one-eyed old woman who takes us, every year without fail, where we do not wish to go.

No simpering female, the Cailleach is known across the Celtic world as the guardian of the world’s natural balance and is a forthright and forceful older woman who takes great exception to any action which harms the natural world. It is said that she created the mountains by dropping huge stones from her apron as she stomped around. Powerful and outspoken, she has no fear of shame, that putrid and poisonous emotion which rules our modern world and keeps us quiet and small. The Cailleach uses her magical powers to hold back the effect of humanity upon the natural world. Goddess of the storms, she knows the importance of anger in the scheme of things.

            Roisin Maguire


 Only recently have we realised that rape is the longest-running war on the planet.

            Stephanie Clare Smith

 The cliche says that women should mother like they don’t work and work like they don’t have children.

 Just me.


03 March 2024

Sometimes I think I am reading far too much and all over the place. Newspapers, opinion pieces, social media commentary, all the blogs and that substack algorithm that comes up with another three tantalising suggestions every damn time I finish reading one post. Then, there's books, of course, real books and the notices from the library when a book I have reserved weeks ago is ready for pick up. But also, e-books and good grief, here we go: audio books and podcasts. At the end of the day, I struggle remember what it was I just read or listened to all day. It's all so brilliant and disgusting and enlightening and confusing and then again, trivial and just someone's string of consciousness.

I sit in the sun on the first warm spring day, I close my eyes and listen to birdsong, to the twin girls from across the gardens playing the lava game, to R hacking away with a machete deep in the overgrown corner at the bottom of the garden. The usual Sunday afternoon noise from a light airplane above, someone living their expensive dream.  Hey honey, I am off for a spin with the plane, or something like that. I had an uncle, a successful dentist in one of the better off cities on the river, who had suffered greatly during WWII and once told me that he promised himself a private little airplane should he survive. He did and got the plane and one day, maybe 25 years ago, I was in the kitchen mixing salad, listening to the news on the radio about a small airplane that had crashed, the single occupant dead and I knew immediately that it was him. I called my sister and told her and when she asked, what makes you think it's him, I said, it makes sense. And it was him.

On Tuesday, I am starting the next medical marathon, finally meeting one expert/week for three weeks to come and, as R tells me, then we should have a plan. He is fed up with cooking and eating alone.

My brother's last day at work was on Friday. Now all three of us are retired. It feels like we are standing in a small clearing in the forest of our childhood, Franconian pines on sandy soil, rows and rows of plantations from the 17th century, and we are looking around us, lost. Was that it? What happened?

Today, we cycled for a couple of hours along the river and back, crossing it twice. It was bedlam, tons of people, everybody got the message. Spring. Now. 

Note these spindly things. a yellow and a red peach tree and one apricot tree as proof.


18 February 2024

The Wild Washerwomen

In the late 1970s, John Yeoman and Quentin Blake, an amazing, gifted team of author and illustrator, wrote the tale of The Wild Washerwomen. 

This book came into our lives in the late 1980s when my then five year old daughter brought it home from school for her reading diary. The school, a small international school, was located in an old, slightly disheveled plantation house in the African country we call paradise. My daughter's classroom was on the first floor and could be reached by an outdoor staircase that led up to a large veranda behind which, separated by a row of louvre windows, the classrooms were located.  Directly below the veranda were the rabbit hatch and chicken run, in the adjacent courtyard under several large jacaranda trees, was the dining area and the stage for theater and music performances.

Her teacher was Miss M, a young woman from the English Midlands, on her first teaching post, sent by an Evangelical organization which was mainly involved in running a Christian radio station, up on the hills overlooking the harbour and small airport, from where missionary messages were broadcast to the heathens in the far away places across the Indian Ocean. The school was not part of it but qualified teachers were always welcome and Miss M was a dedicated teacher full of ideas and energy. Her big project was reading. She believed, as she informed us parents in the first week, that every child eventually loves reading, be it books, newspapers, instruction manuals, gossip pages or the bible. But that this love of reading has to be instilled with real books, not silly meaningless "readers" about "Tom and Sue helping Mummy in the kitchen" or worse, reading cards, reading tests and so on. Real books, she told us, have a story, one with a beginning and an end, with a story line and - importantly - a title and an author. A real story, so she continued, captivates, positively or negatively, the reader and encourages to talk, draw, write, complain about or praise it. For this purpose, she created big reading diaries, one for each of her pupils. And every book a pupil read was to be documented in it, complete with a proper review. Every school day, each pupil selected a book to bring home to read. Reading could mean many things from listening to the book being read, reading some of it, recognising some of the words, telling the story simply by looking at the illustrations because all books had illustrations, some even had no written words. But books they all were, with title, author, story line. And so, every day, we recorded in the big diary what was read and how, but most importantly, what the reader liked or disliked about the book. In a corner of the classroom, Miss M had created a library with whatever children's books she could find. Hand-me-downs, donations, old school stock, very few newly purchased. Many books made the rounds over and over, were read several times again and again. Some books were loved so much they were only reluctantly returned. Every day, in class and at home, there was a lot of talking about the books, sharing of reviews and opinions and regular votes for best book etc. Obviously, other stuff went on as well, clever educational stuff, words, writing, singing, rhyming and so on, to help the process.

Briefly, the story of the Wild Washerwomen is about seven unhappy washerwomen, Dottie, Lottie, Molly, Dolly, Winnie, Minnie and Ernestine, all working in the laundry of Mr Tight, a most dreadful and mean individual. So they decide to go on strike. No spoilers here, if you can, find a copy and read it for yourself. It is a triumph of feminist determination and the spirit of co-operation, no less. When the book was voted book of the week, the class sat down to draw the story while listening to it being read once again by Miss M.

Above is my daughter's painting of the Wild Washerwomen, well, three of them at least. It hangs above my desk, reminding me every day that reading is power and that a book is a gift you can open again and again.

Miss M stayed in my life for many years. In paradise, I had persuaded her to come along to the weekly women's group where we, a group of Peace Corps, NGO, immigrant, posh expat and local women, discussed feminist issues, local and world politics, music, men, sex and rock and roll, drank plenty of cheap South African wine and danced wildly into the night - in that order. She did not miss a week but remained sober and rarely danced. Later, her organization moved her to India where she still lives, teaching, sending the occasional round robin newsletter about rural living, food and water shortages and prayer requests. As far as I know, she has never been paid a salary.

16 February 2024


“Listen, I’ve got something very obvious to tell you. You’re not allowed to give up. If they decide to kill me, it means that we are incredibly strong.”

- Alexei Navalny

11 February 2024


On days like this one, I feel incredibly lucky. Lucky to be retired, to have a home, to have good company and reliable support, access to information and also, living with a someone who makes excellent coffee.


It has been raining, mostly, for days. I managed to sneak out for a walk during some of the few dry patches but yesterday, it hit me head on halfway and I sloshed back home, soaked and cold. When I sat down on the stairs in the hall to take off my shoes, the first wave of vertigo hit me so hard, I actually had to laugh. There you are, you fucker. Who cares, I don't have to go anywhere. Missed your chances.

The day before, I was trying out walking with headphones. I have never done this before, it's a mixture of wanting to hear the sounds around me and being scared that someone will sneak up from behind and clobber me over the head. Anyway, it was foggy, I was halfway through an interview with Terry Waite about his time as a hostage in Lebanon when someone tapped my shoulder. From behind. It was A, my neighbour from across the garden. So of course, we walked on together. I have a complicated non-relationship with her, long story to do with watching her raise her daughters, getting a divorce and also, how she always cuts her hedge at the wrong time of the year chasing the nesting birds away. In short, I usually stay out of her way. She is lonely. I listened. To the long story. I still have complicated feelings. The next day I purposefully did not pass her house when I set out. Anyway, it was raining. Maybe I feel bad about it, not the rain but avoiding being seen by her. Not sure if I have another go with headphones.

In my inbox, a brief message from a doctor, matter of fact and so on, in a last sentence mentioning BTW the option of removing an entire section of my intestine. Possible improvement of quality of life. I ponder the words in order: possible? improvement? quality? life? and it's a riddle. 

Thank you for your comments and your concerns about me cycling to the hospital. Rest assured, I am a careful cyclist, a skilled cyclist and a very experienced one. Maybe the word is seasoned?  I would never attempt to endanger my or anybody's life or the condition of my bicycle by reckless behaviour. I have been cycling for the past 60 years, pretty much daily, at least weekly, on four continents, as a means of getting from A to B and back. It's not a fitness or sports activity for me. Some days, I am better on two wheels than on two feet. 

This also happened. Spring.

05 February 2024

get ready

Get out of bed, tidy your room, do a bit of exercise, eat something and, as Leonard Cohen sang, in his characteristically world-weary way, ‘get ready for the struggle’.

Nick Cave 

I cycled to the hospital. I was really wobbly, having not eaten anything solid for 48 hrs, but the geese and the duck in the park at this hour didn't mind. I hid the bike behind the front entrance hall because I had signed this paper that since it would be unsafe to drive or cycle, I would have someone picking me up to chaperone me on my home journey. Then they made me wait almost another hour and I got grumpy. As if not eating anything wasn't enough. 

The procedure was the easiest bit. First, I panicked because the doctor told me he could only give me a homeopathic dose of diazepam due to this being a dynamic MRI which requires my co-operation, not dozing my way through it. Thankfully, the dose was enough for the usual butterflies-in-my-mind feeling, equally pleasant and unpleasant, and as always, I tried to imagine how on earth my mother managed to get through her days with housework and lunch prep and three kids while on that stuff every day. She also drove a car almost daily, often with more than her three kids in it. All I managed was wobble cycle back through the park.

Anyway, it has a name, my condition, as expected, and the verdict is surgery. Because in the long run, this will do you in, the nice radiologist said in as many words. More appointments are due and while I waited for the radiologist findings to be written up, I emailed my favourite gynecologist to help me with a second opinion. She called within minutes to arrange a meeting, which lifted my spirits even more than the drug did.

I arrived home in best diazepam spirits, had two cups of coffee and some of the almond cake friends had brought back from Holland yesterday. Also an apple and we sat in the spring sunshine on the patio, with the woodpeckers and robins and wrens making a racket. I looked at the tulips pushing up through the soil in amazement until the drug started to wear off and by that time, the almond cake made its presence felt in the shape of painful bloating. 

And now, the shit will hit the fan, as the saying goes. Or not.

31 January 2024

Down the hall, R is talking to yet another plumber, builder, tiler or otherwise highly skilled person about our dream bathroom. I am hiding in my study with a heat pad on my bloated abdomen. I can hear laughter and snippets about moisture resistant tile replacement and retractable shower heads (I may have misheard here). R has done his research, stacks of catalogues sit on his desk, measurements transferred to 3-D software. We have nowhere near the money required and I have given up weeks ago. But he is persistent, in fact, downright dedicated (quite a fitting alliteration here). In the end, I just look at the figures of the latest cost estimate and do a quick calculation including our life expectancy, the energy required for cleaning the inevitable mess during renovations, the plans I have for spring and summer and shrug my shoulders, which is a kind of no but I think it only reinforces his determination. As long as we won't starve, has become our mantra here. I could add a handful of other ones, mostly involving costs of caring when we have to succumb to ill health in our very old age when we won't make it up the stairs to this fancy bathroom any longer, and sometimes I say these out loud, which is when he explains about the walk-in shower and the handrails. And in turn, I want to feel young and foolish and so I give another shrug, this time as a kind of yes.

Nothing is decided yet. There will be more visitors with cost estimates and I'll make coffee for each one of them while R does the talking.

Initially, this was my idea. A good 12 months ago. And while I was selling it to R, the long string was set in motion, of diagnostics and possible surgery and weight loss and more weight loss and not being able to eat properly and ah well. We are helpless in our boring waiting period here, so now, a mission in the shape of a bathroom.

I stop eating early afternoon because it takes so much energy to digest and as most days, this is painful, I want get the worst behind me by the time I go to bed.  During the night, if I cannot sleep or wake up, I can feel my intestine trying to get the job done and I can place my hand on the bloated, slowly shifting  lumps here and there. I jokingly told the gastrologist that it reminds me of the time when my unborn baby was kicking. He nodded, told me he has heard that description before. Anyway, guess what I have been dreaming about. I woke in a sweat. 

On Monday, I have what is called a dynamic MRI where my intestine will be examined in action. As I often say, I'll try everything once.

But what I really wanted to write about was why on earth do I blog in English when my native language is German.

When I met R, my English was limited, seriously limited. He politely claims that it was great but we both know better. As mentioned before, I was not a good student of modern languages in school and the only need for a basic knowledge of English was to pass the tests and to understand what the lyrics of my favorite pop and rock songs were all about. Mostly though, these remained mysterious riddles I could not figure out. Take "troubled water", I mean, what on earth? 

Within a year of meeting R, I found myself in his family's dining room after Sunday lunch asked to perform "Deliverance" without words - this particular version of charades, acting out film titles, is a family favourite. To this day, I could not tell you what deliverance means in German and I still have to watch that film. I failed but everybody chipped in and I did much better with "Casablanca".

It went on from there. English became my emotional language, obviously, but R's family was so different from my own, so loud and active and welcoming, not always pleasant, not always kind, but a challenge I was eager to accept. I have never looked back.

Now, after so many years, we are both bilingual and occasionally, try to switch to German, but we are too used to speaking to each other in English, we never last for more than a sentence.

For me, English and German are good for expressing different things. Everything that has to do with love I find better expressed in English. When my child was born, I sang mostly English lullabies to her. Everything that is intimate for me is in English. The only exception is translated poetry. That's a hopeless area. No way. Rilke cannot be read in English. I know that Brecht tried while in exile in the US but it's not for me.

Currently, R watches German tv shows downstairs while upstairs, I watch UK channels and netflix. We meet afterwards and report on the shape of things.

Yesterday, he watched some heavy duty thriller about corrupt Swiss bankers while I reported on Lionel Ritchie and Michael Jackson writing "We are the world" and how they kept on talking about starvation in Africa and how this song will turn life for the children of Africa around. We then had to shake our heads and lamented because, Africa, in case we forget, is a continent with close to 1,5 billion people, living in 54 countries, speaking close to 2000 different languages. The Ethiopian famine took place in Ethiopia, an East African country the size of France and Spain combined. The famine was a result of drought combined by wars between various anti- and pro-government factions. At the same time, many African economies were thriving and continue to do so, broadly speaking. But that's another story. Anyway, the song is stirring enough and I admit I have sung it many times, sometimes even together with others. However, the last choir I was in decided against it and opted for Something inside so strong (Labi Siffre) instead.

28 January 2024

the monster

Vulnerable, no, not vulnerable, what's the word, fragile. Yes, fragile. I would have never before used this word - fragile - in any context to describe myself. Not ever. But there's always a first, isn't there. And so this is it now while I am on the red sofa looking out into then garden, the trees bare, the bright sunlight on the hazel catkins, the sky a cold frosty blue. I want to close my eyes and wake up on another Sunday afternoon in, say, May, with lush greenery and roses and insects and budding pears and and and. Instead, I fall asleep and wake with a start, a bad taste in my mouth, disorientated, telling myself, this is Sunday afternoon, January, you are on the red sofa, looking out into then garden. Waiting for it becoming real I am still in a fuzzy state, could be anytime, anywhere. Is this what dementia feels like? Not knowing where you are, what you are looking at? Slowly, very slowly, I swing my legs over the side of the sofa, lift myself up as if my body was ancient wood about to crack and surprise myself by being able to stand, swaying, yes, but solidly nevertheless. My feet moving forward. Coffee? Should do the trick.

Once upon a time I used to feel invincible, reckless even, thinking it was all down to choice and willpower. You are just exhausted, I tell myself. Give it a few more days of rest. This day last week, I begin to say and cannot remember or rather, cannot begin to imagine who that person was only a week ago, walking through the snow, laughing and talking, cheering, chanting and clapping, at the end of the the anti-nazi rally in our quiet town, singing Beethoven's Ode to Joy with 30,000 others.

Now. That feeling of being hungry, very hungry, and nauseous at the same time. Too tired to eat.

All I do manage is to read, to listen. Even to laugh. For now, enough. Focus on what I can do. So much.

I hear a monster breathing, I hear the breath of democracy weakening. I am glad that you are all here and want to blow its new life into it. I hope it is not too late.

Elfriede Jelinek, (Austrian novelist, playwright, and poet who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2004) this week when tens of thousands were demonstrating against right-wing extremism in Vienna, Austria

26 January 2024

15,000 to 900

You wake up in the morning and while you are still delighted that being retired means no pressure, no rush, you get up anyway. You are so used to not staying in bed. And then there is this morning stiffness. You know it will pass more rapidly if you get up and move.

Over breakfast, you listen to the news and your heart sinks, the familiar dread begins to come to the surface, together with this urgency of what you should, need to do. You wait for the first bit of music between two features. Your rule, dance to the first bit of music you hear in the morning, still applies.

Next, emails, messages, a new commission, work. You agree on a deadline, tell yourself that you do not need to start right away, but then you do it anyway. By lunch time you realise that you have been sitting and working in front of a keyboard for hours. You stretch your stiff back and neck. All good. After lunch, you quickly sort the laundry and tidy up a bit, make the beds, that sort of thing. You check the bird feeders and spend a while clearing stuff in the garden. You go for your walk, you turn on the 1000 hrs outside app. You come back just before sunset and after dinner, you make some jam before you go back for a re-edit of the new commission.

You attend a zoom meeting on how to handle racist agitation and neo-nazis in public. You share your experiences during the recent rallies you attended. You note down the dates for more of these meetings, public debates and upcoming rallies in your area. You clean the kitchen before bedtime, put the dishwasher and the washing machine on timer for early tomorrow morning attention. You sort out some paperwork for an upcoming doctor's appointment. It is after midnight when you finally got to bed.

You repeat this, with slight variations, library visits, shopping, meeting people, another rally against neo-nazis, cycling into town along the river, cleaning the house, long calls with friends and family, the odd medical appointment, stretching and quick yoga sessions, for the next couple of days, weeks, every day. You are amazed how much you can do, retirement suits you, you tell yourself, you are getting fitter every day. You increase your daily steps to 15,000 because it feels so good.

And then one morning, you have lost the ground beneath your feet. In fact, you are so exhausted, you cannot get out of bed. You sleep the best part of the day and the night. And the next day. Your ears are ringing, your head is throbbing, your eyes ache, you want the blinds down. The room is turning when you try to get up. You have been here before and before and before. You know what this is, you have overdone it. You need to rest.

But first, you really should rewrite this replacing all the you with I.

20 January 2024

On a quiet day you have to develop your imagination of enduring love.



There I was, traipsing through the snow, searching for winter wonderland, for beauty and calm and yes, meaning. But all I came up with - at first - was, when will all this shit melt away (spoiler: by tomorrow midday)? Why are people driving on roads packed with snow? Who invented these tiny sledges? What happens to kids when they lose one mitten, do they go home and get another pair, do they go on making snowballs with one hand? And importantly, will all the single mittens I have picked up and stuck on fences and gates be found and reunited with their twin? 

Eventually, I got used to the sound of my crunching feet and the swishing fabric of my parka, some of which, so the label says, has been made from recycled plastic bottles. This is when my mind begins to float freely.

The power of quotes, the power of snippets, short sentences, paragraphs, often taken out of context. I rely on it heavily, I copy and paste and collect them in blog post drafts for future use - but then I forget, they just sit there, too many. Occasionally, I read them and ask myself, why did I save this or what does it mean now. I also used to cut out bits from newspapers, collect them in a heavy concertina folder. But since we read the news online, this has become dated. I looked through that folder recently and chucked out stacks of reports and reviews and opinion pieces on the Iraq wars. Even longer ago, I used to be one of these mothers who would send newspaper cuttings and handwritten quotes on postcards to her daughter away at uni, lest she forget about the importance of life's meaning according to mum. 

Sometimes when I am clueless or sad or lost with it all, the big shebang of living and coping and understanding, there can be just that one quote, one short sentence from a writer, a poet, a blogger, an artist, peasant farmer, politician, priest, thinker or non-thinker, that lifts me up, enough to feel, yes, here it is, this stream of understanding, connecting me to others, some dead for thousands of years, some far away, but human nevertheless, then, now and in the future.

As I walk I look at these neat houses, wonder who lives behind these windows. I am four streets from my own, so in good German tradition, this is foreign territory, where you nod politely but otherwise mind your own business. 

Most of these houses are well over 100 years old. With one or two exceptions, renovated with great attention to detail and history. I am watching the exceptions, some have been empty for years, one is slowly disintegrating and I am reminded of Mary Moon and the falling down house she observes on her walks.

The wish for permanence, that things should be as they used to be, always were, is perhaps just a childish reaction to the human experience that change is the only constant in our lives. My life has been marked by many changes since I left my (3rd) childhood home at age 18.  My current address is the overall 14th so far, or maybe the 19th, depending on whether I paid rent/mortgage or squatted for a while. When I filled out my pension application, I was asked to state my address as of May 1990, which was at address number ten, in country number five, on continent number two. It has no bearing on my pension. The question is merely to ascertain whether I lived in the east or the west of Germany before reunification. But I wonder what they make of it or whether someone in the pension office even knows where that country is.

But now I am here, have lived here for the longest period of my life, in a place I would have called a boring suburb in a country I once left in disgust for good. As I walk on to where the winter version of the farmer's market is happening, I am approached by a group of cheerful young people handing out leaflets about their housing co-op project. We talk for a while, I eventually tell them that I was involved in setting up and lived in a housing co-op many years ago and that it's still going strong. They scrutinize me with polite disbelief, how come, they seem to think, she looks like a middle-class old woman.  I smile and leave them to their leafleting, dream on, I think, but also: good luck to you.

Where was I? Quotes. Here is today's selection:

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing. (Arundhati Roy) 

You have to develop your imagination to the point that permits sympathy to happen. You have to be able to imagine lives that are not yours or the lives of your loved ones or the lives of your neighbors. You have to have at least enough imagination to understand that if you want the benefits of compassion, you must be compassionate. If you want forgiveness, you must be forgiving. It's a difficult business, being human. (Wendell Berry)

Enduring love comes when we love most of what we learn about the other person and can tolerate the faults they cannot change. (Louise Erdrich)

17 January 2024

dreadful white stuff


This was yesterday. Benign scenery, we walked for a while and it was sort of nice. 

Right now, it's snowing heavily. The more serious snow, the kind that stays on the ground, which is frozen. I grew up with long winters like that and always disliked it, all of it, the skiing, the tobogganing, the ice skating, the snowball fights, the wet mittens, the frozen toes, the runny nose, the amount of time needed to get ready to go out, to come back in. In this part of the world, however, the valley of a very large river, snow doesn't come often and never for long. But the people freak out nevertheless. Schools are closed, public transport shuts down, that sort of stuff.

The strangely good news, the forecast for next week is almost tropical, with temperatures way above even for a normal January. 

I had the pleasant experience of yet another colonoscopy, this was number 10 over a period of almost 20 years. It's not my favourite pastime but needs must etc. I was introduced to a new term, the so-called burned-out stage of this chronic inflammatory disease. Apparently, after 20 years of coping and struggling with inflammation in the various regions of my formerly healthy physical self (ears, eyes, lungs and colon) my body has handed over the large intestine and basically said, there you go, I've done my bit, taken all the drugs, followed all the guidelines, you win, I give up. 

End-stage or “burned-out” ulcerative colitis is characterized by shortening of the colon, loss of normal redundancy in the sigmoid region and at the splenic and hepatic flexures, disappearance of the haustral pattern, a featureless mucosa, absence of discrete ulceration, and narrowed caliber of the bowel.

So basically, the days of careless eating whatever and whenever I want to are over for good. In fact, they have been over for a good while but now I've got it in black and white. I am still eating food, I still enjoy it, but I have become one of these tiresome fidgety eaters, picking and separating food stuffs on my plate. R has started to make cooking for me into an art form, will not accept that I could happily survive on porridge and various other gruel-type things, alphabet soup and apple sauce. 

There's still more diagnostics to come, a couple more suspicious symptoms to clarify, and there's still talk of surgery. This is not something that scares or surprises me. I am an old hand at this.

My sister send me a book to read for distraction in these, as she finds, trying times. You will find this book is very moving and eventually uplifting, she claimed. She is serious. The main character, a successful young writer, is coming to terms with a diagnosis of terminal colon cancer and hides from his partner in a retreat center (scenic, forest, lakes etc.) to search for the meaning of his life, while she, the partner, suffers a miscarriage. When I got to this stage, I skipped to the last page, where she has left him for his best friend and he is moving to a houseboat for his final peaceful days, but with a potential life saving cure on the horizon or something like that. I read it diagonally. You've got to hand it to her, my sister knows what it takes. 

Olaf says hi!

12 January 2024

09 January 2024

frost on the ground


Today just after 9 am, the sun was just coming up from behind the hills in the east, the temperature was -8 Celsius. I was cycling back from a doctor's appointment with the icy wind in my back, thankfully. Back home, it took close to an hour to regain feeling in my fingers. There was much howling and gnashing of teeth while R dipped my hands back and forth into warm and cold water the way my mother did when I was a child. I never liked the cold. And I had slept badly with weird dreams, there are a couple of medical tests ahead of me that I try - not always successfully - to keep cool about. 

Meanwhile. Thoughts.

All these angry recreational activists who take themselves so seriously and think they have to be angry all the time get on my nerves. Nelson Mandela was not angry. He said that the moment he lost compassion for his guards was a difficult moment. He always remained human, even in prison. Many activists today no longer understand that. They think it's enough to be upset about something. It's a huge misunderstanding that activism is all about the activist's state of mind. Anger can be a driving force, but otherwise it tends to get in the way because it clouds the view.

Düzen Tekkal

When you think of it, my brother told me on the phone, things in Europe have been positively medieval in recent years. We've had the Plague, the death of a queen, rising bread prices, now the peasants are revolting in Germany, religions battle against each other,  if we don't watch out, we may have to go to war against Sweden for 30 years again (the Thirty Years' War was a series of wars fought among numerous European powers in the 17th century, caused, inter alia, by peasant uprisings and religious dissent with the Swedish ruler Gustav Adolf a main driving force).

I think it's important to remember that a decisive factor for the functioning of a democracy is the opposition - inside and outside of parliament. The challenge of democracy is that even those who would have voted for a different party, wanted different decisions or different personnel remain loyal to the collectively binding framework, the constitution, the legal rights of citizens. Loyalty does not mean agreeing with everything, it means recognizing things for what they are: politically legitimized decisions against which, if you disagree, there are ways of taking action, at least in democracies, both inside and outside parliaments. We can vote, we can take to the streets, we can argue, we can write, we must do all of these. Early on, when I was maybe 12 years old, my father explained to me what he called the cycle of power. A democratically elected government enforces decisions, applies them administratively, is reflected in the effects of these decisions and has to work its way through them. In an autocratic state, the power cycle runs on privileging certain groups and on violence and intimidation. In Roman times - and my father was a fan of early democracies - there was the Forum, an important public place for debating and arguing during democracies - and for hangings during the times of tyrants and dictators, no less. And before the Romans, the Greek had the Agora, same thing, a central public space for all to debate, buy and sell their goods, make art, share ideas, test theories, explain and teach (never mind the public role of women at the time). Novices in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries must learn the art of debating and listening. You can watch them here. I, on the other hand, simply post something on a social media channel and think I have made a serious contribution to world peace.

And after all that, I was foolish enough to go out again into the freezing cold because R insisted. The light, the light, he called out to me. We walked uphill this time, real snow on the ground and caught the last bits of sunshine way over the hills to the west.





06 January 2024

books 2023

I am a reader, I've been reading forever and I read everything, cereal boxes, advertising flyers, bus ticket stubs, novels, science manuscripts. For many years, I also sold books and to this day, I haven't been able to stop slightly rearranging and tidying shelves in bookshops I visit. (But from observation, I know I am not the only one.)

This here is weird and I don't think I'll do this ever again, these graphs and stuff, but intriguing nevertheless.

Library Thing is my digital library, R gifted me a lifetime subscription when I was first diagnosed with the shitty disease. It's now free for all.  

According to my yearly reading review, a new feature, I've read 71 books in 2023, 15 of these thrillers. My mother would be disgusted.

Admittedly, I did not finish all of them, but that's my prerogative. The time when I would feel guilty for not reading a book to its end are long over. 

03 January 2024

Like all other sensible people I decided to not do the thing with new year's resolutions. I am old enough to know that it'll never work, I'll never stick to any of it and by week two the latest, won't remember a thing.

Then my rebellious streak woke up and here we go:

  • Listen to one Bruce Springsteen song per day, starting with his oldest release and working your way through to near present day.
  • Read one poem every day. Currently following Pádraig Ó Tuama (Poetry Unbound transcripts).
  • Read, not listen to, printed not online pages every day, a chapter, a short story, whatever. Currently one story per day from Antarctica by Claire Keegan
  • One to two hours outside, walking, cycling, gardening, whatever, at least every day, come rain or shine.
  • Keep the daily food intake record the gastrologist asked for months ago. 
  • Keep the weight record the gastrologist asked for months ago. Weight loss record.
  • Reply to missed calls, emails and messages asap, not months later.
  • Reply to blog comments.

In past years, I chose one author I was interested in or liked or was curious about and read all their work in chronological order over the year. I haven't yet decided for this year, Margaret Atwood or Joseph O'Connor or Janet Frame, not sure.

It's a work in progress.

01 January 2024

We need to desire, not fear, the future.

To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;

from a longer poem by Mary Oliver

Here we stand at the beginning of another year, an open book in front of us. We think we know most of  what it holds. After all, we are elderly, we have seen it before. And yet. Isn't it terrible that the only utopia we can offer the younger generation is the prevention of a catastrophe. Pretending all is well we wrap our world in absorbent cotton that leaves out everything that contradicts it. 

We need to remain sober, patient people who do not despair in the face of the worst horrors and do not get excited about every stupidity. And we have to want to win. We need the best strategy, the best people, the best policies, we need all our strength, resistance energy and must not shy away from getting our fingers dirty.

There is hardly a group that has as much influence on world history as the indifferent. And the remarkable thing is that nobody speaks of them. Their passivity has made the most radical upheavals possible. The indifferent accept everything as it comes. They are neither in favour nor against.

The indifferent are almost more dangerous than  ideologues because they are difficult to predict and just as difficult to track down when they disappear after a disaster they have caused.  It is often said that the indifferent make it easy for themselves by looking the other way when things become inhumane and then playing the innocent lamb afterwards. But as an indifferent, you have to make an extreme effort to repress and fight against all the humanity within you that has not yet died off.

Being committed is not synonymous with a dangerous, pleasureless life, quite the opposite. It is a dynamic life in which boredom has no place, the brain is always active and the antennae become sensitive to a better future, which helps not to destroy the present, the mother of the future. We all know those moments when we want to say: As an individual you can't do anything anyway, and anyway I can't see through it any more...?! These are excuses. Of course the situation is confusing, and anyone who gets involved can also fail. But this risk,  is simply part of it.
Rafik Shami


These days, I don’t imagine a different planet; I imagine what ours could look like if we collectively acknowledged its loss. To clock what is gone is to clock all we can still save. A world where we are mad, but we’re working out of love.

Erica Berry


If we save the world, a big old hypothetical ‘if’, what was the reason that we did that? If we did it because of fear, what happens when the fear is gone? But if we save the world because of wonder, wonder persists after the danger is gone. We’ll be more likely to protect future generations again and again afterwards.
Dara McAnulty


 One of the few things I have learned in the short time I have been alive is the reliability of patience.

Devin Kelly


It needs to energize us with a rage
that roars unchecked through the blood
and bring us begging to our knees;
this planet is the only place we have to live,
this one small foothold
we need to fall in love with it again.

See it exotic and wonderful,
pick up the loose stitches, tether ourselves
even tighter to the sky, perfume the wind
with the smell of lust, pour ourselves
into the sea. We must take root
in the aquamarines, the greens, and endless
violet sunsets living at the end of love.

from a longer poem by Jean O'Brien