29 April 2024


My life of being gainfully employed is almost over. The extension I had agreed on last November will be completed by the end of this month. That's two days. In a bit I am going to cycle there for one last time to hand over my mobile phone and some data files and whatnots. I wanted to bake a cake for my colleagues but we only had one egg left last night, so tough luck. It's all over now.

Now, when I wake up I have to first tell myself what day of the week it actually is. I am discovering that I can slow down, that I can take my time. I am a knitter and I go for the complicated patterns that involve a lot of colours and a lot of counting and checking and rechecking. When I make a mistake, a tiny one, I sometimes used to ignore it, even it out with a slip here and there in the next row. Who cares, I would think. And: oriental carpets, the hand made ones, always have errors in their patterns. That way they can be recognised as originals. Once I was told by an old woman in a small village in the Ida mountains in western Turkey, these errors are proof that only Allah is perfect. But now, I have time and I go back and redo the row, unravel a whole section with one small mistake right at the start. No rush. But no need to be perfect.

I watched a long Terence Malick film without getting impatient. That's a first. We make elaborate plans for day trips, walks, swimming in cold water lakes and hot water springs, museums, galleries, Flemish cities across the border, the North Sea coast three hours drive away. And then we stay at home, get lost in the garden, make a pot of tea, listen to the news, talk with the neighbours, cycle a while along the river in the fading light at the end of the day. 


It's been cold and we had two nights of frost. This vine has got a touch of it but we hope it will recover. My father-in-law brought it back from the US many years ago, a gift from one the distant emigrant cousins. He nursed and pampered it in his greenhouse in Ireland and when the house was sold, R brought it here.


Meanwhile, mysterious stuff is going on inside our greenhouse.
While the vegetable patch is slowly coming along. The spuds survived the frost and the sugar snaps are up and climbing.
The colour theme this week is pink and purple.

20 April 2024

Life's a gas

daisy overload

The thing is that there are good days, not so good days and completely shit days. The mistake I keep on repeating is that a good day is not necessarily followed by another good day. In fact, the statistics for this to happen are poor. The man, a retired science teacher, has in all seriousness suggested we track the daily shape of things to evaluate if there's a noticeable trend. While on the one hand that would be a form of occupational therapy and yet another reason to apply the amazing options of an Excel spreadsheet, it would on the other hand give even more space to what already rules far too many aspects of my wonderful life. 

Currently, I am paying too much attention on the long and convoluted path of my intestine, from that bit behind the sternum all the way it winds criss cross behind my abdominal wall based on my breakfast of a bowl of overnight-soaked fine oats of which I microwaved all the fiber to death before I carefully chewed the remaining mush with a bit of low fat milk and sent it on its merry way.  It's a slow process, occasionally I rest my hand on the small bloated lump and whisper encouragements. But mostly I use swear words while I jump up and down, go for long walks, massage clockwise and anticlockwise and take hot showers before I turn to distraction therapy and listen to the Blindboy podcast, watch true crime documentaries or whatever comes my way, all with the trusted heating pad on my belly. The best part is that it will pass even if it takes its fucking time. By when it does, life is bliss.


There are times when I wish I was a baby with a tummy ache because I know all about that, spent hours with babies on my arms, tummy side down, or on my shoulder, gently massaging back and front, waiting for that burp. The German term when a baby burps, is "ein Bäuerchen machen" which literally translates to "doing what a little farmer does", which so far has not been identified as a hostile, anti-agricultural practitioner term. Anyway, I would love it if someone could cradle me like a baby with a sore swollen tummy but even with all the recent weightloss, I am still 1.7 m tall and that would make it a bit awkward.

The man, who has been reading about methane emissions in cattle and the impact on climate change and successful remedies using seaweed, is now actively investigating seaweed sources for me.

I am writing this while seated in the cafe of the local wholefood shop, just had a decent cup of coffee, listening to the family at the next table, as you do. The parents switch to speaking English when discussing stuff they don't want their two small kids to hear. (Interesting approach to bilingual language training.) The argument is about carrot juice and whether the kids drink too much of it. Been there, I want to tell them, just let them have it, it's only a phase before they ask for sodas. But it don't think it's wise to get involved especially when they think that speaking English is their clever disguise. Dad is now quoting medical research. Always a moment when I must abstain.
And just like that the rain has ceased and I will be on my way home, walking briskly with the odd jumping motion.  Every burb and fart a blessing. I hope nobody is offended by all this reference to digestive motions and gaseous effluents. My aim here is to keep the mood at an even level just above getting desperate.  And if that's offensive to some, tough luck.

A few days ago, I discovered this youtube channel and it has brought me great joy (don't judge me, see for yourself).

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.