26 June 2024

apricot days

It's that time of a summer when the lime trees (linden to some) are in flower sharing their intense fragrance, especially at night when we open up the house after a hot day. This suburb is lime tree suburb with street after street lined by old tall trees. There's no point washing cars or windows are whatever until they are done. It is spectacular despite the fact that at times, the intesity of the fragrance borders on cat's piss.

When my daughter was a moody teenager, we went for a couple of days to Paris since we guessed - rightly so - that our days of family outings were numbered. There was some parental apprehension due to her teenage mood swings and her unwillingness to even look at a guide book or show the slightest interest in what Paris may have to offer. As it happened, her parents had a massive argument the morning of our departure which resulted in this grown up teenager sitting between two sulking adults who refused to speak to each other. Things improved dramatically after we arrived thanks to the thousands of Paris's lime trees in flower and we had some very fine days of which we speak fondly to this day. 

Meanwhile, I visited a street music festival, the open air opera festival and the long night of the museums, not all on the same day, and was completely washed out for three or ten days. Well worth it though. 

And I've gone and had the second or maybe fourth opinion from another team of experts. This one doesn't want to go for surgery - yet - and anyway, would not be able to promise any marked improvement as a result. So it's more of the same, with variations, a sprinkling of this and that and No More Weight Loss. I am still relieved about the no surgery bit.  As it stands, you just have to accommodate each new bit of knowledge, each new limitation, each new experience, each new fear that comes your way. Even if you die a little. What else is there. Porridge, a small handful of freshly picked berries, yoghurt and if you are the fool I am, too many juicy, ripe Spanish apricots resulting in a sleepless night.

These three things have come my way.

A poem.

 Hello to you all, how do you live?

Rabbit :
We live in small groups, have no fixed partnerships.
Build widely branching tunnel systems,
in which our young are born, naked and blind.
We still reproduce when imprisoned.

Hare :
I live solitary. Sleep in a shallow hollow.
My offspring are born with fur and open eyes.
I have never been domesticated.

Humans :
We don’t quite know.
Until we have found out, we wage wars.

Lin May Saeed

According to her website, Saeed believed we humans had a lot to learn from animals, and her favourite daydream was imagining aliens and animals coming together to meet humans to give them a masterclass called ‘How Not To Mess It Up’.

A bit of music.

And a short film. (More info about it, click here.)

16 June 2024

working on exhale


harvest time mostly daily

It seems that I’ve developed a habit of holding my breath. I must remind myself to exhale. I forget what my default setting used to be. It's the strangest thing, chronic illness and its long tail of sidelines and risks. The way it doesn't stay the same despite the same old same old stuff day in and day out, the tediousness of the restrictions and vigilance that the medications dictate. Until there's the day when it's become more shit than before, in comparison. When I realise this has been going on for some time, while I distracted myself with pretending to be healthy and jolly.


trying to stay on top of it

Well, if there's one thing I should have figured out in the last decade, it's that it's rare to get through life in general without any difficult phases. In one form or another, at some point, shit happens along the way and we have to hold our nerve, get our cool, stop ourselves from falling apart. And I am at that point, I think. In all these years of being ill, as long and hard and also as wild and happy as they have been so far, there has never been a day when I am not reminded of being ill. As much as have tried, initially, there's no way to switch it off. It's always something and right now it's a bit more. It is that time again when I need to sit with all the trouble until I come to reach some balance within. Regardless or probably especially because of the surgery looming on the horizon.

very happy with the apricots

The week has been hard, more than I want to admit it, I have battled daily through long hours of cramps and colic determined to not let this rule my day and stop me from doing stuff. But Thursday was the day, I packed it in and have since stayed home, no walk, no cycle, no gardening. Instead, I sleep in the afternoons and otherwise sit on the patio doing nothing at all. When it comes to food, I pick something from the slim list of tolerables with grim determination just to get some energy, protein, fibre. The nutritionist declared to be at the end of wisdom, handed me lists of recipes for bland soups and variations of watery porridge. Her wisdom was good nevertheless and I am grateful. On Wednesday, I handed over all my medical reports and stuff to the next set of surgeons who will now deliberate options prior to next week's scheduled appointment. Sounds great but I fear it will turn out that on Tuesday, some exhausted junior doctor will quickly glance through the file and ask the same questions again and I will reply with the same old list of concerns and then there will be that moment of irritation when I cite the medical research papers on the risks of surgery option 1, 2 and 3 in patients on immune suppression. I usually smile apologetically when they realise that I am a patient with a rare autoimmune disease, one they have heard about maybe once during training and then I usually and briefly explain that due to my long work experience I have access to and experience in checking and even interpreting relevant data. But still, there will be that sigh and oh shit etc.

the front, there have been complaints about it being too much of a jungle

And yet, and yet and yet. The garden is bliss, I walk around and pick s small handful of berries. Wonderful people come and sit with me, bringing fresh cherries, flowers, laughter and talk. I nibbled some cherries, too many, and pay the price but it was worth it.

I swear when this is over and sorted, I'll design the ultimate luxury food book, one that celebrate all the delicious, spicy, sweet, fatty, rich dishes I can only dream of ever eating again.


Hold hard this infirmity.
It defines you. You are old.
Now fix yourself in summer,
In thickets of ripe berries,
And venture toward the ridge
Where you were born. Await there
The setting sun. Be alive
To that old conflagration
One more time. Mortality
Is your shadow and your shade.
Translate yourself to spirit;
Be present on your journey.
Keep to the trees and waters.
Be the singing of the soil.

N. Scott Momaday

09 June 2024

my bit for democracy

After several days, weeks (?) of heavy rain, we finally have a couple of good sunny hot days. Enough to go wandering about before sunset and dip into the various small local art festivals and open air concerts. I spent a few hours wandering about at the "Long Gallery Night" looking at art objects and nibbling the finger food, pretending I was actually flush enough to purchase anything, while R topped up on the free drinks.

The excitement of suburban living.

Yesterday, we received a big box of organic apricots directly from Analucia thanks to crowdfarming, one of the best ideas that have come into our lives.

Today are the European elections. A long time ago, decent people dreamed of introducing free, equal and secret suffrage in Europe. At the time and even today, plenty of opponents think this was a mad, even bad idea. But today on the continent whose history has been characterised by wars and more wars, where only 80 years ago, the allied forces landed on its beaches to set out and defeat the nazis, people living in 27 countries are now able to vote in unison for a common parliament.  I know that to some the EU is nothing but a large corrupt corporation only interested in setting silly and divisive rules.

Many people vote because they think it will create the world they want to see. I don't think that. Today, I voted against the ugly new fascists raising their heads. Because if you stay asleep in democracy you will wake up in dictatorship.

Human beings are good. I am convinced that we are constructed in such a way that we want to get along well with our fellow human beings. For some, the hardware is damaged. Through violence, abuse, neglect, mental illness or just because. And then the software crashes. In the normal population, around two per cent of all people are psychopaths, very few of whom are in prison. Many have a much bigger playground, they can become CEOs, US presidents or dictators in the Kremlin. And we can only handle them if we are not divided into bitsy little countries bitching about each other.

Democracy is not a finished product, not something that we have, but something of which we must see ourselves as a necessarily active part. Which is why the man is spending his day and late into the night volunteering at one of the voting centers. I sent him off with a big box of oatmeal cookies I baked late last night.

Other than that, I have finally managed to sand down the bit of the wooden floor by the patio door that badly needs revarnishing. I tried my best, my arms are shaking from the rattle of the sander but in some places, the worn out bits are too damaged and I should probably get a better tool or someone with more ellbow grease. Do I care? Not at all. 

The song for today. For more about its history, click here. In the last couple of weeks, the varied gangs of street musicians in our city have come together and wherever/whenever the neonazis put up their election campaign stands, they turned up to sing this song. I have no video from them, this one is from a somewhere in Italy.

02 June 2024

Human dignity shall be inviolable

Well, we did have a good bit of rain, as in: WTF, this is meant to be summer. But at least no flooding (yet) as is happening in other parts of this country. The garden of course loves it, although the tomatoes could do with sunlight. Which may just be around the corner, and probably too much of it.

We dug up the first lot of potatoes, the French pink ones, Franceline, that's their name.

In between showers, I have attended a Fridays for Future rally, participated in last week's critical mass cycle event and sat in a couple of meetings and talks celebrating 75 years of the German constitution. I was ten years old when we started to read and discuss it in school, one article a day, starting with the first one: Human dignity shall be inviolable. So like the good citizen I am, I have started again, one article a day, for 146 days.

It's been a difficult week or three with this diet stuff and not everything works as suggested. I cherish the days when I am not bent over with bloating for most of the afternoon. The word surgery is floating on the horizon, second opinion appointment in two weeks. I am exhausted.

As for distraction and enlightenment, this is what I have come across:

This article as an example of what could be more unhinged, crazy and yes, they do think that Elon Musk is the future king. Pronatalists, seriously?

And for the week that was, two images:

Martin Rowson in the Guardian


As for memes, this keeps on coming up: 

climate change will manifest as a series of disasters viewed through phones with footage that gets closer and closer to where you live until you're the one filming it 


Finally, a poem.


1. How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.

2. For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.

3. What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy.

4. In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
you could most readily do without.

5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security,
for which you would kill a child.
Name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill

Wendell Berry