Changing lives

When we arrived in Germany, all those years ago, one of the first things we did was to go to the school to register the children for the next term.

On arrival at the school I was shocked!! Where was the wall or the fence? Everything was open!! Even the main entrance door was open! You could just walk in!!

I quizzed the headmaster. How did they keep the little children safe? Did the children not run away? I think he was surprised by my interrogation. I may have spent my childhood in the UK being caged in for ‘my own protection’ but he had spent his German childhood being free. He did his best to soothe my worries, but to be honest, I remained a little nervous.

In just a matter of weeks after starting school though, those worries melted away and I looked at my little ones with new eyes. How lucky were they to attend a school in which they were free? No locked door. No wall. Just grass. And street. And an area to play. No one kept them in. They just stayed. No one placed a barricade between them and the rest of the world. They just sat in their classrooms and learned.

Now, there have been issues here. There have been a few school shootings. Sadly, there are (in my opinion, far too often) threats, generally by students, to rampage through the school, harming fellow students and teachers. The police take those threats extremely seriously.

But no walls are built. No doors are locked. And children remain generally free and feel pretty safe.

I never heard a politician here say, “Let’s arm the teachers.”
I never heard a politician here say, “Let’s allow anyone, in their right mind or in their wrong mind, to buy a semi-automatic weapon, no questions asked.”
I never heard a politician say, “It was mental illness and not a bullet that murdered your child.”

Issues with mental illness are dealt with here with high quality therapy. With a bit too much medication for my personal liking. And with far too long waiting lists. But not with a license to kill.

Be brave.
Choose another path.
Don’t vote Republican.
Save your children.

I sometimes think my car is possessed…

I sometimes think my car is possessed. Yesterday I ran out to do a quick errand and I noticed both the passenger’s window and the driver’s window were slightly ajar, just a couple of inches, but enough to let in a small breeze. I’m not complaining, it was hot outside after all, and the airing the car gave itself really was good for me also. But it was slightly unnerving, because I’m telling you: I DID NOT OPEN THE WINDOWS!!!

And, to be honest, it’s not my first strange event with the car. A few weeks ago I went outside and the boot was wide open. I hadn’t opened it, and irritatingly I didn’t actually need it to be open. So if my car was trying to help me in some way, well, really it was more of a hindrance. I had no idea just how long it had been open for. Had small animals made a nest inside? Had rain got in? Had something been stolen? Tentatively I assessed my car, and discovered all was well. But I had a slight irk in the pit of my stomach. Why the hell was my boot open?

I do try my best to be polite to my car. I say thank you if she peeps at me if I go over the speed limit and I immediately reduce my tempo for example. But we do find ourselves getting into these huge arguments.
She says, “Turn left at the next junction.”
I answer, “What? That’s not the quickest route! Where are you trying to take me?” And I drive on, all assertively.
She responds, “Turn around when possible.”
And I say, “Fat chance!”
She becomes so insistent, “Make a u-turn!
Then, after I ignore her, “Turn right in 2km, make a u-turn and turn left, back into this road and follow the road back for a little more than 2km and then turn right into the road I told you to turn into before.”
It’s not just determination that I hear in her voice, I’m sure I notice a little bit of ticked-offness.
Sometimes, just sometimes I do yell back at her. I bawl, “Look love, I’m not making a bloody u-turn, I’m driving this way whether you like it or not. Last week you may have managed to convince me to take a detour down that no through road, which, by the way, I’m still sure was private property, but I’m not taking it anymore. I want to drive this way and this way I will drive.”
I admit, at times, I do use more profanity.

Do you think she’s retaliating?

Happy New Year and I need your help!!

2022 Hooray!!

Let’s hope, as a year, you will be much kinder to us all than 2021 was. Or 2020 for that matter!! All our hopes (and dreams) are riding on you! Plus with so many twos in you, I am convinced you must be going to be a good year. Though that might be my optimistic nature….

I wish us all good health. That includes a cure for Covid-19. A cure for cancer. And a cure for the bloody menopause.

I also wish for a cure for stupidity, but I think I might be pushing it on that one…

I wish us all much joy and laughter.

I wish us all to find the strength we need when times are tough and to have good friends around to catch us when we start to fall.

On a personal note I need to come to terms with the fact that I will turn 50 this year. And I want to finish my book (nearly there), finish the work on my house (just need a builder), be healthier (might require a new body for that one) and just find my inner balance again.

On that note, one of the hobbies I’ve taken up in recent years is photography. I’m no great photographer but I keep taking pictures and if I take enough, I finally get a few good shots.
Of course, I take blurry photos of moving objects like the dog and the kids. But what I really love is nature photography. There is something truly relaxing about it. And I have a strong feeling of inner peace when I look at specific pictures.
With that in mind, I had the mad idea a couple of years ago of starting a gallery of ‘annual favourites’ in our house. That is, I would choose one beloved photo from each year and have it made into a gallery style print and hang it up on the wall. It’s a mad idea because we have almost no wall space left, especially not for a growing number of photographs… But I’m striding along with the project anyway.
The most difficult part is trying to whittle down my favourite four/five/six pictures of the year to just one. I truly agonize over it. It’s so tempting to just print them all off, but that would be too expensive and as I said: there’s not enough wall space.
So this year I thought I’d share the final pictures with you and ask you what you think!!

Autumn leaves

Christmas Wishes!!

Just a quickie to wish all of you, my readers a wonderful Christmas. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart for your support, your lovely comments and helping me to keep the laughter alive.
I’ll be off, hungry relatives are about to arrive. You’d think I was feeding the five thousand the amount I’ve cooked. We’ll all roll into the New Year!!

I’m living on the edge, I tell you…

When do you know, officially, that you’re an old git? Past your best? Readying yourself for the scrap heap?

Is it when you start removing your glasses, rubbing your eyes and then trying to read the text that just popped up on your phone, by bobbing the phone back and forth in front of your face to ‘find’ that correct position?

Is it when you go to ‘that’ birthday party, knock back a few too many sparkling wines and decide to dance, forget how to dance, jump up and down a little, then stop suddenly as you notice a little bit of wee just popped out?

Is it when you take a shower and there’s more hair on the shower floor than there are shampoo bubbles, and not just because you keep pulling them out in an attempt to execute the greys?

Is it when you keep insisting on driving along the road to the supermarket, rather than taking the turning to the doctor’s surgery/school to pick up your child/or anywhere else you are actually supposed to be driving?

Is it when you’re hot, you’re cold, you’re hot, you’re cold, without having a fever or anything and you become known as the crazy cardigan lady who is constantly stripping and covering up?

Is it when technology is just beyond you nowadays? You can’t figure out how to turn off the car. You shake your phone in an attempt to ‘make it work’. You keep mixing up your PIN numbers and have to test the patience of all the local shopkeepers while you look up potential hidden codes on your phone, once you’ve found the correct app, that is, and all the while they’re resetting the card payment terminal…

Is it when you start to epitomize your son’s term multi-failing, instead of proudly multitasking as you did in bygone times?

Is it when you realize you bought far more advent calendar gifts for one kid than for any of the others and you find yourself scratching their name off the packaging and inserting another?

Is it when you carefully do a wool wash, cool and with a gentle spin and everything, then fail to hang it up. And once you finally notice the washing is still in the machine, you have to rewash it, but as you eventually remove it from the machine, you discover you washed it the second time on a normal wash?

Is it when you don’t even remember you forgot that appointment and when someone calls to tell you, you say what appointment?

Is it when you look through your mobile and can’t decipher who half of these contacts even are?

Or is it when you don’t need to jump anymore to liberate a fresh urine sample? You just need to sneeze, or cough, or laugh.

It’s a huge problem. I laugh a lot.

Can you un-twitch a twitcher or would the music stop?

My husband is one of those people who laughs a lot. So much so that if he has the opportunity to live on to a ripe old age, he will end up with deep laughter lines, forming crevices all over his face. Generally his laughter seems to be set off by me, or one of the children, or the dog, or a reckless politician.

Since Covid removed him from his actual office in the city and placed him in my our actual office upstairs, he has taken to retaking up an old hobby: playing guitar. My husband is many things: a laugher, a fixer of broken things, a dog teaser meanwhile he is also an obsessive person, and this new-old hobby of his, really is reaching new heights.

Not only do I find him plucking his guitar strings on the sofa, I also spot him strumming through meetings, while his microphone is on silent (shh don’t tell his boss) and hear him tinkling from the loo.

To top it all, he’s now started playing ‘air guitar’ except it’s not in the air, perhaps a more appropriate name for it would be ‘belly guitar’? He started this weird thing, right after dinner, in the midst of conversation, whilst waiting at traffic lights etc: of twanging his own stomach. I asked him, of course, what on earth he was doing, and he informed me that he needs to build up the muscle so he can play faster.

Jo has dated a couple of drummers in her time and what I’ve noticed is this; natural born drummers tap. They do it it intuitively, like they just can’t stop themselves. Actually, I don’t think they generally even notice that they are doing it.

Do intuitive guitarists twang their bellies or is it just my husband?

I do my best to be a supportive wife, really I do. But if you met my husband the thing he’d say to you about me is that I’m extremely honest. I just can’t help myself. I always have to spout the truth in every given situation. It’s like a compulsion. It just spurts right out of me. In that vein, when my husband started jerking his hand around on his full tummy after dinner last night, I erupted. Stop twitching, I said. It looks weird, I said. It looks like you’re having some kind of stroke, I said.

My husband being my husband found the whole discussion hilarious. And it seems I only spurred him on. Suddenly he realized there were endless possibilities of the belly guitar model: my head, my shoulder, my back, the dog’s head. To be fair, the dog seemed to quite like it.

Of course, my husband was greatly encouraged in his antics by our children. The autistic one, loves the ‘ists’ in conversation, especially when he’s being protective, which he regularly is. After a rummage around it was finally agreed between him and his younger sibling that I was being twitch-ist.

Here we go again….

God, I wouldn’t cope in a desert without any food or water for more than a minute. I’m on my third day of just a couple of crackers a day in preparation for my MRT later on this afternoon and I’m a shaky, wobbly mess. The MRT is a follow up to the tests from the last post.
Today I have managed to have a shower and put a wash on. And order some trousers on the internet. Hopefully correctly this time. Yesterday I accidentally ordered two pairs which were exactly the same and in the wrong size. I didn’t even realize my mistake until after check out. When it suddenly occurred to me that the bill was higher than the price of the trousers I wanted, especially considering I had both a voucher for 30% off and another voucher towards the costs. Evidently my brain was on low function mode.

I was also slightly distracted. Partially because as well as having eaten next to nothing (by then only for two days), it was also my lovely daughter’s birthday and she was just pulling up in the car outside. On top of that I was mentally preparing myself for my third dose of bowel emptying medicine in two weeks. I can happily inform you that I managed to convince the doctor to give me a totally different prescription this time. The last one erupted from my stomach in a volcano like manner. As in up the way, and not down the way, like it should. I was left somewhat perturbed about the sheer amount of fluids which rose from my belly, so much so that I questioned Doctor Google and when that didn’t quench my thirst for answers, I poked and prodded my husband awake, dragged him out of bed and showed him the relevant fluids, which I’d talentedly caught, in their entirety in a large bowl (I am pretty much always prepared). I’ll be honest, my husband was not impressed. But he did manage to convince me that I didn’t need to cancel my appointment at the hospital.

I can’t tell you much about the hospital appointment. It is somewhat hazy. I remember arriving and lying down on the comfiest hospital bed known to man, woman or child. I remember having tubes with oxygen pressed into my nose and thinking two things: oxygen smells very nice and really, this should not be up my nose, but up the nose of somebody in India. The next thing I knew I was waking up. Once I seemed a bit together a lovely nurse helped me down from the bed and into a cubicle to get dressed. Then she took me into an office to see my doctor. She also brought me a nice cup of tea, which I didn’t manage to drink, as once the doctor had entered the room, I didn’t want to expose him to my breath by removing my mask. Which was obviously not really thought through, as he’d just shoved cameras down my throat and up my backside and taken biopsies and I definitely hadn’t worn a mask during that time. I can happily tell you, there was no truth serum administered! Phew!! But I can’t really tell you what the doctor said. He kind of breezed in and out and babbled on about more tests and treatment. Hence I will go back there today.

He passed me on to his nurse, who passed me on to his receptionist, who made me an immediate appointment for a lung x-ray. She sat me on a chair and handed me some papers. I waited for a bit and then thought, where are the papers? I looked in my bag, in my jacket pocket, under my chair, on the floor. Then I thought, she must have taken them back off me again. I think I was still rather dazed, and to be fair to myself, I hadn’t even managed to drink my tea. She returned and took me to the x-ray department and then asked me for the papers. I told her blankly that I didn’t have them, which resulted in a bit of toing and froing, somewhat like in a puppet theater – “Oh yes you do!” “Oh no I don’t!”. But in the back of my mind I felt so guilty. I was pretty sure she had given them to me. But I hadn’t moved from the seat, so where on earth could they possibly be? The poor woman ended up leaving me outside the x-ray department while she retraced her steps through the hospital and searched all through reception. The papers had quite magnificently disappeared. Poof! Into thin air. So she had to start all over again, print out brand new papers and deliver them back to me so I could get my chest x-ray. She told me to destroy the papers if I somehow found them on my person. I’ve never found them.

Having a chest x-ray means removing both your top and your bra. Being British I’m well-known for my capabilities in the art of small talk. Seemingly the radiographer was a pretty chatty woman as well, which led to a slightly strange situation. I was standing there, bosom dangling, discussing all and sundry with a complete stranger. I do wonder, what today will bring…

Focus: and button it!

Tomorrow I will bare my bottom to a new gastroenterologist. I’ve done some of the necessary preparations already. Trimmed away at pubic hair with an ancient pair of baby scissors. I consider them, given the delicacy of the area, the safest method. Not that I’m proclaiming to have done a professional job. I snip-snipped while in the shower, you see. Which meant my glasses were on the side of the bath, not on my face. Without them, I wouldn’t trust myself to spot a looming vehicle under normal circumstances, so somewhat overgrown pubic hair was a real challenge.

At least I couldn’t see the grey.

Silver linings….

I am not really looking forward to it. They’ll shove a camera down my throat and another one up my behind. Not lovely. But the worse bit comes afterwards. When I wake up. My husband and my son recently reminded me that they will give me the ‘truth drug’. I’ll open my eyes and my head will be filled with all kinds of strange thoughts, which I will no longer be able to filter, instead I’ll just blurt out whatever idiotic comment comes to mind.

My son and my husband appear to be rather entertained by the idea.

And this time it really could get out of hand. At the last ‘down there’ doctor, the process was to ship patients in and out. You could actually compare it to being on an assembly line. My eyes would pop open, and hey presto, the nurse would have me off the bed and getting dressed and on my feet in a mere jiffy. Then dragged, with the help of a second nurse across to the waiting room to spout the rest of my nonsense in there. My husband, who’d been waiting throughout the whole procedure, beamed and helped me into a seat. Made me a fruit tea and kept me propped up until the doctor was ready to see me with any new news.

To be clear, I was never focused on any new news. I didn’t have a clue what on earth he was saying to me. Not only because he was a mumbler. But because I was fixated on other items in the room, like the comfortable looking sofa or just the pure whiteness of it all. So my husband would try to keep me buckled down like a slightly hyperactive child (luckily we have the full realm of experience there) while simultaneously listening to my diagnosis, then thank the doctor and retrieve any necessary prescriptions.

I wasn’t trusted to be left alone, so my beloved would take me to the local pharmacist, which was truly dangerous territory. Not just the walk there. But inside the actual chemist itself. Not only was there the risk that I might start inspecting things with my unstable fingers. But the pharmacist herself was an old, sullen, austere woman. And her shop was spick and span. Spick and span, I say. Except for some glass shelves. Which were rather dusty. My truth serum ensured I told her all of this, of course.

But this time there will be no factory assembly line. Normally, I would say that’s a good thing… But I have to wake up and then be observed for TWO HOURS! And in those two whole hours a lot of chaos could be caused.

I am still trying to prepare myself:
– don’t tell pretty nurses of their prettiness
– and certainly don’t tell not so pretty nurses that they are, well, not!

A little bit of strangeness can go a long way

I am becoming somewhat strange, I think. I continually find myself doing odd things. For example, I check my Corona phone app every single day (only after removing the glasses I need to wear to make sure that I don’t step on the dog or trip over the foot stool and placing them somewhere) even though I haven’t left the house in donkey’s ages. Then, once I am quite sure that I am not at risk at all, I start searching for my glasses. Which are often to be found on top of my own head.

I have started to dare to believe that I am actually getting sensible responses from the dog.

I, a person who doesn’t really know what make-up is, have started wearing lipstick to the occasional zoom meeting.

And a couple of weeks ago, I, the person who hates cleaning, the mother whose children used to ask when they spotted a duster “Who’s coming to visit?”, invited friends to an online cleaning party. My husband was thinking of staging an intervention at that point. Especially when I actually purchased stuff. I think he only left it because he realized I also bought stuff for the dog. And a foot spa.


*No dogs were harmed in this story – although my knee is somewhat the worse for wear, family members are keeping up the necessary walks.

How are you doing during lockdown?

2021 A changed life…

And just like that we’re deep in the bowels of 2021. Can you believe it? Where does the time go?
It’s after 1pm here, German time and I’m still in my pj’s. It’s not that I haven’t done anything. I’ve done the washing. Done the dishes. Read the news. Got annoyed with the comments on a news article I read (why oh why are there so many trolls? Don’t people have better things to do with their lives?) I’ve written up three recipes for the cook book I’m working on. I’ve chatted to the dog. Written messages and answered messages. Organised work stuff.

So why I am still in my nightwear?

It first struck me yesterday, when my daughter bobbed into the living room, returning from her first zoom meeting of the day in her dressing gown. I asked her, wide-eyed, but not so bushy tailed, “Did you go to your zoom meeting in your pyjamas?”
“Yeah”, she responded, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

As a side note, she also tells me continuously that she has a meeting, as if a kid attending meetings is completely normal!

Then she added, nonchalantly, “I also haven’t brushed my hair.”

So many of our responses are evolving…

For example, when someone rings the doorbell nowadays: instead of jumping up to answer it, bouncing through the hall, we all abruptly stop what we are doing, and stare at each other like startled rabbits.
We don’t get up. Instead we start to ask each other, in flabbergasted tones, “Who could that be?” And then we proceed on to making statements, like “I’m not expecting anyone.” And still, we don’t answer the door.

The ringer has to ring twice before we finally return to our polite senses and get off our increasingly flabby buttocks and proceed with much caution towards the entrance.

Still bewildered our next predicament is do we don a mask or not? We hop from foot to foot and only come to a decision after asking our intrepid visitor for their opinion on the matter. So basically, “Would you like me to wear a mask (too)?”

In our case, our valiant callers often arrive bearing gifts. Which leads to whole new problem in terms of etiquette.

Do we drop the precious offering like a hot potato, leaving our guest yawning half a mile from our doorway and scrub our hands in the little bathroom while loudly singing “Happy birthday to somebody!”?


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