Category Archives: Endings

2015 – A New Blank Page

Another year of my life – and yours has just slipped away. A year in which I did much, but not nearly enough of what was on my maybe-unrealistic annual to-do list. But being of the self-flagellating persuasion, I just re-read my motivational post written exactly a year ago. No, the year did not fail me, nor I the year. But the overflow from last year’s projects and intentions will be more than sufficient to fill 2015. In this new year the emphasis will be a different one.
It will most definitely be on the writing. In fact, I’ve just been invited to join a secret society of writers, the sole purpose of which is motivational. Nothing like encouragement from other like-minded people to get you onto your backside in front of that computer (but, no, NOT on social media!!) to work at those stories brewing inside your being, to get them flowing from brain to arms to fingers tapping on keyboard. Thank you, new friends, for including me in this venture!
To other friends who find making plans and setting goals either futile or too daunting, I wish you a year that changes your mind. And maybe, in reality, those goals and plans do exist. You just aren’t opening your eyes.



Happy New Year to everyone out there in the blogosphere!

Last night we were invited to a party with old friends, good food, freely flowing inebriants and a fireworks display, solely for the purpose of celebrating the advent of the New Year. No doubt a great many of you did the same. And a great many of you (I won’t include myself since I was the designated driver) woke up at midday a bit worse for wear. Never mind. Who’s counting anyway?

Backtracking to 12:30 a.m, when the hubbub of cracking explosives, kissing and hugging, and the slurping of bubbly had subsided to a virtual quietude amongst the guests, I asked the fatal question:

Has everybody made their New Year’s resolutions?

And what exactly was on their lists?

The response was a deafening cacophony of denial. No one had bothered to make – or even think about – what they…

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Filed under Beginnings, Endings, Fiction and Other Truths, Seasonal Reflections



I am shaking off the stupor caused by house-related renovations to comment on a breath-taking event that took place 25 years ago. Throughout the spring and summer of 1989, the situation in the German Democratic Republic escalated. East German “tourists” went on holiday to Czechoslovakia and Hungary – just about the only places they were allowed to travel. But they did not return home. They ended up camping on the grounds of the German embassies in Prague, Budapest and even Vienna, while behind-the-scenes frantic diplomacy was deciding their fate.

Back in East Germany, while the powers-that-were were gearing up to celebrate the up-coming 40-year birthday of the German Democratic Republic (DDR) in October, activists in Leipzig and Dresden and other eastern cities continued their weekly Monday Demonstrations. The meetings and marches were non-violent and centered around the Protestant Church, an institution just about tolerated by the government. Plenty of “unofficial” Stasi operatives took part, to be sure.

What did these people want anyway? Just everyday things really. Like being allowed to travel unhindered and not be walled in. Like the freedom to speak their minds without fear of arrest. Like not being spied on by neighbors and “friends” who had been enlisted for this purpose by the Stasi – the secret state security police. Just simple things really, things we in the West have always taken for granted.

Of course on the west side of the wall, West Germans watched expectantly, fearfully. There was no telling where it would all end. And from past experience, there was a good chance it would not end well. But bit by bit, the regime granted concessions. And then, almost by accident, on November 9th the wall opened. People turned up at various Berlin border crossings, demanding to be let through. East German border guards who were not able to get any clear orders from above, raised the barriers. Thank heavens, they had no desire to fire on their own.

And my husband and I watched this spectacle, wide-eyed and incredulous, from the comfort of our West German living room, along with most other “Wessis” (West Germans). From one day to the next, separated families could be reunited, ordinary “Ossis” (East Germans) could suddenly go where they pleased. And over the following months the road taken in Trabis and Wartburgs would lead to what became an inevitable destination: reunification.

Those were heady days, weeks and months. We became addicted to following the news reports on TV and radio, anxious to hear of the next unbelievable milestone in the journey to once again becoming one Volk. And 25 years later a generation has grown up that did not know the sorrow of a Germany rent in two by the post-World War II settlements. Those young people can’t imagine what it means not to be free.

And although the east of the country still lags behind economically, huge strides have been made, billions have been invested in infrastructure. BMW builds cars in Leipzig, VW in Dresden. Berlin is now, once again as it should be, the capital of the country. Both the Federal Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the Federal President, Joachim Gauck, hail from the east.

Of course, the fall of the inner-German border was just the beginning. Along with it, the entire Iron Curtain came crashing down and the Soviet Union dissolved. Voila, the end of the Cold War and the commencement of a new world order.

Unfortunately, black shadows loom overhead. Need I list the crises that dominate the news every night? The new world order has not brought world peace but new instability. One of the crises in particular seems to me to be so stoppable. That would be the Ukraine.

Why, dear Mr Putin, do you want to go backwards rather than forwards?
I wish he’d give us an answer.


Filed under Beginnings, Cities, Endings, German History, Remembering

August 4th – Commemoration of Britain’s Declaration of War Against Germany

All day Monday services of commemoration took place in Belgium and across the UK. In the evening the BBC broadcast the services held at the military cemetery Saint Symphorien near Mons, Belgium ( the site of the first battle between the British and German forces). This cemetery where soldiers from all the combatant countries were buried next to each other was the idea of a German officer in 1915 – during the height of the war. The idea was to create a Waldfriedhof, a forest cemetery, honoring the sacrifice on all sides.

British, Belgian and German heads of state and several heads of government were present and participated actively in the proceedings. Serenely orchestrated combining music, poetry and prose, it was a fitting remembrance of the millions who died, I hate to say it,  completely in vain.


I would like to correct my post in which I stated that Russia declared war on Germany on August 1, 1914. In fact it was the other way around.

In the lethal chain of events that precipitated war on so many fronts, Germany declared war on Russia when they mobilized on Germany’s eastern borders.The Russian-German border ran right down the middle of where Poland should have been!

Russian claims  that they were “only” mobilizing against Austria-Hungary because of the latter’s war against Serbia were of no help since Germany was allied to Austria-Hungary.

August 4th marks Britain’s declaration of war against Germany upon their invasion of neutral Belgium. And so the tragic timeline continues during the course of August and on into the following 4 years.

It is scary the way so many journalists are comparing the current situation with that of 100 years ago: Ukraine, Syria, Gaza, Libya, Iraq. And let’s not forget Afghanistan and Pakistan. Where else have I left out?

The only hope is that we did learn something from all the mistakes of the 20th century. Nothing is predestined. And there mustn’t be any attempts scorned at finding solutions

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Filed under Endings, German History, Great Britain, Politics, Remembering, World Wars

2014 – A Blank Page


Happy New Year to everyone out there in the blogosphere!

Last night we were invited to a party with old friends, good food, freely flowing inebriants and a fireworks display, solely for the purpose of celebrating the advent of the New Year. No doubt a great many of you did the same. And a great many of you (I won’t include myself since I was the designated driver) woke up at midday a bit worse for wear. Never mind. Who’s counting anyway?

Backtracking to 12:30 a.m, when the hubbub of cracking explosives, kissing and hugging, and the slurping of bubbly had subsided to a virtual quietude amongst the guests, I asked the fatal question:

Has everybody made their New Year’s resolutions?

And what exactly was on their lists?

The response was a deafening cacophony of denial. No one had bothered to make – or even think about – what they could do with 2014.

It could be that I’ve been reading far too much motivational material to help psyche me for the work at hand, but I was surprised, and a bit disappointed at their reaction. Each of us goes to such lengthens to extend our lives, but to what purpose? Not that I’m suggesting we all have to take on unrealistic, unachievable goals, but maybe we should become more aware of the passing of time and how profligately we throw it out the window. For suddenly, we may find that the commodity we most cherish has run out on us.

A few days ago I took stock of 2013, how it let me down and how I let it down. Then I began thinking about my priorities for 2014. These kinds of assessments are very private and personal. They don’t have to be shared with anyone. So I don’t have to confess at the end of the year whether I succeeded or whether I fell short. Unless I want to. And as a typical member of the human race, I am more inclined to share the successes rather than the failures. But if I think about it, failures aren’t written in stone. I can keep working at those issues and maybe I can move them to the positive side of the balance sheet.

If I keep my eyes on my priorities, I can transform the blank page that is 2014 into a worthy story.






Filed under Beginnings, Endings, Fiction and Other Truths, Seasonal Reflections

Madiba Rests in Peace

…and we must pray that his country will have grown strong enough to live in peace without his presence.

With the passing of Nelson Mandela last Thursday, the world lost the most iconic man of the entire 20th century. He was one of those rarest of human beings who combined intelligence with the wisdom to use it. And with it he saved his nation. The struggle in South Africa is not yet over, but that the people have come this far without a bloody civil war must be credited to this one man with the moral authority to risk love and forgiveness when others would have preferred hate and revenge.

Just think how much better a place the world we live in could be if we all emulated Madiba.

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” — Nelson Mandela


Filed under civil rights, Endings, human rights, Obituary, Remembering, Tribute


Call me morbid….

…if you like, but when November arrives, I, like many people, start thinking about the year’s demise. All around us, nature is delivering the same message, telling us it’s time to go inside, build a fire, eat nourishing hot food and uncork a bottle of red. Around us the politicians are still wrestling with their coalitions, with budgets and policies, with fiscal and Euro crises. As for me, I’m ready to hibernate like the forest and its inhabitants, ready to hunker down with thoughts, good books and good stories to tell. So indulge me this poetic post. I’ve been fiddling with this poem for years, this being its latest incarnation.



Like lovers bedded ‘neath night’s cloak,

Mist caresses Earth,

Till crows heralding dawn

Cry with startling  mirth.

They screech, they circle,

Black dots in the haze,

They light on the oak,

Bare and wizened with age.

Their conclave is brief,

Suddenly they scatter.

A lone duck quakes,

Settling the matter.

Fog fragments rise from folded hills,

Like remnants of a dream.

They disappear when daylight breaks.

They’re seldom what they seem.

Wind whispers through nearby woods.

A scarlet leaf breaks free.

It mounts and hovers, it pirouettes.

A gust carries it off to sea.

My lungs are filled with limpid air.

What scents do I perceive?

Dank leaves embracing forest floor?

Roses hoar-frost filigreed?

Orchard strewn with o’er ripe apples,

Their gifts to Mother Earth?

Crushed chestnuts tread along the path,

Not knowing their own worth?

What weighs upon my heart so heavy?

One more breath, I’m not deceived,

The heady scent of mortality

Is the shroud enveloping me.



Filed under Endings, Fiction and Other Truths, November, Poetry, Seasonal Reflections, Writing



Almost partly inhabitable – the house that is Italy?

Today I am very pleased to welcome Nic Mudie as a guest blogger. Nic has been living in Italy since the mid-nineties and is a keen follower of local and national politics as well as the Italian economy – and has a slight bent towards satire. So I was very interested in hearing – and sharing – his take on what the hell is going on in the country. This morning’s paper has reported that Berlusconi is on the verge of withdrawing his support of the government if Enrico Letta doesn’t revoke the property tax post haste. Thus I must get this report out to my readers before it becomes redundant! For the benefit of the uninitiated (including myself), I have added “translations” of some of Nic’s nick-names in parentheses. Let’s give Nic the floor!

Ok, where have we got to in the land of the lotus beaters – i.e.  makers of Ferraris?

Beppe Grillo (head of the Five Star Movement protest party that collected 25% of vote in election) had to be told, and he was, by me in Italian and English, that he was behaving like a dickhead and that even the soporific self-serving Italian electorate would recognise a poltroon when they saw one.

Consequently, he is losing weight in the polls and, this least Plautian, if not least  plausible, of comics  is allowing Burly Boy (Silvio Berlusconi) somewhere near the levers of power. The latter  is getting his garden gnome (Renato Brunetta) to push hard for his chairmanship of a commission that is  about to be set up to re-think a constitution that should have been consigned to the bin years ago. (Try this last remark on anyone in the nation that had Seneca but eschewed democracy for lunacy and you’d think you’d put cigarette ash in the butter).

Grillo won’t give anyone a vote of confidence – which we all know is only the ref’s whistle at kick off. This self-imposed principle is, as a matter of history, not worth a light – but mountebanks of his ilk are not those to let the effing facts destroy a good argument.

So, I will. Since 1945 Italy has had  65 governments – one lasted 9 days, two eleven and two the eternity that is twelve – so we can conclude that votes of confidence  in ‘das Land wo die Zitronen blumen’ (the country where lemons bloom) obviously carry the commitment of Don Giovanni on Viagra.

The electoral law that allowed the broad left with 25.9% of the vote (Burly’s + Burlesques took 25.4% but Grillo on his own 25%) to take 55% of the seats in the lower house has resulted in a government headed by a youngish left-leaning ex-Christian democrat (Letta)  looking for support from Burly and the rest. The main bone of contention at the moment is Burly’s promise to withdraw the property tax and Letta is tempted.

However, yet again, the facts are of no importance. The average family pays 140 Euros p.a. (somewhat less than two fill-ups of a nano-Fiat), but this brings in some 1.5 billion p.a. that’s going to go missing in a moment. Meanwhile, what we would call unemployment pay is running out and is likely to start costing the Italian government about 2 billion p.a. extra in about 4 nanoseconds.

This explains Letta’s precipitous visit to the Teutonic sphere – no, I don’t mean Auntie Angie (Angela Merkel), (t’was purely a dislocation of the digit squire, honest) followed by a mea culpa to two monuments to incompetence – one Roll out the Barrel (no idea….), whom I wouldn’t put in charge of a drunken orgy in the Douro – let alone a Portuguese Parish council, and Olli Reindeer (Olli Rehn, EU Commissioner for Economic Affairs) who, despite all evidence to the contrary, still thinks he ‘s a postilion to Father Christmas. These two luminaries have agreed to let Italy out of the Brussels’ observation room because it showed a primary surplus (more tax in than government spending out BEFORE interest payment on government debt) for two years running. Well done lads! Your reputation for ineffectiveness remains unsullied.

A) The observation room disgrace means not a light, as France and Germany were the first to break the Maastricht rules (3% annual deficit 60% total government debt as  %age of GDP) and remained unpunished, and…

B) Italy’s GDP is dropping like stone so the ratios get worse even with no extra spending and, remember, real interest rates are historically ridiculously low.

When the Japanese insurance companies inter alia stop buying European bonds and the European banks are completely stuffed, interest rates will go up and Italy will have to default. Government debt this year will be about 132%, to which you can add about half again in unpaid bills to suppliers.

I didn’t mention Rumpy Pumpy (Herman van Rompuy, EU Council President) because he’s not worth mentioning. As the Euro high priest he’s perfectly placed to dismiss science as not worth believing in when you’ve got religion.


Filed under Beginnings, Endings, Italy, Politics

GUNS R US – Just for the Kiddies!

A five-year-old boy shoots his two-year-old sister.

Words fail me, but I will try anyway to express my disgust with a mentality that considers guns and rifles suitable gifts for children. They aren’t even suitable gifts for ADULTS!

This news item does not represent an isolated case either. In light of this occurrence, several other similar instances were highlighted where small tikes, who should be playing with dolls or cars, have gotten a hold of weapons that are just lying around and manage to kill someone with it.


Our newspaper today brought up another absurdity which I already wrote about in a December 2012 post: German chocolate “surprise eggs” (a chocolate shell containing a plastic egg inside with a little toy to assemble) are banned in the USA because a child might not recognize that the plastic part and toy are not edible. They could choke on it.  Okay, maybe that is some kind of argument.

BUT: guns and rifles in pink and blue, BIG ENOUGH NOT TO CHOKE ON – specially made for the children’s market segment — well, they are just fine. Let’s sell ’em – advertise them on Saturday mornings when the kids are watching cartoons — or let’s face it, they are watching TV ALL the time these days! Mom and Dad are off doing…..whatever….just not doing any parenting.

I’m sorry, but the whole time I’m writing, I’m just shaking my head in despair. Does a society get….the kind of society it deserves? They certainly get the government they voted for: see my post linking to Jon Stewart’s Daily Show on GUN CONTROL!

Forgive all my BOLDness here. But I’m mad!


Filed under Endings, Fiction and Other Truths, Gun Control, Parenting, Politics

Hannah Arendt – the Film / the Thinker

When I was checking the listings for the cinema in our little town on Friday, I discovered that small miracles do occasionally happen. They were actually screening a film aimed at an audience older than 17 and with an IQ greater than that, too. The film Hannah Arendt, directed by Magaretta von Trotta and staring Barbara Sukowa had, through some miracle, made it around to our neck of the woods.

For the uninitiated, Hannah Arendt was a German political philosopher (1906 – 1975) and a Jew who had to flee the country in 1933. Reading about her academic career, you can hardly escape coming to the conclusion that she was seriously a genius. After the war she and her husband were able to emigrate to the US where they both became respected professors in New York City universities.

Her book Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem, which she wrote after reporting on the trial in 1961, caused a hornet’s nest of trouble for her, especially among the Jews. The subtitle of said book was The Banality of Evil.


She judged Eichmann to be a totally mediocre man, not a monster at all. He’d sent millions of Jews to their death by, in his mediocrity, doing his job to the letter as he was ordered to. This by no means meant that he was innocent. He was a “Schreibtischtäter” – a desk criminal who masterminded train schedules to get people to their death on time. Arendt recognized the irony in this; for her, this characterized the Nazi way of doing business. Each bureaucrat was a cog in a wheel – each in itself banal – seen as a whole, the cogs and wheels added up to a death machine. They did their jobs without thinking (probably the most important word in Arendt’s vocabulary) about what they were doing or about the consequences.

Banality that murdered was not what the Jewish public wanted to hear. Nor did they want to hear Arendt’s take on how the Jewish councils in the concentration camps actually assisted the Nazis in achieving their end solution.

Eichmann was dully convicted and condemned to hanging, a result Arendt found just. But when her book was published in the US in 1963, she faced a storm from both close friends and the greater Jewish community. They accused her of being completely insensitive and unfeeling. They were, of course, missing the point of her analysis: that “normal” human beings were capable of participation in such inhuman endeavors. But the Jews in 1963 were just too close to the pain of the Shoah to appreciate the irony she saw.

It took the rest of us 50 years to catch up with achieve the distance she had as a great thinker less than 20 years post-Holocaust.  Arendt’s analysis of the banality of evil is one I can understand without allowing the deeds of Nazi criminals to appear as anything but abhorrent.

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Filed under Endings, Holocaust, Politics

In Loving Memory


When my mother-in-law May passed away at the end of December, our family lost our matriarch, the last surviving parent between my husband and me.  At the age of 87 May’s infirmities finally caught up with her and after six months of terrible suffering she succumbed. I’m sure I’m not the first to think about the incongruity of the mercy we show our dogs and cats when they are suffering and how the same act of release is, in most countries at least, not legally granted to Homo sapiens. But when death came to her, he came not as the Grim Reaper, but as a friend who carried her away to a place from where pain is banished.

Another incongruity about death is the family reunion that often follows in its wake. In the normal course of things, it’s hard to find time to overcome the appreciable distance that separate us both physically and mentally. But for May’s send-off we gathered in a small town in Essex, England,  from points as far away as Germany and Connecticut. Even the Australian branch of the family was represented by a cousin who lives and works in London.

We celebrated May by sharing our memories about her lust for life, her love for her sons and grandchildren, and the many friends and canine companions who filled her life once her sons left to create their own. We talked a lot about Dad who’d gone before eleven years ago. We didn’t cry all that much, mainly laughed and joked about this or that incident. It was good to reunite with relatives we see so seldom, to see old friends from former incarnations of ourselves, even though we know we cannot, and probably wouldn’t want to bring back the old days.

Every day my daughter and my son unearthed more and more piles of photos and old letters that helped us reconstruct a life lived for family. So many times we wished May were still there – well, we always wished she was still there – to tell us who that person was or where or when the picture had been taken. Unfortunately, she never dated any of them.

I couldn’t get the poem out of my head that I’d written a few years back, also after a funeral, when I was helping my sister re-hang family photos after the house had been painted. Here it is:


Grandma’s clock ticks.

Its pendulum measures past and future.

A hallway becomes a museum,

A passage through time.

Ancestral portraits,

Faces ancient and unknown,

Arrayed on a snow-white field

In a photographic graveyard.

Eerily familiar, those eyes, noses, chins,

Yesterday’s dour expressions,

Foretelling future faces,

Countenances sweet of sons and daughters.

Did our forebears ponder

What wall their images

Would one day grace?

Or who would inherit them?

Not-yet-wed brides?

Yet-unborn heirs?

Grandma’s clock ticks,

The pendulum apportions lifetimes.

When only fading photos remain,

Who will hang our portraits

On walls of what hue?

So why am I publishing this very personal but really quite ordinary experience to my blogosphere? Because you are friends, and as human beings, you will have had similar experiences in your own lives. You can identify with this. And as John Donne concluded so many centuries ago in his (obviously far superior) poem “No Man Is an Island”:

Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.


Filed under Endings, Fiction and Other Truths, Poetry