Five Boys

1 Jan

Sunday, January 1st, seven in the evening. The doorbell rings, but I’m not expecting anyone. On my doorstep I find five boys. Two of them I recognize from the primary school in our village; they´re in sixth grade just like my daughter.

Miss, may we sing a carol?

For a split second I am surprised. In the 14 years I´ve lived in this village no one has ever come to sing at my door. I tell the boys they are welcome to sing, but that I can´t give them anything in return. Which is no lie: the only candy that survived Christmas was recently gobbled up by the dog, and just this morning my daughter and I spent the last change that was lying about the house at the fair. A quick mental browsing of my house tells me I have nothing I can give them and makes me realise this place often looks like it´s been recently burgled. So sorry, guys: no coins, no candy.

That’s okay, miss. We just want to bring some Christmas spirit.

I can tell from their faces that they mean it. That they came up with this plan together and put each other´s spunk to the test. That this undertaking brings them excitement, a little embarrassment, and lots of fun.

They begin to sing:

campana sobre campana

Y sobre campana una

Asómate a la ventana

Verás el niño en la cuna

Belén, campanas de Belén

Que los ángeles tocan

¿Qué nuevas me traéis?

They keep the pace and stay in tune. Two of them have to suppress some giggles, the others sing with a happy smile on their faces. Christmas atmosphere: check. That was lovely, I tell them afterwards. Do you know how well you sing? , they tell me confidently. Boys singing with faith in themselves. How wonderful.

I think almost everyone who has been looking back at 2022 over the past few days has come to a point where they started to see the future in a rather bleak light. Reasons galore: global warming, rising prices, new wars and old ones that just keep on going. The question why there is so much being invested in artificial intelligence and so little in natural empathy is also one that increasingly worries me.

But as long as there are 11-year-old boys singing carols, none of us have the right to give up.



23 Jan

“You’re so lucky to be married to a Spanish model,” my husband said.

“A role model.”

How We Suffer For Our Children

3 Nov

I had never been much of a religious person, but that changed when I became a mother.

That´s when I started praying.

And I have never prayed as much as now that she´s started playing the recorder.

Oh Lord, give me patience.




Not A Morning Person

19 Aug

“Much to my mother’s eloquent alarm, I became quite industrious with the pen and developed certain habits to which I have adhered ever since, namely sitting up to write late into the night and making up for that by lying in bed the whole morning next day, a shocking let-down to the wisdom that associates early rising with health and wealth, not to speak of the catching of worms. (Let us on no account speak of the catching of worms.)

My tendency to this excellent mode of life is in fact constitutional, since I am always suicidal in my feelings when I get up, so choose to get up at, or after midday on the very good grounds that the afternoon is no time for suicide.”

(Robert Nye, The Memoirs of Lord Byron, Abacus, p 53 – 54)

Writing Is Not A Contest

29 May

Every writer is starting from a different point and is bound for a different destination. Yet many writers are paralyzed by the thought that they are competing with everybody else who is trying to write and presumably doing it better. This can often happen in a writing class. Inexperienced students are chilled to find themselves in the same class with students whose byline has appeared in the college newspaper. But writing for the college paper is no great credential; I´ve often found that the hares who write for the paper are overtaken by the tortoises who move studiously toward the goal of mastering the craft. The same fear hobbles freelance writers, who see the work of other writers appearing in magazines while their own keeps returning in the mail. Forget the competition and go at your own pace. Your only contest is with yourself.”

-William Zinsser, On Writing Well, p78


5 May

My husband and I got together a few years before apps and iPhones appeared.

Which means we have never been on a Tinder date.

But we have something better.

Tender dates.



Equal Rights: Thousands Of Years Behind

3 May

I came across a paper on priestesses in ancient Egypt, and this paragraph drew my attention:

“…we have records of quite a large number of ancient Egyptian priestesses. These records come from all periods and regions of Egypt. We see that supposedly honorific titles were borne by some women who were not married to priests or who were married to men of lower rank. In other words, the woman’s status was her own and she did not derive it from her husband. From the fifth dynasty we have a record that shows that the sons and daughter of one noble family took turns being the Servant of the God of Hathor. The religious duties of the sister Servant of the God would have been the same as those of the brother Servant of the God or it would not have been possible to switch off like that. We also have records showing that lower-ranked priestesses and priests were paid exactly the same amount for their temple service, which must indicate the equal importance and likely equal duties the job entailed.” (*)

Equal pay in ancient Egypt.

So that´s how far behind we are.



Suicide Bee

15 Apr

I just got stung by a bee for the first time in my life, and I´m in shock. Not an anaphylactic shock, but a psychological one.

Because the thing is: I didn´t know bees did that. Sting, yes. When they feel threatened. But to go for an innocent person who´s just standing there, talking to someone? I thought that was a wasp-thing to do, not a bee-thing. I didn´t know bees could go all kamikaze on you when you were just minding your own business. I´ve always been a total hippie around bees, saving them from drowning or being trampled on, while humming a happy mantra like “save a bee, save the planet”.

And then this little guy comes and plants his butt in my arm. Unhooking it from my flesh, I thought: Oh, so this is what it´s like. The perpetrator lay there at my feet, wriggling in the sand. I squashed him under my shoe to end his suffering.


I feel like a unicorn just pooped on my doorstep.




Increased Cleaning

21 Jan

So I´ve started cleaning more often, and the reason is very simple:

I have new glasses.

Now I can actually see the dirt.

I suppose that´s an improvement, but it sure is a lot of work.




There Is No Mountaintop

5 Jan

A few weeks ago I had an epiphany while walking the dog (during what I call Border Collie Therapy). Yes, a real epiphany. A sudden, intuitive insight into the reality of something.

See, I´ve always had this feeling that I am underway towards some place I´m supposed to reach. There´s a mountaintop in the distance, which I need to get to. And the longer I´m traveling, the further that summit seems to be. Sometimes I become desperate, thinking I will never reach it; sometimes I try to ignore it, but that´s practically impossible, because reaching that mountaintop stands for proving myself. Proving myself worthy -of love, of life. Once I´ve reached it I will finally be able to rest assured that I truly am a worthy person, because the proof will be in the fact that I have reached that goal.

Unfortunately, the contours of that mountain are rather blurry -it is not quite clear what the goal exactly is. It has something to do with success, achievement, making a mark. But how much success? And in what field? Because it´s not like I´ve been leading an unsuccessful life so far. Many undertakings didn´t work out, but I´ve done enough things I can be proud of. Yet whatever the view from where I´m standing, there is always a higher place to be reached.

So now to that sudden insight I had a few weeks ago. There I was, walking in the fields, and all of a sudden these four words came to my mind: there is no mountaintop. I saw it as clearly as if a veil had been lifted. There is no Mountain of Eternal Affirmation. If I ever saw anything in the distance, it was a fata morgana. I cannot reach that place, simply because it is not there. I am walking on a plane, and there might be slopes here and there, but there are definitely no mountains. There´s no place to reach from which I can show myself, because I am already there. This is who I am and this is all I´ll ever be, no matter what goals I do or do not reach in the time that I have left in this life.

I must say that I can still see that mountain. It might take some time for my mind to let go of an illusion it has been using as a landmark for so long. But I´m adjusting, little by little, so that one day I can simply sit down wherever it is I´m standing and enjoy the feeling of having nowhere to go because I´m already there.