Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Show me the love!


The deeper meaning escapes me. For the faithful or the dedicated consumer, maybe there's a point. All I can see is work, bother, money flowing away on strange pointless things that for 364 days are useless. Stress. Distress. Sticky tape curling back on itself, far too much silly food and drink, and a series of uncomfortable social happenings which would be much more fun if spread over the rest of the year.


Yeah, I hate christmas. In recent years I've joked that as long as *I* get presents the rest doesn't matter, but this year I just don't care. I'm too tired, too sore, too underwhelmed. I DO care for my dear ones, very much. I just don't like the expectations of the purrfect gift, the purrfect funny card, the beeyootiful overload of food and booze... On a day which is often too hot for masses of food, too busy to be enjoyable, and too full of memories of past pains and joys to be easily manageable, forget it. I'll be in the hammock, half a cup of cold coffee by my sleeping side, with a book fallen on my legs.

Sorry. I still love you all. I'm going away until next year to find some inner peace, think about some things, and try to renew my smile button.

Be safe, be alert for the festive crap-o-meter overload, and enjoy the champagne bubbles while they last.

This season brought to you by Dior 'Addict', which gets an honourable mention because it's the only purrfume I can smell atm. And because I LOVE the purrple bottle!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Living in interesting times...

We've both been terribly tired lately. Maybe a touch of a virus? Whom nose. But M developed a koff, which turned into pneumonia and he has been hospital overnight, having intravenous antibiotic to quell the bacteria of deth. He's home now, still koffing but feeling better. I, otoh, am still buggered. It seems to be terminal.

This last week has been very exciting as the building of our new pathways around the house has started. We already have a completed bit, a lovely wide arc running from footpath to roadside. It's wide enough at the road end for a car to pull up, and both front and back passengers can step out onto paving (instead of cracked old concrete, mud and weeds which was our previous look). Now the pathways from the side gate and around into the back yard are taking place. At the bottom of the steps down from the deck, Alex has begun laying our stash of old Canberra Red bricks (from when the wall fell down a few years ago), and they look really good. And it's recycling in action!

It's also impressive that each night since this paving was put in place, we've had heavy rain, and not a paver or a crumb of concrete has shifted. Oh, I can't wait for it to be finished!

I should be planting my veggies but today, Monday, I am having a day of utter sloth and rest and heat-packing. I am aching all over for reasons I don't understand, so an actual day off my strange, unfixed retirement life seemed in order. I'm up to my third murder book, my second lot of 2 hours of heat pack, and Maccy has had a lovely day lying on me or squikking at me or sitting in the window doing profiles. He's been flat out catting and has now flaked out on the purple blanky on the chair in the corner, his favourite spot. He lies there looking gorgeous against the Indian sequinned and embroidered cloth, under the pool of light from the turquoise and cream batik lampshade, watched over by a troop of our teddy bears. Every now and then I get a glimpse of a glint, as he manages to just peel open one eye to see if I'm doing anything interesting, like eating bacon or pouring cream into a little porcelain dish. I never am. He seems ever-hopeful.

Tonight I am sending uber-hopeful thoughts of strength and support and love to my darling dorter, who has a challenging day ahead of her tomorrow. HOPE HOPE HOPE HOPE HOPE LUVLUVLUVLUVLUVLUV I go.

I think I shall finish on a note of Chanel No. 5, as I often do. A dear friend gave me a book called 'PERFUME' last week, which analyses and grades thousands of purrfumes from one star ('awful') to five ('sublime'). I went through the index, which is ordered by stars given, and underlined all the purrfumes I recognise or have. It seems I have eclectic taste! Most of my purrfumes come in at 3 or 4 stars, indicating that (according to the authors) I have some taste. But I have representations in every group. I am extremely puzzled that two of my most favourite, most commented-on-favourably-when-I'm-wearing-it purrfumes only got one star. I guess, like all opinions, they are just that. Natch. I shall go on wearing and enjoying my favourites and collecting compliments. I could perhaps conduct a smellathon of my own, and compile a purrsonal listing. It could be based on random pros and cons, such as 'can smell it through wet concrete and two blocked noses', 'leaves scent on a pillow case for at least 3 days' and 'can't tell I've got it on but other ppl notice'. Heh. My favourite pro would be 'can smell it on Maccy's fur hours after I cuddled him'. I still think Prada rools!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What I did after the pill worked..

Sorted many, many things off the top of my work table, so I could sort many, many more things. Felt a great sense of orderliness and sortitude.

Cleaned wax, crud, old spiders and soot off the hearth surrounds, dropped the little glass cat and broke its tail, and made it all look tidy around the fireplace.

Had to wash many, many things sitting underneath the 'striking' vases on the kitchen window-ledge - some pesky pesk has eaten the leaves and shat all over the place. Now the striking geraniums are pristine, as is half the bloody kitchen, and the pests have been spifflicated.

Got some pre-wrapping christmas present sorting done. Decided to give most of it to myself. Not sure how this plan will appeal to my relatives and friends, surely if I just explain carefully???

Thought to myself that one grumpy husband is worth two with a kick up the bum, but failed to test the theory. Made do with a bit of muttering instead.

Now I shall have some bourbon in my hot milk, to be sipped while I get to grrrrips with a nice new murder book.

Today brought to you by Ajax, lots of dust bunnies, and a hand massage with L'Occitane Geranium Oil. Very, very smooth and soothing...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Speechlessness antidotes..

Three cupcakes, two good wimmin and a sunny afternoon.

Maccy purring all over my lap.


Finding the right pair of shoes for the right person today (no, not me!).

Spending time with me ma.

Lying back on the heat pad, feet up, talking to my darling dorter while my darling husband gets fish'n'chips for dinner.

Having my feet massaged while I lay cuddled under a doona and was allowed to cry for a bit.

Laughing at the 5-minute chocolate cake photo in The Canberra Cook's blog.

Purrfume. Always. Even tho Shirley is boasting about new Jo Malone Amber and Fabuloso cologne, I am content with my Gucci, my Chanel No. 5 Elixir (not Huille, sorry) Sensual, and my bevy of bottles. Little pink pills, well-timed, are pretty good too.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What to say when I am speechless?

Why do mornings ALWAYS suck?

How come I'm a mum but I can't fix everything, not even with a purple Mickey Mouse bandaid?

Which purrfume can do the most magic? Try all of them, just in case, or asphyxiate in the attempt?

When will the shit turn to rainbows?

Where will the rainbows be and can I have a ticket?

What does all this mean? - nah, scrap that, just have a coffee.

Today brought to you by a bloody big fat headache, a wonderful afternoon with my best friend, and a short but soothing chat to a darling dorter. Oh, and a very norty interlude at Addicted to Fabric, which cost more than I can afford. Well, YOU try walking past the words 'SILK ON SALE' and maintaining a normal heartbeat... I might, now I've had a whinge, try Chanel No. 5 Huile Sensual, because it's never failed me before.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I have been informed that my blog is not being updated frequently enough. Oops! I've been letting mere life get in the way... I'm very distracted by worries over my darling dorter's health, but frequent phone calls are keeping my maternal urges more or less under control. She's very patient with me! I keep thinking that as I'm the mother, I should be doing the supportive nurturing, but apparently it works both ways. She's a darling girl.

We've been enjoying the beginning of a major paving/landscaping project around the house - Mr Brown has been very busy with other jobs, but has finally found the time to start our much-anticipated 'circles' design. We have a rectangular house on a long rectangular block, with a very square back yard and a very right-angle L-shaped front yard. Our plan is to introduce as many curves, arches and circles/half-circles as possible, to soften the look and make the garden more organic - if that's not a contradiction in terms. We have some pathways already in place, curved and looping around the L-shape. Now we are adding a wide, curving path from street to front door, replacing a narrow line of old concrete. Mr Brown himself said it would be much better Feng Shui! And I found, at Amber Tiles, a wonderful 'mat' of pale grey cobblestones, arranged in a mosaic circle, within a square. We'll cut the circles out and put one between the front gate and the steps to the front door (only a few metres, so a circle should help offset the fact that there isn't enough room to make a curving pathway without making it stupidly too winding for anyone to follow); the other circle will go in the centre of a much larger paved circle in the back yard, which will be the only flat area there. No lawn! Just paving, pathways and garden beds. And trees, and roses, and ginormous artichokes, and masses of seaside daisy...

We'll end up with two distinct areas - a cottage garden with fruit and veggies mixed in, at the back of the house; and a much drier native garden in the front. This garden includes a copse of fruit trees in the sunniest corner, and a whole wall of climbing roses outside those windows - they are quite close to the road so we're using thorny plantings against the house to discourage burgulers. Eventually the beds will be filled with native ground covers and probably some more herbs - I like using rosemary, thyme and perhaps even some curly kale to fill in little flat spots. I want all the garden to be rich with scents, for those days when I can smell things!

Earlier in the year my father drilled into the mortar above the cup-of-tea seat, to hang a wrought-iron mandala - yes, another circle. This will eventually be the centrepiece of a wall covered in ficus. I feel it should also include two more smaller decorative pieces. The hunt is on for things I 'feel' are right there.. a small trickling water feature will have pride of place next to the seat, so a happy person can sit there under the gum and the mandala/s, listening to the soothing trickle of water and drinking tea, whilst watching a bad cat run up the gum tree and try to catch a currawong. What more could you ask for suburban bliss?

Next post I'll rave on about the nature strip plantings and my plan to begin attacking my patchwork pile of possibilities. It's all about blocks of colour you know.

Today brought to you by analgesia, coffee, and a long cuddle with Maccy. I can't smell anything today. I guess this doesn't stop me from spraying a big squirt of something on, does it? Hm.... I think ... I feel like....Prada, cos it's spicy and warm and that is a good thing to smell AND to feel!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Adelaide: the story

I spent a lot of time with friends and relatives. All of them so delighted to meet my darling dorter, who has never been to Adelaide before. One aunt who was even slightly teary! And darling dorter had a good time meeting people, playing with the kids, having excellent champagnes and wines and of course lovely tucker... on Saturday was a picnic for the extended family, to celebrate a visit from my brother's daughter, who lives in Germany. She was the life of the party, with her sparky smile and her glowing auburn hair. My DD a close second with her voluptuously-red lipstick, her black hair flowing down to her hips, and a fabulous 50s dress with a cowl collar framing her sweet face. Okay, so I'm biased about how beautiful they both are. But they are!

My time with family was more complicated, with various challenges and woes in the families needing discussion. Families are indeed complex beasts. This being a public document, I won't go into details, but suffice it to say that these problems arise from people who love each other trying very hard to deal with complex and delicate emotional issues about their dear ones. I came home feeling rather shocked by the amount of unhappiness and worry I'd seen... but also glad that in some cases I'd been able to help a bit, perhaps, by listening and trying to understand. Even my DD is going through a challenging period of self-questioning and feeling very unsettled. My main hope for all of them/us is that the huge amounts of love and caring will overtake the unhappiness and life will look rosier for everyone very soon.

Somehow in all of this my visit to the uberdoc, the main purpose of my visit, seemed very trivial! But it is wonderful to have such good news from him, that my sinuses are healing and being healthy and looking like they might now start being 'normal' for longer periods. It's been a worry to me that I've had to take a lot of courses of oral steroids this year - I don't really want to end up with osteoporosis all through my body. Enough with limitations I say. I have a dodgy nose, a dodgy back, and a general lack of fitness which slows me down too much. I can work around the dodgy back more easily than the nose stuff, but I am too young to fall into a wheelchair of sloth and turpitude just yet. Most days...

And now it is more than a week since I got home, and somehow time is on high-warp speed towards the dreaded Festive Event, and although I have done lots of things I feel late for everything. But underneath this is a constant, happy little voice going 'wow, my sinuses are ok!'. That's a DAMN fine feeling.

The last five days brought to you, in this order: Trussardi 'Inside', lots and lots of Chopard's 'Wish' (cos my darling dorter needs extra wishes right now), Gucci 'Gucci', Chanel No.5 'Huile Sensual', and for a Tiki party last night, Christian Dior's 'Diorissimo', cos it is a classic 50s scent. For the record, the rest of my outfit was beehive hair , turquoise eyeshadow (shudder), a very VERY loud Hawaiian shirt and capri pants. I nearly wore kitten heels but at the last minute I defaulted to thongs and a very daggy old straw hat. Everyone else looked far more elegant, especially the real women in 50s shirwaist dresses and heels. What do I mean by a real woman? Well, a real one. Not a skinny, spray-tanned bottle blonde with Botox for a face. Curves, undulations and no bones at all. REAL!!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Saturday inertia

I'm reading weekend magazines and listening to the iPod and looking at a flat cat snoring on me feet. There are a million things I "could" do, but .. nup. My dad is ok after a minor op yesterday, it rained propurrly last night so I don't have to water, and later on there will be roast veggies. Counting blessings is important!

Soon I will be rested enough to write 'Adelaide: The Story'. Patience, children.

Today brought to you by Prada, the body lotion. Spicy, intense and warm. Almost like christmas pudding but without the raisiny grit. Gorjuss.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Adelaide: the facts

I spent a very busy week with rellos and friends. I walked on the beach, ate and drank far too much, and patted a lot of excellent cats. The visit to the uber-doc was successful in that he pronounced my sinuses 'as good as they've ever been', and has suggested a change in meds which will be easier, in the long term, for me to manage. This change also means I won't be afflicted by the long-term side effects of taking oral steroids all the time. I was delighted with this news, even though he also wants me to see him more frequently for a while, so I must save up some more air fares for mid-February, the hottest time in the old home city.

The shopping was pretty good - a mixture of serious retail therapy (Jo Malone skin and home products, very top range!), and the wonders of Nadia's House of Serendipity in Glenelg, which is a very good second-hand clothing store. Not an op-shop! It was my great pleasure to take my darling dorter there and watch her rummaging happily amongst the goodies and trying things on. I found a screamingly loud Hawaiian shirt for an upcoming Tiki party... it was a good lot of loot we came away with.

I am totally exhausted now, what with a wave of phone calls on the last day, about a complex situation in one of the family trees. I am totally thankfully glad to be home with my catties and no plans to fulfill until I feel like turning the world back on.

Yesterday brought to you by Jo Malone Parma Violet room spray, a heavenly beautifully balanced scent which brings a garden of posies into your boudoir.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Calming down, sorting out, digging deep...

Hello blog,

Somehow since last week and the depths of abstract anxiety-coping mechanisms, I have found the middle ... sort of. I blame Cath, she made me get up on Saturday and go to Bungendore for a cooking class with native limes. It's hard to be deep when you're whisking lime sabayon and making your first successful shortcrust pastry for 12 years. I won, I won the whisking! Everyone else had to swap with other ppl, but I being ambidextrous as to whisks, was able to make it all the way through about 15 minutes of sabayon creation without a pause. Even Mr Cook was impressed. AND the lime tart was delicious. I enjoyed the vinaigrette in that the ingredients were quite fancy, but I can't say I'll use it again - I don't really like salad dressing. And the third option - native lime and gin icecream - moves me not at all. I can't taste icecream, for one, because it's too cold. It seemed a waste of lime, cream and gin to me. I thought, as I watched the icecream machine whirring, that it would be much nicer if it was all being whirred in a blender with a bit of sugar syrup and turned into a cocktail. But that's my sad preference!

Then, abuzz with achievement, I reviewed myself. After the cooking class (and the rather fine lunch it led to), Cath and I took to wandering the other shops. We passed by the Woodworks, because of serial cafe offences earlier in the year. I went straight to the Secondhand and Antique Emporium on the corner ... where ... I ... bought a hall stand. You know how you do? I HAVE been looking for some time for such a thing, finding it difficult to locate a stand which was narrow in width and depth, for a particular not very spacious place in my house. And there it was - on sale! You just can't argue with the gods when they provide so spectacularly as this. I will need to work out how to get it back here, but I think my sainted father (hi dad!) will lend a hand with a trailer and some lifting muscles.

My next satisfaction is to announce that all the mats have been hosed. What with contributions from cats, winter feet, and less-frequent cleaner activity, they were kind of furry. So I've been giving the geraniums under the washing line a real bonanza of furry water - they seem to like it, and the mats are immatulate!


All this led to a determination to finish unpacking the posted boxes of stuff from Over There. It took ages to get into the extremely well-packed breakable items - clearly I have no faith whatsoever in post-handlers, because some of my things had three layers of bubblewrap, over tissue, then bound all about with wide sticky tape, and then stuffed into socks, jumpers, hats and the like. Then again, this obsessive packing meant that nothing got broken, cracked, chipped, not a skerrick. Wonderful!

This (are you still with me?) meant that I could then make up the spare bed, cos it wasn't loaded with boxes any more. THIS means that if a marital partner needs to bail in the middle of the night cos the cat is snoring too loudly, there's somewhere else to sleep. Cos, like, the arse fell out of the sofa while we were away...

To complete this list of virtuosities, I have made a huge leap forward in study (the room, not the process) management. I have seen the top of my desk, and it is dusty. I have inspected the contents of storage tubs, shuddered, hastily closed them again, and put labels on them. I have established that my mobile phone is far too missing to expect it to ever be seen again. I even found the Lego (WHAT was it doing in my study? The last time an offspring of mine used it was about 15 years ago!). Oh well. I guess if I get really bored when I'm losing my Curse of the Pharaohs game, I can build another squared-off dinosaur or something.

Today I did even more useful things. Tomorrow I will be mobile-phone enabled at last. All I'll have to do is re-establish my address book, which is a pain. I bet, I just bet, that after the last 9 digit number of the eleventy-three ppl I know is entered, my old mobile leaps up from its hiding place and gives me back my old SIM card.

Life, always, is like that.

I have to go to Adelaide on Thursday to see the uber-doc. Again. He will inspectigate me, sigh, and write me prescriptions for uber-drugs which will have to be applied in unladylike ways to work properly. They will only be available from special compounding chemists, and it will be a PAIN. He will tell me that ... I have a tricky problem. Yeah? BUT in breaking and super-wonderful news, my darling dorter is coming with me. She's never been to Adelaide before, so the rellos are lined up ready to meet the princess-goddess-wondergirl. I've given them the protocol, signed off on the security system, and ordered the caviar. I just hope my brothers remember the colour-coordinated Holdens...

Today brought to you with optimism, a cat full of bloody burrs, and a good dose of Toni. You should all try this, except she's my special mate and I don't know if I'm generous enough to share her with everyone. But you can try the Trussardi "Inside" perfume, that's open slather. It's potent, smooth and long-lasting. Hmm... sounds like a good drink. I'm off, then!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Buzz buzz..

So, what does the intrepid blogger do when she isn't packing, unpacking, finding herself or losing herself?

Not much ektually... bumped into friends at Tilleys ... topped up the scripts (sigh) at the doc ... pulled up the first zillion of a trillion forget-me-nots .... cooked twice! ... spent time with friends and family trying to re-engage in what I longed for so much - my real life.

This is clearly conceptual: I longed for tangible things, but now I have them I find they are only tangible physically. Robert Dessaix writes (I paraphrase) of the difficulty of travel being 'boredom - the boredom of oneself'. So true. When you are pooped to pieces and you need a big wow to motivate you to do anything, it is not the travel experience which is letting you down, it is your own poor, raddled, incompetent self. I have been reflecting on how much this is true and how much it sucks. MORE things one has to find willpower for!

Or maybe not ... the work I'm doing on anxiety recognition, management, 'control', coping mechanisms, etc, is focussed very much on the 'chatter of the mind' principle. And why, I ask, is the mind such a mean, negative, nit-picking, critical, doom-saying and downright nasty piece of work? Why are we apparently programmed to think only ill of ourselves? Critical, judgemental, adversarial, self-talk you wouldn't find in a bunch of drunk Harleys, all kinds of shit. Easily. Any old time. In fact, difficult, bloody very difficult, to escape. When I find myself struggling to get up and face the day, do I lie thinking "well that's alright; yesterday I weeded and cooked and made my dorter's life wonderful and I didn't murderate anyone or neglect a cat'. Oh no. I lie there thinking 'if I were a better person; a competent, capable reasonable intelligent person I'd just hop out of bed and get on with it, no mulling it over and feeling awful and wondering why and BLAMING MYSELF'.

It's just so ineffective. As a work practice it has all the efficiency of ... a championship delegator who can find and fling, but never fully understand. Never manage, create, contribute, control or complete a task or challenge.


So, I'm up against it. Arguing with myself is a good game, it can take hours; days out of my life. All completely useless of course, achieving nothing but the semblance of activity of the mind, but only leading to stronger feelings of crapitude, downness and general pointlessness.

What is the antidote? It's very simple, you just let go. Let all this chatter flow right on through, past you and your conscious self and off somewhere, it doesn't matter where. Just be in the now.

An elusive place! Think about it, when was the last time you were sitting somewhere, engaged wholly in your surroundings but not yakking away to yourself in your mind, or dreaming up a list of to-dos, or regretting something, or chivvying yourself to stop all this foolish blobbing around and go and DO something.

I'm working on it. And, sorry, but you haven't achieved now-ness if you are fully engaged in saying 'SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP' to yourself. It's SILENCE in the mind; full engagement in the moment we're looking for. Physical stillness might help but walking or swimming (anything soothing, repetitive and meditative) might do the trick.

How are you doing??

Today, deeply felt, brought to you by a new one: Trussardi's "Inside" (for women; there are two variants). Leathery, intense but not musky, and quite sexy. I think. I hope!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Brunch, aaahhh...

M pointed out to me that one thing we did not do, Over There, was brunch. There were many lunches masquerading as brunch, but as an entity in itself, brunch did not happen.

To redress this awful lack in our lives, I am ignoring the fresh eggs, english spinach, and sourdough bread - not to mention the international range of coffee I have to hand, thanks to assiduous posting - and taking ourselves to Ironbark, and Manuka, to see what there is to see. And eat it!

Wattleseeds, quandongs, rosella jam and whom nose what else.

Today brought to you, so far, by Dioressence, which I can sort of smell! Yah roids, their only happy side-effect, imho...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Re-entry, Mark 2

Hmm...I am Officially Not Well.



My respiratory system was, as you regular readers well know, a troublesome travelling companion. Oh well, I thoughts to myself, once I get home things will settle down.

I was wrong. You don't need the details. Roids rool, n all that... re-entry is being prolonged by continuing shit health. I don't know if that is a Medicare item, but it should be!

Meantime, however, between meds, puffers, rests, abandoned plans, and quite a lot of takeaway food, some things HAVE been achieved:

-I have found my socks but not my mobile.
-I have cut some but by no means all of the matted fur lumps off the divine but arthritic Maccy.
-I have enjoyed listening to Alice the Garden singing as she watered the new babies, and talked to Little Miss Wendy, my local buffalo-huntress.
-I have cooked a very good roast lamb, the only change to my usual recipe being to cook it very slowly on a low heat (so I could sleep off something or other). It was moist, tender and YUM.
-I have moved the furniture back to its normal configuration in the lounge, and removed sundry junks, so it looks more homey. But the Great (and bloody endless) New Sofa Hunt will have to resume very soon!
-I have bought two new 'pattern-matching' (anti-Alzheimers!) games for free!!! for my trusty home laptop. And spent a lot of ventolin-fuelled midnight hours playing them while I metabolised said drug enough to stop shaking and go to sleep..
-my Good Wimmin turned up yesterday bearing amazing goodies for me: two bunches of flars (burgundy and cream, oh gorjuss), shortbread freckles, soothing Organic Serenity (TM) tea from Toby's Estate. Their intent was to cheer. It worked!
-I have been able to do a small but oh so wonderful bit of socialising - from the purrfect delight of young Aidan (hi baby!) to the extremely violent but perfectly balanced Bell Shakespeare's 'Titus Andronicus' last night. Literally buckets of blood. My play companions and I had to repair for a drinkie afterwards to wash away the images... which were NOT gratuitous. John Bell can use the most minimal set, props, costume, and with the power of words and interpretation, knock you backwards in your seat and peel the everyday glaze from your eyeballs, with a single gesture. Fabulous.

Had some straaaaaange dreams afterwards, but..

Today? There is the possibility of crullers with Cath, I want to sit on my deck, and I'd like to cook again. There is a fridge full of lovely farmer's market veggies to consider. But, sadly, no purrfume, because a) I can't smell a thing, and haven't been able to for about a week, SAD FACE; and b) anyway it might make me wheeze or koff, and THAT is something I can manage to frustrating purrfection all on my own....

Saturday, October 11, 2008


.. is all about the strangeness of the familiar.. gosh, the fridge hasn't moved!! Oh, wow, peanut paste tastes the same! Hey, great, my black shoes!

And things to rejoice in meeting again, like the overgrown, wonderful wild fairy meadow spring garden, and decent cups of tea, and chutney, and supermarkets where I understand every item..

And funny things, like I can't find where I packed away my socks and undies, or remember what the system is to turn on the telly, or what that strange icy object is in the back of the freezer.

And sounds, like lawnmowers, and kids chattering as they walk past with icecreams, and happy magpies, and the way the back screen door bangs when it closes.

And thoughts, about simple pleasures which are very different from those which make travelling possible - my very own pillow, night after night; and predictable shower heads; and being able to find places and things; and how absolutely purrfect it is to be with special friends again.

And funny but weird stuff, like waking up in the middle of the night wondering which hotel we're in and where is the ensuite; and jetlag making me feel like lunch at 4am; and having NO idea where my mobile is even though I know I put it away trying to be very practical about 'obvious places'.

And simple purrfections, like ABC TV, and springtime in general, and the sweet peas climbing up the bamboo, and being reunited with my entire purrfume collection, and decent coffee every time from my very own kitchen, and of course having those two lil furry bottom feeders around again. Having one of them clamped to my leg all night, while the other one snores on the bedroom chair. And the lap cuddles, and the purring, and the nortiness outside running up trees and ambushing innocent ankles as they walk along the path...awww. My catties. How COULD I have left them for so long?

These last few days brought to you by eau-de-home. Whatever that means to you, I has it here. At last.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Home, home's very strange...

Yeah I know I said I was going away.. but I thought I oughta at least confirm that we be home. Walking around going 'Wow. Who belongs to all this stuff???' and 'Where is a cat when I need it?'

See? Even when I go to the trouble of coming home, I can't get no satisfaction from a cat.

Altho... eventually Maccy gave me a 'howdy-whoever-you-are' purry drool onto my new coat, and Little Miss-chief consented to biff me. Awww..

Now. To bed, to bed, and don't expect to see me vertical until I think of a good reason to bother.

Today brought to you by a cupboard-ful of the purrfume I already own! Hmm... which one shall I spray all over myself so as to sleep in angelic fragrant clouds??? Tune in next week to find out!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

From Seoul to Hong Kong

Getting here was ok. Aiports didn’t throw any wobblies at us, unlike leaving Helsinki where I had to watch the nice security lady guard throw my L’Occitane face wash that cost at least half a big bomb, into the bin cos of the regulation that says ‘Nothing liquid in a container bigger than 100ml’. The container said 150ml, but it was half empty. Visibly half empty. Duzzenmadder, roolz is rools and my choices were to take it back out to check-in and check it in (one liddle tube???? I assumed I’d therefore have to put it into a bag, and bugger me I didn’t seem to have one teeeeeeeeny little Louis Vuitton bit of lockable luggage in my back pocket for just such moments), or watch it get binned. Waaahhh.. I was polite but puzzled, and the fierce lady guard person was quite polite, but when I waved goodbye to it, saying ‘bye bye, little tube, I love you’ she actually said sorry.


Packing to leave Seoul I inspected every unguent for signs of being in too big a container. Based on the Helsinki experience, they shoulda impounded M’s toothpaste tube even tho it was visibly nearly empty. But NO, his poxy toothpaste passed without a quiver of anybody’s anything. No fair I say.

This hotel, however, is rather porsh, and has L’Occitane miniature bathroom products. Which I have confiscated immediately and packed so M can’t touch them. Mine all mine!! It is the least I deserve.

See, I told you I was speechless.....

A cat can.. and frequently does. But this little purrfect puss is going offline for a week or so, to recover my energy, whip my whiskers back into line, and lie in the garden.

For the loyal followers of T and S, never fear, opinions’r’us will return. I have plenty of them waiting in the back of my mind, just waiting to be aired and shared. Just gotta catch meself up with meself first.

Today brought to you by quite a lot of Stemetil, so I could actually leave Seoul (that’s another story), one last whiff of Asian drain in the morning, and a quite large squirt of Guerlain’s “Very Irresistable”, which I was anointed with at the airport while doing my duty in Duty Free before leaving for Honkers. [Of course I bought some, it was 20% off!!!]

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Breathing a little more slowly..

I have now found a Net cafe which doesn't charge by the wounded bull .. but still can't spend as much time as I'd like, cos we only gots one key to the hotel room and M needs to sleep soon.

Seoul? Well... hard to say. I've never been in a huge Asian city as clean as this one, which is a good and very impressive thing, given that this city is home to about 10 million people, and purrhaps could be furgiven a bit of grot. The smog is fairly light, even thought the traffic is heavy. But the downside is that people still have the habit of spitting, something I find really disgusting. It makes me feel icky enough to be unable to eat, if there's too much of it. As for the charming practice of blowing one's nose without use of a hanky or tissue ... irrggG.

We've been very slow to do much here, as our jetlag from Finland is still striking at unhelpful hours - one can't do day tours when one's internal clock says day is 2am - midday. Neither is room service quite possible, when it's not available 24 hours a day. I woke at 3am this morning, all fired up and ready to knock off a palace or two, and I couldn't even dial up a cuppa tea. Our hotel is not the most salubrious, even tho we're in the centre of the city. For a start, I think it's probably more focussed on Korean guests, as the possibility of English anything is fairly low. And our room has a wet spot... and the only truly edible thing on the room service menu (although this shows their excellent priorities!) is the coffee, which is served with cream unless you really DEMAND milk instead.

Seoul is so huge I don't know where to start - the night lights are spectacular, especially the 40 storey high graphics projected onto specially built panels all the way up a nearby hotel. The old palace grounds are across the city square from us, and this afternoon we wandered through them on our way to an exhibition of 20th C Latin American mural art. Most of the temples/residences are either 'new' copies, or radically revised/altered versions of the original, either because of something like fire, or something like a Japanese or Northern Korean invasion. I think it ends up a bit like the old axe story - I've had this axe for 30 years; I've had 5 new blades and 4 new handles, but it's still the same old axe.

I've tried to have some things made at the tailor, but apart from the cost, which is NOT Thailand-esque at all but rather expensive, I missed out when they underestimated how much fabric was needed for a coat BIG ENOUGH TO GO AROUND A HUGE WESTERN GODZILLA-GRRL LIKE ME. Oh, sorry, was I shouting??

Tomorrow we are going on quite a long tour around Seoul's hot spots, ending up at a huge street market. We walked through this same market yesterday, spending a couple of hours shuffling through the 'everything you could possibly imagine' stalls and tripping over the displays on the pathway... I didn't buy a single thing, I was too overwhelmed. And somewhat annoyed that the ONLY thing I didn't see was fabric. No point looking at clothes for miniature wimmin, or ceramics and glassware, or souvenirs (I'm truly over souvenirs).. or amazing displays of foodstuffs I can't identify. The fish market has species in it I reckon are actually plasticine models made by the local kindies on their sci-fi days.

I had a purrfume accident leaving Helsinki, so I'm not even looking at that here. Also, I have found in the past that Asian purrfumes tend to be either strong gardenia, or strong lily, or green tea. None of these scents are tempting to me, spoiled as I am by my very early venture into lily of the valley via Dior's 'Diorissimo' (and my good taste was vindicated when I read that it was Princess Diana's favourite). And green tea is a DRINK fagodzake!

I seem to be a bit speechless. News from home about springtime and the badness of the cats on the home front is just killing me. All I can think about is that, come Tuseday next week, I can begin a long period of deck therapy, with my fatty catty nearby in case I need to wuffle my face in his tum, and my Miss-chief Mummy-Mangler ambushing my ankles and returning them to their usual happily scarred state...

Today brought to you by large Asian city eau-de-rotten cabbage mingled with top notes of exhaust and dust, and a long after-whiff of 'orrible drains. My blasts of Magnifique are completely useless as a force field. I can't smell it at all, which is a bummer considering the city purrfume is up me nose with a vengeance. That is one of life's little nasal ironies...

Seoul, dying to be home...

The Net cost at this hotel is OUTRAGEOUS. I can only spend a few minutes; we are suffering jet lag, culture lag, energy lag and homesick lag...

Not that anything is WRONG, actually, but it's bloody hard to find our way around, to make sense of things, to get anything done without a hassle.

We leave Saturday afternoon, can't wait.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Whoopee soon we flyyyy!!!

Writing very hastily, having just added to this blog a lot of stuff from as far back as Helsinki (and sorry for any doubling-up).. and putting in the notes I scribble when I don't have time for full entries, just so you can see what delights of detail await. Very soon now we'll put our luggage in the hotel's temporary holding room, so we can spend our last two hours here at the National Gallery.

We posted (yeah, again) yesterday, from the most incredible efficient Helsinki post office (oh, did I tell you that already? sorry), and had a fabulous feed at our favourite Helsinki cafe, Leonardos. I spent the evening going through every corner and bag and rubber band in my luggage, uber-efficiently packing for the flight to Seoul. We have 30kg luggage limit each, as we are lucky enough to have Business (or is it Economy Plus, where you have Economy service but a lovely big Business chair??? - something like that). But from Seoul to Oz, back to 20kg each, so one must be economical. I knows not whats this words means but M said something about less stuff.


Yesterday I was rounded up, sprayed, flattered and beguiled by a purrfume-wielding Finnish charmer at the Sokos shopping centre. Ahem. One must always take advantage of these moments, so I did. Apart from the great pleasure of finding an actual whole box of tissues, some superglue hairspray (I got fringe issues), and a wee sauna-scenting essential oil diffuser thingie, well, ahem, I don't really feel guilty but ya know.. there is this new Escada purrfume and how embarrassing to admit I bought it but I can't recall the name!!! Oh well, I am beyond redemption on the purrfume subject anyway. I do smell rather Magnifique but that is because THAT bottle is open.

Must go. Bags to ditch, galleries to walk, taxis to catch to airports and duty to reclaim on purple suede boots bought for birthday girls oh so many weeks ago. And then some vital fluids to assist our flight relaxation program, followed by snoozin'. We arrive at something like 7am Seoul time, but it will be 1am our body clock time. Could be ugly!

Let's hope for SILK. Go on, cross yer fingers and HOPEHOPEHOPE. That's the way.

Yes I am bloody cheerful, I'm on the downhill run to a pusscat, my own bed, our spring garden and all familiar things. Yippee!!silk

Feeling Fragile For Farewells and Further Faffing-about..

Wednesday, 24th September.

Our last full day in Freiburg. We had a good party last night, much jollity and good food and I didn’t get too tired.. after sleeping half the day it’s not surprising! My family gave me some fabbo goodies - chocolate made in the very village where my sis-in-law grew up; a Winnie the Poo pencil (for reasons I don’t fully understand, they associate WTP very strongly with me.. I may have sent one of the girls a “Pooh” present when she was a baby???), and a good shower back-washing/scratching thingie.

Today we really spent most of our time getting ready to leave (ie leave Freiburg/Germany) - a long period this morning sorting through possessions getting ready for another uber-post (15kg this time! - M is sending home the most books of any parcel this far); to do this effectively we ended up half-packing and making sure that we found and segregated items to be returned to the family.

We lugged the postables into town, and the post office experience wasn’t too bad - we know how to make up the flat-pack boxes now, and with M’s good German nothing much goes wrong. But we are always tense cos there’s an implicit system about how you do it - do you buy boxes first and then pack?; or do you head for the counter first so they can sell you the right sized boxes? or a similar thing but where they tell you a different way to do it so it’s cheaper overall??? I dunno. There was no shouting, it didn’t cost any more bombs than usual, and we left feeling virtuously empty-handed. A small celebration at an Italian cafe ensued.

Then time to get to grrrrips with The List. I still have gifts to purchase for my girls, M needs a Net fix, and I want to go to the fabric and wool shops I found on Monday. M talks to me in circles about the timing and how long to take and when to be back etc etc and I get cross. Why ask what I think if he’s already made up his mind??? ARggggg..


This out of the way, we dealt with a minor crisis when we got to the square and it was the wrong church. What??? But we worked it out quickly and forged ahead to the other square and then I knew the way. As we went along we dropped into various shops to get lil things for my younger niece for her birdy. We had a most satisfactory pile of girlie-bits and pongs when we’d finished (and she loved them, was having fun trying it all on and smelling the purrfume and so on when we left tonight...). I got samples for me too! Excellent.

The fabric shop was very, very good. Also very, very slow. And there were two women who seemed to me to be arguing over who was first, slowing things up even more. M sat patiently on the husband chair, then impatiently, then coldly, then shiveringly, before finally coming inside (his chair was in the arcade) and trying to ask politely how many more hours I’d be. I was kind of wondering that too... I shopped quickly for the fabrics, and once the duelling dragons had paid and left I had Herr ShopKeeper’s full attention. And his English is quite good, which meant I asked more questions, so... a fairly big chunk of ze inheritance is gone again kids, sorry! I gots wools and silks and felts and wunderbar things and superior quality remnants and such goodies!!! M said rather sourly that it looked like I’d replaced the entire postage weight. And???? I’ve done it before, says she defensively. Oh well. I have to brag that one piece is a bit of honest-to-gawd Missoni fabric, from the Italian fashion house. Ner. It’s a sort of folk print of braids and simple hand stitches and such, useful to me because little bits of it will be purrfect in a quilt, and a big bit of it will make a very unusual and bright skirt or cape for moi. It could be the only international designer brand item I ever wear! And, therefore (come on keep up!!!!) entirely necessary. And I’ve packed it all away purrfectly easily in my suitcases and then it will go in ze post in Helsinki (Friday) and no-one need worry at all.

I’m sad there was no time left to go to the wool shop, but even I could see that I would end up with just too much bulk. And the excitement of schlepping hundreds of bags has totally worn off, if indeed there ever was any to start with. We’re down to our ‘low’ version of numbers of cases atm, and I hope we now stay there until we get to ‘bought it Duty Free when jet-lagged, exhausted and incompetent’ things in Seoul and Hong Kong airports. Oh, not that I’m PLANNING anything....

Our last family meal was delightful, the girls singing and everyone telling jokes. And FOUR purrfumes competing for best around the table, cos I gots everyone some. Well, except for M, but he doesn’t mind. Sometimes he has a bit of mine; sometimes he uses the geranium oil which is so calming. We are clean enough that we don’t need it as camouflage!

I am now looking at an extremely tidy motel room, a line of bulging suitcases and packs sitting where a colourful tumble of clothes, gifts, purrfumes, books, scarves and bits of food used to be. This is a very good motel - it gets the most ticks on M’s comparative list, especially in the ‘room on each side and at the end of the bed’ list item. It fails only in two areas - no kettle/bar fridge, and no hair dryer in every bathroom. I asked and was able to borrow a very good dryer though, so this is only a comment on the lack of it as a standard item.

Tomorrow we leave at about 9.30 to go to the station for a 2-3 hour train trip to Frankfurt. We arrive there about 2pm, then I must post that fabric (and a tin of coffee and five packets of chocolate - the Lindt flavours available in Europe are much more varied, and I deeply regret not buying the one in the Baltic states which is 70% dark chocolate flavoured with a pinch of salt!). I am firmly in GOING HOME mode. There may not be much more text written in museum/sites/sights mode. Somehow this last few weeks has been a haul and a trek, and the time with my family here has made me see how much I just want to go back to my normal domestic environment and return to taking pleasure in the little things. Enough with the kulcha! Begone, fine dining. Face me not oh splendid vista. Give me a cat, a cuppa tea and me back yard, maybe some washing flapping around, and that’ll DO.

M feels similarly, but still has energy for kulcha. He enjoyed his time in Heidelberg, finding various nostalgic sites (his music teacher’s house; a particular pub; that sort of thing!) and having a break from the intensity of avec moi.

Maybe in Seoul I’ll be intrigued enough to go outside and see what makes Koreans different from other Asian cultures I’ve experienced. But don’t be surprised if all you get is photos of the different colours of taxis, like I took in Bangkok!

Today brought to you by a whole list of things: Essence de Hubby; ‘Magnifique’ in large doses; Calvin Klein’s ‘Euphoria’ for my sissy; ‘Kate Moss’ by Kate Moss; and Laura Giagnotti’s ??? (sorry, the docket is buried too deeply for now, I promise I’ll look it up asap) for my younger niece. M had some Magnifique on him cos he hugged me when my wrists were still wet. And the shop assistants in the ‘Müller’ department store gave me about 11 samples of some Estee Lauder Anti-Wrinkle Didja Know Yer Getting Crumbly Cream.. that smells quite nice too. I don’t expect it to have any effect beyond competent moisturising.. g’night.

Big Birthdate Buggerup..

Freiburg, Monday, September 22nd.

A major birthdate in the family - two of the matriarchs share this day. And they are indeed sharing it, at home in Canberra. Hi guys!!! ...

...and WHY did I miss it? Well because I was crook in Berlin and missed the post and then last night M was getting ready to go to Heidelberg for the day to day at the crack of morning and the night porter has no English and so we couldn’t find out about international dialling codes altho we could really because M speaks German but he didn’t want to cos he was busy and being testy so I asked my sis here to ring ze mama at home to say ‘she says GROVEL GROVEL she’ll ring tomorrow instead’ etc etc. And I had to go to the doctor to find out if my blood tests are ok or I am dying or what and that was exactly the time I was sposed to ring home etc etc.. anyway I am not dying and ze mama got ze message as did ze auntie and so allus good. For now. So I went into town and bought it. Every shiny thing and unguent and coat and everything and most of the coffee too. GUT!

And then I was very tired and caught the right tram home but it was the other number which is also the right tram, and when I got out I couldn’t see which way to go and it started raining ach sheisse.. anyway now I am safe inside and dry and about to cook up a storm for two nieces while their mummy is out at the Parents and Teacher evening. And I am having a sleepover! Haven’t done that since I was about 17 and I forget how. I have my decent nightie and a book and plenty of new unguents but I forgot my teddy. M will be back tomorrow at 6pm and ... and ...

I am ready to come home.

Today brought to you by Lancome “Magnifique”, which was sprayed lavishly all over me several times today. I can’t tell you what I think of it cos I still have very little sense of smell. The Cherman Doktor says it is autumn ‘adenovirus’. Right. Like hayfever I gather.

Freiburg bliss, Saturday Sept 20th

mHello bloggie,

Yes I’ve been remiss the last few days. What with the extra resting, to help the asthma settle, and the wonderful happy hours we’ve spent with the family, there’s been no time for mere computers. But now we’ve established a pattern of sorts, and here’s what’s doin’...

You’ve read about our arrival. A huge success. The second day we slept in, then went to spent the rest of the day with our dear ones, as they each came home from school or choir or went out to a meeting or whatever. All WE did was sit around being delighted and drinking coffee and listening to our washing going around in the washing machine. Fabulous. We may even have gone for a walk.. a totter in my case.

Next day we went to the doctor for me, to get some more steroids and have a check up. Frau Mendle has got quite a file of our family in her practice, cos me mum’s been to see her too, in previous visits! The doc decided to do some blood tests, to check MY potassium levels, and blood count, and also to see what indicator there might be of infection. She topped me up with nice drugs, confirmed that my blood pressure was still nice and low, and off we went. Easy. I’ll see her again on Monday for the blood test results and anything that might come out of that. I’m not feeling much better as to sinuses, but the asthma has calmed down a lot. I made the mistake of having some wine last night and that caused some problems today, so off ze grog again, sigh, for now.

I went shopping with sis and elder niece in the afternoon, to buy some warm clothes for M. We found just the right thing in the first shop they took me to, skivvies and a good wool and cashmere jumper. Purrfect. I tried to find something for myself, but I felt awfully shy shopping with others, and I easily purrsuaded them it was time for coffee instead! Then we had to get home so I could prepare the dinner - roast lamb. Nom.

It turned out very well, even tho it was served more than an hour late, cos me sis had two close girlfriends drop in around 8pm when the food was ready. Much hilarity, wine and chatter ensued, and I thought what the hell, turned everything down, and we just got stuck into family stories and learning about the friends and their trip to Italy recently, and all that jazz. Finally at 9.30 M kind of said, faintly, ‘are we going to eat?’ and we retrieved the dinner. I think in some ways letting the roast meat and veg sit in a very slow oven (only 50C) for a while had done it good - the lamb was sweet and very tender (I cooked it very simply in oil and lemon); the potatoes had become crisp wedges (not burnt), as had the carrots; the onions were more or less melted; so the only slight casualty was the boiled brussel sprouts which were definitely over-cooked. But it didn’t matter a jot, and those of us who remained had a beautiful dinner. And OH how I enjoyed cooking it! And loading up the dishwasher, using the microwave, using the washing machine and dryer (it’s all in the kitchen, continental style). Made me feel very at home. We stumbled, replete, relaxed and full of girlie hugs, back to the motel after 11pm. Ahhhh, this is better. M’s new jumper is a hit, a good colour and a good fit and warmer than his old one. We slept so well.

This morning was another matter, the princess corpse rose after midday and although M went out valiantly TWICE to try to get me coffee (the motel brekkie finishes at 10am), no go. He went over to the family, leaving me saying “I won’t be long”. Huh. By the time the little pink pill had propurrly set in and I’d had a shower and stuffed around it was nearly 4pm! Yikes. But that didn’t matter either, the others were having a blobby Saturday, so I just turned up, drank several buckets of coffee, and then it was time for a quick meal and off to a Commedia Del’Arte performance at the Castle in nearby Bad Krozingen. Four of us went - us, sis and younger niece. It was such a good evening, with quartet of two violins, cello and harpsichord/mini-organ, and two purrformers using masks and the minimum of props and choreography to tell a broadly humorous tale of mis-placed loyalties and love. Of course there was a happy ending! Of course there was silliness and the old two-door/cross-dressing character gag. I loved it. Sis brought marzipan to eat to keep the digestives wolves from the door, and at interval we had wine and good bread. All most satisfactory. I may not be able to tell you of dozens of trips to tourist sites and accounts of exhibitions or repeat museum history lectures, but BOY the music and entertainment has been wonderful in the last few weeks.

Tomorrow is another very special day - our cousin Sarah is travelling here from Basel to spend the day with us. We will meet her at the Freiburg Cathedral, where the nieces are singing Mozart’s “Sparrow Mass” during the service. Then we’ll have the afternoon with Sarah to catch up on tons of family news (her elder daughter is getting married next week, for a start!), and go for another walk in one of the parks around here. I expect it to be a chatterfest all day.

Monday is even planned - M is going away to Heldelberg for 36 hours on his own. He lived there when he was 17 with his family, and wants to make another sentimental journey there. Last Europe trip we spent a week there, it’s a lovely place. It was the site of one of our magical journey experiences, when we were walking down from the Schloss on the top of the hill overlooking the town. It was Sunday evening in a golden late summer light; and all the churches began to ring for their 6 o’clock services. The bells floated up to us through the forest where we walked... as I said, magical. MY fate this Monday is more earthly - I’ll see the doc again, find a WiFi point so I can bring blog and email and such up to date, and then I must (presses hand to brow) shop again. You’ll find out why.

For now, I am going to sign off while I can still hear the cello continuo from the baroque music (Corelli etc) tonight, and hope that tomorrow my nose behaves itself in the sight of god, Sarah and the angelic choir.

Today brought to you by coffee. Coffee. And.... COFFEE.

Random notes and Freiburg Part #1

[Here are some of my aide memoires; ready to have details filled in when I get the urge. At least you'll know I've not totally forgetten some fairly important bits!]

Helsinki, last day
M was feeling quite off - he thought probably culture-shock, tiredness, fedupofcrookwifeness, and maybe a touch of the blues. We could see over the road there was a shopping centre of some kind, and a sign saying Cultural Museum, so we went to have a look. First things first, let’s have (at 4pm) lunch. ... a waitress spilled an entire cup of coffee down M’s only-just-drycleaned jacket... he went ballistic, but I got a free brownie. We then inspected two modern collections (not bad, altho I got into trouble for taking photos, oops).. walk back to hotel and begin major packing opurrations, ready to go by train to St P tomorrow..

St Petersburg - the anarchist canal boat guide deserves his own entry, and dear blog, one day, ONE DAY it will come!

Two walking tours; the food; music in streets everywhere, the two concerts (both premieres; the fierce lady who berated us (to no effect!), saxophones in purrticular, the watermelon painting in the hotel; note to Austra about how much we love it here, barely even touching the surface and it’s so appealing... the ‘demo’ for opening of new uni year; seeing the previous Prez, famous woman prez who taught in Canada for 20 years before being ‘recruited’ back to Latvia to rule very successfully for ? 8 years..

the Dada cafe...the wonderful soups and the blessing of no smoking inside...

Bus to Vilnius tomorrow - only one full day and we have already decided that our two main ventures will be to the post office, then a walking tour. And, for me, a proper Web fix, so I can add to T n S; write to ppls, check dosh, etc etc.

M changes his mind on Wed morning and says no posting til Krakow - oh yes?? we’re back to 9 pieces of luggage and I think a spot of posting would be VERY useful..

more detail on Chopin concert and Raoul Wallenburg opera.. and quote the young English lad from the train today, who said to someone on his mobble that ‘we went to ‘Orshwitss, it was kinda wow’’... and why *I* didn’t go, OR to the Salt Mine. and some further reflections on the way we feel we’re being petulant about the difference in things which seems to annoy us so much, even tho it’s part and parcel of travelling.. my view is that we are essentially HOME ppl, and the places we stay at need to meet some aspects of HOME to make us feel relaxed and welcome. and the step up into bathrooms IS a bloody nuisance and a hazard, as are bloody sharp bed-edges in too-small rooms where one has to eel one’s way around everything, even a norty bad red shoe lying provocatively 4 inches way from its mate and just begging to be tripped over.. and the endless annoyance and/or cost of laundry. a super-ripoff opportunity which is milked to the max, everywhere. how many travel plugs can a girl make room for? they’d have to take up space usually reserved for precious and far more important unguents.

Riga walking tour redux; anarchy on the St Petersburg canal-waves.., some more remarks on Vilnius and Krakow.. thoughts, also, about the concertomania we may be indulging in, in Berlinsk.

Berlin, Monday Sept 15th - 11kg just sent off from Berlin post office - two boxes, one large, one medium large; containing amongst many papers and books, two wooden cats, two ceramic apples, a ceramic and glass cat or 2, a ditto angel, and the Sonato mug set. all wrapped in a mile of bubble wrap and brown duck tape. I hope and pray and wish and hopehopehope that all the breakable things make it back to Oz in the amount of pieces they started with.

I’ve been to a good doc; heard that M’s liver enzyme levels are now entirely normal, as is his blood count, bp and pulse rate. The blood test showed he’s suffering some sort of allergy - maybe a hayfever? He’s not been aware of anything, altho sneezing a bit, so that’s ok. Doc told me I looked sick; gave me antibiotics without a qualm OR a lecture (unlike Helsinki doc who visibly shuddered when I mentioned various uber-doc meds, that was rather upsetting..). also topped up my valium for my ‘back’ (I can’t tell you, half the time, whether I take it for my back or for the rest of me, psyche to the forefront..). then we walked a thousand miles to the post office and spent a thousand hours wrapping things in more bubble wrap and duck tape than you’ve ever seen. Now a taxi* to the Bauhaus, where we shall have lunch before a quick-ish look around. Then home to pack, ready for a bus to Freiburg tomorrow, arriving at 5pm.

*The taxi driver took off at a speed we’ve previously only identified with Rome.. he was making and taking calls on his mobile.. this is common, however illegal. He took us quickly to a high-rise filled street, with a huge window-fronted business with ‘BAUHAUS’ all over the glass... we wandered in a puzzled way towards it; this looks more Grace Bros than Gropius.. as we get closer we can see that the small print says ‘House and Home Wares’. Oh. Not THAT kind of Bauhaus. The driver is watching us, and as we turn back towards him he asks what the trouble is. M explains, again, that we want the ART MUSEUM BAUHOUS. He looks quite puzzled, and has to make a couple of radio calls, then at last says ‘ok ok get in’. We do, looking at each other. He charges off at high speed to a wider highway with median strip area of big business. We’re not too sure, but he’s got the bit between his teeth, and when he screeches to a halt next to a KPMG high-rise, I’m getting that ‘oh sure, we’re having and adventure’ feeling. He does two u-turns (“it’s not a trip without a u-ey” my father always says) and we end up at the same place. All this done at high speed amidst much beeping and swerving - of the other traffic. Then, nothing loathe, he turns down a walkway!!! and creeps along, looking at the highly unlikely surrounds of a small park and some fairly domestic or back of cafe buildings. Then he comes to another side street. We’re not allowed out; he calls again on the radio and this time, as he explains afterwards, he gets a woman. She gives him another address and he’s happy now, ‘oh yah, yah’ and screeches off the walkway and does a hasty u-turn onto the street. About 3 metres along, he stamps on the brakes. As we rub our foreheads from their rapid onset head-rest therapy, ‘Das is est!’ he proudly declares. Right. We hand over more Euros (he kindly deducted the second flag-fall) and head into the nearest big gateway. This still looks wrong, but I hear a beep and a despairing ‘lady! lady!’ and look back - he’s gesturing to us to go the other way, and sure enough, around a few bushes we find it, the actual Bauhaus Art Museum. Wonders.

Naturally after all the posting and walking around in the cold and then high-speed taxi shenanigans, we head straight for the cafe. The service is marginally faster than the speed of erosion, but eventually we get our baguettes and coffees. I’m flaked out by now, and M not far behind. But Berlin has been difficult for us; we haven’t got to see very much (although I must say that if all we’d seen were the two concerts, I’d be very happy). We spend a gob-smacking hour walking the exhibition, seeing familiar designs and objects, and reminding me of some of the long-lost art classes I had at my extremely ordinary high school. I recognise more than I’d expected. I was particularly delighted at the shop, where I saw ‘Stickles’, a toy from my childhood - notched coloured circles which interlocked into 3 dimensional shapes. I enjoyed seeing the cutting edge Bauhaus teasets and office chairs - these styles are as fresh and practical today as they were extreme modern minimalism in their day. Wonderful. M encourages me to buy something, but the only things I really want are all too impractical to carry with us - ceramic, glass, large... I do LUST after the vases, which are square or rectangular blocks of glass, with a vase shape carved inside them and given a frosted finish. Completely impractical - heavy, breakable, expensive and foolish. DAMN.

We went back on the bus, had a quick dinner, and then packed furiously, ready for an early start to take the train to Freiburg, where I am looking forward so much to seeing my family.

During the night I suffer two severe asthma attacks - they’ve been on the increase for a week or so.. in the morning I drag myself out of bed, sweating and shaking. I try going through the usual ‘there, there, you’ll survive’ morning routine - shower, unguents, coffee... but I nearly collapse in the shower, I’m so hot (and yes, I did turn the water temp down to nearly goosebump levels); I can’t face the coffee for fear of nausea; I try to put on some clothes and my hands are shaking.. at this point I have to say to M that I don’t think I can make it. We indulge in a bit of swearing, crying and hand-holding, then he shapes up in his usual uber-wonderful way and begins to be very practical about what must be done.

I take a bucket of oral steroids - my only alternative at this stage. I *could* ring an ambulance; or try to see the doctor, but the thought of negotiating the medical system in a foreign country (and in spite of our unnecessary fears in Russa) is simply too much, I ache to just lie down and shut my eyes. And shake quietly to myself with a teddy bear nearby.

M speaks immediately to the hotel ppl and they quickly confirm we can keep the room. Then when he is certain that I’m stable for now, and don’t want him to try to get onto the doc, he goes to the nearest big train station (at the Zoo, if you want to know) and for a very small fee, only a few euros, is able to transfer our tickets to tomorrow’s train. Phew. He’s back quicky, with today’s English papers. I’m out to it, I vaguely hear the door open, next thing I know it’s three hours later and I’m awake looking for a puffer and thanking the goddesses that I can stay quietly, safely and near medical help if I need it. I nearly made it onto that train, what finished me off was the fear of having a huge attack while travelling and having NO help to hand, and my only option being to get off at some random town/city and go through the exhausting business of hospital/doctor/hotel etc etc. Not a happy thought.

I’m writing this bit on Wednesday, on the train, having benefitted enormously from the rest and the onset of the drugs. I’ll still have to take it quietly, and see a doc in Freiburg, but there we have the advantage of knowing that my sis-in-law has a good doc - we saw her last time when I’d hurt my back - and generally being in the bosom of the family and with native speakers who know the ‘system’. Saves a LOT of time, that does.

M also benefitted from the rest yesterday - after he’d returned from fixing the tickets he slept as well, saying he’d needed to catch up. So there was a silver lining. We even tottered out, just across the road to the good Italian restaurant, knowing that I could get ‘safe’ food - ie food that wouldn’t have crunchy bits or chilli or rice, these being things which can catch in my throat and set off more koffing. M said I was just trying to even up the odds, after his Russian drama. Huh. I have NO desire to spend 5 days in hospital anywhere, thank you. I’ve done quite enough of THAT!

I *have* wondered if we were foolish to take on this trip. The triumph (or blindness) of hope over experience. And I have also wondered if we should keep going, especially in the last three weeks. It’s been hard yakka, first with M’s illness and recovery; then my gradual descent into throat virus/sinus/asthma problems. I don’t have an easy answer - at what point does one give up? Not just give up the money, but the people; the places; the hopes and expectations; the unexpected excitements and the unpredictable events... I guess if M’s Russian doktors had said ‘ze liver she is shotsky’ we might have pulled the plug and retreated to excellent Australian medical care. Ditto if I ended up in a similar state and a white-coat pointed out that asthma stressors riddled our proposed pathway.. for now, we’ll carry on, and I expect we’ll finish. We’ve made it (in half an hour) to family territory. From here we can get back to Helsinki easily, no more long train trips. The only part I could happily ditch is the 5 days in Seoul, staying instead one night, then flying on through another overnight stop in HK and thence to Sydney. I predict crying when we land there.

Let’s hope Seoul is spiffy enough to cause some excitement. Let’s hope Seoul has some fabric! I have totally failed to find textiles of practically any kind, unless you all want shawls. The end of summer fashions sales are at full pitch, but high end designer duds are not what I see my friends and family wearing. Unless you are all secretly decked out in Stella and Chanel and YSL and I just think you’ve done the ironing for once...

I gotta go, it’s almost time to start heaving luggage down from the racks and lining up at the door to leap off - we have a whole 2 minutes to de-train in Freiburg before this extremely nice new and well-staffed German train departs. We enjoyed the dining-car - full service! The only train trip where we’ve had such a thing; the rest of the trains have only had a sort of kiosk, sometimes with no tables and chairs.


9:21pm, Freiburg, safe and delighted in the bosom of the family.

We arrived, de-trained easily, and were met by three beautiful women - my sis-in-law (my OTHER sis-in-law, who is easily as lovely) - and two of her daughters; the eldest who is 16 going on 21 and gorgeous and elegant and unspoiled, and her youngest daughter, who is therefore (counts on fingers.... ) nearly 13, ah yes, she told me we’re missing her birthday by only a few days. She is still round-faced and goofy and is SO like her daddy (MY youngest brother, got that?). We had a rousing family dinner, special south German food - spaetzle with onions, schnitzel, salad, and then apple and plum strudel. NOM. All home-cooked and such a welcome change from restaurant food. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve eaten plenty of really wonderful things (and, that reminds me, the blog is overdue for a food run-down, I’ll get onto that), but nothing beats real food.

Now I am exhausted, slightly wheezy, incredibly thankful for the quick effect of the steroids which is the only reason I’ve been able to make this trip today. And in the hands of some pretty special peoples. I said over dinner something I’ve not wanted to mention, although purrhaps it’s been obvious to you readers out there? - if we hadn’t been coming to see our family, I think I would have said to Michael after Riga - let’s just go home. Just STOP with all this half-alive, worried about poor health, too tired to enjoy things, fed up with different languages, etc etc. - all the things which should make travelling worth it have been making think it’s not enough, because of my dang busted body. So.

Today brought to you by ICE (Inter-City-Express), a wonderful husband who knows just when to say the encouraging things, and my dear German family. There’s a bit of ‘Enjoy’ in there but it can hardly compete with such earthly ravishments.

Thursday 18th September

Oh my oh my oh my... the BEST day. Slept in, read books, went up to the family for a late lunch and stayed until now (10.30pm). Talked, drank buckets of coffee, went for a long walk, more walking, hugging girlies and teasing girlies and watching tv and drinking more coffee and singing and eating and making plans.... bliss. Just... BLISS. No hunter-gathering, no organising, no timetables or taxis or decisions.

And! the plans we have are all for ordinary things - going out to buy nice things for me to cook tomorrow night, sorting out a concert for Saturday night, going on Sunday to Mass to hear the girlies sing with their choir; my cousin Sarah coming from Basel for the day. We’ll definitely stay an extra day here, therefore reducing our planned time in Frankfurt from 2 days to one. Easy. Wonderful. A very fine way to finish our holiday on a high, oh such a lovely high note, and face the business of getting home. This is better. We must remember this for our next trip - if our shares don’t plummet in value and all the airlines in the world stop flying and we can’t sail cos they got no fuel either and no-one can row that far...

We’ll see.

Today brought to you by Fair Trade coffee, eau-de-gorgeousgirls, and a little bit of Gucci just for fun.

Berlin, Friday September 12th; just notes

I’ve been in bed all day, hedding of deth, sinusing and exhaustipating. M’s been out doing miracles - finding out about the public buses, going to the ... (I seem to have cut something from here, now, 3 weeks later, whom nose what it was, sorry!)..

I see events are preceding you before you've even started...pardon me if I'm being a bit post-modern, we just got back from seeing Daniel Barenboim and the Berlin Phil doing a wonderful contemporary program of Elliott Carter, a friend of Barenboim's and about to turn 100 years old; it was a tribute purrformance.

I've been in bed for two days (since the day-long train trip here from Krakow). Hed of deth and bloody old sinus exploding. I have an appt on Monday to see the doc.. have been out today, duly stuffed with drugs, on a 2 hour bus tour around Berlin, seeing highlights .. with a TERRIBLE auto-commentary, nearly 10 years out of date. it's 'on your left' and 'the next building' bits were all over the place... and there were lots of weird quotes - the Zoomerzet-accented woman who did the English version would say something like "therefore leading to the well-known quote of Herr NeverHeardOf: Sun's rays beaming down will live forever in the tree-tops". Hmm.. theses were sposed to be deeply deep metaphors for the crushing and renaissance of ze Cherman spirit after ze vars.. und I find myself not having a clue about what it all means.

That said, the actual sights were pretty strong stuff - the Jewish dead memorial; a bit of Berlin wall, Checkpoint Charlie... and some of the statistics about how many zillions of Russians sent in to batter Berlin to bits/ditto English etc. WWII facts are unremittingly nasty. Hence our reluctance to see Auschwitz OR the Salt Mines. A chance to see where deepest misery and hideousness happened? Let's leave it to my fertile-enough imagination!

I gotta go, it's M's turn on this puter, and I gotta go to bed. We hope tomorrow to go to see three museums very close to each other - Modern Art, Arts and Crafts Museum, and one other... all very close to the Tiergarten park and the zoo. Monday is posting day, and seeing the doc day, and I hope some clothes shopping day - I have ONE long-sleeved top and after all our culling and leaving of cold-weather clothes, it is now 6 degrees at night; barely 15 during the day. M is cold and I have no coat either.. seems a good enough reason to have a go, there are Salgs on everywhere for end of summer gear (which, in this part of the world, always includes jumpers and jackets!). The other night we walked along the uber-expensive designer gear shopping strip and I got ideas about my station, especially as to shoes. And some new Bvlgari purrfume but I can't merember the name.

AND shock horror I can't get into the StrawberryNet* site from this hotel's server, can you believe it??? Rampant consumer-discrimination!!!

*to order more unguents at Web discount prices, you know, I might not have enough!!!! :-p

Berlin, Thurs 11th September

Yeah, I know it's the anniversary of THAT September 11... but for me...

A day off.

Sleep; plunger coffee and decent muesli. More sleep. Air-conditioning!! Reading English papers (The Independent, The Guardian, and the (American) Herald Tribune). Lavish showering with all the unguents unpacked and to hand. More lots of Gucci.

Sitting around while M sleeps, after he went out to find and then consult an English-speaking doctor nearby. He’s had his blood test and immediately bought himself a bottle of white wine! Heh. He’s been counting the days since we left the Russian clinic... let’s hope his remaining dodgy liver levels are now ok. Ditto blood pressure and heart health.

Massive efforts by me, whose legs feel as if I walked here, not came by train, to go out a few blocks for dinner. An excellent paella and some Rosé. Tottered back drooling over the YSL/Chanel/Gucci/Bvlgari/other top end designer shops with luscious, impossibly gorgeous shoes... M fainting at the prices! I told him about how one buys a pair for umpteen dollars, then amortises the cost over the next 25 years of wearing them, to make them a REAL bargain buy. He seems strangely unconvinced ... I think I’ll have to demonstrate so he can see how it works. Selfless, I know.

Both of us have huge headaches. I cut my finger practically in half getting the plastic cover off a CD. My feet still hurt. M is trying to be his usual saintly self but is pretty crisp around the edges. We need to do our washing and sort out our dang mobile phones and make phone calls and get his suit dry-cleaned and I need a haircut and some beauty salon rescue activities... it’s all too hard.

Tomorrow, tomorrow ... I think we’ll start with a physio appointment for me; then go to the Bauhaus; and then we’ll see. I’m looking forward to cooking our dinner, if I can remember how. And I’ll get the password for the hotel’s free WiFi so you can all catch up with us and vv.

Posting must happen soon. I must buy presents for my family in Freiburg, having inadvertently sent home the carefully-chosen gifts I found in Riga, in the massive pre-flight posting in Vilnius. [I looked at the few photos I took in Vilnius, and I can hardly remember being there. That was a tricky 36 hours...]

I feel I need ... things. Stuff. Goodies. I’m not sure why, but I read in The Guardian today that a scientific/medical link has been made between healing times and the amount or lack of patting and stroking the patient receives. The article was published with a photo of a baby, but I read it thinking of all the self-patting I experience via the constant unguentification of an impurrfect princess. I’ve always thought of the application of body lotions and such as a simple form of administering a little ‘there, there..’. Now I am proven right! This is not an excuse, it’s a scientific process of self-care and symptom-management. I love it.

Goodnight. It’s gonna be the big pain-pill bomb tonight; the last resort uber-drug for hed of dethness and rampant fatigue and sore leggies. Pardon me if I drool....


The last two days have been a physical marvel - a palpable lifting of the weight from my shoulders and spirit.

I think, since we crossed the border into Russia, I've been under a dark cloud. The reckoning for this I shall examine more closely when I have more time (having spent 2 hours sorting things to post this afternoon, and 2 more hours re-packing this evening, I'm not inclined to natter just now). But the feeling is strong and quite clear to me. The last five weeks at least have been a big struggle.

For now, we are quite delighted to have taken umpteen more kilos of stuff to the extremely excellent and efficient and orderly and friendly Saturday Helsinki post office. All kinds of amazing things can be found - packing boxes which don't require a degree in spatial-development-architectural-witticism to assemble; staff who point out cheaper options!!!!; tables for packing which are equipped with scissors, that wide strong sticky tape, string (yes dad, we finally found some!); labels, instructions and plenty of ROOM!!!. We happily filled two boxes with papers, souvenirs, unguents, a few spare clothes (I still don't really need my fiord-wear heavy-duty wool jumper) and suchlike.. the only thing I didn't find room for was a 1 kg tin of excellent Freiburg 'BIO BIO' coffee. Natch. It's in with me smalls now; I can go anywhere at this point and as long as my luggage goes with me I'll be orright for clean undies and nice coffee..

We repaired to the nice cafe of our Helsinki previous visit - Leonardo's. We ate the whole cafe. I had a small meltdown during the meal (tears are not far from the surface, the last few days) but pink fizz and grilled ching and some cheesecake to share fixed me well enough. Since then, as I said, I've been packingsortingfiddling with all me stuff and thinking exclusively of HOME. As of tomorrow evening, it is a mere week until we feel Australian soil (tarmac) under our footsore tootsies. I may not kiss it but I'll be bloody glad to consider a little tap of the toes, or maybe dripping a tear or two onto it. If I drink enough on the last leg, I might even vaporise Sydney airport, which would be a very community-minded action!

Our flight to Seoul leaves at about 5pm tomorrow; we'll be off to the airport about 2pm to ensure I have time to claim my tax duty back (from previous Helsinki purrchases) (but not all of them; I mistakenly sent the paperwork home to Oz a while back. Bugger.). We need time to get some wons, too. That's Korean currency, and it runs at something like 96.4 won to one Ozzie dollar. My maths won't be up to it I assure you!

As for recent Visa action, the nice lady at the Sokos shopping centre, where I went today to purchase the amazing luxury of a whole box of Kleenex tissues - not the endless little packets, which drive me nuts - FORCED me, I tell you, to try several new purrfumes.

You know purrfectly well what happened next. Mmmm.... Escada, Dior, Gaultier... how to choose??? I found a way, of course I did!

I gots to go now and order my bedtime hot chocolate from the bar before it closes - Satdy night in Helsinki and come 9.30pm it's doornail dead. Don't ask me why. As long as noone keeps ME awake I don't care.

And, btw, there should be time tomorrow morning before we nick off, for me to do some uploading and thought-and-snorting. I feel bad I've been neglecting ze blog, but just wait patiently and you'll read allaboudit. Guten nacht and sleepen tacht, for now!

Today brought to you by layers of 'Magnifique'; Gaultier 'Classique'; Chanel No. 5's 'Huile Sensual', and a spot of some new Escada called something like 'MY PURRFECT PONGO'.'


Friday, September 26, 2008

Just a note..

We're in Frankfurt, two hours by train from Freiburg. Very sad having to farewell our dear ones last night. ...

Yesterday M and I did the biggest post you ever saw, 15kg!! Then went shopping for gifts for everyone (purrfume all round, heh); then to his ... his ... somewhat helplessly doomed look of marital understanding, I went to the fabric shop I'd noticed on Monday.

You know how you post things home so you have more room in your suitcase for the rest of your travels? Well, doesn't EVERYONE darling travel with metres of silk velvet and a bit of genuine Italian designer brand Missoni plaid in their cases????

Tomorrow this all gets flown to Helsinki, where another post office is in my immediate future! M won't let me near a shop I think. Heh. I'm VERY happy I finally found some fabric, I did see a wool shop too but I just couldn't do it to him, after my fabric fix took 45 mins (there be some very argumentative German wimmins out there not deciding about their fabrics...).

Seoul on Saturday. Wow!!! And, once again, thanks for the good wishes and encouragement from you lot, you lot know who you lot are.

Today brought to you by 'Magnifique'. When I finally upload my stuff from the lappie, you'll see why. Oh, and it´s BLISSFULLY COOL....

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Family fabulous family!

Hellooooo.... I have a ton of stuff to upload but once again I am not using my own dear little lappie, so another period of patience from you all is required, sorry.

We are in Freiburg, with our family, having a holiday from our holiday. I'm at their dining table as I write, having had a sleepover last night - a most satisfactory event involving pasta, choc-chip biccies, the new Pink Panther movie (meh), a tiff between two girlies, and a long talk to their mama over some wine after the lieblings went to bed. Wunderbar. M is in Heidelberg, having a fix of his old home town from yon days of yore before.

Yesterday I saw ze doktor again and (don't faint) my blood levels are 'all kompleetly normal'. Cripes! People don't say the "N" word to me very often! She was very kind about my high anxiety level, dealing with my quivering lip and being helpful. What it means on the ground is no more antibiotic (she says it is something called 'adeno-virus', a common autumn bug in these parts, which manifests like hayfever and of course is not treatable by auntybiotix), get off the steroids fairly quickly cos ze chest she is much better, and go home. Right. The going home bit sounds pretty good to me. I've had enough. Once we leave here (Thursday morning) we're on the home trail, merely stopping in Frankfurt, Helsinki, Seoul, Hong Kong and Sydney before we return to familiar furry territory.

After seeing the doc I bravely took the tram into town (only 4 stops) and bought everything out of sheer relief. Well HEAVENS there were purrfume sales on everywhere and what is a poor home-sick abandoned husbandless little catcan to do? SPEND appears to be the answer! I got spiffy presents for nearly everyone, running out of energy in the end after four hours. Peoples is going to be happy. *I* is happy cos I gots new wasn't my fault, I tell you, the nice shop assistants kept sprayink me with "Magnifique" and as you all know, resistance is useless. So I didn't resist and now I have a nice bottle of the new Lancome "Magnifique" to keep me from being smelly... or make it worse...

Tonight we are having a little party to celebrate my birdy and my younger niece's about to be birdy, so I gotta go and make a cake. Do I remember how? I hope so - it's the recipe I've been using for 25 years from the Nursing Mother's Cookbook (hi Hil!), babies all over me as I stirred the mix, so I think it will be orright.

Today brought to you, so far, by a brilliant phone call to my dear ones in Canberra, a silent house, and a shiny new bottle of pong waiting for me in the bathroom bag. Yay!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Best-laid plans get scuppered

Just very briefly - I've been having asthma troubles for a week or so. When I saw the doc yesterday I mentioned it, but in the concentration we all needed to get the sinus bit right in our English and German, I forgot to get her to listen to me lungs. Bad move. Last night I had another of those 'bolt of lightening' severe attacks; twice.

As we were getting ready for the train this morning, I kept saying to myself 'you can do it, you CAN, you only have to stay ok until you get into your seat'... but I started to shake and sweat, and think of what I might do if I had a huge attack on the we stayed here. It wasn't any problem to keep the room, and Saint Michael went to the nearest big station and paid a very small fee to change our tickets. He's a SAINT. I have to keep saying this because he keeps being one.

I've stuck a bucket of oral bloody steroids down my neck; rested all day; bravely ventured out for some soup at the Italian place over the road. Now we hope for a night free of dramas. Please cross your airways for us!

Relatives in Freiburg were sad but understanding, and all is on track (so to speak) for us to get down there tomorrow.

But FAARRRKK.... today brought to you by a series of pharmaceuticals, soft pillows, and lots of reassurance from M. Purrfume??? Don't speak of such things; I might cry and that will make me koff...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bear with me...

Berlin, Monday Sept 15 (I think)

My nose has dominion over the holiday, again. I beens to the doktor and I gots aunty-biotix.

We travel to Freiburg tomorrow, to spend time with my Curly-Girls and their mother. There will be PROPER blog entries from there, pwomise. I tried to post a lolcat here for you to be going on with, but I no not how to html such things.


Here are two words to keep you interested in coming back to read more: Barenboim and Rattle. Oh, and a third word: WOWEE!!!!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Berlin - a day off.

Sleep; plunger coffee and decent muesli. More sleep. Air-conditioning!! Reading English papers (The Independent, The Guardian, and the (American) Herald Tribune). Lavish showering with all the unguents unpacked and to hand. More lots of Gucci.

Sitting around while M sleeps, after he went out to find and then consult an English-speaking doctor nearby. He’s had his blood test and immediately bought himself a bottle of white wine! Heh. He’s been counting the days since we left the Russian clinic... let’s hope his remaining dodgy liver levels are now ok. Ditto blood pressure and heart health.

Massive efforts by me, whose legs feel as if I walked here, not came by train, to go out a few blocks for dinner. An excellent paella and some Rosé. Tottered back drooling over the YSL/Chanel/Gucci/Bvlgari/other top end designer shops with luscious, impossibly gorgeous shoes... M fainting at the prices! I told him about how one buys a pair for umpteen dollars, then amortises the cost over the next 25 years of wearing them, to make them a REAL bargain buy. He seems strangely unconvinced ... I think I’ll have to demonstrate so he can see how it works. Selfless, I know.

Both of us have huge headaches. I cut my finger practically in half getting the plastic cover off a CD. My feet still hurt. M is trying to be his usual saintly self but is pretty crisp around the edges. We need to do our washing and sort out our dang mobile phones and make phone calls and get his suit dry-cleaned and I need a haircut and some beauty salon rescue activities... it’s all too hard.

Tomorrow, tomorrow ... I think we’ll start with a physio appointment for me; then go to the Bauhaus; and then we’ll see. I’m looking forward to cooking our dinner, if I can remember how. And I’ll get the password for the hotel’s free WiFi so you can all catch up with us and vv.

Posting must happen soon. I must buy presents for my family in Freiburg, having inadvertently sent home the carefully-chosen gifts I found in Riga, in the massive pre-flight posting in Vilnius. [I looked at the few photos I took in Vilnius, and I can hardly remember being there. That was a tricky 36 hours...]

I feel I need ... things. Stuff. Goodies. I’m not sure why, but I read in The Guardian today that a scientific/medical link has been made between healing times and the amount or lack of patting and stroking the patient receives. The article was published with a photo of a baby, but I read it thinking of all the self-patting I experience via the constant unguentification of an impurrfect princess. I’ve always thought of the application of body lotions and such as a simple form of administering a little ‘there, there..’. Now I am proven right! This is not an excuse, it’s a scientific process of self-care and symptom-management. I love it.

Goodnight. It’s gonna be the big pain-pill bomb tonight; the last resort uber-drug for hed of dethness and rampant fatigue and sore leggies. Pardon me if I drool....

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Krakow to Berlin, 10th September (beware, whining content)..

Ah, the joys of travel.... what are they again???

Oh yes, *I* remember.

Frantic packing, sorting, culling, stuffing, mangling, squishing, thumping and not a drop of booze in sight, the night before.
Failure of wake-up call in spite of two requests. Fortunately M has an alarm which wakes him up... the night porter knocked on our door THIRTY MINUTES after the designated time, saying our phone wasn’t working. I refuse to consider what may have happened if M’s backup had failed...
Needless to say, the waking up happens at some ungoddessly hour, with no breakfast possible because it’s too early ... evidently so early that the hotel has no electricity - it can neither boil a kettle nor open a fridge. SNORT.
M has scoped the railway station and told me there is a 10 minute walk between the entrance and the platform.. *I* see... HOW many pieces of baggage are we up to again?
Krakow Central Station also has no electricity at this hour of the day, so no coffee can be acquired* ... I did find a stall selling bananas and bottled water. Just as well (read on)
Train has three narrow but very high steps, suitcases for the hauling up of. Grunt.
Seat numbering goes like this (no joke): Left hand side 20, 24, 35, 37, 36, 34, 45. Right hand side 28, 31, 33, 32, 38, 41, 43, 32. U-huh ... we decide that our seats are two aisle seats, one in front of the other. Then the nice young lad in eleventy-nine D offers to move so we can sit together. [Several ticket inspections later (ie they didn’t notice this error), quite a bit of us shuffling around in the carriage to escape sun, heat, humidity (sigh), being backwards, loud talking etc (ie we didn’t notice the error either), M discovers our REAL 1st Class seats are two carriages away, in an air-conditioned compartment of 6 big, velvety, downright cosy seats. “Our” compartment is full of three people with their shoes off and feet (nasty horny men’s feet) up on the seats. We don’t mind SO much, it’s so far into the journey it’s not worth moving all the luggage (lugging the luggage, WHY have I never put the two together before??) ... but other compartments in this chilly paradise are completely empty... I spose we coulda decamped into one of them. Never mind, I was so very entranced by the Barbara Vine I was reading I didn’t notice the heat so much. Tummy rumbling demanding large pizza-sized pizzas was another matter.]
We decide to have lunch at 12.30, a civilised time and about half-way through our day-long trip. At the stop before now, there is a long delay, and several mysterious clangs and big thumps .. oh har har, this is the Polish diner car being disentrained. The nice Polish conductor who comes along just as we are walking up to the other end of the train, in case M was turned around and lost, says ‘No diner until 2 hours’.
At another hot, humid stop, indeed about 2 hours later (and past the border check, which was a cursory inspection of a few people’s, randomly chosen passports, there are more clanks and biffs and a German diner car is attached. This has an enormous range of about three things, and the annoyingly, alarmingly ubiquitous Nescafe pod coffee machine. [These things have taken over Europe; latte-sippers beware! They have made the delivery of ersatz ‘real’ coffee a snap for cafes and hotels everywhere. No nasty grinding of actual beans, or all that pesky business with the frothy milk. Just stick a paper cup under the nozzle and press a button, and pshhhh bbbrrp out comes black stuff, followed by thbbbbrrrrrrrrrr white bubbles. Doesn’t taste like coffee. The only resemblance is that it’s hot wet stuff in a cup. HUMPH.
[* When I returned with my bananas, I looked around at the station before taking the lift back to the platform, and saw a little kiosk open around a dim corner.. she had coffee, the same Nescafe pod machine stuff, but I wasn’t going to quibble at this hour - and with this great a need. If you add plenty of those wee milk pods, and plenty of sugar, it becomes a reasonably enjoyable sweet-ish hot milk drink. Not necessarily a coffee, but a hot slurp of something-or-other which gives one a bit of heart.]
M announces that on arrival in Berlin, we have a very precisely time-tabled three minutes to heave our selves and luggage off the train before it departs into the German yonder.

I’m having FAR too much fun. Hot, tired, starving, squished, confused and once again apparently able to access the train’s Free Public WiFi but of course I fail, again.

There was ONE good bit - the Hotel Monopol (which had certificates all over the place saying it was voted Best Hotel in Poland 2006/7) (more on this in a minute) had actually managed to get us a taxi, and the night porter stopped smoking long enough to help carry out our cases, AND say goodbye and have a good trip. Then the non-smoking (2nd miracle) taxi driver loads (3rd) our cases carefully (4th) into the boot and off we go. He takes a very different route to that M used the other day.. past a huge shopping complex - Galeria, which I’ve seen in Helsinki, St Petersburg and Riga so far - round a few corners, and voila! stops at Platform 3. Miracle no. 5, cos this means the 10 minute walk is avoided completely and we only have to go one floor down in a lift to get to the exact bit of the platform we need. Amazing. We don’t even (6th) get stuck going into or out of the lift.

[The Hotel Monopol stands out for us as one of the least comfy of our trip, mostly because of the scruffiness of the room: torn curtains, dirty walls, hard beds, a window which wouldn’t stay open until we operated on it with a tin of hairspray, a shower head which took ‘spraying’ to new heights - yep, into our eyes and right over the top of the shower stall and over our left shoulders onto the dry towel, because the shower spray head was leaky and couldn’t be tightened enough to stop the extra squirty bits - and the stench of cigarette smoke in the hallways. At first I thought the maids were working on Personal Best for Early Onset Emphysema, but then realised that the stairwell, being huge and open around a four-floor high atrium, was funneling up the smoke from the foyer lounge, where addicts could settle in for a fix. And the hotel has the slowest lift I’ve ever seen - even I could have climbed the four flights of stairs, with plenty of stops for wheezing and whingeing, and still beat the lift. My final grouch is that not ONCE did the reception staff greet us as we passed by. As for eye contact when asking purrfectly reasonable questions, like ‘can you order a taxi?’, or ‘when will the laundry be back?’... if this is Best in Poland, imagine worst! It could almost be worth going, just to see how low they can go...].

It’s nearly 5.30, and the train is very close to Berlin now. In a minute M will want to start gathering our bags together and standing at the train door ready to presto-heavo onto the platform. He’s also (yeah, his travel purrsona again) explained that we aren’t leaving the station until he’s found an information office to double-check our tickets to Freiburg. All this admin! I know it has to be done (I think). I will try not to think of a cool comfy hotel room with a nice cool comfy shower followed by a cool comfy big dinner and a cool comfy long sleep. Cool and comfy, how conservative and anal and middle-aged and unadventurous is that???

But I must stop talking about myself....


Later; 11pm....

Leaving the train was easy enough, in spite of the mangling of two hordes - departures and embarkations fighting it out with their suitcases through the small train doors. And us with our 4 suitcases etc, trying to leap on and off and get them all and me not fall down de steps or lose a case.. no little old ladies were ruffled in the process or anything. We saw the lift immediately (Berlin main railway station is a model of modern efficiency); then those pesky gods started to interfere again... first, I got into the lift with my two cases, pushing towards the 3 people already in the lift. Another woman got in with me, and it seemed that there would be no room for M. But he said something tersely, involving the words “meine Frau” (dat’s moi) and people moved back and, surprise surprise, there was plenty of room for us all. Up we went the one floor we needed to get to the main station area. Leaving the lift was a farce - M got out easily cos he was jammed into the doors and just popped out. Before I or the other person leaving could move, a little old lady charged in with her bag, bashing it into my shins and totally blocking my exit line. I started to say things like “Wait, bitte, I need to get out, fark, M what’s the word for ‘shove over’, bitte mein Mann’ and somehow the l.o.l. was sidelined into a corner and I got out without the lift doors eating me. I think I spoiled her perm but..

M saw a sign (no, not that kind of sign, just one on the platform) about Travel Information and set off to see if he could do the ticket confirmation thing. I was left minding our Rubik’s cube of luggage pieces, sweating quietly to myself and swearing ditto. While I waited (thinking that at least M was probably achieving something given the amount of time it was taking) a fellow with dreadfully deformed feet stumbled up to me and began some kind of begging or questioning. I felt a bit confronted by this, and after saying NO very firmly a few times, I tried GO AWAY with a gesture and this did the trick. Who knows, maybe I should have this dude on my conscience, he may have been asking me where the escalator was, or which way to the disabled dunnies, but I have no idea. I just didn’t like the way he held his hand out and stared at me. He came back just before M; I was preparing myself for some good old Aussie vernacular at high volume when he caught my eye and veered away. Hmm... will I be the subject of his nightmares for weeks to come? I hope not. I hope he just tells his mates at the pub tonight about the ignorant chick at the station who pissed him off when he was only asking about the public phones...

Tickets confirmed, validated, discharged, stamped, stickered and officially sanctioned as honest to goodness German tickets for German trains, this month, for us, all above board and ship-shape. One less bit of admin for M to let himself worry about. We found a taxi driver who drove us at high speed, talking most of the time on his mobile (very Rome-esque) to our hotel in about 30 seconds. AND it’s not a hotel room, but a serviced apartment, and we have a kitchen!!! with microwave, dishwasher, oven, toaster.. the delights go on forever. It even has a full-size bath. The only quibble I have is that the bed is a sofa-bed, and although very comfy, it has all that metal machinery on each side. The receptionist explained that this way we could have the room as a tv/entertaining room during the day if we liked. Hmm.. .a good rationalisation, but I’d purrfur, actually, a lounge AND a bedroom. Picky picky.. it’s gonna be nice to be in the same bed as M, and having hazardous bed edges is hardly new. At least this time it’s the outside bits rather than the middle of the beds against which it comes to pass that many an elbow and knee gets biffed in the dead of night when the rest of the slumberous body is merely trying to turn over. Ow.


Today brought to you by a rather nasty Polish train; some equally nasty German train coffee; the gem of a girl in a station cafe who pointed out that they sold Segafredo coffee (meaning that TA-DA!!! we can have decent coffee for brekkie tomorrow, made in our very own plunger, with real milk n everything); eau de hot train; and a bedtime shot of Gucci to get me through the night.