stillness of twilight


It had been a long day. Sarah and I were tired after being on trains for most of the day, travelling from Brussels to Rothenburg. We arrived in the afternoon, dropped off our bags at the hostel, and went exploring, mainly looking for food. Once we had our quarry, we then went in search of somewhere quiet to eat. We found a bench outside of the city walls overlooking the hills. Here we sat, ate our sandwiches. I remember that we were so thirsty–we had both finished our water bottles on the train and hadn’t had a drop since. I opened my bottle of Mineralwasser and took a swig, and immediately began coughing. It was, of course, an American’s first encounter with European mineral water: sparkling water, water “with gas”, depending on where you are. If you had told me then that I would happily be drinking sparkling water by the bottle just a few years later, I would have laughed. At the time I was shocked by the unexpected. Now we knew to look for Stilles when choosing bottled water in Germany.

Our hunger and thirst quenched, we sat back and enjoyed the view. I remember having my travel journal with me, describing the peach and apricot sunset, the coolness of the air, the stillness of twilight. After a day of negotiating different languages, public transport, and fizzy water, now were welcome moments of peace. I still remember the calm of that evening.

Photo: Sunset in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.


I haven’t mentioned yet that Ros and I have had to move out of our house. We moved out on Friday, actually. Our house has got mould. I’d wondered if we had for a while now, since my repeated attempts with air purifiers and HEPA-filter vacuums haven’t decreased my sneezing and allergies one bit. I was beginning to suspect that it wasn’t just dust that I was allergic to. And then mushrooms started growing in the bathroom…

Fortunately, unlike the bedbug incident, my landlords this time have been great (surprisingly so) and we’ve been put up in a guest house down the road. I was worried that they would blame the mould on us — that we weren’t airing out the bathroom enough or whatever — but when they tore up the shower the mould was so bad that it was clearly a problem that predated our move into the house. Thank goodness? We don’t know how long it will take to fix, which isn’t something I like to think about very much. Hence you’ve been getting book posts. They’re easy to write.

The good thing is, though, the place where we’re staying has a really lovely garden and a cat. Miss Amber Eyes, I call her, though her name is actually Toffee. She’s very friendly and has already taken to running to me with little chirrups. (Focusing on the silver lining here, as you can tell.)

Isn’t she pretty? And the garden is nice to sit in, too. Continue reading

Think free, be free

There isn’t much graffiti in our town, which is rather nice, but the graffiti we do have is nothing like the gang signs and symbols I’m used to seeing in the States. Instead, the graffiti tends to be done by the local anarchists — all five of them, if even that many. I find them incredibly endearing, if only because very rarely do they get the anarchist symbol right.

The park I walk past to go into town has a wall where the anarchists usually draw their messages. This week had the best messages by far: on one wall, ‘Think free, be free. We have nothing to lose but our chains’ and on the other, ‘Blank walls? Silent generation!’ It warmed my Odonian heart with pride and I wanted to find these cute little anarchists and pat them on the head, saying, ‘Well done!’ I kicked myself each morning for forgetting to recharge my camera and bring it with me. Last night I remembered after going to bed, so I got up and plugged in the battery to charge overnight. I dutifully remembered my camera this morning.

…and walked to the park to find workmen washing off the graffiti. They saw me walking toward them, clutching my camera with a crestfallen expression. ‘Hello,’ they said.

‘Hi,’ I answered. Then, because I am a madwoman, I asked, ‘Could I take a picture, before you wash it off?’

The two workmen exchanged glances then looked back at me, utterly bemused. ‘What’s left of it, anyway,’ I added hastily.

‘Sure, what’s left of it,’ said one.

‘Is this for your scrapbook of achievements?’ asked the other, while I was snapping these pictures.

‘What? Oh, no no, I just find it really funny!’

Again, complete and utter bemusement on their part. I thanked them for letting me take pictures and hurried away.

I managed to get to the graffiti on the post office before the workmen did, and so you can see the paint there more clearly. The red was painted first, and then the next day someone had added the message in black:

I particularly like how they attempted to combine the two symbols with this one. They’re clever, but they don’t know what the symbols are supposed to look like.

This message on the old health centre has been up for ages, ever since the health centre was moved to the new hospital two years ago. I really like this one because it’s timely, relevant, and fits in its context.

So you see, another reason I’m fond of these painted messages is because they actually have something to say.

So a book

Last night Ros asked me what I wanted for my birthday.
‘A tambourine,’ I answered. She has already established that I am not allowed to have one. ‘Except a tambourine,’ she said.

I searched my mind, realising I had forgotten the list of things I had wanted for my birthday. ‘A garlic crusher,’ I said, at a loss. Earlier that evening I had used two spoons to crush a clove of garlic.

‘A garlic crush.’ She was unimpressed.

‘Well I don’t know! Or a fruit juicer thingy.’ This was accompanied by the brandishing of a soapy wooden spoon. I was doing the washing up.

‘A citrus juicer,’ Ros corrected. She paused. ‘So a book,’ she said.


…But I still want a tambourine. One that has a drum on one side of it. Please may I have one?

Mischief Managed

Months ago, Ros told me about a dream she had (‘nightmare’, she says) in which she woke up one morning to find that I had covered the kitchen with chalk board and written to-do lists for myself…

Waking up to a nightmare...

Very big sunflower! Teeny tiny daffodil.

The inside reads, 'APRIL FOOLS!'

The other cupboards were covered, too… After Ros got over the initial shock (she had, after all, only just woken up when she saw it, and doubted that she was fully awake), she thought it was quite funny.

I do hope my previous housemates from Oxford approve…

First things

Today I roasted a chicken. I had never dealt with a whole bird before. It was the bizarrest thing — perhaps made even more bizarre by that I was Skyping with Kelly at the same time, and at one point may have said, “Look! The wings flap!” and Ros may or may not have walked in shortly after this.*

Ros and I jointly entertained for the first time tonight. I made tortilla soup for dinner and she made apple tart tatin for pudding. It was very fun, and I’m glad that the Ackers were able to come over to join us.


* It always astounds me when people think at first that I am so dignified.

Hi, My Name Is

The Sharpes, Ackers, and I usually sit near each other at church and then stand together during tea and coffee afterward. This Sunday, however, Jesse (of the Sharpes) and Faith (of the Ackers) were both away.

A woman who is new to the church walked over to me and Isaac during the coffee time and said, “I thought I would meet some of the other families with kids.”

“Hi,” I said, shaking her hand. “I don’t have any kids.” Already beginning to be confused, she then asked if Isaac was a student (she didn’t ask me). He said no, he wasn’t, but his wife is, and that his wife is away that week. Then she looked at me, again, even more confused. “I’m a student in the School of English, and I work in the same building as his wife,” I said. I pointed at Casey. “The boys are hers. Her husband is also a student and I share an office with him.”

It was an honest mistake: Isaac and I were standing together, I helped Casey with the boys during Communion. This is just one more chapter in how we have managed to thoroughly confuse the congregation of this church. Fortunately I’m no longer complimented for my well-behaved boys (the little old ladies have finally figured out that both boys belong Casey), but I’ve also been asked if I’m related to the Sharpes (well, the boys do call me Aunt), or if I live with them (I suppose we do always arrive and leave together).

Perhaps to prevent any future confusion, now that the Ackers are involved, we should start wearing name tags…