A Year Long Journey

Thanks for everyone’s kind thoughts, the antibiotics seem to be doing something, though everything I’ve read about pertussis includes the warning that the coughing fits can last up to 3 months (depending on the source – shortest I’ve heard is 10 weeks, in China apparently they call it the “100-day cough”). So I’m not looking forward to that, because in about 3 weeks I have a big conference (in Madrid!) where I have presenting responsibilities and I was hoping the “long cough” (as it is called in Latvian) wouldn’t be quite so long…

However, I am looking forward to discovering more art like A Year Long Journey by Ryo Takemasa. Only one example, you must visit the site to see more:

The Art of Book Design: Kate Greenaway’s Almanack

Cover for Kate Greenaway’s Almanack for 1893, London, [1892].
(Source: archive.org) 

A book of weekly dates for religious services in 1893. Each page has a sweet watercolour drawing depicting family activities of the time.


From archive.org, where you can view the entire book. I warn you this site can be a bit of a rabbithole.

Jack’s Walk

The Palomino Tree, ©voyager, all rights reserved

Our walk today was slow and short. To begin with it’s raining. There’s been a constant light rain since yesterday and every now and then it unexpectedly morphs into a heavy downpour that eats up the light and has you soaked in seconds. That’s what accounts for the shortness of our walk. The slowness is another matter, though. On rainy days I move like a sloth. The best way that I can explain it is that I feel like I’m moving through thick porridge. Even my hands give me trouble and simple things like doing up buttons and keyboarding seem to take forever. Today it’s worse than usual and I’ve got quite a bit of brain fog to go along with it. Let me tell you why.

Yesterday Mr. Voyager had sleep dentistry done. This is becoming a thing around my area. You’re given a light general anesthetic while they do fillings, etc. and it’s commonly used for children. Mr. V needed 2 root canals done plus several fillings so being asleep seemed like the best option. He’s had sleep dentistry done in the past and it went well so we weren’t expecting any problems. Ha, silly us. This time the Mr. wouldn’t wake up. He went under at 11 o’clock with about 2 hours worth of work to be done. At about 1:30 the nurse came to tell me everything went well, but they couldn’t rouse the big guy. Nothing to worry about they said, he’s just sleeping. OK, I thought, he didn’t sleep well the night before so let him snooze for a bit. Then 3 o’clock came and went. Then 4, then 5 and by the time 6 o’clock rolled around the office was closing up for the night and the nurse is still telling me not to worry, he’s just sleeping and they’ll stay with him as long as needed. Finally at 8 pm the Dr. himself walked my sweet, groggy husband out to the car and we made the 45 minute trip home. My sleeping beauty drowsed the whole way home, went to bed as soon as we got in the door and didn’t get up until 11 o’clock this morning. He says he’s feeling quite refreshed. Me, not so much.

I do most things standing up resting on my arms because sitting is uncomfortable. My desk is at standing height and so is my work table. Some days even lying down isn’t comfortable so I’ve learned how to sleep standing up. It’s because of the fibro plus an advancing  scoliosis. Sitting causes nerve compression which sets off sciatica which sets of the fibro which makes voyager a tad cranky. Yesterday, I sat for hours. It was pouring rain outside so going for a walk wasn’t appealing and there was nowhere I could stand and rest my arms. I also kept thinking he’ll be awake soon and we can go home.

Jack’s day wasn’t much better. We left him with my brother-in-law who has a dog about the same size as Jack named Angus. Angus is a dick. He’s part German shepherd, part border collie and part Australian cattle dog and he’s smart as a whip, as fast as the wind and a bully. He taunts Jack and teases him with toys that he never shares. Yesterday was the longest that Jack has had to stay with Angus, almost 12 hours, and he was absolutely overjoyed to see us. I can see today that he’s exhausted so I don’t think Angus let him rest yesterday.

So, both of us slow today. Sorry about the prattling on, but I can’t find the brevity button in my brain. I hope you find some joy in whatever you do and have a good weekend.


Get the Party Started!

It’s Good Friday, which means that in Germany you are officially forbidden to have fun. I’m not joking (that would be illegal), there is a “ban on dancing”: No public dancing (clubs must be closed), no frivolous movies.

Coincidentally, it’s also my grandpa’s birthday today, he would be 98! So instead of mourning a fictional character, let’s celebrate a wonderful man who was a humanist and socialist, always fighting for justice. And the best grandpa of all as he gave us the most precious gift a grandpa can give: time.

Taken in 1993. By the look of the garden and the fact that he’s wearing a dress shirt it could even have been his birthday.
©Giliell, all rights reserved.

The smile you see usually spelled mischief. He never lost that boyish joy. I swear he even cheated at chess and that’s a whole other level.

So, here’s to you, grandpa!

It’s also my uncle’s 60th birthday tomorrow and to celebrate with the solemn seriousness the occasion deserves, we made him a piñata:

©Giliell, all rights reserved.

He wants money for a new motorcycle helmet and we’ll make him work for it.

So, get the party started!

Slavic Saturday

Lets talk about easter and easter eggs and associated traditions.

Most readers of this blog grew up with germanic traditions regarding this holiday. Which are completely different from what I grew up with, so when I first heard about easter bunny, I had to look up what it is. Not that easter bunnies from chocolate were unknown to us, but they did not have any special meaning and for long I assumed that they are bunny-shaped just for the cutesies. About the only thing that is common between germanic and slavic easter traditions are the painted eggs, but they are used differently.

The symbols of easter here are willow twigs, coloured eggs and a lamb. Willow twigs decorated with ribbons and painted eggshells are used for decorations and lamb is usually baked from dough, or recetnly made from chocolate etc. The willow twigs and coloured eggs are carryover from pagan times, symbolizing rebirth of the year, although christians staunchly deny this and insist on easter being purely christian holiday etc. etc. It is not. It was appropriated by christians by blending christian and pagan traditions together, just as Christmas, as a way to make converting pagans easier. There is nothing in the bible about coloured eggs and willow twigs.

The lamb however is probably later addition and it does symbolize christ and other stupidities from the bible in all their goryness. Only the cutting of its throat and smearing of the blood over door hinges or tresholds before baking it was replaced by making it from dough. Much less gory and cheaper to do, especially in big populations that diverged from raising sheep to cattle centuries ago.

So far, so good. Nothing particularly egregious about these traditions. But there is more to it, and as much as I loathe christian superstitions and traditions for their immense stupidity, one of the carry-overs from pagan times I hate even more.

Those willow twigs and coloured eggs do not serve only as a decoration. On Monday, hardboiled eggs are given by women and girls as gifts to men and boys who are supposed to go from house to house  (so-called koleda) and sing traditional songs and recite poems in exchange for the eggs. And they beat the women.

Yup. You read that correctly. In CZ and SL the men go from house to house with clubs (called pomlázka) woven from usually 8 to 9 long slender and supple willow twigs, decorated with ribbons, and they are supposed to beat the women with them, depending on region either shoulders, legs, ankles or simply their derrière. Some take it symbolically only, some take it literally and bruises can be raised, although it is expected to stop short of actually causing an injury. The beating of women with young willow twigs should magically transfer the youthfulness and freshness from the twigs to the women, or some such incredibly stupid shit. Thus the name of the club – po (prefix that can mean “to make”) mlázka (derived from “mladý” = young). Today nobody believes the magic, it is just “fun” and “tradition”. In this case, “tradition” really just means “an incredibly stupid thing that has been done for a very long time”.

In some regions today women are not completely defenseless – they can douse the men with cold water in return. But this is later appropriation in these regions, because originally it is the men who douse the women, in some regions instead of, in some regions in addition to, the beating, and there are regions where it is practiced as such still.

As a child I loved easter for the painted eggs. I loved the creative work involved with it and it was something to look forward to. But I loathed pomlázka from early on, de facto from as far back as I can remember. I did not like going about begging and beating people. I did not see how it is supposed to be good to spend a few joyful days with my sister and my mother painting eggs, and on monday beat them with a club whilst reciting some verses that have lost their meaning. Well, strictly speaking as a boy I was supposed to skip the painting and do only the begging and beating. Fuck that. Beating anyone with anything is just wrong, even symbolically, and creativity does not have gender.

I see no reason in preserving the tradition, it has no cultural value anymore and it produces nothing of value. Well, the women produce the beautifuly painted eggs, but the men are not expected to do anything worthwhile whatsoever. And in some regions even the eggs are already being skipped and exchanged for shots of booze, so the men instead of coming home with a basket of painted eggs come home drunk as a skunk. I would love for this tradition to die already. I will miss the eggs, but I think they are not worth preserving if the ritual beating is to remain too.

It won’t happen any time soon. What I find the saddest thing about this is that in loathing this despicable tradition I am the exception, not the rule. In fact, AFAIK I do not know a single other person sharing my view.

Edit: Due to my illness I have slightly lost track of time and I thougth it is saturday already. I have decided to leave it as it is.

Jack’s Walk

©voyager, all rights reserved

It’s shedding season and poor Jack is looking a bit shabby. His coat is covered in tufts and clumps of lightly coloured, curly hair that pokes out at odd angles. I try to brush him every day, but I simply can’t brush him long enough . To begin with, my arms gets sore. Sure, I’m out of shape, but Jack won’t stand still and the whole process feels a lot like trying to herd cats while wrestling with a bear.It’s lab-orious. The clumps mostly come out whole and as soon as they’re free of the dog they astonishingly explode in size like a magician’s flowers. The brush fills up after only one or two passes. While I stop to declog Jack decides to wander over there (look mommy it’s bird poop!) so I have to go get him and try to make a good pass while he’s turning in a circle trying to get behind me. Jack isn’t a timid dog, but he doesn’t like being the front guy. He prefers to be one or two paces behind me which isn’t exactly workable in this situation. And then we repeat. And repeat. And…

I did buy one of those Furminator type brushes which doesn’t clog up , but Jack didn’t like it at all and he writhed and he wriggled like a slippery eel until I finally gave up and went back to using a slicker. I figure it’s his body so he should have the choice. This won’t be over any time soon. My little hair machine of a boy has still got heaps and bunches of undercoat to shed, but it’s just one of the rites of spring, like rain and mud, and there’s nothing to be done about it except to accept it.

Tummy Thursday: a Sweet Surprise

Well, do you remember this?

©voyager, all rights reserved

Which got turned into this:

©Giliell, all rights reserved.

And sent off to Germany, where it got turned into this:

©Giliell, all rights reserved.

Again, thank you very much, voyager. It is most delicious and no comparison with what you can buy here as maple syrup, no matter how often they say “Canadian grade A”.

And I swear that one day you WILL have the opportunity to share it with me in person.

Jack’s Walk


Green! ©voyager, all rights reserved

More green! ©voyager, all rights reserved

Ha! The forecast was wrong. It’s a beautiful sunny day with blue skies and the air is filled with that earthy scent of spring. I can hear birds singing and the neighbourhood is full of busy squirrels running here and there doing all the things that squirrels do in the spring. Jack was feeling energetic today, too, and he pranced and wagged for most of the walk stopping often to follow a scent or leave a splash of pee. We went past the high school just as the kids were going for lunch and Jack schmoozed with a few gaggles of teens and left happiness in his wake. Best of all today, green is back. The grass is turning a lovely kelly green and there are bunches of fresh green tulips and hyacinths and daffodils getting ready to flower. I can hardly wait.

Jack’s Walk

A cloudy day in early spring. This photo is in full colour. ©voyager, all rights reserved

Well, it’s rain, rain, rain around here for the next 6 days if you believe the forecast. I don’t usually believe the forecast when the weather is supposed to be good, so why should I believe it when the weather’s supposed to be bad. That might make me an optimist and a pessimist which likely equals out to being a realist, which sounds about right. I’m being stiff upper-lipped about the weather, though. I keep telling myself that April Showers bring May Flowers and that it’s like this every year. Spring is wet, but at least this week it’s rain and not snow and the temps are steadily rising and the sun and the flowers and the birds and the bees will be here soon. Hmm… might be an optimist after all.