Tag Archives: England

… Morocco adventure, fourth part …

31st Dec 2007 … The dogs must have eaten something unsavoury during their beach run. Ulla worries. Ali is unwell, though recovers during the afternoon. After fresh prepared fish meal for lunch, I consult the I Ging. It’s tempting to veer decades back into the past, a time I consulted the oracle daily during my solo trips through Italy in my VW Bus. Such free strands of associations would easily make a novel of this report.

Anyway, the I Ging brings up ‘determination. What the heck for?’ Not having to make decisions is a fascinating experience for me, if slightly unsettling. I reckon Ulla’s moods slow my futile attempt at reducing ruminating thoughts, like I puzzle over how frequently she marks events in a negative frame. ‘I knew it was going to be a bad day,’ that sort. I made the decision (ha ha, I made a decision after all)  to trust in her powerful guardian angel. The sharp way she sums up the occasional unpleasant person we meet, I fully admit, creates an instant emotional clearance, which I like, as long as an analysis of my congruence follows. I was born that way, and too easily succumbed to my mother tabooing cuss words from my vocabulary. Further, with vital exception in cases of injustice, or when pushed too far by idiots, which sparks pure anger in me, I tend to neutralise my attitude when negative reactions towards people perk up. That is to say I trained myself stepping into other people’s shoes, even when they pinch. I fully own the torture of this tricky ideology. I’d not recommend the style. Phew, that was a droll effort at self-observation.

1st January 2008 … Last night was a non-event, though a hilarious late TV show diverted me away from sulking. We wait ages for a camel dish. I’m unsure about eating the mutton of such useful and loyal creatures. The dish tastes fine, but scenes I witnessed of how animals are treated before slaughter always trouble me. Just then Ulla storms off in disgust as a truck with cramped chicken cages arrives at the restaurant. She eventually returns. Our waiter friend packs up the content of her plate for us to take along. On way back to Bou Jerif we almost turn around when another troupe of four-wheel drivers showers us with clouds of dust. Short of time, we call the fort and order a tent for me. All turns out well. I get a tower room for the price of a tent. And the manic French group leaves shortly, for whatever reason.

2nd to 3d January 2008 … After a walk following a parched river bed with patches of blooming desert, we return to an Oasis below Bou Jerif. Later Ulla takes the van to the fort to recharge batteries, while I have a hot shower, and read. Tomorrow we’ll head up the Atlantic coast.

4th – 5th   January … We get meat for the dogs in Goulimine and drive on to Sidni Ifni for a late lunch at Suerto Lorca. My choice is octopus. I’ve run out of colour film and have been using a spare black and white film for a while. We plan to shop in Tiznit. I access my email to check whether Julio has answered my query re: a room at his Marrakech Riad, Dar Pangal for the day before my flight back to London. No luck so far. Off to Tiznit. After I rent a room for the night, we have lunch and go shopping. Ulla strikes a bargain for a beautiful hand-embroidered Kaftan, intended for cushions. She frowns when the trader asks her to smile. A deal that is not sealed with smiles seems to signal disapproval here. The trader relents, is forgiving, ‘Inshallah.’

Near Agadir we stop for the night at a place called Paradise de Nomade. I’m impressed by the fresh sheets in my Berber tent. And the massive boulders in the dry riverbed nearby are an epic sight. Unfortunately the night turns noisy from 11:30 pm onwards. Four wheel drivers arrive, dogs bark, music, jolly talking … until 3 am.

Next morning we hear the sudden influx was due to a desert rally being called off at short notice, because four French tourists were murdered in Mauretania. The locals, it was said, asked the party for some money and were refused, so they killed them. Sadly, past political grievances, lack of deep listening, arrogance, and the refusal of dialogue can have terrible consequences. Morocco has a complex history and a hard won independence.

6th Jan … Images along the road to Essaouira, and some reflective thoughts … As the light, colours, food, scents, the warmth and hospitality of ordinary people in Morocco grow on me, I ponder on how outer impressions oscillate with my inner pilgrimage. Sound plays a powerful role in stirring the unconscious. The tunes I hum unawares, I realise, include folk themes, lyrics from German romantic poets set to music by Schubert, even Kurt Weil songs; melancholic echoes from childhood and teen days. Yet even then I probed the meaning of home, of belonging. Being a stranger seemed more exciting. There is a kind of accord with other strangers around the world, due to a gap in narratives, demanding keen attention, shaking up perceptions and allowing for the unfamiliar to astonish.

On this stretch of road, the predominant sound, whenever Ulla stops the engine, is the rhythmic surf of the Atlantic, Sea of the Atlas, into which many rivers flow, and which, through a narrow strait, connects to my beloved Mediterranean. The high and low tides of this expansive body of salt water, dividing Europe from North America, and Africa from South America, make up the drone to dreams criss-crossing cultures from East to West, with ancient legends adding a shimmer to images that present themselves each day. To these inter penetrating worlds a constant wind adds turbulence, creative chaos.

Approaching Essaouira, we’re both a bit tense. Neither of us slept well at Paradis de Nomade. We search a hotel for me, after Ulla missed the earmarked camping place. She has the beach in mind, to give Ali and Leila their deserved run. Her stress and impatience adding to mine, I accept a hotel at the outskirts of Essaouira. The receptionist makes to pretence about relishing my embarrassment when I mistake E120 for 120 Dirham. A shock, considering my dwindling finances, but I can’t just walk out and sit on the curb. Overcoming the inner struggle, I decide to switch attitude, enjoy a hot shower and have sublimely quiet night.

7th of Jan 2008 … I find my kind of place, affordable and relaxed, in the Medina of Essaouira. At Hotel Souiri my inner harmony is restored. Ulla and I meet at 2 pm for a meal of irresistible fresh-smoked sardines at the harbour. The dogs enjoy a walk along the fortress walls, but are less pleased when we trundle through narrow streets in search for bargains. We both find items after appropriate spans of haggling. I buy a carpet runner to cheer up my kitchen at home. The labyrinth Medina has a lively and friendly atmosphere, and a well sustained patina of hippy charm, inviting a longer stay, but not this time, since I must catch a plane in two days.

Ulla offers to drive me to Marrakech.  In hindsight, I should’ve made the decision to refuse and organised a bus. Marrakech does not welcome dogs, which traditionalists consider unclean in Morocco. We were rejected at the outside table of a restaurant at central market place, Jemaa el-Fnaa,  even while sitting on the fringe, because our lovely friends, Ali and Leila were unwelcome. It was a sad downer.

In all, the journey reminded how moving to England in 1978 marked a departure from my crazy life in Germany, with all its professional successes and private failures, opening another crazy section of my life, with equal successes and failures, coinciding with a change of my name. The bridge I crossed then, offered a deep learning, and it allowed me eventually, through another language, to find my way back to writing. But that’s a story in itself.

My friend and travel companion, I must add, while inclined to retreat into her shell, is to my heart an iridescent pearl. I’m grateful she suggested the pilgrimage, and thank her for her companionship during these remarkable weeks.

Note: Please ignore grammar quirks in this spontaneous sharing. Thanks .Also, the underlined blue words in this text open safe links to Wikipedia, and bring up a separate screen.

Blessings for 2021. Wishing you, us, a better year ahead, one that makes pilgrimages possible again.

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… my love for England – and my brexasperation …

The Alps of Bavaria stand in bright glory or shrouded in mist, depending on the mood of the weather. Their snow-covered peaks were the dramatic panorama of my childhood, and called me beyond horizons, first east, then west.

Already as young woman, drawn by friends and circumstances I’ve lived and studied in England for stretches of time, until in 1979 I settled for marriage and motherhood in the hills of Somerset.

my mother

A special five year period of my life ensued, a calming respite after intense professional years, thrilling adventures and travels. The laid back ambiance of the English countryside offered precious time with my son, opportunity to grow my own food, bake my own bread and strike up tender friendships with neighbours. Our parents visited us from Holland and Germany to welcome their grandson. 

 

 

My dad, who normally travelled south, couldn’t withhold his poor impressions of England at the time, gathered, it must be added, along motorways. His comments: … brown water for coffee, fatty food, filthy toilets, shoddy service, and so on … seemed to underline his disapproval of my life-choices. I told him culture thrives in cities, like London. Rural life moves in slow motion here. The home birth of our son brought the first child into this Hamlet for decades. We were novelty.

However, every small region has its old guarders kicking in when a non-local challenges the status quo. My attempt to save a small oak forest from clear felling met with some success and equal scorn. A tit-for-tat exchange of articles in the local paper was educational – if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen – was the response to my well researched ‘save the oak wood’ warrior call. I countered – why not open a window. The Woodland Trust got involved, a spread in the Sunday Times followed. Politics were never my calling, but I became an activist over trees and was invited to join the local parish, all educational. A day before the clear-felling licence expired, the chainsaw echoed among the green chasms of surrounding hills.

It made my blood boil. The communities I had mobilised were only a little short of the sum arranged for a purchase of the oak wood from the greedy owner. Outsiders (migrants) tend to have a naive understanding of local power structures, but hey, they can have the guts to ask poignant questions.

The 1980’s were marked by rapid technological changes. We moved closer to London. The world was webbing up. In rural England, within a few decades, fruit meant more than apples, more than two kinds of potatoes were on offer, bread surpassed Home Pride’s white sponge, spices arrived, salads, mushrooms, avocados, berries, olive oil, proper coffee, pasta, ice cream, good wine. Books from around the world arrived, translated. Research from beyond the island enriched sciences, organisations, education, services, construction … an invasion of culture, colour, knowledge and other traditions, other, other, other … progress gripped the world … good, good, good … but, but, but – technology also steamrolled traditional jobs, pride in hard work was fading, rents and house prices soared, entrepreneurs and those already rich prospered and the rest had a hard time, some never catching up. This was – and is – not just an English trend. When change is inevitable, creative adjustments are needed.

But let’s find a scapegoat, eh?

The simple blame game is destructive for any country these days. Europe needs ingenuity. Its territory has cultural learning stored in deep roots, like the giant oak trees worth fighting for. British humour and diplomacy have much to contribute to a sustainable Europe that, nobody is arguing, must adjust.

This is my view.

Wake up Britain, and imaginatively address the global phenomenon, or, I fear, you’ll be nibbled apart by giants across the ponds.

Click here for a few practical issues re: Brexit, by Ian Dunt.

And here my post from 2016 that relates.

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… the vagaries of days …

My dream sinks to a timeless world the instant I open my eyes and take in the first impressions of the day – a shimmering spider web clings to the corner of the skylight, defined in the early sunbeam – a mosquito hovers drunkenly above my laptop. I recall a similar tiny vampire savouring the taste of my blood during my last day in Darwin; did it converse with this one across the oceans by morphic resonance? P1060804 - lower

Almost two weeks have passed since my return. I miss the Aussie company, and mornings at the pool under the palm roof.

Time is fitting hesitantly into habitual chunks. My body tweaks itself into smaller spaces, and tasks resume their orderly sequence. Breakfast oats don’t land in the coffee filter, and my head no longer collides with the chiming bells hanging next to the kitchen sink. Still, having inhaled another kind of dust for a while, an aura of mystery pervades my familiar environment, and routines are shifting, like I scoff at lists, allowing unimportant stuff to be just that, unimportant.

As the sun pours into the house through the garden door, I step outside. A bright orange hot air balloon almost shaves the branches of the high beech. Another follows, with noisy lettering, not as cheerful as the Virgin one with its clear brand. There being no boundaries to the sky, I’ve the visceral sensation of wanting to shrink and become invisible, musing how privacy and solitude are becoming an issue – there’s only in-back and no out-back left in England.

P1060820 - lower A poem stirs, wants out, but mail demands attention. I share my disorientation with friends. Ideas chatter and juggle into new frames, a changed perception of ‘home.’ What’s home other than moving with the experiences that carry us onwards?

I glance at the patch of Phlox waving from the lush green beyond the window and then distract myself from the screen by trimming a miniature Japonica tree into shape. My blackbird friend comes close enough for us to have a conversation.

I make time for a two hour stint of editing ‘Shapers,’ the sequel to my first novel. Moments of laughter – relishing my writing is surely a good sign, until the next stab of doubt – will anyone be interested in my scribbles? The solution is to keep writing, and trust readers will be pulled into my opus and enjoy the adventure.

Another shot of coffee before today’s therapy sessions begin – undivided attention to process, listening to stories. When silences linger in the devoted space, spirits assemble – we are a crowd of presences meditating on meaning, or the lack of it.

P1060831 - lower Though it was not exactly my birthday, I hosted a small garden party last Saturday, celebrating togetherness with friend. I managed to outwit Sunday’s Hurricane Bertha, which, in my corner, merely brought blustery wind and rain. Clouds parted in time to reveal the brilliant super moon.

Preparing for reading in bed, I catch a tiny movement – a huge spider. Totally irrational, but there’s a wrong time and place for spiders in my house … at night, next to my bed, and it’s a matter of scale. The scenario of a huge spider crawling over my skin plays havoc with my imagination. No time to get a glass and chuck the creature out. I’ve light in my maisonette, but take a torch for good measure, and wait. In a while the monster comes for me from its hiding place among books – full attack! While it baffles me that the sure crunch of a spider’s demise can in such instant bring me satisfaction, it’s also sobering to realise how discordant timing is neither good nor bad, it just is.

P1060834 - smallerGiven the vagaries of experiences each day brings, the only control given to us seems to be pliancy. As I write this, a rainbow flows across a cloud.

‘The same wind that uproots trees
makes the grass shine.
The lordly wind loves the weakness
and the lowness of grasses.
Never brag of being strong.
The axe doesn’t worry how thick the branches are.
It cuts them to pieces. But not the leaves.
It leaves the leaves alone.’
Rumi, The Essential Rumi

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… The English Goat …

Can’t resist to share this image with you – received as a birthday present yesterday. Natasha was inspired by a recent camping trip and my story ‘Goats are Goats,’ which I posted in three instalments here.

The drawing not only hilariously fits the rainy atmosphere of my story, which happened in the Bavarian Alps, it is also strikingly emblematic for dwellers on the Green Isle. Irrespective of whether such dweller were born here, the character formed by the climate in England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland ripples into the psyche of everyone who can endure what it takes to live on a Green Isle – THE RAIN.

However, it’s the English, in the good old sense, who  talk most about the weather while stoically putting a brave face to it, after all, rain is good for the garden.

http://halftoneandeverythinginbetween.blogspot.co.uk/

Watch the page of this animation artist. Her humour is delicately subversive.

 

 

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