My dear Followers…

 

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Mount Keira

…you are probably wondering what this old man in “Downunder” is up to?

“Why don’t he write? (is one of my favourite lines from the film ‘Dances with Wolves’)”

Yes, why haven’t I written for a few months?  I’m busy coping with life. I am active but everything takes longer nowadays. On top of it, the medical profession has taken up a big chunk of my precious time. They ponder the question of how they can prolong, or extent,  my life. “Prolong” sound negative, doesn’t it? I’m sure I want my life to go on a bit longer.

The photo on the top was taken during one of my two recent stays in hospital at Wollongong, NSW. It is a picture of Mount Keira.  A small hill, compared to all the big mountains in the world. But since it raises 464meters from practical sea level it is dominating the city. It is part of the Illawarra Escarpment.

 

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The coastal plain as seen from Mt Keira

 

And this is part of the view from the top of Mount Keira. It is breathtaking.

The region in which we live, the Illawarra, is as beautiful as it gets. Less than 100 km south of Sydney.  It is almost unknown by the Sydneysiders. They rather go north on their weekends or vacations. And if they go south they bypass the region on the motorway.

During February we had downpour after downpour, resulting in local flooding in local areas. A boy, only thirteen years old, drowned in a creek. He was being swept away in the deluge while riding a boogie board with about twenty other children. That is what children do. When I was that age I played with my friends in the ruins of Berlin after the war. That too was a dangerous pastime. Luckily, nothing serious happened to me and I’m here to tell the story.

We live in a world of unprecedented uncertainty. I know, life was always uncertain but what we have now is on a scale that is simply frightening. People have lost trust in their system of government. And governments have lost trust in their voters.

Much of the uncertainty and the fear it creates is the result of modern communications. The global village is today’s reality and not only a thought bubble emanating from  Marshall McLuhan’s brain.

For me, a frightening world is still an interesting world. It is an opportunity to learn. We are conscious beings, who are forced to learn or we won’t survive. We are craving “input”  like the robot “Johnny 5” in the 1986 film “Short Circuit”. The problem with the majority of us is, that we are craving junk input too. To know what to learn and what not to learn then becomes the question.

At this stage of my life, I have to learn to deal with what my doctor announced with a stern face, “You have a tumour! You know, a tumour?” Yes, I heard him the first time. This is my reality now.

After a couple of invasive procedures and a six weeks treatment regime, I am free to spend my time in a more or less unstructured way. We, Aunty Uta and I, had time to go and see a couple of movies. The outstanding one was “Frantz” a French- German coproduction. It is an anti-war movie par excellence. It is shot mainly in black and white to express the mood of the time in 1919.  Occasionally, the colour appears at some beautiful moments in the story. There is only one very short scene of what actually happened during a battle. Perhaps it was necessary to show why the main protagonist acted in the way he did. War not only kills people but messes with the lives of the survivors too.

Today,  I’m happy to report that France and Germany are the best of friends. And this after hundreds of years of fighting each other. This gives raise to some sort of optimism as those two European nations, having seen the past, understand that the only way forward is through cooperation.  The British on the other hand have pulled up the bridges and wallow in their insularity.

Last month was my birthday. The 82nd no less. I took my wife to downtown Wollongong and we had a cheese platter in a roof top restaurant. The sun shone and warmed us on the outside and the cheese and wine on the inside. We were in a life-affirming mood and were reflecting on our sixty years of marriage.

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We had a great time and wished us both a long life together.

I hope, I will write another post soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memories of the Past and towards 2017

Time it was
And what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence
A time of confidences

Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you.

These are the words of the refrain from the beautiful song “Bookends” by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. A song about two old friends sitting on a park bench – reminiscing.

 

 

If you have more time on your hand you can be listening to the full version here.

Last month,  Uta and I had our 60th Wedding anniversary. It was a moment to reflect on our past together.

Just before we got married this photo was taken of us two on the balcony of my mother’s apartment in Berlin. In the meantime, this building has been torn down and a more modern one has taken its place.

img_20170106_0001 In the picture, my future wife looks rather sceptical at me.  Or is it whimsical? We were innocent at the time. We believed in a better world and eleven years after WW 2 we had all reasons to believe in a bright future. Out of that belief grew our confidence to start a family.

In case you are wondering about the plate on the wall, it has been painted by Anselm  Feuerbach and is of his favourite model, Nanna, in a classical pose. This plate is still in the family and belongs to my son now.

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From then to now it was a time of great changes in all our lives. We moved to Australia and raised a family. Of our four children, our eldest daughter passed away nearly five years ago.

2016 was an especially bad year all round. The election of Donald Trump to be the new President of the US makes for interesting times. Interesting, because he seems to be unpredictable. He loves conflict and will have a fight on his hand, among others, with the American secret services. The establishment believes the advice of the services are sacrosanct without considering that they might have their own agenda.

Terrorism is an old game but since 9/11 it has become global, as so many things have since the end of the Cold War. We shake in our shoes as our governments think of more useless schemes to stop this menace. But all those measurements make the would-be terrorists more cranky.

On a personal level, my health is precarious. At least this is what my doctors tell me. Next week I will know more. At my age, anything can crop up in my body. When I was born my life expectancy was just sixty-four years. Fifteen years later I am still here to tell my stories.

A few years ago, I talked about this with one of my neighbours. We called it bonus time and laughed about it. This was on a Friday and the very next Monday his bonus time came to a sudden end. So, you never know.

In case you wonder what happened to the couple in the first photo. We changed into an old couple day by day without noticing it. And now, sixty years later, we look like this.

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We have come a long way and I’m happy that last year we were able to visit Berlin, our hometown, once more. If we are lucky, we will be able to see Berlin again in two years time. Our health allowing, of course.

I nearly forgot. For the fifth time, we became great-grandparents. So the family is growing and we hope the politicians are not mucking up the great-grandchildren’s future.

For 2017 I wish all my followers all the best. Most of all stay healthy because without good health life can be a drag.

Life is (mostly) a Tour de Force

 

 

 

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On a perfect sunny day, life seems to be perfect

Life is a race to the end  and it  is run in stages. Some are easy stages, we later recognise as happy times, and some are torturous stages, the hill sections, when we learn about ourselves  and others.

 

We know actually right from the start that the finishing line is waiting for us. But it is rather nebulous and as long as the sun shines we could not care less. The finishing line is so far out that it doesn’t matter where it is. We are happy to complete the stages. Even the numbers of stages are unknown to us.

Some of us come around a bend in our lives and before we know it, the finishing line is there right in front of us and we have no time to contemplate our  fate. It is all over. It happened to me one cold winter day when I fell off my pushbike and  lost consciousness. I might just as well have  been dead.

I  belong to the ones who went through many stages. We believe, despite knowing otherwise, nothing will happen to us and the universe will make an exception for us.  “Pustekuchen”, we say in German when our expectations aren’t being met. All our assumptions are then blown away. The assumptions were just hot air.

A couple of weeks ago, I went   to see my friendly family doctor with a minor complaint. After a few tests, he looked at me sternly and told me  straight to my face:”You have a tumour.” When  he saw my stunned face he added: ” You know,  a tumour!?!”

Oh, I heard him loud and clear. What he was saying to me, was that he had discovered  something in my body that marked my point of destination – my finishing line had come into view. It is not clear whether I’m on my last stage or the second last one. It depends on so many variables. If I pace myself properly, I might be able to add another stage to my life. If not, the next bend could bring the end.

Of course, my adult children are in denial and tell me,  I’ll be one hundred one day. The stage I’m now in, there is still a flat section before the final climb,  and I am still enjoying the race. The sun is still shining.

 

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A Black Swan is sorting out the eggs it is sitting on.

 

 

I have been a marathon runner and ran many road races over several distances and I have learnt to cope with pain. I don’t now how the pain will be in the end,  but I hope for the best. So far, I am still pain-free (which makes my situation surreal)  but I do expect the medical profession to add to my discomfort. It is all part of the cards I have been dealt for the final stage (or stages).

I will still be blogging,  and from time to time I will report on what is happening to me.

The motto of my blog is:

“It is about life, as I experienced it, how I see it and how I imagine it…”

 

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Is this an exit or an entrance to something new, as the mountain beckons in the distance to be climbed?

 

 

Sculptures by the Sea Pt.2

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Another sweeping view of Bondi Beach. On the left of the picture, one can see people walking, ant-like, by the rocky shore.

There was more to see than the results of the various artists: plants that are clinging to the meagre rocks, the changes that Bondi went through since the European people arrived, and the present day activities.

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Bondi Beach has changed over the years since the new settlers arrived.

In the beginning, Bondi Beach was just that, a sandy, long beach with sand dunes in the background. Then people discovered the beach and the surf and used it first without any amenities. During the twenties and thirties, it slowly  changed into what it is today.

While walking along the crowded path we saw a sign that amused us.

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What are they up to. we were wondering. Working below the waves. Later we found more signs that gave us an answer.

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There was even an artist in residence. She was busy creating a mosaic on the rocks that lay there for aeons.

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There weren’t only bare rocks but there were also  signs that life was hanging on on those bare rocks.

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A flowering plant found a home at the base of an old, rusty pipe.

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A little corner full of flowers

 

 

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A plant with giant leaves had found a new home

 

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A single flower starting out a new existence

 

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This bush was once alive and looked more like some of  the sculptures nearby: a symbol of the passing of time 

We had seen enough that day.  We were tired  and were heading home on a nearly empty train.

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A unwelcome Guest

We have a pet fly. Perhaps I did not express myself properly. 

What I meant was, we have a fly living with us and who, for unknown reasons, has adopted us as her pets.

She follows us everywhere. But I have the feeling she is more attached to me than to my wife.

At first she appeared at our dinner table.  Every time food was put on the table there was a buzz in the air. This, no doubt, comes naturally to a fly. I tried to catch her many times and I thought I did so. I felt her in my closed hand. On opening my hand to release her outside, I could not see her. On walking inside, I saw her flying directly into my face to welcome me back.

After the meals and doing the dishes, she would be flying happily around my head assured I could not harm her with my hands in the water. Honestly, I do not want any of her caresses. She is a nuisance.

When I carry out the rubbish she follows me too. She flies around my head and shows off her acrobatic tricks. She never flies too far away afraid I could sneak inside without her. I can tell you, she is a smart cookie. As soon as I turn to walk back in, she settles down on my back.

Once inside she flies ahead, makes somersaults in the air and would laugh her multi-eyed head off if she could. 

After the evening meal and doing the dishes we usually settle down in front of the TV to watch the unfolding horror of the daily news. At first I can hear her buzzing around my head. Then she flies in front of the TV set as if to shout,  “Here I am. I’m here!”

When the Minister for Immigration comes on to announce, to my displeasure, that his Borderforce has stopped another boat loaded with desperate asylum seekers, our fly delights me by trying to crawl into the minister’s nose. Of course, she gets frustrated and instead attacks my ear.

Today we did go  by train to Sydney. We were hoping to get some relief from our fly. You won’t believe this  when we entered the train carriage she was already sitting on the windowsill looking at us expectantly with her beady  eyes.

I was  hoping to  take a picture of her. But she did not settle down long enough for me to do this. By refusing to be photographed,  she wanted to show the whole world how paranoid I am. I have no proof!

Once in Sydney I expected her to get lost. The smells of so many people would surely confuse her as she is just an innocent little house fly from the country.

It seemed to work and we were not bothered by her while in the city.

But as soon as we stepped onto the train for the return journey there she was again.  She was flying happily around our heads indicating that she was pleased to have found us again.

“Alright,” I said, “let’s go home together.”

“Bridge of Spies” – Glienicke Bridge

Today, 26 years ago ( on the morning of the 10 November, Australian time) the Berlin Wall was opened. Next day, Berlin Time, the old border between West-Berlin and the GDR (East-Germany) was opened at the border to between Berlin and Potsdam.

Sign on Glienike Bridge, today

Sign on Glienike Bridge, today

The sign reads, “Here was Germany and Europe until the 10th of November 1989 at 1800 hour divided”.

So it was astonishingly appropriate that we, my wife Uta and I, saw a film today that had that bridge as a dramatic backdrop. It was another story, from the time of the Cold War, that was told in the film “Bridge of Spies“.  Here is a trailer of the film.

As a former resident of Berlin, I’m not unfamiliar with the bridge. I visited her many times and the bridge was once before the background for a movie. “Under the Bridges” was the last German film made before the end of the war but only shown after the end of the war.

This particular construction of the Glienicke Bridge was only completed in 1907.

In 1986, three years before it re-opening we were visiting her.

View across the River Havel towards Potsdam

View across the River Havel towards Potsdam (1986)

The bridger with boadersign and guard's hut 1986

The bridge with border sign and guard’s hut (1986)

This really was the border of the Western world. Whereever you were in West-Berlin, you always faced the East.

This really was the border of the Western world. Wherever you were in West-Berlin, you always faced the East. (1986)

Today, you should take a walk across the bridge and let the full impact grab you.  In the middle is a line marking the former border.

This masrks the old East / West borderline.

This marks the old East / West borderline.

This the approach to bridge from the Potsdam end of the border. Today the bridge is the border beweteen the City of Berlin and the Federal State of Brandenburg.

This is the approach to the bridge from the Potsdam end of the border. Today the bridge is the border between the City of Berlin and the Federal State of Brandenburg.

And if you have made it to this spot, you are right in front of the beautiful cafe “Garage Du Pont”.

You can sit and ponder the history of the bridge while you indulge yourself.

 Garage Du Pont

Garage Du Pont

Here you can enjoy a coffee, an apple tart or a brandy  or all three of them.

Bon appetite!

Bon appetite!

The film is not only based on a true event, but it is also a stark portrayal of the American justice system. Justice is not always been done but depends often on people  like James B. Donovan  100 out of 100 for Tom Hanks too. The scenes at the border, in August 1961 when the wall went up, were just frightening to watch.

A few times I had to fight back tears as I saw how Berlin suffered.

Weekend

Last evening this message from my daughter Caroline came up on my FB site:

Work for the day and the week done. Social media for the day done. Time for some dinner and a glass of red to start a rejuvenating weekend. Have a good one everyone”

What did the message say? That she was happy with her achievements of the week? It almost sounded like the Bible and that the Lord was happy when he “saw it  was good” and now it was time for the Sabbath. She hoped to rejuvenate when she would  face the tasks in  the next week.

That is how it should be; work and rest in the right proportions.

As an aged pensioner, I do a lot of rejuvenating already and I can tell you,  it is not easy. I’m using a lot of energy just doing the rejuvenating. But actually, I’m not rejuvenating att all. I’m aging whatever I do.

When I was a youngster and just starting out with my working life I too looked forward to the weekends. It was time to meet up with friends and chasing girls. On Sundays, we dressed up in our finest.

A trench coat was compulsory on a rainy day. Three friends at a local festival (I'm the one on the right)

A trench coat was compulsory on a rainy day. Three friends at a local festival (I’m the one on the right)

Cinema was the big thing and they just invented CinemaScope. The big picture really hit us when the curtain opened. The first film of this type I saw was “The Robe” with Victor Mature. In those days, I loved historical films. Even if they were not entirely true depictions of the events, they nevertheless fired our imagination.

Now, Sundays are like any other day  we try to rejuvenate. There is one exception, I refuse to go shopping on a Sunday! Still, we have to adjust some of our activities to the work life of others.

In two weeks time, we will take the (slow) train to Melbourne. There is no fast train as our governments don’t like working for the future  and the joke is, that they call the train, “Interstate Express”.

Next Saturday we will go to the theatre in Sydney. We will see “The Bleeding Tree” by Angus Cirini. I will write a blog about it, but here is one sentence Angus Cirini says, The primary role of government is not to manage the economy it is to allow for a healthy society to flourish.”  Well, I think governments have forgotten this lesson or they just ignore it.

Here is what the Griffin Theatre writes about the play:

In a dirt-dry town in rural Australia, a shot shatters the still night. A mother and her daughters have just welcomed home the man of the house – with a crack in the shins and a bullet in the neck. The only issue now is disposing of the body.

Triggered into thrilling motion by an act of revenge, The Bleeding Tree is rude, rhythmical and irreverently funny. Imagine a murder ballad blown up for the stage, set against a deceptively deadly Aussie backdrop, with three fierce females fighting back.”

We have our next two weekends  covered and they are “footy-free”.