We need to talk about people

I’m not going to spend long introducing my worry here. It’s about growth. Eternal, never-ending growth. On a finite planet with finite resources.

According to the World Population Odometer, there are 7,7 billion people on earth. With a daily population growth of around 200,000.

We celebrate every little human born and mourn every human death. We battle against old age with everything we got. We punish women for wanting/needing abortions and scream “murderer!” at them (when we are crazy enough). Various religions encourage people to procreate and multiply, defending their stance with the support of old religious scriptures.

Dictators have in the past and continue today to endorse systems that exert control over women to either reproduce as much as possible, or – as in the case of China – not. Let’s have a quick look at that last sentence. Not reproduce. China and their one-child policy. An attempt at stemming the population growth.

If any religious Americans read this I am sure they will be on their way with torches to set fire to my house right now. So glad you have no idea where I live.

Yes, China is the only country that has actively attempted to control and even reverse population growth on a truly large scale. With rules, regulations, invasive control practices – and invasive procedures such as forced abortions and sterilisations. The result has been indescribable suffering for millions of women and their families, femicide in a country that values boys over girls, and entire villages with such shortage of women the men feel compelled to “import” – in whatever way they can – women from the surrounding countries.

And still the world’s population is growing, most countries still value boys over girls (not just an Asian phenomenon), and there is still no real attempt anywhere to even talk about possible ways to turn this around.

Just like the twisted logic of eternal economic growth, eternal population growth is not in any way sustainable. No matter what your belief system or culture – it is not sustainable. And we have to talk about it. We have to find humane ways to NOT continue to reproduce the way we do now. Now that we no longer kick the bucket over a common cold. Now that we have so many ways of extending our natural life span and prevent mums and babies from dying during childbirth.

And while the human population keeps growing, 150-200 species of plants, insects, fish and mammals go extinct every 24 hours.

Don’t get me wrong: I am glad of every medical advance that make our lives better and would personally like to see my dad turn at least 100 years old. I dearly love every single one of my family members and don’t want to be without any of them. I miss my mum terribly and still ask myself if only… how old would she have been now, and would we still sit together giggling about life over a cup of tea?

And yet. We need to come to terms with this idea of eternal economic growth, with extending life, with eternal youth, with not letting a single human life end for whatever reason (terminal illness, old age). I know that if I reach the stage of vegetable where nobody can communicate with me – I would rather that someone pull the plug – or let me have that overdose. Please.

Euthanasia is not a bad thing. After all, we do it for our dogs.

In my next life – please let me be my dog.

Sudden memory

In 1993, I was on my way to Ireland and had a stop-over in Brussels. A handsome young man invited me for dinner, and while eating I noticed the white tan-ring on his hand.

I pointed it out to him suggesting that it was not the most subtle approach to wanting to cheat on his wife.

Then I made him pay for dinner and sent him home.

There is not really a moral to this story.

First day over, and I am knackered. Having spent most of the day with two of my new colleagues, getting more or less non-stop input, information, sitting in on a conference call, sitting in on another conference call – and did I sit in on a third conference call? not sure anymore – then some more information, and then some information, come 1.30pm and my head was screaming for a break.

So I begged for a little time to read through some of the other information that had been printed out for me and handed over in a jolly, yellow folder.

One hour went by and then – then the words started running around on the page and I felt a twitch in my left cheek. I looked up. I looked around. I saw – very little. And then. That familiar feeling of total drainage.


Hate them.

Could just see enough to send a message to colleague 1 – then out of the side of my remaining vision I could see him walk in so I did a slow dash in his direction telling him that – uh, I have bad news – I’m getting a migraine… to which he (to my huge relief) replied not to worry! it was probably the weather, and sent me home.

I packed up my stuff as best I could while rapidly going extremely tunnel visioned and dragged myself outside. The heat hit me. Not kidding – it was like mid-summer in Norway, just without the refreshingly cool breeze.

The weather. It’s amazing, when I was young I would get migraines as a result of hormones combined with overwork and general stress and depression. For the past 20 years I’ve had one or at most two per year, but only here in Vienna has the weather been a factor. And that is no joke. These sudden changes to hot weather with “der Föhn” – the warm winds from the East, are a total killer.

Suffice it to say I had no choice but to walk home while holding on to my pushbike for support actually trying to avoid walking in the sun. I hate winter so much, but this sudden change to summer came as a bit of a shock to the system.

So. Wish me luck for my next few days trying to cover two jobs, as I’m still working part-time for Berlitz. I really know how to have fun, I do.


Am about to start a new job. Wish me luck!

There we were. Sunday evening. Watching TV.

Fast and Furious number whatever.

I try to go along with my gorgeous husband’s wishes for something simple and entertaining to watch at the end of the week, something to wind down to, something not too taxing, as I know, we know, that we have pretty busy and complex weekdays.

And so, there we were. Sunday evening. Fast and Furious number whatever.

They all look the same to me, the characters are all the same, the absence of a story identical.

This is where Thomas and I diverge. To him, this is just about the perfect stuff to zone out to. To me, it is the perfect stuff to melt my brain and make me want to tear my hair and gauge my eyes out and pour molten lead into my ears to.

I am completely baffled about why one would want to watch something like that – and why on earth one would want to make something like that in the first place. It’s – vacuous, to say the least. There is simply NOTHING there. To me, the stuff looks like a soulless computer game where every single “character” (the word is actually way too good for the action figures featured in this stuff) looks the same bar the colour of the eyes and possibly the tone of their skin. Even the few females are like male computer figures, more male than the men – they hit harder, fight more furiously, are even tougher and more soulless than the males, with scowls that could outdo the joint scowl of every GI Joe on the entire planet. In some misunderstood attempt at including more women in action movies, they have turned the females into even more one-dimensional versions of the male figures – just with cleavages strategically displayed to claim them as female.

AND – there is NO STORY! NONE. The dialogue, for want of a more approriate word, is as enticing as the conversations of pubescent teenage boys. Are action movies perhaps “written” by such? Because, if these scripts are produced by adult males there is just no hope.

It is so DROSS. So dumb.

So infuriating.

Now the pressing question is – how can I avoid watching another of those in the future? How can I avoid telling Thomas that I would rather poke myself in the eye with a blunt fork for two hours than watch another action movie ever again? After all, he has sat through quite a few of my “intellectual” movies (admittedly checking Facebook continuously on his mobile) for my sake.

Married life is sometimes so complicated.

Dear Death, we need to talk

Just to let you know: You did a fine job last year! Really. Very fine work – souls harvested with precision and skill – just like you do every year! Well done! But. I would like to make one request for this year.

Now, don’t take this as criticism. It’s only meant as a small request from one concerned World Citizen. Could you, perhaps, shift your focus a little? Please don’t be offended, but I really am worried about the state of our planet. And your focus seems to have been particularly set on artists. Though admittedly this group of people are by no means harmless, they actually make the world a better place.

Now, I understand that you are a busy man with a lot on your bony hands. Perhaps you even have a quota to fill and not quite enough time to get your targets sorted out in the process. So if you need a little hint as to the area where your special talents might be better employed, please feel free to PM me. I’d be honoured to lend a hand. In the meantime I’ll provide you with a few hints:

People who encourage misogyny, xenophobia and racism; religious fanatics (this would also likely help cut down on your workload in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and the US) – oh, and orange is the new black.

Let me know if you get that last one! I thought it was pretty clever myself!


Paul Kidby’s Death for Terry Pratchett’s Discworld-series


This blog has gone from being quite a fun, silly blog about this and that and nothing special, to one long moan. Since that happened, I’m sad to say I’ve been struggling to apply my usual sarcasm and sense of irony to what I write. It seems that with my divorce, my sense of humour took a nosedive too.

I can’t promise to rectify that. I am presently searching for a new perspective for my writing, perhaps even a new style. In the meantime there is a lot of soulsearching going on here, horrified observations of a press-image of a world gone crazy: war and torture and refugees reaching a new level of horrible; feminism and equal rights reaching another low; the people of USA allowing the lowest of the low to be their new leader.

If it wasn’t so awful, it would be perfect material for a Monthy Pyton sketch.

So bear with me while I rediscover my writing skills and find myself again. In the meantime I can report that Vienna is beautiful, the Christmas markets are putting in their last desperate bids to get people to spend money they don’t have, I have wonderful friends, and I can hardly wait for spring to come and warm my bones again!

Happy Christmas to all!


Thomas is the one person in my life who personifies the term “extrovert” in its most extreme form. It’s a small wonder that he is also my soulmate… We’re so different in this sense we almost come full circle.

It has its challenges. For one: when I am down that road of needing alone time, I find it impossible to communicate it and set the terms. Thus, Thomas has no idea what’s going on until all hell breaks loose. He has got better at reading the signs, but it still takes a while before he realised that I don’t just need space, I also need silence – and the freedom NOT to respond to things.

Just minutes ago he tried to play me a version of a song we both really like. It was a live version, and I thought for a moment I might scream with the effort of listening to the heavy beat at the base of the song. I had to ask him to stop it, whimpering “Right now, it’s just too much for me!”

I feel pathetic when it happens. And I feel as if I need to reassure him and apologise to him and – all the things I can’t cope with doing just to make him feel better (at the cost of my own sanity). Can’t wait for the day I don’t need THAT anymore. Sanity is definitely overrated.


Oh, to hell with religion

Over the past few years I have read all sorts of articles on Islam and its different manifestations (I even read one of the translations of the Quran). I have also devoured countless writs on the various forms of Christianity and Judaism, to the point of being a regular visitor to the website askmoses.com.

Today, after yet another attempt at opening up to the blessings of religion, I have made the decision that enough is enough. There really is no point to this quest for understanding. Because – I do not and never will understand.

I still totally fail to see why it is important to believe in an all-powerful and totally invisible being. Why is that important? And even if you choose to believe in it – why is it necessary for you to be so damned public about it, build huge and expensive edifices to the worship of your invisible deity, flock to huge ceremonies conducted and dictated by a few (self-)important (mostly) men and then proceed to abuse all those – of whom there will always be millions – who do not do the same?

Now, I will always have empathy for the ‘quiet worshipper’. The person who heads into nature and goes ‘Ahhhhhhh! This is just greater than me!’ – and then sort of leaves it at that. The one who is astounded by the beauty of all that mankind has not yet ruined and feels that there just has to be a greater being behind it all. The person who lets Nature be the temple to the creative force and doesn’t insist on stealing from the poor to build for the rich (see: Catholic church over the years, followed by most other forms of organised religions – sure, there were religions before this that were used in the same way – but I have been blessed with not having to try to understand those).

I will also have a slightly misunderstood empathy with those who join in the odd religious ritual just because it is pretty and everything feels better with a little midnight mass thrown in for good measure on the 24th December. And I listen eagerly to my Muslim and Jewish students when they tell me about their own favourite rituals. I even sang in a church choir for two years and loved every minute of it, but I think that had more to do with the beautiful music we got to sing.

I understand beauty. I even see the beauty of the many places of worship that have been built to invisible gods over the millennia. I live close to one of the most stunning churches in Vienna (Votivkirche) and no, I would not want to see it torn down.

The part I fail completely to understand, though, is organised religion where the participants accept having words and actions dictated to them, unquestioningly. I don’t understand blind followers. Wrong. I don’t ACCEPT blind followers. I refuse to accept those who kill on behalf of a religion. My refusal to accept goes along the entire scale of actions seemingly dictated by a religion, be it the wearing of a headscarf, slapping a naughty child, ostracising women who’ve had an abortion or beheading an ‘infidel’ – I DO NOT ACCEPT THIS WILLINGNESS TO HIDE BEHIND RELIGION. It’s weak.

YOU are the one who chooses to kill. The one who chooses to hit a child. The one who chooses to hurl abuse at another being. Those are YOUR actions. And when you decide to put the blame for your despicable actions on an invisible deity, I have nothing but contempt left for you. You are a weak person, and you have chosen that path yourself.

So no, there is no more room in me for understanding. If you feel an intense need to go to church regularly, do so. If you feel that praying x number of times per day while facing Mecca makes you a better person, do so. If you want to wear religious underwear or a hijab, go right ahead. But don’t ever tell me it is your religion that actually demands it. Or that anyone else is less worthy because their choices are different to yours. YOU are the one who chooses to wear certain things or perform specific rituals and your choices are yours alone. I am willing to respect you, but I will never again respect your religion over you – or over myself.


Now, isn’t that just a snappy title?

I just had mine removed. At bloody (sic) last.

For years, my uterus has been little more than a nuisance. I’ve been briefly pregnant a few times, rapidly resulting in painful miscarriages at home – too early to represent more than pain. Then, after we moved to Austria, my periods got longer and more painful, about half of my time went into dealing with blood and pain and the other half into dreading its onset.

And this is where I have to admit I am a wimp. I don’t like going to doctors, and more than that, I don’t like being intimately touched by anyone other than my husband. You can only imagine how long it took me before I dug up a gynaecologist to see if there was anything one could do about all this pain and blood.

He (why on earth are there so few women in this profession?) discovered that I had myomas and instantly told me I needed a hysterectomy. And that’s when I realised that I would have liked to be a mum first. So I got a second opinion (another male with at least slightly less resemblance to a plumber, rather more a Humpty Dumpty) and the option to have the crap removed, leaving me “intact”.

And that was it for a while. My periods were tiny after that, and there was almost no pain! Apart from the emotional pain of divorcing my then husband who wanted nothing to do with the “women trouble” as I’ve heard a few people of the male persuasion call it in their pusillanimous state of being where most things female are concerned. So time went by and it took a while before it became really clear to me that I was not going to get pregnant without external interference from more than my new partner. Not ideal for the wimp in me but needs must and so on.

I was given the final devastating blow at the AKH (Allgemeines Krankenhouse – Vienna’s central hospital) where I was told in no uncertain terms by a large, bitter, hard-voiced woman that my eggs were crap and that the likelihood of me conceiving with my own eggs would amount to no less than a medical sensation.

Then the myomas came back with a vengeance. I trotted off to Humpty Dumpty and demanded a hysterectomy. However, I was this time sent to a Catholic hospital where they went against our joint decision without even consulting me and only removed the growths. Gotta love the Catholics. They really do think they represent god on earth.

Went through another period of acceptable and predictable pain cycles before I once more came to realise that I spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about having tampons and painkillers with me at all times. And also planning my life around easy access to toilets. How on earth do women in India cope??

My squeamishness about doctors had not abated, though, in spite of me surely being more used to it by now? No, some things are not easily ousted from one’s life. Imagine my pleasure when I discovered a female gynaecologist just two minutes’ walk away. It still took me more than a month to actually contact her for an appointment, and then I nearly gave up when the answering machine was in a male voice revealing that it was a practice with several doctors – I immediately imagined being slotted in with whoever was available and it being yet another male.

Now, here is one thing I don’t get. When I asked around a little among my female friends, several had the rather odd idea that female gynaecologists are, for no apparent reason, “worse” than male. That they are supposed to be rougher during the examination and have less empathy. When asked what they based this on, they were only able to say it was what they had heard, and this was enough for all of them to not put effort into finding a woman. No first-hand experience, just blatant willingness to accept rumour.

I can now, with first-hand experience, refute this rumour. My new gynaecologist is the best I have ever had, and it was the least painful exam I have ever had. She even made sure to assess my smallness and find the smallest speculum to cause as little discomfort as possible. That was a first. Men seem to think “if a penis fits, anything fits” – they must have watched too much porn.

Dr. A. could confirm my suspicions and though she was a little taken aback by my instant request for a hysterectomy, she was also in total agreement. AND – she was able to perform the procedure herself at the aforementioned AKH.

This is where things went a bit nuts.

Within a few days she had an appointment for the op which then had to be prepared for in haste with a number of tests (blood-count, mammography, x-ray etc.) during which time I had the dubious pleasure of meeting all sorts of confused and ill people trying to cope with the Austrian medical system, and then I was sucked into the general hospital that is the AKH. Bed allocated with stunning views of Vienna, two room-mates who were both in the early stages of pregnancy. I somehow wish hysterectomies could be kept separate from pregnancies in the hospitals, but who am I to complain.

I was operated on a Thursday. On Friday I rolled out of bed and started walking. The AKH is a deadly dull and large hospital with endless corridors and nowhere to go for patients. I was instructed to walk as much as possible, drink lots, eat regular meals and all that jazz – but where to go? And I had to let the head nurse know if I wanted to leave the ward, and the end of the ward was all of 30 metres away. In the end they were wailing, “just go!” when I waddled up to the door to report that I was going for a walk.

In my wanderings around the hospital I must have visited most of the other wards (it’s amazing where they will let you go if you wear a hospital bracelet) and when Thomas came to see me insisted on going to the restaurant on the ground floor for a much needed glass of wine. Which I got in spite of the sign that clearly stated they would not serve alcohol to underaged and patients. Gotta love this country!

I was out again in record time and back home with my babies. Mischa had gone into a depression (again) while I was away, but on  my return he picked up considerably. We got five days together, five days of slow walks and careful cuddles. For the past few months, he had shied away from close hugs as it seemed to hurt him. But these few days he went back to his old habit of leaning his head against my chest in greeting. And I was in a position to devote myself to him as the instructions were clear: no excessive exercise for the next couple of weeks. His slow walks were just right.

Saturday 12 September, at 4am I woke up from Mischa retching. Nothing came up but he looked thoroughly miserable. I brought him and his bed to the kitchen and lay next to him on the floor holding his paw to calm him. From time to time he would try to vomit again.

At dawn we went to the “Hof” (a sort of inside yard in a Viennese tenement building). There, the pain he was experiencing caused him to have a seizure, after which I stood just holding him for 20 minutes while he got his breath back, then slowly led him to his mattress where I helped him lie down. I sat with his head in my lap for the next hours, watching the sun come up, watching a woodpecker have his breakfast, and watching Mischa doze a little while breathing shallowly. I was debating with myself the whole time – is this the end?

Thomas brought me a cup of tea and a blanket for Mischa. I finally called the vet.

20150912_100933At 10:30 we helped Mischa into our bike-trailer and wheeled him to the vet where he scrambled painfully and fearfully to his paws – he knew where he was. Inside the practice, he just wanted to get out. But her check-up confirmed one thing only – he was in irreversible pain, already the maximum pain treatment he could have, and anything we could do would only give him days. Or perhaps that should read “would only give me days” – because at this stage, keeping Mischa alive would have been a completely selfish thing to do.

I gently patted his bum, and he slid down on the floor. The vet set a needle in the artery on his left front paw, and at 10:45 the overdose was administered. With my cheek against his, he leant into my arms, the pain creases in his face smoothed and his breathing slowed. Then he took two short breaths, exhaled and went limp. I listened carefully as his breath slowed and stopped, as his heartbeat got weaker and disappeared all together. And I cried.

I have not felt lonelier than I do now in more than seven years.