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The pain is bottomless. So intense it defies description. I feel extremely sorry for myself.

Over the years life has dealt me many blows of the kind we all have to endure sooner or later. Still, last year tops the list of things-that-come-in-threes, only in my case it came in five.

I had no idea I was so poorly prepared to cope with it, though.

I walk Mischa. And suddenly, the huge gaping holes left by the five I lost in the course of 2012 open up and I tumble in. My eyes fill with tears, my heart beats like crazy, and then there is this noise, an “uuuh-uuh-uuuuuuhh”-noise, not even proper howling, just sore, painful grief. Mischa gets confused and waddles up to me and rubs his head against me. There, in the park next to Votivkirche, I huddle over Mischa hiding my tears from the general public gaze, sobbing into his neck.

Gerard died in April. Unexpectedly while on tour with his partner, Pat. He was one of the few people who really knew me, who never took any shit from me, who always shared his jokes and sent unexpected e-mails with acute observations of life. He had an uncanny talent for sarcasm and explosive anger, as well as the ability to get over it in a matter of seconds. He never bore grudges. Over the years we shouted at each other, laughed together, set the world straight with the help of several bottles of wine – in London, in Skibbereen where we first met in 1993, in Dublin and even here in Vienna. He introduced me to Kevin, and to Irishness. Istill can’t believe he is gone.

Gerard at my wedding 2011. It was to be the last time I saw him.

Gerard at my wedding 2011. It was to be the last time I saw him.

Next to die was Orion. Only weeks before he died he had been with us on a biker event in Germany. The proud, nervous, aggressive rescue dog we’d had for two years by then had turned into a wonderful family dog in our care. He took his inspiration and comfort from Mischa: the two were like the grumpy old men in the Muppet Show, bickering all the time and yet clearly enjoying each other’s company – though Mischa only just put up with Orion using him as a pillow.

Orion

Orion as I will remember him

The day he died he could suddenly not get on his feet any more. His energy was simply not there and I could not even get him down the stairs before he collapsed where we were, on the landing, and he pooped right where he was. He was so ashamed and so helpless. Our funny, sweet, long-legged dog who so clearly loved his life with us had nothing more to give.

Then Don died. Though I had lost touch with him over the past couple of years, I still saw him from time to time when swinging by iT for a show. One evening he did not turn up to run the lights for a performance, and when Jack and Osas went to his flat they found him dead in his bed and the cat hiding in a corner where they could not get to it, absolutely terrified. A quiet death, at least, and the cat now lives with another friend, as batty and scared of life as itself.

Next up was Colin. Another talent of sarcasm. And another who knew me well. Better than I at times was comfortable with. He was given the death sentence several years ago, told that he had prostate cancer which would probably finish him off within three to six months. I still remember him calling me and asking me how I coped with my back pain as his back was so damned sore and he had no idea what to do about it. Then the diagnosis. And his reaction: “Well, THAT sorts out a few things, anyhow!” He was quickly ready to meet his maker but things lingered, he got bored, got a girlfriend who made him feel alive, finally settled his debts and then went into hospital for an unrelated operation on his leg. He died in the morning of 5 December, supposedly after complications from the operation. Kevin later gave me this description of the funeral:

“Well, what a day. Lashing rain, howling wind, deep mud underfoot, the grave actually caved-in before we started and they used a mechanical digger to get it ready. The coffin really was a cardboard box…and quite heavy…and ‘he’ arrived in the back of what looked like an estate car instead of a hearse. We all got covered in mud as we lowered him into the grave…but…it worked. Tim said some wonderful words, Cristina (yes) played a penny whistle tune that he loved, another friend sang two lines of a song that he’d asked for, and Zoe and Dan [daughter and son] read a poem Colin had written about football results. We put a dictionary, a packet of cigarettes and matches, some crosswords, the poem into the grave… And then we had a drink or three in a nearby pub. And we laughed a lot and cried a little.

I feel I celebrated the lives of three people today, Gerard, Don and Colin.”

I couldn’t be there. I had no money. I wish I had money.

When we were in Norway in July, it was clear that mum was not very well. In September, she finally had a pacemaker fitted, and she apparently improved. She improved enough for her GP to give the go-ahead for mum and dad to travel to Spain in November. There, she had a wonderful week, going for walks with a “rullator” – one of those walking frames with wheels, and enjoying the sun and food and dad’s company. One evening she felt unwell and collapsed and was sent to hospital in Benidorm. Hanne and I were contacted and flown in by the insurance company after the hospital reported multiple organ failure. We had a few awkward days together waiting for mum to come out of intensive care, days we used to talk about mum’s many plans, a little about life and death, and to eat and drink together. We don’t see each other anywhere near often enough. When she got out of intensive care and was transferred to an upstairs ward, I moved into her room – to the nurses’ dismay. But it was the only way I could see that mum would get any sort of stimulation – to them it was easier to just let her lie there, feed her occasionally, check her vitals and leave again. She could not really watch TV as her eyesight had deteriorated even further and left her with only a narrow field she could see. She could barely hear, and when her hearing aids were not in she was virtually deaf. Reading was thus no option, TV no option, radio another no-go.

I spent the next ten days nursing mum, trying to get her to move arms and legs to prevent bed-sores and help increase circulation, helping her in and out of bed, to the toilet, wiping her butt, cleaning her teeth, rubbing cream onto her legs. And helping her eat. I tried to get her to do things herself, but she impishly whined that it was soooo cosy being fed and nursed… I would sit on her bed, talk right into her ear so she could hear me, and we talked about life. About her many plans. She instructed me how to do this and that at the cabin, how to do things in our flat in Vienna, that she wanted to finish repairing a cardigan: could I help her find the yarn she had brought (but which I could not find anywhere). We talked about her parents, about dad and Hanne, about Anja and about Mischa, Kevin and Thomas (she finally forgave me for divorcing one and marrying the other). And she talked about how she was still so curious about life, always wondering what would happen next? My heart broke a little more with each day.

Mum with Anja in 1978

Mum with Anja in 1978

The doctors at the hospital were very reluctant to giving me a leaving-date. They kept saying we had to wait and see. It added to the strain as mum could only communicate with me: the nurses generally spoke no English, and when they did not loudly or clearly enough – or with the right accent – for her to understand. In return, her voice was very weak and she mixed her languages, dithering between Norwegian, Danish, German and English in one sentence, sometimes chucking in a “si” or “oui” for good measure. Eventually, I grabbed the Dutch cardiologist and told him with devastating honesty that they did NOT want her to die while in Spain, just think of the paperwork! and that I was perfectly aware that we were facing the end of mum’s life, there was no point in pretending otherwise. Finally the doctor worked up the courage to be honest, and he showed dad and me how mum’s heart worked.

We saw leaks. We saw her enlarged heart pumping away at high-speed and blood leaking where it should not go. The valves were leaking. Her days were numbered.

We got a leaving date set, we got an SOS air ambulance organised, and once it was all in place I told mum when it was all to happen. She was disappointed. How come she still had to wait three days? The explanation of the logistics of it all fell quietly on her deaf ears.

The day finally came. Mum was characteristically impatient, wondering at 5am why it took the nurses so bloody long to arrive with breakfast and when on earth would she get a shower so she could get dressed and groomed a little? I tried in vain to tell her that it was 5am, that I could do with a little more sleep, that no one would come until 9am at the earliest, that her pickup was not until the afternoon. Totally in vain. We spent the morning fussing over this and that, packing and repacking imaginary items, I explained over and over that her big suitcase was with dad (“then what am I supposed to wear?!?”), that she had to wear one of the new nightgowns I had bought her in Benidorm as she would be lying on a gurney hooked up to oxygen and a catheter, that… she wanted OUT. Now.

She can be very stubborn.

A young Spanish-only-speaking doctor accompanied us to the airport in Alicante. By the time we got there it was raining, befitting the occasion. The ambulance plane was delayed. We sat on the runway in the ambulance looking at the rain for over an hour. I tried to keep mum calm as she could not understand why everything took so damned long. We ran out of things to say. We ran out of final things to say.

The ambulance plane arrived. A young, healthy-looking Norwegian doctor came onboard the ambulance to check on mum. He asked if she could walk up the steps to the plane – mum was all game but I said a sharp “No!” which startled the poor doc but with a little more information he understood. She was transferred from one gurney to the next, attempted kept dry under a couple of umbrellas and finally carried onboard the SOS plane.

Mum

Mum

It was the last time I saw her alive.

The Spanish-only-speaking doctor and the ambulance driver helpfully took me to the commercial part of the airport for my flight back to Vienna and there the doc hugged me and  I burst into tears.

Mum died in the early hours of 18 December 2012. She had been taken straight to hospital on arrival. I have little understanding of the new trends in healthcare in Norway, but it seems a little faulty from my angle. There seems to have been little attempt at communicating with dad, mum was shipped hither and dither with insufficient information being passed along between hospitals and eventually dismissed and sent to a care home closer to home. There she could only lie and wait. There was talk of sending her back to the main hospital, Ahus, to have her lungs drained properly as she could barely breathe and they had not fully drained them while she was there. But it didn’t happen. Dad had the feeling she was pushed aside as uninteresting due to her age. I trust him: he is not prone to exaggeration or hysteria. Ageism should not be an issue in a wealthy country like Norway. It’s sad that it is.

The funeral was held on 27 December – a cold, clear day. The small medieval church was almost full. But even with all the wonderful show of support and empathy from friends and family, nothing can fill the gaping emptiness left by mum.

Mum, surrounded by her grandsons and our cousins carrying her coffin, dad and Hanne behind

Mum, surrounded by her grandsons and our cousins carrying her coffin, dad and Hanne behind

I wonder how long it will hurt.

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So, for the second time in my life I split up with someone out of sheer self preservation. Wrong. Third. But the third one, which is really the second one, is a very different story. Here’s the story of the most recent split, and the most devastating:

When I met Kevin I had just split up with Erland. I was head over heals in love with him, but our second year together was not good and I finally realised that I had to get out of the relationship were I to retain any sort of personality or dignity. I split up with him in spite of how I felt for him. And I cried. For more than two years I cried. Then it got better. And now, 17 years later it’s ok.

I’ll never forget him or how I felt. He will always have a piece of my heart.

Oddly enough, it was a similar story with Kevin, it just took so much longer. Love kept me going (I am doing this from a “me-point-of-view” as I can’t tell you anything about what Kevin thinks). Weeks after we first met he informed that he was not even remotely interested in having kids. I replied that at the time, neither was I but that this was likely to change. And so we agreed that when I started to get broody we would part ways.

I was always a very sexual person, but Kevin stated that other things were more important. For me it got so bad I even asked his permission to get a lover. He thought I was joking. I was. Sort of.

We split once, when we lived in Edinburgh. I think he was depressed. We didn’t talk much, and I lived a fairly independent motorbike life. He was always invited to both bike runs and parties but made it clear that my “hairy biker friends” as he called them were not his cup of tea.

In general, my friends were not his cup of tea. They were anything from “boring” to “dull”, apparently. His friends were not, so we had a good time with them. Except that he didn’t have many friends in Edinburgh and didn’t make any new friends while there so he either had to suffer the company of my dull hairy biker friends or be on his own. He was on his own. At this point he became an archetypical unemployed actor who spent his days playing golf when the weather permitted or listened to Radio 5 in the flat. And I was his landlady so we always kept the guest room looking as if it was his room in case social services came to check. I hated that. But at least he was an interesting, unemployed actor with interesting, not boring friends. In London. Bummer.

We split. But it didn’t work out. I missed him insanely, holding his hand when going for a walk or on the way to the pub, kissing him good morning, nuzzling his neck, his smell, his laugh, the warmth of his eyes, his jokes. His sarcasms. His one-liners. Sharing our favourite radio programme (I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue). He had been engaged by a small theatre in Vienna, conveniently coinciding with our split, and we talked on the phone every day and then he asked me if I wanted to join him there, going back on stage as Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol.

We had the most wonderful reunion, he was so alive, so happy, his eyes were shining and yes! he wanted a family and commitment and to live! We got engaged. There is nothing more romantic than being in Vienna at Christmas and getting engaged to a man you love so much it hurts.

We moved to London. None of my dull hairy biker friends were there, but some more of his interesting actor friends were and he was willing to get temp work when not working in the theatre. I went from one horrid job to the next, all interesting in their own way, all pretty exhausting and soul destroying. But we were financially better off than ever and eloped to New York in 2003 where we married. I always had a feeling that we disappointed a lot of people with that, especially my dad though mum took it in her stride and approved whole heartedly.

After three years in London I hit the wall with frustration. My job was going nowhere, I was going nowhere, Kevin was only doing temp jobs of the shittiest kind and going nowhere with that. The family plans never materialised and when I occasionally broached the subject I was met with Kevin’s favourite mantra: “This is not a good time.”

We moved again. This time to Vienna. Turned out that by now we had more friends there than in London, including shared and acceptably interesting. Kevin got us a tiny flat in the best district of town, Josephstadt, where we squeezed in all our belongings and felt like true bohemians. We had had a falling out with the small theatre — it never pays to be honest, one should always remember to lick ass, no matter what people say or do to you, but that’s another story — so we both ended up teaching English.

And that was the beginning of the end. Because even though I enjoyed the new challenge, and even though I was still in love with Kevin, the mantra, the ever present mantra that prevented us from discussing things that bothered me, built a wall of discontent in the flat. The much too small flat. As bohemian as it was, the walls started closing in on me, the view across the narrow Hof to our neighbour’s bedrooms started to get to me, no matter how many of my things I got rid of, there was always stuff all over the place that had nowhere to go, and we could still not have a dog and family? No way. It was not a good time. Tick, tick, tick.

We moved. This time we stayed within both country and city and ended up in the 4th district.

It worked for me, but never really seemed to work for Kevin. Unfortunately, I was the one who found the flat and insisted on the move so it allowed for free vent of complaints for him. He didn’t like the district, he didn’t like the kitchen, it was too warm, he wanted it to be cheaper with an extra room… and in the meantime he still refused to discuss the future in any way, and though we still borrowed every dog we met for a few precious seconds the time was still not right for getting our own. When we were asked to look after Mischa over a holiday I was told in no uncertain terms that he would have nothing to do with it and that he would not help. When the issue of Mischa needing re-homing came up, he said that Mischa made him depressed and he didn’t want him.

Perhaps I paid too much attention to Mischa and too little to Kevin. I don’t know.

By this time I had given up trying to talk about things. The few times I did I could hear my own shrill voice turning into a self-pitying complaint and I hated it. I had no idea how to change the way I approached the issue of the future, my friends, a baby, how to make it clear to him that it was important to me. Important enough to be the right time also for him.

Instead I became the last thing I wanted to be. Frustrated in every way imaginable, negative, bitter, scatterbrained. Did I mention bitter?  I was unable to concentrate at work, I was moody — ok, so that’s nothing new, but I was more moody than usual. Things seemed pretty bleak. And of course, I had made new hairy, and one less hairy, biker friends who reintroduced me to biking. Very dull people indeed. Particularly the less hairy one.

Alongside this my periods became heavier and more painful and then came the Bad News about the myomas and my personal little world fell apart as the ticking of the time bomb started and I realised that without some serious help there would be no family for me. And with all the helpfulness of a well meaning Labrador Kevin told me it was not a good time to discuss the family issue, that he would support me through the operation, that was more important.

Was that nasty of me? Sorry.

Have I been going on too long here? Sorry about that too. Just getting things off my chest here.

I’ll try to conclude.

I went from bad to worse. I saw nothing but black. I wanted to go to sleep and stay asleep — forever. Then I lashed out at Kevin and slowly and painfully ejected him from my life. I had run out of time. And I needed help, badly. And this is where the boring hairless biker friend turned into a rock and Mischa became my sponge and my doctor became my drug dealer and together they got my head back on pointing in the right direction. Forward rather than down. It has so far taken them more than two years.

I suppose I am still fighting the battle.

And Kevin? He has told me to stay out of his life, to never contact him again. He has to pretend I never existed. I have ruined his life. But he will always have a piece of my heart.

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So we got back from Egypt (yes, there are stories from that too — later, my friends! later!) insanely early in the morning on the 26 December. Why do these charter holidays always have to have such inhuman flight times? I guess we should be grateful that we did get back, what with most of Europe being shut down as a result of a little snow — gee whiz! it’s winter! and it’s snowing! let’s all panic and shut down all the airports!! Anyway, we got back, landed on time and all — and what a time *sigh* and no sleep for about 24 hours as when we did try to sleep, first by the pool where we were constantly woken up by over-eager waiters helpfully offering drinks every ten seconds, then in our room carefully guarded by a do-not-disturb sign which the staff carefully ignored to check the mini bar x 2, insist on a second round of cleaning x 2, asking if we could change Euro coins x who knows how often. I was better off than Thomas: I refused to even open my eyes and Thomas was the one who sweetly dealt with it all.

Eventually it was time to head for the reception to await collection for the airport. There we sat with our brains sparking with the fatigue of no sleep looking forward to getting a snooze on the plain. Which we did not get due to a toddler having a long and hearty tantrum. Very good lungs on that kid. And vocal chords. No, I don’t get angry with toddlers or parents when this happens. We were all uncomfortable on this flight and probably felt more like joining the bawling. Recommendation: do your best to avoid FlyNiki (Niki Lauda’s airline). They’ve squeezed in extra rows with the result that if you are of normal stature you are likely to lose your kneecaps if the person in front of you decide to recline his/her seat. Thomas can now bend his knees both ways.

Finally, kneeless and sleepdeprived, we hit the tarmac at Schwechat and staggered out into the freezing, dark cold together with grumpy fellow passengers and (still) screaming toddler, muttering about the cold and the absence of both warmth and sun. It is a hateful awakening coming back from sun and sand and sea to a wintry Europe.

We hurried home, dumped our suitcases and hit the road, driving through the now grey morning to collect Mischa from Karin’s place and on to Klagenfurt to collect Orion from Thomas’ parents. Orion was thrilled to see Mischa gain, Mischa was his usual somewhat subdued self at seeing Orion. I think he finds Orion’s bounciness undignified. Or something like that. Or he just prefers to be an only dog and would like to see the bouncy castle just GO AWAY.

After a brief break and a meal and hectic retelling of our Egyptian encounters, we headed back in the direction of Vienna. And yes, we are almost at the near-death point now. We were both aware of being sleepy and so I had set my mind to keep an eye on Thomas and keep him awake and take over the driving at the first sign of him not coping any more. But all this alertness was so tiring I fell asleep from the effort. Then, in a tunnel, so did Thomas. And it was suddenly not a very good idea to have both of us asleep at the same time. While driving through one of the many tunnels.

I’d say we were extremely lucky to get away with two damaged tyres and rims and nothing else.

And I would hereby like to send a great big thank you to our overworked guardian angels and warn them that they will have to stay on the alert for years to come. We are likely to need their help at regular intervals. Though hopefully we will not be sleepdriving again any time soon. We’ll find something else idiotic we can do. Just to keep them on their toes.

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I had a dream

… where my dad and I were travelling long distance on a septuple (? should = 7) decker bus. I think something is bothering me.

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Sorry about the silence. Just returned from our “holiday” and while away I only occasionally logged in to see if there was still a world out there. Hi world! Now I need another holiday to recover from this one which was generally dominated by Ulla-the-Finger-Gundersveen’s demands which generally consisted of “paint this and move that”. So we did. We managed a couple of escapes, once to have fresh shrimps at Aker Brygge in Oslo and once to visit the Kon Tiki museum and meet friend(s). In spite of all my efforts the latter was limited to one in the end but he was well worth it, as always. And with that cryptic remark I shall return us all to the dusty heat of Vienna. Not too hot and dusty today but we have been promised a return of both by Friday.

We drove all the way to Norway and back which means that the last three days have mostly been spent in the car with few breaks (with friends in Germany twice — why do some Germans drink WARM beer??) and culminated in a collection of dogs on the way. We had Mischa with us, left Orion with Thomas’ parents, and coming back I picked Snowy up from Adrienne’s where he had been while Howard et al went to the US on holiday. It’s my turn now and I am to have him until they get back in early September.

Dangerous intruder

Snowy had an unfortunate introduction to his stay with me, though. We had left Orion and Mischa in my flat while picking him up, and as soon as I walked in the door with Snowy, Orion picked him up and shook him like a rag doll. Luckily, I got Orion off him before he managed to cause any damage and banished him to the hallway until I could ascertain that Snowy was ok — shocked but ok — and then Orion had to wear his muzzle. Orion could NOT understand what he had done wrong and found the muzzle highly unfair. After all, he was just guarding his flock against dangerous intruders. Right? RIGHT?

The other unfortunate thing is that Mischa is a living hoover. All food belongs to him in his mind, though some arguably belongs to Orion when he does that thing with his fangs and makes that noise, but otherwise All Food In Heaven And On Earth Belongs To Mischa. So he got two dinners last night, while Snowy got none. Apart from what I managed to hand feed him while Mischa was looking the other way. Something he rarely does.

Snowy is not the kind of dog that likes to wolf down his food. Maltese Terriers just don’t do that sort of thing. He likes to take a wee nibble with him to a carefully chosen spot where he takes dainty little bites until it is gone, then return for another. Well, Snowy, you’re in for a long six weeks of STARVATION that way. And I still don’t know if I can have you at work all day to give you the chance to be alone with your food.

It’s very strange having a small white dog. I’m so used to Mischa’s bulk, and Orion’s lanky giant strides, Snowy’s cartoon dog-run and smallness has me constantly nervous that I might hurt him just by picking him up. And for some obscure reason I found myself putting on a nice dress, pearl necklace, make-up and high heels and tip-toed down Mariahilfer Strasse to work with him. That’s just not me. I’m the scuba diving (soon!) biker chick! Not some preppy pearl wearer. Snowy, what is happening to me??

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Thomas, Brian and I are about to head off to Germany (via the Czech Republic) to meet a bunch of other bikers from one of Thomas’ bike forums. Thomas is not member of any club (unless you count the ToyRun as a club which I am sure some do) and I am no longer member of one and that leaves us as “free agents”, free to join any group we want — or not, as it were.

I have been looking forward to this little break for a while as I am totally exhausted from the mess that is my life. Last weekend I also had a visitor from Norway. Trine, whom I had not seen in about 25 years. But it turned out that ours is a friendship built to last and it was as if we’d seen each other only yesterday and just as back then she had me in stiches within seconds. I wish the entire world could have Trine as a friend. There would be peace on earth and a lot of sore faces from the pain of laughing and smiling so much. That would be my plan if I were to become Miss Universe — introduce the world to Trine and thus World Peace and Fun For All!

I had great plans for leaving work early to get my final preparations done for tomorrow. We will be spending most of the day on our bikes getting there (sorry, totally forgot the name of the place so will have to get back to you on that — I’d never heard of it before so it may just be somewhere in Bavaria where everything and everybody are strange and I will not understand a peep of what people say to me — another way to have a good time: spending it looking like a live question mark). 700k, mostly on German motorways. Please dad, don’t let mum read this! We all know that Germans are crazy drivers and likely to kill me with their speed and BMWs and Audis and that.

Minor stuff like that aside, Mischa will be taken over to Karin’s tonight to spend the weekend with her and Knickers. Next week, on the 22 May, we pick Orion up to add him to the menagerie. At the Tierschutzhaus they have decided to have a party for him and Thomas that day as they are so happy that he has finally found a new home. Orion gets incredibly exited when Thomas comes to see him now and is just sweetness and sunshine with me and the kids too. We’re cautiously optimistic about it all.

And now — dinner party with good friends! We’re good at these last-minute preparations. Packing to go to Germany? Pfft! Partytime!

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I tried. I really tried, and it turned into two weeks of hell. Then I caved, went to my doctor, cried, and am now back on full dosage of anti-depressants with an agreed time frame and fully supported slow cutting down and cutting out over the summer months.

I’m not going to go into the details of how I felt and blahblah, there are enough people around who already do that and it’s not all THAT fascinating. And I don’t feel all that sorry for myself. I just feel a little silly. And that’s not the world’s best feeling either but it’s better than being dead. (Insert melodramatic music here.)

Christmas was good. Had a quiet dinner with Thomas on the 24th, and on the 25th we joined forces with his kids, the oldest boy’s girlfriend, and Louise with partner and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening which ended in a somewhat painful to the ears evening of karaoke. And two dogs that did their best to ignore each other once they’d established their hierarchy. Mischa is not hugely taken with Louise’s partner’s little West Highland terrier. Sorry — that got complicated just because I tried not to use names so from now on I’ll call him Robert. Louise’s partner, that is. Not the Westie. His name is Mickey.

A few days later we (Thomas, kids Mischa and I) went to visit Thomas’ parents. Mischa adores them because they are so easy to train. They have a small house with a garden, and when he goes to the door and barks once one of them immediately opens the door so he can go out. When he a few minutes later wants to come in again he only has to bark once more and the door is opened by his obedient servant. Again. He finds this highly convenient and wanders in and out as much as is doggumly possible. I think Mischa would have liked a house with a garden — or possibly a forest — and lots of snow for Christmas. And his own butler. Instead he got a load of doggie dental sticks because his breath smells. The snow we got came and went within a week and only left a mess on the roads and salt in his paws. He looks truly miserable when that happens, limps sadly up to me and looks helpless.

Of course I managed to get a bladder infection while in Carinthia. One evening we decided to check out the local watering hole which was a short walk away. Thomas and I being photo-nuts have similar cameras, and suddenly we decided that we had to take pictures of the same thing using various long exposures and we fiddled around with this for so long I must have gotten much colder than I realised. By the next evening I was in such agony a visit to the nearest hospital was needed to get some antibiotics. This is one time I thank my lucky stars I’m a European and that medical service is available to all. Still not the most exciting way to start the new year unless you count the fun of mixing antibiotics, pain killers and Champagne as a good way to celebrate. I do. I could of course have stayed off the booze. Hah! Got you! I’d never do such a silly thing.

Now, to my enormous surprise we’re already in 2010 and I am still rubbing my eyes with disbelief at how time flies. So before it disappears altogether I am going to take His Hairiness for a walk and think about the world and the many people out there that are far worse off than me — that always cheers me up immensely — and see if the homeless guy who sleeps between the recycle bins is still alive.

Happy 2010!

PS My hair is still ugly. But longer, and now back to that desperate red that some of us middle aged women resort to when we can’t afford surgery.

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