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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.

Migraine.

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.

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Just to let you, the Internet, know: the friend who once gave me the aforementioned anger management book is coming to Vienna. So is the Eurovision Song Contest 2015, starring the famously Bearded Lady Conchita Wurst. All three things are strangely connected.

I am a tad apprehensive about the first as we have not spoken properly for a number of years. However, I have missed her less abrasive side so am also looking forward to reacquainting myself with her and catching up. She is bringing husband, son, and two spare tickets for the third dress rehearsal before the big show where Australia for the first (and last?) time is to enter as part of Europe. If you can work out the geography of that one, let me know.

It is an historical as well as hysterical event. And I will be there. I will probably remember where I was at that particular moment for the rest of my life.

On a different note, I have bought a deodorant that boasted that it would combat the odour of sweat. It seems to do the exact opposite. Unless that is the secret: it is gently pre-scented with the smell of sweat, in order to combat more effectively the odour of sweat. Because that makes sense when you’re really drunk.

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I’d love to support the notion that all dogs are created equal. Puppies are all cute, of course, and cuddly and playful and just – oh! so lovely! And to some people I guess it is the same with babies. And so the saying goes that to begin with, we’re all the same, with all the same potential for fun, love, joy, sadness, hate and evil.

Well. I’m not so sure. Was Ted Bundy a sweet baby? How about Stalin, Mao, Hitler, fat, little Kim Jong-Un, Margaret Thatcher, Putin? Were they cute, cuddly babies? If so – at what point did they change and start showing their true colours?

I know I started with dogs and moved on to versions of tyrants here. It just struck me today when I witnessed a really bad dog-attack in a dog park here in Vienna. I am extremely fortunate to live in a city that is almost custom made for the co-existence of humans and dogs, a place where you can take your beloved pooch to restaurants and pubs, where there are designated, fenced areas provided for people to let their dogs run around free, play and socialise. A city that even has entire forests and wetlands dedicated to dogs and their people. And just because of that wonderful appreciation of dogs, I can never leave this place. I was meant to live her, in the most dog-loving city in the world.

All those who know me would probably agree that I have a set of far softer spots for dogs than I have for people, and that I am willing to let my own dogs almost get away with murder just because they’ve got me so completely twisted around their little paws. I know Thomas thinks I’m way too soft. He keeps telling me “he’s a dog!” about whatever dog I’m busy spoiling at the moment, as if I didn’t already demonstrate just how aware of that I am in my efforts to make my wee munchkin the most happy pooch in the entire world. And why shouldn’t I? What dog, as us city dwellers know them, was ever given a choice of where and how to live? With any luck they will have a good life with people who love them, but that is definitely not a given.

Let me see if I’ve managed to get back to where I started. Tabula rasa and the dog. Well, being who I am, I – by principle – support the notion that basically dogs are cuddly and sweet and blahblah. Right? And then some dick-head comes and ruins it all by taking an entire BREED and throwing it into the fighting pit, and TADA! we have an aggressive breed with aggressive owners and lots of draconian laws are passed punishing dogs and owners en masse, people who would never DREAM of forcing their dogs to fight and dogs who are equally clueless about the use of their shiny whites. And I sit there and get angry with the cowardly tossers who do such a thing to sweet, cuddly dogs who only want to be loved and – and – you can see where this is heading, right?

All dogs are created equal.

It’s just that. Some dogs are created a little more equal than others. And since the implementation of various restrictive laws because of young men owning dogs of a particular kind because they count as “cool” and powerful and aggressive and great guard dogs, I have been the number one advocate for the re-education of people on the origins of the American Staffordshire and Pit Bulls and all those related breeds who have been forced – totally against their real nature! – to be aggressive and partake in illegal fights and whatever. I would so like to believe that those powerful breeds are nothing but chubby teddy bears. That small dogs are only yappy because of their yappy owners. That Labradors are sweet because their owners are sweet.

I’ve been blessed with a wonderfully sweet and quiet dog for the past six years, Mischa – a mix of Husky, Alsatian, Labrador and possibly something else. There is not an evil bone in his body. So imagine my shock at getting Hades and Pluto, two Chinese Crested who YAP! And sometimes snap at strangers, completely without warning and for no apparent reason. Mischa was already the perfect dog when I got him as an 8-year-old dog. Now I actually have to raise two dogs, get them to BECOME the kinds of dogs I like – because they are not naturally born teddy-bears… Admittedly, Pluto is close, but Hades still has a little to learn from Mischa in that department. And they both yap. Pluto at any and every noise outside the flat, Hades  – just because.

Want to hear about the dog attack?

I had taken Mischa, Hades and Pluto to the doggie playground in Volksgarten, just off Heldenplatz. Already there were a variety of dogs, including a majestic looking tall, slim curly coated dog and an American Staffordshire. The Staff came over to greet me, Mischa and the little ones. He was incredibly powerful, all muscle, but seemed friendly enough. But then something invisible took place between the curly coated dog and the Staff and everything turned ugly. Really, really ugly. When the curly dog’s owner tired to intervene, the Staff took no notice. His jaws locked around curly’s right front leg and he started to twist. The screams of pain from the curly dog were chilling, and at this point the Staff’s owner ran in and grabbed the dog – but to no avail. He punched him to get him to let go, but no. I was just waiting for bones to snap when the Staff finally let go and instead attacked curly’s owner. The Staff’s owner finally got him to stop and calmed him down – red mist seemed to dissolve from the dog’s eyes and he was all docile again. The curly dog limped away in shock and I called him to me, calming him and comforting him. His owner was down with ugly bites to his leg.

I think the rest of us were collectively expecting the owner of the Staff to leg it with his dog. But we were happily proven wrong in our assumption about Staff-owners. He first called emergency services while holding the dog firmly. Then he put a muzzle on him and tied him to a post and attended to the other dog owner’s wounds together with a couple of other people, while I continued to reassure the wounded dog. The Staffordshire-owner’s hands were shaking. He was totally devastated and told me he was shocked, deeply shocked, and now also afraid of the dog.

An ambulance arrived, police arrived, and as things were dealt with and I collected my three (who had all behaved impeccably throughout!) and left, I turned to look at the Staffordshire who looked back at me – and I thought I was looking into the eyes of a dog with only a few more hours to live. A dog that could descend into red mist at the drop of a hat – a loaded gun. Is that what certain breeds are after all?

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Well, you may think that it has something to do with Orion’s death. And you’d be right. But he has in no way lost his appetite so no, he is not grief stricken to the point where he is refusing to eat. If he were, I’d be seriously worried. All it is is that he can no longer steal Orion’s leftovers.

Not that we are not all grieving, Mischa included. He is still searching for Orion in Votivpark and the dog zone on the edge of Arne Carlsson Park. And wherever else we go. I’ve seen him stare attentively at greyhounds, his tail going up and wagging in anticipation, only to sink down again at the realization that it’s not Orion. But his appetite is completely intact, and given the chance he still gobbles up any kind of crap he can lay his greedy little snout on. But with Orion’s passing, the opportunities are fewer and farther between. He now shamelessly waddles up to any dog owner and sits in front of them doing “Menchen” (“human” – both front paws up, balancing on his butt – well, sort of balancing on his butt) in the hope that their pockets will open up and reveal a horn of plenty of dog snacks. When they’ve never met him before they’re not quite sure what to make of it. When they know him, they cuddle him and proceed to pop treats into his mouth. Mission accomplished and not even remotely impossible.

Thomas and I are still absolutely dazed by the last few week’s worth of deaths. Gerard, then Orion and then Don. Oh, I guess I didn’t tell you about Don. Uncle Don. Not my real uncle, but Don Fenner who directed Christmas Carol the first time I came to Vienna in 2000 to play Tiny Tim at the International Theatre. Uncle Don who tried so hard to placate me – and succeeded – when I fell out with Marilyn (Wallace/Close) over the treatment of another actress and very nearly walked out in the middle of the run, even in the middle of the show (at the time, Pygmalion, spring 2002). Don. Don is gone.

I found out because Marilyn – I’ve never really revealed much about my time at IT – let’s keep it that way – has a dog-walker called Sam, and I passed him walking her dog WinnieII (all her dogs are called Winnie, it seems) and he shouted after me. Then, in a dramatic voice (are all who have something to do with IT total drama-queens??) that Don has died! and if I had “anything to say to those people” I should do it NOW! (background church bells and sounds of chains in a deep, hollow dungeon). Then he told me that Don had died  around the 25th May and been found “yesterday” which would have made his undiscovered and lonely corpse about two weeks old and his cat halfway starved to death.

I called Laura, the longest running IT actress and the one who would know, to find out what had really happened.

He had not turned up one night to run lights, so Osas, the barman/right-hand everything man, ran over to his flat to find out what was wrong – as Don did not answer his phone. Osas found Don dead in bed, most likely only hours after he had died peacefully in his sleep, and the poor cat ran and hid when the ambulance came to pick up the body. The short version thereafter is that the cat was picked up by the animal shelter in Vösendorf where they refused to release it again on the grounds that the interested parties were only friends of the late Don and not relations, Don’s body was handed over to medical research following his own wishes, and the cat was eventually handed over to his long-standing friend Ellis following the winding up of lots of red tape for its release.

Not wildly dramatic but even so: Don’s passing leaves another hole that just can’t be filled.

Oh, and just to top everything off, the International Theatre has finally been dealt its final blow and will not receive any more funding. It closes on Sunday, last show tomorrow night, Saturday 30 June 2012. Vienna is left another cultural institution short. No more Christmas Carols. There goes my chance of a glorious comeback as The World’s Oldest Tiny Tim.

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So. After one helluva blog-break (sorry, sorry, sorry!) I’m back with no guarantees for when I’ll be disciplined enough to write more. Just thought I’d drop that in right away. So you know.

Well. It’s that time of year again. You know, the one that is supposed to be white and full of Yule cheers and good wishes for all and happy children, large antlered animals with red noses, fat white-bearded men dressed in red invoking fear in small children for all the wrong reasons – or perhaps the right reasons? what do I know – and various religious adaptations to boot. Happy season’s greetings to all!

Good, now that I got this out of the way I can tell you what Thomas is doing right now. He’s putting together new wardrobes for our bedroom. It must have seemed like a good thing to do right now. About ten minutes ago he wheezed through gritted teeth: “Now I understand why your mother didn’t want these cupboards.” The dogs are adding to the complications of constructing the white stand-up-coffins by insisting on moving around, tripping over tools and work benches and Thomas in turn. I’m actually referring to Orion here: Mischa is in energy saving mode as usual and is sound asleep in the middle of it all. Orion is also helpfully trying to keep an eye on the duck in the oven so it doesn’t run away.

The cupboards are only symptomatic of the many changes my instant family is going through. Both of Thomas’ sons now count among the school-dropouts in Austria. The oldest is slowly and painfully growing up and seeing the sense in being more responsible. Slowly. However, he is still elated about having an income of his own and has a habit of spending his entire income as soon as it’s on his account, or rather, before. So we still have a little work to do in the department of How To Deal With Money.

The youngest was presumably inspired by the success story (sic.) of the oldest and decided that he’d learned all that he will need to know in life earlier this year. After months of not really being in school this was finally revealed to us and — after a brief attempt at improvement and getting one really good mark in Latin he still found that learning was/is unimportant — finally dropped out of school for good. Since then he has been a huge asset around the house insofar as we always know where he is: in front of his computer. That way he doesn’t get in the way and I can occasionally dust around him and move the piles of dirty plates to see if he’s still there.

We are presently facing the prospects of getting the oldest back. That will mean having two large teenage boys sharing a room. This has proven a trial in the past and is likely to not get easier in the future. Good thing I know how to swing a whip. I don’t know if I dread the possibility. It is hard to dread something you have not really tried. But I am occasionally trying to envisage the cosiness of me, Thomas, two large teenagers and two large dogs roaming the premises. That will mean that Orion will not be the only clumsy presence. The teenagers have long since grown completely out of control and are frigtheningly clumsy, something our plates bear witness to with their badly frayed edges. I have a feeling the youngest may never stop growing and will become The World’s Tallest Man before he breaks in the middle from lack of flesh on his bones. The kid lives on Nutella, but where he puts it I’m at a loss to find out. Good thing we live in an “Altbau” with 3m 20cm under the ceilings or he’d already be suffering some serious bumps on his head.

Ah well, where there is love there is room. I sometimes repeat this to myself as a reminder. Muttering under my breath like a lunatic.

2012 looks to be another insanely busy year. The above accounts for some of it, in addition comes that we are involved in the work for the last ToyRun. That’s way more work than I had anticipated, mostly because I never really thought I would be all that involved. But I won’t bother you with the details. Where biking is concerned we are also working with a biker magazine which is being relaunched in 2012. Thomas is more involved than me: he’s now the Viennese editor… All the editors work for the magazine on a freelance basis and have “normal jobs” on the side. I acted as inhouse photographer during their relaunch editorial meeting earlier this month and some of the pictures will be used in the first issue due in February.

Well, it seems Thomas is done with causing havoc for the day. The dogs (read: Orion) is suitably nervous about all the upset. Orion is convinced he will be left behind. Mischa takes it for granted that something unpleasant will happen so he has his depressed face on while hoping that the duck will be left unattended long enough for him to teach it how to walk. Into his mouth. Christmas eve is to be spent with my in-laws and Thomas’ youngest sister and husband at my old flat, so right now there is last minutes chaos as we get all the food ready and packed while falling over Orion whose face is getting ever more knotted with worry and Mischa who has placed himself in the middle of the main thoroughfare. I’ve gone overboard with red clothing and am wearing nail varnish for the first time in months making me feel as if I can’t quite move my finger tips in case I chip them. The “children” have been hijacked into bringing cheer and joy to their mother’s family, something they will likely do in poor grace. I know them. We get their joyful company tomorrow. 🙂

All is well. All is quiet. We shall enjoy it while it lasts. 3-2-1. Oh well. It really was too good to last. I’m being ordered to get ready so we can leave for the evening’s festivities. I may update this entry with pictures tomorrow. But, as mentioned, I promise nothing.

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Ine
SO looking forward to getting husband back from his army manoeuvre! I’ve missed him.
Comments:
Rune
She miss her lovely husband, that means she is in love.
Her eyes are shining brightly, like the sun and moon above.
When her husband is coming home again, I know the place Ine will be.
In the bedroom, saying: “Darling. Do the army manoeuvre with me”!
Manfred
In this case the command (in German) “sprung, vorwärts, decken” gets a new meaning…

I’ve missed Thomas for more than one reason. It’s not been all that easy being a nurse, even to “just a dog”. I’ve pretty much nursed him around the clock and I freely admit that even though my bosses allowed me to work from home I haven’t got nearly as much done as I planned. In fact, I got a lot more done in the few hours I was in today than I did the rest of the week — work wise, that is. The rest of the time at home has gone into nursing Orion, feeding Orion, cleaning up after Orion (pee!!), walking Orion, re-training Orion to not pee inside — and trying to keep Mischa from getting too jealous over all the Orion fuss. And at times it would just have been so much easier having Thomas take over some of the Orion fuss so I could get some sleep…

That said: Orion is recovering really well. Today he even played a little. The bounce is back in his step, he begs food like crazy and he follows me everywhere. His stomach looks as if it’s been stitched up by Frankenstein himself so it’s just as well that dogs don’t worry too much about beauty other than the inner kind:

Skinny Orion with big scar. He is not at all bothered by it and I'm allowed to touch it, wash it, apply ointment -- whatever. A friend suggested the vet had put in a zip. Could be. I haven't checked yet.

Thomas is back from his army manoeuvre and he’s signed up for another two manoeuvres. Please don’t ask me any questions about the Austrian army system — I have really no idea how it works. I only know that they have the draft (minimum 8 months) and that it is possible to keep in the “game” voluntarily. Somehow. So this week, with Orion back from animal hospital I have been an “army widow” with a sick child dog and a jealous child dog and a full time job that’s suffered because of the former three. Hopefully, there will be not sick dog-children next time there is a manoeuvre.

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For a while there I got so wrapped up in the consistent pain in my foot I just couldn’t write about it. Because — who wants to hear about nothing? For a long time there it was impossible to spot ANY improvement at all. I was just in pain. Inside the foot. Each time I tried to put some weight on it it was like a knife went up through the foot and into the ankle. Have you ever read The Little Mermaid?

“I know what you want,” said the sea witch; “it is very stupid of you, but you shall have your way, and it will bring you to sorrow, my pretty princess. You want to get rid of your fish’s tail, and to have two supports instead of it, like human beings on earth, so that the young prince may fall in love with you, and that you may have an immortal soul.” And then the witch laughed so loud and disgustingly, that the toad and the snakes fell to the ground, and lay there wriggling about. “You are but just in time,” said the witch; “for after sunrise tomorrow I should not be able to help you till the end of another year. I will prepare a draught for you, with which you must swim to land tomorrow before sunrise, and sit down on the shore and drink it. Your tail will then disappear, and shrink up into what mankind calls legs, and you will feel great pain, as if a sword were passing through you. But all who see you will say that you are the prettiest little human being they ever saw. You will still have the same floating gracefulness of movement, and no dancer will ever tread so lightly; but at every step you take it will feel as if you were treading upon sharp knives, and that the blood must flow. If you will bear all this, I will help you.”

I’ve spent two weeks as a mermaid with legs. PAIN! I almost ended up limping again. But that did not help neither the pain nor the walk so I kept forcing myself to walk normally, if slowly.

Today is the first day I can say it’s better. And: I can now almost lift my weight off the ground when going up on half-toe on the left leg. THAT is a major improvement. I still feel as if there’s a lump in my foot, I still have two numb toes, and turning the leg out still makes me feel crackles of shocks up and down the outside of my leg, but strength wise things are vastly improved. And that, my friend, is good news for you. Because it means that EVENTUALLY I shall shut up about it. In about a year’s time when the nerve is completely healed. (You didn’t see that one coming, did you?)

Good thing: the exercises I dug up from my dancing days are toning my legs nicely and I put it down to them that so much of the former strength has returned. Thank you, dance teachers, for torturing me into never forgetting those. I still have nightmares about some of the exercises we did.

I go back to work tomorrow. Because I’ve been on sick leave for so long I received a letter from WGKK (Wiener Gebiets Krankenkasse — social insurance agency) calling me in for a check-up with their doctor to see if I was worthy of all the money spent on me. Whenever I have to deal with something official I feel as if I’ve done something unforgivably wrong, though I am never sure what, and I attend whatever I have been called in for with a huge amount of trepidation and the look of a guilty dog. So also this time, and the doctor started out with the statement “So, you’re on sick-leave.” “Yes.” Why?” “A major prolapse in my lower back.” At this point I probably sounded as if I was telling truly tall tales. “Yes, but you only got conservative treatment, therapy and such, right?” At this point Thomas felt compelled to take over as I was by now reduced to a gibbering wreck close to screaming “YES! I DID IT! IT WAS ME! I’LL SIGN ANYTHING AS LONG AS YOU STOP TORTURING ME! I’M GUILTY OF ABUSING THE EMINENT AUSTRIAN SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM! I’M A BAD, BAD FOREIGNER! WHERE DO I SIGN?!” He calmly said: “She was operated on the 30 May.” With shaking hands I pulled the surgery report from my bag and handed it over. The doctor read it in silence. The atmosphere changed completely and with smiling admiration she said “For my sake you can stay on sick-leave for another month. I’ll see you again then and we’ll see.” I felt as if I’d won a contest for worst-injury-and-most-deserving-of-treatment-within-the-social-healthcare-system.

I still start work again tomorrow. My nerves can’t deal with this stuff.

Last Sunday, Orion nearly drowned. Thomas and I needed a break from the work of reorganising the flat so we joined the barbecuing hoards of Romanians and Bulgarians on the shores of the New Danube for a day in the sun. Once shade was set up I refused to move an inch so Thomas set off with the two dogs to do some watersports of throwing stuff in the water for Orion to fetch. Next thing I hears was Thomas shouting “INE!!!!” which left me in no doubt that my services were required and headed in the direction of the shout. As I reached the incident scene I found a dripping and shaking Orion staggering out of the water towards me, Mischa confusedly leaping here and there and barking and wanting to jump into the water, and Thomas far ashore swimming towards a small orange Frisbee. It is important to rescue the orange Frisbee when your dog has nearly drowned trying to do the same.

Orion may nearly have drowned, but I still took a picture of these precious ducks that swam up and down the Danube while we were there.

Turned out that Orion’s legs had simply gone stiff when he jumped in and he was suddenly unable to swim. So he sank instead, panicking and desperately trying to stay afloat, only his nose showing above the surface. As Mischa’s confused excitement was less than helpful, Thomas yelled for me and dashed in to rescue dog and retrieve toy, and I arrived at the point Orion was able to reach the bottom and scramble ashore.

We were all watched attentively by a large group of eastern Europeans and a few Chinese who found the rescue operation great entertainment on a sunny day.

The result of being rescued means that now Thomas has reached new heights of Godliness for Orion. Thomas is God, and I am Godette. Not quite Goddess, but I will do.

As I write, Thomas is busy doing “various” which includes: writing an article about a Moto Guzzi Stelvio “we” test-rode yesterday. (Thomas rode, I was the pillion cum photographer with Thomas’ camera (and he is not happy with the pictures — oh well).) In the evening we went to a “Bierfest” with lots of bikers and I ended up with a migraine which I can only put down to having had a coffee too many. I’ve not had proper coffee in years, and not had a migraine in about three years, and lately I’d started drinking coffee again because in spite of all the years of getting used to not having it I still miss it and it all seemed to be just fine as long as I stuck with a couple of cafelattes per day but the add on of a Corretto and a Coke Zero turned out to be a shitty idea and today I’m just a useless wreck.

Other “various” includes drilling a hole through a 70 cm wall to pull Internet cables into the living room. I love it when he swings his power tools… 🙂 Now he’s preparing dinner, another of his many talents, and I feel cared for and loved and a little tipsy from cooling down in the 35°C heat with a succession of white wine spritzers. I’m on my third. Actually, I just finished my third. So I will soon be on my fourth unless I take to my senses and start drinking the very good Soave undiluted.

The dogs are knocked out from the heat though Orion still finds the energy to follow us around like a restless ghost — Mischa only has the energy to lie in the middle of the way wherever we try to go. I.e, all is well in the city of Vienna.

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