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Archive for the ‘Vienna’ Category

My irritation at having a non-functioning foot has resulted in — more pain. And I can blame noone. Though I wish I could. I’ve been pummelling the foot relentlessly, forcing it to move the same way as the right foot.

On Sunday Thomas and I walked all over the first district starting with the “Kirtag” (church day: from the old tradition of having a market outside the main church for Pentecost) in front of St Stephens Cathedral, then doing a bit of a circle and adding the City Hall which also had a Kirtag even though it is not a church and… with every single step I forced my foot to move normally. It didn’t influence my speed in any way as I had to consciously think about every step, but at least it proved to me that there is at least a minimum of contact.

Next day: pain. However, this did not stop me from continuing to pummel the foot with exercises and dog walks. And a second Kirtag round with Thomas, his sister Pat and her husband.

Tuesday we did a round of errands in the first district again and ended up doing an unintentional pub-crawl on the way home. Don’t ask me how a pup-crawl can be unintentional. The details are a little fuzzy.

Today: PAIN! and strict instructions from the physiotherapist to give it a rest.

My greatest challenge is myself. I hate having a non-functional foot. I want to run. I want to dance. I want!

I’ll shut up now.

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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?Β  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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Arson and theft

This is the sight that met me as I arrived at work this morning. In the street outside the office. This is what you can find also in the safe Vienna where you can also find nutcases who get so worked up about motorbikes being parked in non-designated areas that they just HAVE TO set them alight. And if you are siding with the arsonist: the law allows bikers to park wherever the hell they can. Btw, it’s happened twice before according to the local resident gossip, and they know who he is.

Is there some way of booby-trapping bikes so the arsonist only sets light to himself in the end...?

Last night I fell asleep in front of the TV between two large dogs. Orion has settled in as a family dog a lot faster than I expected. But he is still a little confused. He looks to Mischa for guidance about, for instance, cuddles. Watches intently as I sit on the floor with Mischa snuggling close, head against my chest, eyes closed. After a while Orion makes a little whimper and I say “Orion, come here” in a light voice. He immediately gets up and comes over, then leans against me with his head down and I cuddle him too. Then, confused at the unfamiliar closeness, he starts to growl. One can never hold him tightly in case he feels trapped, then he not only growls but also shows fangs. But I have learned to take his growling as a sign of insecurity, not aggression, and all I have to do is say “ssshhhhhh” softly and he stops.

When out with the two dogs they are like a pair of synchronised swimmers. Side by side they sniff all the same spots and pee in the same places. Yes, it has happened that one has peed on the head of the other when sniffing and peeing overlaps. But it’s fun to see them like that, not just because they shower each other in pee but because they move so differently. Orion is tall and lanky, moving with the grace of a gazelle. Mischa is built like a wrestler, with broad shoulders, narrow hips and short legs, and though not moving badly has to take several mincy little steps to each of Orion’s strides.

Occasionally they are like brothers, teasing each other by pushing each other into the nearest wall or flower box on the street then looking completely innocent. I think Orion gets a particular kick out of doing that to Mischa. And Mischa occasionally gets his revenge pinching Orion’s ball on the rare occasion when Mischa manages to get to it first. Instead of returning the ball he rolls over on the grass, dropping the ball, picking it up again and rolling some more. Orion does not take the risk of fighting Mischa for it. Mischa may be smaller, but he is heavier and will stand his ground.

Orion is also no longer aggressive with other dogs and has all but stopped growling at visitors. He is easy to control and, as mentioned, is mainly looking for guidance when feeling insecure as demonstrated by the growling.

But. There is one thing that we have not managed to control. At all.

Orion is a thief. A food thief. I’m aware that this is not revolutionary news when a dog is involved: both he and Mischa are permanently starving puppies feeling sorry for themselves for not being allowed to just eat cake. In general, Mischa does not steal. He is a little too clumsy to get away with quiet theft and gave up after a pancake raid a while ago, but Orion is a totally different story. If you leave the kitchen for more than a nanosecond, anything edible that was there is just not there anymore. He doesn’t even leave a trace. No glass knocked over, no slobber anywhere. The food seems to simply have been beamed into him.

We managed to briefly prevent accidental food theft by putting the not yet empty pan on the back of the cooker with its heavy lid on top. But now Orion has advanced to elevating himself up, hovering in mid air and lifting the lid off. No idea how he does this. He is too clever for his own good. We almost wish he would have an accident and get burned, but as a soft-hearted doggie mother I can’t quite bear that thought and would rather child-proof the cooker.

The main reason why it is so hard to solve this problem is that Orion has a digestion problem. He doesn’t produce enzymes to help him break down and digest food, so he has to have medication added to every meal in order to get anything out of eating at all. He can’t eat anything even remotely spicy and gets diarrhoea at the drop of a hat. So we’re trying very hard not to drop hats around him. But he is not helping. So: forget about suggesting leaving hot peppers or insanely spicy stuff out that will surely burn his tongue — it just might kill him and that’s one thing we’d rather not have happen — yet. Remember, the dog spent eight (at least) years in prison (that’s how I see it) and we would like him to enjoy life a little before he draws his final breath. He deserves it. But it is hard to forgive him when he gobbles up anything edible in the flat, raids the teenagers’ room for bags of crisps or cookies (last night), breaks into the cupboard under the sink to demolish the bin (this morning) and in general behaves like a starved concentration camp victim. And it’s very hard not to believe him when he sends you THAT look, the starving puppy look that says YOU HAVE NOT FED ME IN WEEKS!! You know. THAT look.

Thomas insists that it is possible to train him not to steal. I’m convinced we simply have to take the consequence of his stealing nature and not leave food out EVER — of any kind.

Funny thing is, I rather like that side of him. The thief. The thug. He has been inside for so long and been so unsure about settling into a new home — what if he were just sent back, like last time? But we decided that if we were to take him, it was for the rest of hils life. We do not want him to end his life in a shelter just because he is not easy to deal with all the time. He’s our kid. You don’t return kids. They’re for life. πŸ™‚

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Orion update

Thomas (with my consent) has decided to get Orion. He has spent eight of his ten years at the Tierschutzheim and deserves a retirement home. And — it seems he likes Thomas and even Mischa. A short — and boring — movie of their first meeting will follow once I get my act together to edit it (that thing about time again).

Yes, we know eight years is a long time for a dog to spend locked up in an animal shelter. Yes, we know there will be a lot of work to do. We also know we are not gods.

But we’re damned close.

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I have three articles hanging over me for translation from Norwegian to English and I keep running out of time. Thomas and I — with the additional help of Thomas’ sons Brian and Pascal — finally repainted the living room (which looks fan-bloody-tastic), but there is still a lot I would like to do here and I keep running out of time. And the whole thing of running out of time has become a constant theme in my life.

At work my cup of work runneth over all the time. I have lots of little niggly things to do that all need to be done yesterday and then there are deadlines to meet, and they just have to be met, and then I need to walk Mischa, get a dress fitted, ride my bike in readiness for a long bike trip to Germany in May, do my tax returns for some European country (I’m getting confused here — where do I tax to and why?), eat — oh my NED I haven’t eaten today! — remove the forest on my legs, groom Mischa, do the dishes, learn German, shave my armpits (ok, that’s a lesser problem), shop! the fridge is empty again! apart from that cheese which has turned into a little colony of weirdly squeaking little beings of some kind and have to be hosed out, and then there was that thing about clean clothes and a wash basket full of anything but clean clothes.

Today I had an appointment with Humpty Dumpty who gave me the all clear after the operation — I am fit as a fiddle, as normal as women can be when they’re essentially nuts — and can go ahead and have a baby if I want. Right.

And after that Thomas and I headed out to Wiener Tierschutzverein (the animal protection league) to meet Orion. A dog Thomas found on their list of dogs up for adoption last year but was too late to get. Orion was, however, returned by his new owner and the time had come for Thomas to meet him. And since any addition to Thomas’ life also has to get on with me and Mischa, I had to see him too.

Orion is 9 years old, like Mischa, but that is more or less where comparisons have to end. We were taken by the dog handler to a separate area where he could be off the lead and there he ran around like a giraffe on speed, ecstatic to be out of his pen. We ignored him as much as he ignored us at first and talked to the handler about him. Got some background, a description of his personality, a little information about his return to the dog-home — and then we convinced her to take his muzzle off so he could play properly. And before long he brought the toy back to Thomas to throw instead of to the handler. Small victory number one. Then he suddenly ran to me with the toy. Small victory number two. And he kept running to me, probably because Thomas was still busy getting background and I was paying more attention. And then I motioned for him to bring the toy to Thomas instead which he immediately did. So for a dog that’s been institutionalised for a long time I’d say he did really well.

When we got back, Mischa suddenly looked like a small, fat dog… Orion was a good 15-20 cm taller than Mischa, and slim! and moved as if on springs. Very elegant. Alsation mix with “Windhund” — a Greyhound-type dog. But not the cuddly type like Mischa. We’re hoping that opposites attract and that the two will get on when they meet. And we hope Orion will decide that he wants to be with us. Because it is his decision. Not ours. It is important that he feels safe with us so we can work through whatever problems he might have and provide a good home for him to spend his twilight years.

That said, Mischa needs a groom and a bath (yes Mischa, you heard me — a bath!) because we are going to a confirmation on Saturday and right now he’s somewhat mucky and smelly. And of course it’s spring so he moults a lot. Ok, world’s oldest puppy! Groom time!

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January/February is the ball season here in Austria. Huge, lavish balls are arranged — the Opernball being the most famous event — and tiny far less lavish and more pedestrian versions, but no less fun, are also held in localities as varied as castles, hotels and the Staatsoper (State Opera) to your local school gym with its lurching smell of sweat and mouldy showers.

I never really thought I’d attend a ball. The ones worth attending are somewhat exclusive with a price tag to match, and of course you need not just a suitable outfit but also to know a minimum of standard dances. When Thomas asked me to attend two balls with him I realised I was not equipped in either department. Being a former dancer does not qualify you in the ballroom category.

Shopping for a dress I put to the back of my mind as I dislike that sort of shopping almost as much as I dislike alcopops, and if I didn’t think about it it might just go away. So first we concentrated on getting me up to scratch on a few basic dances.

Thomas already knows it all, and he had a DVD which clearly demonstrated the steps and also provided suitable practice music.

The dance I was most eager to have down well was the Viennese Waltz (a bit obvious πŸ™‚ ) and so we took our positions and waited for the music to start. Then Thomas decided that I should not have my back to the TV screen and in one swift move lifted my right arm and pushed it back to turn me around. And this is the one time I can tell you that a dance background with a lot of stretching IS NOT GOOD FOR YOU because my shoulder snapped right out of its joint as if it was never hinged there in the first place.

WHOAH!! Pain!

Well, as the show must go on we managed to get it back in and even do our practice session. Thomas was not allowed to touch my right arm, though. He was silly enough to twitter about it and was called a barbarian at work for a couple of weeks after that — well-deserved if you ask me. Yes, yes, I twittered about it too. But nobody at my job reads my tweets, so that’s ok. And I am of course still taking the piss out of him for his brute force several weeks later.

We did in all manage to get through a few basic dances. But then came the REAL challenge. The ballgown. I only have a saree, and though I love that as much as any woman can love a gorgeous outfit I could not wear it for both balls. It’s just too — different. And would be noticed as a lot of the same people attend the same two balls we were going to. So we went to a ballgown/wedding dress place where my face turned grey at the thought of trying on any of the (to me) hideously OTT dresses and I made an attempt at escaping almost as soon as I set foot in the place. Had it not been for Thomas urging me to at least try a couple and grabbing one of the shop assistants for me I would not have tried on anything at all. And probably have gone to the second ball wearing jeans.

A changing cubicle was eventually procured and hideous dress after hideous dress was sent my way. I had instructed NO STRAPLESS DRESSES I HAVE NO BOOBS TO HANG ONE ON. I also made it clear that I would not wear purple as all others seemed to wear that, and not black or red and not PINK FOR GAWD’S SAKE NO PINK and… You name it, I had all the NOs ready. After going through a hellish number of blue dresses that all made me look dreadfully middle aged and shapeless, the assistant breathed that she was out of blue and would I mind trying something else? I quipped “green”. She turned up with a green dress with a lace bodice. It was hideous. And strapless. And didn’t fit. But the waist seemed to be on the right track. The assistant took one look, disappeared and returned with a black dress and a brief instruction: “Probieren Sie’s nur.”

So I tried. A size 32 black ballgown, strapless, tight bodice, long skirt… and when I straightened up to look in the mirror I had that Cinderella moment when I thought “this dress is perfect” and I totally felt like a princess. Thomas peeked in, looked me up and down and — grinned. As did I.

Our first ball was the Schwebach Ball. And this is one of the big ones with about 3000 participants. The saree was put to good use since the new dress was too long and had to be taken up. And as I’d put off getting it for so long there wasn’t enough time to have it shortened before this ball. I can assure you I was the only Norwegian there wearing a saree. I only saw one other person who went slightly outside the mould, a guy in a kilt. I did not check to find out if his Scottish connection was as far-fetched as my Indian one.

Can you pick me in the crowd? Yes! Purple saree!

Can you spot me? Yes! Purple saree!

Standard dances and sarees aside, I have never seen so many ill-fitting dresses and so many bizarre waddlers on six different dance floors. Occasionally, there would be a stylish couple that were both well-dressed and good dancers but mostly I was a little surprised at the lack of style for such a stylish city as Vienna. But it was fun! And it was wonderful seeing how the Viennese were letting their hair down en masse and just dancing/waddling the night away. Sometimes they can be so dreadfully stuck up. But there was nothing stuck up about this. And there were all-night events including breakfast. If you want to go to one of these balls you have to start training well in advance and make sure you get plenty of sleep before the big do itself. I don’t recommend having your arm pulled out of joint as part of the preparations.

Ball two was that kind I mentioned above — the smaller kind in a school gym. And it was time for the ballgown, now the perfect length thanks to one of the many eminent Turkish tailors in Vienna. But a gown such as that requires the wearing of a bra. And I had no strapless bras. What I had was one of those idiotic stick-on bras — strapless and backless. The kind that is meant to be glued to your body with some sort of double sided tape. In some ways the perfect thing. Except that it had been lying around for a while and the glue-stuff wasn’t all that sticky anymore and so the whole thing just dropped off. And I had no additional double sided tape.

However, I did have gaffa tape. Black, ugly and very sticky gaffa tape. Oh come on! At least give me credit for not using super glue! The damned backless-strapless bra stayed on. In the course of the evening the tape gave off a bit of a strange smell but THE BRA STAYED ON. And that was the purpose of the exercise. Though I must admit that the removal of the tape on return home was not one of my more delightful experiences. I resorted to heptane (Benzin — purified petrol) to dissolve the sticky mass and went from smelling of slowly melting gaffa tape glue to BP.

But while at the ball, and as long as no one stepped close enough to inhale the fumes, I was the Princess of the Ball. Honest, guv’! πŸ™‚

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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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