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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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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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Oh crap

This is about to turn into one of my worst years ever.

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He lives!

The vet called immediately after the operation and told us Orion had made it. The operation was successful and he was in the process of waking up. I’ve no idea what time that was: we were lying fully dressed on our bed waiting for the call, ready for the worst — hoping for the best. And this time, the best is what we got!

He will apparently have to stay there for a few days to recover. After that I will pick him up and ask for a day or two off work or ask if I can work from home to keep an eye on him, keep him from scratching or licking the operation wound and generally be his doting nurse.

Just a dog? Only to people who a) have kids and b) have never had a dog as a pet. BOTH conditions apply. And only to people who have not experienced losing a dog to the same dreadful condition as this one. There is nothing quite as awful as seeing an animal in such extreme pain and not being able to help, not even to end the pain once and for all.

I can hardly wait to cuddle him again.

Orion, 13 August 2011

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Emergency operation

Orion and Mischa have both had diarrhoea for a week — ever since we went to a “Weinfest” and who knows what they ate/were fed by well-meaning party goers. Well, they seemed to be getting better and I promise not to go into a lengthy description of poop and consistencies and smells and such. Then Orion started spray pooping again (sorry!!) today. He was still totally STARVING and gobbled down his dinner. Then he went to bed. Then he paced a little. Then he joined me in the living room but not close, as he normally does, but at a distance, panting and lying like a sphinx, very still, in the middle of the floor. And I though oh no, he’s going to poop again. So I took him out. He tried to poop, but only produced about a drop. Then he started staggering, tried to vomit, tried to poop and vomit, and then he tried to dig a hole under a tree.

At that point I noticed his distended stomach. HUGE WARNING BELLS rang out in my head and I rang Thomas who was home by then and shouted hysterically GET DOWN HERE RIGHT NOW WE HAVE TO GET ORION ON THE OPERATING TABLE RIGHT NOW OR HAVE HIM PUT DOWN BEFORE THIS GETS WORSE which clearly made a lot of sense to Thomas who had no idea what was up.

I’ll cut this short. Orion’s stomach had turned and filled with gas. Exactly the same thing that happened to Anja, my childhood dog, and which killed her. And I knew it the moment I saw his stomach. That is how the trauma of Anja dying that way has influenced me: I remember every detail of the illness, how fast it was, and the prognosis.

We managed to get him to an animal hospital where he was x-rayed and we could immediately see the bloated and twisted stomach. The amazing thing is that he was so quiet and though he nearly fell off the x-ray table when twisting from the pain he seemed to know that we were trying to help him. The vet put two syringes into his bowel to drain some of the gas and within a minute his breathing eased and he calmed down considerably.

Right now, he is on the operating table. The vet said 2-3 hours and then she would call us to let us know how it went. Perhaps earlier if there are complications, she said, but THERE WILL NOT BE ANY COMPLICATIONS, OK? OK?!? Good. Glad we agree.

Mischa serving as Orion's pillow, September 2011

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My attempts at returning to my non-sensical, blethery blog is proving harder than I thought. Today, 32 more of ABB’s victims are being buried in Norway, and it is so very, very sad. Gro Harlem Brundtland — remember her? former Norwegian prime minister — cried her way through her speech during the funeral of 16 year-old Marianne Sandvik’s funeral yesterday. In this interview with two of the survivors, one of the girls says “There are so many funerals. I’ve bought a dress I will be wearing for seven funerals.” I don’t know why that comment stood out from all the rest.

The more I read about ABB, the more I cringe. He is making all sorts of demands while in custody — and quite frankly it’s an embarrassing read. He wants a Japanese court psychiatrist because “only the Japanese have a proper understanding of honour codes and would understand him”; he wants access to WikiLeaks; he wants to wear a uniform when appearing in court; he demands that the Norwegian government resign; he wants 20 minutes on Norwegian national TV in order to mobilise an “army” of 2000; he wants a new hierarchy with himself in a central role… I hereby withdraw my former statement that I could not write him off as crazy. I can. And delusional.

The funny (sic.) thing is that all of this is outlined by his defence attorney in a tone of “and now the tosser wants this, like some sort of spoilt five-year-old”. I get a strong feeling his attorney would rather see ABB erased off the surface of the planet, never to be heard of again. And I also get the feeling — call it female intuition — that he is not alone. I am fairly certain that the Norwegian legal system will find it possible to do more or less that. I am sure he will be put away for good because he will always represent a threat to society.

In the middle of trying to rediscover some sort of meaning to it all I am also attempting to get through the pile of work on my desk. I’ve been back at work for two weeks now and am finding it quite a challenge to get through the days. Straight from 7 weeks sick leave to 8-hour days is hard. I try not to get stuck in my chair all day but it is much too easy to fall into the old routines as, well, there is just so much to do that require me to be seated in front of my computer.

To compensate a little I cycle to work. On Pascal’s old bike which is way too small for him and a tad too small even for me but otherwise really good. I used Brian’s old high-riser for a while but didn’t feel particularly stable on it and with all the bat-out-of-hell cyclists and mean BMW drivers in the city, Pascal’s is a better option. I could, of course, take Nina (my little 250cc motorbike) but then my left leg wouldn’t get the workout it needs. The news there is that I am slowly getting stronger but I still can’t run. Dad rang and told me to get over myself where that is concerned and that I have to wait for at least a year before I try to run again because he had the exact same operation a zillion years ago and KNOWS WHAT HE IS TALKING ABOUT. Well, I am cryptically mumbling “we shall see” at regular intervals while I walk on my toes up and down the stairs at home and at work.

Today I have brought both dogs to work with me as I am alone in the office. We walked all the way here: it took us over an hour of criss-crossing town with the two of them sniffing invisible spots every few metres, and as they were on a shared lead, a miserable-looking Mischa who only wanted to read the headlines while Orion wanted to do in-depth studies of every spot and partake in the discussion. When he discovered a Papillon and begged me to let him have it, Mischa looked on with unbridled contempt and dragged him away. I think the Papillon’s owner was rather relieved.

Orion finds it slightly unsettling being here, not sure what it’s all about though breakfast on the veranda appealed to him. Mischa has settled straight back into his at-work-with-mummy routine and is sleeping happily with alternately his head and his paws under my chair. There may be doggie screams if I forget he is there.

We’re also trying to prepare a wedding these days. Thomas and I are getting married in a week (we believe in recycling, we do: my second and Thomas’ third) and the first couple of guests are rolling into town tomorrow. In all the mess we’ve also experienced last-minute cancellations both on the part of guests and catering and each day we tell each other of our latest disaster dreams. Then we hug, cuddle the dogs and watch DVDs of Babylon 5 to get over it in between going out of our way to embarrass the nearest teenager. The latter is the easy part. All the previous will take a little more practice.

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This was first posted on openDemocracy this morning. Big thank you to Tony Curzon Price and his team for letting me blurt my grief so publicly (even more publicly than usual).

The poverty of words is striking right now. As I sit here I stream news from the Norwegian broadcasting corporation NRK over the internet while trying to come to terms with the enormity of the crimes committed by Anders Behring Breivik on Friday 22 July 2011. 93 people are now confirmed dead. Several more are badly injured in hospitals. He actually managed to kill nearly a sixth of the kids at the Labour Party’s youth camp on Utøya. He killed them with a coldness I am unable to fathom.

There are people killed in terrorist actions every day in other countries. And millions have been starved and killed through other bestial methods throughout our bloody European history. I lived in London for a few years and got used to the many posters encouraging vigilance and asking people to report any unattended luggage anywhere in case it were a bomb. I’ve been one of those alerting the bus driver to an unattended bag, causing a traffic jam in London’s busy streets. In London you get used to being a small piece of the total randomness of bomb threats. When 7/7 happened, I was on Liverpool Street Station 20 minutes before the blasts went off. The Internet and mobile network broke down with people’s attempts to get hold of each other and my own mum panicked when she was unable to get hold of me. Millions in London can make similar statements. It’s almost no big deal. It doesn’t make it right or good.

But this? This is unprecedented. Since WWII, there have been no major mass deaths in Norway. It is known as one of the world’s most peaceful nations. Norwegian negotiators were behind the Oslo Deal. This is the country where King Olav could join the rest of the population using public transport during the oil crisis in 1973. My father was asked by foreign guests: “What about security? Where are his body guards?”, to which he answered with a smile “He has 4 million of those.”

Since then, the population has increased — partly thanks to our immigrants — the exposure to the outside world has grown, xenophobia has grown, the royals have more and clearly visible body guards. Still we managed to keep conflict on a discussion level. If you had an opinion you were free to express it as long as you did so in words. So though security in Norway too has grown over the years, we never really felt threatened by — anything, really. As for me, whenever I visited, it was my childhood paradise I visited. My country of birth and upbringing became my holiday resort, the place I went to rest my soul and get a break from the somewhat busier and pressurized life I usually lead.

Now one of “ours” has turned it all upside down. The threat didn’t come from without, it came from within. A good looking man in his early thirties, still very young, turned himself into the worst mass murderer Norway has ever seen, and now he sits in police interrogations and calmly justifies his actions. And I don’t think there is a single Norwegian who in some small way would mind seeing him hung, quartered and drawn in the most medieval fashion after the horrors he inflicted on hundreds of kids assembled on an island, and randomly in Oslo. At the same time we all know how futile that would be. It wouldn’t bring back a single one of the lives he destroyed.

Since Friday 22 July, I have watched the news and listened to hour-long programmes analysing Mr Behring Breivik’s actions and personality, none of which have brought me any closer to understanding how such a normal person could turn so completely evil and without even the slightest empathy. I don’t think there is a single book on personality disorders that can make me understand or accept his complete liberation from a conscience. I am not used to people with no conscience. I don’t think I have ever met one. Forgive me: I am naïve. But then again, I am Norwegian.

I feel closer and yet farther away from Norway than ever. I know no other Norwegians here in Vienna. Not because there are none here, our paths just don’t cross. And so I suffer ever so slightly from “absent survivor’s grief”, if there is such a thing. I spent Saturday bursting into tears the more I read and heard about the killing spree on Utøya. I read Parbleen Kaur’s first-hand account and cried more. I translated it to English [previous post], and cried. My two dogs were deeply upset and very clingy all day. The skinny dog refused to eat, the fat one is a comfort eater so he stole the skinny one’s food before he went back to whimpering again. My fiancé declared his support on Facebook and gave me lots of hugs, and as friends and family reported in as safe I cried some more.

I and mine are safe. But like all others from Oslo, I know people who either heard the bombs in Oslo or know victims of the shooting. I have several friends who work close to the government district as well as in the government offices themselves. This is the bomb-randomness I knew from London. Also when there, and during the IRA time before I moved there, I got used to contacting my nearest and dearest to make sure they were ok whenever a bomb went off. I never thought I would have to do that with my Norwegian friends and family. I am relieved that they are well. I am deeply grieved that others are not. I am extremely angry that the madman targeted children, young people who would probably have had active political lives ahead of them, our future politicians and leaders.

And the more I read of his “manifesto”, the angrier I get. Because these are not really the writings of a madman. I can’t even write him off as a lunatic! His self-aggrandising writings are not actually ramblings, they are considered, based in history — albeit his own interpretation of it — and he has given himself a ridiculously grand place in contemporary history. He seems to think that he will hold a position as some sort of heroic soldier. A martyr of Christianity and Norwegian nationalism. It bears a frightening resemblance to militant Islamism. Does he expect a load of virgins when he dies too?

Speaking of dying: I am proud to be Norwegian when I see my friends’ reaction to a Facebook survey asking if Norwegian law should be changed to once more allow the death penalty. They have replied with a resounding NO! Then he would in some twisted way have won his one-man battle against humanity. Norwegian law has 21 years as maximum penalty for murder. If that is all he gets, he would still have a fair amount of life left in him on his release. Do I think 21 years for Mr Behring Breivik is enough? Not by a mile! But I shall not take the law into my own hands. Norwegian justice is as it is for a reason and I shall follow the process against him closely. I have the right to express my agreement or disagreement with his sentence when it comes, but until then I trust with confidence in my fellow countrymen, our justice system, police, and the vast majority of Norwegians who are equipped with a healthy conscience and lots of common sense.

Today I really wish I could hug a Norwegian. As Bishop Ole Christian Kvarme said in his memorial service in Oslo: “We are a people in mourning.” So we are. Wherever we are.

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While at work yesterday I read that the government district in Oslo, my birth town, had more or less been blown up and that at least 3 people had been confirmed killed. Since then my childhood paradise, Norway, has been torn apart by the most incomprehensible crimes imaginable. A good-looking young man turned his frustrations into death and shot more than 80 people dead at a political youth camp on an island north-west of Oslo, and he is believed to also be behind the bombings.

Not a bad-looking guy, is he? Anders Behring Breivik

The gut reaction from many was to separate the two and at least see the bombing in Oslo as a Muslim extremist terrorist act. But no. In peacetime, one of “our own” lost his every last marble and turned into a mass killer. And he killed a yet-to-be confirmed number of young people, slaughtered them, more than 80 of them. And the bombs in Oslo could have killed so many more than they did, including my own friends and family.

There are people killed in terrorist actions every day in other countries. But the big difference here is that these are countries that are already experiencing political and often religious upheaval. Not that THAT is a great comfort to those who lose their friends and family members, but at least it’s not as unexpected and more easily explained.

And there were no terrorists in Norway. Ok, I’m being naive, but my country of birth has always been a safe haven for me. I’ve lived in London and got used to the many posters encouraging vigilance and asking people to report any unattended luggage anywhere in case it were a bomb. And people did — and do. The moment someone noticed a bag that seemed ownerless on a bus or the Tube, the busdriver was alerted, or emergency break was pulled, and the bus/Tube was emptied of people and police contacted. I’ve been there. I’ve been one of those telling the busdriver about a suspicious bag, causing a total traffic jam in London’s busy streets.

But this? This is unprecedented. And I can’t understand what this good-looking young man was thinking. Did it ever even occur to him that there would be a time AFTER his killing spree? He clearly expected and wanted to live since he was wearing a bullet proof vest. But what will he have to live for now? He will be locked up for the rest of his life (actually, Norwegian law has a maximum penalty of 21 years — but if he is found mentally ill he can be put in an institution with a the likelihood of not being let out again). And there will be no forgiveness coming his way from a collective Norwegian population.

But now, Life, as it should be for all of us, is calling me. Thomas has prepared breakfast and Mischa is right next to me, a little confused about my grief and constant bursting into tears.

This one will take a long time to get over.

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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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Can somebody please tell me what on earth teenage boys are for? I just don’t get it. They seem like the biggest waste of space and time and money and most other resources EVER. Poor things.

I am sure you are just dying to hear how my prolapse operation went. Well, I’ve no idea: I was out cold through the whole thing. Ok, I’ll try to be serious.

I checked in to Hartmannspital on Sunday 29 May. The hospital is run by nuns and is one of the most Catholic environments I’ve been in since the B&B I stayed in when I met Kevin in Ireland in 1993. Crucifixes all over the place and nuns coming to your bedside in the morning offering spiritual guidance.

Can't help it but I find this as a symbol for a religion somewhat uninviting.

In the afternoon my surgeon swung by to check on me. Like straight out of a doctors-and-nurses soap he strode into the room, his semi-long hair moving in the breeze from the open window, wearing leathers and carrying a crash helmet, smilingly greeting me. How cool! The guy who was going to cut me open was a sexy biker surgeon! I could live with that.

As mentioned, I can’t remember anything from the operation, except that the porter wheeling my bed to the operating theatre was very nice, Charlie from Kenya. I can’t remember waking up, but I do remember vaguely that Thomas was there and that we talked about something for the briefest of time. According to Thomas I spoke German only. That may be cause for concern. I refuse all responsibility.

Radio stations: religious monotonous reciting from bible, classical music and Ö3 -- dull pop-station. Great.

I was very soon on my feet. Once more, I refuse responsibility. I had to pee, I was not given a catheter and I was damned if I was going to use my bed as a toilet. Seriously: I am completely unable to consciously open the valves while lying down. In a bed. I was brought up far too well for that. So as soon as the nurses who only had a bed-pan to offer turned their backs I was out of bed and in the toilet so fast you wouldn’t know I’d even gone. But, boy, did I! Phew!

I was of course not allowed to. I was supposed to lie still for 24 hours. Well, their own fault. And luckily, it has not caused any problems. After all, I have YEARS of bad-back training and was able to get up without bending my back a jot. I know exactly how not to move. Being naturally lazy helps.

I had this room to myself mostly. Lucky, as I had a hard time sleeping and ended up reading half the night. "Momo" by Michael Ende. And "Accordion Crimes" by E. Annie Proulx.

Just after the op it was initially hard to distinguish between post-op pain, muscular pain, scoliosis pain and — whatever. It was just a little confusing and — painful. And then came the disappointment that my left foot was still not entirely cooperative. I.e, I STILL can’t dance Swan Lake. And that is truly disappointing. On a positive note it no longer hurts to sneeze. Yes, that counts too.

I was out of hospital by day 4, picked up by Thomas and greeted with suitable chaos by Mischa and Orion who each respectively had resorted to depression and diarrhoea to express their feelings about my absence.

Since then the left foot recovery has been pretty unspectacular. I’ve started physical therapy, which includes electro stimulation of the nerves in the left leg and foot. I run out of energy really fast and noticing improvement is about as obvious as watching your hair grow. I’m sure it’s happening but I’m still looking for the roots to show since the last time I dyed it. I’m sure you get the metaphor.

The metal clamps that held the wound together in my back were removed yesterday — they looked sort of cool but guess they were not really suitable to keep as body piercings. Thomas came with me and the two sexy bikers launched into bike talk, of course, having the nurses nervously tapping their feet at the thought of all the other patients the sexy surgeon still had to see before they could all go home.

Wondering about the teenage boy outburst? I’m having a small disagreement with Thomas’ oldest son, B, about behaviour. It’s a pretty basic disagreement and I have a strong feeling that us twain are unlikely to ever meet. Nuff said. I fear that if I say more this post will just turn into a major moan about teenage boys. I am clearly not suited to deal with them.

At least I can still sneeze without pain. And turn over in bed without kicking Thomas. Too hard. That’s improvement.

I wonder if kicking B would hurt?

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