A Groovy Obsession

Starting at the age of about fourteen, I stopped being a tv watcher. Not that I’ve never watched it since then, but I literally could go years in between viewings. Spouse, on the other hand, in the handful of years that we’ve lived, not just in the same country, for a change, but actually at the same address, has already worn out an armchair, so great is his need to vegetate every evening from at least 8pm onward. And, since the outbreak of this pandemic, I have picked up the habit of heading down to the mancave promptly at 7:59 pm for the 15 minutes of national news and then sticking around for anywhere from 5 minutes to several hours afterwards, depending on what’s on.

Usually crap, of course, which I generally don’t stick around for. But there was an interesting little show about Planten un Bloemen, the city park/botanic garden in Hamburg that is a real jewel of a place (definitely stroll through for an hour or two (or more) (it’s free! even the tropical greenhouse) if you’re ever bumming around Hamburg. I was there once myself, while I was killing an hour before a scientific conference that was being held nearby, and I was sad I only had that one hour. (I should go back! Hamburg is not soooo far away from here.)

And there was an interesting documentary a couple of nights ago about Jane Birkin, whom Spouse had never, ever heard of.

But last night was Saturday night and that is always a crap television night. But, alas, I was not fit for anything other than vegetation, so I stuck around after the news and we ended up watching a show called (in German, of course) Big vs Little (or maybe it was Little vs Big) (whatever). Basically, people wrote in to say my kid can beat (insert name of notable German person here) at (insert some totally super random odd task here) and then that’s what this show was about. The first kid, for instance, hung from the top of an aerial hoop by her hands and pulled her legs up and through 28 times in one minute and the very pretty young former circus star celebrity only managed 14 times (so, yeah, the kids generally won). Then there was the 6 year old girl who could identify the fairy tale before the end of the opening line (although her opponent, an actor who had played one of the seven dwarfs in some German tv show or movie, only lost on the tie-breaker by a fraction of a second). And there were, yeah, I wouldn’t say obscure fairy tales in there, but several a step beyond the popular standards (such as The Goose Girl, Thumbelina, King Thrushbeard, and Longnose the Dwarf, that most of us would be hard pressed to identify within the first paragraph). (Actually, I did okay (I even got Longnose the Dwarf), even though the text was in German, although Thumbelina threw me.)

But the most jaw-dropping of all was the little boy who claimed he could recognize more LPs from their grooves than the famous north German singer lady/tv show moderator. Basically, it goes like this… you see how many songs are on side A and how many songs are on side B and this narrows down the list of possible albums it could be. Then you feel how heavy the LP is or wiggle it to see how flexible it is and this tells you how thick the disc is and apparently this narrows down the possibilities a bit more.

So the boy managed to identify the LP correctly two out of four times, with his correct guesses being Supertramp’s Breakfast in America and one of Herbert Groenemeyer’s albums (I don’t remember the name of that one either). The ones he misidentified were Adele’s 21 and one of Sade’s albums (Diamond Life, maybe). That’s a span of nearly forty years, in terms of musical releases!

So here’s the thing: this must be a thing, this knowing an LP from its grooves, because his opponent BEAT HIM. She aced her four albums, recognizing Depeche Mode’s Violator, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Udo Juergen’s Udo, and one other album that I cannot remember at all. The poor little boy was totally crushed (although they gave him his prize anyway of the backyard trampoline that he’d been dreaming of).

Or else they narrowed the possibilities down to the 50 LPs they had to randomly choose from and let both the little boy and the singer/tv moderator go away for a few weeks to study them.

Oh, but THE BEST ONE OF ALL was the little girl who, from the slightest glimpse of the slightest bit of the face of a world leader could name them and the country they were in charge of. Like she even nailed Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of Ghana from the bottom half of his nose within less than a second (and had no trouble at all rolling out his name). Meanwhile the TEAM OF THREE national news presenters collectively scored 2 points to her 12 and encouraged her to pursue a career in international newscasting. (The head guy was impressed, saying that they rely on a computer facial recognition to feed the information into their earphones when they have to identify someone on the spot… and the computers need the whole face.)

So… it’s news time again in 7 minutes. But it’s Sunday now, and Sunday is Tatort night. Which is a semi-crappy crime drama set in one of about half a dozen different German cities (or Vienna). So I’ll probably stay for that and, if it isn’t too awful, actually make it all the way through to the end.

Bird Flu

Every time I have taken the tenacious little terrier out for a walk since last week Saturday, every German that I know who has seen me has stopped me and asked me if I voted. Then they have expressed their effusive relief that “democracy prevailed” (although, I have to admit, I don’t quite share their optimism that the saga is yet over).

This morning, the car that stopped so that its driver could chat with me turned out to contain the woman from the next settlement over that I met once while walking the dog during the social restrictions of spring that had so many people stuck at home instead of going in to work at their job. She was surprised that she hadn’t run into me again since then and was happy to see I was still around. And then, yes, she asked if I had voted and then expressed very emotionally what a relief it was and then wanted to know just what was wrong with the orange guy, behaving like such a little kid. At his age!

The only other people I encountered on this morning’s walk were two German soldiers, in neatly pressed camouflage uniforms and face masks as they drove down the farm road (the one that goes from nowhere (our settlement) to nowhere (a settlement of just a couple of houses), so that was odd) in their official Germany army jeep. It was so unusual and out of place, ones thoughts immediately wander to the zombie apocalypse. Then there was a crow hopping from the crown of one tree to another along the farm road, cawing, and the dog does not like that sound (he also hates the honking of geese and the blooblebleble that turkeys make). It makes him incredibly nervous. So he stopped immediately, turned around, and started making tracks for home, trying to drag me along after him like I was on rollerskates and he was a sled dog. It was just the crow, right? That was making him nervous??

Anyway, I turned him back forwards again and carried on and didn’t run into any zombies, so I seem to have made the right call.

Maybe the soldiers were here because of the bird flu? Because 2020 hasn’t been fun enough already, as with 2014 and 2015 (I think it was; I’m not sure because it was before we had chickens), birds migrating from points northeast of here (like Siberia) are bringing a bird flu with them. Starting about a week ago, dead birds stared washing up on the North Sea beaches of Schleswig-Holstein. That’s only about 60 miles from here and the numbers of dead birds is already reaching into the tens of thousands, so it was only a matter of time before they called for a bird lockdown here, to avoid the economic catastrophe of it making its way into the commercial poultry flocks.

And, sure enough, day before yesterday Spouse came home saying he’d heard on the radio that no one is allowed to keep their poultry outside anymore, or at least under open air. But at least we have a patio that he built for them after seeing the misery of his parents’ chickens who had to spend four or five months of winter locked inside a cramped and horrid coop and so put off his mother, that she gave up keeping chickens (something they’d been doing there at that house (which was the house she was born in, possibly literally) since way before she was born (I think it was her grandfather, maybe, who had the house built).

Anyway, after lunch today, I fed the hens their second daily meal, the one that I mix all their minerals up into, because for some reason our chickens have to be tricked into eating their grit, and then, since it wasn’t raining yet, decided a few more cubic meters of leaves needed to be raked out of the garden (the major downside to having something like 100 trees). I had only just started out front when I noticed that a little baby sparrow had wobbled its way over to the wheel of the wheelbarrow, as if it was trying to shelter against it. Between that, and its lack of concern for me, I realized that this was not a healthy little sparrow.

In fact, when I bent over to have a closer look (from a safe distance), I could see that one eye was swollen shut and the poor little bird had major balance issues. Not knowing what else to do, I kept an eye on it while I raked and within 15 minutes, its condition had deteriorated to the point where it was fluttering in pathetic little circles and shaking. I put the closest cage like thing over it I had at hand (an iron basket to have a fire in to sit around on chilly summer evenings) and phoned Spouse, who had gone to the home improvement supply store, to tell him to buy chicken wire because the sparrows are small enough to squeeze through the wires of the fencing he used on the chicken patio and, clearly, there was at least one sick sparrow on our property. Who knew if it was the bird flu, but better safe than sorry.

By the time I came out, the little sparrow was dead. I picked it up with a hand broom and dust pan and dumped it into the organic waste trash can (it won’t be picked up for two more weeks, which should give any viruses time to die before the truck comes to collect it). Then I washed the hell out of my hands with soap and super hot water because, although they say this strain of bird flu, in the unlikely event that it jumps to humans, is unlikely to be severe, who wants to be patient zero?

But, yeah, there are a lot of unhappy poultry out there right now. Or not out there. On our walk this morning, the dog and I went past the house that normally has a flock of angry geese, a bunch of chickens, several humongous turkeys, and a number of quail and ducks wandering around on their lawn, but aside from the sound of angry honking coming from one of the barn buildings, there were no birds in evidence at all. And our next door neighbors are having to build a little aviary for Gaston and Florence (the replacement duck for Rose), who are currently unhappily sequestered in a doghouse. And, flu season being what it is, the poultry lockdown is unlikely to be lifted before March, April, or May.

Roasted Home-grown Broiler Chicken and Quince Pie

It’s 10pm Central European Time on the first Tuesday of November, 2020, and I’m too terrified to go to bed. When I did that at roughly this time four years ago, Hillary Clinton appeared to have the election in the bag, but the radio alarm clock woke me up at 6:30 am with some certainly most unfabulous other news. I’ve warned Spouse that use of the radio alarm is verboten tomorrow morning, but, still, if I go to sleep, some sort of result will be waiting for me in the morning one way or another. So I’m going to sit here for a while longer and tell you all about what we ate on Saturday evening, when Spouse’s business partner and his wife came over for dinner. Aren’t you thrilled?

Anyway, we had guests coming over (representing only two households and totaling only four of us plus the dog, so well within the current legal limits of get togethers) and it was Halloween, so it seemed like the right time to finally get around the offing the biggest of the four broiler chickens we’ve been growing up. They were hatched at the beginning of May (we picked them up on the 21st, when they were three weeks old), which makes them now sixth months old, which is way more shot at life than these guys normally get (industrially, they tend to get six weeks, unless they’re organic, in which case they have to be allowed to reach at least something like 14 weeks, which is just over three months).

They were (well, three of them still are) sweet, stupid chickens with an insatiable appetite and so much meat on them they all went through a phase of being unable to stand up (in fact, the smallest one still struggles). Watching them sit there stretching their necks forward to feed themselves without standing up was awful and just wrong and we have sworn never to raise broilers again. Anyway, the biggest one managed to hit something like 4 kilos (we never weighed him, but, damn, he was definitely at least twice as heavy as the now no longer last cat standing, and she weighed two kilos there toward the end) and, starting to reach roosterhood, was just starting to become aggressive, working his way up to attacking me if I didn’t give him the food he was entitled to fast enough just like the jerk Bertie Rooster used to do (which is why Bertie Rooster parted ways with his head about a year or so back and, recently defrosted, got turned into Coq au Vin which, honestly, was not great enough to justify all the work that went into it. Thus the young broiler got slow roasted instead.

Although it is embarrassing for someone who has been a vegetarian since the Reagan Administration to have a favorite recipe for roasting chicken, I’ve got one. I found it (Roast Sticky Chicken) in a Sunset Magazine almost ten years back, back when they arrived periodically at my mother’s house, even though she herself had never subscribed to them. It must be a popular one, because here it is exactly: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/45954/roast-sticky-chicken-rotisserie-style/ although they fail to give credit where credit is due and I always don’t put onion in the cavity because I think it gives the cooked chicken an unappetizing smell. Anyway, it turned out fantastic, at least from the steaming, juicy looks of it and the fact that not only did no one complain, the guests happily asked for one of the big drumsticks and a hefty serving of breast meat to take home with them for their lunch the next day.

The only time this recipe failed me is when I tried it on one of our egg-laying hens (breaking out of the chicken run one too many times to tear up the garden is a capital offense around here) and ended up with gristle. Now I know that these egg-laying breeds are only edible after numerous hours of stewing, and they’re so scrawny (but fatty), that even that is almost not worth the trouble.

Then, for dessert, I had made a quince pie with five of the six quinces the tree we planted our first year here finally produced. I was dubious… so much sugar!!! But, in the end, it was still quite tart and I will definitely make a quince pie the same way next year, if we are lucky enough to get more quinces. That recipe was here: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/211296/honey-poached-quince-pie/ although I have to say I didn’t bother with all that changing of the oven temperature or placing the pie pan on a hot baking sheet (especially as my pie pan is made of glass and I didn’t think it would be up to that sort of challenge without shattering). I just cover the edges with foil for all but the last 15 minutes and baked it at a normal apple pie baking temperature until the sauce started bubbling out the vents (which took the normal 45-50 minutes).

So, yeah, that was almost all Saturday wasted in the kitchen for a meal that took 15 minutes to eat plus the three minutes it took to eat dessert. In between there was a lot of boring conversation that I tried to alleviate by suggesting we play a game and we tried Tri-Ominos, which is sort of like dominoes but with triangles with numbers on the corners, only to discover the the wife of the business partner must have some sort of severe number dyslexia. She simply could not see where she could put her tiles down. So the game was fun for exactly no one.

Conversation is never terribly successful either. I don’t know what they do with their spare time, but it isn’t any of the things we do (listen to music, watch movies, watch tv, read books and magazines, etc), so it’s hard to find a topic with enough common ground for back and forth rather than one person just holding forth.

But these are trivial worries, compared to wondering if huge riots are about to break out and the country doomed to split into two or three or maybe into four different countries.

Ela Minus

After flipping through the third music magazine that our neighbor brought us from the publishing company he works for, I discovered a third sampler CD of new music. At first I was suspicious–the first track was by the Eels and they’ve been around for at least 30 years, the last fifteen of which have not been worth mentioning–but I gave it a spin and now I have a new musical addiction: Ela Minus. I don’t know anything about her except that, judging from her voice, she is depressingly young. I don’t normally go for electronica, or whatever the currently hip term for it is, but I think she’s great and I love that she has a sort of bonkers way of saying things and an accent I can’t put my finger on (although she seems to come from Brooklyn).

Just fyi, her album came about about a week ago (it’s available on Bandcamp) and the videos are up on YouTube. Here is my favorite of her songs:

Addendum to a Musical Surprise

But the real musical find of the day (since I am way behind the times) was what they played on the radio when we were driving home from the grocery store.

A Musical Surprise

This weekend, I forget if it was Saturday or Sunday, Spouse came in from walking the dog and took off his handyman’s pants (that’s trousers to those of you living in those parts of the English-speaking world where pants are underwear). In true East German clothing is optional style, it took him a few minutes too long to get around to pulling on the loose black fleece bottoms of the elasticated waist, a prime example of the sort of athleisurewear his people wear around the house and he likes to refer to as his sexy pants (because they are anything but). I say a few minutes too long because I was working on my laptop in my office and I heard him squeak in alarm, just as the dog started barking because the neighbor came to the door (which, being more glass panes than wood framing, you can look straight through), catching Spouse in a pair of fire engine red underwear.

In yet another case of a good deed never going unpunished, it turns out the neighbor had come over to deliver some magazines put out by the publishing company he works for in Berlin– the most recent copies of the German version of Rolling Stone, a magazine devoted exclusively to heavy metal, and some other music magazine. I think this is a kindness done in return for the help I provided when his wife was injured and couldn’t look after the alpacas.

Anyway, oooh! I never buy magazines, but they are full of shiny pictures and I suppose I could be a good girl and buckle down and read the articles in German. The magazines also came with CDs and a tiny actual record. The record has something to do with the artist who, if I understand correctly, was once again the artist no longer merely formerly known as Prince by the time he died in 2016 (four years ago already!). But that will have to wait, since we have a refurbished record player and speakers but remain lacking the necessary amplifier to place between them to make the music sound like more than tin. So, on to the CDs.

The first one came with the Rolling Stone and is called something like their 154th edition of New Voices. Only the voices aren’t terribly new, seeing as how the CD starts with a song by Travis, a band that I first heard in the 1990s, a decade where I was already pretty far from hip to the current musical happenings.

So I turned to the CD attached to the metalhead magazine… a promotional CD from one of those dime a dozen and you’d still be rich because there are so many in Germany medieval metal bands that consists of nine or ten scruffy, leather kilt-wearing, Nordic-looking men. The titles alone are fabulous. Stuff like the German equivalent of “Middle Finger to the Future” and “Economic Growth Über Alles” plus a cover of a song lovingly entitled “We Drink Your Blood”.

The highlight of the CD, aside from the live track proving that they at least once placed Wacken, is the medley of We Will Rock You and Lady in Black played slightly off key with bagpipes and electric guitars and sung in harmony as if by pirates attacking a sea shanty. It ought to be fabulous, but…

Oh, wow, now I’m listening to the live track that proves they at least once played Wacken. It’s from the point of Prometheus, you know, they guy who brought fire to humankind, and it is all so very earnest.

Anyway, I guess this is one of their new songs that the promotional CD was meant to promote. I suspect I would like it a lot better (which it to say, at least a little bit) if, instead of a grumpy old woman, I was a 13-year old boy.

Well, That Was Awkward

Rudolph Rupert Rocket Dog was spinning in circles yesterday morning, so I decided to take him out for a walk. Normally we turn left at the end of the driveway and either walk the 2 mile loop past the huge Neolithic hill grave or 2 mile round trip to the settlement of two houses, the residents of one of which have chickens, geese, turkeys, sheep, and donkeys hanging around in their backyard (which isn’t anywhere as big as you are probably now imagining). But sometimes I hang a right and go up the hill to or past the set of wind turbines that is a half mile or so away (the closest turbine is closer, although if you follow the farm roads/tractor paths instead of bushwhacking, it takes 2 miles to get to it). Normally, I don’t go this way for a number reasons not least of which is that the distance from the house is such that RRRD generally poops in front of one of the neighbor’s houses, leaving me to either leave a plastic bag full of poop there for forty-five minutes or so or to carry the swinging thing with me for the vast majority of the walk. But yesterday I turned right anyway.

We never even made it to that last house that RRRD likes to poop in front of. Because at the farmhouse just before it, we were met by the two dogs who live there, an elderly border collie and the mostly Jack Russell terrier who is RRRD’s grandma. Normally these two old ladies don’t like RRRD much, so there is a bit of growling and posturing and then off we go without the two dogs pulling their normal annoying stunt of following (for miles!) anyone who walks or jogs by.

But yesterday was different. Both of the dogs were very rather visibly in heat.

A lot of sniffing ensued. Which progressed to carousing. Which progressed to, well, you can imagine the attempts, and none of my entreaties of But it’s your grandmother! cooled anyone’s ardor. At least the border collie, apparently grasping that it was mission impossible (she’s two to three times taller that RRRD), gave up and wandered off. But Grandma could not be dissuaded.

RRRD should only be firing blanks at this point and it boggles the mind that a dog as old as Grandma could still bear a litter. But, still, even though the neighbors are carelessly letting their two dogs in heat roam freely, I could hardly stand there in front of their house (and cow shed, where I could hear someone working) and let RRRD and his grandma do the deed. So I literally dragged RRRD home and Grandma followed us the whole way. After I locked RRRD in the house, she persisted, the two of them standing on either side of our glass-paned front door, scratching frantically at it.

In the end, I had to pick her up and carry all 15 lbs of Grandma all the way back up the hill to her house. She was very sweet and cuddly the whole time, of course (which is not her normal demeanor) but, phwoah, not only do her owners let her roam freely, she appears to have never once had a bath. I know that RRRD was born in the neighbor’s husband’s cowshed and spent his first few months there, some of it sleeping nestled against the bull he keeps there, and given that Grandma also reeked of straw and was splattered in cow poo to boot, I would venture a guess that my neighbors also lock her in with their cows at night. Which is to say that farmers have a very different take on pet ownership than the rest of us do (and the border collie and the Jack Russell are pets; they aren’t used as working dogs). But I guess when you’re used to having life and death control over cows, why would you have the same soft and squishy attitude toward house pets that city slickers do?

Meanwhile, the COVID cases are definitely spiking here in Germany right now, although since testing capacity is way up over last spring, the higher case numbers don’t yet mean we’re hitting the levels of infection that we had last spring. But the acceleration in the number of new cases per day is showing no signs of leveling, so it’s just a matter of days before we’d all be wise to do nothing more than hunker down at home for a few weeks. And we’re not the only ones to have come to this conclusions.

Last night was our weekly grocery shopping excursion and when I gave Spouse a look because he brought a strange brand of toilet paper to the grocery cart–and I don’t mean just strange for us, but strange as in not normally stocked by the store–he shrugged and said people were hamstering TP again already.

It cracks me up that Germans have a cute word that covers all the all of panic buying so you can horde stuff away when we would have to settle for saying “stocking up” or, at it’s most exciting, “panic buying.” I mean, I guess we can squirrel things away, but that just covers the hording end of the process, whereas it feels like to me that to “hamstern” encompasses everything from the going out and collecting to the socking of the things away in your den.

But it’s bonkers that the numbers are skyrocketing here. People are generally excellent about wearing masks and not shaking hands (which Germans are even more gung ho about than the French are about fake cheek kisses). Apparently, the outbreak is more or less down to two things: “young people” who can’t stop partying in large numbers in the crowded bar areas of big towns and everyone who can’t quite seem to manage to stop vacationing, carrying the virus with them either there or back.

I find it baffling. Is it really so hard for to take a year off????? Or even just dial it down a bit so they’re not interacting with hundreds of people at a time???? Do people not believe the virus exists? Do they think they can’t get it? Does it not occur to them that by catching it and/or passing it along they could cause life-changing damage or even kill people or themselves?????

But I guess I never liked partying anyway, so why would I understand?

I Guess He Really Is Desperate For Votes

I’m not on Twitter, so, apparently, the Orange Man’s campaign has reached out to me through the medium of the shadow cast by the towel we use to clean mud off the belly and paws of the low-hanging dog before he’s allowed back inside after a walk or after harassing whatever wildlife there is to be found in the backyard.

Sort of like Maria on a tortilla or Jesus on toast?

Speaking of wildlife, Rose, the braver, feistier sister of Gaston, was the duck of our next door neighbors’ who didn’t survive the alleged wolf that hopped over three fences to drag her off in the middle of the night a few nights back in a flurry of feathers. I think it was a fox, though, which can also leap even high fences (and the neighbor has complained that ever since the cornfield where the fox lived was mowed down, the fox has been wandering into the artist studio she leaves the door open to all day long). Surely a wolf would have gone for a sleeping alpaca instead. Anyway, RIP Rose, who has already been replaced because Gaston, having lost his anchor, wouldn’t stop pacing the garden.

Also RIP Big Kitty, who was my cat for 15 years, who passed away yesterday after having what must have been a number of strokes. I’d seen it coming (about four days ago, she suddenly very clearly had lost most of her vision and a bit of her balance and seemed a bit…vague…), but was unprepared for how rapidly it all unraveled yesterday morning after a bigger stroke hit. At least the alpaca people knew about a very kindly vet who makes house calls, even on Sunday mornings in the middle of a resurging pandemic (because Big Kitty was so evacuate from all orifices and froth at the mouth kind of terrified of car rides, there was no way I was going to subject her to one in her last hour).


That’s the third cat this year. Have I mentioned yet, fuck you, 2020.

I’m catless now, for the first time since 1988, if you include the five years where the cat I had at that time lived with my mom and I lived in England.

Anyway, Orange Man, the towel campaigning is way too little, way too late (and you didn’t stand an ice cube’s chance in the place I’d happily believe in, if it would guarantee you end up roasting there for all eternity). I already received my absentee ballot, filled it out, mailed it back, and got word from the country registrar that it was received and the signature was verified and my vote, which was not for you, will be counted.

Hail, Heal, Holy, Whole

It isn’t every day you learn something because of a bottle of mineral water, but the other day I did and was reminded again of how much the development of language proceeds along strange chains of logic. It was lunchtime and the glass bottle Spouse pulled out of the crate of mineral water he’d bought a few days ago wasn’t a standard middlingly fizzy Gerolsteiner like all of its crate-fellows, but a bottle of the “Heilwasser” line sprung, if not from the same spring, then at least from the same company.

“Huh,” I said, tasting it and deciding it tasted a lot like a normal standard Gerolsteiner but shifted up in tone a few notes. “Is Heilwasser holy water or healing water?”

It turned out to be the latter. Holy water would have been heiliges Wasser if it wasn’t actually Weihwasser, meaning ceremonial water, the way Germans call Christmas (Eve) Weihnacht (ceremonial night) because it was that one night a year everybody was sure to pack themselves into the church for mass? At any rate, how odd that the German language uses more or less the same root (heil) for holy (heilige), for the verb to heal (heilen), and for salvation (Heil), not to mention for that Heil that was used to mean Hail! in association with a certain massively murderous 20th century personage with Ceasorial aspirations. It’s enough to make you wonder what grew out of what grew out of what.

Interestingly, when you question the great oracle known as the Online Etymology Dictionary, you discover that it all comes from the proto-Indo-European root (kailo) that means “whole,” including the word whole itself.

Apparently, originally, to heal someone or something was to make them whole, hence the link between words like heal, healing, healthy, whole, and wholesome. Hail, as in Hail Caesar, or Heil, the Old German greeting, was wishing good tidings, such as health, happiness, and prosperity, upon someone. And holy came from the idea, perhaps, that that which was holy (and I quote here from the Online Etymology Dict) “that must be preserved whole or intact, that cannot be transgressed or violated.” Then I guess it must have bent itself around backwards to encompass the idea that that which was holy could cure you of ills.

Anyway, if you read the fine print on the Heilwasser, all it was able to legally claim to be able to do was support your conventional medical treatment for kidney stones that have migrated into your ureter.

Hmmm, next time I have lunch with Spouse, I’ll have to ask him if there is a single German word for that.

When the Sirens Wail

Last Thursday, apparently Germany tested its disaster warning sirens, or what is left of the network set up maybe as long ago as during the Second World War. I say apparently because I heard about it instead of heard it, although I would have thought that the three volunteer fire stations within earshot of the house would have made noise. “Yep,” said Spouse, “Not a single siren went off in the entire state of Schleswig-Holstein.” Not even a single mobile phone either, because the network overloaded when it tried to send an alert out to everyone at once.

So I guess it was good that they tested the system, in part, so they can figure out what went wrong, and because sometimes I wonder what it would be like here to be out on a walk with the dog and have all the sirens go off and wonder if I shouldn’t jump into one of the drainage ditches (the ones allowing the local area to be farmland instead of bog) and follow it to one of its little tunnels and thus escape the flash of radiation from a nuclear blast (for surely they’d hit Hamburg and maybe also Kiel). But then maybe it would be better to die and get it over with because we don’t have a basement so where would we hide away from the worst 2 weeks of fallout and what would I do if Spouse was out and never came home? Would I go out and look for him? Would the dog and I (and the cat) slog through all alone? And and and… (Doesn’t everyone have what ifs like this?)

But today we heard one, at roughly 11 am, when we were hammering holes in the garden with a wooden stake, not because the lawn is a vampire, but because we were planting 90 crocuses (every September we remember to, we plant a bunch more, and some spring, our front lawn is going to be fucking amazing, a veritable carpet of white, yellow, orange, and purple crocuses). It wasn’t our fire station and it wasn’t the station of the village to the northeast of us, but of the station of the village due north from here. So, hmm, so what, we thought. It can’t be that the next door neighbors caught their back garden on fire again by dumping hot coals on the compost pile, not if our fire station isn’t involved, and we finished the crocus planting.

Thirty or so minutes later, we took the dog for a walk. When we reached the bigger road at the end of our street, there were two people standing at the edge of the field, right by the new big electricity switching box that was just installed (substation is maybe the better word…?). As we meandered by, they said moin, moin and pointed out that one of the wind turbines was on fire, although, to be more accurate, at this point, it was merely streaming a few ribbons of black smoke.

So a bit of Sunday morning excitement! That’s the second time in 3.5 years that that exact same wind turbine has burned up. They do that, I guess, from time to time, as they’re rotating, they’re generating a lot of voltage, and they’re full of very flammable oil. But the same one twice in such a short period of time (well, not the same same one, since they had to rebuild the cabin and put in a new motor and install new blades) speaks to some sort of higher problem with the wiring in the base, I would presume.

While we were walking the dog, the fire managed to consume one of the three fiberglass wings. When we biked out there after lunch (along with half of the surrounding community), we saw that the firefighters were still driving back and forth between the nearest firefighting pond and the wind turbine, and hosing down the bits on the ground that were still smouldering and, phew, I might add, blowing a horrible stream of toxic air downwind of the turbine. Unfortunately for the picture taking, we couldn’t get within about a kilometer, not without tromping across the fields freshly sewn with winter wheat or winter rye.

I wonder if they’ll just give up on this particular one now. It costs a lot of money to rebuild it and I don’t even know that they had ever turned this one back on after rebuilding it after the last time. They had a lot of trouble rebuilding it, too, because it would have lost its grandfathered in status is they’d used a bigger motor or bigger wings than before and it was hard for them to find such outmoded stuff. But without its grandfathered in status, it isn’t legal anymore in this area because we’re full of endangered raptors, like white-tailed eagles and red kites, which have a bad habit of flying into the wings, so it’s outmoded or shut entirely down.

Here’s what it looked like 3.5 years ago, two days after it burned up the last time and a few minutes after the wings, spinning out of control, shredded in the strong breeze (taken by Spouse from a vantage point that had required tromping across the fields and getting yelled at by the wind turbine inspector).