Monday, August 28, 2017

Is that the Time?

Last weekend, I watched a few documentaries on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana's fatal accident. Am I the only one who remembers that event as if it was yesterday? That day, I was at my parents' place, house-sitting, while they were on vacation. I had just passed my final exams at university and was enjoying my last idle summer, so to speak. Chiquita, still in her teens, was keeping me company that week and I distinctly remember chopping up apples for apple stew (orders from my Mum to not let all the apples in the garden go to waste and also use those bruised ones who had fallen from the trees) while watching the endless TV coverage, half fascinated, half bewildered by the growing mass hysteria.
Likewise, I distinctly remember 09/11 (incidentally the birthday of Chiquita's sister). I was at Coma HQ and our new deputy department head had recently arrived. Everyone was glued to TVs apart from the deputy head and her successor who were engrossed in handover meetings all day. Earlier this year, I visited the 9/11 Memorial in New York with the Empress. The first part of the exhibition focuses on physical objects, such as remains of the staircase that led survivors to street level and to be honest (and also included the mural pictured above), I was not that moved at all, while some American visitors broke out in tears. The second part of the exhibition was an entirely different story - it basically narrated that day from "innocent" newspaper headlines that fateful morning to pictures of the aftermath that everyone will have seen so many times in different types of media - people covered in dust, exhausted firefighters sitting on the floor. What I, personally, found most haunting were videos of desperate people jumping to their death from the 100something floor and voice messages of people trapped in the tower (or calling from one of the highjacked planes).
On Saturday, I was at the hairdresser, where I read a recent issue of German Spiegel magazine. Its cover story was on terrorism and the analogy between today's terrorist attacks carried out by IS followers versus German RAF terror of the 1970s and 1980s. The article featured a photo of one of those black and white "Wanted" posters that I remember seeing in corridors of any official building when I was a child. Those serious looking faces of young adults, most men wearing a moustache, always bewildered me and the blanket explanation I got from grown-ups did not really help me understand what this was about.
All this seems a lifetime ago now and I am counting the days until there will be nostalgic events, held in venues decorated with phone booths and bulky landline phones...

Monday, August 21, 2017


Some people like to spend their vacation at home. Others like to go abroad, but favour the same place, year after year. Yet another group of people likes to discover something new every year. Then there are those who like to combine all 3 elements...which would be yours truly. My ideal summer looks as follows: one week spent in Klagenfurt, enjoying my parents' company and my beloved Wörther See, and another in Nice, my summer home away from home. The "discovery" holidays can happen at another time of the year, as far as I am concerned, but I don't mind them taking place in summer either, if my schedule allows. Klagenfurt and Nice are musts, though. Due to the fact that I recently switched jobs, I spent a few days in KLU already in May and June, rather than around the August 15 public holiday as I usually do. Nice, where I still will be when this post goes live,  had to be reduced to a long weekend, also, but I'm not complaining. Skipping it for good, though, would have been out of the question for me. I have not counted, but this must be my 10th visit to this city, and the one summer when La Mademoiselle and I did not go, we both missed it. It has become a fixture of my summers and the gang has grown in the past years, when we managed to infect others with the Nice bug as well. It's not that we do extraordinary things there (basically it's a mix of beach, shopping, excursions to other highlights along the Cote d'Azur, the order of these decided spontaneously and sometimes individually), but it feels great to feel like locals, to go grocery shopping at "our" supermarket, to put our beach towels at the same spot every year, to stop for drinks at the café with the same grumpy old waiter, to buy sachets of dried lavender to take home, just like we did the year before. Comfortingly familiar and yet never boring.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Water Baby

Austria is known for its beautiful lakes and mountains (and indeed many more beautiful things). While I do love those mountains and am a passionate skier, I hardly ever go hiking. When I do, I always think that I should do this more often and when I see photos taken by my hiking or mountaineering friends, I am always very impressed. This does not mean that it would ever occur to me to choose mountain over lake on a hot summer day. Mountains, for me, are just a beautiful backdrop that I would not want to miss, but lakes, they are to be used actively. A hot summer day spent in a place where there is a body of water, is a day wasted in my book. Whenever I have the opportunity to visit my parents, I will always make sure to take a swim in my beloved Wörthersee, THE most beautiful and most"swimmable" lake in my very biased opinion. Its turquoise water has a hypnotic power over me and I am very grateful to have grown up in this scenic part of Austria. On the first day of June, I bought a 3-months card for Vienna's public outdoor pools (which includes one pool at the Old Danube, close to my new place of work) and I am proud to report that I have already got more of my money's worth out of that card (which retailed at EUR 60.50) by having used it 20 times so far. Even if it is just a quick dip in a lake, river, or chlorinated pool - I am true water baby and summer=swimming for me.

Monday, August 07, 2017


Statue of Lady Justice
Sometimes I really don't "get" women even if I am one myself. I don't know if it is a side effect of getting old(er), but I have noticed that I am getting really impatient when women of my age still hysterically complain about their perceived imperfections the same they did when we were teenagers. Case in point 1, a classmate who feels like such a horrible hirsute grizzly bear that she has been dreaming about/saving up for IPL treatment for years because, in her opinion, her horrible hairy legs cannot otherwise be exposed to the general public (traditional methods like shaving or waxing apparently don't suffice) that she choses to stay indoors on most sunny days. 
Case in point 2, a colleague whose remark, when I complimented her on the dress she was wearing, was a 5-minute monologue along the lines of how "this is actually the only dress I can wear because all other cuts look just awful on me because of my ridiculously narrow shoulders and if they are any shorter you would see my ugly varicose veins...". While I cannot comment on those hidden away "ugly" veins, this lady is slim and has a really good figure.
What is it that so many attractive and smart women (of all ages) still have to put themselves down and are their own most relentless judges? Actually, it is the good looking and intelligent ones in particular who seem to be afflicted by this disease. So much energy is put into finding flaws about their appearance that I sometimes wish they could reinvest it into something positive, like not commenting about other women's outfits or bodies for a starter. 
So much for the theory anyway and I won't claim that I am the perfect poster girl for this "campaign" of mine just yet, but for once, I have long stopped highlighting my own flaws and can graciously accept a nice compliment when I get one. Not converting any opportunity that presents itself in the bitchy comment you have at the tip of your tongue is a little harder, but I like to think that I have improved in this regard (to the point where the Empress one remarked "ah, sorry, forgot that you don't bitch any more") even though I'll probably never get a halo fitted. Other than that, I am effing awesome, and so are YOU!
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