The Old Grey Widow-Maker

Into the teeth of a rising storm on the North Sea, standing on a sea dike near Husum, Germany.

Kipling’s “Harp Song of the Dane Women” was right. The North Sea is not to be trusted. The day before had been sunny, light winds from the sea, and the seal-spotting boats had been going out, taking tourists to see “Seelöwe.” Not this morning. The wind pushed me so hard I almost lost my footing, and the wind was not kind. Continue reading

Sunday Snippet: “Brothers”

As soon as this bubbled up during breakfast one morning, I realized that I now have to go and read that biography of Don Juan of Austria that I’ve been ignoring.

The green and ripening-gold land stretched as far as the end of the world. Haglun imagined that he could see farther, to the two great port cities that brought so much wealth and had given him most of the sprinkling of gray in his brown hair. Wind rushed up the slope, blowing his cloak back like a wing. He smiled at the old wish. If he could fly, he’d not have to spend so long on the road. But people would probably say things about the king’s winged half-brother, even more than about the king himself.  That the king looked exactly like his great-grandfather’s portrait in the temple, even down to the width of the stripe in his hair, seemed to pass unnoticed. The watcher snorted a little to himself as he studied the land. Continue reading

Initial Impressions and Thoughts after Travel

You cannot get anywhere fast by road in Germany, not American West-style fast. Especially around Hamburg on Fridays or on Sunday afternoons. Frankfurt is probably just as much fun, but I wasn’t in that area this time. The Autobahns are great so long as there are no staus. (Stau – n. Traffic jam. Stoppung – n. A non-moving stau.) Then you go from no speed limit (in some areas) to three or four kmph. The 19 km Stoppung was on the north side of Hamburg as we were trying to go around the south side, thanks be.

Herring is a lot better than I remembered. Lots, lots better. Wonderfully better. Being on the North Sea coast and Baltic instead of Rhineland probably had something to do with it. Tinned fish is just not as good as fresh when you can get it.

Smoked salmon for breakfast is wonderful. Continue reading

Back Home

Howdy all. Got in last night. I’m doing wash and sorting mail and books (more of which are coming from Germany via book-rate mail).

The Importance of Hope


When I teach the period of Soviet history between Khrushchev’s retirement and 1985 or so, I tend to sum it up as grey. Brezhnev, Andropov, their successors kept watch over a grey country where concrete was the building material of choice, where the snow turned grey in the cities, where conditions slowly grew worse as things went unrepaired or were patched and mended but not really replaced. Individuals fared better, or worse, and had their own stories with color and joy, but as a collective whole? Grey.

Why grey? I’d argue that grey is what is left when hope goes away. Continue reading