Daily Prompt: The Natural World

Describe your first memorable experience exploring and spending time in nature. Were you in awe? Or were you not impressed? Would you rather spend time in the forest or the city?

Photographers, artists, and poets: show us NATURE.

Wheat field in Feldbrunnen

It was a long time until I saw my first field of wheat. I only knew it from the nature books and pictures, but to actually see and touch wheat heads, was unknown.

I did not grow up in the desert. I grew up in East London, my forests were old buildings, streets smelling of damp dust after rain. The only plants growing were those where seeds found a space between paving stones. Of course there were trees, big trees that no-one really noticed: they were just there. There was no-one that could give me a name for a tree. We had parks with bushes and grass. I think they were just there to compensate for the monotony of houses and apartment blocks to make a green surface in between.

Of course I had contact to wild nature. Nature always finds a way to show people “hello, I am here, and I will take over when you are no longer there”. In our area of London nature had to fight for its right to survive, we humans helped a little by having a war, World war II. Many areas of my part of London suffered from bomb damage and whole streets disappeared, were obliterated by bombs, leaving a flat area for nature to take over.

They were the playgrounds of my youth. Grass, weeds, even small bushes soon found their way and we youngsters had fun, finding strange insects, imagining forests, where anyone would say it is just weeds and bugs. We had nothing else to show us what the meaning of nature was. After a while, when London slowly recovered from the damage of a war, whole groups of houses were collapsing almost on their own. Windows did not fit their frames due to the regular shakes received from the heavy traffic. Doorframes no longer fit the doors and gradually the old houses were dying, never to be brought to life again. The houses were emptied ready for rebuilding.  Our playgrounds now had empty houses to explore. The small gardens left behind had not only weeds, but real flowers. Sometimes if you were lucky you would find a straying rose bush, perhaps even Iris plants.

We had a small garden in our little attached house. My grandfather once planted iris, a yellow variety. One day many years later I read that that colour was a special variety. We also had a hedge rose which occupied one wall of our little garden. We had a privet tree. Now and again mum would buy a packet of mixed seeds. The main thing was everything did grow. Part of the yard (the name garden does not really qualify) was just stones and coal grit from the coal bunker we had in the yard. Sounds romantic I know, but coal fires were a normal way of heating in winter in those days gone by. The coal would be delivered in sacks and put in the bunker. There was a small flap that mum or dad would open and take a few shovels of coal for our fire.

Part of the yard was quite fertile and I remember someone giving me three small strawberry plants from school. I planted them and they started growing. I was as thrilled as an eight year old could be. Unfortunately one night someone jumped over our garden wall, probably running from something somewhere, and trampled them flat. That was the respect shown to nature in the East End of London at the time. I loved planting things and seeing them grow. We did not have the money for fantastic plants, but just a packet of corn seeds, nasturtiums or daisies did the trick for me.

Once a year we spent a week at the seaside for our holiday.  It was a place called Herne Bay where I saw my first cornfield on the South coast of England. We were staying at a caravan site, one of the cheapest ways to have a holiday at that time. There was a field just outside the entrance to the site with these long stalked plants bearing seedy heads.

“What’s that dad?” I asked.

“That is corn I suppose” answered dad. Even he was not sure, although he had done a tour of Europe at the cost of the English government, dressed in a uniform. He had seen a lot, but probably did not really savour the blessings of nature at the time, although I believe he did realise that grapes were a valuable plant in Italy, being the source of wine: but that is another story.

Today I live in Switzerland in the country, where the fox and hare say goodnight to each other. There are cows at the bottom of my garden, bats fly when darkness reigns and crows, swallows, and red kites populate the skies, leaving some place for the blue tits, robins, woodpeckers and starlings. I always felt that the stork left me in the wrong nest as a child. I have now found my nest. I love every slug, snail, spider, dragon fly and ant that sleeks and creeps in my garden. Even earwigs and caterpillars survive. I just pick the ones up I don’t like and throw them into another field where they can carry on with their insect life. All nature’s creatures survive at my hands. Not that the place is full of creepy crawlies, I just remove them to another place. I admit I kill flies, but they never seem to have a population problem.

I even have two apple trees growing in my garden. One I bought which gives me a wonderful harvest every year and the other I planted from a seed which is now taller than the one I bought, but up to now has never had an apple.

I am now a country girl oldie and enjoy every breath of the country air I breathe.

Daily prompt: The Natural World

Daily Prompt: No Longer a Mere Mortal

You’ve imbibed a special potion that makes you immortal. Now that you’ve got forever, what changes will you make in your life? How will you live life differently, knowing you’ll always be around to be accountable for your actions?

Photographers, artists, poets: show us LONGEVITY.

Tortoise

I suppose that little fella’ in the photo could tell us a lot about longevity. With good care they live almost forever.

“What do you think, if I took a potion and would live forever?” I asked Mr. Swiss.

“I wouldn’t mind living forever” was the reply, probably having dreams of developing his drumming art to perfection.

“No, just me”

“No, not a good idea.”

I will not say how the conversation developed further. Suffice it to be said it was not met with full approval.

Would I really want to live forever, be immortal? Being witness to everyone I know going to the happy hunting grounds and leaving me all alone behind. Of course I could do everything I always wanted to; learn various foreign languages, visit all the countries I want to. I would survive my felines, my family would no longer exist just future generations. The world as it is today is different to the world I grew up in. I am a golden oldie and still have fun with modern times, but I have gradually grown into it. Would I be so successful in one hundred years with the developments in the world?

Thinking on a positive development, the answer would be yes please; seeing the modern technical developments, new ways of travel, a cure being found for incurable illnesses. It sounds great.

On the other hand, would I be witness to overpopulation in the world a result being hunger, not enough food to cover the needs. Would I see the next development of a bomb or poison able to destroy a country in five minutes? All this I would see and could do nothing about it and I might even be the only survivor in an empty desolate world.

I know I am painting a dismal picture. I would be alone, my friends and family that I know would be long gone.

Somehow I think Mr. Swiss would be right. Eternal life would not be my thing. I would not want to change my life to accommodate this new life for forever. I am sure I would not be happy.

Another thing that just came to my mind: I would be doing this daily prompt for ever and ever. Just imagine: a new blog every day forever, with something different. I think my blog would become boring and no-one would bother to read it any more. Let us have fun and savour the moments we have or would you like to read a blog written in say another fifty years by me? I do not think I would like to read it or even write it myself.

Daily Prompt: No Longer a Mere Mortal

Daily Prompt: We Can Be Taught!

Tell us a moment or an incident that you treasure  – not necessarily because it brought you happiness, but because it taught you something about yourself.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us LEARNING.

Salad Sauce

I remember the days when I was young and inexperienced: teenage years until I had a family of four children and was a working woman. I was on a learning curve most of my life, coming to grips with everything. At the beginning I wanted to know everything, thought I knew everything, and of course it all had to be completed before I started the task. You know the feeling of impatience.

Today I am still on a learning curve, but have time; one thing after the other and taking small steps to reach the target. The rush jobs are no longer necessary. I am not going anywhere and stress is now a thing of the past. There are no actual incidents that I treasure; it is just a matter of learning by doing, one thing after the other.

Perhaps a simple example is the picture of the salad sauce I make myself. Did I know how to make a salad sauce when I was say twenty years old? We just threw a bottle of Heinz 57 varieties Salad Cream on the salads I ate in England. Salad sauces were something foreign and we English did not bath our salads in olive oil. During the first time of living with a Swiss he found I could make a salad instead of cooking vegetable. I confessed I had never made a salad sauce in my life. No problem and I got a free demonstration of how to do it from Mr. Swiss. That was the beginning. Forty-six years later my salad sauce is not just vinegar, spice and olive oil, but has developed into a happening, an event. I grow herbs in my little garden, cut them and toss the fresh herbs into the sauce. I use various spices, some mustard and mayonnaise and am particular about the sort of olive oil and vinegar I use. I am not going to give detailed instructions, everyone has their own ideas and mine may not be the best. I just want to say that learning the design of a salad sauce taught me that there are no rules, just follow your nose.

Today I am patient; do not have to finish a job within minutes. I take on a task, think about it and then begin. I discovered when I was a working woman that a work problem did not always have to be solved at once: sleeping over it through the night worked wonders. The next morning when I entered the office, I had a new approach and perhaps a better idea for the solution.

Even my daily blogs follow a similar pattern, although I do not have as much time as I would like to have to think about it. I only get the job at two in the afternoon and it should be written by evening. I am not no longer a night owl and do not sit at my computer until midnight. I think about things. I check my blog through and might change some grammar, correct mistakes (with a little help from my Bill Gates grammar correction on the computer). A mistake I often make is forming an opinion without taking time to think about it. Direct action is not always the best way and it is sometimes better to wait before expressing an idea.

I have said it before and say it again, at my age (almost 67) I wish I knew what I know now when I was 20 years old, but that is life.

I have learnt to accept the responsibility of having children and bringing them to become adults with no big problems. Perhaps I have been lucky. I have learnt to cook (I hope), have learnt four foreign languages. I have learnt what multi-tasking is and what coping is all about: these lessons all from life’s experiences.

What did it all teach me about myself? My life’s motto is you have nothing to lose, think about it, take your time and do it.

Daily Prompt: We Can Be Taught!

Weekly Writing Challenge: Love in the 21st Century

For this challenge, we want you to write about 21st-century love.

I don’t usually do love stories, not my thing, but I had an idea for this one. I do not write about my own personal life in that connection. I just do not find it belongs in Internet for everyone to read. So here is my effort for this week.

Full moon in Feldbrunnen

E-mail group for night owls – online e-mail exchange

Moonman: Hello moongirl.  Your thoughts and ideas are wonderful. I am sure we are soul mates.

Moongirl: I was thinking on the same lines. It seems we are both night people. I work on the night shift at the hospital and you work at the zoo looking after the nocturnal creatures.

Moonman: Yes, for us the night turns into day. There are some things in life that have to be done during the night hours. The animals that sleep in the day have their longings in the night hours.

Moongirl: Do you have longings in the night hours?

Moonman: Oh yes, and you?

Moongirl: Now it is getting personal, but I now know you long enough to confess. My night feelings are very intensive.

Moonman: How intensive?

Moongirl: They vary. At full moon my feelings are completely out of control.

Moonman: How much out of control?

Moongirl: You have to see it and feel it, and on an online chat talk, you do not get the deep feeling.

Moonman: I long to meet you personally, but I am not sure that a full moon night would be the best time for me although I never work at the zoo by full moon, it would be too complicated.

Moongirl: Don’t disappoint me. Be honest, tell me why.

Moonman: I get feelings, sort of a little out of control at full moon. I change a little.

Moongirl: So do I, I leave a deep impression on the people I meet at full moon.

Moonman: I am sure you leave a wonderful impression. Do you mean sensual, with feelings that leave their mark.

Moongirl: Oh yes, definitely, but tell me about the little changes you have?

Moonman: I don’t know. It is difficult. I can hear much better. I hear a mouse walk over a grass stalk, I see better. I see the bats as they fly through the tree branches. They even speak to me.

Moongirl: Tell me, you are really getting my feelings up. I am also not able to work at full moon. I get longings, special longings. Does your body change, develop things out of control.

Moonman: Oh baby, you are really on my track. Yes I admit it, but not all appreciate the changes.

Moongirl: Tell me about them.

Moonman: Err well, yes, my ears get a little more pointed. My teeth also and I get just a little bit hairy to be honest.

Moongirl: You sound like a werewolf.

Moonman: And now you don’t want to know me anymore. So let’s just forget it.  I just ….

Moongirl: Stop. Nobody’s  perfect. Let me tell you the department I work in at the hospital, then you might understand why I also do the night shift. I work in the blood bank.

Moonman: Tell me more.

Moongirl: I never work on a full moon night, it gets complicated for me as well. I need that night for myself to get out and about meet people and get to know them closer.

Moonman: I think I know what you mean. Tell me do your teeth grow a little longer on those full moon nights. You do not have to answer that one if it is embarrassing.

Moongirl: you see we are soul mates. I think you know what I am.

Moonman: Sounds like a female vampire to me, but just joking of course.

Moongirl: I don’t joke about things like that. It goes too deep. Moonman I must meet you, my feelings for you are so intense after this exchange. Yes I admit it, I am a vampire.

Moonman: Ok, we meet on the next full moon night at the local park. We will have a ball I am sure. Just follow the howling and I will be there.

Moongirl: No problem moonman, I will fly to you. I love you Moonman with all my blood, teeth and vampire allure.

Moonman: I am longing to smell your breath and give you a complete lickover. I can be myself with you Moongirl, I am sure. I have at last found the love of my life. My lonely days are now over.

Moongirl: Just wait for me in the park. Oh the fun we will have together.

Weekly Challenge: Love in the 21st Century

Daily Prompt: The Artist’s Eye

Is there a painting or sculpture you’re drawn to? What does it say to you? Describe the experience. (Or, if art doesn’t speak to you, tell us why.)

Photographers, artists, poets: show us ART.

I was never really into art until I met Mr. Swiss. He paints, aquarells mostly, but also in oil. Me that cannot even draw a straight line married to a “hobby” painter. As a boy he had lessons from a painter and brought some very nice paintings into our marital home. We have paintings on our walls, mostly original Mr. Swiss paintings.

Now and again a painting might be bought as an addition so over the years I have learned to appreciate painting. I was always keen on visiting museums and art galleries when going to another town or country. I was fascinated by the Louve, saw Mona Lisa which was so protected by alarm systems, that you were lucky to see anything between the people stealing a glimpse of the lady with the strange smile. One of my Swiss nieces studied art and gave us a sort of private tour of a Georgia O’Keefe exhibition which once took place in Zürich. That is the lady that lives in the desert and likes to paint animal skulls and other things she finds in the desert sands. I quite like her paintings.

I suppose I am drawn to the surrealists basically. Salvador Dali, Miro, Man Ray etc. my favourite being René Margritte, although I am not really sure if he qualifies as a 100% surrealist. I am not here to discuss art, that is beyond my knowledge, I just know I like Margritte paintings especially this one.

magritte3

I like this one so much that I tried it myself with a little help from Photoshop and one of our neighbour’s felines. The feline goes by the name of Rosti, is not one of my felines favourites.

“Yes Mrs. Human, that is true. He is permanently treading on our territory and why you had to feature such a stupid cat as a work of Mrs. Human art, we do not know.” Spoke my feline trio infernal Nera, Tabby and Fluffy.

“Felines I am writing this blog, not you and the only art you understand is a plate of tuna fish or still life in the form of departed mice.”

“OK Mrs. Human, message taken. We will leave you to your blog ramblings.”

At last some peace and quiet. They have now circled into a sleeping dimension, so now I can continue. And here is my example of surrealism in the style of René Margritte with an apple, but this time with Rosti the feline.

roschti and apple

Being in Switzerland my attention was also drawn to the work of Meret Oppenheim. She designed a fountain for Bern, which I like very much (see link). I also had the pleasure to see her Fur Cup in the New York Museum of Modern Art. It is really an experience to see an original of work that you admire.

Meret-Oppenheim-fur-lined-tea-cup

So I decided to have a go with this one as well in Photo shop. Here is my humble result.

cup, spoon and fur

Not the original colour or texture, but I had to borrow some photos of my cat’s fur and colour them for the picture.

Of course I also appreciate the “old masters” especially William Turner, but surrealism seems to be the comfortable place for me in the art world.

Daily Prompt: The Artist’s Eye

Daily Prompt: Trains, Planes and Automobiles

You’re going on a cross-country trip. Airplane, train, bus, or car? (Or something else entirely — bike? Hot air balloon?)

Photographers, artists, poets: show us TRAVEL.

Waiting for the train Solothurn station

I have done a lot of travelling in my life, perhaps not worldwide on tramping expeditions, but enough to get from one place to the other. Today a cross country trip does not interest me so much: too much stress, on the go from morning to evening. It is, of course, much easier to travel from one place to the other, different as it was in earlier days. I can hop on a train at my local station and in ninety minutes or even less; I would be in Basel/Bâle on the Swiss border to Germany and France: been there, done that. The journey to Chiasso takes 4-5 hours and brings me to the Italian border. Switzerland is an island in the middle of Europe with super train connections everywhere. By car it is even easier. No waiting at the station for the next connection, just drive on the motorway and through the customs to another country.

We have a few airports, so the world is at your fingertips. I leave my home in the morning, board the plane in the early afternoon and am at my father’s house in the evening in London. The world has shrunk.

I would now take you back to forty six years ago. The first time I travelled to Switzerland. A job was waiting for me, a new place to live, a new country speaking a different language, and a different way of life. How did I arrive? Things were different in those days. Travelling by plane was an expensive journey. Luggage allowances were limited. I was twenty years old, did not have a lot of travelling experience, just a couple of holidays in Italy and Paris, all with a travel organisation. Now I was on my own.

I decided to travel by train. It was cheap and I could take as much luggage as I could carry.
The first part of the journey was boarding the train in London to Folkestone on the English coast. Mum and dad decided to accompany me on this part of the journey. Of course they had their worries. I think I was the only one that was not worried. I knew that the part to the English coast was the smallest step to take.

I arrived in Folkestone some time in the afternoon and transferred to the ferry across the English Channel from Folkestone to Calais. I was lucky as the sea was smooth enough and the journey took the usual ninety minutes. The next connection in Calais was by the night train, the Aarberg Express, to Basel. The train was already waiting where the ferry docked in. I went through a few customs formalities and there I was all on my own on the coast of mainland Europe in France.

I boarded the train. I had booked a couchette, meaning my compartment in the train would eventually become a travelling bedroom. The train departed around eight in the evening. At some time the conductor came along and showed us how to transform our compartment into beds. There was room for six sleepers, three bunks on one side and three on the other of the carriage. We were a mixed bunch; men and women, various nationalities, but this was my first big adventure. Did I sleep? I think so but not a solid sleep through the night. Now and again the train pulled in at a station, names like Lille, Metz and Strasbourg flashed up from the various stations.

I believe it was around six in the morning when the train finally arrived in Basel – I use the German name for the Swiss border town. I remember my first view of Basel being the Basel Zoo, the largest in Switzerland. Not that I actually saw the animals, but it there were posters nailed to the fence surrounding the zoo where the train passed.

My journey was finished?: no, not quite. I was entering Switzerland with a work permit and the Swiss do not allow anyone to arrive and go to work. You have to be certified as being healthy, meaning that a medical examination was necessary. Of course I had three days to report for the examination, but I was informed by the people in my Swiss job that it would be advisable to get it behind me at the border when I arrive. I arrived at six in the morning and the border control only opened at eight, so I spent a couple of hours wandering around, finding where the medical would take place, drinking coffee and having my first Swiss breakfast in the restaurant at Basel station.

Luckily the building for the examination was very near the station. When I eventually entered, I found I was not alone. There must have been at least one hundred people waiting, from all over the world. Arab countries, the states, other European countries, we all had to be examined and certified. This was a long while ago, but I still have a few memories. First of all they took my passport. Afterwards they took my blood and finally I had a chest x-ray. The Swiss did not want any tuberculosis being dragged into the country.

I was told to come back in two hours for the result.

“Huh! and what about my passport?”

The unfriendly answer “When you come back and everything is in order, you get your passport.”

“And if things are not in order?”

“Your problem.”

I returned after another long wait somewhere in a restaurant, feeling now very tired. I was clean, healthy and ready to go. They gave me my passport: no word of congratulations, nice to see you here. Just “now you can go”. I remember vividly a young American girl where they had found something on her x-ray. Her right of entry into Switzerland was refused. She was in tears; she had a job waiting for her and felt completely healthy. I am sure the results of her medical examination were true, but I really felt sorry for her.

I again went to the main station in Basel, where I boarded the train for Zürich. I arrived at Zürich station where the wife of my new boss picked me up in her car and took me to my new apartment, which was in the same house as she and her family lived.

I arrived around midday and lunch had been cooked for me. I remember unpacking and having a lay down on the bed. I fell asleep and awoke again at eight in the evening. Can you imagine, my internal clock was completely out of time.

This was my first cross country(ies) trip of a lifetime and I am still in Switzerland. A few other jobs and homes later, but I have arrived. I lived 20 years of my life in London and 46 in Switzerland: work that one out.

Daily Prompt: Trains, Planes and Automobiles