That golden hour

After a quite glorious autumn, we had our first proper snow here in Munich this last weekend and the nights have even been downright blustery. Seems ungrateful to complain about it, though, considering it’s been so beautiful thus far. And a stormy day can be delightful in its own way. Insert cliche about there being no bad weather just poorly planned clothing. 

Despite all of that – even after such an autumn and then several days of being completely overcast – there’s this unreasonable relief when the sun breaks out of the clouds and paints the sky so beautifully as in the photo above. The days are so short at this time of year that if you’re stuck inside in the early afternoon, you just might miss it. 

Didn’t miss this one, however. Far from it. This one was definitely savoured. 

Their brogues and their cheer and their utter joy


after all these years

I’ve connected with friends via social media and even met quite a few people face-to-face who I’d first connected with online. I was rather active on twitter back before it seemed to be mostly brands and marketing accounts, and between that and writing a tea blog, I made the acquaintance of quite a few of the no-longer-stranger sort of people who now inhibit my online village. It’s nothing particularly new, but it is funny when I’m asked where I know someone from and I sheepishly mention that we met via the web.
But this isn’t one of those stories. Not in the least. The guys on either side of me in the photo above are two geezers that I met back when we were all still kids. Not that I was particularly close to either of them back then, but thanks to social media being what it is they reconnected with mutual friends the way one does. Soon enough, we were similarly connected & there were the usual polite offers of, ‘Hey, whenever you’re in Munich, you should definitely get in touch.

Yes, of course. Like that was ever going to happen.

Well, it happened.

They flew in from Aberdeen for the weekend and I gave them my informal tour of Bavarian capital’s city centre. Of course there were libations and stories and political discussions and eventually a bit of the local fare. The afternoon became evening and the time somehow flew by as if we’d somehow been in contact all these years. It was that good. I could give you a list of superlatives about how intriguing and enjoyable the conversation was, but I’m not sure my words would do it justice.

We’d all heard about the horrible events in Paris the previous night. I suppose it might’ve been understandable if we were somehow morose or somber even, but I don’t think the thought ever crossed our collective minds.

Here were two guys – Jamie on the left and Martin on the right – whose lives were indescribably enriched by visiting our boisterous and slightly off-kilter art school back when we thought we’d figured it all out. Little did they know how much they’d brought to the table. That we world-wise and somewhat jaded American musicians and dancers and artists and writers had been just as grateful to meet these guys with their brogues and their cheer and their utter joy.

Of course the conversation veered to mutual friends we had lost. It was inevitable but somehow cathartic. They wanted more stories and I was happy to provide them. There was a tale they’d heard about something that I’d done at a funeral. I sheepishly assured them it was true. Guilty, as charged.

After safely depositing them back at their hotel, I walked the quiet streets back toward mine. What a curious and precious thing this is. All of it. Might sound cliche, but don’t take it for granted. Breathe in deeply and lean in. You’ll be glad you did.

My tail is wagging as I bound through the undergrowth


the leaves are beckoning

The sky seems to have moved in closer, and the day slams shut so much earlier. Knowing that sundown is creeping towards us makes me want to pack as much into those depleting moments of sunlight. 

The leaves that are left are somehow racing to the ground now – they pile up and make their annual bed. I kick them relentlessly and swear to myself that I’ve never enjoyed autumn as much as I have this time around. If I allowed myself, I’d just hold my photo-taking devices out in front of me the entire time I was out there. As if it were my first digital camera. Or even more preposterous: as if I’d never before seen the these changes of seasons. 

On these days, I’m like one of my dogs when it comes to going outside. I imagine the keys rattle and remember I promised myself a walk. I accompany me down the stairs and out into the crisp air and say repeatedly, ‘No need to take a photo of every single thing. You’ve captured that exact shot again and again and again.

Most of the time I can keep walking and stay focused on the moment. Most of the time. 

In German this season is called Herbst, which is a fine word. It rhymes with ‘flair‘ or ‘stare‘, which seems entirely fitting from my vantage point. So often I hear people whinging about the passing of warmer weather. Remembering how rainy fall days can be, they simultaneously dread the long cold days of winter. 

While I can intellectually comprehend what they’re talking about, I feel increasingly foreign in their company. I see the words form on their lips, but my thoughts are meandering outside into the already decaying foliage. My tail is wagging as I bound through the undergrowth. 

give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit


Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love – that makes life and nature harmonise. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one’s very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.

[Letter to Miss Eliot, Oct. 1, 1841]

George Eliot

This text was shared with me by one of my favourite people, who I only know via social media. She knows I adore autumn, and sent this excerpt of a letter along to me. Thanks Shirley!

I used to go into bookstores demanding to know why George Eliot wasn’t shelved in the Women’s Writers section – luckily, I think having such a section in a bookstore was a trend that came & went years ago. Now her & other women’s literature is thankfully shelved with everyone else’s. 

It’s a bit odd that the above-mentioned letter is known to have been written to Eliot, but the author of the letter was curiously left out. It’s a fantastic text, though. That someone thought of me when she read that means I must be doing something right.  

up up up the stairs in Verona

going up up up in Verona

going up up up the stairs in Verona (photo: Meredith Marek)

Straight from late summer into what feels like winter, we’ve somehow missed autumn entirely. The leaves are yellowed and fall magnificently, but the temperature is blustery.

My thoughts are down south in Italy where I’m sure it’s not only warmer but they’re eating particularly good ice cream while maneuvering the cobble-stoned streets.

One of the first things I like to do when I arrive in a city with any sort of hills, is to go up up up and find the nicest view of the place. The photo above was a moment where I thought, ‘People actually get to live here.

Considering I live in Munich, which is another place where visitors walk around and marvel at the wonder of living in such a beautiful place, I appreciate the novelty of the tables being turned for a change.

Yet here I am back home dreaming of exotic ice cream flavours and homemade pasta and the reflection of the sunlight on the water. We’ve got sunshine and water and all the rest of it hereabouts, but it’s somehow just not the same.


How did the American get on the roof of the toilet?


one of our local papers this morning

This blog has been only about refugees lately, and as much as I’m still obsessed with the topic (more on that another time), there’s so much else going on. Other things need to be dealt with. And quickly. 

For example: people climbing objects in public & standing on said objects. Like in the photo above. 

The headline reads: ‘How did the American get on the roof of the toilet?

My strong suspicion is that he climbed up there. The question they probably wanted to ask was: What on earth was he thinking when he decided to scale the toilet inside the tent at the Oktoberfest? Why indeed. 

Good question. 

It is the Oktoberfest. There are plenty of similar stories during these two weeks. 

The curious thing is this isn’t the only instance of something like this happening these days. Not just in Munich & not just during this exceptional time of year.

While scrolling through my feed on a social media site, which I choose not to mention by name, I saw a photo of a rather curvaceous woman naked from the waist down standing on a pay phone with multiple police officers below apparently trying to coax her to come down. 

Despite the outlandishness of the visual, my immediate reaction was, ‘Where did they find a pay phone? I’ve not seen one of those in ages.

Once I got over that shock, I could move on to the more pressing question. Specifically, why are people climbing atop such objects?

Is this part of the Zeitgeist & I missed the memo? Should I be climbing on things & belligerently refusing to come down? That’d certainly make this blog more entertaining at the very least. 

I’m not going to include the image here of the woman I’ve mentioned. Nevertheless, I’m confident if you type ‘naked woman on top of pay phone‘, you’ll locate it rather easily. But you should probably do that soon. My suspicion is the web is going to be flooded with this stuff before you know it. 

I assume we’re going to keep doing this until we like it


Louis insists he’s here to be of assistance

I’ve been laid up this week, which is why I’ve included the photo of Louis prepared to administer first aid. It’s been quite an interesting time to observe current events, and because of a lot of time on my hands, I’ve read my fill of op-ed pieces about the refugee crisis here in Europe

There are plenty of well thought out arguments about how the refugees should be more evenly distributed among all the European countries, and because I attempt to read sources from all across the political spectrum, I’ve also considered the argument that these refugees shouldn’t be coming here at all. 

As an outsider who’s chosen on his own volition to come here, I’ve given a lot of thought to what it means to be a German and a European, even. The demographic reality is that this is an aging population, and if handled correctly these refugees could foreseeably contribute to a society that is projected to one day be dramatically lacking in manpower. I’ve heard for years that the low birthrate here in Germany is sure to cause headaches for future generations. 

The political situation on the ground isn’t easy, though. I’ve read multiple accounts of how expensive it is to house each refugee, which is bound to irritate the proverbial man on the street. Watching the trains filled with refugees being welcomed so warmly here, you could already predict the people muttering under their breath that there isn’t room for everyone. There has to be a limit, right?

The new compound noun you can read in the media the last several weeks is ‘Willkommenskultur‘, which simply describes the welcoming culture that has been on display hereabouts. Even that can’t last, though. 

However, both sides of the debate about whether or not these people should be welcomed here are missing an important part of the story. We’ve known that this crisis was coming for a long time now. There have been boats full of people crashing into Lampedusa for years. Conventional wisdom says that nothing happens on an issue like this until push comes to shove. Well, now we’re being shoved. 

My understanding is that when refugees arrive on your shore or at your border, you’ve actually got to take them in. There are clearly logistical considerations and I’m incredibly relieved that it’s not my responsibility to manage such an intake of people. Yet these are people fleeing war torn countries. Are there people rushing in for better economic conditions than in their home countries? Could there be people arriving here with nefarious intentions? Of course. It’d be ridiculous to pretend that those aren’t obvious eventualities. They need to be dealt with.  

I appreciate living in a country where such things are dealt with. I assume we’re going to keep doing this until we like it.