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.

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.


Another chapter in the book of Fafa


Fafa in Strasbourg on the River Ill

The last week has been filled with adventures while my mother was in Germany. She made her annual European trip, which included a week in France, and then she and I met up in Strasbourg before our return to Munich

She loves Munich – as I’ve often mentioned here, we lived here in the early 70s – and at the end of her trip, I asked again if she’d seen enough of the Bavarian capital. Would she want to venture out & see more of the rest of Germany. Although she’s already seen so much of my adopted country and especially of this beautiful city, she insisted that there was plenty more she wants to experience. Not only other cities & regions she’s until now only read about but most importantly shed like to continue to venture out from Munich as a starting point. 

We both agreed that it’s not always easy living so far apart, but her regular travel thisaway makes it a bit more tolerable. Like so many other familes living on separate continents, technology also allows us to regularly communicate in real time. Unquestionably, it’s a second rate substitute, but it at least provides some alternative. 

So what exactly have we been up to? Well, the photo above is on a boat tour of Strasbourg. That’s the River Ill, so we were quite literally ‘illing’. We ate a lot of Bavarian food; it’s possible we even are the equivalent of our body weight in Schnitzel. 

I’ve written about her here: Happy Birthday Fafa, which also explains that’s a nickname she’s gone by since she was a child. 

Because she’s so regularly here, my mom has befriended quite a few people hereabouts. This means she arrives with a bit of an agenda to see and be seen. And because she’s so gregarious, there’s often a new crowd of admirers asking when she’ll be back. 

Ella and Louis pondering her return

A church door and a few thoughts about Prague


The door to the Church of Our Lady before Tyn

I’ve heard it said that when you get back from a trip & someone asks how it was, you’ve got a small window of opportunity to answer about your journey. Before long, their thoughts move on to what’s in front of you rather than where you’ve been.

So according to that logic, I’ve got to talk about Prague quickly before I’ve lost your interest.

My band Old Braunfels had a lot of fun while we were in the Czech capital. We played a lot and laughed even more. New songs were worked on and devious plans were hatched. Plenty of that will be covered here in future missives.

As beautiful as the city was, it seemed like the best parts of the trip were the conversations we had while we were walking around. Sometimes a change of scenery is just what you need for an infusion of creativity.

I’d hoped to learn a bit more Czech while I was there, but managing ‘excuse me‘ and ‘thank you‘ was about all I could master.

What else do I wish I could say in Czech?

Yeah, what’s up with all the 1 Krone coins? They’re like pennies in the US or Euro cents…no matter how hard I tried to spend them, they seemed to constantly be coming back at me. I might’ve even had a nightmare about the damned things.

We also saw a lot about Beer Spas…what on earth is that? Is it a spa where they serve beer? The photos made it look like the guests were bathing in beer. Is that a thing? Not that I bothered to find out. Was just rather curious.

This hopefully won’t be my only blogpost about Prague. More to come, I’m sure.



Tanz in den August

On the last night of April, there’s a tradition here that you stay up late & dance your way into the First of May. It’s something that apparently originated in medieval times or perhaps even farther back in history. What frivolity – all in the name of welcoming everybody to the month of May. Or May to everyone. 

So, I’ve been joking about dancing into August, hence the title of this post (Tanz in den August). Why the hell not?

We had a Blue Moon last night, and it was something special. What is that, anyway? When there are two full moons in a single month, the second is called the Blue Moon. A night of wonder, if you believe the hype. 

Onto a bit of news, since I’ve not been keeping things current here. 

This time last year, the band was in Berlin for a week. We had a different name, which shall go unmentioned, and fewer songs. This time we’re headed to Prague & hopefully I’ll be able to take the time to use this space to document our Czech shenanigans. 

Now we have a name everyone seems to like – we are Old Braunfels – and we’re getting into all sorts of trouble. If you see us in your town, you should really come check it out. A few dozen pleasantly surprised Bavarians can’t be all wrong in recommending us. 

Oh, we’ve also got a new member who sings quite beautifully & plays a mean violin. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. She’s called Violetta, and here she is with our favourite Jarrod:

Stay tuned. This is gonna be fun. 

At the Marienplatz in the wee hours


at the Marienplatz in the wee hours

Before even most locals are awake & certainly the tourists are still dozing, this might be the nicest time of day to be wandering through the streets of Munich.  

The light is certainly nice for photos, and there’s an expectancy in the air. What might this day in Bavaria’s capital hold in store for us? 

Why not start at the Marienplatz. There’s plenty of hidden Munich you can discover nearby, but here’s as good a place as any to begin your exploration. More soon on local things off the beaten track. 

Having cake and discussing which direction we’re all going


Box of pastries…carbohydrates a plenty

Although I’ve got writing assignments and plenty of other obligations, I realised recently that I hadn’t been keeping the horde of my readers up to date on what’s going on hereabouts. For one thing, Elaine came to visit and we continued our Cake Across Europe tour that we began last year in Palermo.

Oh, here’s a collection of what I wrote about all of that:

Palermo Posts

And here’s some of what Elaine made from that trip

Nobody’s Perfect. Even me

Alone and existential in Palermo – What to do?

It seems that while everyone else is cutting carbohydrates out of their diets, Elaine and I go the other direction when we’re together. Plenty of my friends and acquaintances are toying with variations of high protein/low carb eating. Listening to those who’re obsessed with the Paleo Diet, many of our modern health problems are directly related to the effect sugar has on us. The argument goes that because carbs turn to sugar, we’re better off decreasing them as much as we can.

While I’m not going to wade into that debate here, and it’s a tangent I’m not prepared to go onto at this point anyway, I will concede that Elaine and my cake consumption is not the ideal health choice we could make. If I thought anyone was mad enough to actually look to either of us for nutrition advice, I’d include some sort of ‘Don’t try this at home, kids’ warning. Luckily, that’s not a concern.

Instead, the thrust of our week together was brainstorming and planning for how we’re going forward with our online presence. Because at our age, we’re sandwiched between the generations of people who didn’t have any of this technology and the digital natives who have grown up with it all around them, we’re in a position to have watched the good and bad that can be created in an online community.

People get bent out of shape because of something that was said in response to a post on Feckbook, and things can so easily escalate into name calling and blocking and genuine bad blood. We see the power of curating content and believe that our wall or stream on various platforms is like our virtual neighbourhood. So an ongoing topic between us is what to do when people get unruly on your page.

When it’s a genuine exchange of ideas, both and Elaine and I can overlook a bit of invective. A bit. However, when it turns to personal attacks, there’s an advantage in editing out the more cruel voices. Is that suppression of ideas? Censorship?

Yep, it is. It’s my wall. Go pollute your own space with your poison.

I’ve watched carefully over the years how major media sources deal with readers comments. When users still have some ability to stay anonymous, it seems there’s more inappropriate behaviour, but even people using their real names can be schmucks.

So, I’m curious what experiences you’ve had with this. Have you altered the settings on your blog or social media platforms where comments have to be approved first? Do you even bother with such thoughts? What’s your position on this? Don’t be shy.