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“Now that I’m walking again to the beat of the drum” I cannot be more grateful that I have my little cave to escape to. There is, at least, joy to be found in the pinks and the blues and the green and earthy hues that drape my walls and windows and things, little hums of peace as I run my fingers over the rows of X’s adorning the duvet sheets and the rough threads patterning the sofa rug-turned-throw. The evenings seem so short, however…the day’s music goes on for far too long, far too jarringly.

Many times since I’ve returned to KL I’ve looked back upon Frankfurt as some of my happiest days. The surface contrasts are hard to deny. I miss the feeling of liberation one gets from meandering by foot about the city, choosing to settle on an empty bench if I wish, without fussing over a plan to Waze and park or Uber; the feeling of losing oneself without actually getting lost. I miss my old habit of looking up at the sky – if there is one definitive memory of Frankfurt for me, it is that of returning home after the sun has set, about to cross the threshold of my flat, hands stuffed in coat pocket, and then stopping in my tracks to look up and marvel at the countless stars – how vast, how clear, how beautiful.

But memory is a most unreliable thing, especially when viewed from the lens of present-day emotions. So many sayings, so much research tell us that memory is always relativised to the present. Our brain is not flawless, and often falls in thrall to our heart. The past is always a pretty story mainly because it’s no longer here for you to cross-examine. And therefore on occasion one feels like such an irrational overwrought thing, because you know you are pining for an abstract, a concept, and conveniently glossing over the day-to-day humdrum that, if remembered, would make a memory seem a lot less wondrous, and the present a lot more to be happy about, than it seems when one is sunk in the depths of stubborn despondence.

But then there’s the other side of the coin, isn’t there? Emotions colour how you experience life and love and everything else in between and beyond – and so they shape what you create, and they make what you create uniquely yours. My singing teacher has often told me – bring your day into your lesson, bring your life stories into your singing. Singing at 25 and 40 are different, not only because your voice physically matures but because how you see the world changes. As Rebecca Mead says – “All our loves, realised or otherwise – all our alternative plots – go to make us who we are, and become part of what we make.” A final word of comfort from Goethe in The Sorrows of Young Werther, through which I am currently midway –

“He values my understanding and talents more highly than my heart, but I am proud of the latter only. It is the sole source of everything of our strength, happiness, and misery. All the knowledge I possess every one else can acquire, but my heart is exclusively my own.”






Overhanging whoosh
Steady chugging down under
Me sandwiched between

Forlorn pink trash bag
Vending machine spits candy
People chatter on

Rows of red poppies
Bulky chunks of railway tracks
Basking in the sun

Marled coral rooftops
Poking through unbroken green
Cower beneath cranes

News of Manchester
Drifting past the countryside
Slightly incongruous


We got stopped by the police the moment we crossed into Bayern…

….but made a narrow escape with the sheer power of conversational wit (according to Julia).
Our car also screeched to a halt in the dark, deserted high street, because we were waylaid by a hedgehog.


We waded through dangerous waters…


…And then got stalked by a Mexican hiding in the shadows.


We had to survive in the wilds with nothing but a Swiss Army knife.


But through it all, we cooked ate drank talked sang walked; like we owned the whole world.


Because, you know – menschen leben tanzen welt.


A mother herds her little girl onto the the bus. The child is in some sort of dance rehearsal ensemble. Behind them, two girls enter the bus unaccompanied. They split – mother and child make their way to the back of the bus. The two girls swivel in the opposite direction. They settle into seats facing each other.

Barely a few heartbeats later, the first girl hurries down the aisle slides without a pause into the adjacent empty seat, smiling triumphantly at her pals, well pleased with herself. They sit there, not even talking. Just exchanging glances and secretive smiles. Maybe revelling in being cool enough to just hang out with friends, having broken free of close adult supervision.

So I’m learning Mozart’s Das Veilchen for singing lessons, and it turns out the lyrics are a poem written by Goethe – Sturm und Drang, romantic, tempestuous, pride-and-joy-of-Frankfurt Goethe. The poem is about a pretty little violet longing for the love and attention of a cute shepherd girl, and it ends in battered-person tragedy like this:

Ach, aber ach! Das Mädchen kam
und nicht in acht das Veilchen nahm,
ertrat das arme Veilchen.
Es sank und starb, und freut’ sich noch:
und sterb’ ich denn, so sterb’ ich doch
durch sie, durch sie,
zu ihren Füßen doch!

But, cruel fate! The maiden came,
without a glance or care for him,
she trampled down the violet.
He sank and died, but happily:
and so I die then let me die
for her, for her,
beneath her darling feet.

Which is funny because just a couple of days ago we were watching Black Mirror, Season 1 Episode 2, and this song, and Jessica Brown Findlay’s hauntingly plaintive rasp have been stuck in my head ever since:

You can blame me
Try to shame me
And still I’ll care for you
You can run around
Even put me down
Still I’ll be there for you
The world
May think I’m foolish
They can’t see you
Like I can
Oh but anyone
Who knows what love is
Will understand

I don’t condone the mindset in these songs of course, but I derive so much joy when life springs little surprises in the form of motifs like these.


February 2018
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