Old and new connections

An old story. Because the world is in turmoil, is always in turmoil and inbetween all the sad things that are happening everywhere it is important to remember that there are just as many, or maybe even more, beautiful things happening. Often it is in small things, in small encounters.
An old story because a friend told me that somebody she knows is on her way to a place where I spent half a year of my life, on the border between Slovakia and Hungary, being a Bridgeguard but in a mental way. Creating new connections while moving inbetween different worlds, often literally moving inbetween different countries. “So wonderful how we are all connected to and through places and people somehow” I wrote to my friend and to her friend, on her way to where I once was, I wrote: “Be careful when you arrive, they have strange Easter rituals over there!” I tried to find my writing, 13 years ago, about how at Easter they ring your doorbell and when you open, sprinkle you with perfume or water, and how you are in danger of being gently whipped with young branches but I couldn’t find it on my BridgeGuard blog. I did find some other stories I had almost forgotten. This is one of them:

12/04/2005 (Sturovo, Slovakia, next to the Danube with Esztergom, Hungary, at the other side of the Maria Valeria Bridge, on the other side of the Danube)

I didn’t know him at all. And here I was, eating his biscuits, drinking some strong homebrewn liquor. Wondering who put the fresh flowers on his table. Admiring the small painting which reminded me of Francis Bacon. I was looking straight into a young man’s mouth.
He told me he had been fighting in France in the Second World War. There was a moment he considered the option of fleeing to Belgium. But he couldn’t get the image of his parents out of his head. He had to return, if only to see if they were still alive. They were then. But not anymore. Of course. He was 84 now. Still living in Sturovo.

I had been on my way to the other side. But things don’t always turn out the way you plan them. I filmed a garden behind a long wooden fence. At the end of the fence, a man stood in his doorway. If you film somebodies property and he invites you in, you can’t refuse. Besides, if you are on your way to the other side, a chance meeting can’t be a coincidence.
He poured us another drink. It was three o’ clock.

He used to be a “menegdzser” (read this out loud and you will know what the Hungarian word means). He travelled at a time when most people couldn’t. He had been in Amsterdam before I was born. Before my mother had even kissed a boy without any other intention than to tease him. He tried to find the name of the hotel he had stayed in during his days in Amsterdam. But the memory was buried under other memories. When you are 84 they pile up. Hide themselves between more recent ones. He took a new one. “Julia, wie Julia Roberts. Sie ist acht Jahre alt.” He got that look in his eyes grandparents get when talking about their grandchildren. When you can’t walk as fast as you used to, they do the running for you. Maybe even the living.

At four 'o clock she walked in, Julia, just like Julia Roberts. She brought her aunt with her. I knew her. She had brought me beautiful flowers once. Probably from the same garden that got me into this house.

She offered me some homemade cookies. They were delicious.

(image from Biological Graffiti, planting flower bulbs to mark my territory)


Found and lost

The policemen with big guns on my daily route are new. I pass a van and three vigilant men when I am approaching the train station. The entrance to the park a bit further down the road is blocked completely. The Catalan Parliament building is situated in the park. I sometimes take that route back home but clearly not today.

The jacarandas are blooming. Under the trees small delicate flowers form a pink carpet on the square. The space next to the old Roman city wall is empty. The young homeless guy who was there all winter moved a while ago but I still expect to see his improvised bedroom when I pass the big hole inbetween the tall buildings where he had made himself at home. Just after he left there were still two small suitcases in another corner, not hidden very well. They disappeared at some point.
In Barceloneta, the area closest to the sea, I find a coin on the sidewalk. I want to pick it up but it is glued to the tile. I never saw it before but it might be because I often look up here, at the laundry hanging from balconies. Sometimes a sock comes floating down.

The first beach bar has opened. Earlier in the week they were still constructing them. I will miss the empty beach and the silence. The cleaners are out already to remove the trash tourists left on the beach. A man with a metal detector is looking for treasures. I know where mine is. That is why I walk here most days early.

From a distance I see something lying at the spot where I usually sit down to look at the sea. It looks like a book, it has Chinese characters on the cover and seems to be a menu from one of the nearby restaurants but when I open it, I only see empty pages. It is a notebook with the first pages torn out. There are four old photos inside. The first one shows an outdoor swimming pool with five children. On the next one a young man is lying in a playpen, either fixing something or pretending to be a baby. In the third one he is on his knees in an oldfashioned interior, staring at what looks like a big radio or heater. His tie is almost touching the floor, I can only see the back of his head. The fourth one is the most intruiging one. A beach scene. A sunny day, five people lying under a parasol and a woman in the foreground in the straight sun, surrounded by shoes and clothes. I am not 100% sure but it looks like the photo was taken from where I sit now. Before the big W hotel was built. Did somebody leave this here on purpose? Was it lost?

I walk down the beach. A small stack of stones is waiting to be taken by the waves. A single rose is stuck in the sand close to the water, its petals gone. They probably have no connection whatsoever, the notebook and the piled up stones and the flower but if I wanted to, I could make a sad story out of it.

I won’t. Because I don’t know the facts and anyway, it would be a far too romantic story to be interesting. The really sad story is elsewhere. And so are the facts of that story. There is no romance to it, only useless suffering. I always wonder if people walking along the boulevard take notice of it. It is a metal sculpture with a text and a digital number on it. The number changes. Every time when I pass it I hope it is the same. But often it isn’t. Today it says “2018 : 497”. It is the number of people who have drowned in the Mediterranean this year. There is a text in four languages. “This is not just a number. These are people. The Mediterranean, a meeting point of cultures and civilisations, has now become an enormous mass grave for thousands of people without shelter who were seeking protection. We do not know their names or their personal stories, but we do know how many they are. We would like to count them, so we can pay tribute to them and never forget them.”


The power of sound

It is only a big concrete-mixer in front of the building that is being renovated across the street. No need to feel anxious. But it sounds similar to the noise of police helicopters circling around in the area close to my home whenever the Spanish government does something the people here don't support and they go out on the streets to let their voices be heard. Every time I get immersed in my work I forget it is only a concrete-mixer. And have to remind myself and look out of the window when I start feeling a bit nauseous again. Intruiging how you get conditioned so quickly and how the memory of sound makes your body respond before your mind realises what it is and changes how you feel about it.


It is always time to love

Where did it go? I stayed up until 3 am to see where it went but in the moment I kept my eyes on the time in the left corner of my computer screen to see when 02:59 would change into the next hour, it had gone already. It is stored somewhere and will be returned in the fall. An hour had vanished, the time had changed but times aren’t really changing. In 6 minutes and 20 seconds 17 young students were gunned down, one of their classmates made it tangible by being silent for 6 minutes and 20 seconds during a speech she gave at the March for Our Lives yesterday. The Brazilian politician and activist Marielle Franco died in an instant. Life on earth has lasted at least 3.5 billion years. When I was asked earlier this week what I would do if I only had an hour left to live I wrote down the first thing that came to mind: nothing. None of the other answers that were given seemed more appealing to me, apart from maybe “making love”.



They are so vulnerable. The leaves break off so easily. I try to be careful when I move the plants or water them but it is almost impossible to not lose some now and then. Sometimes some leaves fall behind the pot and lie there in a dark corner for a few weeks. They don't give up easily though. The leaf creates new roots and forms new leaves, turns into a new plant. Vulnerability is a strength.


The woman without baggage (Part 2, in progress)

Of colour                

Sometimes she raised her hand, when early in the evening
The sky had this particular colour blue
And I was never sure if she was pointing up
Or tested where the wind came from
Or was about to ask a question

Almost like a dance move
But never moving her feet
And looking straight ahead into the distance
Never up, or down

Last time I saw her do it was in early spring
The evenings were still cold then

Sometimes she looked me in the eye  
After her hand had landed, heavily, after          
she was silent for a while and asked

Do you want a beer?
Or: how was your day today?
And sometimes: what are you doing tomorrow?
Shall we go somewhere?

She had come a long way, she said
and she showed me her maps
Glued against the window to keep the light out at daytime
Pinpricks across three continents
Which didn’t make sense to me until she asked me to stay one night
and I saw Orion


She held her breath

Leaving is easy
She said
Look at me
And she shot herself in the head
With an air gun
Air as in air guitar


In her cloudless eyes

i saw animals chasing each other in the sky tonight she said
a snail being followed by a dragon being followed by a bird
a big white rabbit was hovering over them
when i looked again the snail had turned into a person
and the dragon and the bird had become dogs, howling
the rabbit had thrown its head in its neck
it was real she said
it was real i said i saw it too


he tickled her under her feet
she didn’t laugh
callus, she said



An insignificant puncture made by a pin or similar point.
A mildly annoying wound or damage.


A day

I saw animals chasing each other in the sky late at night.
A snail being followed by a dragon being followed by a bird,
a big fluffy white rabbit was hovering over them.
I wanted to take a photo but they had already changed.
The snail had turned into a person
and the dragon and the bird had become dogs, howling.
The rabbit had thrown its head in its neck,
as if it was dying.
Why take a photo of that?

I had taken a photo of the panther in the porch across the street early that day.
Only it wasn’t a panther, just a blanket covering a homeless person.
But when I watched the blanket being folded later on it wasn’t a homeless person at all.
It was a young couple, nicely dressed, saving money for who knows what.

The bumblebees on the balcony where real.
Two of them, slowly plunging themselves into the hearts of the flowers that had appeared mysteriously one day in March.
Traces of the person who lived here before I did. Who sat on the balcony to watch the world like I do now.

In the afternoon the road was blocked.
Groups of elderly people walked in one direction to join the crowd in front of governmental buildings to protest, accusing the government of squandering money while they don’t get a decent pension.
Some time later there was a big march in the other direction.
Young and old people protesting against the government trying to reduce the importance of Catalan in education.
I wasn’t sure if it was a different protest, a different manifestation but the opponent they were speaking out against was the same.
After the people were gone and the roadblocks were removed the helicopters were still there.
But they were gone by the time the animals appeared.

(Two days after I wrote this I found a map online with the meaning of the names of different countries. Spain means: land of many rabbits)



I saw Elvis. He was running a marathon. He was wearing what looked like blue suede shoes. And his iconic white suit. He only had another 5 kilometers to go. His black hair was impeccable.

Around 11.30 it was mainly single men. Small groups now and then. The fastest ones. Their passing in front of my balcony was announced by big drums a couple of hundred meters down the road. After 12 there was a continuous stream of runners. Some of them had wheels instead of legs.

A man dressed like spiderman passed by, in full costume, his head completely hidden, sweating like a maniac. The people along the road were cheering, some of them waiting for friends and loved ones, carrying banners with names on it. Some were there for whomever passed, trying to keep them going, putting almost as much energy in their cheering as the runners put in their quest.

I always find it touching to watch. Friends sticking together and adapting their speed to the slowest one. A young boy running along with his mother for a short stretch of the route. A man with a running buggy, I couldn’t make out if there was a baby in there asleep, hidden under the blankets. A man running with his guide dog. Two young guys with a cardboard sign and bottles of massage oil, ready to treat anybody's tired leg muscles.

What I first thought were a father and son running hand in hand were two men connected by a small piece of rope they were both holding. The young man was blind or had bad eyesight and his older running partner kept him on track. The man in the golden cape wasn’t pretending to be a super hero. It kept him from getting undercooled. He just came out of an ambulance and was escorted to a taxi where two of his running mates were waiting for him, neither of them would cross the finish line.

Around two the pace had slowed down. Most people were walking, some of them still making running movements with their arms and legs but moving in a speed that was probably slower than their normal walking speed. Slow motion runners. The audience had thinned out as well but some of them didn’t give up either. They knew they were needed.

More than 17.000 people passed. I don't know who won. I bet most people felt they did.