Tuesday, 3 August 2021

First Week Back

My first week back at work after the enforced break of six weeks went by in a whirlwind, and much smoother and more relaxed than expected. This was partly due to many of my clients/customers being on holiday right now, which generally slows the pace down a little every summer. Part of it was also because I made sure to take enough breaks for my eyes - if I do not send myself away from the computer screen, nobody else will!

But before that week started, there was the weekend. It was cut short by a few hours because O.K. had to leave mid-afternoon on the Sunday instead of the evening, as the village band were to play on the square in front of the village hall to mark the election of a new mayor.

Both Saturday and Sunday were rather unsettled, with the weather frequently changing between sun and rain, plus some thunder thrown in for good measure. We still managed to get a run in on Saturday morning (the first in I don't know how many weeks!) and a walk in the afternoon, again at the palace grounds.

The Orangery (greenhouse) usually shows one or two exhibitions every summer. Right now, it presents all sorts of waterlilies and other water plants. Did you know that in German, waterlilies are called Seerosen - literally "lake roses"? Admittedly, they do not really look like roses, but I like the name nonetheless. Here are a few impressions of that exhibition:

After O.K. had left on the Sunday, I spent the evening quietly, mentally getting ready for the following day.

That Monday went, as I said, smoother and much better than I had expected. A mix of sun and rain made for a beautiful double rainbow in the evening, as seen from my kitchen window:

On Wednesday afternoon, RJ (my boss and employer) came visiting - we had not met in person for about a year! There were a few work-related things I wanted to discuss, which of course we could have done over the phone and/or computer, but the main reason for his visit was the large screen he brought for my desk. Of course, that screen would have been very welcome all of last year, and would have made work a lot easier for my eyes, but never mind - now it is set up and connected to the small notebook you can see to the right. It belongs to my biggest client, and I spend most of my work day at it. The laptop on the left is the one I use for all my other work.

Thursday was the most beautiful day in a long time - completely dry, just sunny and warm, not hot. I went for a lunch time walk with a friend I had not seen in about 8 weeks, and it was very good to catch up with her. 

After work, I went for a good walk on my own, two 1/2 hours straight. I took these pictures, of the fields and orchards looking as if it were already mid-August instead of the end of July.

One last picture for this post, taken on the 31st of July near O.K.'s village. There are many fields of sunflowers in the area, but this one I particularly liked with its half-abandoned look.

Now I am on the 2nd day of the 2nd week back, with a check-up scheduled with my eye doctor this morning. It is now three weeks since the 2nd operation, and I am doing very well with my provisorial specs.

Right, time to get some breakfast and catch that train to Stuttgart!


  1. I am glad you are feeling so well and not having any trouble with your eyes. You have been cautious and taken good care of yourself. Glad you are enjoying more hikes and outings and good that work is going smoothly. Take care!

    1. Thank you, Ellen! Indeed, if I do not make sure my eyes get some rest in between meetings and other tasks, nobody else will - it's up to me.

  2. Sunshine, rainfall, thunder, a double rainbow ...
    And the Orangery with waterlilies or lake roses.
    Your world is a beautiful place, and new each day.
    We are all glad to learn that your eyes feel well, three weeks after your second operation. It has been a long road.

    I hope you keep remembering to look away from the computer screen, at regular intervals.
    Reading books and newspapers never gives me eyes dry, only my laptop screen, which I only use for educational and recreational purposes. My friends all do Zoom and emails.

    In Scotland the summer has been exceptional.
    I kept out of the blazing sun, only walking in our humid evenings.
    A church nearby, Saint Simon's, was destroyed in a fire.
    It was 160 years old.
    I made my First Communion there, around 1957 or so. Another world.
    Jack Haggerty

    1. My world is indeed a beautiful place, and I am very much aware of how lucky I am in comparison to millions of others. I never cease to be grateful for all that is good in my life.

      I pace my working day so that I do other things in between meetings and tasks that need the computer. Even if it is something as banal as putting the washing on the clothes horse; that takes about 10-15 minutes but provides a good reason for getting away from the screens.

      Sorry to hear that the church was destroyed in a fire. Do they know what caused it?

    2. We are awaiting the Fire Chief's report: the church is small inside, and the priest's house, built of the same old stone, is next door.

      My Aunt Ginetta had her Requiem Mass in Saint Simon's.
      It was a bright cold day in early June, not a cloud in the sky.
      People came from Livorno, where she was born.
      I remember Ginetta's granddaughter Adriana sobbing throughout the Mass.

      The priest belonged to a missionary order, and was returning to Africa.
      He said it was the Feast Week of Saint Catherine of Siena, the patron saint of Europe, and a doctor of the church.
      Jack H

    3. I remember my visit to Siena (among other places in Tuscany) in the summer of 1985 very well. We had a guided tour of the cathedral, where Catherine's mummified head is shown in an ornate case with a glass window. I never quite understood that obsession with body parts etc., but each to their own.

      Your Aunt Ginetta's life sounds like it could make a great book.

    4. Your Siena experience must be a treasured memory.
      Architecture, food, wine, gelata, morning coffee ... and you speak Italian !
      I did not know they had Saint Catherine's head on display: gruesome.
      I never understood the body relic fetish either.
      Praying to a saint for intercession (anathema to a reformed Protestant) is one thing.
      Praying with the aid of Therese of Lisieux'a fibula is another !
      John Calvin (aka Jean Cauvin) expressly asked to be buried in an unmarked grave because he wanted no shrine, and forbade the use of the term Calvinist.
      He stayed at home one winter day, hoping to see his dying child smile one last time, not quite the grim dictator of Geneva he is made out to be.
      Karl Barth said he could spend the rest of his life reading Calvin.

    5. I should have written Gelato.
      Though I have never eaten ice cream outside since childhood, I have memories of gelato and caffe in Marine Ices in Chalk Farm, London (est. 1931).
      In 2014 they moved from Haverstock Hill to smaller premises.
      Often there were waitresses from Tuscany working there.
      Morelli's Gelato in Covent Garden is a fourth generation family business.

    6. One of the things that I remember most about Siena was the marble sculpture of a sleeping child, by Giovanni Duprè, in the museum near the duomo. I don't know why this sculpture spoke to me in such a particular way, but I have never forgotten it and still can recall how I felt back in 1985, standing in that quiet niche and looking down on the child.
      You can see the sculpture here:

    7. Giovanni Dupre: His rendering of Cain (killer of his brother Abel) at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg is as convincing as any of the violent figures in Caravaggio. As a child I lived across from the Kelvingrove Galleries and saw paintings and sculptures like this. Today I live in the same neighbourhood.

      There is another copy of Dupre's Sleeping Child at the Courtauld Institute, London.
      The girl's posture is like a living child's, isn't it?
      She reminds me of the Gospel of Mark 5, the Lord raises the daughter of Jairus.
      *The child is not dead but asleep. Talitha, koum !*

      Dupre's Cain, like Caravaggio, reminds me of the Turkish composer Fazil Say (born Ankara 1970) who has opposed the authoritarian drift of his country.
      Listen to one of his turbulent compositions on YouTube:
      *Camille Thomas and Stephane Deneve - Say: Concerto for Cello and Orchestra: II.
      Terror - Elegy.*
      November 13 2020. Deutsche Grammophon.

      Camille Thomas is Belgian and is one of the most gifted cellists since Jacqueline du Pre.

    8. Funny how you perceive the child as a girl, while to me, it has always been a little boy.

    9. Looking again I think the child is a boy.
      In those days boys grew their hair long, though St. Paul condemns long hair in men: Paul after all was a Roman citizen, albeit a Jew from Asia Minor.

      Strange. When I read your comment, I had a distinct sense of deja vu.
      As if we had discussed Giovanni Dupre's sleeping child long long ago.
      Yorkshire-born J.B. Priestley wrote a play, *I Have Been Here Before*.
      I saw a television version with Anthony Valentine. It's all about deja vu.

      Priestley was influenced by Jung and Ouspensky.
      I am sure Neil and Tasker have seen the bronze statue of Priestley in Bradford.
      J.B. was a kind of magician. Blown up in the First World War, and survived.

    10. When you mentioned Siena in your first comment to this post, I was certain that at some stage I had been talking about the Sleeping Child before. Maybe we were both reminded of it by a post on someone else's blog we both read; maybe Neil or Tasker or someone else has written about Siena.

    11. Synchronicity is an idea that fascinated Jung.
      Synchronicity in Siena, with Dupre's sleeping child, is like an Italo Calvino story. Or maybe a post by Tasker or Neil !

      Though I enjoy ideas I would not want you to think I am a mystagogue.
      I am with Richard Dawkins in trusting empirical science.
      I would go to cognitive science before the (charlatan?) Ouspensky.

      Priestley was an imaginative artist. He was buried alive in the trenches.
      I think his play refers to something other than eternal recurrence, perhaps that the scientific imagination can make deductions ahead of experimentation.

      Freud pleaded with Jung not to go down into 'the black mud of occultism'.
      But Freud recognised that imaginative writers (Goethe, Priestley) do so anyway.
      Harold Bloom, a great critic, immersed himself in Gnosticism.
      John Henry Newman said the trouble with mysticism is that it begins in mist and ends in schism. Newman's faith allowed him to be a rationalist and sceptic.

      Two great science books.
      *The Trouble With Physics*, Lee Smolin, who taught pioneering physics at Yale.
      *Helgoland* by Carlo Rovelli, about Werner Heisenberg who made the kind of deductions I mentioned above, about quantum physics. A short, exciting book.

      If you have never read Helen DeWitt's *The Last Samurai*, be assured; it is not a historic novel, but rather an exploration of mind and learning, in the life of a child and his mother who guides his reading.

      *Helen DeWitt's First Time* The Paris Review (YouTube) looks at the struggle she had to get her original first novel published.

    12. Oxford Uni Press have little books by scholars on every subject: durable paperbacks with fold-back covers (the French-flap since the French innovated it).

      *Cognitive NeuroScience* by Richard Passingham.
      *Philosophy of Science* by Samir Okasha.
      *Systems Biology* by Eberhard O Voit.
      *Hermeneutics* by Jens Zimmermann.
      *Mathematical Finance* by Mark A Davis: beyond my pay-grade, but enthralling.

      Other books in this series I have ... German Philosophy, German Literature, French Literature, Wittgenstein, Habermas, Psychiatry, Schizophrenia, the Cold War etc.

      Sequence (Urbanomic) are similar in appearance.
      *Synthetic Philosophy of Contemporary Mathematics* by Fernando Zalamea is one of the most difficult and absorbing books I possess, again beyond my pay-grade.

      The Sequence logo shows a bewigged man of the early 18th Century holding up a mirror to a goat who is dressed as a man and stands on two legs.
      Very telling.

    13. Thank you, Jack, for all these recommendations - forgive me for not following up on them; there are simply not enough hours to the day for so much reading.
      But as you mentioned Richard Dawkins, let me just say that I have read a few books by him and enjoyed each one very much.
      That series from Oxford Uni Press sounds like it is well worth collecting.

      For now, let's move on to other topics and other posts.

  3. Well, better late than never as far as the big screen goes. I do like your photos...such lovely places to walk. That middle sunflower in the last photo does look like it is keeping an eye on you. Hope the healing continues to go well.

    As an aside, you are now located nearer one of my sons than me. He's in Germany for three weeks (military). In fact, I think he has meetings in Stuttgart coming up. Today is his birthday--one he shares with one of his sons who turns 4 today. Daddy has a zero after his #4 now. :) He is on the base where my family lived for three years back in the early 60s (was there when the Berlin Wall was being built), but he can't visit my old apartment building...all gone. Funnily, I still remember our address.

    1. There are things anchored so firmly in our memory that we never forget them, such as your example with the old address from your time in Germany.
      Is your son at Patch or Robinson? Those are the remaining military places in or around Stuttgart, as far as I know, but I have never been to either of them. An American friend of mine who was part of the US military still goes there for shopping at the US supermarket on the base, and every now and then he brings me a huge jar of peanut butter :-)

    2. Ramstein. Has to drive over to Stuttgart for meetings.

      Thumbs up to your friend for bringing you PB. :)

    3. That's 200 km driving for meetings! Can't they do them virtually, like we all have been doing for the past 1 1/2 years? Maybe not, when military things are involved.

  4. I really felt that being part of your 'diary' was a remarkable privilege. We've been friends in Blogland for many years and as I get older having such friendships become more and more important as my friends in 'real' life keep dropping off this mortal coil.

    1. Graham, our friendship is important to me, too.
      My diary is really only the briefest of glimpse; there is still loads I could write about but do not have the time for, and even more that will never make it to this blog, as I prefer to keep some things private (mainly out of consideration for others involved).

  5. Better late than never Re. the large monitor, unless switching from medium to large and back again causes you some grief. Those are remarkably lovely lake roses and the ponds look so clean and tidy.
    Glad you are back at your work desk and things are going well.

    1. The switching from medium to large is no trouble, as the two screens I use out of the three are set up so that I have the proper distance to them.
      The ponds in the greenhouse are only temporary; there will be other exhibitions there without any water features.
      Things have been going well so far - still, I did enjoy that long break!

  6. I love the first water lily image - the pink-orange ones. Such an unusual colour. (I've only seen white, yellow and red water lilies.) I did not know they are called Seerosen in German. In Swedish we call them 'näckrosor'. I think to do with 'Näcken', a water spirit. (Nixe in German, I think - in English nixie.)

    1. PS. Sounds good that you got a bigger screen for the small notebook! I have my laptop set up with a bigger screen in my study and very rarely use it anywhere else.

    2. The blueish water lilies were most unusual, too.
      As long as I am working from home for that client, the small notebook will not be moved around. But when I will at some stage return to my office in their building, I will plug it in there, where it is also connected to a large screen.

  7. I'm so happy to hear that your return to work has gone well. You are wise to not overdo it at the computer, especially at first. It's nice that you have a larger monitor now even though you could have used it sooner! Those waterlilies are so pretty. That is something I don't see too often here. Please take it easy while your eyes get back to normal!

    1. I need to be firm with my clients; yesterday, a meeting was taking longer than scheduled, and after I had said twice that I really needed a break from the screen now, the client finally wrapped up the meeting.

  8. Three screens! When I was still working, you were a show-off if you had two! Pleased to hear the eye situation is positive.

    1. Well, they are different clients/customers so their data must not be mixed. And out of the three screens, I only use two.
      I've been for a checkup yesterday morning and my doctor says all looks very well, I just need to make sure not to overdo it over the next few weeks.

  9. It's amazing that you managed to create this splendid blogpost before setting off to Stuttgart. That new monitor should make a big difference to eye strain. Glad to hear that the transition back into work was better and easier than you had feared it might be.

    1. Most of my blog posting happens early in the mornings. While I do not like getting up early per se, I prefer getting up early enough to have plenty of time with no need to rush about. The day itself will bring enough rushing without a stressful start.
      The new monitor is good! When I have a video call with only one other person, it is as if they were sitting across the desk from me, life-size.

  10. Good to read that everything is ok. I bought a larger screen when I changed my PC and initially thought it was too big, but its not, and it does make a big difference.

    1. I prefer my desk not to be so full, but it really helps, so I am not complaining :-)