Advice to Writers of Any Age

Many years ago in my early days of blogging, while out on a walk with my son, he made a comment at that time which left a big imprint. It was quite a learning experience, not only for me as a parent, but for my writing as well.

Now more than ten years later, he works as a professional writer in London, and he sent me this.

Years ago as a young man my mother asked me to help her with an entry for her blog by taking photos. Though I don’t remember it well, I for whatever reason was annoyed enough by her request to say ‘Das liest doch eh keiner’ (German for ‘nobody will read that anyways’). As callous as the statement was in hindsight, my mother later told me that my bit of blunt honesty made her less self-conscious and restrained when expressing herself online.

Given how much of our communication online these days is scrutinized and policed by other users, the unintended impact my words had are perhaps more relevant than ever. Too often are we afraid to express our true selves for fear of repercussion. Too often are we worried about what other people will think or say.

If we don’t express ourselves as we are, though, then how can we really hope to ‘know ourselves’ as old adage from the oracle at Delphi goes? The more our lips are sealed, the heavier the burden of truth lays on our shoulders. The truth shall set you free.

Write, then, as if nobody will read it.

Speak, then, as if nobody will listen.

Express yourself.

Notes from London on an April Day in 2020

This guest post is written by Thomas Shipley, who is riding out the time of COVID-19 in London.

A fog shrouds the world outside my window. There is no one outside and all is quiet except for the chirping of the birds. Inside, I find myself in a haze of unreality. I am not in a Stephen King novel. I am not in a Quentin Tarantino film. I am in the year 2020. Wildfires ravaged the Australian bush, Trump almost started World War III, and now humanity is facing a global pandemic. Worldwide shutdowns of travel and business. London is under lockdown. I am, though, allowed to leave the house to go grocery shopping.

I step outside into the cool British spring. As I breath uneasily under my face mask, the condensation causes my glasses to repeatedly fog up. I am in the heart of London – a city of millions – and it is eerily still except for the occasional passerby. I get to the local supermarket. I see a frail old woman in an aisle that was once was fully stocked with items such as laundry detergent. The store clerk sadly tells her there is none. Panic buying. We are scared, so we forage like squirrels do acorns in order to survive the winter. No toilet paper or hand sanitizer anywhere to be seen. Many basic necessities lacking. Is it selfishness? Perhaps. Yet, it is hard to undo thousands of years of human evolution. The pandemic eats away at the polite façade of our social order. I discover that crises such as this bring out the worst and best in people.

Staying inside for days on end, I lose my sense of place and time. I catch up with old friends that I haven’t spoken to in a long time. We have long conversations and we laugh. We talk about the virus. It infects our conversations. I wonder how long the pandemic’s grip on our daily lives will last. How long it will be until I am again able to hug my family and friends, dance, commute, and travel. I scroll through my social media feeds. Everyone is posting memes to relieve themselves of the anxieties that we feel in these unprecedented times. And yet – they are not so unprecedented. I remind myself that such plagues have regularly upended our sense of normality for thousands of years. The Antonine plague in ancient Rome killed many around the stoic emperor Marcus Aurelius, and yet he persevered. None of this is new. This too, shall pass.

I am grateful that I have the luxury to remain inside and isolate. Grateful, that I live in a developed country with a robust health system. Grateful for each day that I get to experience on this earth. I do not wish for easy times, but that I am strong enough to brave them. This pandemic has exposed our vulnerabilities. We had forgotten how fragile our existence is. We must learn from this and prevent it from happening again.

Sun setting in London on 03 April 2020

A Good Reason to Travel

A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.

– Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. –

Bantry Bay, Ireland

Bantry Bay, Ireland

Cork Screws and 3 Things You Can Only Find in a French Supermarket

On the last evening of our three-day stay in Riquewihr, we had dinner at the Au Tire Bouchon restaurant. True to its namesake, it had an innovative display of old cork screws on the wall, mounted to an old Badminton board. And yes, dinner and service were good.

The cork screw industry must be doing well in France. There is a lot more wear and tear. Proof of this you see in the supermarket aisles. 🙂

cork screws

On the way back to Germany, we stopped in the French town of Wintzenheim at the Simply Market supermarket. I loved the aisles (yes, aisles) of red wine on display.

red wine

As we were passing the produce section, a blast of steam came out right from the shelving unit. I’d suppose this is to keep the produce fresh and moist. I’ve never seen this in a German supermarket.

keep veggies fresh

My daughter likes to eat walnuts, but all we get at our very big supermarket in Oberursel is prepackaged ones. I was surprised to see so many nuts for sale.

nuts

On the Road in Canada – Sailing in Lunenburg, NS

We booked four tickets on the Eastern Star for the afternoon turn, and the time we had on that boat was priceless.

The Eastern Star in dock

The Eastern Star in dock

The Eastern Star

The Eastern Star

The boat has some history and this is what the skipper told us (scribbled down in my notebook):

The boat, built in 1948, originates from Denmark. In its early days, it was mostly used for smuggling,  and also ran under three different names in three different countries.

Eventually the sailors were caught smuggling, and the boat was confiscated by the Halifax authorities in the 60s or 70s. The local authorities used it for a number of years until they auctioned it off.

The next owner had it for a few years until the boat suffered heavy damage in a storm. The insurance company paid for the storm damage, but not for the consequential damage (new flooring, etc.) He then went bankrupt and was forced to sell it.

The current owner bought it in the 90s.

My husband had sailed before and enjoyed getting his hands on the rope and wheel of the boat. The skipper and his crew woman got us involved (if we wanted to) and the whole ride was a lot of fun. The photo shows our son on the wheel.

helpers on board

helpers on board

We had picked an overcast afternoon, and we were glad to have brought extra clothing. There are extra blankets on board as well. Can you see the silver lining?

ocean

As we had boarded, we ended up sitting on the left side, which the skipper explained would be the low side going out. I had no idea what he really meant and just smiled. By the time, we were out on the ocean, I knew what low side meant. Similar to hanging on to dear life on a roller coaster ride. Well, not quite, but close enough. I had the time of my life!

As we were taking the bend and sailing back, we were advised to switch sides to sit on the high end. It had the advantage of having two free hands to take photos. On the way out, I had only used my hands to hold on and not slide through the railing. It was not quite like that, but it seemed this way at times. The flow of adrenaline was something else.

Nearing the shore, the skipper had to do his usual work and was able to tell us the boat’s story.

Eastern Star skipper

Eastern Star skipper

Lunenburg has a lot to offer and this is one place I would consider returning to. I might easily like new places, but I am very picky about the ones I would return to.

reaching the harbor

reaching the harbor

Lunenburg Harbor

– Raise your sail one foot and you get ten feet of wind.-
(Chinese proverb)

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