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Global Pen Pals

Letter 8 in our series.

Dear Ellen,

In your last letter you told me the amusing story about your grandchildren Anna and Ben having been promised a dog by their parents at the beginning of your summer holidays together in Maine if they didn’t fight for one year (!!!) and that the dog had been reduced to a goldfish by September. I wonder what is left now, at the end of October?! - Fighting children are a terrible strain on our nerves: I have vivid memories – and this was 30 and more years ago!! - of Sibyl and Meret fighting in the back of the car while I was driving and at the same time trying to calm down Ueli, who of course couldn’t understand what was going on, since he can’t hear, and who simply attacked the sister who was shouting the loudest with fist or toy regardless of the “guilt-question”!! I found that the best solution to stop the fighting was to spend holidays with friends who had children of a similar age, to travel more or less at the same time and to “mix” the children for the journey. I was very lucky to have friends with children exactly the same age as mine and the further advantage was that the children were also good friends and loved these holidays together.

I am happy to report that my Trigeminal Neuralgy has stopped torturing me and that – after seeing my doctor this morning - I can slowly reduce the anti-epileptical medication. One has to “creep” out of these pills because otherwise the trigeminal nerve might miss them and kick up again (putting this in totally non-medical language!). This I am very frightened of, as you can imagine. In any case the summer of 2006 was my “trigeminal summer”, meaning terrible attacks of pain and living in constant fear of them.

Last Saturday night I returned from a two-week holiday in Andalusia in the South of Spain. After visiting Granada, Cordoba and Sevilla and thinking a lot about the palaces and mosques we visited I have decided that my two favourite building styles are the Mudjar (Arabian) style in Spain and the Romanesque style above all in Italy, France and Switzerland. Both these styles are very harmonious and beautiful, but at the same time they are modest and the respective buildings don’t seem to have been erected with the aim of “showing off “as Gothic buildings do, for example the Cathedrals of Milano/Italy, Cologne/Germany and, although smaller, the Cathedral of Berne. These buildings are majestic, and of course they are magnificent, but they give me the impression of suggesting: Look at me! Admire me! I am a symbol of power! Quite the opposite is true of the Mudjar and Romanesque styles and maybe that is the reason they appeal more to me. Of course the different styles are strongly connected with a great number of things (religious and political movements in the pre-medieval and medieval times, technical progress etc etc), but this aspect of “modesty” and serenity struck me very strongly during these holidays. - Weatherwise we also had an interesting time: the first week we spent sunbathing and swimming in the pool of the Parador in Nerja. It was lovely and hot, really summery. In the second week we hired a car and travelled around visiting the above mentioned sights in heavy downpours and strong winds: in Spain autumn had started!!

Lazying around the pool in Nerja offered me the bliss of reading for hours – not just a few lines before dropping off to sleep!! I can highly recommend: Alice Munro: Runaway (not all of the stories equally), Tim Parks: Cleaver, John Banville: The Sea, and Julian Barnes: Flaubert’s Parrot. Have you read any of these books? It was very mixed reading, but they were all paperbacks (not much weight in my suitcase!!) and each book was fascinating in it’s own way.

Flaubert’s Parrot I read because Meret is directing Madame Bovary, drawn from the novel by Gustave Flaubert, in Freiburg im Breisgau/Germany coming spring. She is very busy this year. Before leaving for Spain I went to the opening night of “Mobil” by a famous contemporary Spanish dramatist called Sergi Belbel, in Hannover. It is all about the difficulty of communication, even or even more so in the days of “mobiles”.

Much love and looking forward to your next letter,

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