Category Archives: Biography

Do you work?

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Date: Friday, March 27th, 2015

Place: Bus stop in Richmond, Greater London, UK

An older woman (and I am not that young anymore) started to chat to me. Either she was bored or she felt benevolent and wanted to suss out other people’s opinions. Whatever had led her to be friendly changed when she heard my accent. I am Austrian. Sometimes people note a Dutch accent, if they are in a good mood they believe I am French. I never had a thick German accent.

So, after her sensitive ears had been offended by my foreign accent, and she had found out that I was not a tourist, her first question was “Do you work?”.

I was speechless. After 18 years as British resident, this was the first time I had been asked this question, a question that implies that either we foreigners are spongers and jobless or are taking away British jobs. She peppered me with this question. So I stuttered, but found my composure again and told her firmly that I worked in Higher Education and had helped and taught  countless British and foreign students. I wanted to convince her that I was a valuable member of society, even as a foreigner who had invaded her little England.

During the short conversation her body language changed from friendly (when she did not realise that I was a foreigner) to defensive (foreigner alert!) to embarrassed/submissive when she realised that I was a valuable working member of society that educated the British youth.

During the last two or so years my status has changed from EU citizen to EU migrant. I do feel this. London is a bit different. It is multicultural and full of people from all over the UK, the former colonies, foreigners who work over here, EU citizens from the old and the new member countries, refugees, visitors.

My status as a migrant makes me into a third class citizen. As an EU citizen I was at least a second class one. First class is only for the indigenous people, preferably white and English (Anglo-Saxon, Norman). As a third class citizen, people assume I might be from a poorer EU country like Poland or Romania. They believe that I take away their livelihood and abuse Britain’s NHS resources. I must note here that countless English bathrooms would still be full of mould and carpets, if Polish craftsmen and builders had not changed the English bathroom and kitchen culture for the better.

The anti-migrant and anti-EU rhetorics of the Tory government and  the rise of UKIP have made me, the (EU) migrant,  feel less welcome and more uncomfortable. For the last 18 years Great Britain has been my home. The future will show, if the UK will expel me or I will leave voluntarily or I will stay in this still rather freedom loving, open and interesting country.

Music: Klumzy Tung and Beardyman “Little England”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fCbnLFvQIo

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Aunt Rosa

dscf2126-2

My grand-aunt Rosa lived as a lodger with a rather scary old woman. I loved aunt Rosa. When I was a child she was already well in her late 60s or early 70s, a kind old woman with platinum blond hair, red fingernails and the face of a lovely little monkey. She had an unforgettable spirit, much energy and showed great generosity. Aunt Rosa took regularly the Orient Express to Bucharest visiting her friends and relatives there and in Sibiu, and smuggling stuff out of Romania in her apricot coloured big bustier. No customs officer dared controlling her bust or underwear. She frequently provided us children with colourful rahat or Turkish delight, hazelnut or chocolate halva, pan flutes, very dry figs and dates, oriental sweets and strangely dressed dolls and wooden toys. She provided us with a mixture of oriental and occidental culture and told us tales from the past, the beginning of the 20th and the end of the 19th century. She died when she was 97, after a rich and fulfilling live on her own and with a husband ten years her junior, a first violinist in a theatre orchestra, who had perished when she was sixty.

We did not go to our grand-aunt’s place very often. She regularly came to see us and had always a present for everybody. She brought cakes made with 10 duck eggs or rich chocolate tarts that contained enough butter and cream to feed a whole village. Only twice visited we her place, a separate part of the flat belonging (or not belonging) to the sinister elderly landlord.  Aunt Rosa lived in a huge bedroom with a queen size bed displaying large embroidered cushions, handmade dolls and animal puppets. This room had to serve as bedroom, kitchen and living room; and I believe that there was a shared bathroom.

I remember that my mother remarked disapprovingly that the landlord was not really the owner of the apartment, as this was a dispossessed property that had belonged to a Jewish family before WWII. The story of dispossession and political persecution (to be precise, both the story of victim and perpetrator – a rather schizophrenic situation) also defines the history of my family. But this is another tale.

I will never forget the disgust and  the shame expressed by my mother as well as the uncomfortable feelings arising, when we visited my lovely grand-aunt in this tainted flat  that had belonged to a Jewish family, who was probably dead. If they had been fortunate, they had survived and escaped to a safe place. But nobody ever turned up to get back what had been theirs before the horrible war and still was rightfully their property.

Photo source:  http://kitchenmason.com/

Information: Orient Express in Bucharest, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7V4HwySAw4, 2014-02-10

Video: Ustinov on the Orient Express, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgpmE5MtgkY, 2014-02-10

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Autumn Thoughts

Photo 509

Like my grandmother I am a doomed woman, and – so I am told – a beautiful one. My grandmother was so pretty that the students in her hometown wrote postcards to her with ‘I have to see you and I can’t sleep’ stuff, while the only thing she did was looking through the curtains of a window in a town house.  At the beginning of the 20th century she had been young and beautiful, and she was stubborn throughout her life. Grandmother, so my mother told me, had been a rather unconventional and strong-minded woman. No wonder that my grandfather had to take a mistress, as – in my mother’s words – grandma had been elegant and eccentric, emotionally cold and quite egotistic. Therefore, I was told, he had to have a female on his side who gave him warmth and pleasure and was ‘normal’, somebody who was a bit voluptuous and with a full bust.  My mother was convinced of my grandmother’s culpability until her death. Nevertheless my mother loved her mother and she took care of her until she died, putting her into a hospice when she was terminally ill with cancer and visiting  several times a week.

My father had been brought up with strange values. Female artists, dancers, actors or visual ones were only good for affairs, while educated women like scientists or professors were marriage ‘material’; even writers were tolerated. Father had married a nurse, who wanted to be a fashion designer, but could not fulfill her dream because of my grandfather’s political stance against the Nazis.  My father refused to be informed about my art studies until one day before his death. I made peace with him, but am not sure if he still believed that I was only mistress ‘material’.

In my long relationship with a man (an ex), whose family history is as much entangled and tragic as my family history, I was told that I should have stayed a banker or at least have studied physics (something I had planned when younger), but never should have become an artist. Somehow I was perceived as tainted and slightly odd (eccentric). Probably I was only material for an affair. I believed that on the turn from the 20th to the 21st century times had changed, and 19th century values were not relevant anymore.

When I woke up this morning and looked out of the window I felt like my grandmother about 100 years ago,  although I did not receive postcards from young students telling me about their sleepless nights. I had to realise that I was the only one, who could not sleep.

Music:

Lotte Lenya sings Kurt Weill’s ‘The Seven Deadly Sins’, You Tube

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Family History – Auguste and Inge

Gudrun Bielz, “Box”, Private Virtual Worlds, London 2004

Lets face it. My father’s family was conservative, a family that was at least hundred years behind in values and manners and generally saw men as providers and women as emotional nurses. They were also a family that valued education and knowledge and came from a staunch Protestant background with its strong work ethics and moral codes.

My male cousin – and I will forgive him for this – as he has grown up in an oppressive regime – has become as conservative as possible and needs to rewrite history his way (as I obviously need to do it my way). He has not only told me that we descend from humble people, ignoring the achievements of Auguste, my aunt and Inge, my cousin, but also dismissed my father’s story about the zoologist in the 19th century, my father’s family heroe, who was responsible for his middle name. My cousin has tried to smash into pieces our own family mythology, where my father had always regretted not having become a zoologist; and even my brother is telling his own zoology myth today. Yes, the family had a humble background, too. Partly they were farmers and land owners, who – in my cousin’s own words – owned vine yards and forests. Perhaps, this had enabled them to send all their kids to grammar schools and universities?

My aunt had studied physics in the 1930s. This was quite an unusual subject for women in those days; and as far as I know, she had taught physics in a Gymnasium (grammar school) until her death of stomach cancer at the age of forty. My cousin Inge studied the same discipline. The women in our family were the academic ones in the 20th century. They had also married men, who were less educated and, if I can trust my parents’ observations, had not fared too well because of this.

I am going to celebrate their achievements; and I do want to correct my cousin’s narrative, who – for his own reasons – has to be hostile and never mentions the strength of the women in this family, but has told me that he had to shoot at paper figures of American, British and French soldiers as part of his school curriculum, when he was a young boy.

Auguste (who died very young) and Inge, this is for you. Well done. I am so sorry that my knowledge about you is rather sketchy. This is part of our family story, too. Too much has been swept under the carpet.

Music:

Ann Peebles. “How Strong is a Woman”. 1971. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Twr7zYb5Gmw

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In memory of my father

My father

Tomorrow is my father’s birthday. March 18th. My father is dead.

So I am sad. I am thinking about my father and that I loved him. I loved him despite all the mistakes he had made.  I loved him because he was a good father to me. He was a tender person, full of stories and poetry, full of ideas and love for technology, full of his past as a sportsperson and an officer in the infamous 3rd Reich. Soldiering had left him with a severe disability.  He was full of shattered dreams and full of the past of an empire that his family had inhabited. He had changed my nappies when I was a baby; and he got the shock of his life when my originally black hair (at birth) turned into blonde. He wanted me to be a female Mini-Him. 🙂 I was of course a me, a maximal me. And he knew this.

Music:

Johann Sebastian Bach. Toccata and Fugue in D minor. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVJD3dL4diY

Film:

Austin Powers. Dr. Evil and Mini Me song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOgzvUO94E0

Photo source: Gudrun Bielz

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La Draculina – un fotoromanzo breve

Blood, blood – I am starving …. I am losing my paleness.

For heaven’s sake this is not on. Draculina HAS TO BE PALE.

A blood transfusion from heaven. My paleness is my lifeline.

My heart must pump white ink into the system.

Thanks heaven. You have heard me, oh great ink spilling clouds.

Paleness has found its way back into life. Viva la Draculina.

Back to normal. Pale as ever. Eureka.

Music: Film music from Dracula. 1992. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9E-yYkVQmg8

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La divina commedia: I would like to leave this universe and find another one WHERE MEN AND WOMEN DO NOT EXIST

COCHINEAL BEETLE

Nice women do not get a good man as men are hunters – DON’T DEVOTE YOURSELF TOO SOON TO A MAN OH FLOWER OH BLOSSOM OH WONDERFUL ILLUSION OF SOMETHING WE COULD CALL FEMALE PERHAPS  BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH.  I RECEIVED THIS IN AN E-MAIL FROM A WELL MEANING FRIEND (AREN’T THEY ALL OUR FRIENDS, THESE WOLVES IN SHEEPSKIN) – but the sly and manipulative ones can keep their men, THE HUNTERS.

I NEARLY DROWNED IN MY MORNING COFFEE AND LOOKED OUT FOR THIS HORRIBLE GREY OVERFED HUNTING CAT WHO IS THREATENING THE LOVELY BIRDS IN OUR WILD GARDEN. AN ENGLISH GARDEN BY THE WAY. LOOKING INTO MY DIARY REASSURED ME THAT WE STILL LIVE IN THE 21ST CENTURY AND IT IS INDEED AUGUST 2011 AND I AM HERE  IN LONDON UK ISLAND ISOLATED FROM THE REST OF THE WORLD BY THE CHANNEL AND THE SEA. NO TRAFFIC NO BOATS ANYMORE NO PLANES AND TRAINS NO WIRELESS CONNECTIONS.  I HAD TO BITE MYSELF AS I WAS NOT SURE IF I WAS FOR REAL.

LET’S DANCE THE BASSE DANSE THEN SAID THE COURTEOUS MAN TO THE LOVELY WOMAN ALL POWDERED UP TO HER NOSE WITH VENETIAN CERUSE INFUSED WITH MERCURY RED BEETROOTED CHEEKS HER MOUTH PAINTED WITH CARMINE RED PRODUCED BY THE COCHINEAL SHOWING HOW JUICY HER SEX MIGHT BE AND FORGETTING ABOUT LICE AND FLEES AND SYPHILIS JUST DANCING THE RITUAL AND SMILING THIS FROZEN SMILE OF I KNOW YOU ARE THE COURTEOUS HUNTER AND I AM THE PREY BEEN EATEN TODAY IN THIS FEAST WITH DEER AND WILD BOOR AND ALL YOUR FRIENDS COMING OVER TO INSPECT MY LOVELY BEETLE RED LIPS. WHAT JOY WHAT FEAST WHAT PARTY WE WILL HAVE ME NOT SUFFOCATING ON THE FISH BONE YOU HAD FORGOTTEN TO REMOVE FROM MY RAINBOW TROUT (THE COCKNEY SLANG VERSION).

COURTEOUS MAN HAD GIVEN TROUT THE INSTRUCTION TO VISIT FOR A SLEEPOVER IN FLUFFY STUFF AND FLUFFY LAND AND AS INFORMED AUDIENCE OF LA DIVINA COMMEDIA WE SMELL AND SENSE WE TOUCH WE HEAR AND SEE THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS BECAUSE WE HAD BEEN TRAINED AS MIND READERS OF HIGHEST EXCELLENCE WITH A DEGREE IN TELEPATHY FROM A UNIVERSITY WELL OUT OF THIS UNIVERSE . IT WAS THE SAME IN THE RENAISSANCE AS IT IS IN THE HERE AND NOW. TODAY WE HAVE LEARNED ABOUT ETHICAL CO-EXISTENCE OF PREDATOR AND PREY SO REFINED IS THIS RELATIONSHIP THAT THE PREDATOR IS FEEDING THE PREY SO HE CAN EAT HER WITH MORE GUSTO. PREY IS THROWING HERSELF AT HIS FEET AND SCREAMING PLEASE EAT ME PLEASE TAKE ME PLEASE LET ME CLING ONTO YOU I BEG YOU DON’T OVERLOOK ME OH PREDATOR. (ALL IN THE STYLE OF WOODY ALLEN’S AND DIANE KEATON’S METHOD ACTING IN ANNIE HALL THAT IS RATHER UNDERSTATED AND COOL).

IN YOUR DREAMS MY GUY IN YOUR DREAMS THEY ARE DANCING THESE COURTEOUS DANCES THE QUADRILLE A BIT LATER AND PERHAPS A SHAG IN THE 20TH CENTURY FOLLOWED BY THIS JIVE OR CEROC FOR HIP EXERCISE AND THE EVERLASTING ORGASM OF THE HUNTER MALE CHOOSING THESE LOVELY DOVES AND PHEASANTS THESE SWEET DEER AND THE GAZELLES SOME OF THEM ARE MORE LIKE TIGRESSES OR LIONESSES WITH THE OCCASIONAL BLACK PANTHER DANCING THE SEDUCTIVE DANCE OF A TARANTULA IN DISGUISE.

BEFORE YOU THINK TOO MUCH ABOUT HUNTING THE PREY DOWN OH MALE HUNTER AS DESCRIBED IN THIS E-MAIL TO ME TODAY IN THE 21ST CENTURY PLEASE FEEL THE POISONOUS STING OF A BLACK SCORPIO OR THE LOVING EMBRACE OF THE PRAYING MANTIS THAT IS EATING HER MATE. ISN’T THIS THE DREAM OF YOU OH HUNTER FRIEND THAT AT THE END YOU ARE EATEN UP BY VAGINA DENTATA THAT HAS PUT HER TEETH AROUND YOUR SEX AND TOLD SACHER-MASOCH THAT HE HAD BEEN RIGHT ALL ALONG?

Film

Woody Allen. Annie Hall. 1977. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFCe1wQeXA0>.

Music

Tim Minchin. Song of the Masochist. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3_S-kN2Uws>.

(photo sources: dontai.com. animalsgallery.com.  goodreads.com)

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