Donnerstag, Februar 26, 2009


I took this picture half an hour ago from my window. It is a flock of common cranes flying north, just above my house. What I could not capture on a photo was their typical call, the bugle you can hear over a great distance - in fact, I heard them long before I saw them.

So the cranes are flying back north. This is pure joy! It is the first sign of spring. Winter is finally over. Yeah!

Mittwoch, Februar 25, 2009

The Coolest Thing I Ever Did

I promised an adventure story for today, and here it is.

Almost five years ago, I had the opportunity to travel as far north as you can get in Europe: To Svalbard aka Spitsbergen, about 80° north, a group of arctic islands, as different from mainland Europe as another planet would be. We were filming some scenes and interviews for a documentary on climate change there, with a focus on the effects of global warming on arctic wildlife. Sounds boring? No, it wasn't!

The trip involved several days of speeding over frozen fjords with snowscooters, looking for the animals we were supposed to capture on video. Seals, walruses, reindeer, an amazing number and variety of seabirds, and - most importantly - polar bears. Since it can be really dangerous to encounter polar bears in the wild, we had a guard with us, a Norwegian ex-soldier who always carried a gun and never left us out of sight. He was tall, fair-haired and macho - the perfect cast for a Viking chieftain in any feature film. And it was good to have him there. One night, the bears came scouting right up to our camp. The tracks we found in the morning were proof of their presence.

Every day, we had to drive for hours to find the right spots and animals, and then had to wait patiently for even more hours to get good shots. So we used all the available daylight, worked almost around the clock, and only slept for three or four hours per night. Some of those nights we stayed on a ship that was frozen into the sea ice, to be used as basecamp for expeditions just like ours.

I will never forget that week. It was mad and frantic. We soon found out that we had to cover a vast area and didn't have nearly enough time for our film project, but there was no way to extend our stay. The trip had already cut a huge slice out of our production budget, so we had to make do. It was cold and uncomfortable at times, we were giddy from lack of sleep and the camera equipment didn't like the cold at all, so we had to be really careful not to use too much battery power - but in the end, none of that mattered. We were incredibly lucky with the weather and cooperative animals, and we managed to get breathtaking footage of arctic wildlife and landscape, plus the required interviews with resident scientists and environmentalists, of course.

Seeing those wild polar bears, seals and walruses was more amazing than I could ever describe with words. The landscape along the Svalbard coast is so beautiful that it almost physically hurt to leave the islands and fly back south. And driving that snowscooter over the snow of frozen valleys and vast stretches of sea ice, sometimes with over 100 kilometres per hour, was definitely the coolest thing I ever did.

Dienstag, Februar 24, 2009

First Aid

Okay, Jackie, here you go. A post today, just for you, my favourite (if probably only) reader!
Sorry it's short. Just wanted to tell you that every blog gives you the option to subscribe to its posts - scroll down to the very bottom of the page, and you'll find it. If you're using the German version, it's called "Abonnieren". Do that, and you don't have to click the page twice a day to see if I posted anything. That must have been hell during the weeks and months when I was AWOL.

I am sorry. To make up for it, I'll write another adventure story tomorrow.

And there is no reason for posting the following, it's just something I found in Berlin once. Love this notion.

Montag, Februar 23, 2009

Of Past Adventures

I mostly turn to this blog when I feel either very bored, or maudlin, or both. This is resulting in an assortment of "Life Sighs" which actually makes me feel sorry for anyone who reads it.
(Jackie, you are my heroine. Honestly!)

Enough misery now. Even if my life is rather dull these days, I had a fair share of adventures to write about. Some thrilling ones, some funny ones, and even a few romantic encounters. They could feature in this blog, too, as a change from the usual gloomy posts.

What should I start with? The most exciting adventures were not always pleasant - like the one where I almost freaked out when a friend and I got lost in a maze of crevasses on a glacier, which we had tried to cross without proper gear (we both were very inexperienced and stupid, and lucky to survive the day!) - nor were all the funny ones, like when I embarassed myself in front of a camerateam and dozens of people by walking right into a grass-covered slough in Poland (the locals tried to warn me, but I didn't understand Polish and was already sunk waist-deep in the bog when one of the guys on my team grabbed me and pulled me back to solid ground).

No, I think I'll start with a story of cultural misunderstanding.

I travelled in Scotland once, by bus and train, going north along the east coast. For one night I stayed in a pretty little town called Keiss, which has a very scenic ruin of a medieval castle, right on the edge of a cliff.
I took a room at the local pub and spent the evening downstairs - having a meal at a table by myself, and then a few glasses of ale with the locals at the bar.
It was summer, and night fell late that far north. Looking out of the window, I saw a beautiful dusk. An almost full moon rose over the North Sea, and I decided to take a walk along the beach. That was when one of the men from the bar asked if he could join me.

The first strange thing was that the landlady didn't want to give a house key to me, although I had rented a room in the house. I practically had to fight her for it (and she refused to talk to me the next day until I departed). This should have made me suspicious of the situation's undercurrents - but I had already had a few glasses of ale and was glad for the company of that nice guy.
Until I understood that his idea of 'taking a walk' didn't involve much walking.

When he started kissing me, I was tempted for a moment, but really only a moment. The guy was married - he had told me stories of his wife and kids all evening - and I was soon torn between being amused, exasperated and frightened. It was not easy to get rid if him. I told him over and over again that he was a nice person, and I was very sorry about the misunderstanding, but I really only intended to take a walk and watch the waves by moonlight. I did not want to make him angry, because he had drunk a lot more than I had, and he started to hint at how strong he was and how he could force me. So in the end I let him come back to the pub with me (he was probably hoping for a bed instead of the beach) - where I had to tell him I would yell for help if he did not leave, until he finally gave up. From my room I watched him drive away, and wished I would have gone to the moonlit beach alone.

The next day I settled my bill with the landlord, whose wife didn't even look at me. I took the next bus north, and wondered how they would have laughed about the true story of that 'walk'. But I didn't tell anyone, of course - and I am sure that guy still enjoys his reputation as a seducer of naive foreign tourists.

Samstag, Februar 21, 2009

Out There (or: Fascinated Yet Frustrated)

These weeks are strange. I wait for my new home to be finished (so I can move), I try to sell my old one, and I am again/still looking for work. So this is a time when I am at home a lot, but I have very little to do except for sorting, packing, brooding, and avoiding unpleasant thoughts by the means of pure escapism.

I watched a lot of DVDs lately, and re-read several sci-fi and fantasy books. And I surfed the net, looking for writers, directors and actors whose work impresses me. There are so many to be found in the www; some with professionally built homepages, some with regularly updated blogs and truly terrific journals. To name only a few: I found (and read most of) Neil Gaiman's Journal, Sir Ian McKellen's official homepage and blog, or the blogs of David Nykl and Kate Hewlett, actors, and Joe Mallozzi, screenwriter and producer from the Stargate universe, one of my favourite resorts faraway from bleak reality.

At first, I was thrilled to have found all their websites. I am impressed by those gentlemen and ladies, their books, scripts, acting; whatever they do, and do so wonderfully.
I loved to learn more about their lives, travels, thoughts and projects. And of course I still do. But in some strange way, those websites and blogs are a curse as well as a blessing.

See, I write and work in the big world of TV myself, and I certainly am no 'fan' of anyone (honestly, I don't even understand the things fans do - like collecting autographs and photos, or travelling to conventions and dressing up as fictional characters).
Thus, I have no intention to obtrude or ingratiate myself with anyone. But the more I read, the more I am impressed by (and feel drawn to) some of those people - writers, actors, or directors from different parts of this world.
Their blogs give me the illusion of getting to know them. They make me want to communicate, as I do with real-life acquaintances or friends.

And there's the catch.

There is no way to connect; no way to get to know any of them. Yes, I left some friendly comments, which (understandably!) remain unnoticed amidst all that cheerful bulk, between dozens of unanswered questions and tons of fanmail.

So, after fascination came frustration. Those guys have genuinely impressed me and make me want to get in touch with them, but it is simply not possible to initiate any kind of dialogue or correspondence. Despite all the so-called interactivity of the world wide web, there just is no way to really get a message across. Too bad.

Donnerstag, Februar 12, 2009


Since I don't think it would be wise to try and write anything remotely intelligent today (since I am still suffering from sleep deprivation, and can't even think straight in my own language, let alone in English), I'll continue my mini-series of animal pictures.
(In this layout, they are small, but by clicking on them you'll see them better.)

This is Lisa, one of my mother's new cats (there are two of them who arrived last summer), in the filing cabinet, trying to get filed between the folders for bills and credit card receipts.

She's not always that shy. Here's a more flattering picture of hers:

And while I still feel sheepish, here's a couple of Welsh sheep, posing in front of their residence. I took the photo in September 2008 when hiking up Snowdon (Yr Widdfa) in North Wales.

Mittwoch, Februar 11, 2009


Last night, I tried counting sheep - but they just walked away from me.

(This is a photo I made in Iceland in 2006, to illustrate the traffic jam on a typical Icelandic country road.)


Every now and then, I get a bad case of Existenzangst. That's a German term which means existential fear; angst; the sinking feeling that something - no, everything - is about to go awry. When I was younger, it was a lot worse, but even now I have these times once or twice a year. Times when I don't trust myself to earn a living, to do things right, to be there for my friends, to ever make films again, to ever find new friends; times when I generally expect myself to make a total mess of my life.

It is strange, because the fear is so irrational, not at all based on facts. I am doing reasonably well since almost 20 years now, I am independent, I have a circle of wonderful friends, I am free to live my life and travel the world as I like, and still earn enough money to pay for my flat, my car and all kinds of conveniences. It is a carefree and rather selfish life, and I am aware of the privileges I have.

So I sometimes suspect that I chose a freelancer's job (with no secure income whatsoever) just to cure myself of those bouts of angst. Maybe my whole lifestyle is like one of those therapeutic flights for people who are afraid of flying. It makes me face the fear and see that there is nothing to worry about.

Most of the time, it works. Only now, the fact that I am going to be broke once I move to my new place, stirs it all up again. I have a relapse, and a bad one. Can't sleep, can't eat, can't even think straight. Every night for the last ten days I sat up in bed till 04:00 am, browsing the internet on my laptop or reading boring books (hoping they'll make me sleepy).

But it has its good sides, too. I lost some of my surplus weight, and I have discovered many interesting websites and blogs lately. About Iceland and India, about music, films and people.

Once I am able to use my brain again, I'll list the links and tell you more...

Dienstag, Februar 03, 2009


It is done. The contract is signed, the flat is going to be mine in a few weeks - in exchange for practically all my savings. Suddenly, I was no longer sure if this was a wise thing to do. It made me feel strangely vulnerable, no longer having a financial buffer to fall back on. Especially now, at a time when it becomes more difficult to find jobs.

But then I went there. I started planning the kitchen, decided on some changes that will need to be done before I move in, and then I visited my soon-to-be next door neighbours. They made me feel truly welcome and spontaneously opened a bottle of champagne to toast our new neighbourship.

A perfect start for the move to my new home. I don't feel poor and vulnerable anymore, but rich and vital, and full of energy.
I only hope that this is not just the effect of the champagne.