Tag Archives: women

… car adventures – home on wheels …

I hugely enjoyed ‘Women talking about Cars,’ Victoria C Mitchell interviewing Dawn French on BBC 4 Hilarious memories unfurled. Pollution problems were not on the agenda when cars begun do offer unprecedented freedom of movement during the last century, especially for women. One book would not hold my stories about cars, but I like to share a few snippets, if only to inspire some of you to travel down their car timeline.

My first car, a small Triumph convertible, was given to me by a friend who returned to his home country triumph-spitfire-4after his medical studies. There it was – a white little sports car in front of my door in Schwabing (Munich’s student patch during the 1970s.) By then I was working as a freelance photographer and paid a fortune for Taxis to get me and my gear to destinations. ‘This will motivate you to get your driving licence,’ my generous friend said.

 

From day one I took the Triumph round the block in the middle of the night, every night. With a thumping heart I practiced gears, parking and turning. Some weeks on an archaeology student friend visited from Munster. That day I had a photo shoot and was ready to call a Taxi. ‘But you have a car,’ he said. I explained that I didn’t have a driving licence, yet.

‘I’ll drive you,’ he replied. And so he did. At first I felt fairly relaxed when he stalled the engine in the middle of the busy junction on Feilitzsch Platz, now Münchner Freiheit, though drivers all around us were furiously tooting their horns and swearing at us. My friend managed to start the car again and made it to a small side road. He released a massive sigh. ‘Thing is,’ he admitted, ‘I don’t have a driving licence either.’

The incident motivated me to get my license. Only three sessions were needed. Sadly, this first car soon had its demise when, trying to impress a group of peers with the engine’s speed, I misjudged a corner and bumped into a curb. The combined weight of six bodies, some sitting on the folded down roof, damaged the axle.

From there on I fell in love with the sturdy VW Bus, several, over the years. Hitting the road with a self-vw-bus-a9657d6dbc47ba01d46ace182e65619econtained little house, which was, much like Dawn French shared, equipped for blizzards, resulted in countless adventures, some of them precarious:  Gears failing on steep mountain slopes, flat tires on lone country lanes, pulling windshield wipers with a string from inside the car during heavy snowfall, border guards wanting to arrest me because I wore an army jacket and a Che Guevara cap. Once, on the island of Elba, a companion suggested a shortcut which got us stuck in a vineyard. The farmer who had to pull us out was not pleased. But heck, life was exciting.

With yet another VW Bus, driving across Europe on way to my parents with my fiancée, the engine seized. My father bailed us out so we could replace the engine. The incident was, to him, a further confirmation of my uselessness, even when it came to choosing a partner.

Having moved to Somerset with my then husband, I endured his learner-driving escapades along the narrow tracks of the Quantocks Hills. With a baby in the back seat, these shopping trips stretched my nerves, acutely so when my ex stalled the engine in a narrow bend, with oncoming drivers shaking their heads and my dear husband reacting with injured pride to my helpful suggestions … but I won’t go there. The engine of the last faithful VW Bus, the one that had transported us, our bedding and our books to England, expired via a sudden and fatal oil loss. Serendipity brought along an old Rover with injection gear. I remember the absolute joy when overtaking snail-snared drivers on the steep stretch from Taunton to our Hamlet.

Having moved to Surrey, this powerful horse developed starting hiccups during a cold spot. Someone I won’t name insisted my Rover was a greedy petrol eater and convinced me to buy his tinny Renault.

Eventually I had a lovely Rover again, for many years, until repairs didn’t make sense anymore. These days I drive a sixteen-year-old Honda, which sails through every MOT without fail. I dread the day when all cars will be fully automated.

img123030-cran-canaryBy then I’ll get a good old sturdy Jeep, the kind you can rent on rocky islands.

Many people are anxious about driving, don’t want to drive, maybe never had the chance to acquire a license, or missed the opportunity.

I simply can’t imagine my life without independent transport. It’s a luxury I hardly pause to appreciate, though I should, very much, and be grateful. Only has to consider the surreal anomaly some cultures maintain to this day …  women being persecuted for driving a car.

*     *     *

You may be curious about the publishing process for my first novel, ‘Course of Mirrors,’ now that its production is in my control. I don’t know why, but I’m hugging the recently approved beautiful cover and am hesitant to share it online … just yet.

If you’re on my Christmas card list you’ll get the cover image in the post. But quite soon, promise, I’ll reveal the cover here, on my virtual island.

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… The Inner Jihad …

I met some remarkable people in my life. During the late 70s, instigated by my then Sufi teacher, Fazal Inayat-Khan, I stayed with my then partner for two months in Washington DC, at the time when President Carter was inaugurated.  Our contact person was Dr Abdul Aziz Said, Professor for International Relations at the American University. We saw him almost every day at his office at the University or at his lectures, or we met him at his home, and in other places. His sincerity had a great impact on me. His words never left me. He made us think about spiritual economy (of that another time) and he introduced us to some wonderful people, many of them Sufis , in the area in and around Washington DC.

Image by Yeshen Venema

Image by Yeshen Venema

Some were Muslims some were non-Muslims, some were Christians or Hindus, and others followed no religion but had faith in mankind. One day we were invited for a meal by a young couple, a practicing Muslim and his wife, a practicing Christian. Their loving relationship impressed me deeply. They lived what Sufis call the Greater Jihad, the inner struggle.

After the atrocity in Paris, having written realms of nonsense to try and clear my mind, I wondered what Professor Said had to say on the Islamic conflicts, I searched & re-found this yourtube video, where he addresses his students. It’s three years back but worth listening to twice. Here are some of his points:

  • Communicate respect and share values. Peace has been conceptualised by dominant cultures. Seek conflict transformation.
  • Insist on negotiating solutions, not impose them.
  • Engage – don’t exploit the rivalry between Sunni and Shia Muslims.
  • Westerners and Muslims could re-frame the conflict between Israelis and Arabs as an internal conflict within the Abrahamic family.
  • Peace is a fragile flower. Use public diplomacy to listen … and speak.
  • Build bridges through intercultural and interreligious dialogue, engage youth,
  • It’s not enough to condemn radical religions, we need positive alternative visions.
  • What does your religion bring to the table to deal with the issues of poverty, violence, and the environment?

He widens the perspective. East and the West must together become architects of a new story. The West could give the East the best it had to offer in exchange for the best the East has to offer. The idea is beautiful. I hope, with patience, it comes true.

Here are some of my present thoughts. I’m totally against bombings in Syria, as I was against the interference in Iraq. The problems of Islam are for the Arabs to sort amongst themselves, should have been from the start. In international conflicts the circular blame goes, ‘They hit us back first.’ Justified anger arises from having suffered abusive power, threats to livelihood, resources, security, chosen identity, religious or otherwise, or simply unbearable disillusionment, the loop has repeated itself throughout known history in the form of wars.

There is no denying the grit in the shells of democratic systems. Present irritations I observe in the UK are the dissemination of local community shops and enterprises, since anything small and beautiful can’t be economic, can it? Then the privatisation of essential resources, the absurd discrepancy between the rich and the poor, the lack of jobs due to a runaway technology, depriving innumerable young people of meaning. Add crime, insufficient support for mothers, depression and marginalisation … all in no small way due to excesses of a capitalism that feeds greed, consumerism and the exploitation of the earth. I’m not alone in feeling disheartened about such developments.

And yet, here’s the amazing thing, I can express my thoughts without being persecuted as an enemy of the state.  Cognitive dissonance and the battle for tolerance are uncomfortable, but rewarding. Maybe because of their faults, democracies have an evolutionary edge.  Here’s why?

Self-examination serves the growth of human qualities, or, if you like, the expansion of consciousness. I have an inner terrorist that battles with ambiguity, confusion, anger and vulnerability, at the same time I value being able to think independently. I feel privileged to live in a country where creativity and innovation are encouraged, individual voices can be heard, disagreements are allowed, and negotiations can be reached. Yes, hypocrisy and corruption are also rife, but with it the means to expose them.

Dresden, Feb 1945

Dresden, Feb 1945

Ideas can of course be subverted. Academics, innovators and scientists can’t control how their insights and inventions are applied, especially when social unrest becomes the manure for another utopian uprising, and more kneejerk reactions.

Are we brave enough to face the latent dangers of injustice, poverty and disillusionment that could call in another despot who sedates with propaganda and naive solutions that promise to solve all problems? For this reason, I think, a debate weighing the benefits of market-oriented enterprise against ways to curb the excesses of capitalism needs to happen, to search for a dynamic balance.

When it comes to the killing of civilians by militants in the name of Islam, ordinary Muslims do not condone these atrocities. Many may well be too dumbfounded and embarrassed to comment on the bizarre brainwashing of young the name of their faith, as in this video, which, however, given the puzzled expression on the children’s faces, I suspect has been commissioned to incite outrage in the west.  I dearly hope Muslims will find ways  to open a dialogue amongst themselves and with other faiths.

Lovers of life – don’t look away, don’t reject conflict and doubt, don’t numb your hearts. Secular societies with their temporary guardians, for better or worse, challenge us towards unlearning. Editing out complex thoughts will keep us stranded in the flatland of the known, unable to empathise with the physical and spiritual starvation suffered around the globe. Listen to the lecture of Dr Abdul Aziz Said again – and seek conflict transformation in all spheres of life.

One could say we are the particles of multiverses becoming conscious of embodied spirit. It’s no mean feat to shield our little lights from the winds of ignorance.

‘One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.’ – C G Jung

‘We are not meant to agree with each other, but to create beauty.’ – Fazal Inayat-Khan

And I can’t help it, I admire the graceful poet and singer, Leonard Cohen, who loves his country though he can’t stand the scene. Here is …  AnthemRing the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering – there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in …

 

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… To Witness Daisies and Earth Rise …  

1968 Earth Rise, Apollo Mission 8

1968 Earth Rise, Apollo Mission 8

A change in collective attitudes often takes momentous events. While the moon-landing of 1969  was mildly underwhelming, the image captured in preparation for the American eagle’s landing, a year earlier, was immensely moving – revealing a vastly expanded mirror to our home that spoke then, and speaks now, directly to our physical and spiritual senses. Guiseppi Ungaretti had fitting words …

‘What are you doing earth in heaven? Tell me what are you doing silent earth?’

With hindsight we can see how major historic events are being incubated years in advance to their happenings. Artists have a knack for shocking us before a message becomes endorsed, which is why I connect the film  ‘To Witness Daisies’ (1966)   with the earth-rising image, both testing limited perceptions.  A click on the title should bring up the movie on your tube.

Věra Chytilová

Věra Chytilová

Not unlike the awesome view from outer space,  Věra Chytilová presented an equally powerful pointer to our poor stewardship of earth. Initially forbidden in the former Czechoslovakia, her tragic comedy was released two years before the Prague Spring, and two years before the earth-rise image promised a new respect for nature. I hoped for a greater understanding of cosmic interconnectedness, and an assessment of the fear-based need to subdue and control the wild, the primitive, the imagination, soul … all the ignorant projections on the feminine principle, which, I think, are responsible for spoiling our planet and wounding the psyche of men and women.  Film critics felt uncomfortable with Věra Chytilová’s controversial, iconoclastic statement on the demeaning role assigned to women in our cultures. Niels Bohr expressed, ‘As long as an atom is not seen it does not exist, it is a ghost.’ To me, this implies that seeing, individually and collectively, is an active process, influencing the reality of our existence.

The Daisies

The Daisies

Watching ‘To Witness Daisies’ for the first time in 1994, I was struck by its theme of psychic starvation – sharply relevant today – and the insanity of societies where women are kept in an infantile state so as not to threaten male supremacy. The symbolic power of the film’s images, with their rhythmic and gradually peaking orchestration, creates a timeless sphere of magical reality, where meaning is expanded and revealed. The opening sequence of the film gives the context. A mechanical wheel turns relentlessly to the sound of regular drumming. The scene is interspaced with silent images of war, bombs exploding, mainly into the sea, symbolically representing the mother of all life on earth. Next, the frame shows a sun-deck by a pool. Filmed in black and white, the deck re-appears as a transitional stage. and one could add, a place at the edge of the personal unconscious. Here a question is voiced, ‘What next?’ The two teenage girls wear bikinis and their movements are mechanical, like the wheel. The sound indicates a lack of oil in the system, and the funfair trumpet played by one of the girls suggests a flat and mocking victory.

Posing for the Collector

Posing for the Collector

The outlook is set. ‘I’m a doll, everything is been spoiled in this world.’ And, as a way out of boredom, ‘If everything is being spoiled, we will be spoiled too.’ The decision to mirror a spoiled world is made, a death wish gains momentum. Daisy Blond wears a daisy chain and uses it at intervals as divination device. When the chain is thrown out of the frame, it lands on water and signals the next mise-en-scène, like a Garden of Eden where the girls dance, and where Daisy Blond picks the legendary fruit, affirming ‘their kind’ are products of a biblical myth with politically useful interpretation that prevail.

The end-feast

The end-feast

Film critics felt uncomfortable with Věra Chytilová’s controversial, iconoclastic statement about the role assigned to women in our cultures. Acted by Jitka Cerhová and Ivana Karbanová, the Daisies have various names throughout the film. I call them Daisy Black and Daisy Blond, though they are one and the same, since their communication resembles an internal dialogue trying to deal unsuccessfully with a moral conflict that offers no bridge between good and bad. To Daisy Black nothing matters, she has a timeless distance to things, everything is a game. For Daisy Blond, the extrovert, hunger makes food a central theme of the film – hunger in the sense of wanting to fill her sense of emptiness with substance. I won’t venture into psychology, but it’s easy to draw a connections to the Anorexic symptoms many young women suffer from.

During a film degree course in 1994, I wrote a long essay on ‘To Witness Daisies.’ Unable to transfer the old Mac files when switching to a PC with internet connection, many essays need re-typing, which I hope to achieve once other projects are out of the way. For now, I thought I inspire you to watch the film – and maybe share your thoughts about it.

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