Tag Archives: inspiration

Encounters #6 Swallows – Andorinhas

“True hope is swift, and flies with swallow’s wings.” – William Shakespeare

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If it’s true that one swallow does not make a spring, as Aristotle already knew, does it then mean that many swallows do make summer?

That should mean that wherever I go in Portugal, there’s eternal summer, for the swallows are everywhere. Blue and red, yellow or black. In one iconic shape but all sizes. On electrical wires, walls and fridges.

For a long time I just accepted their existence, saw them, liked them, felt that their presence made me happy. Until, only recently I found out that there’s more to their existence, here in the land of fado and saudades, of big waves, green wines and explorers of the worlds gone by.

According to local legend, swallows – or andorinhas, as they are called here –  are symbols for family and home; the place for which they always have saudades, to which they always return. Also, very romantically, they find a single partner for life and thus have become symbols for love, loyalty and faithfulness.

In the 1890s, the Portuguese artist Rafael Bordallo Pinheiro, one of the most influential people of his time, started to design and produce little colorful swallows in his ceramics factory in Caldas da Rainhas in Central Portugal. Quickly, his handcrafted beautiful birds gained popularity, and the exchange of swallows, not only between lovers, has become a token for harmony, happiness and prosperity in the home.

And, of course, seeing them in real life, they are simply, magically beautiful, and, after all, they do bring the summer.

Thank you, swallows! – Obrigada andorinhas!

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A little Arctic Adventure

Sitting on the Inlandsbanan somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Swedish Lapland and heading south, I am saving my legs a good thousand kilometers of riding through forest and wilderness. A pity perhaps, but sometimes time, although elastic, is of the essence and choices have to be made.

Inlandsbanan in Gällivare

Crossing the Arctic Circle

But let me start at the beginning – of which I’m not exactly sure where to find it. Where did the idea come from to start the northern section of my European bicycle adventure in Tromsø, the so-called Paris of the north? I think it had to do with a book, as usual. In this case, if I remember correctly, it was one of Judith Herrmann’s short stories that was set in Tromsø in “Nichts als Gespenster” or “Nothing but Ghosts”.


And, I wanted to start at a place north of the arctic circle, from where i had access to the islands of northern Norway, and from where i could reach Kiruna. Because that original plan of riding from Kiruna to Cadiz was still bouncing around in my head.

So at the beginning of August I found myself on a plane from tropical Berlin via cool Oslo to chilly Tromsø – and immediately liked it. I loved exploring the town for a day, finding the treasure trove the Perspectivet Photographic museum is and dodging hordes of German, Dutch and Swiss tourists released from the Hurtigruten Cruiseship. The following day I set off. Around Tromsø island, over the first one of those impressive bridges that link a lot of the northern Norwegian islands, across to Kvaloya. Called it a day early when I came across a most pleasant place to stay, where I was treated to some local Norwegian wisdom and hospitality. And the waffles were just delicious!


An early departure the next morning lead to an hour of heavenly cycling. The sun was out, no cars in sight, just some arctic vegetation, chirpy birds and spectacular views.


Onto the ferry to Senja, which now has become one of my favourite cycling destinations. It just doesn’t get much better. A different, more spectacular view around each corner, blue skies, white beaches, arctic ocean, high cliffs and impressive mountains.


And then, of course, there were the tunnels. Oh my word, the tunnels. Although i was equipped with lights and a reflective vest, although there was a button to push at the entrance, which then would alert drivers to a ‘cyclist in the tunnel’, and although the traffic was minimal and mostly very respectful, i felt my body tense every time I had to enter one of the dark mouths in the mountainside. Some were narrow, others dark and the worst went uphill for two kilometres at 8%! But they say it’s good to face your demons and challenge yourself at times…

Tunnel vision

The reward – a sunny evening in picturesque Gryllefjord.


Thank you Senja!

Happy Birthday Bicycle!

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Happy Birthday, dear Bicycle!

200 years! That’s quite a feat, yet you seem to be as young and sprightly as ever; aging well and always open to change and improvement…

I’ll never forget the day we met for the first time. I had seen you before, but when you knocked on our door on my 5th birthday, I was over the moon. At first my relationship with your green little self (it was before the days when everything girly had to be pink!) was a little wobbly and needed some support, but soon we ditched the spare wheels and started to go for a ride of a life-time. I still see myself cruising around in circles in the yard, reveling in the sheer joy of speed and movement and feeling the wind in my hair (it was also long before helmets!).

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Fast forward a few years, and your silver incarnation, equipped with a 3-speed torpedo gear system, roadworthy and thus quite a ‘serious’ bicycle, had become my daily companion on the way to school, to afternoon sport or to see friends. I’ll always appreciate the independence and freedom I gained, let alone the precious minutes in the morning, when I could delay getting up because I knew I could make up for it by pedalling harder. There was many a frosty winter morning when I arrived in the classroom with my fringe frozen from the condensation of my breath.

Do you remember our first real adventure together? It was just too exciting – a three day bike tour through the summery forests, organized by the local sports club. My friend and I were so desperate to go, that we lied about our age. Minimum was 12 years, after our pleading they lowered it to 10, and we just didn’t tell anybody that we were only 9 at the time. We had so much fun! And I think it was then that I really realized the potential that was hidden within your steel frame and turning wheels.

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Over the years there have been many successors in a variety of shapes and colours; there was the green racing snake my grandmother had won in a crossword competition and which she didn’t really want because it wasn’t quite lady-like enough; a purple city bike with a bow frame, which I used to commute to university and which involuntarily found a new owner; that first mountain bike I just had to get to impress a friend I had a serious crush on. Then the golden Kona which became my first ‘work vehicle’ and which has not only carried me up and down many a steep mountain, but also tidied me over some tough times, and last but not least the slightly dull grey touring bike with the fancy back suspension and the auspicious name of “Steppenwolf”.

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Dear Bicycle, I really appreciate that over the years you have helped me save a lot of roubles (in petrol money) and that you enticed me to stay fit without having to the gym. You made me realize that I wasn’t made of sugar, or, in other words, didn’t melt away in the rain, and quite how much I love moving freely in the great outdoors. You gave me work and joy, and you allowed me to explore new regions – and later on countries and then continents – at the speed of thought.

You took me on journeys from the end of the world to the beginning of time. I learned from you that looks and colour don’t matter, that we, just like you, come in all shapes and sizes. Pedalling hard, I wrote entire books in my head, worked through personal issues, solved the world’s problems and started to appreciate the pleasures of an uncluttered, simple life.

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More than anything though I appreciate that you gave me freedom; the freedom to move independently at an early age, the freedom to explore my own boundaries, the freedom of thought by literally widening my horizons, and finally the freedom that only trust and belief in one’s own abilities affords. You made me happy and for this I am grateful!

So here is to the next 200 years of freedom, happiness, joy and diversity! Viva!
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Finally done and dusted…

Peppertreechronicles proudly presents:

The HEALING RHINOS AND OTHER SOULS audiobook!

Experiment/adventure/challenge #1 for this year has been concluded! And after much sweat and tears this labour of love is ready to hit the shelves…


Hardcopies are 100% locally produced and available on CD in MP3 or Audio-Format.


To make the 2 MP3-CDs presentable was relatively easy, but what challenge to find a way to package the 8 CDs in audio-format!


I count myself extremely fortunate to have found a superb co-narrator with exactly the right voice to read Walter’s part and an exceptinally professional producer who was prepared to put excessive amounts of time and effort into this production.

 A HUGE THANK YOU TO BOKKIE -THE VOICE-


and to FARAI from CABIN AUDIO in Prince Albert.

And now? What’s next?

I’m still not 100% sure how to go about the digital publishing. ACX seem out of bounds at the moment, since they are only available to authors in the US and UK – and more recently apparently in Ireland and Canada.

Does anyone have any experience with Author’s Republic or any other audiobook distribution site?

What do you think of perhaps serializing or podcasting the book?

I have heard (thank you Joanna Penn from the Creative Penn!) that some more changes are expected in the audiobook publishing scene?! And I am a little reluctant to sign up with anybody for 7 years, it seems a terribly long time. Any thoughts on that?

Let me know what you think! Would love to hear from you!

Encounters #5 Fernando Pessoa

“Life is what we make of it. Travel is the traveller. What we see isn’t what we see but what we are.”

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Fernando Pessoa. By now it almost feels like I’ve met him personally.

Travelling in Portugal, it seems hardly possible not to encounter this most iconic of Lisbon poets. Over the years, I’ve met him in the streets of Lisboa, sitting outside one of his faourite hangouts and coffee shop ‘A Brazileira’ in the Rua Garrett in Chiado; he’s greeted me for breakfast on my coffee mug in downtown Porto and his unmistakable face invites readers to delve into Lisbon’s poetry from every book stall at every airport in the country. My favourite incarnation of this writer, who allegedly used more than 72 pseudonyms, I encountered in Evora, where he braved the elements somewhat uplifted on the doorstep of the amazing “Fonte de Letras’ bookshop.

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72 pseudonyms! He preferred to call them heteronyms, because he felt pseudonyms were too close for comfort. One of his most famous alter ego, Ricardo Reis, even became the hero of “The Year of Death of Ricardo Reis”, a 1984 novel by fellow Portuguese writer and Nobel laureate Jose Saramago. Inspired by the heteronyms was also Italian writer Antonio Tabucci, who was so enchanted by Pessoa and his work that he began studying the Portuguese language.

“My soul is a hidden orchestra;
I know not what instruments,
What fiddlestrings and harps,
drums and tamboura I sound and
Clash in myself.
All I hear is the symphony.”
Fernando Pessoa

“The Book of Disquiet”, (Livro do Desassossego, composto por Bernardo Soares), Pessoa’s lifetime project and what he calls a ‘factless autobiography’, is signed by one of his heteronyms, Bernardo Soares. It is also the source of many of the Pessoa quotes floating around the post cards and coffee mugs of downtown Lisbon and Porto.

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Not only in Portugal….

“To write is to forget. Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life.”

Fernando Pessoa was a poet, writer, philosopher, publisher and translator, born in Lisbon in 1888. His father died when he was five years old, and after his mother remarried, the family moved to Durban, South Africa, where Pessoa would live and learn for the next ten years. He learned to love the English language and began writing and publishing poetry under various pseudonyms.
In 1905 he returned to Lisbon for good and embarked on a life of writing, publishing, translating and philosophizing. He died in 1935, and in 1985, fifty years after his death, his remains were moved to the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos in Lisbon, where he rests in the illustrious company of the likes of Vaso da Gama and Luís de Camões.

“To know nothing about yourself is to live. To know yourself badly is to think.”

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Reading Countries: Journey to Portugal

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All things going well, in exactly one month from today, I’ll be saddling up my trusted ‘Steppenwolf’ and start cycling. Viva Portugal, here we come!

What better way to prepare for an upcoming journey, than to read about the destination? Not just travel books – novels, travelogues, short stories, crime fiction, anything goes…

After a quick browse on real life bookshelves I came up with the following pile:

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Monica Ali: Alentejo Blue

Barry Hatton: The Portuguese, A Modern History

José Saramago: El Viaje del Elefante / The Elephant’s Journey

José Saramago: La Caverna / The Cave

Pascal Mercier: Nachtzug nach Lissabon / Nighttrain to Lisbon

Ines Pedrosa: In Deinen Händen / Nas Tuas Mãos / No English translation available?!

Francisco Jose Viegas: O Colecionador de Ervas / No English translation available?!

Cees Nooteboom: Die folgende Geschichte / The Following Story

***

Not bad for a start! On the virtual bookshelves the choice is as usual near limitless…

There are of course the literary giants, Jose Saramago, Antonio Lobo Antunes, Eça de Queiroz and Fernando Pessoa.

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Tell a Story, an awesome little mobile bookshop in Lisbon, recommended a bit of a younger selection:

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Jacinto Lucas Pires: The True Actor

Jose Luis Peixoto: The Piano Cemetery

Afonso Cruz: Jesus Christ Drank Beer

***

See you soon, Portugal! More about the travel plans coming soon!

 

The Big 7 for 2017 – or – Times Fly…

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Originally I had planned to start this year with a blogpost on my Seven Goals for 2017; but Times Fly and – and now I think the first goal should be called, “Stop procrastinating and just do it!”

But here I am, still ruminating, and thus the second goal should be, “Kiss perfectionism good bye!”

They go together with their cousins:

“Live, love, laugh & learn more!”

“Be kind, be generous, be free, be me”

“Simplify, travel light and tread lightly!”

And finally

“Be creative!” and “Keep walking…”

But these goals, incidentally also seven, are not what this is about, as they have been the same for a number of years now, and probably rather fall in the category of life choices or a kind of a manifesto; more personal than professional.

The goals I planned to write about before procrastination and perfectionism got the better of me are of a different kind; more tangible, and in one way or another all connected to “Travel, Books and Bicycles”. Now I think I should refer to them as the seven “Adventures” or “Journeys” or perhaps even “Experiments” for 2017.

Adventures, because they are challenging and fun – and because I love what I’m doing, although at times, it is not easy. But then, nobody ever said it was going to be easy…

 “Nobody who says, ‘I told you so’ has ever been, or will ever be, a hero.”  Ursula K. Le Guin

Journeys, because I love traveling – and am hoping to cross boundaries; personal, cultural, physical, geographical.

“Not everybody who wanders is lost!” (J.R.R. Tolkien)

Experiments, because:

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.”  (Ralph Waldo Emmerson)

 

And here they are… My Big Seven Adventures/Journeys/Experiments for 2017:

Adventure/Journey/Experiment #1:

Release Healing Rhinos and Other Souls as Podcast and Audio book. (Just let it go! It’s been ready for a while, but my old friends, Mr Perfectionism and Ms Procrastination interfered… see above!)

Adventure/Journey/Experiment #2:

Release »Deleted Scenes« of Healing Rhinos and Other Souls. (This should be a lot of fun! And perhaps I’ll include »The Making of…«)

Adventure/Journey/Experiment #3:

Publish the German Version of Healing Rhinos and Other Souls. (This is close to my heart. Nearly done, but still searching for the perfect title!)

Adventure/Journey/Experiment #4:

Finish writing, compile and publish the first in a series of Travel Books

Adventure/Journey/Experiment #5:

Create a »Magic Co-Production« with a great friend. (It’s still early days, “We are going to do something together… “ Watch this space!)

Adventure/Journey/Experiment #6:

Create an app relating to »Travel, books and…« (Although I’m not quite sure yet where the bicycles will fit in here…)

Adventure/Journey/Experiment #7:

Write the first draft of THE novel which has been fermenting in my mind for many years

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This adventurous list is by no means final; there might well be changes, because after all, change is the only constant!

And now that I’m thinking about it, I could add a list of the ‘Other Seven’

Here goes:

#1 – Write every day

#2 -Publish seven books (see above)

#3 -Create a journal

#4 -Delve deeper into translations

#5 -Learn something new – and write about it (NOT every day)

#6 -Create seven reading projects

#7 -Be open to new adventures, journeys, challenges and experiments!!!

And how about the seven books I’d love to read, seven destinations I’d like to travel to, seven passes to cross, seven marathons to run, seven habits to master, seven languages to speak, seven…

Anyway, I’ll be back for more soon, with updates on how the adventures are unfolding.

In the meantime, I’d like to wish you all the best, with lots of love and laughter,

What are your Big Seven for 2017?