I Have a Love Hate Relationship: Like pigs in clover (or boars in my forest)

I Have a Love Hate Relationship: Like pigs in clover (or boars in my forest)

I think i’ve told you about my forest. If not: I love my forest. I have shed blood, sweat and tears for her. And she is a she, for Mother Nature will always be a she.

I love her ability to produce new life, throughout the year. I love rediscovering her embrace and love, watching the seasons change, walking new paths and following new scents whenever I choose.

I love the smells and sounds and colours. I love the smell of fresh rain in summer, of mushrooms in the autumn, of icey coldness in winter and moose in spring. I love the sound of bumble bees finding flowers, of an owl swooshing from the barn, the song of the Eurasian Woodcock (which marks the first day of spring for me).

But this post isn’t about my forest, or love affairs, or even about animals. It took me a while to find a theme: I don’t believe in love/hate relationships. That is – I didn’t believe they existed. Not really.

Until this summer.

This summer, I have formed a love/hate relationship. It’s pretty one-sided at the moment, as I am still doing reconnaissance – and my emotions are pretty jumbled at the moment.

I used to love finding signs of new life in my forest. A paw print here, a snapped twig there, disturbed foliage, half-eaten spruce cones – it was all part of life, forest life, my life. Now I walk with sharpened sight, I talk loudly to myself and fear more signs of a new inhabitant.

I used to love new species in the forest. This one, not so much. This one I don’t want. It’s vicious and messy, it decimates forest undergrowth and I have nightmare visions of gigantic animals with a ravenous appetite for human flesh.

I know that they’re not crazy dangerous animals in reality. Deep down, I know it. I just haven’t managed to convince myself of that knowledge being true.

I’ve known that wild boars have been spreading throughout south-east Norway over the past few years. I’ve seen the damage they do to forests in Sweden, and I was hoping that they wouldn’t make it over the border into my county just yet. I was expecting them in three or four years.

A pig in mud.
A pig in mud.

A fortnight ago, I found so many signs. Faeces, hoof prints, undergrowth that had been overturned by a snout rather than being muzzled gently by a deer.

My forest is over-run by wild boars. There are at least three animals ranging from oinklings to adults weighing in at approximately 100 kgs. There might be a gigantic, 1,000-lb beast out there as well – that’s food for nightmares – but it might also be a moose.

And yes, I hate them and I love them. I hate them for taking away my feelings of being at one with the forest. I hate them for the damage they do, towards vegetation and fellow beasts. I hate them for making me feel insecure when I find a den, or fresh faeces, or something else which has changed.

Yet – a part of my loves that they have finally arrived. I love new life and new species – I am still wondering when I will be lucky enough to actually see the heffalumps that live there. If the 1,000-lb turns out to be a hog, I would love for him to chase off all the morons who venture into my forest. I hate the human hyenas who steal and litter, who light fires with no thought for fire hazard, human garbage who pollute and threaten peaceful country living.

I would love for them to be chased back to their city with a blood-thirsty boar close behind.

I hate not feeling safe in my forest. It’s always been my one safe haven, a place that no-one could ever take from me – and suddenly it’s not. I find myself thinking about how to climb trees and wearing long pants in case I have to run straight through rather than ramble along as I usually do.

I know that I will probably feel a lot safer once I’ve got their trotters on tape. Unless the moose is a boar, that is. Or a sow with a dozen oinklings. I like that name, oinklings, it makes them sound less dangerous. I try to convince myself that they really are quite harmless and cute and almost cuddly.

It also makes them sound tastier. I must admit that my mouth waters at the thought of a small oinkling, or would it be oinker? – grilled on the spit, served with an apple in its mouth. Nice and crispy ears, to be munched on and washed down with honey pepper horilka, Ukrainian-style.

Eastern Europeans certainly know how to lay out a feast. This baby piglet tasted absolutely amazing!
Eastern Europeans certainly know how to lay out a feast. This baby piglet tasted absolutely amazing!

A bit like this little piggy I had the pleasure of tasting in Poland some years back.

Or maybe do it the Gaul way, the role of dog and poet already taken.

Until that happens – I guess I shall continue loving and hating the four-legged, man-eating predators that have taken over my forest…

When I was 13 years old…

When I was 13 years old…

At 13, I was a pretty ordinary child. I was a bookworm and loved reading. I went to school during the day and did my homework when I got home. I was in my first year of secondary school and I still hated the Norwegian educational system.

Having been brought up abroad means your parents can choose the schools at which you start your academic career. For me, it was a private girls’ school in Sanderstead, Surrey, and a private mixed school in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We wore uniforms and there was discipline and respect for one’s elders.

Moving to Norway was a huge culture shock (and I was rather pleased to learn – at a much later time – that this is normal. The shock of moving to Norwegian schools from a more civilized education system in the Western hemisphere is just as bad as moving from a third-world country – where one also has respect for one’s elders) from which I never really recovered. I was certainly the freak in my class and was never allowed to forget it. Not only had I lived ABROAD but my parents were DIVORCED – TWICE, even – and I enjoyed READING BOOKS!!! No wonder no-one really liked me. You don’t get Brownie points for enjoying the company of Charles Dickens, the Brontë sisters, Shakespeare and other classics if you live in Norway.

Pripyat1My interest in current affairs was also considered weird. The fact that I was interested in current affairs made me weird. Having survived racial rioting in Miami in the late 70s, civil war in Guatemala, the Brixton riots, the beginning of Thatcherism and the death of my beloved guinea pig Ginger I was rather more interested in what happened outside my window than my fellow pupils. In Norway, there is a saying – as if it was the most important thing to happen in the 20th century – where were you when Oddvar Brå broke his ski pole? To be perfectly honest I have no idea where I was, or which decade he broke his ski pole; I do, however, vividly remember where I was when the Falklands war ended, when president Reagan was shot, when Lennon was shot. I would say those happenings were more important for the world but not sure my fellow Norwegians agree.

In 1986 I was a member of Amnesty (as one was) and read their newsletters and pamphlets. I read Aftenposten and watched NRK news every evening (at the time we only had one Norwegian TV channel). I much preferred staying in London and watching the BBC news as it was always much more exciting and interesting – I had already guessed that NRK probably had its own political agenda. In my spare time I played the piano, played tennis, went horse-back riding and collected stamps. Oh yes, I was a geek. I didn’t have the glasses but the rest was all there.

In April 1986, the premiere of Top Gun was still a few months off. Spring was slowly replacing a bitterly cold winter (of that I am certain – winters were always bitterly cold when I was younger). I don’t think I was consciously aware of the political meaning of May 1st although I had a vague idea.

On the night of April 25th, I probably went to bed as usual and woke up on the 26th as usual. I got up, brushed my teeth and ate breakfast. I can’t remember it but it was a Saturday and that’s what I usually did on Saturdays. I was probably doing the same thing as the 50,000 inhabitants of Pripyat, SSR of Ukraine. Main difference being that there had not been a nuclear meltdown a mere mile away from me.

Truth be told, there were many differences. I was not looking forward to the May Day celebrations and certainly not anticipating the opening of the brand new amusement park. I probably would never have been allowed to live there – it was built for the Soviet elite, Ukrainian scientists with high educations, the future of the USSR. But there were many similarities also. They had amazing swimming pools (I was a good swimmer), excellent libraries and culture halls (as mentioned – I love books and pianos) and science labs in the schools.

Pripyat2При́п’ять (Pripyat) was founded in 1970, built up as a Sim City and proclaimed a city in 1979. It had apartment buildings, schools, cinemas, supermarkets, sports stadiums and every single amenity one could want for in a decent city. It didn’t even look very Soviet (if you ignored the communist propaganda). It was meant to be complete, the perfect town for the perfect citizens. The average age in 1986 was 18 (meaning that the experiment was succeeding – the smart, intelligent, intellectual parents were producing many smart, bright, sweet children with a promising future). This was not Stepford – these people were smart, beautiful and well accomplished.

But during those days, in April 1986, I had never heard of Pripyat. Or Chernobyl. I had probably heard of Ukraine but I doubt if I would have been able to pinpoint the country on a map. I was fully aware of the Cold War and was absolutely terrified of nuclear weapons. I knew how many times the Earth could be demolished with the amount of weapons that were currently all set to be fired at targets all over the planet. I was quite certain that Nuclear War would erupt tonight, or tomorrow, or certainly next month. I’d been to Cape Canaveral and seen a launch, though for some reason that didn’t scare me.

Electricity I did not worry about the origins of. Did I know what a nuclear power plant was? Or that there were several in Sweden? I don’t think so. Maybe I didn’t want to know.

But the meltdown of Reaktor 4 in Chernobyl, I don’t think I was scared by it. It probably wasn’t a big issue in school. I certainly can’t remember hearing scary propaganda about how we were all going to die from the radiation. I think I would have remembered that, as I do remember the Challenger accident which happened only three months earlier.

Very strange to think that something that probably made just a small impact on my life at the time, has become such an important element of my life now. I’ve only been there twice yet look forward to my next visit. I am fascinated by the fungi that live and thrive in the radioactivity in the reactor. The chemist in me is greatly impressed by the elephant’s foot and it always reminds me of the classic scene in T2. The herd of Przewalski’s horses that were released there because they were so sickly they were expected to die – but have instead thrived and become a vigorous flock.

euromaidanLife is a long, winding and mysterious pathway, and the stepping stones might only make sense in hindsight. If I hadn’t been a mycophile – and taken that course in Radiochemistry – or met my fiancée – and he hadn’t mentioned visiting Chernobyl – I would never have gone to Ukraine and been a part of one of the most important revolutions – the Ukrainolution, Euromaidan – in this century.

And I would have been a pretty boring person. Even if I still love books.

One of these dayz… a day in the life of “Edz” (My Name is Eddie Humbert, This is a Day in My Life)

One of these dayz… a day in the life of “Edz” (My Name is Eddie Humbert, This is a Day in My Life)

I wake up and stretch. It’s my day off. I nuzzle her neck and hope for a response, but she’s sound asleep. She’s a heavy sleeper. At least she pretends to be, though I’m not sure she isn’t faking it.

I slide out of bed and go to the kitchen for an early morning snack. I know she hates it when I only eat the topping off the pizza, but to be honest, it’s the only edible thing the morning after, and I did try to wake her. You schmooze, you lose.

I sit by the window watching the birds. They’re so feisty in the morning! Before breakfast! That’s not me. I prefer lazy mornings in bed with her. Preferably awake. I sneak into the bedroom and try a new approach: nibbling her ear. Her steady breathing doesn’t alter. I guess I’ll have to go hunting by myself, the sun is shining and the promise of a hot day is in the rays’ heat.

I sneak out the door and into the golden sun. MUSTWALKINTOTHEFOREST before I fall asleep on the lawn. I just love the lazy days of summer, sleeping in, relaxing at home, not having to think about work – as if! – or winter.
I sneak off into the woods. A finely tuned ear and a keen sense of smell are so important when hunting. Even you, dear reader, should be able to smell a forest animal, because most of them smell a lot. Forest animals smell different to sweaty humans, in case you were wondering. Rancid and sharp, and if you can smell it, start making noises – cos it means that *it* cannot smell you and has no idea you’re walking about. Unless you’re hunting, that is, then you should be so lucky. Follow that smell.

Personlly, I don’t mind them, unless they’re hephalumps. Hephalumps are invisible. There’s a small herd in the forest. The neighbour’s two dogs go bonkers when they smell the hephs. None of us really want to meet the hephs so we try to stay well clear of them.

I jog on, trying to catch an interesting sniff from somewhere, but it seems that there are no interesting prey about. I sneak on through the woods, registering all the noise – from millions of insects and birds, the wind whispering through and caressing the foliage, an airplane high up. A toad jumps into a puddle from yesterday’s rain shower. I don’t much care for toads. They’re poisonous. They have small beady eyes that stare right into your soul and wreak havoc on your digestion.

The air is getting gradually warmer and it’s less comfortable to breathe. It’s time to head back home. No matter how much she had to drink last night, surely she should wake up soon? It’s almost time for my dinner! She can’t expect me to fix it myself. It’s her job.

Upon entering the house I hear nothing. No familiar singing in the kitchen, no water falling from faucet to coffee pot. Only some almost imperceptible miniature snores.

She’s still sleeping! I cannot believe it! My slave is still in bed, not preparing my dinner, not tidying my boxes, not cleaning the sofa. I cannot believe this level of disrespect. I am hungry! There was no food to be found in the forest! All I’ve had to eat, all day, is just a few dry biscuits. Dry, bland and boring. I want food! Proper food. And I want it NOW!!!

I jump onto the bed without my usual grace and elegance. I try nibbling her ear but she swats me away like a fly. The nerve of it! Me, Eddie Humbert (also known as Edz amongst the cool cats) being swatted like a fly! This time there will be blood. I stick my paw under the duvet, all five claws out, pause for a second, then strike. Four paws, five claws, five toes. Blood curdling scream lasting a lot longer than five seconds. and she KICKED me out of bed! The nerve! Kicking a poor defenseless cat. I wailed my despair, shredded her blouse on the way out to prove my point – I do not accept being treated with such disrespect – flew over the counter and knocked her wine glass on the floor. I think she was obsessed by some demon cos I heard the noises she made – they didn’t sound human at all – I streaked out the cat flap without looking back.

My dinner? Oh, right. I had to go out hunting. Seems she didn’t appreciate the wake-up call. I walked in through the cat flap, calm as a cucumber, expecting my dinner. She sent me tumbling out the front door and down the stairs and told me to catch my own dinner before she sealed off the cat flap so I can’t get back inside. How dare she? When my thumbs evolve completely, she will pay.

Until then, I shall have to find myself some food. Or sun. My batteries need recharging. The sunny grass is so beckoning… the heat from the sun so hot… so alluring… must…not…give…in *znorez*

I’m Sorry | Sorry seems to be the hardest word, according to Elton John.

I’m Sorry | Sorry seems to be the hardest word, according to Elton John.

I beg to differ.

Any idiot can say “I’m sorry”. Most people probably say it dozens of times every day. The problem is saying it and giving it substance.

If I bump into someone, I will apologise. If I need to get past someone in a store, or need to interrupt someone, or if I’m running late for an appointment, even if it’s just five minutes, I’ll call ahead and apologise. It doesn’t cost me a calorie.

As I have travelled through life, I have also realised that it’s a lot easier not doing wrong onto others than fixing the damage. There is always damage if you do something that you need to apologise for. Even if you are forgiven, there will be damage. Always. Therefore life is easier if you don’t do anything that needs apologising. So I try not to, and it’s not really all that hard. Making up crappy excuses for why you are disrespectful is more difficult.

Unfortunately, very few people think like I do, it seems. Many seem to believe that they can do as they wish, hurt as many people as many times as they feel like as long as they say “sorry” afterwards, as if it were a “Get out of jail free” card.

It’s not.

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me – and the same applies for apologizing. I have a theory, which has evolved after too many people have treated me horribly too many times. I’m not talking about random acquaintances either (I hope to think that I would not allow myself to be treated this way by strangers), no, I’m talking about family and friends. The ones you least expect to betray you.

Which might be why we allow it to happen, again and again? Why we accept that promises will be broken, again and again, and all we will get is a “sorry, it won’t happen again”. But after a while you both know it’s a lie, a charade.

And by accepting that apology, you are telling that person “It is ok to treat me with disrespect as long as you keep pretending you’re sorry. We both know you aren’t, but let’s just pretend that you are, so keep saying you’re sorry and I’ll allow you to walk all over me with spiked heels again and again and again until there’s nothing left of my self-respect but a bloody stain”.

By accepting an insincere apology, you are allowing others to treat you like dirt. That’s what I used to do. I used to pretend I didn’t mind how my family and friends treated me, when the truth was that it left me crying myself to sleep at night.

It’s taken years. Trying to convince yourself that it really isn’t you, it’s them, is so much easier said than done – especially when “them” is your friends and family. I accepted their dismissive treatment of me because at least I got a little attention.

My life is easier now. I try not to hurt people. I don’t allow others to hurt me. I don’t forgive and I sure as hell don’t forget. I don’t give warnings. I will simply let you fade away into oblivion.

A piece of advice: if you ever consider doing something to me that will require an apology, think twice. Apologise in advance and you might stand a chance.

I’m just sorry it took me so many years to understand it.

I'm not sorry I ate this cute creature.
I’m not sorry I ate this cute creature.
Unrequited Love | Some things aren’t meant to be.

Unrequited Love | Some things aren’t meant to be.

People say that all the time. They say it about just about anything that doesn’t happen. If you apply for a job and don’t get it, fail a test, come in last in a race – or a close second, if you get a puppy who has to be put down before it’s past its puppy-stage, if you fall in love and it’s not reciprocated.

We blame it on fate, wrong circumstances, bad chemistry with the interviewers, wrong choice of breed, bad hair day, unfair competition, cheating judges. We’ve all been told that “Maybe it wasn’t supposed to happen”. Probably several times.

But how many times have you thought “maybe it was my fault”? I didn’t run fast enough. I chose the runt of the litter because I felt sorry for it. I hadn’t revised enough for that test. I did not come prepared for the interview.

Or, in regards to love, “How can s/he love me when even I don’t love me?” It took me at least 30 years to love myself. The truth is probably closer to 38.

There was a priest who claimed that everyone loves themselves, even if it doesn’t seem that way. That gets my thoughts wandering. Cos if I haven’t loved myself, then why am I still alive? If I couldn’t care less about myself, I should have been dead a long time ago.

Is it possible to love oneself yet not? It sounds very schizophrenic – but then again, staying alive if I truly did not love myself also sounds very bizarre. Could it be that some part of me has loved myself all along, yet my conscious self has not been able to reciprocate? Does that mean I have become a more lovable person, or simply that I have become able to love? Will I ever fall out of love with myself, and if so, will both parts of me fall out of love or just the conscious one?

The more I think about it, the more confused I get. The more confused I get, the more I adhere to the idea that maybe those of us who take a long time loving ourselves, of learning to love ourselves, simply are unable to reciprocate the internal love for ourselves that we are born with? And that some people, the ones who do die too soon, have so many bad experiences and are broken so badly that their love is gone.

This I do know. When my self’s love was no longer unrequited, I stopped worrying about what other people thought of me. I stopped caring about people who didn’t care about me. It took me far too many years to reach that realisation – guess what, life’s too short to care about petty people and petty quarrels! And it’s certainly far too short to care about people who don’t love you back.

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I think cats are born with that wisdom.

A Strawberry in Champagne

A Strawberry in Champagne

by Siri Bjoner | View Posts

A wise old lady taught me that life begins the second you wake up. Every morning. At 73, she and her husband would flee to the south of Europe every summer, rent a gorgeous old convertible and drive around like lunatics.

I’m not 73 (yet), unmarried (but engaged), drive a Mercedes (Lady Plum the station wagon) and spend my holidays in Ukraine (Pripyat/Chernobyl exclusion zone).

We live in the gorgeous countryside of Norway, with 11 Continue reading