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my dog’s thoughts this morning

Oh, she moved. I think she’s waking up.

Light! It’s another day! Oh, I’m so happy! Gotta go wash her face! With my tongue! She loves it! It helps her wake up! I’m such a good dog.

Down the stairs, down the stairs, down the stairs – do you see how fast I am?! I’m the fastest dog in this house! I’m great! Open the door!

Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, there’s the other one! The one that cuddles me! Oh, there she is! There she is! Gotta jump up and try and lick her face as well! No, gotta curl up in a ball on her feet! No, I got it: throw myself on my back and present her my belly for scratching!!! Yes, what a great idea!

Oh, the other one’s in the kitchen! Food!!!

No food. She’s opened that place where they hide their human food. I never get anything from in there. Maybe if I stare into my bowl? Stare. Stare. Oh, this is boring, better go right up to her and sit down and beg. Yes, that’s it! Oh no, she’s only scratching my ears. Oh, nice spot. Yes, perfect spot! Yes, scratch harder! Right there! I’m going to help you! Watch this. Look, I can do it with my hind foot! Look at me! Look at me!

Oh my gosh, now the other one is in the kitchen as well! I’m right in the middle! I love it when the whole pack is close together like this! Maybe they’ll feed me now!!!

Oh, they’re talking about me, I heard my name! I wish they weren’t talking so fast. Something about… FOOD!!!

Oh no, someone walking past the house! Better run to the window and bark at them. Oh, now my pack is angry. How strange. My job is important! Gotta defend our territory! It’s what dogs do! Get out of that street, you! There’d be people running all over our street if I didn’t pay attention. Better bark again, just to be sure. Alright, alright, I’ll stop, if they absolutely insist, then I won’t… FOOD!!!

False alarm again. I’m so unhappy.

OH MY GOD WE’RE GOING OUT!!! Finally! Finally! She said it! We’re going for a walk!!! This is it!!! Gotta try and lick her face!!! No, come back, let me lick your face! Oh, I know! I’m gonna jump up at you! Here we go!! Yes, what a wonderful idea!!!

Alright, I’ll wait right here on the steps, okay? Can you see me? Here I am! Just waiting for you to get ready. Now she’s gotta put on extra paws and extra fur – humans are strange sometimes. I’ll best sit still and wait… wait…. OH! She’s ready! Yes, I’ll show you the door! Here it is! It’s a door! You open it and we go out! YES! You made it! It’s open! Oh, you’re so clever!!!

Wait, what’s that? Oh, that funny thing they put around my neck. It makes a strange noise when they put it on. Like a click. I don’t like the noise. Why do they do that? Oh, the LEASH!!! Oh my god, oh my god, the leash!!! I LOVE the leash!!! Oh, there it is! Yes! I’m going to carry it myself. In my mouth. So I can chew on it. Hm. Leash. I’m so HAPPY!!!

Oh, better concentrate now. Wearing the leash is a job. I gotta defend my human. It’s a big responsibility! I gotta huff at everyone who gets too close. Warn them off. Yes, that means you as well!!! Out of the way!!! Oh, now she’s taking the leash off!!! That means she doesn’t need my protection anymore – let’s run!!! Come on!!!

Nobby running

cool cats singing in the night

It was last year, round about this time of year. I was living in London and so was, until the next morning, a wonderful Indonesian friend. We spent her last evening together, drinking coffee, wandering the cold streets of London, drinking hot chocolate and taking photos of her and river and us and the skyline along the river and talking, talking, talking.

While we were walking along the Jubilee walkway (that bit between Westminster Bridge and the Southbank Centre), I heard some music from up ahead that I really liked. I love street music and this sounded like a lot of fun. As we got nearer, all I could see though was a small CD player and a girl walking and dancing in front of it. We slowed down and looked and she approached us and asked if we liked the music and we said we liked it very much. She gave me a CD in a paper envelope, on which she’d handwritten a date and location and the name of the band she was blasting into the cold London night.

It was called Katzenjammer and she told us that she was ‘just’ a fan, doing this promotion by herself because she loved the band so much and not enough people knew about it – that’s some serious fan points in my book! Anyway, for some stupid reason that I cannot remember, I didn’t manage to go to the concert, even though I had really planned to go. And so I forgot about Katzenjammer.

Just last night, I was zapping through the TV channels after watching two really old episodes of Monk. I came across a concert that happened this summer at a big festival in Germany and I really liked the music and the look of the girls – so pretty and spunky and confident and feisty and funny. And that’s pretty much what the music sounded like as well. I quickly looked up the concert in the TV guide and – as you will probably have guessed by now – it was Katzenjammer.

They’re from Norway, and they’re an all-girls band who play about twenty instruments between them and the music sounds like a delicious, sweet and tangy and slightly naughty cocktail of rock, circus music, folk, the music of the better class of cabaret, with a good dose of ska rhythms thrown in, sprinkled with scenes from a French café and the last stand in at Mexican fort. I know,  that’s a crazy mixture! But it works. It definitely works. I’ll even prove it to you.

Understand what I mean?

P.S. I’m not sure what “Katzenjammer” exactly means in Norwegian, but I suppose it’s very close to what it means in German, which would be either, literally, ‘cats’ wailing’ (probably closely related to ‘caterwaul’) or, in the figurative sense, ‘hangover’. 🙂

Witches: Their Habits and Manners – A Non-Factual Treatise on the History of Witch Behaviour

(This is the answer to an indirect challenge by a friend, who posted a picture of witches using modern kitchen appliances in the deep dark woods and answered my lengthy list of well-thought-out questions (e.g. “Where would they get the electricity and WHY would they meet in the woods ANYWAY?”) with the information that she was on a campaign to confound me. I picked up that glove and here I am, presenting you with my research on the habits and traditions of witches – and just in time for Halloween as well! – founded exclusively on half-an-hour of deep pondering.)

A long time ago, witching was a job like any other in the public service sector. People would ask for help, and witches provided solutions and received payment in the form of a leg of mutton or possibly a basket full of apples (depending on the season and the magnitude of the problem solved, of course – in harsh winters, payment might also be in the form of firewood or similar). This was the golden age of witching. Things, however, changed…

Due to migratory movements and growing population numbers, witches fell under suspicion. This was mainly because people in new settlements brought their own witches, who naturally deemed themselves better than the ones originally settled there (“Her methods are sooo eleventh century!” Hildegunde, witch of the then-newly built settlement of New Tal, about her colleague in the village of Tal, AD 1102). Rivalry amongst the witches themselves, as well as feuds between the villagers about who had the better witch led to so many clashes, that the fact of having a witch in the village slowly became something negative. People started to turn on the witches, who they thought brought only strife and violence.

In a historical council, held one autumn night on the Blocksberg, a mountain in Central Europe, the witches agreed to settle their differences and adopted a ten-point policy that would ensure their safety. This was, of course, not settled on easily, and much glaring, cursing and sulking was involved. One particularly serious discussion is still on record, detailing the insults traded between two particularly powerful witches – Bartholomea from the village Sprotz and Aldreda from the village Nethelred – but they cannot be repeated here, since nobody has ever been able to read them without turning into a frog.

This paper encompassed the first and most important point, that of the formation of the Union of Witches (UW), membership of which was compulsory for all witches aiming to earn their living from witchcraft. The other nine points covered basic procedures for mutual identification and general protection. Amongst the former category was the obligatory wearing of a black, pointed hat, the possession of at least three warts on a visible part of the body, and the keeping of a familiar off a list of further detailed animals (toads, cats, ravens, goats and the consequently much unfavoured caterpillar (further research into its unpopularity is necessary to establish exact facts, but one theory points towards the solution of caterpillars not necessarily staying caterpillars, forcing the witch to train a new familiar each year).

The latter category, that of protection, was headed by the three doctrines of 1) remoteness, 2) unobtrusiveness and 3) lying. This led to witches removing from villages to cottages all alone in the woods and only visiting their villages on rare occasions and favourably at night and, of course, being untruthful when asked if they were a witch. At that time, these measures seemed the most sensible ones to ensure protection, yet in hindsight, it can be pretty firmly established that this policy did not bring about the desired effects.

Instead of the villagers perceiving them as harmless old biddies who lived in the woods, they became even more suspicious about them, reasoning that anything that necessitated them to move into the woods meant that they were up to nefarious deeds. “Instead of stealing into the woods at dead of night to cook up their brews, which meant that anyone with even the worst eyesight could see their fires through the trees and the foul stench could be smelled miles around, it would have been so much easier to just stay at home and pretend to be a really bad cook if company came to call at the moment when the witch had a cauldron full of frog spawn on the boil,” explains Annabelle Miller, senior researcher at the Institute of Fantastical History, University of Sprotz (founded, incidentally, by the witch Bartholomea, whose highly efficient curses still retain such power today).

Although their policy was counter-productive to the extreme, the witches continued it, because on the one hand, witches are, as is widely known, traditionalist and will always stick to the “old ways” (even if those old ways aren’t necessarily that old) and on the other hand, because none of them could face another council meeting like the one on the Blocksberg that had established the UW. “I’d rather be burned than come face to face with those old biddies again!” (Rohese, of the settlement of Chardonnière).

For centuries, these procedures were carried out faithfully by the generations of witches, adhering to the guidelines of the Union to maintain maximum distance between themselves and their sister witches. In recent years, however, there has been a major change. Starting in the 1960s, on the wave of liberation, free thinking and free sex, witches started to come out into the open. Because the necessity of protecting themselves had been instilled into them for generations, they started using a number of camouflage terms, like ‘esoteric’, ‘wicca’, ‘new pagan’ and so on. This deflected attention and allowed witches to slowly become a part of mainstream culture in western countries once more.

Nowadays, it is rather the norm than the exception for witches to conduct their business in their modern, big-city flats, where they have fully equipped kitchens. Necessary ingredients like snake’s eye, frog tails and cockroach wings are ordered through highly-specialized online shops and only those witches living in rural areas still harvest their own herbs and plants. These New Witches, as they call themselves, are frowned upon by those traditionalists that still remain, causing the witch community to be once again deeply divided, although time is slowly taking care of this problem as the old traditionalists are literally dying out.

Popular perception of witches as wart-covered, hunchbacked old women, cooking over open fires in the woods is now being increasingly criticized by the New Witches. “We feel that this cliché seriously hurts our business and lifestyle, and we are in the process of launching several awareness campaigns to challenge people’s stereotypical thoughts about witches”, says Matilde Bonhom, spokeswoman for the New Witch Association. It remains to be seen how society will react to this new policy, but the author of this treatise hopes to have done her part in shedding some light on an issue that has for too long remained in the deep, dark woods.