The most fascinating book

Recently I have been thinking about the question which book I would consider the most fascinating I’ve ever read. And with a personal library of about 900 books and hundreds more in digital form, not to mention those books I’ve given away over the years … you might say I’ve read quite a lot. Ranging from theatre plays, classics, historic romances, fantasies, mysteries, science, biographies, non-fiction, children books, teens, etc … there’s something from every genre. I’m not talking about my favourite book. I haven’t decided on that quite yet. As a kid I would have said “Insu-Pu” by Mira Lobe, 1953, 316 pages, a book my father had read when he was young and which I still possess and treasure and love very much. I still remember lying on my parents’ bed, book in front of me, basically reading it in one go, my father looking in on me when he came home from the office, me barely being able to stop reading for joining family dinner.

Ohhh … and there I go again, reminiscing about the past and totally straying from the topic. (Well, this all just a clever measure to make you more curious and heighten the suspense! Hope it worked!)

The most fascinating book I’ve ever read is the “Pfaffenspiegel” (“Priests’ mirror”) by Otto von Corvin. Written in 1845 – 1845!!! – it describes the beginnings and history of Christianity up to the 19thcentury. Why it fascinates me so much? Well, apart from the fact that I myself am very critical of the Catholic Church – and other more fanatical religions – I was more than surprised … stunned … to read something this critical having been written in the 19thcentury. Confirming my personal views I already had. Otto von Corvin writes quite openly about the crimes and misconducts of bishops, popes, priests, monks and nuns … orgies, murder and mayhem … “celibacy” … sales of indulgences …

The funny thing? The “Pfaffenspiegel” I possess is a reprint from 1995. At this time “Amazon” and the huge world of online shopping was still in its infancy and the book basically forbidden. (Especially in Austria, where the Catholic Church rules with more than two thirds of Austrians being Catholic.) Which is why my issue had been printed in Finland. My father, who remembered that book from his youth, having grown up in a quite liberal family, also due to my grandfather’s extensive business travels around the world, gleefully discovered the reprint in a book shop in Germany and couldn’t help buying it. Thanks, Dad, for introducing me to this exceptionally fascinating, entertaining and well written book. Another one of those I couldn’t stop reading until I was done.

I could write endlessly about this book, recounting the shocking historical facts, some of which I have already “used” in past articles about religions, one of my favourite topics, as you know. But … I don’t want to reveal too much and spoil it for you. It’s one of those books one just has to read and enjoy oneself.


The treacherous world of online dating

Yes, I admit it. I’ve joined the league of lonely people hitting the online dating circus in the hope of meeting the one for me. And since I’m thorough and impatient … I registered at three different platforms. One highly expensive one, forking over 450€ for a one-year-membership, one of the swiping kind and a free one. I can tell you, it’s a jungle out there. Especially the free platforms can be, well, treacherous ground. Starting out quite naïvely – even though I did some research on what to do and not to do – I quickly learned how to be more careful with my information, even getting an anonymous email address and communicating through likewise anonymous chatting portals. And good thing I did. One of my first experiences was actually a military scammer. For all those stupid people out there who don’t know what a “military scammer” is – like silly ME, who had never heard of it before – let me quickly explain: military scammers are people using fake identities and pictures from US military personnel, probably stolen from Facebook accounts, trying to catch unsuspecting men and women, making them fall in love with them and getting as much money out of them as possible under false pretences. Usually they need the money for the “trip back” from wherever in Africa they are stationed, for being “released early from the Army”, etc etc. When in real life the person behind this scheme is probably a Nigerian … and not the handsome guy you think you’ve been chatting to for ages. In my case, I don’t have a clue who actually was behind “Brian”, but when he wanted me to send him money my warning bells rang loud and clear and I drew him in like a spider to its web. Tripping him up had become a game for me and he stepped into it beautifully. I asked clever questions about the States, customs and also pretended I would send him the money, asking him how to proceed. “Western Union” and an amount larger than the flight to Germany would have cost was exactly what I had expected. Ha! Caught you! Gleefully I confronted him, also with all those grammatical mistakes he had made as well as the wrong use of words. Boy, it was so funny how indignant he was … how could I think so poorly of honest US Army guy Brian. Yeah, right!

But, I also have to admit, it took me a few days until I got suspicious for real. Not all too familiar with American chatting styles I excused his grammar with exactly that: chatting style and plain and simple typos.

So, all in all, I got off lightly, and neither with a broken heart nor with any money lost, but simply some wasted time. And a big deal of more life experience.

Darn! This is not exactly the kind of article I had wanted to write when I started. This was supposed to be a funny piece … or let me rephrase it: at least a funnier one. Once again, I’ve managed to get distracted a wee bit by my first scammer (oh yes, there were more who tried something similar, but I caught on more quickly the other times). But I guess it’s never a bad thing to write about one’s experiences. Sending out a warning to be careful out there …

I promise you, though, I’ll be back with more of my online dating experiences!

Mother’s Day

It’s coming. Every single year it’s sneaking up on me and then it’s suddenly here. Mother’s Day. (Oh alright, even I can’t help noticing it’s about to happen again with all the ads for flowers and everything possible and impossible in heart shapes left over from Valentine’s Day). And images start flashing through my mind … like me giving baking a try in the form of a Swiss roll with apricot jam as a young girl or presenting my Mum with a flower-style bunch of cooking spoons in various colours. Or making hand-painted cards, gift certificates, buying flowers together with my father at the florist, preparing Sunday breakfast in bed for her (which actually was not anything special because we often did that for Mum; it was just the way my father was …)

Basically, my Mum was not all that into Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day. It was more important to her that we thought of her and did something nice occasionally all through the year instead of just once or twice on those particular days. And we did. I remember my father buying a single rose or orchid on his way home from work, hiding messages for her to find, sending post cards from his business trips and he always brought home little gifts for all of us from all over the world. I remember how often we prepared supper to have in the dining room instead of the kitchen, with cheese and cold cuts nicely spread out on fine china and decorated with carved radishes, tomatoes and pickles. Or preparing a hot bath for Mum to enjoy. And cooking … that was always Dad’s job on weekends. And still, Mother’s Day was Mother’s Day …

Being very close to my mother’s sister and my Aunt Do who had been in my life as long as I can think of – actually, she had already been in my father’s life from his childhood years on – and was not a relative of the usual kind, but a relative of the heart, I realized that Mother’s Day doesn’t just have to be about mothers but about the women in our lives we love. Both of them childless, I was their child as well and they surrogate mothers to me. How lucky I was to have them close during my university days, living in the same town as most of my relatives. It was Aunt Do and me who came up with the “Aunt’s Day”. And we always spent it together with my mother’s sister, my uncle and grandmother.

Everything has changed, of course. My Mum is gone. Has been for the past five years. So are my Aunt Do, my grandmother, my uncle. But I still have my mother’s sister, who has become everything to me. Even though she is far away back in Austria. And like every year I will talk to her on “Mother’s/Aunt’s Day” and send a surprise to her. Which … in the tradition of my family … I do in between as well. The latest mystery novel from authors she likes, a little something for her holidays, etc.

Mothers (and fathers, by the way) are not the only ones deserving a day to be spoiled. Everyone deserves a day like this. Those people who are there for you, always, at least deserve a “Thank you” once in a while.

So, happy “Mother’s, Aunt’s, Friend’s Day”! Thank you!

The perfect proposal

And this, guys, is a posting just for you! Imagine you’ve met the girl of your dreams and you decide to take the plunge and pop the question of all questions. Now, are you excited? Nervous? Absolutely clueless? Let me tell you, getting it over with like this is NOT the way to do it:

SHE: Let’s buy the house!

HE: Okay! We can get married and save taxes in the process!

You think that’s romantic? No, it’s not! If your future wife actually says yes you’re either lucky or she’s brain dead! Boys, women like to be wooed and together with the big wedding day the proposal is supposed to be the happiest day of her life! So, please, at least try to think of something! After all you two should remember this moment and file it under “pleasant memories” you can turn to in times of fighting!

First of all: the ring! You need to have a ring! Basically, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a tiny diamond, a huge bling or vintage ring as long as it’s not butt ugly and meets your girlfriend’s style. If you were bored and annoyed until now because you had to stand in front of Cartier, Tiffany or H. Stern for hours looking at jewellery you can’t afford anyway, you should pay a little more attention now! Because … you don’t want to get it wrong! Believe me! You don’t! Better choose a simple classic style than going overboard with a kitschy version!

Second: the location! As important as the ring! Nothing speaks against the kitchen if it means something special to you! But … yes, yes, I know, here it comes, the big BUT! But … your girl will appreciate it even more if you think of something terrific. A weekend getaway – if you can afford it -, a helicopter flight, a banner from Tower Bridge (okay, a bit too much), dinner on the beach … just a few suggestions for you to think about. Anything works as long as it’s something you think your beloved might enjoy! Are you wondering whether you have to drop down on one knee, look up at her, gaze lovingly into her eyes and beg her to marry you? And are you absolutely horrified about the idea? Because … men just don’t do that? Don’t worry, guys! It’s not absolutely necessary if you’re not comfortable with it! Of course, if your woman tells you beforehand she expects that, guess what you’ll have to do? Right! Do the knee fall!

Otherwise, forget it! It’s as romantic if you just stand in front of her, taking her hands into yours and that brings me to No 3: the right words! I guess finding the right words is the most difficult part! Do you really just want to cry out the question? Just tell her you love her and can’t imagine life without her! That’ll do and she has a few moments to get prepared for THE question! After all YOU know it’s going to come, she ideally should be totally surprised, fall into your arms and whisper a YES!

You wonder why I’m writing about proposals? Well, it’s this time of the year where every Saturday I hear the motorcades driving by, honking, signalling another couple getting hitched … which always make me think …