Peas, please

Meanwhile, back at the ranch – or rather the cosy confines of the 60s semi-detached that we call “Birch Modern” – there are seeds to sow. The dining room already hosts a collection of trays, a patchwork quilt of tomato, basil, pepper, and pumpkin (as well as cosmos, foxglove, dahlia, salvia, and sweet pea) seedlings. A month ago I planted peas in a length of guttering:

Sheltered from the worst of the weather, and from hungry allotment mice, the seeds got a jump start on the season. Now twice as high as the ones I’ve sown directly into the ground, these pea seedlings are ready to be transported, carefully, to the allotment, where I will slide them out of the gutter into their final growing site.


Vienna: family

Our week in Vienna presented us with an invigorating mix of art, history, culture, architecture, and, of course, food. Here are some things Zoe and Isobel loved:
• Seeing Breugel’s Hunters in the Snow, Ruben’s Head of the Medusa, and Klimt’s mural paintings at the Kunsthistorisches Museum.
•Listening to the Marriage of Figaro and interesting facts about the composer’s life while touring Mozart’s house.
• Watching the animals, including bats, birds, and bears, at the Tiergarten Zoo in the grounds of the Schonbrunn Palace (as well as eating the ice creams and fried dough).
• Jumping off the 4 metre high diving board and swimming outdoors in the toasty pools at the Therm Wien spa.
• Thrilling to the sight of beautiful Lipizzaner stallions cantering and performing lavades at the elegant Spanish Riding School. (Isobel)
• Eating weiner schnitzel, Kate’s matzo ball soup, and cakes: zwetschgen strudel, apfelstrudel, Sacher torte – all “mit slag.”

The highlights are many, but no list is complete without mentioning that we had the great good fortune to be visiting family. So before we leave Vienna behind for more localized reports of germinating peas, here are some photos of the cousins, having fun creating Easter eggs:


the finished product

Vienna: memory

After we got back, I came across a capsule review of a new book by Eric Kandel, The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind and Brain from Vienna 1900 to the Present. It turns out to be a followup of sorts to Kandel’s earlier In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind, here focused on the links between science and art in Vienna’s golden era: Freud, Schnitzler, Klimt, Schiele and Kokoschka. If you’re into memory studies, Kandel’s work is fundamental, but this book includes a return to educational origins for him, since he was a History and Literature major at Harvard in 1950 before deciding to take up neurology, and did his undergrad thesis on the response to National Socialism in the work of three German writers, Carl Zuckmayer, Hans Carossa, and Ernst Jünger.

An interview with Kandel reminds me of a conversation Andrew and I had on the tram out to Oberlaa about the continuing relevance of Freud. I was questioning how psychoanalysis could stick with its self-conception as an ongoing field of research in the scientific sense, limited as it was to explication of the master’s theories. It turns out Kandel saw his project early on as the establishment of Freud’s insights on a proper neurological basis. You can take the boy out of Vienna (born in 1929, Kandel left with his family after Kristallnacht) but not Vienna out of the boy. After he won the Nobel for Medicine, a film on his life and work appeared, from which this still (recreation of a Viennese childhood episode) is taken: