Monday, April 16, 2012

DSC_2512 [ps] - This Tension, This Electricity in the Air"Is Brideshead Revisited the first one or was there an earlier one?"

This question did not get answered.

It's good, as is Pemberley Encountered, which somehow I'd never read (and why did no one mention in amongst the swooning over Darcy that it's actually cruelly funny?).

So I took two books to Germagne and failed to read either of them, because, well, the postcards that did get written were stuffed into a postbox (yellow! With the Lego post logo!) on the Saturday, which I then realised would only be emptied after we'd left the country. So sorry for not sending any of you lot one, but the choices without words were a view I never saw (time and scaffolding issues) or photographs of his Forcefulness, Pope Palpatine (some of them really were exact copies except for the lightning from the fingers).

I spent a few days in the sunniest part of Alleschland, where I encountered Schnee, Regen, Nieselregen, Nebel, Hagel, and zurückbleibend Dunst (ooh, Kirsten has an apt surname). We annoyed our hosts by having umbrellas at the ready, because they don't consider themselves as living somewhere where carrying an umbrella is anything but an affectation. We also found ourselves a bit lustig for one performance through having the planned activity snowed off (we were supposed to be going up the tallest hilltain in the area to stare at the view, as one does, but it was lost to freezing fog).

Which reminds me, excursions often made me think of this:

[Minor IT helpdesk break: My mother didn't quite believe that I could unlock her new phone by waving my hand over it and saying "Alakazam". She prefers getting angry to wondering why there's a glowing arrow on screen with a band sweeping across it repeatedly towards the point, even though she's already commented on discovering it's touchscreen. It happened in Deutscherreich too, where breakfast found me solving the technical problems of half the choir (you see this bit saying "No memory card"? Yeah, well, you might want to work on that), they having decided I was nearest thing there to an eleven year old boy, our as one put it "we'll need someone under, ooh, thirty", whereupon the habitual exclamations arose (golly, other people must get really haggard really young if no one ever believes my age)]

Anyway, quante questi il bel sole or whatever it is (apparently it's Italian, but makes no sense in Italian, or so say some Italians). Much hairpinning, or as the Teuts say, windages. Complete with loggers loading round a blind bend, trunk sticking out far behind the lorry and overhanging the other lane. Cue quick seatbelt test. Even the guides were scandalised by how little warning there was before the strong chance of a log through the windscreen. And then having overtake in the incoming lane when they're coming out of a blind bend too. And this was the main road through the area. It was like being in Wales.

Anyway, so we left a long, long time before we arrived, late, and then piled into a hotel that really wasn't set up for such things, and then into the restaurant, upsetting them through being a couple of hours late (as is standard for foreign travel; sailing's dire for it, because the tides are in GMT, the boat BST, and the French Channel Islands, which technically when didn't go to because we didn't go through customs on the mainland, oddly aren't on either, and it didn't help they'd already been muddled by a table for six for eight).

It was then that I first tasted Spätzle, which while like someone's description of it as "badly cooked pasta" was found to be something rather more (BCP to me meaning gnocchi the dog won't touch, see the fish floating incident from years ago).

And so to bed, sharing a twin room which has one bed with a seam down it wedged between the built-in furniture, with some guy who's six-foot-and-a-half-and-I-mean-half-a-foot, has the usually tempting blue eyes with dark lashes, and a body shape far too reminiscent of my father at his worst (which he's not happy about, the shape, not the similarity he doesn't know about—I'm not that tactless—as given away by him putting on a t-shirt to walk to the bathroom and the pants bought for a past version of him).

Were it not for the fact he appears to have only marginally more confidence than me (invariably I'm drawn to cocky), that the last person I saw with a body like that died, that I've seen him checking his emails on his phone which suggest either he was looking at his report of his submissions of his female friends on Hotornot or he was being presented with an array of locally available women in all shades of desirability, that he tried making some joke, along with most of the rest of the choir, when someone said they'd lost gay (meaning the note it's sung on), that if I tried tapdancing in glittery red shoes on a rainbow unicorn most people would merely class me as bit odd (why is it that something the bullies always saw the rest of the world never does? Even when I say some people disbelieve, and even argue), that I don't really do adult relationships, I'd be well in there.

It is odd realising I'm fairly blasé about bodies. Turn your back and get changed. If you've seen someone struggle out of a wetsuit without anything on underneath there's very little mystery left, very little to be threatened by, and very little allure in the vast bulk of cases (but he was pretty [and cocky] and had the cutest little lickable dimples just above his hips in the small of his back, and no I never did get to test lickability).

Minor digression. Anyway, we were late to breakfast, because, well, he, um, delayed us upstairs. He set his alarm, I didn't set mine because his seemed like a reasonable time. His alarm went, I got up. He struggled to get up and stay up, and while he was in the bathroom I checked my phone, which said it had auto-updated my already updated time, but was an hour ahead of what it should have been. Except the noise outside, including voices I recognised, suggested that maybe, just maybe, it was right and the much more expensive option wasn't.

Run, hear raucosity, run back, shout through door, run again, bounce into restaurant, smile, greet, fail to disguise the "huh?" when confronted with a smorgasbord. Where does one start? Does the garlic sausage come after cold black pudding or before? Is the yoghurt to dip the croissants in or is that the orange thing in that bowl that no one's touching? And how come the basket of brown bread also contains overbaked white rolls too?

Of course eventually I figured it out. Start with fruit juice and muesli, then cold meats and goats' cheese with a roll or hunk of rye, then croissants anglicised with marmalade (the jam was strawberry, and one that was more implied the actual, and anyway the French can't complain, one of the Aires in the Pays d'Ull sold a noisette pain au chocolate which turned out to be made with Nutella, which sort of isn't quite the same thing [Mussolini has a lot to answer for]), then a bowl of fruit salad with raspberry yoghurt on the side (or cherry or blackcurrant or rhubarb), with optional pilfering for later.

What struck me as odd was the complete absence of bananas. There's freshly cut fruit salad with at least 6 fruits in, but no banana. The platter on the other side has apples, oranges, kiwis, but no bananas. Maybe it was a quirk of the hotel, but thinking of it the stalls in the market all had masses of things (Elstar would appear to be their Cox) but I didn't see notice any bananas, which given I intended to pick some up was odd.

Anyway, we gathered ineptly and then were split into those willing to walk up a hill and those less willing. After a fair bit of Grand Old Duke of Yorking, including two elderly German women scandalised that people would get into a lift with others already it (um, there were two, there are now five, the lifts says it holds eight), and even more shocked when my guide explained we were from England, which garnered the response "No, he's Turkish" (um, I may not be fluent, but the German for Turkish is fairly like the English, so I understood that bit, just as I understood the bit that said I was too black to be English. Golly, the sun on the meadow is summery warm today), we discovered there's quite a view, and quite a brewery, and a McDonaldstor, and that all streams lead to the tower at the base of hill where one valley comes into that of the Rhine.

And then down for a private tour, as one of the viola players decided to like me—she spoke little English, I less German, it sort of worked with occasional requests for words from the pianist's niece who'd be co-opted into translating for her exuberant uncle (who expected her to translate long monologues in one go)—in which I discovered that once upon a time a man came to by the town, with a heavy cart full of barrels which when opened contain gold coins, well, a layer of gold coins over quite a lot of sand, but there have been worse financial slights of hand (it's called leveraging), that the stream with the concrete crocodile in it used to be the industrial power source and industrial waste system, running through the tanneries and breweries of the town (who knew leder was leather and bier beer?), and the area became a slum (being a bit pungent and beyond the city wall) before becoming a not slum (nightdress for 90 Euro anyone?), still with the water surging through it, including through shops.

Somewhere along the line we ended up in the shop with a river in it, gathered round a piano, suddenly singing (Youtube for those either in the know or with half a Google), as one does, while the well-heeled hausfraus looked bemusedly on and the shop assistants didn't know what to do (the pianist owns it and sometimes plays there; his wife had forbade him from bringing us in). I'm not sure it counts as a flash mob if you don't know you're about to do it and there's piano at the ready.

And then along to the McDonaldstor, which apparently they wanted to paint in their colours (but the stone's already red, well, where it's not green). It has another name, but it's got McDonald's in big letters at the base of it. Then up to the main square (there was more tourage, but, it's all a bit muddled now) to wonder round wondering about the practicality of buying plants, discovering that it doesn't seem to matter which wurst one asks for or gets, it's still distinctly on the Frankfurter side of sausagedom, that ethnische waren are the same the world over (oh, I've got that bowl; I got it in Camden. It was cheaper there), that money matters fractionally less when it involves calculations (and you've got money out with the intention of spending it), that retiring for cake is also a common occurrence in German, that café society works better with blankets (we didn't realise until we were nearly leaving, but yes, that does explain how people can happily sit outside all over Europe), that the owner of the café we were at was fastidious about making sure we were all charged the correct amount (er, but every cake has been the same price, and every drink the same and we all had cake and a drink, so, yes, do continue to add each one individually).

And so we suddenly were allowed to do what we wanted. Being me, therefore armed literally with a camera, I wanted to go further up the hill to get a better view (and more time to take shots). So up we went, meine Mutter und ich, up to the castle's stumps, having turned its guns once too many times on the town and so found guns upon it, up past the war memorials, the glorifying Great War one and the muted Second World War one, bounding up to declare my mother the dirty old rascal, because, well, one simply has to, then following paths wondering where they go, following unknown others ahead, puzzling over the strange symbol on the sign, not knowing what the next says other than it's a warning, up through a wood not perceptibly different to those at home—here too the trees fall down the hill when they get too big—up still, past the outpost on the outcrop accessible only by a collapsed bridge, under more emerging trees, ever upwards until a clearing rises, the symbol suddenly obvious, a modern tower of geometric quirk sweeping past the canopy, diagonal trunks taller than the straight, the curving waist of straight lines.

What's point of having vertigo if not to occasionally rediscover you have it. The climb wasn't that bad, bouts of contemplation among the spiralling mesh (my mother bailed, giddy), fine until you focus on the distant ground. The main platform wasn't that bad after a brief while; windy, cold, with a slight vibration, but the twisted wood seems to dampen everything (why is wood more trustworthy than metal? Do we just imagine everything stiff to be wood or stone, and know that if stone were as thin as the metal it would crack, but wood that thick might just hold, mightn't it, and metal's more like stone than it is wood, isn't it?).

And then of course I took the gap between excited children gambolling about it to go up the central spike made of just a spiral staircase. Imagine an unravelling spring. Now imagine standing on the free end. I found it quite hard to take the shots I wanted due to only being able to use one hand on the camera and having to remember to keep my eyes open. Oh, there are more children wanting to be fearless, I suppose I'd better come down to let them up.

A little galumphing down and I was on a log, with an apple, and a mother, discussing the toddler who crawled up the thing—it's only thirty metres above the ground, over cold, sharp metal with the ground receding through it—and wondering why exactly it is our instant response to being in a new place, with new people, new things to do, to see, to learn, is to run far from the madding crowd (well, most of them) to clamber about abandoned places.

Hmm, saving and adding to this text has done weird things under Blogger's new backend. Apologies if this all ends up as one paragraph or spread across a lot of whitespace.

Also the new thing is really annoying because the text that's being added to sits right at the bottom of the the screen, where two-thirds of the way along it keeps being up-actually-downstaged-or-orchestrapitted by 'TOSHIBA'.

Anyway, I seem to have skipped the official welcome and blasting the Rathaus with Summertime, a possibly ironic choice. The Rathaus was odd, being repro-Mediaeval (it's not just the foe who did Baedeker raids) with sudden blast of modernism when you scramble off a twisting landing into the neighbouring building just to go to the loo. But the welcome was odd too, with its diversion into assumed political allegiance and slight air of self-embiggening.

And so it was time to head off for a rehearsal in some borrowed music school. Helpfully we had no local with us to guide us (we were meant to walk following one of the orchestra members, but somehow that became getting the coach with directions). They were surprised we were late.

It's odd singing with an orchestra, partly because we couldn't hear ourselves, partly because we were following, or not, their conductor and it wasn't quite clear where we were meant to come in (was that flick aimed at the basses, or the pianist who is currently behind us and doing his own thing).

And then came the smorsgasbuffet, trying not to put desserts on top of bits of pork (hmm, do we think that lumpy white-ish thing is more likely to contain sugar or garlic?) and enforced mingling, which of course meant some tables worked better than others (hello friendly viola player who underwinged me on the tour earlier) depending on linguistic abilities. And wine. Quite a bit of that, served in shot glasses, constantly topped up, occasionally knocked over (I was sitting on the edge of the stage by this stage the monolinguals having nabbed spaces are the more animated courses between tables [quoi? Ed.], and no, I didn't realise the pianist had kicked the drinks left by the piano over, and no, I didn't feel the spreading dampness until I stood). Anyway, after the third helping of cake (I had to try and get a representative sample of Germische baking skill; the dry plain sponge tasted remarkably like my ex-landlord's quatre-quart, which was his piece de resistance at dinners. His friends learnt and starting bringing ice cream and custard when they came. The other cakes were good though).

Then the clock struck leaving-in-five-minutes (er, wouldn't it have been helpful to tell us earlier?). I, of course, left with a box of chocolates in my hand, having planned to yoink one on the way out and instead had one of the Germans insist I take them all.

And that is probably enough for this much delayed post.



PS. We got given the shot glasses we'd be drinking from. They celebrated Partnerschafts. Between somewhere in Austreich and somewhere in Germlandy that wasn't Freetown. Which'll come in useful sometime.

Far too long for comment, but that doesn't mean I didn't want to.
Your comment is too short to merit giving it a decent reply, but that doesn't mean I didn't want to.

That'll teach you to use TL:DC on me.
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