Friday, 20 May 2011

European Son

It's been so long since my last post.

Some photos from our new European life.

Lake Konstanz at New Year 2011

King Ludwig's castle in Bavaria

Old Swiss chalet near Bern


Kate at work


Bro's Design for Novartis Kindergarten in Basel Stadt

Woolworths, alive and well and living in Dusseldorf

Words next time.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Frohliche Weinachten

We went to our local Christmas market and realised this was pretty different to our last four Christmases. Each time we went tropical with Yuletide it felt strange as though something was missing, as though something had been added. Heat, palm trees, alien counter culture, you name it. Of course there was the novelty of being sun drenched instead of snow stormed; the quirk of seeing sweating Santas on mopeds in 35 degree heat peddling crap made in China or the nascent acceptance of the commercial cachet of Christmas; trophied wives of fat Farang blinged with jewels that sparkled like the plastic ice on the wall of a Bangkok mall. The SE Asian take on Christmas follows familiar commercial lines; the Vietnamese version was more basic and like so many things in that environment, the rush to embrace the best of the West was diminishing the wonder, blurring the reason, of the original Christmas season. Fat cat leaders announced, dear workers, this must be celebrated. It is allowed, it is permitted. You may dress your children cutely as Santa but you must still work for a dollar while we lick our own cream. Like the Catholics in Hanoi who found their sacred ground forbidden to them; like Thich Nhat Hanh's followers who have been barred from their temple since Vietnam ascended like a Phoenix from Napalm fire to the WTO. Ho Chi Minh's Neo-Congs have dulled his legacy by lighting up their faithless Christmas lights while puffing on air choking cigars

This has been a world away. A Christmas market in Freiburg was thick with people, a throng of locals and tourists alike getting
spirited by seasonal Gluhwein, a mulled concoction that involved cries of Prost! and a zig zag approach to walking through the stalls. Here the chintz was local with hardly a made in China sticker in sight but I liked our local Christmas market more, felt at home on the banks of the close to frozen Birs ( see the photo below and the geezer above). I guess
I liked it too because I recognised some locals, a few characters who must be our neighbours. We had pumpkin soup and I bought a star chopped rough from local wood. A group of nervous children were singing off key to Silent Night while, knitted and mueslied, a woman urged them to seasonal resonance. In the corner a man began to play with his organ. This seems about right. Frohliche Weinachten !

Monday, 15 November 2010

The Ghost of Storchen

It started with smoke. Or perhaps not. It started with an eerie feeling, like the shiver of a grave walker; tired and edgy from all that has been witnessed. Things have happened, time has passaged a dark route and a once flourishing business has suddenly turned sour or rotten or something. Whatever has happened there has been decline. Slow at first but then rushed; hurried, like rats standing by the ship and applauding its sinking. Ha Ha. Another one fights the dust. Or such earth. Overgrowing with weeds now, brittle-crisp already from the creeping cold. What had once been a flourishing business has now grown ivy on its menu; storks wre meant to be carriers of hope not soiled dreams.

The smoke was unexpected. No one lives there we have been told. The owners have sold or evacuated, no one is quite sure. But there is smoke with fire; not just speculation or ghoulish expectation, it is what it is. In the basement which we can see from our apartment we are intrigued by the flicker of flame and glancing upwards we can see the plumes of smoke, furrowing into the cold air. There is no one in the hotel. This is early, night barely cracked by day and there is not a light on in the 1930s building nor, can you believe, is there a sigh or a sound as we listen closely but surreptitiously, glancing furtively but no less acutely through the windows that show nothing but business shrouded; large white sheets slung over furniture, luminous in the septic embrace of darkness. When we step back, or rather retreat, we are sure there is no one there and on cue, the smoke stops, a disappearing cloud and the rippling flame in the basement has abruptly gone, like fingers snuffing out flame.

Hotel Storchen is not empty.