The Girl in the Moon is so Pretty and Divine

The Girl in the Moon:

Staring down at the earth with deep green eyes,

Waiting to feel her spark in their lives,

She keeps watch on the fearful,

The tired, hungry and tearful,

And those shown into heaven without having had life.

 

And Men through the ages,

Have watched her through her phases,

Becoming entranced

With every breath that she takes.

For each breath is her last, and decisions are fast,

To remove her spirit from ours.

 

Closed eyes while she blinks, she allows men to think,

And to find and discover the truth in the dark.

But as she awakens, each man is taken,

To be freed, lead away from the truth in the dark

 

Awake and yet lonely,

She wanders so slowly,

Through the unknown and unwritten pages of time.

 

Is so pretty…

She loved not the man she was told to love, but wanted only to live.

Yet as the years passed and as did men’s hearts, she never could do as she wished.

Following the footsteps of the holy, she arrived battered, tired and slowly fell into the arms of a man.

And the man saw right then, knew he could never love again, not forever because she was divine.

 

And when she died he was broken, and swore never to love again.

Until he came back to her, she would write him forever, the story she wished she had lived.

 

For this story she writes, has love, betrayal and delight,

And a quest worthy of fame,

Although her pen is the stars and her face not without scars, we still gather to hear her song.

 

For it is one full of beauty, yet she asks “couldn’t you see”,

“The pain that I felt all along?”

 


Is just divine…

 

Such a goddess,

A woman of being.

With her lips, no man can be seeing

Anything

 

With eyes of deep green she was still.

And the serenity of her face could kill

All those who stood by,

All those averting their eye.

 

Divine goddess and prophet

Walks for years and she knows it

Will never be east nor be west.

 

But her name’s barely hidden

She’s taken aback by the lack of real love

She’s tried to find others just like her.

And who knows what she’ll find.

 

We only see twice;

She knows just how many

Times they’ll lock eyes

And how they’ll find out.

 

That second visit is enough

If not for him, but her too much.

Ca. 2009

I’ve got a Frühling

Although it’s been the best part of two months since I’ve written a post, nothing too major seems to have happened. The snow disappeared for three glorious days at the beginning of March which inspired me to bring my road bike over to Germany in order to make the most of such wonderful weather. I get home from my trip to Bristol to see some friends and as soon as I step out of the plane I’m met with several inches of snow. Brilliant. As of yet, the bike is waiting in the cellar of my house with tyres as deflated as I felt dragging the blasted thing through the snow from the village station to my house. The journey should have taken 20 minutes but took over an hour. It was a Sunday night and I had school at 8 the next day. In case you didn’t realise, those tyres are flat.

ImageGrossy-K in the Snow from the Station

In much more cheery news, I spent a weekend in Bristol visiting Dickson and Ballan. I was met at the coach station by a very excited welcome group and we had a colourful and draining weekend of partying. The main event was a “club night” which was a thing of beauty and fear. The decor was designed to emulate being on LSD and I pitied the poor people who were downstairs and tripping balls. There were massive monkey faces that scared me when I was sober so I can only imagine how terrifying that must have been with some form of hallucinogenic in the system and the Jungle music tearing the lungs from your chest with the bass. We also went for a quiet drink with Jez on the Saturday night in a quiet little pub down the road from Dickson’s flat. We were all shattered, but it was so good to see Jez, who I’d not seen since September and he was pretty worse for wear at the end of that night! We also spent a fair bit of time with Dickson’s younger brother Theo, which was cool. He’s definitely grown up since I saw him last! I’d never really spoken to him before that weekend, so it was cool to finally get to know him after years of being at his house!

Bristol is a lovely city and I definitely saw in in a different light after that weekend. I’d sort of poo-pooed it when I was deciding on my UCAS choices as it was my Insurance Choice, but I don’t think I made a bad choice in the end. Besides, if I had gone to Bristol, I doubt I’d be in Großkorbetha! I think the way that they split up the Year Abroad is different to that in Leeds – something like 50:50 for time spent abroad rather than a Term Abroad as well as a Year Abroad.

It was Mothers’ Day on the weekend that I was in the UK and that was just lovely as my family came to Bristol and we went out for lunch in a draughty Wetherspoons and wandered around the city for a short while. I wasn’t too hungover, but I was a little bit tired from Friday night – it took a lot out of me. My parents drove me to the airport and brought my road bike with them. It wasn’t difficult to sort out bringing it with me on the plane, but pushing the flight bag with its dreadful set of wheels, carrying my rucksack with clothes from the weekend AND pushing my “town” bike home from the station was a definite Alptraum.

Working at school has been fine recently. Our Pen-Pal project is coming along nicely and we’re just awaiting the responses from our responses. My students keep asking me when we’re going to get the letters back, so I’m assuming that’s a good sign! It’s Comenius week once again and I’m very much looking forward to being invited to spend an evening eating pizza with some Czechs and maybe even singing some songs with them.

One of the things I really rather enjoy about the school I work at is how they deal with adverse weather. By “adverse weather”, I’m referring to the snow that has plagued Grosskorbetha for what seems like months. I exaggerate, of course, for the residents of the village can be seen without fail every morning outside their houses, shovels and scrapers in their hands, moving the snow not only from their driveways, but also from the pavements and the roads. My school has taken the same approach. Instead of recruiting local residents to clear the snow from the playground, they have found an ingenious way of getting the “grounds” (in the loosest sense of the word) cleared: they leave shovels and scrapers in a neat pile in front of the school every day and wait. Sooner rather than later, one child, who may be bored whilst waiting to head to the sports hall or has tired of the football that is played during any break possible, will pick up one of the shovels and will proceed to use it to clear the snow – much to everyone’s benefit. The student’s friends will see just how much fun he or she is having and will grab another shovel in order to help him. Others, intrigued by the pleasure their fellow students are having with what seems like such a menial and mundane take, will take up the remaining shovels and within minutes the playground will be clear. Clearly the headmistress became headmistress for a reason. I’d also hazard a guess that the caretakers have also noticed how willingly students will do their jobs for them. Sly things.

I was feeling very jealous a few weeks ago because it seemed to me that everywhere apart from Sachsen-Anhalt (the county where I live and work) had two weeks of Winterferien and we only had the one. While I was working, my friends were off gallivanting who-knows-where, but I promise you I’m not bitter.

I’ve been jogging for the past few days and after a long time off, I’m incredibly achey. I think that I’ve been jogging a grand total of 5 times this year and 2 of those have been this week! I tried to do a Rocky Balboa-esque jog up a steep slope the other day and ended up slipping uphill with every step that I took. I was glad I didn’t fall over too often…

There is definitely a beauty to Großkorbetha in the snow. It brings out the birds of prey and makes the roofs blend in with the sky. The only problem with that is that IT’S MARCH. I feel as if Germany has just taken a 4-month step back every time that it starts to snow again. I’m taken to mid-December and I’m going to be going home for Christmas any day soon. It also didn’t help that the school radio (a CD on loop) played Wham’s Last Christmas this afternoon. Wahnsinn.

In January (so chronological), I went to Stralsund, which is in the very North of Germany to the East of the large expanse of land that connects Germany to Denmark. It’s a coastal town and very dead in any time other than Summer. I went with Laura and we only decided on Stralsund because we’d been to the West of Germany, i.e. Cologne, earlier that month and the train journey was horrific. We’d also considered going South to Munich, but accomodation was far too expensive. The only sensible option left was to go North. I’d received a voucher from Deutsch Bahn in the post giving me one free passenger journey for any journey within Germany (as long as I paid, of course!) until the end of February. We looked at the large towns and cities in the North of Germany and found Stralsund more-or-less due North of Berlin, which made it much easier to get there.

I imagine that Stralsund is the sort of place to which Germans like to go on holiday to relive their times in the GDR, for it is certainly not a internationally well-known place of interest. This does not mean, however, that it is one of those “well-kept secrets” of Germany. It has its charms, its museums and cobbled streets in the Old Town as well as its flaws. In fact, I’m very much certain that had we been there in the height of summer, it would have been lovely. Stralsund in the Winter, however, is dead. It seems like a place that could well have either a high suicide rate or a massive problem with addictions to hard drugs. The architecture is very much a blend of classic Scandinavian design and almost-Gothic German. The main church, or maybe even cathedral, is very imposing and the layout of the Altstadt is very simple, but also full of twisty-turny streets and passageways. Our hotel was a steal that we’d found on laterooms or some equivalent and it was right in the centre of the Altstadt. We didn’t venture to the Neustadt as it seemed as if there was nothing there. We went to the aquarium and ocean museum which was very enjoyable and interesting as it contained a history of the town, the whole area as well as only showing species that would be found in the Baltic and North Seas.

photoLurking behind Puffins

I feel like going back to Düsseldorf at some point soon. I used to live there and it would be a great time spent nostalgia-ing so hard. Who knows when I’ll go, but I will.

Ich hab euch Lieb

x

Aside

It’s strange that I never really considered Winter to continue until the end of February, but with the Indian Summer that we had in Großkorbetha, soon followed by the arrival of lots of snow and bitter-cold winds, I naïvely assumed that Winter would be over. Clearly I was wrong. There’ve been even more days of bitter-cold winds and yet more snow. It must be that the English Winter was so temperate that I allowed myself to be lulled into a false sense of security with regards to just how long a Winter can last (I’m sure there’s a Game of Thrones reference in there somewhere).

These days, I’m not to be seen without my heavy and toasty-warm duffel coat and sturdy boots astride my adorable purple bike heading around the village either to and from school or from the supermarket. Failing that, you’ll find me in my garishly bright fluorescent green running jacket with matching gloves and Lycra leggings running along the bike trails which follow the lazy meanders of the Saale river. I hasten to write the last sentence for I would not want to wish such imagery on even my worst of acquaintances.

Großkorbetha is a delight to see in the snow, especially at just after four o’clock on lighter days. The sun is trying to break through the clouds and even though the wind is bullying you and trying to make you want to head to anywhere that is inside and contains central heating, there is something strangely comforting and homely about the trees without their leaves and the satisfying crunch of fresh powder snow underfoot.

Last weekend, I was in Cologne (I realised earlier that “Eau de Cologne” could easily be the local beer: Kölsch, but egal). It was the birthday of an assistant from New Zealand and I’d missed Cologne an awful lot, which made me want to go even more than I already did. It was a long weekend. On Saturday, I had an open morning at school and they’re desperate to show off their Language Assistant whenever they can, so I turned up and promptly realised that parents are parents no matter where you go. There’s no escaping them (Love you Mummy and Daddy). I got the train and spent the best part of seven hours on it from Halle to Cologne. I managed to make a friend on the way, however. Some toddler was getting pretty restless and annoyed at being cooped up for so long, so I cracked out the iPad and we played Angry Birds and Bad Piggies together for a good hour and a half. I kept stealing glances at her mum who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the break from a small child, which kept me going for so long. When it came to the point where I was all Angry Birds-ed out and didn’t want to try and explain the complicated thought process behind BluePrint 3D and Triple Town, I went to put the iPad away and she pushed at my hand in order to stop me from moving it and got stroppy. Naturally, this didn’t make me want to keep on playing games with her any more, so I told her sternly that it was time for us to stop and that I was going to have a nap. It ended up with me leaving her and her mum to their journey and finding another carriage. With the sound of “tschuuusss” (“byeeee”) in my ears, to which I didn’t respond, only to be met with “TSCHUUUUUUUUUUUSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!” shortly thereafter, I realised that I hadn’t quite dodged a bullet, but had merely been grazed by shrapnel.

Today, I somehow managed to be the second-in-command on an English class trip to Halle, a city to the North-West of Großkorbetha. A selection of students from the 8th and 9th Grades (Years 9 and 10 for all you Engländer) were invited to ‘show off’, as it were, their prowess in modern foreign languages at one of Halle’s many well-respected schools. The novelty of being not only in charge of a group of students but also strangeness of being on the other side of a school trip lasted all day and thankfully was enough to keep me going from the very early start of half past seven this morning. We left our school at about quarter to eight and we were at the other school for half past nine after a much needed coffee break at Halle main station. The trip went well, we only missed the French examinations due to poor communication on the part of the host school. My mentor teacher, and the other member of staff on the trip, was adamant that nowhere on any of the correspondence that she had received was it written that the French exams were at nine. She was under the impression, and by default so was I, that the French part of the day was to start after the English exams. The students found it difficult, from the feedback they gave us, but deep down I expected it. When we arrived at the school, it had a very pretentious atmosphere which I found rather off-putting. The school buildings were lovely and were steeped in history, much like a small portion of the buildings in Halle itself.

Halle is a charming place, but has its downsides. It’s clearly a very affluent area and some of the architecture reflects this. However, you cannot help but be confronted by the Eastern Bloc high-rise tower blocks of flats that seemingly climb from nowhere and remove everything else from view. The cathedral, however, is most definitely a must-see. The mural hanging over the altar is exquisite, showing famous characters from the city’s history as well as St. Alexander vanquishing some form of evil from the land.

After waiting around a lot, we headed back to our school with frozen toes and the slogan of one of the market stalls specialising in Currywurst: “Don’t worry, be curry”. However, before we could board the train back to Großkorbetha, one of the students lost his bag in the station during another wait for the train to arrive. This resulted in lots of questions including: “Are we going to miss the train?”, “Do we all need to get off and get on the next one?”, “How long can you hold the train for?”; but, thankfully, his bag had been handed in at the information centre, so all was not lost. I joked about it with him afterwards and he was fine. Luckily the Germans have the ability to recognise my attempt at finding a sense of humour.

The Germans have strange ways of telling the time. For instance, no German child is aware of the concept of twenty-five minutes to the hour. Instead, they say “five minutes past half to”. In English, when we say “half seven”, we mean “half past seven” i.e. seven thirty. In German, when you say “halb sieben” (a literal translation of “half seven”), it means half past six or “half to seven”. These strange methods were brought to a light even brighter than normal yesterday. Johannes (the mayor of the village, with whom I live – don’t know if I’ve mentioned that before…) asked me on Monday night if I would like to have breakfast with him. I don’t see him all that often as he now works night shifts or shifts that are first thing in the morning, moving the trains around the yards, cleaning the wagons and doing the general upkeep that one often takes for granted when travelling by rail, and I see his wife, Elke, even more rarely; so, naturally, I agreed. He said that it would be ready at “Viertel 9″. With “Viertel” meaning quarter, and the strange way of telling the time that the Germans have, I assumed that he meant at “quarter to nine”. I set plenty of alarms and tried to get a decent night’s sleep as I didn’t want to miss our breakfast. It turns out that “Viertel 9″ means quarter past eight. How the Germans arrived at this conclusion, I will never know. He even called me from upstairs five minutes before my alarm was due to go off (halb 9, for those of you who are interested), even though I was already awake for fear of missing it, asking where I was. I was shocked and slightly distraught. I confronted him on this issue and he looked at me as if I were thick as something thick that isn’t a profanity.

If you managed to read this far, pat yourself all over your back; I would’ve given up hours ago. 

Ich hab euch Lieb

x

 

The last days on Cherry Mountain Road before Christmas

It’s a strange sort of sentiment, wanting to go home, but knowing that you’re going to miss where you’ve called “home” for the last few months. At least I know that I’ll be back in less than 3 weeks. Cherry Mountain Road has become a second home for me. I feel more comfortable here than I have done at uni., but 3 months or so is about enough of a stretch without going back to Newbury once more. Granted, I’ve seen family while I’ve been away, but it’s not the same as being at home with them; especially around Christmas time.

Last night (Tuesday) was the staff Christmas party. We broke up from school yesterday as well, so it was only fitting that the staff Christmas party took place then. It was a glorious affair. The school hired a coach for us and they took us to a Landgasthaus (a bit like a quintessential village inn) in the middle of nowhere (N.b. I think the village was called Querfurt…). There was free drink, free food and lots of glad tidings going around. A four-course meal was put on for us, including the customary welcome glass of Rotkäppchen (an East-German “based” sparkling wine) on arrival, a soup course and a salad. All of these were leading up to the main course: Roasted Rudolph served with duck legs. It wasn’t actually real reindeer (although many of the teachers at my table swore that it was!), but venison and dreadfully overcooked. It tasted like tough, stringy beef. The duck was brilliant. Anyone who knows me is more than well aware of how big a fan of duck I am, so to be served a German version of duck ‘confit’ was a brilliant way to end the last few months at the school. And with a Grand Marnier parfait for dessert as well? What more could you ask for?

They also did a Secret Santa-esque event. Everyone had to bring something to give to someone else (“Oh, is that how giving presents works?” – Everyone reading this.), but there was a twist. My mentor teacher told me to find something disgustingly horrible and tacky and to bring that with me. I had nothing suitable at home, so frantically searched for something in the local village shops, deciding eventually on a tacky, small and already-scuffed and worn figurine of Santa, which I bought for 1€. Lovely, or so I thought. I didn’t wrap mine before I got on the bus and was unsure as to what to do. Katja (my mentor teacher) pointed out that there was some kitchen towel on the bus, presumably to mop up any spillages or to clean up any incidents that may occur therein, so I set to wrapping my figurine in it. It looked horrific. So cheap, so tacky, so poorly thought out; the teachers were laughing with me at how bad it looked, but you could tell that they were praying that they didn’t receive it.

Fast forward to the party and we’re asked to place our presents under the tree just outside the dining room of the inn. I surreptitiously place mine so as to attract the least amount of attention possible towards the kitchen roll-wrapped monstrosity that I had brought with me. After the meal, we’re asked to roll a dice and whoever rolls a six gets to choose their present first. Eventually, I roll a six and pick a decent-sized box from under the tree. I notice that my parcel is still there and crane my neck once I’ve sat back down in order to see who ended up picking it up. The caretaker, with his 8 inch long goatee is looking very dismayed with what is in his hands: my present. Thankfully, a dice at the headmistress’ table is rolled twice and we pass our presents clockwise four or so times. My present ends up in front of one of the teachers at my table who was “in” on the “joke” that I was pulling. I can relax ever so slightly, or so I thought. I open the present in front of me and examine the contents: a jar of peanuts with a dubious-looking tin inside, a book of wordsearches and crossword puzzles, a small bottle of vodka-based schnapps, which I pocket instantly, and a bar of chocolate. Someone had clearly put far more effort into organising a present than I had. Unsure as to how to react to these “gifts”, I smile and carry on drinking my beer. The other teachers received tat like me, but some received perfume (which smelt foully sweet) and bath or skincare products. The Santa clearly disappointed, but I doubt that anyone was supposed to be happy with the presents they receive. If I’m here next year, I’ll know what not to do! I also came away with a bottle of red wine, courtesy of the school. Can’t be bad!

Today, after waking up nice and late with not too much of a headache, I started to pack my bag for my flight home tomorrow (Thursday) and headed into Leipzig. I needed to print off my boarding pass and wanted to busk a little. I met up with Hannah and Mary, two English Language Assistants from New Zealand and Canada respectively. I printed it off and we then went for some lunch at my favourite Asian restaurant, just off the Marktplatz in the centre of town.

After we’d wandered around the Christmas Market for a while and went for a cheeky beer at the Brauerei an der Thomaskirche and said our goodbyes, I set up my my mandolin case outside the big Galeria Kaufhof (a huge shopping centre) and proceeded to play. The busking Gods clearly didn’t want me to be playing tonight. Less than ten minutes in, my strap (a piece of string tied around the body of the instrument) snapped. Brilliant. Thankfully, a very kind passing local asked a stall opposite where I was playing for some ribbon and I’ve now got a very Christmassy-looking mandolin. Lovely. Shortly thereafter, my high E string snapped. Awesome. Instead of 8 strings, I now only have 7. This happens, I realise, but I’d like to think that it shouldn’t happen less than 5 days after replacing the string. It’s probably down to the weather, but I’m still annoyed at it happening.

My flight is in the afternoon tomorrow. I’ve still got to finish packing and tidy up the kitchen one last time before I leave. Should be alright. Looking forward to getting back to Blighty, but it’ll be strange not being in a quaint little village, surrounded by unintelligible Germans for a while.

Je vous embrasse

Galas, Glühwein and Good Cheer

 

ImageThe above photo is a letter that one of my students wrote to my girlfriend, Laura. I’m currently doing a pen-pal-esque project with a partner school in Cornwall. The plan is to send each other letters once a month with occasional parcels full of lovely typically-German treats and explanations of customs and traditions. For example, in February we expect to receive a package explaining how to make pancakes for pancake day and we will send lots of Karneval-related tat. The above letter came about because I asked the class to write a letter to whomever they wanted, be it friends, family, my parents or even my girlfriend, if they so wanted. The aim was for them to see how an English letter is laid out and to practise their letter-writing skills. It also gave me the chance to see the level of ability of the students. I’ll let you ascertain how much work needs to put in as of January…

I’ve just got home from the first annual Weihnachtsgala celebrations. This is the first year that all three schools in the PAS-Schule partnership have collaborated together to produce a Christmas show for the students as well as the parents. It was an adorable affair. There were students aged from 3 or 4 to 16. The younger students at the primary school “danced” (spun around to music) or played the most classical of instruments: the recorder; or they made lots of noise whilst waiting in the wings to go on and do their bit. The primary school teachers were just as intimidating as their English equivalents, if not more so for the strong Eastern-European glares they were able to dish out, instantly silencing whoever gazed upon it. If I decide to go into teaching, my sole aim will be to master such a glare, much like an old geography teacher from St. Bart’s was able to do.

Unsurprisingly enough, I was asked to perform at this Gala. The theme was “Christmas around the World”. Naturally, I assumed that, what with this being the first year that they’ve ever had an English Foreign Language Assistant, I’d be doing something related to the United Kingdom. I was wrong. France was my “chosen” country. Sometimes, the Germans make little sense. Rather, they make it difficult for me to see the efficiency in their ideas. I performed the traditional French version of “I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus” wherein the child actively hopes that his Mother will continue to kiss Santa in order to receive better gifts next year. As I walked onto the stage, I was met with an introduction worthy of KISS from the lovely German teacher, Herr Messinger and the screams filled the Jahrhunderthalle, where the Gala was taking place. If I had my own trumpet to blow, I would; I smashed it. The parents, although they had no idea what they were hearing (mandolin combined with French when the majority of those who didn’t study Russian or Czech at school learnt English – back in the good old East German Republic) seemed to enjoy themselves. I had a wonderful time and had a couple of Glühweins outside with a couple of Bratwursts (delicious German hot dogs). I met some of Johannes’ colleagues at the Mayor’s office and he had a little whinge about them in the car on the way back. We’re having breakfast tomorrow at half seven. He’s so adorable in his mannerisms. He’s easily one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

As I’m sure you’re all more than aware, Christmas is readily upon us. When I told my students that I was, in fact, coming back after the holidays, the look of consternation that crept across their faces was something to which I was unsure how to react. The dread soon turned into glee that I was staying until the end of May. I’ll take it as a compliment.

I’m leaving to go back to Blighty on Thursday, which seems like an age away, but is only 2 full days from now. The speed with which these last few months has flown by is incredible. It feels like it was only the other week or so that I was flying out to Leipzig with my Dad to “suss out” the area before I moved here. That reminds me, I ought to get in touch with the Mayoress of the next village, whom I met in September, and thank her for her kind words and to wish her a “Merry Christmas”.

I was in Berlin last weekend for a night. Laura and I met up with the Leeds University German Society annual trip. It was a lovely evening. I could never describe the event as well as Marcus could, therefore have a link to his blog wherein he describes the actions which unfolded (even if Laura and I don’t get a shout-out, it’s cool. Whatever, Marcus): http://munichman.wordpress.com/

It’s my last day at school tomorrow and I don’t have to prepare a thing. I have a Feierabend tonight, so I shall play plenty of Minecraft, do some washing and have an early night. Lovely stuff. Juliane (the Art and English teacher) has said that she has plenty of worksheets for tomorrow’s classes. Can’t be bad, can it?

Tschau für now

x

The other night.

Aside

“I had been staring at a museum entry all about Anne Boleyn one early winter afternoon. Her eyes would not let me go, as much as I wanted to. Her face seemed far more devilish than I could have ever envisioned. Perhaps that’s why the King fell in and out of love with her. The museum was in a low-roofed, stone building and if I remember correctly, it wasn’t the warmest of times outside of my clothes. I turned around and was walking towards a shopping centre.

Out of nowhere, a woman, whose face was gaunt and her eyes told me before she’d even opened her mouth that she wasn’t “all there” mentally or anywhere near as stable as I could imagine. She came over and asked me for “face” at the same time as stroking her cheek with her thin, bony hand. Her teeth were as thin as her face, and few and far between. She seemed as if she could have once been a beautiful person, but those days were long gone now. She kept on asking me for “face”, still stroking; I can only imagine that she was trying to incite some feeling back into those narrow cheeks, barely supported by her cheek bones.

Unexpectedly, a man appeared and we discussed what she could have been wanting. “Perhaps she needs help”, I say to him, but the tone of my voice and my body language showed how unwilling I was to help. I never like to go out of my way for beggars or people on the street. There’s just something that I find too disgusting and creepy to be able to do anything about it.

She wandered around the shop, we followed her inside and wanted to make sure she didn’t hurt herself or anyone else. I noticed the staff staring at her and that they had got the attention of the security guard with their walkie-talkies. She was on her way over now.

Meanwhile, the “face” lady was still wandering seemingly aimlessly around the shop. Perhaps she knew what she was looking for. I certainly didn’t. My companion had disappeared, but I didn’t need him anyway. She was picking up pens and pencils and went to put them into blazer pockets, if she’d been wearing a blazer, but instead dragged them along her hips up towards her waist slowly. She asked me again for “face” but instead of replacing the pencils and pens she dropped them onto the floor. Hearing the noise, she was spooked and looked around to determine the source of the noise.

With this deer in headlights appearance, she looked so fragile. The fragility kept on transforming into instability, insanity and then back again. The security guard came over and she attempted to move us both along – she assumed that I was with her. To her credit, I was attempting to look after her, even if I hadn’t yet realised it. She soon left the shop and I was glad to be rid of the piercing gaze she managed to give even though her eyes didn’t look; they saw.”

She’s in Zen.

“When the soft clouds formed the image of a falling girl wearing ballet dancers’ attire, that was when She knew that She was starting to doubt herself. The piercing blue eyes She saved for only those who had earned them were staring up at the sky, which had changed itself to better suit Her wishes and to go with Her eyes. Others nearby would have said that the cloud actually looked like a doll or even an exotic animal, so perhaps they would say that She was mistaken. She knew that She wasn’t. The cloud reminded her of her dancing days. She was free from the strains of routines, but still practised them every now and again, ensuring that her arms could still fly elegantly and that her head was held up on strings as if by a master puppeteer, carefully moving her in a graceful manner, in a manner that could only be achieved after countless years of practice.

Her eyes scanned the skies for any remainder of her favourite light. She was disappointed, but soon realised that she would soon be seeing it again once the sun had disappeared for the day. A smile came back onto her face. Her lips were devilish and her mouth managed to convey innocence at the first glance; with a second, longer and harder look, you knew that they could be far more than innocent when they needed or wanted to be. They did not seem to last for very long, but when they stretched into a smile, they lasted for miles. Her eyes always went as bright as they could when she smiled. Many would say that she smiled with her eyes. When I knew her, she smiled with her whole body, but that was only when she was really pleased. I feel as if I can tell you that I saw that whole body smile several times.

She told me how scared she was. Although her dancing days were over and she no longer needed to work half as much as she used to, she was afraid of falling back into nothingness, falling into darkness and being once again whipped by cold winds like the ones that would work their way through the gaps in the door while she would practice with her classmates when she was much younger. They were the sort of winds that would turn a body to ice in no time at all. Some times, when her classmates had left after the lesson, she would stay, even after the lights had been extinguished for the day, and she would use the wind as inspiration and would find herself dancing like no-one had ever danced before, helped on and lifted by the winds’ own classroom dances.”

On food and Christmas Markets

This weekend was lovely. My parents arrived on Saturday afternoon, after I’d spent a lovely, if occasionally stressful, couple of days in Dresden with Laura and Zöe (I can’t get the umlaut over the ‘e’ so if I at least attempt an Umlaut, she might not be annoyed – if she even reads this…). We wandered around the Christmas markets and had a very nice meal in the same restaurant the she, Dan and I had been to a month or so ago.

[For those of you who are unaccustomed to the idea of a Christmas market, imagine wooden cabins arranged in a very precise manner in a market square, filled with barrels of mulled wine, displays of slippers (house shoes, you heathen), half-metre grilled sausages in tiny buns, sugar-coated-and-then-roasted almonds and all sorts of wonderous delights that cause the entire square to be filled with aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg and grilled meat and the whole area is alive with the electricity emanating from all involved, culminating in what we would call "good cheer".]

Dresden’s Christmas market was so-so. In all fairness to Dresden, Laura and I barely saw the “real” market, but what I saw seemed lacklustre and, although all German Christmas Markets are welcoming, it wasn’t the sort of place that felt homely. A good Christmas Market should be homely AND welcoming – like going to a friend’s BBQ in the summer, except colder – so you’re all wrapped up in several cosy layers –  and if you so much as suggest to the chap working the grill that you know better than he does, you will not get served and will have to endure the German December evening without a half-meter sausage or buttered corn on the cob. Leipzig has a very good Christmas Market.
Of course I’m biased. Leipzig is my adopted home when I need to take a break from taking a break from people by staying in the village. I’d like to imagine that, one day, I’ll have a nice flat in Leipzig and will be able to just wander around the streets, enjoying the combination of consumerism from those “bloody Wessies” (West Germans) and the way that Leipzig is still able to maintain its quintessential feel of being a city in the former GDR (East Germany). It’s nice to dream.

Leipzig’s Christmas Market is spread out along the pedestrianised zone leading to the market square at one end and, at the other, to Augustusplatz which is the home of the University “Church”, the Theatre and the Gewandhaus, which is a cultural hotspot, frequently hosting Operas and Ballet performances. The smells that come out of Leipzig’s market are wonderful. The stuffed sweet waffles, the hash browns that are being shallow-fried in so much oil that they may as well be deep-fried and the smoked salmon from the Finnish contingent which is “smoked” on-site. I hasten to say “smoked” because, upon closer inspection, the salmon hung up on wooden planks with a fire in the middle was being cooked rather than being just smoked. It was absolutely delicious and goes perfectly with a glass or two of Finnish Glögi – their equivalent of Glühwein (mulled wine) made from berries rather than grapes – and the spicy honey and mustard dressing on the side.

After sampling the salmon, we made our way to Zill’s tunnel – a well-known and established Leipzig restaurant. I’d been there before with my dad in early September and was just as pleased as I was last time. The food was much like Dresden’s Christmas Market: so-so. We sat down at just before seven, ordered shortly thereafter and didn’t get our food until just after eight o’clock. By the time the food had arrived, I was so hungry I didn’t care how it tasted. Zill’s Tunnel is a very traditional restaurant which specialises in typical Saxon cuisine. This means that they haven’t changed the menu for years. Granted, the stuffed Rindfleischroulade was decent and the Schnitzel was definitely Schnitzel, but any chef who still serves his dishes covered with parsley sprigs ought to realise that the Wall has come down and to get out of the 1980s. I’m sure I could rant (or talk) about food all day, especially the food at Zill’s, but I shan’t. It was a pleasant meal with a long wait to be served.

I’ve been mulling over an idea for either the Leeds Student or the Leeds Tab wherein someone gets very drunk and reviews fast-food takeaways in Leeds. The big names – McDonalds, Burger King etc. – would be off the cards, but the independent retailers would be fair game. The majority of people who visit these establishments do so when they are very drunk, so why not review their food when in the same state as the majority of their customers? It probably needs some tweaks logistically speaking, but I think it could work well.

I’m playing with the idea of Paris in two weekends’ time. I could do to go and visit mes anges from last year’s committee. I’ll be sure to let you know how that goes.

Liebe Grüße

At the Jeweller’s family house

“I always enjoyed it when my father came home from his travels. His face would be rugged and worn with stubble, but his eyes would shine through that dishevelled appearance and once he’d looked us up and down, my mother and I knew that he was back. I always thought that each time he came back would be the last time he would leave. I tended to be wrong. One time, when I’d found out that he’d left once more, I ran out into the garden and screamed at the top of my lungs, telling him to come home now, come back to us now. I shouted and wailed for so long it felt like my throat was being ripped out. But, by leaving once again, he was the one doing the tearing. By leaving once again, it was his fault that my throat hurt. At least, that’s how I saw it.

The last time I saw him, he’d been through our rickety wooden door less than two hours. Mother says that door’s an air loom, whatever one of those is. He’d docked the night before at Havenport after several weeks out at sea. The stories he would tell me! God, how I enjoyed them. The monsters he saw, the captains he hated and the songs he sang; all of these were conveyed to me with the utmost care in description. My father couldn’t write with a pen and paper, but he had the words to tell the most engaging and beautiful of tales. He kissed the top of my head and told me that I was nearly as tall as him. I laughed at that. My father was always the funny one at home. Mother would roll her eyes occasionally, when she didn’t want us to know that she found it funny. He even asked me how old I was. I knew he was joking and that he really did remember, but the look on Mother’s face said it all! I wouldn’t have minded if he did forget. I mean, he is out at sea for a long time. I do understand.

Mother cooked a wonderful stew that night. I think she did it so nicely because she loves Father so much. Maybe that was her way of convincing him to stay. Father says that Mother has special powers over him but I don’t really know what he means. Unless he means her cooking, because that is rather special! There was even a bottle of wine at the table. That’s how I knew Mother loved him. It was only ever on special occasions like Christmas or Easter when the wine was brought out. Then there was another. Then there was another. I tried to keep my eyes open, but when I rubbed them I felt the sleepy bits scratching at the back of my hand and, as much as I tried, the lids just kept closing and I imagined my eyelids as lids on jars and my hands were trying to stop the lids from being screwed shut. The next time I opened my eyes, I was in my room and the candle was out. I could feel that my hair had been swept to one side. My throat hurt. I wanted a glass of water.

I climbed out of bed and opened my door. I did it so often that, even in the dark, I know exactly where I’m going. I could also open it without making any noise. Sometimes I need to go to the toilet during the night and Father’s shouted at me for waking him up. But only when he’s here, obviously. I got to the top of the stairs and stood still for a second. I was confused. The lights were still on downstairs. My confusion passed shortly afterwards when I realised that it was just my parents. They weren’t talking though. They were shouting. At each other. I couldn’t move my legs. I wanted to go back to my room, to put the pillow over my ears and cry and not hear anything. Especially not the horrible things they were saying to each other. What happened to Mother’s powers? Why did her food not work? The wine didn’t work either, why?”
“Do you remember what they were saying?”
“Yes. I don’t want to, but I cannot forget such words.”
“Tell me.”
“He said that he longs to fly North once again. His wings are cramped in this house and she treads on them far too much. Being on dry land in the South was torture for him, pure torture. In his dreams he could smell the sea, taste the salt in the air and feel the wind batter his face. With that last comment, Mother…she…”
“What did she do?”
“I didn’t see it, but I heard a slap. A loud one. It sounded horrific. It didn’t stop him though. He carried right on, telling her that the only time he’s ever felt in love and loved was when he was stood on the prow of the ship just before turning in to bed one especially cold night in the North. He said that the embrace of the wind was more than anything she could ever have given him. There was love in his heart, he said, but it wasn’t for her. No matter how much she could try. She said that she hoped he felt guilty, but he replied saying that he didn’t feel anything towards her. Mother stopped at that. She was silent for so long. I can’t remember breathing at any time during this argument, but I must’ve been. I still couldn’t move. Some obscene force inside me wanted to stay and hear what they had to say to each other, and no matter what I tried, I couldn’t resist it.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“You deserve to know. I feel that you’re owed an explanation for certain things. I feel like I ought to tell you stories that I think will help to explain how I am, why I do or don’t do certain things and, more importantly, so that you can be aware of what I’ve seen and done.”
“I see…It means a lot to me that you would tell me that. Honestly.”
“I’m glad it does. I don’t like to open up. Telling the truth is difficult for me to do, lying is far easier for certain things.”
“Did he ever come back?”
“No.”
“Do you think he wanted to?”
“I’d only be kidding myself if I didn’t say ‘no’.”
“Sometimes that’s the best way to be.”

Story for Jonny.

The avenues of trees seem to beckon to me, as if pushed on by the slight breezes which swoop like swallows and house-martins, careening across the sky in arcs and loops. The winds might push the trees slightly, but it merely accentuates the sentiments felt by the wooden giants, from the deepest roots to the youngest of leaves, still-green and proudly bearing fruit for the first time.

As I wander across these never-ending plains, occasionally interspersed with such wild woods, I know that my home lies far behind me and, although she is calling me back to her, her cries have become ever quieter but even more painful.

I take a cigarette from my jacket and light a match. A sudden gust extinguishes it before I can raise it to my lips. I return the cigarette to its case in my jacket, thinking of the stiller times that lie ahead of me. I don’t need it yet, I think to myself. A romantic attempt at reassurance and I can’t help but smile quietly.

My feet are pleased to be back in these old boots. The creases in the leather console every inch of my feet and caress my toes with promises of far-away lands and softer trails. The soles have become one with my body and spirit and I feel as if they could never be worn down.

The years have passed so quickly. Staying in one place for so long is out of my character. On reflection, my true character was merely lying in wait, resting whilst a new and temporary one took over. Before I knew it, my son was not only born but walking towards me, arms wide open and a smile to match. I shall have to go back for him someday, so that he can walk with me and I can teach him all I know. He may resent my departure at first, but I should expect that, for I can completely relate to him. Though he will not be expecting that, he will understand when he is older and has seen and felt things that only nature can show to him.

The light is fading quickly now and, for a split second, I felt a pang in the upper-left part of my chest as I thought back to that beautiful, unimaginable and inimitable image of my love with our son nestled perfectly and as comfortable as could ever be in his warm sleep in her arms. She sits elegantly by the fireside, and as her own eyes slip closer and closer together, her head falls deeper and deeper towards her perfect form, all drawn together by the forces of slumber. I shall never forget that sight, that vision of perfection. With the curtains drawn, the doors bolted securely shut and the fire for protection from the harsh, cold exterior, nothing could harm them for that instant. It was paradise.

Bells peal out, waking me from my evening daydream. The russet tones of the trees on either side of the valley are reflected in the river’s silver shades. I take comfort in my solitude, but know that people are never too far away from me for those times when company is needed or even desired. Eventually, I find the source of the bells. There is an abbey perched on an outcrop. I can see the top of the towers as they elegantly and majestically stride over the tops of the trees. Soon they will be bare and the towers will turn from beautiful to imposing against the starkness of the trunks and branches.

I head up towards the abbey, my hands sinking further into my pockets, desperately trying to find warmth in the depths of the lining of my jacket against the flurries which have increased in strength and frequency. I’d like to think that someone or something is trying to make me turn back and head for the place I called “home” for so long, but I won’t allow myself such flattery. If they could hear me, they would know that it is not yet time for me to return.

The fields outside the abbey have been freshly ploughed, suggesting company, warmth, smiles. There is one path that leads directly across the fields which the ploughman kindly left for people like me to take. And so I do. I chuckle to myself when I think that it would be rude not to do so. Although my feet have strayed slightly while walking along it, occasionally treading on the bare earth, I do not mind. No-one will know. I arrive at the door and am welcomed in by a plainly-clad monk. Although the habits of him and his Brothers fit the stereotypes suggested by the stories told of these ‘Men’, something about them seems strange and goes against my better judgement. However, my feelings of discomfort soon subside when compared to my desire to spend the night under the stars. One Brother places his arm around my shoulder and leads me inside. All the while another closes the door behind me. The fire is roaring and I can smell meat roasting. Tonight will set me up for another day; of that much I am sure.