Thursday, November 5, 2009

Guy Fawkes Day (2)

Yesterday, my mind on autopilot, I put on my blog the piece I’d written to go up today which celebrates the thwarting of Guy Fawkes’s plot. I wondered about deleting it and starting again but decided not to – quite a lot of effort had gone into writing it. I have a Word document called ‘For the Blog.’ On it I place tentative pieces and ideas as well as poems and anything else that’s relevant. I usually copy and then paste. Yesterday, I cut. A lesson learnt – the folly of absentmindedness.

Guy Fawkes Day to me will always be associated with our good German friends, Ulrike, Matthias and their daughter Lisa. Ulrike was the national German language adviser, a member of my staff. They rented a home high in the Brooklyn hills with a superb view of the city and its skyscape, a great place to watch the official fireworks over the harbour. For five years we went there. Matthias became enamoured with the occasion. He and neighbour Brian delighted in setting off their own after the city display finished.

Here is a poem I wrote after the last evening together. It is not one of my better poems but I feel it captures the spirit of the occasion very well.


Events take on their own
Conversation relaxed
on the balcony as we watch
the display over the harbour
& then Matthias & Brian
advance to set & light
our own, four watchful
girls & assembled adults
- the fuse lit the two men
retreat crab-like, as ballet
dancers choreographed
to move together- then
whoosh - the garden lights
up & overhead coloured stars
appear, droop & fade. An annual
ritual has become this evening.
Will you celebrate Guy Fawkes
in Berlin? A reminder that this
event is the last time we will
watch together, but let's not
dwell upon the future, rather
the radiant present, the grace
of two men, our delight in their
action & by mutual agreement
"Godzilla's the best".

When the family left at the end of 2000 we were sad, not at the end of a friendship but the lack of their proximity. In the words of a local teacher, ‘Ulrike was a magnificent ambassador for her country.’ We visited and stayed with them in Berlin in 2002 and Anne spent some time there in 2006.

Lisa was six years old when they arrived. She had five years New Zealand schooling. When she returned home her English teacher shuddered at her Kiwi accent. We invited them on their first Easter here to have a meal with us. Anne hid chocolate eggs around the section and Lisa had great fun locating them. This became an annual event, Lisa inviting her school friends to help her in the search. Lisa came back for a three month stint last spring – a gap between her schooling and university. Staying with our neighbours she got a temporary job as a waitress in a local restaurant.

Hansjorg, Ulrike’s predecessor had arranged a study tour of Germany for me in 2004. Bonn, (Beethoven’s birthplace), Trier, (Constantine’s western capital), Cologne (cathedral), Berlin, (the wall not long down), Dresden (fabulous art gallery) and Munich (the ballet Midsummer Night’s Dream and beer halls) – it was some trip. Anne claimed it was a junket. If it was it was informative, educational and well-worthwhile. I was very pleased to have the opportunity.

I had a strange dream last night. I’d won a study tour to Greece. (Why Greece? I had not thought of Greece for quite some time). I had to race from a meeting to the car-park to pick up my vehicle. The drive seemed to be from Little River to Christchurch. Half-way there along the Motukara stretch I realised I’d left my passport behind. The word ‘passport’ was like the word ‘forlorn’ in Keats’ famous nightingale poem – it woke me to reality. I came awake thinking my passport’s lapsed. I had trouble going back to sleep as my brain tossed concepts of loss and regret around – times that were and will not be again.

It was at Motukara that I’d impressed Anne light-years ago. Early on in our relationship I drove her and her two sons to visit Akaroa. There was a ewe cast in a roadside paddock. I stopped the car, vaulted the gate and turning the animal over, helped it get to its feet. A natural action to a farmer’s son – an impromptu, unpremeditated move that won me great kudos.

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