Numb fingertips. A cold heart. A throbbing headache. Two missed trains, a bus that does not come. A drunk man in the LUAS swears at me, loud and accusing. The museum is a former military barrack. Grey and equal are the bricks, lined up in a row as the generations of soldiers, who stood either in the rain or in the sun on the parade ground, probably dreaming themselves far away, to a better, a brighter, a beautiful place. So we go and look at the silver.And silver they have. Silver made in Dublin or Cork. Gravyboats with a heron as handle, silver brought as dowry by a young woman into a man’s house. And what do we know of the past, of the lady, who looked at the heavy silver- framed mirror, balancing out if this man would be the one, she dreamed of in the long, dull summer days or if she would soon realize that he preferred an older women, with heavy pearls and silk robes, two country houses further down the field? Silver treasure boxes tell the story of the brown envelopes and much more appropriate do they appear, even if their nature and aim- bribery- did not change at all and what do we know of those, who took the money or declined it? What do we know of the priest’s pride who commissioned a set of new chalices? Was it g*d or rather a much more worldly power, he saw on the win? And what do we make of the silver chandeliers, the wax jack and were more love-letters or accountant notes written down? The tea-boxes were all locked, the servants should gave no chance to fancy a cuppa, but I assume they did anyway, after all that long hours, standing and running up and down, they probably knew how to keep awake and stay alive. Only a few visitors join us, their footsteps are to be heard for a long time, when wandering through the rooms. Most stories are lost somewhere, and only glimpses become visible in form of a fork, a small bracelet or an half-broken pen. Sometimes the fingertips touch it, sometimes our heart is touched, sometimes we know so well, even if don not tell anyone. On the train back home, a woman has silver nails. My fingertips, my heart and my head are still numb and cold, are still waiting with hope that fades more and more away.
National Museum of Ireland,
Decorative Arts and History,
Collins Barracks, Benburb Street, Dublin 7
In the middle of the night I wake up, freezing cold am I and for half an hour I look out of the window into the deep night, where not a single star can be spotted. One hour and a hot bottle later, I am not that cold anymore and fall back asleep. Of a marriage I dream, taking place in a wasteland and unable I am to identify groom and bride. The sun rises golden as an ancient coin above the tree tops, high and higher. “Bon voyage”, sun I say and listen to the radio, where a film critic endlessly talks about a film he disliked, but I do not care anyway and as so often I wonder, why critics never seem to be quick, smart and surprising but rather dull while repeating the very same empty phrases. I turn the radio off and for long hours I sit at my desk, sometimes car doors are opened, a dog barks here and then and the birds are shirking and arguing with each other, the postman leans his bike against the fence and I pick up a parcel for the neighbors that never seem to be at home at all. The printer for whatever reason does not print. I talk gently to him. I pet his black housing if it would be a stubborn dog, I curse him and I tell him a horrible story of ending up in a recycling centre in very due course. The printer is not impressed at all and remains silent. I give the printer and myself a rest, cheese I buy, a few grapes, a hopefully ripe mango and a bottle of milk. Back on my desk I ignore the printer, just sometimes when getting up to grab a book from the shelve I murmur: “recycling centre”, after six hours of deep and stubborn silence, the printer finally gives in and out of the blue, twenty pages fall into my hands. Good choice, printer I say, but the printer has pride as well and reclines any comment. The sun is gone, with the neighbor I talk about her sister, who crammed a massive, black sideboard in an already narrow hallway. This will be a difficult thing to solve, but not today. Four plates, glasses and cutlery I place on the table, cheese and grapes are already there, the bread is in its basket, the mango is juicy and of a brilliant yellow is her flesh that shines as the sun in the morning, and sticky drips the juice from my fingers, while waiting for D., L. and K. I read a few pages in Peter Ackroyd’s book on the Thames, tired I am a bit and a message I am waiting for does not come and so I am relieved when the bell rings and D’s laughter sounds vividly and infectious through the staircase up to my door.
The last pumpkin of the year that waited long in a hidden corner of the fridge still shines brilliantly in orange, but after making a soup of him with two apples, an orange, Cayenne pepper and half a tin of coconut milk and a slice of ginger that still today got lost in the fridge as well, but the pumpkin soup did not taste the same as in October or November, with its rich thickness, its roasted aroma, its creamy yellowish surface, when the seeds roasted in a hot pan for a few minutes before they are crackling in the mouth salty and rich as the pumpkin himself. Now its brilliance has faded, the seeds are soft and weak now. The pumpkin does not taste good nor bad, his taste is just gone, a lost reminder of better golden autumnal days. But the bread, for the first time in weeks came out well of the oven, did not shrink in, nor was too dry,or wet in its middle but smelled when just in the oven, wonderful and Queen Cat and me went back and forth to the oven, to closely supervise when it would be crispy and brown just as it should be. I am deeply convinced that the first slice of every fresh baked bread must be buttered at least two fingers thick, but not an inch less, coarse salt must be on top and then with closed eyes, the first bite is a revelation. Of course Queen Cat joins the chorus of praise in this case. On the second or third slice you can add fresh and sweet scenting goat cheese or a handful of fresh herbs and in the next morning a good two spoons full of honey, which I like at most. Then you you can lay back in the cushions, cuddle your self up in a blanket or two, warm up your hands at a steaming hot cup of tea and deeply breathe in and out. Good is then, to sit on the armchair and listen to the gales forces blowing outside, and for a long hours, the world is just hidden behind a curtain and deep engulfed am I by Richard Flanagan’s horrid and deep, long and breath-taking, gruesome and beautiful, obscene and poetic book, “The Narrow Road to the Deep North.” And still it is a wonder that the bread, the pumpkin, the world, the beautiful and the dreadful still exist- despite everything.
When we were young, you and I, we spent whole afternoons on the ground of your massive, always a bit dark living room. Your chairs and tables were made of heavy wood. Oak I guess, but I might be wrong because some of the pieces were nearly black. In the left hand corner stood a massive and obviously very old palm tree, whose leaves shivered in the light breeze that came through the high windows. One was never sure if the windows were open or closed. Heavy curtains, made from red velvet hung in front of them. My grandfather brought them, you told me and shrug your shoulders as if you wanted to excuse the rather unusual sense of taste, but I loved the place, loved the slight dust everywhere, loved your scent that was inseparable from the room, loved the cushions with their Persian patterns, all of them faded but still a reminder of once more colorful days.Hour after hour we spent on the floor listening to music of the old record player, whose needle scratched noisily along and from time to time needed readjustment. And it was on the very same ground, next to your shoulders when we listened for the very first time to Johannes Brahms song cycle “The Beautiful Magelone.” And I told you the old, the very old story that took place in the fifthteenth century, where the beautiful neapolitan princess Magelone fell in love with the duke Peter. But Magelone was meant to become someone’s else wife. They ran off together, but ran into a world were Peter was captured by Ottoman soldiers and their ways disrupted. Two centuries later it was Ludwig Tieck, who brought back the story into light till Johannes Brahms transformed it into music. The music follows a story, where feelings constantly change and Brahms constantly changes the nature of the songs, one finds everything in his music, from a lullaby to rhapsody. But again and again you asked for one song out of the twelve,”Geliebter wo zaudert” where Peter lies on a boat, torn between his feelings for Magelone and the beautiful daughter of the sultan Sulima, who wants to fill the gap opened through their separation. In the end the daughter of the Sultan does not succeed, Peter and Magelone find their way back to each other and year after year they come back to the place where their love once begun to sing the very same song. And we on the floor listened again and again, you bent forward and kissed me with your featherlight and always a bit dry lips and never minded that I did not kiss you back. But one day, when I went up the stairs in the late light of the afternoon, under my arm a record my grandmother just had sent me, you did not open the door when I knocked. Not on this day, nor on any of the following days. One day, many months later, a new name appeared on the door. For many years I did not listen to Brahms anymore and nearly forgot the story of the “Beautiful Magelone” and even today when sometimes in the radio they play a song or two of the cycle I do not listen too carefully. But I wonder if somewhere, you still lie on a floor, next to you a pile of nearly faded cushions, the old palm-tree just around the corner and if you tell someone again and again the old, the very old story of Peter and the beautiful Magelone, as once I did so many times.
January is rather a dull month in the village where I live. Everything is silent. The grocer’s wife, who is never short of good stories and secrets she reveals has nothing more to offer than a few dry remarks about the neighbor’s sister, who tends to sneeze in a most provocative way at her, wherever she appears. But even I know this story by heart and just pretend to listen. The seagulls are quiet, the sheep look bored and the crows cough in a oct distasteful way. Long was the January, cold and windy, sleet came down, the bus driver cursed, Queen Cat ripped off all the blossoms of my orchids and did not even look ashamed. I worked all day long and found myself too often in front of the open fridge eating a sad piece of cheese and a bite of bread, before falling into my bed. Yes, it was a long and dull time. But today something changed. Not only that the sun glittered when I woke up, but it was as if the village woke up from a long, deep and silent sleep. When entering the grocer’s shop, the grocer’s wife told me a long and exhausting story of the neighbor three streets down, who purchased a brand, new Mercedes, just two days ago under the most suspicious circumstances, her eyes glittered as she handed me my mixed-berry scone. Whenever you might come into my village, get yourself a scone. The grocer’s wife scones are marvelous. Oven-warm, thick, sweet, full of fruits and raisins, they are scones to die for. But it was not the grocer’s wife alone, three men I spotted bathing in the Irish sea. The seagulls shrieked, one biker after another drove through the streets, under the massive old trees the first early bloomers raised their heads into the bright daylight, the castle grounds were packed of people, the fisherman smoked and started to paint their boats, the sheep looked not sheepish but rather eager to impress, and Queen Cat did not only jump down from the kitchen table, when she spotted me entering the kitchen, but laid herself upon my feet and remained there till I finished the scone and the paper. The spring can’t be far away anymore.