In Aberdeen the air is crisp and clear. The city is grey and all over you are informed that you are in Europe’s oil capital. Obviously that’s a thing to know. Maybe the city council expects that someday black fountains break through the pavement and so you have to be better well advised just in case. T. is the same tall, good-looking man he has always been and probably always will be. He works off-shore, do you remember he says, of course I do, but that’s so many years ago now, but T. insist that he never paid the favor back. Never mind. Good it is, to sit with T. and the conversation drips from his wife’s MA course to his mother health, my sisters holidays and the by-election in Rochester to the massive amount of huge, big-brand cars, passing by along the window of the coffee shop, you’re a big man now T. say I and T grins. The train is nearly empty, the ticket collector sits on an empty chair and flicks through the news. So far up north I think, so far up north. Dundee flies by and in Montrose the tide is low. The boats look like cracked up shells in the wet sand. In Edinburgh I bite on my knuckles, but anyway its better than crying in a now packed train. But that’s something to learn as well that the mere sight of a sign at the station hurts so deep. In Newcastle the houses look out over the bay and few empty factories with broken windows would have their own story to tell. And further south heads the train, along woods, full of dark, brushy stands next to harvested fields, a farmhouse where only a few stones are left and afar more and more wind wheels are to be seen. Windmiller is long a profession as so many other professions exist and noting remains more of the old world of Chekov and Bulgakov, no witch rides in the deep dark nights over the countryside, and a black cat is nothing more than a black cat and never will be a fast-talking Behemoth, and we drive further and further, stop here and then, I change the train in York and soon the countryside is left behind itself, the great city comes into sight, noise isolation walls border the path, more and more passengers join till the train reaches London King’s Cross. I look for my sister, there she is and as soon as my fingertips reach her arm, I start crying and cry as I would have liked to do in the last 8 hours and 20 minutes, the time of my journey cross-country.
The village, a street. Long, but still just a street. The houses, small and crouched as they would as we try to hide away of the strong blowing wind. A pub, an art-gallery ( closed ), a bus stop ( no bus arrives ), a pharmacy and two hairdressers form the village. Opaque curtains in front of the windows. No passers-by. Inside the pub, a big screen. Ireland against Australia, I think but I can’t remember. The scent of beer and boredom. The unvarying image of drunkards, sitting in front of their pints. The suspicious glance of the barman, while ordering orange-juice. A woman in the corner, with a platinblonde haircut, spiky maybe in the late 1980s. She wears a pink jacket of a brand named Superdry, this would be quite ironic if there would be any space left for irony in a drinker’s face. Grey jogging- trousers, false but many golden rings on each finger. Her laughter, rough and meant to value the two man standing next to her. Their arms broad, their bodies massive, tattooed with large symmetrical forms resembling from afar Maori patterns. But only from afar. At a close range they look like helpless attempts to make a life look more interesting as it ever has been and will be in this pub on a long still-standing street. The men leave for a cigarette or two, the women who wears Superdry orders a new drink, ruby-red with a black straw and looks at her fingernails, pink colored and sharp modeled. The waitresses with haggard faces try to assemble a plastic christmas tree, yet when erected it looks shabby and soon the tree disappears into a dark corner. The string of light does not work, not even when one of the waitresses gets down on her knees trying to fix it. The men stare at her bum, for a second but she does not observe it or at least tries not to pay attention. Who knows? The men order more beer, a silent couple enters, he drinks beer too, she drinks clear spirit, the pub owner himself gets the bottle from a locked cabinet. The waitresses look embarrassed. But what do I know of past events? The rugby players look tired but the men with the beer howl in their direction. Howl, howl, howl, said King Lear once, but he did not mean rugby players by then. As far as I know at least. The smokers come back, the woman brushes her hair back and her voice so strident has the most unpleasant effect, but maybe it is the fear that after this night or soon, not even those men would stop at her chair, offering some comfort or at least a faded image of what this might have been a few years ago or never. What do I know? Thick is the air of all the disappointments, of rugby players running as slow as lame ducks, of silent drinkers and loud howlers and left-behind women and so much more I don’t know.
Over there the willow. Down the path the stream, gurgling and chuckling. White flint-rocks in its midst. Uphill three old yew trees, enormous trunks,older than anyone of us. The house old and splendid, white framed windows, creaking old doors, the staircase enormous, the view reaches far, wide is the land, the hills hide the sea, but the seagulls are impossible not to be heard. Sheep on both sides of the road, but bearing in mind always the willow, old and with long, curved branches swinging in the wind like manifold arms, deep down, hidden in the Scottish countryside, beyond the steady roads and tracks, at the end of the world, somewhere between Aberdeen and Dundee, the Northern winds blow here, blow strong, they know how to stay here. and yet even here, even here behind all the thorny hedges and the stone walls, even here so far up north, you can not escape the war, this German war, they call in my profession the Second World War and here, in the house at the sideboard when you open the creaking door with its golden handle, you can not avoid the war, you look into the face of a young man, twenty-five or twenty-seven, no age for a life, who got killed, shot maybe and died in Tuscany, never came back so far up north and father got at some day, an envelope with a letter that the son would never return to the willow, the yew trees, the stream, gurgling and chuckling, would never play cricket again and never lay dreaming in the park. The father left his house and his home, moving away from the willow, the stream, the park that became unbearable. but still today, the scars are the same, the same as the old willow, over there, deep down in the countryside, hidden and easy not to see. Nearly invisible, but still not gone, like a stain, nearly invisible, but only nearly and no stain remover,no rubbing, no rinsing lets the stain disappear.
I am done with her, shouts D. and the door bangs behind him. Bang, bang. Hey, say I. but D. doesn’t look at me and so I sit back on my chair, where I have been waiting for the last forty minutes, drinking too much lemonade. And the waiter who appears, with a sly smile, is totally ignored by D. Done. Done. Done., shots D. and bangs, now where the door is closed on the table. Lemonade swaps upon my skirt. And hectically I try to wipe down the sweet juice, D. gets even more angry. Can you just once take me seriously, he barks. I do, I do say I, but D. does not look convinced. Just across the road, he said, there she stood. Looking good, you know. Slim. Tall. Black trousers, red blouse, dark-green parka. I know she is good-looking, D. But of course this is wrong as well. You accuses me D. you have no idea at all. Good looking? She is the most beautiful woman ever been born. Well, I say, D. don’t you overestimate her a little bit? But this was even worse, as D. points his finger at me to carry on, his tirade. Alright, alright, I say, carry on. And again D. curses all the gods who he holds responsible for the mere fact that the most fabulous and true beauty of all the beauties, left him. What he does not mention is the mere fact, that probably not the gods have to be cursed, but an accountant, who did not only send her roses but started to kiss her right behind the elevators, and obviously he kissed quite well, because otherwise I would not have been shouted at by her former boyfriend D., who shortly before he discovered the explosive power elevators possess, bought a quite expensive ring, to ask for her hand. Now the hand are held in a firm grip, if we want to believe D. and the kissing formerly done secretly now took place in the midst of the crowds, among them D. Well, I try again to calm down D. but I won’t succeed. Again he bangs with his fist on the table and I try to save my glass, which of course is wrong and a sign of my very own heartlessness towards D.’s existential life-crisis. How could she do this to me, he repeats again and again, but who knows beside her? And while just I am there to be shouted at and she is not and probably never will be, D. thinks it is only just to accuse me of coldness and lacking empathy. I try to explain that I am quite tired and quite exhausted but this does not count. And so I leave and do not look back, I even forget my beloved dark blue dotted scarf, but I don’t go back and when the phone rings later,and I see D. ’s name blinking on the screen, I don’t answer. D. knows too well how to hurt me and this does hurt too.
The sheep look miserable. The crows on the big chestnut tree look miserable too. Then they start to sing. I don’t know because I am not well-informed in crow circles, but the songbook for dull days published somewhere around the late 1660s seems not to do much help in cheering the crow crowds up. That’s a pity. Unfortunately crow songs have many verses and crows possess staying power when it comes to singing. They are not impressed not even by the barking dog, who now himself starts to intone a hymn for a solo dog in the style of an old madrigal, written somewhere in south-eastern Spain in the times when the great dog-massacres took place somewhere around the expulsion of the Moors. And indeed, his barking remembers all the long-lost generations of dogs, never ever to be forgotten. The crows look slightly impressed but not enough to stop their own polyphony chorus. The seagulls now incited themselves are gathering on the two neighbored rooftops, discussing their contribution. And the the party of the Irish dance fraction wins, they start with a long and quite rhythmic piece inspired by Astor Piazolla, who is quite popular among seagulls. Don’t say you never heard of this! And they do with success. More and more seagulls are joining, Astor always promises great craic. In the first row, the „Society of Tap-Dancing Seagulls“ appears ( if you want to join, they meet every Wednesday at 5PM, fee: two piece of salmon ( cut ) or one tuna steak ( whole ), meeting point: Read On’s roof, and start their dance performance. Oh, how nicely and synchronously their claws bang on my rooftop, how elegant their plumage swings, and oh, how enthusiastic they become, truly set on fire by the beat of the band, dancing faster and faster. The crows look at them in pure disgust. Ridiculous you can hear, but some crows look jealous as well. Such a nice tutu you can hear them whisper, would suit us as well as them. And the seagulls know, that the crows know. The sheep think they should exercise more too, they sigh deeply, maybe a match of cricket later this week, would do good for their shape. But not hockey, no hockey, no definitely not, that’s for sure. We are modest creatures, with have a sense of pride and modesty, shouts grandmother sheep from far behind, don’t forget your modesty. Grandmother sheep tends to forget sometimes that she herself in her younger years possessed not one, not two, but three LP’s of Astor Piazolla herself. The Queen of the sheep-floor she was called, but who are we to judge her? We, live ourselves with a queen and are well aware of their habits. And so we’re not much impressed that Queen Cat just yawns, when told that she missed quite an extraordinary concert. Just for a few minutes she listens to the heartbreaking song of the old dog. Dog massacre, so, so, you can hear her thinking, while walking up and down the shelves, wasn’t there quite a good article in the recent volume of “ Cats. Rule the world without a word?“
When we are old and the winter outside will have red knuckles and bangs against our door with ice and snow and blizzards, then we will remember. Look, we will say to our astonished grand-children, who with an already mockingly smile try not to look in a too peculiar way on their smart phones but to listen to our old stories, listen we will say, many years ago, there was a november when the roses did not stop to blossom, even when nearly all the leaves had come down already. A carpet of brown, gold and orange, deep red wine leaves and some dark green ivy covered the streets . But the roses were still there in the warmth of this november, were shining pink and rosa and white. These were the days when the summer did not want to leave at all, when the children wore just t-shirts and shorts running outside with red cheeks, catching for breath. The lake in the sun did not bear a sign of autumn but just glittered in the warming sun and some brave-hearted men and women untied their shoelaces and tipped their toes into the water, smiling and joyful. The apples of this year were crisp and sweet, the pears sun-kissed and the grapes sweeter than ever. And we were waiting, we will say to the children looking at us with doubt in their eyes, staring out of the window, where again snow would fall, we have been waiting for the thirteenth fairy, who would end all this in due course, but she did not come, got lost somewhere and we, we started to hope that till the end of our days, the cherry tree orchards and the old rosa roses would flourish and blossom and we would live as if life would be a long and never-ending summer.
But what might happen I always ask myself in the ten minutes before a concert starts, somewhere behind the still closed doors of the orchestra? Maybe the second violin dreams maybe not longer as for thirty seconds that the first violin would stumble and tonight the second would be the first? Maybe the cellist smokes a cigarette hastily, envying his colleague who passed glances with the pretty third flute, he admires for so many years. Might it be true that the oboist has difficulties in tying a proper knot but is too afraid to ask the trombonist next to him, who sums a melody he reminds from somewhere? And where did he hear this melody before? Could it be that the tuba player, just one time , just for one single evening might sit next to the first violin? And would he manage without getting blushed cheeks? And why, week after week starts the conductor to search for his cufflinks again and again at the very same time, when everyone knows that his cufflinks are always at the second drawer to his left, right to the shelves of Brahms. Does the fourth cellist really have new shoes that high? Why does the cornet looks that intensely at his fingernails. Did he forgot to practice the second part? And the two viola players, murmuring in a corner, do they complain that its always them, who have to change the note sheets? And the first violin, why does she held the cufflinks of the conductor in her hands? Does the double-bass player really like Mahler? And this melody swirling around, Strauss? Hm? Maybe. Is the instrument heavier than usual ask the fourth cellist the fifth violin. But the fifth violin searches for her handkerchief and bums together with the conductor, who still searches for his cufflinks. Aargh, cries the conductor and urgh, whimpers the violinist. The second clarinet needs a plaster. Freckin sharp, he shouts but is shushed silent. No swearing before a concert, shouts someone from behind. Freckin sharp murmurs the clarinet again. „Are people out there?“ asks someone else, maybe one of the trumpets, curious as ever. The conductor sweats already, the third violin plays Candy Crush, the fourth viola plays in jazz trio in her rare spare time. But where did this melody come from? Schumann? Why did no one see the soloist of tonight? Who is the soloist tonight asks the organist from deep behind. The conductor still without cufflinks looks terrified. Two cellist fight with their bows and finally, finally the first violin gets up, passes over the cufflinks and starts to attune her instrument. Of course, Bartók sighs the second violin. Bartók, thinks the oboist with great relief. Of course. But who knows? Maybe everything is different. But the yellow scarf why its it there and more important did it help? Can someone tell me, maybe after the concert?
In Eighteenth Century France if history proves us not wrong, people had a bath just once a year. But perfumes became popular and so it is not always easy to say if someone fell for a pair of blue eyes or just fell on his back because he or she got overwhelmed by an especially strong smell. But however, the Ancient Roman and Greek women, so admired in the very same century would have laughed loud at their smelly or strange scenting counterparts of a few centuries later. Not only that Cleopatra was meant to bathe in mare’s milk but bath houses were the most popular meeting point for women in these days. And many things changed in the course of centuries, people nowadays are obsessed by washing and cleaning. When I came to Europe many years ago, I learned that some people take a shower three times a day. When I articulated my surprise, I was looked at as if I were an extremely strange smelling maid from mid eighteenth century Paris. But however, still it seems that the bathhouse even now in the form of lavatories, and in this special case in form of a university lavatory have not lost their attraction. Half of the female population so it seems to me is gathering on the toilets. Most of them in one single cubicle. But still after so many years of practice for most women and maybe men ( my experiences on this case aren’t that valuable ) it seems to be a big struggle to control the flush, even when they are sober. But well one should not be too narrow-minded in these days. And if the women in the old Roman days used the toilet to practice their break-up scenes, following later in Augustus back-garden, they found worthy successors. This week only I learnt of a Patrick the greatest s*um on earth, got introduced to a mean and hateful Martin and a disaster called Finn. Let alone long calls to mother’s to complain of anything including not being allowed to have a chipper one this particular Sunday, thirteen years ago. Obviously toilets seem to be the last place where no secret leaves the door. But I can assure you that’s an error. I don’t know if Cleopatra would bring bags of MAC’s cosmetic with her today, but every warehouse seems to be a rare empty place compared with a sink of a lavatory, where more and more products are to be found in the range of seconds. Deodorants are tested and a perfect, a fulfilling visit includes to dry your hair under the hand dryer. Because as we all know, without three showers a day, you are merely a human being. And toilet paper, toilet paper is an all-rounder these days, what fun it must be to stick around wet toilet paper on the floors, this must be pure freedom, coming close to an elysium of a bath of mare milk.