Saturday, 29 August 2009

Fields? Family? Anybody?

Easily impressed by what's in front of me, let's do a bit of family story telling today.

My granddad turned 90 yesterday. So, happy, happy birthday, Friedel! He'd been, first anxiously (so as to not tempt fate) then eagerly planning his big bash to offset the far too many funerals that now mark his diary of events.

With having been 'elsewhere' for so long and so persistently, I successfully managed to avoid most family occasions, so much so that I tend to say "there's not much family" where I'm from. Obviously a lie - as the table full of people who I don't know testifies.

So, the first happy family party for me in... I don't know... probably 14 years?... my parents' silver anniversary I guess?...

The village where my mother grew up shares a lot of family from my mother's and my father's side. My dad's uncle lived opposite my mother's parents. And they are all from around there anyway... well, both my grandfathers' families, not my grandmothers' sides.

Where am I going with this? To the fields, and to Albert Koenig. But first two tangents: to Reñaca a bit north of Valparaiso in Chile and to my grans's christmas biscuits.

Field with orange
Field with orange

Tangent 1: after too much lunch, my dad, Torben and I go for a walk - round the swimming pool, and through some fields... I grin, take some photos. Welcome back, just the right time for late summer fields again. There's the little river, well... a burn really... where my mum learned to swim. We come back and my mum says... "I've been talking about you, and Harald wants to talk to you about Chile." Well, let's talk about Chile. H. is one of the son's of my granddad's best friend. H. has travelled, plenty of times to Latin America, to Africa and to Asia. He wants to retire between Reñaca and Viña del Mar, just north of Valpo. ¡Qué raro! He tells me 'talk some more, Gesa, your German sounds so lovely and strange'.

Tangent 2: 'Gesa, Gesa, Gesa - Annegret wants to talk to you about Kolutschen', my mum says excitedly after yet more food. 'They found your blog'. Yes, I know they found my blog. And a few hours later I'm talking to people I spent summer weekends with in their outdoor pool, whom I last saw about 30 years ago, and we talk about never having gone away and about being strange. And about Oma Eschede's Kolutschen recipe, which they stumbled upon last winter. Annegret tells me 'You know, I didn't need the recipe, I have it myself - it's really only two people in the world who made these, my mother-in-law and your gran. We were just curious and googled. And how weird to find them. My daughter asked: Do you know a Gesa Helms? But she's not from here. She's from somewhere in England!'

Na, and then the Men's Choir came and sung. Sung some more and drunk some more. It's so rural and villagey, I tend to forget just how familiar this all is, how I can decipher it blind, find it elsewhere such as in rural northwest Scotland and find the markers, the points to orientate yourself by, to trip up and despair over.

Na, dann mal Prost
My granddad, orchestrating, to the left with beer glass

¡Raise your glasses, once more! And sing some more about the woods and the meadows, the wind and the darkness, the heathland, the shepherd and a rural idyll that never really was but still warms our hearts.

Oh, and then something really strange was taking place. At the far end, my other granddad sat. Only, he died seven years ago. And nonetheless, one of my dad's former bosses looks soo like him, it's uncanny. Only later my dad told me that his boss' gran was a cousin of my granddad's gran. Well... family... everywhere
Well... Opa Uelzen... he's (not) the one in the middle of this picture.

Der andere Opa ist auch da

Albert Koenig: that's tomorrow's programme - in practice, if not in blog.

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