You had a raincoat? and other obvious questions

our fair city on the banks of the River Isar

Good morning 2020 (written early New Year’s Day morning). What a wild ride it’s already been, and I’m still in my pyjamas.

My mother, who’s nickname when she was young was ‘Fafa’ so that’s what I call her here, and I have talked briefly, which because of the time difference between here and the States means it’s still yesterday there.

My sister-in-law and I also had a meaningful, end of the year conversation a little while ago in which we talked about her husband/my brother and what he was like as a child. That was something.

We also talked about me, which is unfortunately still one of my favourite subjects, and she had some insight about all of that, which I appreciated. All of that, you ask? All of what, exactly?

Well, this is the first time in almost twenty years that I haven’t had a dog to walk on New Year’s morning. You likely know of Ella and Louis, but before them there was a girldog named Lyle. She came with my first wife and me from the States, when wee moved here to Munich in 2001.

She was my only real responsibility as I was getting my bearings in this curious new land. German culture was weirdly unfathomable, which made no sense because I’d lived here as a small child. I’d learned to play German music and even sang in the godforsaken language before I understood what I was singing about. Nevertheless, I felt odd and like an outsider.

That first year, I drank too much Augustiner and Austrian Veltiner, I smoked my Gauloises, and I walked my dog. It was all pretty straightforward. Below is a photo of my friend Elaine’s dog, Poppet, and me in Tottenham. Well, it’s our shadows. When I’m without a dog, I greet every single one I see. Right now, I’m meeting a lot of dogs.

Poppet’s and my shadows…

Here’s the story I want to tell today, and I assure you that there’s a moral. I’ll be explicit, rather than make you guess what my motive is.

It’s about gratitude and perspective.

A woman told a few friends and me a disheartening story about her horrible childhood and how she always felt like an outsider. She could’ve been telling my story, but that’s beside the point. ‘It’s not always about you, Ken.’ Yes, I get it.

She told us about standing in the rain in her raincoat and looking up at the sky and somehow, in her childlike wonder, asking what on earth the reason for everything was. Asking God or the universe or whatever was out there why she was even here. Why did she even exist? What was even the point?

Aphrodite and the setting sun

After my friend told her story, we were all really quiet. It was so depressing that we were simply mute. Until one quiet voice meekly asked, ‘You had a raincoat?

The raincoat obviously wasn’t the point of the story, but clearly the woman who was almost afraid to ask her question must’ve had an even worse childhood. For her, the mere shelter from the rain was absolute and utter luxury.

I try to remember that everyone I encounter could be dealing with trauma that he or she doesn’t even want to think about. It’s a trick I use to be more compassionate. Sometimes it works.

Sometimes I forget. My New Year’s resolution this year is not to forget.

I should be more compassionate. Especially to those who’re in my inner circle. They very well might get my best, but they simultaneously get the worst of me, as well.

I resolve to give them more of my best. A lot more.

Another chapter in the book of Fafa

 

Fafa in Strasbourg on the River Ill
 
The last week has been filled with adventures while my mother was in Germany. She made her annual European trip, which included a week in France, and then she and I met up in Strasbourg before our return to Munich

She loves Munich – as I’ve often mentioned here, we lived here in the early 70s – and at the end of her trip, I asked again if she’d seen enough of the Bavarian capital. Would she want to venture out & see more of the rest of Germany. Although she’s already seen so much of my adopted country and especially of this beautiful city, she insisted that there was plenty more she wants to experience. Not only other cities & regions she’s until now only read about but most importantly shed like to continue to venture out from Munich as a starting point. 

We both agreed that it’s not always easy living so far apart, but her regular travel thisaway makes it a bit more tolerable. Like so many other familes living on separate continents, technology also allows us to regularly communicate in real time. Unquestionably, it’s a second rate substitute, but it at least provides some alternative. 

So what exactly have we been up to? Well, the photo above is on a boat tour of Strasbourg. That’s the River Ill, so we were quite literally ‘illing’. We ate a lot of Bavarian food; it’s possible we even are the equivalent of our body weight in Schnitzel. 

I’ve written about her here: Happy Birthday Fafa, which also explains that’s a nickname she’s gone by since she was a child. 

Because she’s so regularly here, my mom has befriended quite a few people hereabouts. This means she arrives with a bit of an agenda to see and be seen. And because she’s so gregarious, there’s often a new crowd of admirers asking when she’ll be back. 

 

Ella and Louis pondering her return
 

break bread like you mean it

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This was taken when I was sitting across from my mom at the café across from the Durham Cathedral and the Durham Castle. I’ve been meaning to write more about the particulars of this trip. There was so much we saw and did. You’d be surprised how well Fafa gets around.

The card that says, ‘Its all my parents fault,’ often makes me laugh.

It’s meant to be ironical folks. I blame my parents for very little. I used to, but eventually realised it was a waste of time. At some point one has to simply grow up.

You know what I blame my parents for? How decent I turned out. What a stand up guy I am? That’s Martha Frances and Bill Auvenshine’s doing.

I learned from my dad that you can show up for life. Even when you don’t feel like it. He was the kind of person who was there when he said he was coming. Actually, he was regularly early. And if I was late? It was ok. He had a book to read.

Time was fluid with him. As long as he was punctual, that’s all that mattered.

From my mom? What’d I learn?

You really want to know?

I learned and still learn from her that it’s never too late. Never. Forgiveness is still possible. There’s still hope.

She was a widowed before my birth and a single mom with my brother Michael just a few years later.

She persevered.

Did she blame her parents? She did not.

They did the best they could. Really.

While you break bread with your family this holiday season, cut your folks some slack. They won’t always be around.

Try being grateful for a change. Would it really hurt to try a bit of gratitude?

Elaine’s Cuppa Cake

Elaine’s already gotta place to land when she gets to Scotland!

Our favourite Tottenham Riviera blogger elaine4queen has been threatening to move to Scotland, so I happened upon the perfect place for her. Her own café. Where we can all go and be sweary and inappropriate. As we are wont to do.

This isn’t easy – all this blogging. To be honest, I’ve never been a daily blogger. Well, there was a time I wrote a post everyday on my teablog, and that was enjoyable. Was even travelling a lot at the time, and wrote about tea drinking in Vienna and Hamburg and whatnot. I’m not against daily blogging in theory, but it’s really difficult to be out there living and documenting it simultaneously.

Lately, when faced with the choice, I’ve gone with the ‘focus on the life swirling round you‘ approach, and have taken sporadic notes along the way. At some point, I’ll get round to actually making those into blogposts.

There’s a great place where we stayed right outside of Durham, and I’d like to finally write a bit about the Lambton Hounds Inn, which is in the curiously named neighbourhood of ‘Pity Me‘. I mentioned in my last blogpost, and I assure you I’ve not forgotten it.

And then Fafa, which is my mother’s childhood nickname, and I went on to Lindisfarne in Northumbria. That’s worthy of at least three blogposts right there. One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. And if you know me even a little, you know I’ve been a lot of places.

Here’s a taste of what’s ahead:

Everybody goin’ to the castle on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne…

Then we went to another castle that someone told us was involved in the filming of all of that Harry Potter nonsense, but when we got there, they were having a wedding and the place was closed off to visitors.

Turns out Bamburgh Castle has no connection whatsoever to the filming of those books that I’ve not yet read, but I suppose I will at some point. *sigh*

Mother claiming Bamburgh Castle for her own!

So, that’s a taste of what’s to come…aren’t you excited? Here’s your not-quite-humble-enough blogger at the same castle:

One of the few times you’ll see ol’ Lahikmajoe in less than formal attire.

seeking refuge wherever they’ll have me

A table for sacrificial offerings at Durham Catherdral

Here’s Durham Catherdral, which is one of the most beautiful examples of Norman (Romanesque) architecture in the world.

Pay attention to the directions and what not…

1093? Really? Goodness me, that’s old.

Knocking at the door for sanctuary…not easy being a fugitive

Durham Cathedral was famous across England for being an official place of sanctuary for fugitives, such as myself. What a relief to know I could show up, knock on the door with this gargantuan knocker, and be granted 37 days in order to decide whether I wanted to stand trial or get the hell out of Dodge.

If you decided not to stand trial, you had to leave the country immediately from the nearest port, in this case normally Newcastle.

Familar name, eh? Yes, that Washington…his family was from this region.

The Washington family came from near Durham. I like the way this plaque is worded.

‘…whose family has won an everlasting name in lands to him unknown.’

You know who they’re talking about, right? One of the American presidents (the first one) had the same name, which is convenient because it happened to be his family. This is where George Washington comes from.

The cloisters…

Took so many photos of this, and I’m not really happy with any shot I got. This is the least bad one of many quite dreadful ones. You’re welcome.

Looking through the break in the wall at one of the wings of the Cathedral.

If this reminds you at all of Notre Dame in Paris, it’s the same style of architecture. It’s quite an engineeering marvel, but let me let Wikipedia explain that part:

The building is notable for the ribbed vault of the nave roof, with pointed transverse arches supported on relatively slender composite piers alternated with massive drum columns, and flying buttresses or lateral abutments concealed within the triforiumover the aisles. These features appear to be precursors of the Gothic architecture of Northern France a few decades later, doubtless due to the Norman stonemasons responsible, although the building is considered Romanesque overall. The skilled use of the pointed arch and ribbed vault made it possible to cover far more elaborate and complicated ground plans than before. Buttressing made it possible to build taller buildings and open up the intervening wall spaces to create larger windows.

I’m fascinated with how light streams into a room. Perhaps I’m a bit feline in this way, but even as a young child I could sit for long stretches of time watching sunbeams. I’m reminded of Sunday mornings before everyone was herded into the car to go to church, when sometimes I was ready early and could just sit and daydream. Many people light a candle when they meditate. Although I’m not against that, a beam of sunlight does the trick for the likes of me.

lonely window in the tower

This is the sort of photo that I’m sure would be dramatically better had I a better camera and had spent some time actually learning how to use it.

Atop the Cathedral tower…

Here’s what it looks like from up there…or did the other day when I was there.

Looking down from the tower…

Lots of construction…good on them for biting the bullet in times of financial insecurity.

The River Wear gave me so many photo opportunities. I liked the way the water and the church looked together.

It’s taken me a few days to publish this post. Not because I did a tonne of research or anything. It’s just that each new day, Fafa (my mother) and I get back on the trail and see new things.

What do you have to look forward to in the coming days? Well, the neighbourhood we stayed in in Durham is called ‘Pity Me‘, which sounded curious to me. I did a bit of proper research, and I’m rather certain you’ll enjoy what I found.

Then we went to Lindisfarne, which quite honestly is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. There’s something to look forward to, isn’t it? I’ll get to that soon enough. This is enough for one day, don’t you think?

Because they won’t allow photos of the interior, this is all I can show you of the church.

for the love of train travel

Taking the train…

 

Fafa on the train…

 

The train station in Durham

 

Poppet and Elaine…on a train. A proper train, mind you.

 

The Dammtor in Hamburg

The train to the Zugspitze

 

Ella and Louis on the U-Bahn in Munich

 

Cottbus fans on the way to see their team play in Regensburg, and they’ve wrapped Ella and Louis in their team’s scarves.

 

Doing #DangerPanda on the train…an ICE train in Germany if you were wondering.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Fafa

Fafa and Lahikmajoe

I’ve written plenty here about people who’re no longer with us. Luckily, this isn’t going to be one of those blogposts. This is the opposite. Someone who’s very much still with us.

Martha. Mom. Oma. Church Lady.

She’s been called many things…her brother couldn’t say Martha when he was little, so he called her Fafa. That might be my favourite one of her names. She really is a Fafa, after all.

What’s the occasion? Six months till Christmas? Well, yes. It is that.

On 25 June

In 253, Pope Cornelius was  beheaded at Centumcellae.  Is that what I’m all worked up about? Far from it. I never much cared for Pope Cornelius.

In 1530, at the Diet of Augsburg, the Augsburg Confession was presented to the Holy Roman Emperor by the Lutheran princes and the Electors of Germany. Could that be it? If you could see my figure, you’d immediately know I’m not much for diets…Diet of Augsburg or otherwise.

In 1910, the Mann Act was passed by the United States Congress, which prohibited interstate transport of females for “immoral purposes.” As Wikipedia tells us, ‘The ambiguous language would be used to selectively prosecute people for years to come.‘ I like this one. This makes me want to transport a female over state lines for immoral purposes. I think that’s what my father did with my mother all those years ago…the origin Lahikmajoe. Immoral purposes, indeed. But that’s not why I’m commemorating the 25th of June. Not by a long shot.

George Orwell was born on 25 June in 1903, and in addition to the death of  above-mentioned Pope Cornelius, there was that singer who died several years ago on this day.

None of that is as important as my reason for making such a big deal about this day.

It’s Fafa’s birthday. That lady I was talking about above. She’s been bewildered and confused at this blog when she’s come here.

It’s weird,’ she tole me once. That’s when I knew I was on to something. I could almost hear her saying:

Why do you talk about such things? Normal people blog about what they ate for breakfast. You’ve always been a bit off.

But that’s not what she said. She made mention of being proud and pleased that I was doing things in my life that I really loved. All those things that sound a certain way when you read about someone else saying them, but they mean so much more when it’s your mother saying them to you.

Thanks Fafa. You were a seasoned and wise lady long before your time.

great smile, eh?