Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Back By {-------} Demand

What ho, what ho, what ho! - was my reaction when I received an email from a certain Mr Train of my acquaintance asking me to dust off the old fountain pen and put it, post-haste, to paper. Being a rather obliging sort (if I dare say so), I did as I was bid. Immediately I observed a large ink blot spreading across the white wasteland. I sat in quiet contemplation of it, my pen-arm not daring to move lest the flow of Pelikan 4001 SCHWARZ be stemmed. I saw a formation of ducks heading south for winter. I saw a couple of old ducks fussing about their permanent waves. I saw a chap in white ducks rowing his sweetheart over a waterfall. A most interesting (and Anatidean) diversion indeed, but thoroughly unrelated to the task at hand. That task was to write a short entry, a kind of Notebook-redux, for Mr Train's zine Badger's Dozen. I both finished and submitted it in time (a new record) and have recently received the good news that the issue has gone to press! All details are here, and I would encourage anyone who reads this note and who is in possession of the means to do so, to support Mr Train's most eclectic publication. You most indubitably will not regret the investment.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Devices and accoutrement

Taking a break from my incessant plotting and planning, I let my mind wander over the things I wanted (needed?) to equip myself with as a matter of urgency. My list was both concise and precise.

I need:
*a shillelagh, to be sure - for walking and self-defense purposes;
*an orchestrion - the ultimate home entertainment system;
*and a monocle.

As soon as possible.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Nottlesby and the Hun

{Insert stirring march here:}  

Hello chaps, Nottlesby here again after yet another staggering (and impolite) lapse in correspondence. Nigh-on a year ago I answered the Call and set off for a tour amongst the Jerries. My plans were carefully laid, and with what I assumed to be a serviceable amount of German under my belt (and between my ears) I packed my kit and boarded the airship for more northern climes. 

Arriving in Berlin, my way of Frankfurt-am-Main, I soon secured lodgings in the eastern districts of the city and commenced my further language studies in earnest. This tested every ounce of studious fibre in my being, for while Berlin is a cheap city (indeed, the cheapest capital city in the world) it abounds with Entertainments to delight and distract the travelling scholar (and inform and edify the amateur sociologist)! And it was my pleasure indeed to sample a fine crop of same on many and varied occasions. 
Classes were small but the students enthusiastic at Doktor von Buglehorn's Akademie für Begeisterte Ausländer

My studies finished in early June, and with the confidence of the half-educated, I indulged in a final weekend of pleasure in the Hauptstadt before boarding an early-morning train for the East. 

It must be said that since the business of reunification was complete (and not before time, too!) getting about the Fatherland has become dashed easy. There's a complex network of railways which service nearly every small town one could possibly want to lend one's presence (and pfennigs) to. I boarded the train in Berlin and with only a couple of changes to smaller conveyances, soon found myself in the heart of Thüringen - the green and friendly heart of Germany. In this noble Federal State one finds not only rolling forests, but also the ghost of Goethe himself haunting the back lanes of Weimar. 

But amidst all this Wanderlusting, the most amazing discovery was of a musical variety. Specifically The Comedian Harmonists, whose songs provide the entertainment for many a night of sherry and banter at my new lodgings. Given the fact that spring has, once more, sprung, I find myself singing a certain song "Veronika, der Lenz ist da" (lit. "Veronica, spring time is here") with (what will soon become) boring repetition. The lyrics are something along the lines of:

Veronika, spring is here, the girls all sing 'tra la la'
There's a spell cast on the world, Veronika, the asparagus has woken (!)
Ach, Veronika, the world is green, let's go and have a look at the woods
Even grandpa says to grandma: Veronika, spring is here!

Girls all laugh, young men ask: Darling, will you, or will you not?
The poet Otto Licht is moved by all this, 
so he writes the poem:

(Then they sing the first verse again and it all gets terribly exciting!)

These are heady days indeed. Why just last weekend it was my pleasure to serenade a young lady of my acquaintance with this very song. She took it in her stride and, with remarkably good grace, complimented me on my selection of such a "charming little song". Quite so.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

In Search of The Spotted Buffoon

Following Herr Tymnus' most informative post on the matter of louche louts and boorish buffoons, I had my butler Horrocks warm the Bentley, pack my net, a bottle of ether, several rounds of cucumber sandwiches, the family Bible, a couple of clean handkerchiefs, some boiled sweets, a bottle or six of ginger beer, my monocle, our passports (in case of emergency), several large sticking plasters, a crate of tinned herrings, four loaves of bread, a wheel of cheese, and we hove off into the woods in search of the mythical Grotto of Decadence.

After several minutes of tedious trekking, and abysmal alliteration, we happened upon a small clearing. There, reclining in their natural state of insolence, we discovered a Brace of Blighters infesting a mossy rock and a low fence.

I whipped out my Box Brownie and immediately snapped off a couple of prime shots. Unfortunately I'd left my Fairy Rifle at home (it was being cleaned by the obliging elves next door) and I was armed only with said ether, a net, and my faithful camera.

The Buffoons at Rest & Play

The Buffoons seemed unperturbed by our abrupt intrusion into their post-prandial smoke-and-lies hour, and instead greeted us warmly (if not with a measure of condescension) and apologised for their rough uniforms. The assured me that the uniforms were merely to enable them to more effectively blend with the forest hues ("and cries?" I quipped - to no avail).

Suddenly a chill wind blew through the clearing, and with a demonic squeal the Buffoons turned-tail and scampered away through the undergrowth, a faint cry of "Tiffin! Tiffin!" echoing through the darkening forest.

Horrocks and I stared at each other in rank disbelief. Could we believe our eyes? Had we truly encountered that which we though we had? As we turned tail for the Bentley - and home! - I espied, snagged on a low-hanging branch, this hankerchief:

Evidence? Or Merely My Butler's Carelessness?

Hark! I cried. Horrocks stopped in his tracks. I stooped and peered at the thing through my monocle. Most peculiar! I tapped at it with the butt of my cane. It didn't crumble to dust. I leant in further and smelled it. Indeed! The unmistakable hint of lavender-water. The Buffoons! Even in forest disguise they couldn't entirely eschew the comforts of home. I snagged the thing with my cane and held it aloft for Horrocks to take. It was then that I noticed the monogram. The letter "H". Horrocks begins with an "H" I thought (spelling prowess runs in the Nottlesby line, y'see. Great Grandfather Enoch Walter Disciplinarian Nottlesby was editor of the Stern Christian Review - Denouce Me Not Thrice, Ye Scoundrel). Could this merely be an oversight on my butler's behalf? A bit of lacy litter cast to the ground in to hopes of freeing his pockets of unnecessary ballast which would serve to impede his flight? Could my man be that much of a fop (or indeed dandy) - to even consider carrying a lacy hankie in the first instance?

I raised an eyebrow in silent cross examination.

Horrocks met my glare with his own steely reserve. He looked into my eyes. Then down at the hankie, then into my eyes again. He shook his head. I will have to trust him. It isn't his.

I nodded at the heinous hankie and Horrocks immediately popped it into a paper bag marked Hunting Souvenirs. It's best to always keep track of these things.

Motoring home, I smoked my pipe pensively. Horrocks did not take his eyes from the road. Was this due to safety? or, worse, raging guilt? How would I ever know? ...

{to be continued}

Monday, July 16, 2007

They're A Hazard To Yer Wealth!

Abandon hope (and coin) all ye who pass within! Precious hours will be whizz by in what seems like minutes. You will no longer be allergic to dust or small amounts of mould. Your senses will be dazzled beyond belief by the discovery of rare treasures you Simply Must Have. You will fossick with the zeal of an Archaeologist on the brink of a Major Find. You will lose the power of hearing, and develop a highly-focussed tunnel-vision.

Some considerable time later you will emerge, panting and dusty, shirttails flapping in your wake, clutching a recycled supermarket bag full o' goodies.

Where the devil would one be subject to such gruelling treatment? Where else but your friendly local Secondhand Book Shoppe!

I spent a merrie hour or two over the weekend - first perusing the shelves of a Backstreet Bookstore I discovered in the City, and then, much longer, lost amongst the mouldering piles in Gould's Book Arcade, at Newtown.

My purchases on this occasion were:

Siegfried - Harry Mulisch
The Rebirth of History - Eastern Europe in the Age of Democracy - Misha Glenny
A German Love Story - Rolf Hochhuth
Kleinzeit - Russell Hoban

And it is just as I type this (honestly) that I see the entirely unambiguous thematic connection between all these works. Heigh ho. So be it.

I'm going to make a pot of strong coffee (using my Bodum plunger whatsit, never been bothered to splash out on one of those stovetop numbers) - and read!

Of Berlin and Beer Halls

To keep the vein of alliteration cut with the razor of my wit, I shall share with ye, dear reader, the latest developments in the Grand Plan of St John Nottlesby, Man o' the World. Well, at the moment I'm only a man o' a very limited world, but that is soon to change. There are, as the more astute among you would have gathered by now, Plans Afoot! For fear o' jinxing them into oblivion, I shall let the blouse of discretion slip over the shoulder of certainty to expose the bra strap of possibility. In short, I'm planning an extended safari through the Teutonic Lands, furnished with my meagre knowledge of the Tongue of Wagner, and, I hope, the appropriate Work Permits &c, I shall be setting sail later this year (or very early in the next) to follow my star, and try my luck in Foreign Lands.

Gosh, how exciting!

Girly gushing notwithstanding (and it's a habit I must break myself of if I'm to be amongst the inventors of Lederhosen), I'm really very excited at the possibilites ahead, and in the past two weeks there have been a number of seemingly "chance" occurrences that have given me whatever sign I need to know I'm clearly doing the right thing. These include, but are not limited to, a friend of mine from my German class leaving in a fortnight and telling me of new changes to the work visa - making it easy to get, and allowing the holder to work for a full year, with the chance of an extension if your employer is willing; and several conversations with German friends who have promised to give me names and numbers of their friends - which may or may not come to pass, but there's the chance of having a few contacts "on the ground" when I get there (although precious time may be lost helping them back into a standing position).

Tally ho!

Of Birthdays and Bacchanalias

My good friend and learned colleage R (for whom I'm sure I once penned a triple-barelled Germanic "pseudonym" - but which I've since forgotten) had occasion to celebrate the eve of the day of her birth on this Saturday night just passed. A merrie coterie of her friends and associates convened on the rooftop of a suitably inner-city bar to hoist tankards afoam with good cheer.

It was a roundly enjoyable evening, conversation flowed thick and fast, the mood was most convivial, and, by my estimation, a jolly good time was had by all! Huzzah and three Oxford rowing team cheers, R!

My own birthday looms around the corner, like a thug in a dark alley, armed with nowt but a heavy cosh and crippling halitosis. Try as I might, I am afeared that I shan't be able to give the steaming brute the slip. More to follow.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Not Too Shabbos...

I was flummoxed and flabbergasted in the extreme when I hove into the Prostitute's Providore (known commercially as Coles, Kings Cross) today. There, on a shelf, conscientiously not working (because it's Friday) idled a GIANT jar of Gefilte fish! A rather-too-loud "oy vey!" sprang from my lips. I cast my eye up. Further. And to the sides. Lo! I had happened upon "Kosher Korner", the small (yet crowded, in a way reminiscent of the Warsaw Ghetto) section of the giant emporium given over to the needs of the sons and daughters of Israel.

I cautiously perused said shelves and found them to contain:
tinned olives;
Shabbos candles;
Gefilte fish;
pretzels (rolled, I assume, by highly trained Rabbis - how else can they be sure they're kosher?);
matzo (yes, Mitzi, now? are they not a little late?); and
... sundry other useful things.

Gefilte fish I have no use for (oy, the stench makes me want to plotz) but I think I might go back and get some olives, pretzels and whichever of the "sundries" I deem worthy of my consumption.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Nottlesby, the Sarge, and Angry Lesbian Theatre

Beware, gentle reader, of free tickets to anything! The Sarge and I convened this afternoon for a spot of drinking and reminiscing (Yairrrs, the Crimea. Now that was manly fun, eh?) - and as we were snorting our snifters down as though there was no tomorrow, who should heave-to by our tottering bar table, but a comely young lady asking us if we would care, free, gratis, and for nothing, to bolster the numbers at a small theatrical number that was to be performed on the premesis in a matter of minutes. Never ones to thumb our noses at The Arts, the Sarge and I let fly a manly bellow and told said woman that, yes, t'would be our honour and privilege indeed. Merely proffer forth the tickets, and show us the way to the door! The woman kindly obliged, and the Sarge and I, drinking arms raised, snifters charged, repaired thence post-haste.

Ye gods what twaddle ensued.

We suffered (bladders full to capacity, which, alack, is more than can be reported for the house) an hour-and-three-quarters of the most leak-inducing "theater" to ever tread its tinnea'd toe upon the boards. Someone clearly forgot the "you'll laugh" part of the old huckster's promise "you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be moved". In short, the piece was about the coming out, and coming-of-age, of a young hip-hop artiste. Now, anyone close to yrs truly knows that the only hip-hop I'm fond of is a many jiggle make sure the last of the effluvia has shot clear when I'm standing trough-side; yet I can assure you that I went in (alebit somewhat well-oiled), and ready to have my mind opened and my experience expanded. Shame I'm not a lady. And an angry, oppressed, sexually-monocular one at that! I do rather think that the whole performance which (despite my lambasting above) wasn't entirely without merit, was better suited to a, shall we say, fringe?, audience.

Not to be daunted (or unnecessarily moistened) the Sarge nipped out for a quick leak mid-show, and, in a stunning display of dexterity worthy of the Brothers Ringling, shot over the side of the bleachers and dropped (noiselessly, mark you!) to the floor - and thence out the door to safety. What was doubly safe was our burgeoning friendship - I thought for a mo. that the Sarge might do a runner, pleading testosterone and brass balls all the way, but no. He was manly enough to return for the Final Chukka and sit the thing out with me. Good show, Sarge!