Graham Higgins Illustration - Literate Graffiti Dept.

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February 6, 2011

5-2-11 A pile of quinces

5-2-11 A Pile Of Quinces

Thanks to Bill Bailey for this useful definition: Quince, n.; nearly a coincidence.

I’ve been using this a lot recently, as a series chanciful rediscoveries turned up in the house-move.

I make a reference to Ed Pinsent’s ‘Bird Of Prayer’ comic-story and within 24 hours I find a copy of one of his Windy Wilberforce stories; then Ed pops up in my email, mentioning that the ‘Bird…’ story appeared again in an anthology last year. Today I find a letter from Ed agreeing to write me a story which appeared in ‘Escape’ magazine as Little Systems Of Mercy (the letter’s now stowed in the loft; I think it was 1996).

I mentioned an interview I wrote up with Rabbi Lionel Blue and again within a day I find a brief note thanking me for the article and saying he’d enjoyed it too. I’ve written a fan-letter to say it’s been a happy reminder.

Although I don’t hang around on Facebook these days – gave it a go when I was out of work awaiting surgery, didn’t get as much out of it as many seem to – but had one of those ‘wanna be Friends’ requests from the funny, smart and talented Kate Charlesworth and this afternoon found a reply from her to a letter I’d sent admiring her regular pages in New Scientist.

Also this afternoon I found a buff folder of typewritten short fiction from A.V. James – see 2-2-11: Stairway To Nowhere – which I must let him know in case he’d like it back. There was a time when backing-up documents meant putting a sheet of carbon-paper behind the paper you typed on.

Boxes of sketchbook/ notepads in no particular order. One of them has a list of lyrics to learn for band-nights in Berlin

Werwolves Of London; Back In The USSR, Hey Bulldog and Come Together (these last, two of my favourite Beatles numbers – Chairmen of The Board do a surprisingly good Come Together); Howlin’ For My Darlin’ (I used to affect a raucous Howlin’ Wolf throat-rattler before I learned how to sing a bit); Louie Louie – rasping Motörhead version…

Sellotaped in, a sprig of lavender from Sovano and some porcupine quills gathered on an evening walk in the hills above Pitigliano, Northern Italy, from a working holiday with Hansi Kiefersauer from Honk! studio in his out-of-town apartment.

This note-to-self, 26-5-96, most likely while listening to BBC World Service in Berlin: ‘Now so used to the usage ‘hi-tech’ that hearing the more complete term ‘…a high-technology theme-park’ it took a second or two for me to realise I needn’t be puzzled over the meaning of  ‘a knowledgy theme park’.

I’m so pleased to find I still have my copy of Bernd Ehrig’s ‘Berlin- Impressionen – Informationen’ (Wela-Druck©1974). I couldn’t count the times I passed by ‘the Jewel Box and The Pepper Pot’, the old and new churches at the end of Kurfurstendamm but was at least 18 years too late to see the Kontrakultur Bernd conjures up thus: ‘On the steps of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church the special atmosphere is created by young and lazy people. It is the meeting place of young men with beard or, at least, long hair to the shoulders, hippie ladies in granny’s long dress or in frayed jeans. They discuss, polemise, bottles are passed round, songs accompanied by guitars; they behave foolishly and talk nonsense, some are daydreaming… Noble wedding or baptism companies are reluctantly permitted to pass for the front gate of the church.’

Fifteen years before the Berlin Wall fell, Bernd gives way to a little wistful reflection in ‘Nostalgy – A Slogan?’ : ‘No doubt this term came into fashion – but it designates to the point what is going to be expressed in this chapter. One is for instance overcome with nostalgy for the colourful scene of the weekly market (Wochen-marktes) when entering the spick and span supermarkets. There will also be nostalgy and melancholy, when entering one of the good and old ‘Aunt Emma Shops’ with the little bell ringing and full of smells of sausage and cheese and with the knowledge that the owner will soon be 70 years old, retiring from business and finding no successor. In Berlin there are still sturdy market women and likeable mummies in their groceries or soap shops – but for how long?’

In fairness I should say that my Berlin colleagues were unfailingly patient and kind about my komisch Lego-Deutschsprache, sentences constructed with painful slowness and hit-and-miss accuracy. I am often overcome with nostalgy for that time past.

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