Below are two very different examples from our theme for March. It’s always fun to write something and to let loose your creativity.
No Tie Like The Present
Karneval is the German religious celebrations leading up to Lent. Karneval starts on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday and runs through Rose Monday, Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday on into Lent. The idea was to give up eating anything fatty, especially meats (Carne!) but more importantly, nowadays, it is a time to let your hair down – especially for the women on Frautag, that first Thursday. Apart from women being allowed to kiss any man she meets – if she wants to! – she will also be allowed to cut off the lower end of his tie. Offices are strewn with trophies won by the girls, particularly in Rhineland.
Off With your Tie – Soh dess nay
I happened to be in Germany some years ago, accompanying the Director of Toyota Europe as he visited our factory in Koblenz, this prior to Toyota opening their massive car plant in Derby in 1989. We would become one of their suppliers. I admit timing did not take account of religious celebrations nor the wild women of Koblenz. As the director stepped out of his car, along with his chief engineer, two stunning young ladies, each a good 15-20 cm taller than them, responded politely to their oriental bowing, and promptly cut off their ties – and believe me, they were not cheap ties! The two visitors were utterly horrified. Not a good start to the day’s discussions. It’s a funny thing, but the German factory never did get any orders from Toyota.
Allied Shame at Karneval
On a more sombre note it was on Shrove Tuesday that British and American bombers wreaked havoc on Dresden in 1945. In the following days, the bodies of children were pulled from the ruins still wearing their Karneval costumes. Even in wartime, those traditions were upheld.
Shrove Tuesday Pancake Delight
Mardi Gras, or Shrove Tuesday, meanwhile, takes over as the focal point of the same celebrations in many countries of Catholic and Anglican background, where all the fats and butters saved through the winter are used to make rich foods before the traditional fasting of Lent. Most of us are aware of the extent of celebrations of Mardi Gras in Rio de Janeiro, New Orleans, and even Sitges in Spain, where anything goes – song, dance and food. The lot!
And in the UK, we make pancakes!
Sotogrande – Too Close to Home
In Sotogrande, the local Anglican minister declared he was going to give up all cakes, biscuits, sweets and chocolate for the Lenten period. He was the first to admit he could lose a few pounds or even kilos, and Lent would be a good time to do so. So the Church Fund-Raising committee arranged to cash in on his decision, and from last Sunday, invited the congregation to guess what his weight would be on Easter Day – a prize of an Easter Egg to the winner. That should stiffen his resolve to complete his self-imposed challenge.
On closer examination, the minister was more than a touch outside the limits of a healthy Body Mass Index. Well, I thought, am I any better? Perhaps I too should go on a diet, maybe give up all those goodies as well. But when should I start? Lent has already started. Is it too late?
No. No time like the present!
No Time Like the Present.
Here am I standing proud and tall, rooted in history. Much could I tell of these lands, of the flora and fauna, of people’s lives and the language of their tongues.
Showboating or Bon Viveur
Why, it was not so long ago that Latin invaded the hills, to the sounds of iron on flint as legions marched on by. Then came the Moors with their strange guard-dogs that were not dogs and are still around today. Christians spoke with trembling voice about those monsters and their powers. Three-meter long devils disappeared into the shadows of camp-fire chatter. People staked their lives on what their eyes beheld and kept listeners spellbound in the power of their words. Call it showboating or bon viveur but not flaneur, too soon for Baudelaire.
When the Sun Orbited the Earth
But what were these creatures that lived when Sun orbited Earth, when Man knew the world was flat? When people rose and slept with daylight. Yes, I talk of a time before sins could be paid for in advance, still in the ever-present truth of wicked Eve and guileless Adam, but with marauding Islam perching on these Christian shores. Bridges could have formed had those followers of Allah and Mohammed not also brought cruelty and chains. For were they not wonderful vintners who traded symmetry and spice, science and secrets?
Myth and Infidel
The first time one of those mythical-creatures was seen was when the sun was setting and tired bodies ached for slumber. Once more these lands had been disturbed by strangers keen to settle and survive. Prepared to trounce all who would dare to send them back across the thirsty seas. Try or Die for what was Life if not pain peppered with pleasure and instinct. Then, as ever, all were gifted with laughter to help them on their way. A lucky few were blessed with time to reflect. It was not they who saw the monsters. Witnesses of those long black serpents were life’s troubled pawns, mouths opened wider than eyes to see snakes float at half the height of a man’s shin. Very Important People could daydream – goblet in hand, shading blurred eyes from the sun whilst drinking red wine gained in trade with enemies. They were genteel in their praise and marvelled at the safe encampments of the Moors whilst trembling from within at knowledge of how cruel could be the fate of the despised infidel.
Boughs for Vows
One such man sat beneath my boughs as almond blossom wafted in the breeze. He grasped at life like an autumn leaf before a windy day. The Moors sought to proselytise and he was quite a prize. He looked with care about him, seeking his chance to flee. It was then he saw the many legged serpent; it was a moving family of mongoose in an unbroken line. At that moment a chink of Hope appeared. Myth became Legend and later generations laughed at their grandfathers’ fears. Through this new found space the unchained man did flee, proclaiming, ‘No Time Like the Present’.