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Be Of Christmas Travel Cheer

vwinspiredchristmastreebus

As it is always double the chore to travel on holidays, I departed on my Christmas retreat earlier than usual. Before the dozens turned into hundreds.

It was clear weather (easier to choose when one can take the time), and I was waiting for the bus a good hour before departure. I wait outside so I can walk around. There are always a few others who do this, and one fellow approached to ask if I would watch his luggage for a few minutes. I agreed, and said perhaps he could do the same for me. “Sure,” he said. “We gotta look out for each other.” I took that as some Seasonal good will.

While I pondered in the sunshine (the last sunshine, it turns out, that I was to see for four days), I heard a sound that I interpreted as either a roaring bus engine or a plane flying overhead. When neither was revealed, I went looking. On the far side of the bus station is the large parking lot of a large grocery store. In one corner of the parking lot was a forest of cut and bundled Christmas trees. One of the tree vendors was removing the bindings of the trees. He then placed the cut base of the tree on a circular metal platform. He turned on an engine (the sound I had heard), held the tree, and the metal base shook violently. It shook so much that it shook all the loose needles off the tree. The fellow then removed the shaken tree, stood it aside, and did another one. Tools for everything.

As I was watching this performance, an elderly gentleman approached me. Perhaps because I was immersed in a woodland of felled trees, his clothing reminded me of someone from the back woods. His work boots were unlaced, his heavy coat was well worn, and his face was both creased and had the stubble of three days growth. He had a guitar of similar vintage slung over his back.

“Nice day,” said he.

I agreed.

“I’m a Busker,” said he. “I’ll give you a Christmas carol for two bucks. I don’t have enough for smokes.”

“That’s OK,” said I. “I’ll gladly give you two dollars.”

“No – I’m going to sing for it.”

“OK.”

I could not judge if his voice was more rough than the guitar. The guitar was out of tune. Some strings were loose. ‘Hollow’ and ‘twang’ come to mind. I got a hoarse rendition of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. He included three verses.

Then he took my two dollars and wended his way to the large grocery store.

“Let nothing you dismay.”

DE
(image) https://secure.img1-ag.wfcdn.com/im/29181556/resize-h800^compr-r85/4366/43669485/VW+Inspired+Christmas+Tree+Bus.jpg
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Kafka Leaves One Month And Enters Another

franz-kafka-quote-people-are-sewn-into-their-skins-for-life-e1497702939327

In my manuscript, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in his missing diary entries. One hundred years ago, he started (in his way) to prepare for Christmas.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

30 November 1917

The girl, Fraulein G., wants to better herself by spending some time in Prague. She is the daughter of the most wealthy peasant in the area, and is barred from the common society around her.

It amazes me how a Christian can sometimes be treated like a Jew.

She is twenty years old, very pleasant, and has approached me in the hope I can find her a family to stay with, where she can improve her Czech, and also (I suspect) her position in life.

Her knowledge and abilities are obviously superior to most of her age and station – she mentioned a convent education – and perhaps there is a finishing school which might do her good. Max and his wife will know much more about this than me. Or my parents. I’ll ask his advice.

The girl is too timid with me – perhaps Ottla can invite her for a meal.

 

02 December 1917

The last month of the year, and it seems to race to its conclusion. It will certainly gallop toward Christmas, and the threat of Felice. To think that I now dread a meeting which I once would have relished with equal intent.

DE

(image) iperceptive.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Franz-Kafka-Quote-People-are-sewn-into-their-skins-for-life…-e1497702939327.png

Trump And An Elephant Walk Into A Bar

~ *Trumpet*

~ You calling my name?

~ *Trumpet*

~ You blowing that horn at me?

~ Getting your attention while I can.

~ You going to complain about the tusk thing?

~ It is rather personal.

~ Ivory. Ivory. Gotta love ivory.

~ We do.

~ Don’t be selfish.

~ It’s our life.

~ God wants Man to have His bounty.

~ You think this is God’s will?

~ Sure it is. Trust me.

~ Thou shalt do no murder.

~ Aw – that’s open to interpretation.

~ Dead is dead.

~ Shiny ivory, though. Polish it up.

~ It has other uses.

~ Give it to the ladies.

~ Wipe the blood off it first.

~ And my boys will be boys.

~ These are not childish things.

~ A little death for a little fun. Fair trade.
~ You’re turning us into canaries in a coal mine.

~ You’re just the elephant in the room.

~ I won’t be much longer.

DE

Telemarketer

cas-mainscreen

The phone rang too early for decent folk this morning, but that can mean there is a problem, so I tossed off the covers and answered.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hello?

[jumbled static, tweeps, gurgle, hollow and distant voices]

Hello?

Heelooo. Heelooo.

Hello?

Heelooo. Eeeestay. Is there Eeeestay?

What do you want?

Eeeestay [static and hollow voices in the distance] Eeeestay, danger to your computer. I can save.

You are lying through your teeth. You know nothing about my computer.

Wha… Eeeestay. I can save your computer.

You are lying through your teeth.

Idiot! [abrupt hangup]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

All of which put me in mind of a blog  I wrote a couple of years ago of a conversation I had with – possibly – this fellow’s brother

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have a degree of sympathy for telemarketers. I spent a couple of months training to work in a call centre.  I was mainly to deal with customer complaints. It was the least offensive such job I could find. But I could just not remember all the stages I was supposed to go through, or keep track of all the various information tabs on my screen. I did not make it through ‘training’.

My modicum of sympathy, and not being totally sure when I first answered that it was a marketing call, made me embark on the following conversation. No, it is not verbatim (I didn’t record it for quality control). And it is condensed. I admit, a certain fascination of just experiencing it, kept me on the line.

To anyone else without a writer’s perversion, do as I say and don’t do as I do.

Hang up.

Telemarketer: “Hello.”

Me: “Hello.”

[long pause]

T: “Hello there.”

M: “Hello.” [another long pause] “Hello. How can I help you?”

T: “Help me?”

M: “Yes. What do you want?”

T: “Are you the Lord?”

M: “The Lord?”

T: “That you can help me.”

M: “Good Lord. What do you want?”

T: “I have the Lord. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.”

M: “You make your Lord annoyed.”

T: “Ha ha ha ha ha lo lo lo lo lo lo moo moo moo.”

M: “You’re speechless.”

T: Moo moo moo moo maa maa maa.”

M: “You sound drunk.”

T: “I’ll put my dick on your ass.”

M: “What?”

T: “And show it to your wife.”

M: “It would give her a laugh.”

T: “And I’ll do your dog.”

M: “That’s fine. My dog bites.”

T: “Your wife will have a big smile.”

M: “What about my dog?”

T: “Lick a dick.”

[At this point I begin to feel I am as bad as him. I stop.]

T: “Here is dick. Moo moo moo moo. Hello. Where’s the wife?”

[Silence]

T: “Hello Hello. Got my dick out.”

[Silence – though I still wonder where this might go. Then he starts talking to a voice I can’t hear.]

T: “Sorry, Sir.”

T: “It’s a real call.”

T: “The number is … [my correct phone number]

T: “He is [the wrong name]

T: “I am calling [correct city].”

T: “He lives at

.”

T: “It is in [correct country]“.

T: “I understand, Sir.”

T: “It is time.”

T: “No, Sir. You don’t have trouble.”

T: “Yes, Sir. I can do that.”

T: “I’ll phone back in fifteen minutes.”

[There are no further phone calls.]

(image) http://www.acarda.com.au/images/cas-mainscreen.gif

My Father Was A Veteran Who Marched On Remembrance Day

60fcc6ed57cfd2fb5d3373758564c568-division-guns

My father, Byron Caleb Estey, served in the Canadian Army for the entirety of the Second World War. He was 31 when he signed up, and was a decade or more older than most of the soldiers he served with. At the end of the war, he was offered an instant promotion from Corporal to Sergeant Major. He declined. He had had enough.

He was with the 90th Anti-Tank Battery. He was the member of the crew who calculated the coordinates to aim the gun and destroy targets. He did this up through Sicily and Italy, except for those times when he grabbed his rifle to shoot at soldiers shooting at him.

I imagine I could write pages repeating the anecdotes he told – and maybe some day I will. He didn’t talk all that much about the war, and when he did, I’d guess 80% of his stories were humorous. The other 20% were not.

I regret not discussing his war experiences more with him, but he did not encourage it. I once asked how close he got to the German soldiers. He said, close enough to kill them.

He hated Germans and Japanese all of his life. I understand that this is not the way of most soldiers. They mellow. They come to understand that soldiers on the other side were doing a job, just as they were. My father was not one of these. Those 20% of his stories explained his attitude to me.

He fought in – arguably – the most horrific and bloodiest battle in the war, the Battle of Ortona over Christmas week of 1943. He marched over piles of bodies, and crawled over piles of bodies. Such were the details he would tell. He didn’t speak of his feelings, or use words like “horror”.

On Remembrance Day he would march in the community parade. He rarely lingered for a meal or beer or camaraderie at The Legion. He did not seem affected by the memorial event, and did not talk any more or less about his experiences just because it was 11 November.

Because his tales were more funny than not, I’ll close on what might have been his last funny story.

At his death, the Royal Canadian Legion wanted to conduct a small ceremony at the funeral parlour. They requested that his medals be pinned to his chest. But, the medals could not be found. This was odd, because they were important to him, and he always wore them for the Remembrance Day parade.

It is excessive to say that the whole house was searched – but not by much. Drawers, shelves, boxes, closets, clothes, were repeatedly searched. Nothing. The Last Post was played over a Veteran with no medals.

Months later, when the house was being sold and possessions were being removed, his clothes were searched before being given away. In the side pocket of a jacket he never wore were the medals, all spiff and shiny.

He would have smiled at that.

Dale Estey

 

(image)http://i.pinimg.com/236x/60/fc/c6/60fcc6ed57cfd2fb5d3373758564c568–division-guns.jpg

History, Poetry And Religion In A Cathedral For Evensong

original-5584
[Bishop John Medley (John Fredericton)]
Yesterday a writing colleague, Robert Hawkes, launched his poetry book about a Nineteenth Century Anglican Bishop, John Medley. An intriguing aspect of the launch was that it occurred during an Evensong service, in the very cathedral  where Medley had been bishop.

I am so sorry to have missed the event, not just for the book launch, but because it was a part of Evensong.  My interest in this service is explained in the following blog, that I posted last year, around the time of Remembrance Day.

~~~~~~~~~~
An evening church service is a favourite of mine – even as a child. However, it has fallen out of favour and is no longer regularly offered.

Trusty Google helped me find one last Sunday. Not only an Evensong, but a Choral Evensong. And not only choral, but it was dedicated as a Remembrance Evensong. I was coming in, out of the cold, in style.

It was held in St. George’s Church – also know as the Round Church for its shape. www.roundchurch.ca

I had been in the church as a tourist, but not for years. A 5pm service in November got me there at dusk. It is a large church, complete with upper balconies. It is close in proximity to the Halifax naval yard, and I wondered if there would be some military presence. As it was, an officer in uniform read a lesson, while a military chaplain gave the sermon.

Not having been to an Evensong for decades, I don’t know if it was a large or small congregation. My guess is there were thirty or so people present, plus 10 in the choir, plus 2 ministers, 1 verger and the organist/choir director.

I would say that Evensong is a modified Morning service, perhaps more fitting for the time of day. In addition to a choral choir singing selections on their own, there were hymns that are favourites of mine. “Oh God, Our Help In Ages Past”  “Abide With Me” and three (3) stanzas of “God Save The Queen”. How close to heaven can one monarchist get?

As an added surprise (which would have made my father ecstatic) it was a High Church Anglican church, and even had incense. Perhaps that explained the choral choir.

At the end, after the procession had left, the large and booming organ belted out a selection by César Franck – Pièce Héroïque“. Members of the choir returned and sat in pews to listen.

When it was completed and people started to leave, I had a tiny ageist and sexist lapse. Two little, white-haired ladies got out of their pew to leave. Walking slowly before me, they talked of the music. I thought they were going to complain about the (admittedly) lengthy organ recital.

“Oh, that music,” said one.

“Yes,” said the other, nodding.

“It’s one of my favourite pieces.”

“I know what you mean.”

Finding The Right Hole To Live In

prague-ruelle-or-1

[Kafka’s Alchemist Lane “Burrow” with open door]

A burrow offers security and comfort.  Kafka found both in his sister’s tiny house on the Golden Lane.

The Golden Lane is a narrow, dead-end yet massively historic lane, hugging an interior wall of the huge Prague Castle. Centuries ago the small buildings along the lane housed workers of the Castle, including some resident alchemists. Thus the name.

Ottla – Kafka’s sister – had rented it so she could spend time with her lover, and not be bothered by parents and comments. Her lover was not only a Christian, but he was soon going to leave to fight in World War I. Time was precious. However, she rarely had opportunities to use it other than the weekends, so she offered Franz the use of the tiny house for most of the time. And use it he did, though he never stayed the night.

Through fall, winter and spring Kafka wrote a whole book of short stories there. For a single block of time, it was one of his most creative periods.

When I visited, under the Communist rule of the time, it had been converted to a book store. Of course (which he would have appreciated) there were no books by Kafka for sale. Today he is displayed in the windows.

It was only when I went thorough the small rooms, and looked out the window into The Stag Moat, that I realized how important the house would become in Kafka In The Castle, my novel about Kafka. It was cozy – even with the space cramped by tourists. It had been little altered. I could easily imagine Kafka looking through the same glass and walking through the same doorways. No doubt stooping because he was tall. Research met reality.

One of the last stories Kafka wrote, during his final year in Berlin, was called The Burrow. A version exists and is published, though a longer version is supposed to be among his ‘missing’ papers. In it a tiny animal keeps incessantly burrowing to keep away from an enemy. A vague noise convinces the animal to burrow deeper.

Yes – that’s Kafka.

DE

(image)https://www.avantgarde-prague.com/media/gallery/original/prague-ruelle-or-1.jpg

One Hundred Years Ago Kafka Returns To Prague

 

In my manuscript, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in his missing diary entries. One hundred years ago, to the day, he re-visited (in real life) the small house where he had been happy and productive.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~zlata-ulitzka

01 November 1917

The claws of Prague make fierce sounds when they tear into your flesh.

 

02 November 1917

I walked to Alchemist Lane this afternoon. It is not really a part of Prague – high and removed by its ninety-eight steps. A cold, clear day – much like the day a year ago when I accompanied Ottla on her mad little quest to see it. But not (as I had thought) for the first time. In fact, she had already rented it – something I’ve only learned these past few weeks. She had wished my approval, but she didn’t need my approval. I am glad of that.

It was strange entering the courtyards, and passing beneath the spires of the cathedral. But stranger still was to stand at the mouth of the Lane itself, and look along its length. I could have been away for years, or returning to resume yesterday’s thoughts. I felt both. It was if I were at the station, but not knowing if I were arriving on one train, or departing upon another.

The narrow lane was deserted, so I walked along its length slowly. There were new curtains on the windows of my little house. When I returned, I did pause before my old door, and glanced between the curtains to see that all of my furniture had been removed. Much as their owner.

(image)https://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/03/14/ea/f9/zlata-ulitzka.jpg

Halloween Through The Druids And The Celts And The Dead

ahalloweencrone

They have learned every celebration has its risks. The Druids have taught them this, and the Druids are correct.

Samhain is a festival of the harvest; the end of summer; the preparation for the winter to come. Samhain is a juncture. As they all know, junctures lead to sundry places. There is both the leaving and the coming. A time of disquiet. A time of danger to those unprepared.

It holds the magic and the power of midnight. Midnight is a powerful time because it is the juncture of two days. Midnight of Samhain thus holds double the power. It can not be avoided. It must be met with all the power that mortal man can muster. It must not be met alone.On the Eve of Samhain, the border between Life and the Otherworld is breached. A door swings invitingly open, but it is not inviting to those who live. It is inviting to those who have died.

The Dead who still miss their lives. The long Dead who still are curious.The distant Dead who get a whiff of fresh air and have their memories stirred. So the Dead approach.The Dead approach. The living must prepare to meet them, just as they prepare for the vicissitudes of winter. The same threatened cold holds sway over both.

The living assemble the treats and threats that will assuage the longings of the Dead. Because the living have a healthy fear of death, they equally wish to avoid the Dead. The Dead can prove to be envious and attempt to relieve the living of their lives.Lanterns from the earth are hollowed out of turnips. Their light will guide the dead to safer places (safer for the living). Candles will shine through carved faces. Some faces are friendly and welcoming; some are ugly and fierce to give aggressive Dead a pause.

There will also be treats to entice the Dead – apples and pastries and savouries and some roasted game fresh from the bonfires. There will be ale and other spirits to keep the Spirits at bay.The living will wear costumes and masks to disguise themselves from those Dead who might wish their company to be more permanent.

They will remove the masks if the Spirits are friendly.

They will dance and sing and raise a right ruckus to entertain the Dead.The boneyard is on the outskirts of town. The revellers approach with noise and caution. The bonfire is set. The moon hangs from the trees. The gated fence stands closed and latched. The living pause and watch. And listen. Is it the wind, or do the hinges scrape the stone?

(image)2.bp,blogspot.com/_fdou0Xa3IfY/TMXLi165MpI/AAAAAAAAGho/LmGe-b98pKs/s1600/a+halloween+crone.jpg

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