Monday, September 13, 2010

Mach's Gut

The final wedding party was in a place that was once a farm collective in the old GDR and is now occupied by artists, writers, musicians and biodynamic gardeners. We had a couple of nights in the East Side Hotel, hard by the old wall that separated east Berlin from west, you could see it from a porthole beneath the window in our room.

There was a pre-nuptial party, a coach ride to the registry office in Köpenick followed by a two-hour river journey with champagne and canapes. It was the wedding of my ex-stepbrother, there were people I had not met for many years. The elephant in the proceedings was ex-stepfather who has for many years, King Lear-like, cut himself off from everyone he ever knew. His absence was a palpable presence. He had many children, many liaisons, some also connected to my mother's early life in the Free German Youth. It is complicated, but when you are in the middle of proceedings it somehow isn't. My e-s-b wanted a celebration that brought the disparate pieces of his life together. We were, for the duration, a patchwork community, brought together by this event to be (for a space) all of a piece. This is what celebrations can be very good for.

I also had an appointment with anthroposophical doctor who knows about PBC. He has basically endorsed what the specialist over here said, so off I go on the new regime with medications - sans alcohol or anything with paracetamol, so obvious that it's barely worth mentioning; except that doctors over here tended to equivocate and shrug when I asked about these. Will need to find other, possibly more fun things to give me a break from muscle pains.

The appointment was in Kladow, where I lived for nearly three years as a child. I experienced a kind of symmetry to this. The language and sense of place live strongly in me, though the actual and imaginary sometimes merge, and who is to say that the imaginary is less true. I always pictured a pine forest at the back of my house where the small window of my bedroom was and where, for a time, I used to fear that witches might fly through. In reality there are just a few trees, similar to the kind found here on English Edge. In fact the whole area is not dissimilar and it is as though in coming here I found an English version of the German village, though I was not consciously looking for that. I learned to read in both languages, I read early and intensely so the stories became a part of the environment. The years were not happy or easy ones. My father was an actor with a distinguished theatre company in east Berlin but things were not turning out the way he had hoped and though the wall was not yet in place, the east/west division loomed. Each day he would go from the west, where we lived, to work in the east. My sister was born in the British military hospital. My mother went to parties in town but was, I think, depressed. She had not (nor would she ever) come to terms with her father's death in Buchenwald.

By the shores of the lake, where the steamer takes tourists on excursions, Mr. Signs and I stopped by a kiosk for coffee and streuselkuchen. In Germany, wherever you go there is sure to be food of some kind. A customer who was clearly a regular said goodbye to the melancholy kiosk man: Tchus, Jurgen - mach's gut! Go well; literally, make it good. In the Berliner accent it sounded like mach's yut. I remember this, the softening of the letter g. I can still speak like a Berliner if I need to, my accent almost perfect. But anyone who knows can hear that there is something not quite right, I don't have the words, the language is broken, I am not from there. But in a sense I also am. We are such stuff as memories are made of.


Mim said...


Be well.

Fire Bird said...

fascinating and moving post. good wishes for the new regime.

Cusp said...

So strange to return to a part of one's past. My grandmother always spoke german with a Leipzig accent.... kleine came out as 'klainer' German (Austrian) teacher was very unimpressed :O)

Great post

Reading the Signs said...

Greetings all, and thanks.

trousers said...

Thank you for sharing this - rich and thoughtful stuff.

I may be heading over to those shores again before the year is out, all depending.