Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas in the Black Forest

Fog and frost in the Black Forest
Originally uploaded by udge.
Imagine, dear Reader, that this were the view from your living-room this Christmas. Not bad, eh? G's parents are lucky to live in a very beautiful area. It's quite high, 720 metres above sea level, therefore colder than Stuttgart and often windy; this time there was a constant and slow wind, very humid, which built up ribbons of frost along the upwind sides of basically everything. The newest photos on Flickr were taken on a walk after Christmas lunch, it was about 3° below zero, but the humidity made it quite unpleasant to be out. There was no snow at all. Only G's brother and I were brave and/or foolish enough to go out, the others lay about tenderly prodding their full bellies and planning the next meal.

Eating too much and drinking far too much is a truly international aspect of the way Christmas is celebrated. We ate five times between Monday noon and Tuesday mid-morning, then went to U's parents and ate thrice more on Tuesday. Eight meals in thirty-four hours. Not to forget the snacks, of course: the bowls of cookies and biscuits and chocolatey things that appeared whenever we sat elsewhere than at the dining table. I feel absolutely ill from all the sugary confectionery, my nerves are jingling from the endless cups of strong coffee. G's and U's parents would fit right in with my uncles and aunts in Saskatchewan (leaving aside the language problem).

In other news my uncle AH, my father's elder and last remaining brother, has died. He was 84, and until this year was in fine health (considering his age, weight and habits). He was a good man, I liked him well. He was generous with his time and money, whenever we met (the family when we were kids, myself when I lived in London) he would always ensure that the bill came to him. I spent many weekends with them when I was a student, we would take the dogs to Bushey Park on Sunday mornings for a run, and talk about history and the meaning of life. He was a world-famous jazz fan, known in the clubs of New York and Paris, personally acquainted with Duke Ellington; when the Duke's sister visited London, she stayed with AH and his wife Pat (they had no children). Like many Englishmen, he would volunteer the most intimate information about himself, but would deflect or ignore a direct question; conversation was always on his terms and at his choice of topic.

AH worked every day until he went into hospital this Spring for a minor ailment, from which treatment he didn't recover; he was readmitted in the Autumn and died in hospital. I am dreading calling my parents this evening; both for fear of how this setback will affect my father's condition—which is a post that I've been putting off since this summer—and, quite selfishly, in case they should ask me to represent them at the funeral and the reading of the will.

There's a bitter episode of family history behind this. My father's middle brother's widow is a greedy, grasping, manipulative bitch (if I may speak freely) and always was. She's also a babbing idiot, chatter chatter chatter chatter chatter chatter chatter chatter chatter chatter chatter chatter chatter chatter chatter and never a scrap more content than that. God knows how or why BJ, who was an educated and intelligent man, put up with her. Anyway. She got—took—all of our grandmother's furniture and photos, and has refused to let anyone in the family look at them since; my father is certain that the same will happen with AH's things. He (my father) has often said that he would like to have AH's wartime diaries and flight logs (he was in the Fleet Air Arm, flying Swordfish from aircraft carriers in the Atlantic); well, if Mrs. BJ knew that, she would claim them straight off—and probably throw them in the garbage.

I dread being asked to intervene in this grim and bloody business, one of the many pleasures of leaving London was the thought of never seeing Mrs. BJ again; but if I am asked I will of course go. We shall see.

Poor AH. Pat and the dogs will be waiting, she'll have just put the kettle on for tea.

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Blogger Jenni said...

I think the Black Forest was some of my favorite of our trip to Germany this summer.....that and Bavaria.

December 27, 2006 at 11:38:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger zhoen said...

Beautiful photo.

Sad and difficult story. My mom told me, while we watched Granny's children, neices and nephews, and their spouses squabble over her possessions, that you never know anyone until you share an inheritance with them. That I felt the urge to steal and grab for myself, spoke only to my youth, I have since learned to let death take away potential inherited possessions like a fire. To be grieved, but not fought over. Like the person who left them. If they'd so badly wanted me to have them, they'd have been a gift. Sometimes, there isn't time. Often, the unlovable get the loot. But that is all they get, with none of the joy.

I'm sorry for your loss, and your worries for your parents. My condolences to all.

December 28, 2006 at 1:39:00 a.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Dale said...


December 28, 2006 at 7:37:00 a.m. GMT+1  
Anonymous May said...

This Reader here enjoyed very much reading this post for its quiet, meditative tone. Thank you.

December 28, 2006 at 10:32:00 a.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Antonia said...

sorry to hear about your uncle. Always sad this and even more so with stupid relatives...let's hope everyone behaves decently..

but your christmas sounds very german with all the with coffee in the afternoon,everyone asks you if you are ill when you refuse the second big slice of Schwarzwaelderkirschtorte or something like that...

December 28, 2006 at 2:38:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger mark said...

sad story in the end, alas. I would have liked to have been there for the eating & drinking though.

December 28, 2006 at 5:13:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger brooksba said...

Christmas sounds perfect - friends and fun and loads of food. What a beautiful place to spend the holiday.

I'm sorry for the loss of your uncle. He sounds like a wonderful man. I hope that dealing with his estate goes smoothly and that Mrs. BJ wakes up and realizes that her behavior is unappropriate and rude. When a family is trying to recover from the loss of one of its members, no one needs added stress of a greedy relative. Best of luck to you in dealing with her. I'll be thinking of you and your family and hoping that the news does not upset your father too much.

December 29, 2006 at 9:10:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Rob said...

Sorry to hear about your uncle. My wife was born in Bushey, funnily enough.

January 3, 2007 at 1:34:00 a.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Udge said...

Thank you all so much for your kind comments. I'm sorry that it took me so long to reply, I just couldn't face writing about AH again, and after the post disappeared from the "front page" I forgot about it.

June 12, 2008 at 10:14:00 a.m. GMT+2  

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