Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Café Schwabing closes

The photo above must have been taken in the earliest days of Café Schwabing, as long ago as twenty-five years. The quarter century of café culture in Munich's bourgeois-bohemian neighbourhood.ended last night.

Café Schwabing had been in effect my 'living room' for years A short walk from my little flat, the café was always welcoming. It was where I regularly met the ladies in my life... ex-wife and daughter. None of us are quite sure how to replace it as our habitual rendezvous.

On our way to the café for the last time I was tested for a new pair of glasses... they will presumably help me to see more clearly.

However, what we saw at Café Schwabing yesterday evening was very clear. It was not just a location where people of all generations and social strata were happy to gather, to dine and drink and last night there was not a table which was not occupied. Above all, it impressed us that so many former employees were on hand to celebrate the unique atmosphere of their workplace. That is surely the hallmark of a successful café, bar or restaurant... a staff who are happy, dedicated and loyal to enlightened and inspiring proprietors like Peter and Gabriele Freund.

The mood last night was in fact almost festive, even if tinged with a strong tinge of nostalgia. Such pleasant memories. 

Monday, April 14, 2014


“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” 

 I know... that's what Einstein said. But somewhere along the line I took on board the idea that a 'clean desk' means that everything is under control and all documents and such are filed away or otherwise stowed where they should be.

And in anticipation of an almost normal workload after three trimesters of disastrous underemployment I felt that some spring cleaning might be in order.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Degrees of separation

He did well, didn't he? I have been asking myself whether or not I actually met Alan Ayckbourn and my conclusion is that I must have done.

Why? Because I spent the summer of 1957 in the Yorkshire seaside resort, Scarborough. This is town I often tend to regard as 'home', since as a family we had always spent our annual holidays there, where my grandmother lived. From a very early age I was a regular user of the Scarborough Public Library, where as well as all the fabulous books there were the periodicals which interested me available in the Reading Room.
1957 was a bit special for me. For the previous two years we had lived as a family in the Untied States, in the State of Maine.But there was a re-location to the State of Texas on the agenda for the autumn. This prospect excited me. I was at the age of seventeen theatre-mad and very much looking forward to moving to Dallas. In that city there was a pioneer 'arena theatre' with its stage surrounded on all four sides by the audience seating, the Margo Jones Theater.

Looking back I realise that it was the 'staging mode' which interested me more than the drama which might be so presented..

Anyway, my discovery of the summer 1957 was that one of the Reading Rooms at the Scarborough Public Library had been converted to become Britain's first ever theatre-in-the-round, presided over by an avuncular visionary, Stephen Joseph. I was allowed to haunt the Library Theatre during the days of rehearsal and one evening I watched the performance of 'Glass Menagerie'. I recall long conversations about the theories of arena staging.

The point is that there was another adolescent who must have been there at exactly the same time, a lad a year older than I was, Alan Ayckbourn, starting his career as an Assistant Stage Manager. Did we meet? Did we talk? I wonder.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Writing matters

Yesterday I uploaded three manuscripts to the Kindle Direct Publishing service, two making their Amazon debut, one first uploaded in August 2010 with an amended title (Golden Dawn was always destined to disappoint any seeking to know more about Greek neo-fascist movements).

For the time being, however, the links on the left to free PDF versions will remain.


Sunday, April 06, 2014

Reading matters

It is almost two years since I made my 'digital migration' and bought my first Kindle e-book. Now I have accumulated on my little grey feather-light device no less than 190 'items' stored. The convenience of 'one-click' purchasing seems to have resulted in an increase in my reading toan average of two books per week.

But that is not the point I wish to make today.

When the closure of the Munich 'bookshop' specializing in English-language titles was announced I was horrified. My switch to a digital platform wasmade with both trepidation and reluctance. I agonized over ephemerality. 'Booky-books' reliant on dead trees had always been somehow sacrosanct. No book... even one which would certainly never be read a second time... could possible be discarded as garbage, tossed in the paper re-cycling bin.

Hence for the past almost two years there has been a pile of about two hundred paperbacks making the narrow hallway of my flat even narrower. Not that I have failed to look for ways of giving the books a new lease of life, but Munich has no market for second-hand English-language popular fiction. And so they have been gathering dust and... usefully... serving as an improvised piece of occasional furniture, a convenient vide-poche next to the coat rack. 

And now? Well, for the past few days I have indulged in a rather draconian form of spring cleaning. In the course of my travels over the past half-century I have accumulated a massive volume of papers in Leitz ring-binders and Eastlight box-files. These have, of course, weighed heavy each time I have moved home.

When I returned to Europe in 2010 I was happy to be reunited with this substantial archive. Full of digital zeal I was determined that at some point I would winnow out the papers worthy of being retained as originals, digitize others whose content was more than the artifact itself and... finally... bin the rest. I mean, do I really need to keep the lease of a flat I rented in 1969 in London, correspondence from a girl I had long forgotten and whose writing a cannot really decipher?

And so it is that the paper re-cycling container in the courtyard downstairs is these day being regularly filled with significant quantities of my shredded past. With my arms loaded I pass the tower of paperback books in the hallway each time I leave my flat.

I realized yesterday that ultimately those books, too, will have to go.

At least any future move to a new home will involve a greatly reduced physical weight of fading paper. The essentials of my archive will be weightless in 'the cloud' together with the e-books I have enjoyed.. 


Tartan Day

"Tartan Day marks the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320 at Arbroath Abbey. This historical occasion sowed the seeds of modern day democracy and was used as a basis for the American Declaration of Independence. Tartan Day was inspired by this historical occasion to celebrate all that is good about Scotland... its people, its heritage, its history, its culture and its amazing legacy to the world."

The Americans have never forgotten the connection. And although they did not taake en masses to the wearing of the kilt, tartan began to show up in the accoutrements of those belonging to a very influential circles, students at the elite colleges of the Ivy League. The photo is from the archives of Life magazine and was published in 1950.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

No foolin'

After three quarter-years of catastrophic under employment, I can report that the month of April looks quite promising. Unless, of course, the two assignments in question are April Fools pranks! 

And speaking of pranks, I like the one shown below...


Sunday, March 30, 2014

And springth the wode nu

Translated from the Wessex dialect of Middle English that's "..and the wood is coming into leaf now". A boys' choir sings Sumer Is Icumen In at the climax of Benjamin Britten's Spring Symphony. This I know because I sung in such a choir as a schoolboy in Edinburgh in the early fifties... although my voice broke before the performance at the Usher Hall.

All very much beside the point on this first day of Central European Summer Time. I merely wish to obselrve that this year after our very mild winter in Munich the greening of the branches is well advanced. The more precocious trees are almost in full bloom, the more reticent showing only hesitant buds. But it does the heart good to see this miracle of nature just one more time.

It is also in marked contrast to last year when it was only at the end of April that I was able to report proper vernal greening.