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house of gingerbread

house of gingerbread
Written by Cathoel Jorss,

So it’s Friday night, I am in my pajamas and baking sticky gingerbread for dinner. About to devour some more of Shirley Hazzard’s insightful Greene on Capri, about her friendship with Graham Greene. She calls his writing landscape, in which women are conveniently passive, ‘Greeneland’. The descriptions in passing of her ease with her husband, the writer Francis Steegmuller, are so beguiling. They sit and talk a lot, often about what they are reading. Greene soars in like a small eagle who casts a large shadow.

The world is run by noisy extroverts and tonight three of them had a bang-up row in the Hinterhaus, the building at the back of this courtyard. Glass was thrown. Police came pouring in with walkie-talkies at the ready. Now all is restored and the night has taken possession of the leaves and every sill. Far up in the corner of the highest apartment two facing windows are joined by a little covered bridge, for their cat. I had coffee today with the woman whose apartment I am leasing, who has moved to Vienna to make a film, and she said her cats (who travel everywhere with her – to Berlin and back by train; she takes them on set; she takes them to the beach) have a little case which they climb into so she can carry them down to the garden in the back courtyard every day, to play and explore and pounce and poo. She knows they are ready to go out when she comes into the hall to find them sitting quietly in their windowed carry case – “it’s like their bus.”

It is beautiful to have a home and to stay home in it. It is a lamplit evening. I have the double doors open onto my tiny balcony – Berliners call this “Balconia.” The land of summer, of lurid sun umbrellas and bright geraniums in pots.

Recently I passed a guy tenderly polishing his very fancy bicycle, outside the discount markets where junkies drift like zombies underwater. Gee, I thought: that’s a fancy bike he’s got. On my way back the same guy was pushed up against a police van. The beautiful bicycle was nowhere in sight but the back of the van was wide open.

The dwindling end of the long twilit nights which seem to trail into evening like cloud drifting for the horizon – the endless days, blue and filled with pleasures – I have loved these nights. I have loved all these days. Now when the sun clouds over and the sky bleeds grey I start to panic, just a little, just skimming over it, dipping into it with one wing: is this it, then? is this the last of it? No more blue til May – or June? I know what we are in for. No more birdsong. The leaves fall to the ground. The grounds turns to iron. The limited colours, low white skies.

The outdoor cinemas are closing. I saw candles in the windows of a backstreet cafe today. I wore a scarf in the afternoon sun. These little deathknells make me sentimental and bleary, like a Dickens character. Little Deathknell, and the Year That Took Three Months to Die. I’m standing with one leg on the ground and one in the rippling cool water. My bookshelf glows in the lamplight and I feel unafraid of the cold.

8 comments on “house of gingerbread

  1. Oh! You made my heart sing where it was only humming before, thank you, Paige.

    Cathoel Jorss September 18, 2015 at 10:26 pm
  2. I love this, thank you. Makes me also Longing for the beautiful colors of the faling leaves and the clear blue winter skies!

    Monique hagedorn September 18, 2015 at 10:40 pm
  3. Isn’t it lovely, Jennifer? So insightful.

    I’ve never read Greene but this deft memoir makes it plain Hazzard must be the far more interesting writer. She’s so adult. He disapproves of hippies and says, chillingly, “I would like to take a machine gun to the young.” He bullies his friends with practical jokes and she says, “Graham’s humour had a keen edge: the snowball that conceals a stone.” Then reports him saying of the new phenomenon football violence, “I’m not against violence. What I can’t stand is brutality posing as fun.” “If Graham didn’t enjoy an outing, one was made to feel it, and to feel in some way culpable.”

    I realised reading this (I’m still halfway through) why women so often bring plants to life on the page – that crucial part of the world seeming companionly and respected to female writers more often than owned and exploited. Women are gatherers.

    Cathoel Jorss September 19, 2015 at 9:41 am

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