LE PENNISM, ANARCHISM AND THE VOTE

 

Since his wife died – a socialist who still held him in check – my French neighbour and friend in our very small hamlet has refused to vote. In his eyes all politicians are robber barons and cheats.

 

Now that the battle for the French presidency between Macron and Le Pen is on, I listen to his same old song, this time with some cute different little lyrics: Choosing between these two – so he says – is ‘voting for either the pest or for the cholera’. The difference – my neighbour and friend then adds, this for my pleasure – is that the cholera at least has some antidote.

 

But voting he won’t.

 

When still in the Netherlands I pondered the same question, even though with us it is not the presidency which was at stake, but the size of political fractions in parliament and the possible participation of a party in a coalition government. A few months long I claimed not to go and vote. In the end I did.

 

Abstentionism, if I may coin that word, always favours the wrong guys. The Brexit Referendum is a perfect example. So many young people whose interest it is to stay in Europe did not put their fiches into the urns. Also the cheating of those into voting wrongly will be sourly remembered. In the Netherlands it is that silly man with his platinum-whitened hair who seduces the fools, together with some other nationalist intellectuals.

 

 

 

Now, the interesting thing about France this Sunday is the still great contrast between La France Profonde – farmers’ territory – and the towns. France has always known a strong anarcho-syndicalist movement. And anarchism in whatever shade tends to be against parliamentarism.

 

Enzensberger – in his fine book on Spanish anarchism The Short Summer of Anarchy – argues convincingly that this anarchism is the result of the existence of a vast labour force that is or not all too long ago has been made up of agricultural workers. Anarchists always splinter and by not voting they let right-wing forces come into governmental power.

 

Such traditions have a long life and extent into  the present. This tradition holds that power should be ‘with the people’, that no hierarchy or parties should be organized. Action now and here is their motto.

 

So, with this anarchist mood in Deep France still very much present, one may expect that Le Pen gets more votes than might first be expected from the results in the first round. Many of those in the campagne who voted for left-wingers the first time, will now follow their root instinct and probably abstain.

 

One does not choose between the pest and the cholera – their alibi.

 

6.5/2017 La Roche

 

 

 

 

OUTOPOS – Herder in Wörlitz

You may say, that thanks to his remarks the park grew and became richer. In advance already did he recognize what the new and growing plantings promised to become like. No spot was neglected where some thing of beauty could still be made to stand out or added to the garden.

Goethe, Die Wahlverwandtschaften

_____________________

 

One thing is certain – Utopia is nowhere.

Some have designed their utopias to exist – one of these days. Others are invented never to come alive. Then again, there are also utopias expressly intended by their creators to realize a dream. In all cases, however, Utopia is simply nowhere, a non-place and thus pure future. No jam today, always jam tomorrow.

There is no way of testing the truth of a Utopia, no manner of predicting its effectiveness. Only what meets today’s requirements and needs can possibly be verified. Anyone claiming that art is an experiment with history is using a metaphor. The elusiveness and largesse of art’s objects exclude all testing. After all, an experiment presumes the possibility and ability to vary a number of variables. Art as such, however, is completely variable and always individual. Art is always utopian.

 

I

One chilly April day, sitting in my hotel room in French Fontaine-Chaalis, I wrote the following words on the back of a postcard showing an autumnal garden:

How strange, a world so bitter and cruel, yet covered with so many genuine paradises. Oh Garden Artists throughout the ages, Thou painters with brushes large as weeping willows and pigments fragrant as hyacinths – You are the greatest utopians ever!

That very day my colleague and I had already visited the gardens of Beloeil in the south-west of Belgium, now we were a stone’s throw away from the park of Ermenonville. The noble creators of these two parks, Messrs De Ligne and De Girardin, enjoyed their gardens thoroughly, they were considered a resting place for lost souls who wandered in from faraway cities.

Their owners, moreover, regarded these parks as true topoi, each a locus amoenus or beguiling spot which should encourage and spur its visitors to organize their own lives and their own society in accordance with the polished version of ‘nature’ as they found it here.

Intended not as ou-topos they were- a spot that never had existed and never would exist anywhere – but rather as a sort of zone liberated by guerrilleros from which goodness would spread throughout the whole wide world. Prince Franz wanted the realm of his Anhalt-Dessau to be ein Gartenreich, one great garden empire covered with paradises that would one day spread out to become Paradise period.

A noble guerrilla, for sure.

 

II

 

Curiously enough, it was precisely in the fact of their practical expectation of realizing such dreams that the unrealistic and utopian aspect of their ideas may be explored. When in the second half of the 18th century such noble Gentlemen began to lay out their first wild English Gardens, their social class – the aristocracy – was already doomed, certainly in France but if seen in a slightly longer time perspective also elsewhere else in Europe. Even in their own eyes all evidence pointed that way.

While in 1790, under the glorious Provence skies and in the very year after the beginning of the French Revolution, the Seigneur of Gémenos Jean Baptiste Albertas was giving a party in honour of his villagers, they murdered him in of all places his own garden. Yet, a slaughter of this kind still had the charm of being personal, bearing in mind that hundreds of kilometres further north not long after this gruesome event the nobility was to be killed en masse and almost anonymously.

This was done on the assembly line of the scientifically developed guillotine, a device that as a contemporary aptly remarked cut off heads with the speed of a wink. Perhaps, those who killed Jean Baptiste thought that with their Lord still alive the ‘better society’ as represented by his garden could simply not be realized.

Even before that time though, the gardens of Prince Franz and Jean-Baptiste were already ou-topoi or non-places. After all, their views on an ideal society and the notions entertained by ‘their people’ were rather different. The ‘modern age’ that was about to dawn or had perhaps already started was urban and industrial rather than feudal, rural and idyllic.

Meanwhile, the paradises – or rather the miniature paradises in the shape of gardens like Wörlitz, Ermenonville, Beloeil and Le Désert de Retz – had lost their exemplary function. They no longer stood for a ‘better society’ but had degenerated into places of pilgrimage for nostalgic visitors who no longer possessed the allegorical power of their 18th-century predecessors.

Despite his misgivings the gardens of De Ligne survived the Revolution unscathed, however somewhat later they yet disappeared. Utopian as they always had been, they now became an ou-topos in a double sense: not only were they no longer kept, along with the Revolution ‘people of sentiment’ whom their designers had in mind had also disappeared. Nobody could understand the deep meaning of all those follies any longer…

 

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All is flux – one cannot step into the same river twice, however one can do so twice in the River Rhine. Even when walking the gardens of Beloeil today, you are not walking in the gardens of De Ligne. In full bloom, yet nature morte. This even applies in a stronger sense to all the gardens that became incomplete, where follies or fabriques were not maintained or even have been demolished.

 

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Just as the rise of the genre of the English Garden was not an instantaneous affair, its specimen in Wörlitz was not created in one stroke. The garden revolution began with a rather Dutch-sounding text, written in 1685 by William Temple:

In laying out the gardens, great sums may be thrown away without effect or honour if they want sense in proportion to money; or if nature be not followed; which I take to be the great rule in this, and perhaps in everything else …

 Whether the greatest of mortal men should attempt the forcing of nature, may best be judged by observing how seldom God Almighty does it himself, by so few true , and undisputed miracles as we see or hear of in this world.

This process of slow transformation of the French style of gardening – in England often known as Dutch Garden – into the natural English version involved the disappearance of a garden confined within walls with its formal flower beds, fruit trees, neat rows of plants and bushes, in favour of an idealized ‘total landscape’ sometimes called a ‘country park’.

Early 18th-century German literature was trying to express this growing feeling for ‘nature’. Such intensification, however, was not yet reflected in the period’s aristocratic gardens which, longer than those in England, remained formal and organized according to ‘the French taste’. One of the reasons for this was the fact that at the critical moment – around 1750 – the German antiquarian Winckelmann’s plea for ‘the Greek taste’ gave rise to a new German classicism, preventing the change towards the ‘English’ style.

The Wörlitz estate – the first German garden to become ‘English’ – consists of several gardens, a few of which are still geometrical, while the rest is in the English style. Work on them started in 1764, the geometrically laid out gardens being established first. The work on the much larger English park followed in stages, this after in 1770 great floods around the Elbe had occurred which actually triggered this garden revolution. A flower garden, several lakes and large areas of arable and pasture land were incorporated, bordered by a variety of trees.

Around 1770 you would still find French styled gardens at all small German royal courts, either stretched to its high-spirited rococo limits, or with a Baroque Garden fragmented into a number of smaller gardens, however still  geometrically designed. By that time, in England the type of ‘natural’ garden had already become quite popular. Prior to and during the construction of his gardens Prince Franz von Anhalt-Dessau and his advisors had even made four study trips to that British Isle. The Prince also considered to settle there with his maîtresse. However, regal form triumphed over bourgeois frivolity and folly so in the end he married a real Princess.

A remarkable contrast exists between model and imitation it was – between on the one hand his English ‘colleagues’ and on the other hand the German minor monarch Franz. The English landed gentry was largely made up of nouveaux riches, upstarts who had seized both the opportunity to become capitalist industrial entrepreneurs and take hold of a title, this at a moment of history, when the system of feudalism was definitively breaking down and parliamentary democracy began to take root, however not yet giving all too much power to the common people.

In Germany, by contrast, the top layer of society felt most uncomfortable about the bad example which rebellious people in France and elsewhere had given their own nationals, even though there was no revolutionary zeal in Germany yet. Smaller states, such as Weimar and Dessau, were ruled by ‘enlightened’, albeit still ‘absolute’ princes who had succeeded in buying out their nobles’ competition while brushing them aside. However, quite a few of these small princes did contemplate the handing over some influence to their people. They could afford the promotion of the arts and attempted to raise their people’s health, knowledge and skills.

Purveyors of culture, often members of the nobility, pursued Winckelmann’s classicism; the progressive bourgeoisie was looking mainly to English comfort. Prince Franz somehow managed to represent these two different levels of his population in his one royal person.

 

440px-Wörlitz_Schloss

 

Apart from a Country Seat in Park Wörlitz built in the classical Palladian style, the Prince had also planned a Gothic Mansion. Here he withdrew himself among his old treasures and the family memento’s. Like the entire park, this country house was also open to the common man. His contemporary Boettiger wrote in a commentary: Man genoss doppelt, denn man genoss mit Hunderten. [You were enjoying yourself doubly so, as you enjoyed it with hundreds.]

 

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In his novel Die Wahlverwandtschaften Goethe described (1809) this transformation of countryside into country park as mainly the pastime of a bored aristocracy. This, however, does not apply to Wörlitz. Prince Franz’ Gartenreich is rather unique, because he radicalized the inclination already present in the works of the Brit Pope, to unite the Useful with the Beautiful and the Pleasing.

Anhalt-Dessau under Franz’s reign presents us with the picture of an educational project integrating culture, medicine and farming. The primacy of the Beautiful, which had applied since Horace, was now reversed. There is nothing in this park purely for its aesthetic effect – everything is either immediately useful, with cultivation, grazing and growing going on right in the park; or indirectly so, with every scene designed to educate the people.

In a letter from 1770, addressed to the philosopher D’Alembert, the Prusian King Friedrich wrote rather egotistically,

that it is a waste of energy to enlighten humanity. One should be content with being wise oneself, provide of course that one is capable of it. Folly must be left to the rabble, and one must keep them form crime because that disturbs the social order.

While, in the same vein, ‘enlightened’ David Hume believed that the common people could be irrational and religious; while Voltaire wondered how far one could go in trying to fool the people; while Schiller believed that, despite his proposal fort a Aesthätische Erziehung des Menschen [Aesthetic education of Man], it would take centuries to enlighten the common people, Franz and his advisers begged to disagree.

In contrast with these insights they adopted a strategy in which, also contrasting with the British solution, the park was there not only for the pleasure of its owner. They allowed the garden to descend the social ladder and invited ‘their people’ to enjoy it. The garden was expressly aimed at public education.

 

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In Wörlitz repression was ‘trained to fit the Zeitgeist’, to use Sloterdijk’s words. It was most certainly not the intention of Prince Franz’ Gartenreich to instigate a revolution.

With an inscription on an imitation urn atop an imitation island in the Wörlitzer park, Franz praised the Frenchman Rousseau:

He instilled common sense into foolish fellows, he instructed the sensualist in genuine pleasure, he referred erring art back to the simplicity of nature, the doubter to comfort and revelation – all with manly eloquence.

 

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III

 

The German philosopher J.G. von Herder was also given a memorial island. He had rewritten the ideas Rousseau on individual education, turning them into a pedagogy of the people which he interpreted as ‘an education of the heart’ as well as an ‘education of the whole of humanity’.

Bildung in short, a process that naturally unfolds in stages, each one taking up a whole ‘era’. This should have heartened good Father Franz, as he was sometimes called – after all, Herder was interpreting 18th-century despotism in a positive way. He called it the ‘fatherly hand’ so needed by ‘the childhood of humanity’.

Kent’s pioneering English Gardens contained multiple perspectives involving scene after scene. 18th-century garden theorist and neo-Gothicist Horace Walpole commented on them in his essay On Modern Gardening:

Prospect, animated prospect is the theatre that will always be the most frequented. An open country is but a canvas on which a landscape might be designed.

Kent’s individual scenes each have their own viewpoint or a line of sight without becoming overly forceful. However, the natural transition from one scene to the next also manages to give them a common harmony. We know that before they started on Wörlitz, Franz and his advisers had seen Kent’s gardens. Herder, who had his own unique views on the relative value of different cultures, appears to have been a solid source of inspiration for the pedagogical theory that fed the Wörlitzer set-up. Here then Herder’s cultural relativism was married off to Kent’s garden  philosophy, both connected with Franz’ Gartenreich.

To anyone who asks which has been the happiest nation in recorded history, Herder replies that every nation has its own high point of happiness – one sort of happiness is not ‘happier’ than another. The measure of happiness is certainly not technological progress, but rather the happiness of each person and the contentment of the whole of humanity. This point of view considers Winckelmann’s idea of a privileged Classical Greek period as being superior to others just as stupid as placing one’s own epoch on a pedestal, as did the Enlightened philosophers of the Age of Reason.

Italy is the theatre most instructive as to the various epochs of the world … Here you come upon the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans an Etruscans … Travel provides us with a catalogue of what survived.

Herder’s own trip to Italy, made in 1788, ended however in major disappointment. Face to face with the remains of Antiquity, he suddenly found these to be stagnant pools in a dead sea. His own philosophy, by contrast, focused on the living ideas of each period. He rejected as ‘foolishness’ all forms of nostalgia and Sehnsucht for the past.

Herder’s aversion to France and ‘French taste’ is remarkable. He called it Gallicomania and regarded it as the glorification of an ideal of life that is certainly not part of the German national tradition. In Germany it can only be borrowed and thus unnatural. Cynically he noted with regard to the French fashion: Every little Court must be a Versailles. Included in his scorn Herder had also the French Garden style in mind. For him the Gothic manner of construction is the true metaphor for natural growth of both language and folk culture – little by little, unplanned, everywhere each in its own individual way.

What nature cannot stop, the gardener cannot curb.

A wise prince must therefore take the responsibility of managing nature; he must not go against her. Herder’s God is to be found both in nature and history, two entities connected by a spiritual bond. Against this background his rejection of any revolution may be understood. When it comes to the regeneration of humanity, the buzzword ‘revolution’, en vogue at that time, is completely unacceptable for him: it is unnatural because it upsets the vibrant circulation of sap in the Tree of State.

Given that radical intervention in naturally evolved cultures is totally unacceptable, Herder recommended education through character formation, this by way of the measured guidance by what he calls a wise Father-Gardener. His concept of individualization is rather broad. Each nation is considered as the individualisation of the whole of humanity; within a single nation every person needs to be individualized and have a character. Individualisation of nations takes place under the pressure of their particular climate:

An atmosphere that surrounds us, an electric lake in which we live. Both are in perpetual motion … There, in the place were their sons have migrated and settled over thousands of years, they take root – like trees that have special leaves and fruits suited to the climate.

The true man of God is – still according to Herder – more likely to feel his weaknesses rather than to wallow in his positive powers. In other words: such a man is educable. Education is not about disciplinary regimentation, it is all about formation of individual character.

Social class merely produces puppets; personality, however, provides value and merit, to be understood as a person’s full value, his civic usefulness … full of healthy ideas and warm and joyful tendencies instead of external morality.

In this context, the influence of the arts on people is crucial, in particular the influence of the art of gardening. In his critical debate with Immanuel Kant, Herder emphasized that art is not just an artistic game played with our imagination; it is instrumental in forming character. Natural beauty is absolute, our feeling for it is innate. However, its shape in the forms of people’s tastes is determined by the environment. Art, then, is an vital part of these surroundings considered as our cultural climate.

Herder’s analysis of the significance of the various senses in relation to the arts is important. The philosophers tend to give primacy to the visual. This, however, is our most detached, our coolest sense. Hearing and touch bring us far more directly in contact with the substance and form of things. Kant, in his Aesthetics, had already claimed that the essence of architecture and of the art of gardening lies in the drawing. Undoubtedly, he had the formal French garden in mind.

Ideally, one may conjecture, a Formal Garden must indeed be viewed from a static point, situated on the platform in front of the House, that is: as if the garden were a drawing. For Herder, however, perfection is the essence of any art, including the art of gardening – perfection as the essence of form. For Kant, on the other hand, aesthetic satisfaction is merely a play of forms.

Among the five liberal arts Herder registers the gardener’s art, while according to Kant could never be a real art at all, being too useful, too utilitarian.

In this context Herder’s unique consideration of the sublime is of interest, i.e. the experience of the many in one. The more unity in the experience there is, the more for him it is sublime. For Kant the visual sense is especially susceptible of the sublime, so painting, architecture and sculpture can best achieve this effect. Missing in his list is gardening.

For Herder the garden is abundance of the many par excellence, the involvement of all the senses, particularly those of smell and touch, but even those of taste for anyone who quenches his thirst with a few dewdrops or honey leaves.

Unity effects the sublime, as seen in the unity of the French Garden; multitude and abundance however provide us with the beautiful, which for Herder happens in the English Garden, presented as something organically grown and therefore not primarily sublime. However, one can still get this uplifting sublime experience while observing the great House and also the pensive follies and sculptures that are scattered in the park.

 

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For Herder, then:

 …every prince is a gardener taking care of  the education of the first,

tender human shoots – this in a favourite garden of God.

Could Prince Franz, the gardener and educationalist, have thought of a finer motto for himself and his Wörlitzer undertaking! Herder’s God resides in the unity of history and nature. Only in the English Garden, and this through the senses, do these two come directly together. An enlightened educationalist could find fulfilment in this. It was at the time the pretext for control by the gardener of the cultural climate.

 

IV

 

Prince Franz succeeded in combining the aesthetic guideline contained in the Englishman William Kent’s series of relatively autonomous scenes, each with their own perspective, with Herder’s philosophy of history. In his  Wörlizter park Prince Franz collected models from various periods in human history, giving each of them their own ‘scene’ which symbolizes their intrinsic cultural value – not a hierarchy, not the one above or below the other, but all cultures beside one another.

Thus in his park you will find a Jewish synagogue in a classic guise, a Gothic mansion, a British version of the Palladian Villa, an Egyptian base for a Pantheon, a Classical urn – and so on.

 

Golden Urn, Woerlitzer Park, UNESCO World Heritage Site Dessau-Woerlitzer Gartenreich, Woerlitz, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, Europe

 

That these several cultural periods should not be interpreted as fragmented pools in a dead sea is proven by the fact that long sight-lines between certain key elements in the park have been created, giving them an overriding, but at the same non-hierarchical coherence. From the terrace of the Schloss you can simultaneously observe from afar all the various historical highlights; the same applies to the positioning of the Urn, the Monument, the Gothic House and the Temple of Venus.

Sometimes, this solution is found in one and the same building, as for instance das Fremdenhaus in the Georgium, one of the other parts of the Dessauer Gartenreich.

 

374_fremdenhaus

 

It is a design from the architect Erdmannsdorff, who was responsible for a significant portion of the classicist buildings in Anhalt-Dessau. This building, once a ruin, now restored, has four different façades: baroque, gothic, renaissance and late classical. It stood secluded in the garden and none of these façades took precedence over the others. For the connoisseur a stroll around it was like walking through the history of humanity, however without making any progress. One might, as it were, walk on an on in the same circle.

This deliberate choice for various types of garden and its follies, all next to one another, seems to express Herder’s cultural relativism, which is typical also of Wörlitz. After elsewhere in Europe the Garden Revolution’ had taken place, whole French Gardens were suddenly dug up completely to make way for the English variety. In Wörlitz it was there from the start, itself naturally evolving over the years.

The enlightened, yet absolute little Princes of Germany anticipated the possibility of their people getting revolutionary ideas and therefore began to educate them properly, that is gently pushing their imagination in another direction. They had always that beautiful example in their mind of the a non-violent revolution in England.

What better to do in this context but hold up to them a static tableau which, albeit showing a variety of real historical cultures, completely dispenses with that notion of progress which elsewhere in that same period was so richly praised. All this in a park which assembles these cultures under the aegis of a Prince whose aim it was to improve the living conditions and the character of his people, of course according to his own design.

What we have in Wörlitz is Herder’s ‘the many and the one’ and why not: the many in one, many ages in a single age, even though it is impossible to survey these in there entirety. However, the variety of perspectives do give it the nature of a baroque collection of cultures, like the baroque library aimed at the creation of a collection of all possible sorts of knowledge, with no less the figure of God himself high in the lofty roof of the library, in his ultimate wisdom overseeing and encompassing it all – something, of course, not given to a mortal intellectual down there at one of the reading tables.

The main function of the classical English Garden in Wörlitz was the stabilising of an existing order and of immobilising time. Refinement is the maxim, not progress. Whereas in England a landed gentry made the countryside productive and profitable in a capitalist manner so as to provide the growing cities with enough food – by order of parliament, believe it or not – Anhalt-Dessau was a Bedarfsdeckungsgesellschaft, a society based on the principle of the fulfilment of need, with a Prince who needed to make its preservation his function.

The Wörlitzer Gartenreich – a conservative utopia, a garden in which the future of the past was designed. Here Herder’s ideas took precedence over the revolutionary ideas of Rousseau. A collective and conservative pedagogy was more than a match for a progress-oriented individualism.

 

V

 

Prince De Ligne and prince Franz were convinced that a well-designed garden could attract only people of the right kind – people who would leave it as better men than as they had come in.

What conclusions should we draw from this experiment with history, an experiment based on the art of gardening? Should we say that Wörlitz failed because it was unable to save an enlightened absolutism? Or claim that – if only more people had been ‘exposed’ to the park – its loss could have been avoided? I believe that Herder has taught us a wise lesson. Each work of art is utopian and unique – the great grasp of an artist can neither be verified, nor falsified.

Herder in Wörlitz – Herder not in Wörlitz. Who knows? I’ve had my say and perhaps my reader could follow my argument. But to verify my reading of these gardens – once again impossible.

When in 1787 Prince Franz was constructing the Dessauer cemetery he was still considering death as a form of sleep. By the time he had created his Herder Island – in 1797 – he seemed to have changed his opinion and moved to Herder’s more melancholic position.

 

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The first of the inscriptions on the philosopher’s cenotaph is taken from his work:

 We are mortal and so are all our wishes

Sorrow and joy, they pass as we pass

It would appear that during the long decades in which the Wörlitzer park was laid out, Franz moved closer and closer to Herder’s view of the world. The second inscription on that cenotaph reads:

We must learn to play,

for without play life is doom and gloom.

With this, just like Franz, Herder meant the serious play with Beauty which is considered at once the Good and the Truth. Not the frivolous play of mere sensuality. That only leads to revolutions and the like.

 

______________

Bibliography:

 

This essay was first published in The Architecture Annual 1996/1997, 010 Publishers Rotterdam (1998)

 

Prince Charles-Joseph de Ligne, Coup d’oeil sur Beloeil et sur une grande partie des jardins de l’Europe, translation, University of California Press (1991)

Brown, The Art and Architecture of English Gardens, Rizzoli, NY (1989)

Lovejoy, The Chinese Origin of Romanticism, in: The Journal of English and Germa­nic Philology (1933), vol. 32

  1. Hoffmann, Der Landschaftsgarten, Hamburg (1963)
  2. Reinhardt, German Gardens in the eigh­teenth Century,in: Mosser/Teyssot editors, The Architecture of Western Gardens, MIT press (1991)
  3. Kathe, Grundzüge der Geschichte Sachsen-An­halt im 17./18.J­h., in: Zwischen Wörlitz und Mosig­kau, ed. Hirsch/Höhle Dessau (1992)
  4. Hirsch, Experiment, Fortschritt & Praktizier­te Aufklärung, Des­sau (1990)

Him­mel­farb, The Idea of Poverty, Lon­don/Boston (1984)

  1. George, En­gland in Transition, Londen (1953 ed.)
  2. Pfeier, Kunstheoretische Ansichten in Anhalt-Des­sau, in: Hirsch/­Höhle

Eisold, Das Dessau-Wörlitzer Gartenreich – der Traum der Vernunft, Köln (1993)

Störig, Geschiedenis van de Filosofie, II (1964 vert.)

  1. Schiller, Über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen, in: Sämtliche Werke, Säkularaus­gabe (1985) Fackel Verlag, Band 5
  2. Sloterdijk, Kritik der zynischen Ver­nunft, Suhrkamp (1983)

Sierksma, Toezicht en taak, PhD Leyden University (1991) SUA

  1. G. Herder Sämtliche Werke, ed. B. Suphan a.o. Berlin (1877)
  2. G. Herder, Werke in Zwei Bänden, (1953) Hanser Ver­lag

J.A.­W. Hef­fernan, The Re-Creati­on of Landscape, 1984

Walpole, On Modern Gardening, in: Anecdotes of Painting in England, ed. Dallaway/Wornum, Vol. III, London (1862)

Lasdun, The English Park – Royal, Private & Public, NY (1992)

  1. Cereghini, his intriguing short article: The Italian Origins of Rousham, in Mosser/Teyssot.

Schama, Landscape and Memory (1995)

Schmitt, Herder und Amerika, Mouton (1967)

J.K. Fugate, The Psychological Basis of Herder’s Aesthetics, Mouton (1966)

Kant, Kritik der Urteilskraft (1790)

Friedrich Wilhelm von Erdmannsdorff – Leven.Werk.Wir­kung, Wörlitzer Hefte 2 (1986)

Winckelmann, Gedancken über die Nachahmung der Griechischen Werke in der Mahlerey und Bildhauer-Kunst (1755)

THE PROMISED LAND

Our house is a very, very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy
‘Cause of you…

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Our House

Si tu n’aimes pas faire l’amour qu’avec un seul home, alors, c’est que tu n’aimes pas faire l’amour.

Margueritte Duras, Les petits chevaux de Tarquinia

Catalogic 6 – read the other 5!
__________________________________

There you go, at a speed of 130 km/hour through the deep dark night, leaving behind your fatherland for ever. This time the two cats, Sebastian and Abe, did not have a visa or a passport – or any document establishing their identity or good health.

When we brought in Matz from Bretagne, years and years ago, he had been vetted by the vet and his papers were in perfect order. No fear of being held up at the border which, at that time, was not as porous as it is now since we have the European Community.

What, then, is a porous or for that matter an open border? The French are still calling Abe’s and Sebastian’s country of destination a Narco-État – Holland, a Drug State in which, so they believe, everybody is rolling around in hash and coke and heroine all the time. That there are many more people dying from drug abuse in France than in The Netherlands they tend to forget, also the notion that there might be a causal connection between their own rough attitude towards drugs and these deaths…

Now, of course, I was taking Abe out of the country. So if he were a threat to France, drug wise or ISIS wise, I would be doing them a favour. So I decided not to go to the vet this time. The migratory problem would not be so much French as Dutch: would Sebastian and Abe be able to integrate in a Dutch home, and in a country where lately rather unpleasant politicians are talking about “closing our borders for those foreigners” and about “keeping high our Dutch values and our Dutch Identity”?

As I do not have the foggiest as to what this Dutch identity might be, and as the main problem will be integration into the society of our own cats – what the heck! Integration by the way would be good enough, assimilation is not required.

 

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Sarah and Soof

There are only two cats left out of the stable of animals that inhabited our home, the rest of the ménage has died in the last few years, one of the reasons why I argued for the arrival of these two fresh animals. Red Soof is so old, that she does not really care anymore. Sarah is also old and has glaucoma which prevents her from even recognizing me and the wife, let alone the newcomers.

Not to forget the fact that France is far less animal friendly than The Netherlands and England are. In France people think of an animal first of all from a food-perspective. For the Dutch, animals are primarily mates. Rudy Kousbroek, a keen observer of the cat race, once wrote a little book in which he explained that for him the whole of mammal species was divided in two: those animals that possess the caressability factor and those who do not.

Now inside the subspecies of those caressable, the cat surely occupies poll position. This is why many of us cannot do without cats and perhaps also why many cats cannot do without us humans – after all those who caress.

Once we arrived in Haarlem – Sebastian and me that is – the very moment the two Frenchies came together they teamed up again. Abe had been here already for almost four weeks. Bien enchantés de se rétrouver ensemble… From then on Sebastian took the lead as he had done in La Roche. He seemed to stay lean from pure inquisitive exhaustion. Abe on the other hand could still go wild, now and then that is, but had decided that living in my wife’s lap was the reason why he had been brought into this world.

 

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Up till now – that is: two days before I shall leave Haarlem again for another half year in ma Douce France – Sebastian is still as crazy as before.

 

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Trying to keep him out of the study and the bed room has become a martial art in itself; you cough once and he has slipped in. He is still eating my fingers when I do not instantly cuddle him, even though I seem to have been doing nothing else all these months.

Abe on the other hand becomes more and more a little Dumbo. Food has primacy in his universe. When the other three have finished with their breakfast he feigns to follow them into the house, then sneaks back into the kitchen and finishes off whatever is left in the dishes.

The moment my wife is cooking he will come into the shrine of the kitchen and place himself elegantly so as not to miss a thing.

 

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They have finally arrived in the Promised Land. The only thing which is missing in this Utopia is language. There is a little poem by the Dutch cat lover Frans Pointl which ends like this:

…if they looked at me so set
I do presume how well they knew –
that gaze of helplessness
because they do not grasp
man’s speech.

In my younger days I wrote a little piece on Animal Talk which ended like this:

At home my wife and I talk to our cats in their language – at least the language of which we presume it is theirs, so full of arbitrary and high-handed accents and all those most dubious terms. The seldom guest in our home thinks we are crazy. The cats by the way do the same, because unknowingly we speak their language complétely false. This however they do not tell us.

The torment of the mystery of cats – to be sure that they can talk, however still to be confronted with their incessant silence. Now and then I know the moment has come. An answer will be given, at last their meowing will transit into understandable talk! Alas.

Once their time had come to be castrated, Sebastian and Abe had to be moved into their respective Portable Homes again. They were not averse, as if they had undergone the metamorphosis of sedentary into globe trotting animals.

Once at the vet, though, there came our surprise. Both Abe and Sebastian turned out to be female. A case of Trans gendering? Should I rewrite my whole series of Catalogics? Do these two need a new name?

I’ll tell you: Being a cat lover is both a blessing and a burden.

Sierksma, Haarlem 30.3.2017

EXODUS – Catalogic 5

Wisely god buries in night and darkness
what will be the result of the days to come,
and he laughs if men are more afraid
than they need be…

Horace, Odes III 29

___________________

So there it is : I’ve got to organize a second raid on the cats’ barricade, this time it will be more complex than the first one. I have to evict Sebastian and Abe from all places where they can hide and perhaps, by doing so, make it more attractive for them to return my love and make friends with me.
So this is what I plan to do: Saw wood into the right shapes and sizes so I can plank up the support beam of my court yard roof – the préau – this in such a manner that just one opening is left for them to go in and out of their alcove. A practical problem will be to keep open some little slits through which I will be able to kill the next invasion of those wood eating insects in the summer… Then, once again, I need to find the right place in the yard to lure them away with food, this time leaving me time to perform my trick of tricks.
After they have got accustomed to their new feeding and watering spot, I shall use my last prepared plank which I have equipped with a series of nails half way in and made to fit onto that last opening. On D-Day I shall put out the ladder underneath the beam, hoping the kittens are not scared by it and refuse to go to the afore mentioned feeding spot, deciding to remain hidden inside their beam.
There will of course be cruelty. For at least three days I won’t feed them, just give them water and a little milk as if they were my little prisoners. There is the risk that they will then leave me, give up their nice red chair and that beam – as well as me, their caretaker. There is also the danger that they might meet a farmer with a gun who does not love cats… But if they just stay and get really hungry, after these few days I shall put the food out and quietly wait inside the door opening of my house till the moment they choose to be real hungry.
As expected I only manage to remain cat-cruel for just one day. So already the second night I put out the food and the kittens fall for it. I keep silently waiting, then make a run for it towards the ladder under the préau where I grab the ready hammer and the prepared plank, then shoot up the ladder and bang the opening close.
After I have performed this trick I find that even in this rather threatening situation the two kittens have run back up their climbing beam and are sitting only a meter and a half away from where I had been hammering. Saved by the bell!

As the character of each cat is unique and mostly inherited from the father, and as one almost never knows a cat’s father, even for a wise catalogician like me these young ones are imponderable. I had already decided that once my wife has come over with the brother in law, she would have to do the catching and the caging as I did not expect much closer contact between me and my little friends.
But did Abe turn out to be a cozy creature! Within two days after the successful closure of their beam house he was already purring on my belly while I was having my siesta in the court yard. Sebastian was a more difficult customer, only a week before my guests arrived did he let himself be stroked for the first time, this distantly and more than two weeks after Abe let it be. So, what a difference in character!
Then again, with human loved one you also fall first for what they look like, their eyes and bodily shapes, only then character comes into play. So with cat lovers. Abe is more subdued, although when incited by Sebastian he may run amok. Sebastian, on the other hand, is always high; he seems to be a vanguard cat, whereas Abe just the agreeing type, saying to himself: “All right, let’s go wild for a while, if that’s what Sebastian wants…”
Phrased differently: Sebastian is permanently on cocaine, eyes wild, and body in an alert stance, looking for trouble or for excitement – or for both. Abe is hash tagged to Sebastian. Little Abe is a hash cat, rather in a silly way browsing nature and mankind, sort of pleasantly surprised that all this is there without precisely knowing what it is all about.

 

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From then on they circled me, climbed in trees and grew larger and larger. After the fury of food consumption there is always that short period of time in which they go completely crazy, ruining what they have left of my beautiful little flowers during their last raid, and breaking the stem of the only surviving sunflower. I observe, I am sad and I am happy at the same time, reduced to sheer far niente, as doing something while watching their activity would be senseless.

 

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Once my family had arrived in La Roche I decided to keep Sebastian with me till I would leave La Roche myself. We just bought one cage for Abe. Ever since the publication of Remco Campert’s gorgeous little book The Diary of a Pussy, a Dutchman calls these boxes Draagbare Woning – DW in short, perhaps best translated as Portable Home or PH.
Each time Campert’s Puss perceives his two servants Glasses and Trousers filling trunks and taking out the PH, she says to herself: Ah, we’re going to Frenchyland. Holidays galore.

One of the weird aspects of nature is how differently drugs affect the body. Cocaine and hash do have very dissimilar effects and one may, as I did, even characterize characters according to drugs taken – thus Sebastian Coke en Hash Abe. The drug used to make them sleep while travelling, on the other hand, tends to eliminate all distinction.
As Abe had never seen his PH before, he was somewhat scared by the contraption, but then again this did only last till the travel drug took hold on his tiny psyche. When I phoned Haarlem and asked how his emigration had evolved, I was told that he had been ‘out’ for the trip – simply a cute little body hanging inside his PH like a trapezist on his wires, or rather like a boxer against the ropes.

Thus I awaited my turn to go North, always against the flow of the cranes who autumnally wing their way South over the Brenne where I live. Simply because I cannot fly, we never met in the flesh, but whenever I perceive them, cackling and talkative high up there, I shout a friendly Hello! and thank them for warning me that time has come.

 

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Sebastian became nicer after Grey Spotted Silvery Abe had left. He started crying for his lost partner in crime. They had been a tight knit set, this now showed in the sorrow for the loss of the loved one. I was the comforter.

 

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At such moments the lack of lingual communication between cat and man is tragic and severe. Luckily this loss of Abe intensified Sebastian’s sympathy for me. Body language soothed the little beast. Whereas before it had been Abe on my belly and scurrying in front of my feet so as to make me fall, now Sebastian took over. Gentlemen’s love!

As Abe’s cage had performed as it should, I went to Le Blanc and bought a second one at the vet. The lady behind the counter looked at me as if I were a rather eccentric collector of Portable Homes. I also bought another capsule of the best. Sebastian Coke would sleep well enough during the long ride, some eight and a half hundred kilometers through France, Belgium and The Netherlands.

Desmond Morris, the renowned biologist who studied dogs and cats and human beings as if they were of the same make from the same factory assembly line, wrote amongst many other books Catwatching and Dogwatching. Julian Barnes did his own research and found that Catwatching was sold twice as well as Dogwatching. The latter was even discovered selling well at dog shows!
Barnes ponders the issue and asks himself why this is the case. Perhaps because cat-owners live in city flats with potted plants and piles of paperbacks at hand, while dog-owners live down muddy lanes miles from the nearest bookshop? Or, may be, because the dog-owner walks his dogs too often and does not have spare time to read?
I move that the true reason for this is the fact that cat watching is far more pleasant than dog watching, even by way of photographs. Period! Even when such a cat is, like my Sebastian, completely out, lying in his furry unconscious in the Portable Home placed on the floor of the car next to my gearshift.
Now and then I almost caused an accident driving the middle of this night on a desolate Autoroute to the North – absorbed for a moment in his irresistible attractiveness.
As Radiohead is singing it:

You used to be all right.
What happened?
Did the cat get your tongue…?

Sierksma, Septembre/Octobre 2017 La Roche

TRANSMIGRATION

You cannot grasp reality only by way of logic.

Dürrenmatt, The promise

__________________________

Catalogic 4

The decision has been taken. From now on I ‘won’t serve my little cats their dinner in the left barn but in the middle shed where my garden tools are stacked away. The door of the second little barn on the right, in which my mountain bike and racing bike are stored and where there is small attic ideally suited for a kitten’s hide out, will have to be shored with a hard, dried branch of hazel wood from the tree I pruned last year. That door is so skewed that the gap between wood and stone is wide enough to allow two little ones access. Can’t be.
After a few days shuttling back and forth between their hangout and their feeding place they now know exactly when food is placed there. They also know that every day, once their food is ready, I sit myself at a distance so that they don’t risk being caught. Our sympathy is, for sure, still somewhat one-sided.
Tonight, however, I shall take a different approach. A second branch of the hazel tree is waiting next to my chair which, this time, I have placed somewhat closer to the left shed, their home. Once they have gone to the garden shed for their food I jump up, throw the door of that left barn shut and also trestle this one with a stick. Cheated you, Boys!
Immediately after my retreat they come out of their feeding place to inspect what has been going on, how I’ve tricked them. I had already installed nice blankets in the food shed to make them feel at home. What more could they want?
However, now it’s me being tricked by them. When, an hour later, I enter the courtyard with my own food and sit down at the table, I hear them scurrying inside the ridge of my préau – the attractive, skewed wooden hood which rises from the low wall separating courtyard and garden, allowing me to sit outside throughout year.

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That support beam was hollowed out a long time ago by rats, wood biting insects and God knows what other vermin. The insects still return every summer, so in the end this préau will collapse. The previous owner planked up these holes with a few ornamental boards, between them however there are still slits large enough for my kittens. Not only have these two saved their own skin to relocate themselves there, they also seem to have taken their souls with them.
Migration and transmigration.
Before their departure into the wild outside of nature I need to catch those little devils, so I am now even further off from where I started. The moment I come near them they shoot up like crazy against the trunk of an acacia which I kept as a souvenir – and you never know what you can do with a piece of wood. That trunk is just visible on the left side of this photo.

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Also visible are my two treasures. Especially in this spot they are enjoying life to the brim, sometimes they sleep here at night – until I come too close and they sprint upstairs. Admittedly the cat is a domesticated animal, but only in the sense that it defines its own housing and its own interior decoration. The cat never submits to someone else’s rules.
“The cat” as a New Yorker cat therapist put it delicately, “just is a cat.” The problem with this is that the cat from a human perspective is never a normal cat, one can act in a normal way. Despite all man’s cat-love there is forever an impenetrable incompatibility of the juices.
In his Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats the poet T. S. Eliot answered a lot of questions, but precisely not the one question which is invited by its title: Is the cat practical? In other words: Is there even one cat that is practical? From a human, from a humanitarian and thus from a utilitarian perspective I would say: ‘No!’
The cat is a nuisance per se, the cat is undeniably and always impractical. From the perspective of the cat this is of course completely different. Here the cat is eminently practical, always functioning in the most effective way to enjoy a dolce far niente, occasionally interspersed by an outrageous hyperactivity.

Now, from my past infatuations I remember one thing: Before you have any certainty about the reciprocity of feelings and you do not yet know whether The Other feels the same bout you, you better not know or even give her (or him) a name.
Nameless there is still a way out. Nothing is more binding than knowing the name, especially if you gave it yourself… Once the beloved has a name, it keeps swirling through the lover’s head.
So I made sure not to name my two sweety pies. In that case I would get attached to them for good and thus could not follow the instructions of my wife in Haarlem, as far letting them become Buzzard’ Feed in Nature.
But Love itself made me forget all good intentions; perhaps it was even Eliot who pulled me over. This is what he wrote in The Naming of Cats:

But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?

This then did me in. Given the uncertainty regarding their sex, headstrong I called them Abe and Sebastian. Nevertheless, there still had to happen something drastic in order to lure them from their wooden tent. Naming them, I had now also promoted them to the status of emigrant, something I mentioned in a telephone conversation with the distant homeland. For that coming exodus ties between me and my furry friends had to be tightened, so that finally I might cage them just before their long journey in autumn.

After the unforeseen migration into the beam of my préau what is surely needed now is regular domestication, that is one about which I have something to say. Domestication comes from the Latin domus, or house. Time has come that these two find out that what is involved here is their agreement with my definition of home, not my acceptance of their interpretation of the word domus.

Assimilate! – the order of the day.

Sierksma La Roche 1 August 2016

BUZZARDS’ SNACKS

How does fate originate?
By hiding its existence. It creeps up closer, it gets used to us, and at the moment when we recognize its visage it laughs at us. It’s too late, fate whispers.

Thomas Hürlimann, The Garden Shed

_______________

With this motto of Hürlimann in mind my reader will not be surprised that I began to recognize the face of the Cheshire Cat in the visage of my two new kittens – that cat of Alice, out there in her Wonderland, its body fading, beginning with the tail, then finally only its smile in the tree visible.

 

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A smile of scorn it has become in my two kittens.

In the case of Hürlimann fate consisted of only one cat. “From behind the tombstone a miserable creature cautiously crawled out and was now looking at him with wide eyes.” The protagonist is a colonel who, with his wife, regularly visits the grave of his too young deceased son and who will from this moment on sneak food from the house and hide it for the poor animal. That woman would regard this as a desecration of her son …

My two cats know damn well that they have abused the cat love of this resident of 14 La Roche by transforming their invasion into my invitation. Moreover, this incompetent man is not able to determine whether the kittens are male or female. M/F until further notice – that is until the vet will have determined their sex.

When Saki finds that “these beautiful creatures are so fantastically assimilated into our culture, albeit maintaining their highly developed wild instincts”, he hits onto, as they say, the poodle’s core. In Goethe’s Faust the Devil disguises himself as a poodle. We now know that the poodle again disguised himself as a cat and that the cat as such must be a demonic entity.
This is an ancient belief.

That magnificence novel by Robert Menasse, Die Vertreibung aus der Hölle – Exile from Hell – begins with an Autodafe in Madrid in which the Inquisition is publicly crucifying a cat. Cat and devil are sleeping on the same pillow, have hands and paws on the same indecent belly. Meanwhile my neighbour in La Roche, Mme Besnoit now deceased, was like so many people in the country utterly terrified of cats, even without knowing of their ancient bond.

There has been research done about the link between cat, plague and this delusion of faith. The name of this historian I have unfortunately forgotten, but he should be awarded the Nobel Prize for History – if it would exist.

He found a tight link between the eradication of cats at the time of the European Inquisition and the outbreak of the plague. People killed off cats en masse. That disease is, as we now know from medical research, always insidiously present. However, when man removed its natural enemy – the cat – from its natural cycle that rat ran amok and got free reign to invade the towns. The plague was the result.

 

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Pest boils on the body of Grünewald’s Crucified Christ

This close relationship between cat and devil you will also find in James Joyce’s story The Cat and the Devil, probably an apocryphal narrative from France which he rewrote for his grandson. In it, the Devil promises the mayor of Beaugency to build, without costs, a bridge over the river. However on one condition: the soul of the first one to cross that bridge would belong to him.

The mayor tricked the Devil, as once did that man in Bergman’s The 7th Seal who overturned the chessboard on which he was playing a match with the Evil One. This in the hope that He would forget about his family who would in the mean time be fleeing.

 

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The Devil laughed sneeringly, showing of his splendid memory by agonizingly slowly putting the pieces back on the board in precisely their former position. In the time it takes Him to do this, in their covered wagon the man’s family is disappearing on the horizon behind which the Devil can no longer reach them.

In Joyce’s story the mayor of Beaugency takes a cat on his arm. “The animal looked at the mayor, as cats in the town of Beaugency had the right to look at the mayor.” When the cat had enough of observing his mayor, it began to play with the man’s chain but the mayor had now come at the bridge’s end. “He put the cat down on it, and before anyone knew what was happening, he threw – splash! – a whole bucket of water over the cat.” The beast, like a hare, ran across the bridge toward Devil and jumped into His arms..

 

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Call it with Goethe: des Pudels Kern – the pointe of the story.

 

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So now I feed my little loves who will soon have to find their place in this wide, wide world. Buzzard Food…

 

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Every day I begin to feel a little bit more like a devil. I also have the impression that those two have a vague suspicion of this. However, this may be a projection from a very bad conscience.
First however, I still need to drive them out of my, I mean: their garden shed, which in itself requires a devilish plan.

Sierksma, La Roche 31.7/2016

CATS GALORE

CATALOGIC 2

Early morning, two days after the longest one, there is total crisis in La Roche. Only a fortnight ago, on that other Longest Day, we celebrated the Allied Invasion of France which rid us of the Krauts, les Boches or what have you. Great day.

Now there is another kind of invasion, if not a tsunami. This time: cats! Instead of one Shandy Grisaille, there were suddenly three cats in my yard. Shandy turns out to be one hell of a proud mother with two kittens. So that’s why, when cuddling her, I had felt these little pinpoints. Tits! Yet, so dry that only looking back could I define them as such. Besides, I am a decent man. So dried out this mother must have been…

And so right had been my British friend who had indeed spotted one of these two cat children some days ago. Catalogical all this.

I instantly collapsed, went straight to bed and put the covers over my head. After two hours in this position my first decision was to pack up, leave a note for the British friend and race back to Haarlem in The Netherlands. Too many troubles on my mind, and now this…

Of course this felt like a coward, not so much trooping my colours as fleeing from them. Thus, in a fit of downright despondency, still in bed and feeling wasted, I phoned my wife in The North. I never use my cell phone, which is only there to check on whether me mum has died, in which case I have to return to The North. Now I was even using the damned machine in bed. My wife is cat wise and I was also in need of some serious support. She gave me unpleasant guidance, counsel I did not expect from her. Perhaps, though, also encouraging this coward.

“Have the mother sterilised; wait a while, then have the two little ones ‘helped’; feed the set and put them out in nature where they will have to fend for themselves; after all, there are millions of wild cats doing the same thing…” So: Buzzard’s fodder…

 

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One of Siné’s cats

 

After this sermon I turned into jelly. My physical as well as mental condition was not fit to cope with both cats and the wife’s suggestions. So I stayed in bed some more, miserably pondering existence in general as well as mine in particular. I had nightmares while awake, telling myself the story of the Cheshire Cat over and over again, the animal now disappearing in the buzzard’s beak. Then I began to shiver with an outside temperature of 34 degrees Celsius.

Then I began to feed the whole menagerie, having turned into a triple bigamist because Love did befall me. The mother and her two kittens became the centre of my universe. Not, however, without now and then cursing the bastard who must have dropped these three into my hameau because he wanted to go on holiday with his family… I was split in two, not fit for the enormous responsibility, also feeling a victim while at the same time considering myself blessed with these three.

Then, for a full 24 hours, they were gone, not however after leaving my beautiful gravel paths as their cat’s box: shit galore, mixed with those little stones, it won’t take long before I have to order new ones…

Then, still not having seen them, suddenly their food was gone. Somewhat later I hear them eating inside the barn. The mother, however, seems to be lost. That famous mother love appears to be no longer than a finger. Again they have chosen my left shed as their new house. A mystery, those cats – is what they say. I think they’re stupid.

Still, I have to continue with my noisy little jobs, cutting the grass, repairing the mower – and that sort of things. At such moments no cats are to be seen.

 

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The next day I see them peep at me from out of the shed. Four little eyes out of two small furry balls, observing me like I was the Martian. I behave quietly, sit myself in the court yard and have them get accustomed to this customer. Ethology – the study of animal behaviour – is what I wanted to read in university before I finally became a would-be social philosopher.

If they do not come to consider me as their companion, how will I ever ‘catch them’, let only cuddle these awfully nice furry friends?

I feel more and more an animal myself, all is turning into a beastly carnival. Last night, suddenly aware that I did not refresh their water and milk, I went out of bed into the dark night and did so. Back in bed I found that, unwittingly, I had brought back with me a bunch of ants into my bed. Damn them – and the kittens!

That very moment of cursing my new addition to the menagerie I also thought about the fact that since I have become the guardian of my new cats I did not put out new rat poison, this being to dangerous for the little ones. Would I also have visits again from specimens of that species?

What needs to be done is teasing them out of that shed into the garden shed. However, I have now found out that there is a rather large space between the wall and the high cupboard which I installed in there to put away paint, brushes and other stuff. That is where they sneak away when I arrive. I am not able to get behind that cupboard any longer. They have their hide out inside their hide out…

So one day, I shall have to seduce them with food placed further away in the court yard to then, suddenly, make my move, close the shed’s door and barricade it. Christ – my daily existence is now completely determined by either cat activities or cat pondering. I am not myself, have started to think like a cat and thus run the danger of becoming one.

Although, danger? I once wrote that, in my next life, I would not mind returning as a cat. But of such things one thinks while writing, romancing that is.

Their mum, Shandy Grisaille, seems to have gone for good. One fears the worst.

Sierksma 6/30 June 2016