Sunday, December 25, 2011

Luftschliffe For Christmas

Meeta teased me a bit in the run up to Xmas this year, with little dropped lines like "If something arrives in the post from Germany, don't open it, OK?"  As if I'd open something addressed to her, I had replied. "I know ... just saying."  Later it was "gee I realy hope this thing arrives from Germany in time for Xmas" the inference being, since I am aware of all our gift-giving (or not) arrangements that this was something for me.

"I've bought you porn for Xmas". Again, there's an important assumption here.  The mutual knowledge that such things as are usually connoted by 'porn' do not float my boat and are in any case held in extreme general distaste by Meeta  coupled with our casual use of 'porn' as a denoter of visually-pleasing collections of imagery of a variety of subject matters meant that I could start to begin to wonder what sort of subject area she was referring to.  The double-entendre continued with the affixation of "... it's German porn."

I did indeed remove from our mailbox, on the 23rd of December, the last mail delivery day prior to Christmas, a smallish parcel, weighted and sized to suggest something possibly paperbackish, but in a larger format.  And heavier.  Yet it bent like side-bound paper goods do; in one axis, and not the other.  Must be a book.  "Excellent ... but that's only half.  Weird that the other half didn't arrive the same day".

Cometh the day, today.  Over the preceding weeks we've posted off a few choice hopefully well-curated little gifts and cards for friends and family, and yesterday we had a small family gathering with Meeta's youngest brother, his wife and our niece.  There was much good food, and some gift-swapping, and child's play in a little inflatable pool in the shade on a perfect summer's day.  This morning, with the neighbours all away, another of the very best and most amenable sorts of early summer's days ahead, it was to be just us.  Special presents under the tree.  'German porn' presumably included.

About ten days ago, in a quiet relationship moment - one of those long companionable silences in a home where two people have a comfortable love - I ventured that it seemed I would make another Christmas, as I was feeling both grateful, and a tad wistful.  We shared a Look.  It is great, we silently decided, that life has given us this Christmas together.  And that is all.  Remembrance of that close shave those few months ago now, that rapid, lurching, brutal veer toward the edge of my mortality and the subsequent climb back out has lost its anxiety already; replaced with a far more ever-present sense of acceptance that at any day now, it could (and probably will) happen again, without a physical redemption, perhaps, the next time. Our Look says that we can never really know what it's like for the other, but that we're as close to knowing as two people could be.  And that it's OK, because we have this one bright spot, whenever we remember it, right here, now.  And we can share in it, in a way.  This is a deep and abiding human comfort.  Possibly the best and most honest thing a couple can ever have, I think.

Up early, Christmas greetings exchanged.  The house is all lovely and shiny and clean and pregnant with delights in wrapping paper and fun with giving the dogs their new toys.  But first -:  have a feed, water the garden bits, put on a special loaf of bread for my beloved so it's hot and ready at lunchtime.  Reflect on giving, and gratitude at our amazingly lucky lives.  A hug and a Look, or two.  But eventually, we run out of excuses to prolong the titillation any longer, and we gleefully disburse Santa's bounty upon our furry four-legged family members.  They are most pleased.  To us, then.

First, I am instructed to open a certain smallish present, as this is one that she's just a tad unsure of whether I'll love it completely or maybe think it's a bit ... I don't know, something.  The least hard act to follow, I suppose, was the idea.  As it turned out, I love it. You are so not getting a list.

We took turns, and I was pointed at a parcel looking very like the dimensions of the aforementioned item from the mail.

Anyway ...

 ..... zeppelins.  It's even a satisfying word just to type.  Zeppelins.  There, I did it again.  Try saying it.  Feels nice too.  If ever there were to be a word to define and encompass the Middle European aesthetic from the first few decades of the 20th century then zeppelin would be it.

I love the things, but it's a weird, selective love; one which I have not ever interrogated or given much (or any, come to think of it) thought over the years.  It's just been there.

Massive sky penises? (There's that porn thing again).

Could it be that simple?  Is it just some odd primal masculinity-objectification worship being projected; a tantalizing blend of the purposeful shape with utter enormity yet a refined, redeeming lightness and grace?  Just a muscle-car fetish for a retro-machine geek?  Maybe, but who cares.  My favourites are those produced at the peak of the mania back in the mid 1930s like the Graf Zeppelin and Hindenburg.  I never really went for later models, and certainly not faux-zeppelin things like the Goodyear blimps.  And it was always the German ones I liked best, aesthetically.  My very favourite "if you could travel back in time...." fantasy is travelling on the Graf Zeppelin; doing the South America run in particular.

Imagine my delight then, when the item from Germany turns out to be a beautifully-printed catalogue from a specialist auction house in Nuremburg with their massive annual zeppelin-related auction stuff.  Amazing things like letters and postcards, posters, brochures, and of course objects.  Old collectable zeppelin toys and models but then also Precious Things, like bits of the LZ 129 Hindenburg both from its early service years and salvaged after what the dual-language catalogue refers to as The Lakehurst Disaster.  Pieces of other zeppelins of the era, sections of struts and spars, gears, steering wheels, wine lists, teas services, zeppelin equipment ... anything you can think of that might have been on or is in any way related to zeppelins.  In this lusciously printed book.

How incredibly well my wife knows me, I think.  And how creative a gift was this to find (the 'other half' is another such catalogue but from this last year, the first one I have now is from 2010's auction).  I am glad (given our bank balance and the temptations) that their auctions are held in early December.  Who knows, maybe I'll be here for next year's ....... but porn indeed.  Glorious, fascinating looking and reading, and no-one else in the world would have known that I would totally have dug this gift.  No-one.

I'm not into the crash-porn aspects of zeppelin collectordom and I admit to a certain suspicion of one who might only covet a section of torn and burned Hindenburg outer skin or a twisted piece of spar from the wreckage, you know, ghoulish folk.  But then, the spars and pulleys and all that amazing manufactory is incredibly aesthetically appealing just in and of itself. I also note the very careful language used in the preface to the catalogue about anyone purchasing any object related to the "III Reich" does so only for interest and educative purposes (it is a long disclaimer to dissociate the vendors from any Nazi collectors you see).  I find the swastika on the pictures of the gorgeous airships like the Graf a little sad, personally, but it doesn't ruin the thing for me.  It's honest, they were forcibly leveraged by Hitler's National Socialists for propaganda of the "Germany Is Soooo Great, OK?" kind.  I'm not going to analyze myself and my love for all things airshippy from 20s and 30s Germany today, anyway; perhaps another time.  I'm just going to enjoy it.

But wait, it gets better.  You see, next I unwrapped this t-shirt:

So all that lightness and love I invited in has come aplenty this year, and I thank you each and every one of you. Even if you're brand new to this blog and we never met before this moment, I thank you, for you are part of the world I so adore being so palpably a part of today.  I hope your seasonal rituals and rites bring you even half as much depth of light and contentment as I have been brought to today, for that would be an awesome day in itself.

Happy Luftschiff Christmas.  Love to you and yours. <3

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