Archive for the month “November, 2016”

“Rapunzel, Rapunzel…

… let down your hair.”

Another story claimed by the Brothers Grimm, who published it in 1812.  However, it transpires that the good brothers stole the story from someone called Friedrich Schulz who published it in 1795.

Schultz in turn stole the story from one Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force (What a brilliant name.  I think I’m going to change my name to Robert de la Force!)  The good Charlotte-Rose published the story in 1698 and even she stole it from an earlier version published in 1634 by one Giambattista Basile.

(On reflection, I think I want to be know henceforth as Giambattista de Caumont de la Force.  How cool would that be?)

Anyway…. for those who don’t know the story, poor Rapunzel taken away from her poor parents as a baby by a wicked witch, who, for reasons that we can only guess at, locked her up in a very high tower in the middle of a deep, dark forest.  The tower had no door that could be accessed from below.

The baby grew up into a beautiful young maiden with long blond hair  – as they all did in those days – and whenever the wicked witch wanted to visit Rapunzel, the poor girl would have to let down her hair so that the witch could climb up her golden tresses.


Well, as often happens in these stories, a passing prince, discovers the beautiful Rapunzel in her tower and learns the witch’s secret.  One night, he presents himself in front of the tower, calls out “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let down your hair”, climbs up the proffered tresses and makes the acquaintance of the lovely Rapunzel.

(It should perhaps be noted at this point that the Grimm Brothers’ original description of the ‘acquaintance-making’ that took place between the Prince and the imprisoned maiden had to be re-written a number of times so that it did not inflame the senses of some of their more impressionable readers.)

Anyway, skirting over some of the more unseemly details of the story, it did, eventually, have happy ending, despite the blinding of the Prince and the unexpected pregnancy of the maiden.  Hey, it’s a Grimm fairy tale.  There has to be some serious suffering at some point in the story!

So why am I telling you all this?  Because on our recent visit to Germany we visited Wasserschloss Mespelbrunn, which, as you will see, is where you can find the actual tower that the actual maiden was locked in by the actual witch – or at least that is what the tour guide told us!

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Originally a hunting lodge, Schloss Mespelbrunn is now one of germany’s main tourist attractions, nestling, as it does, in the sprawling Spessart Forest, not far from Frankfurt am Main.




With its impressive gate and baronial hall, the Schloss is well worth a visit, but what makes it special is the fact that it is set on the side of an ornament lake…. and …




… and……. it has the actual tower where Rapunzel was locked away before she was rescued by her Handsome, if somewhat reckless, Prince.





The very enthusiastic guide who showed us around told us that the Brothers Grimm actually stayed at the Schloss Mespelbrunn at some point, so the whole story must be true, mustn’t it?



It’s Grimm down south.

I told faithful readers in a previous blog essay that we had recently visited the little town of Lohr in Northern Bavaria, where I had seen the latest development in rubbish collection that seemed to be making ‘manpower’ a thing of the past.

What I omitted to mention was just how pretty a little town Lohr is, well, parts of it, anyway.  The town nestles in the gentle, green valley of the River Main, in an area of Germany known as ‘Franken’, which produces a delightful, dry white wine that you rarely see outside the area.

To judge by the town centre, Lohr hasn’t changed much in hundreds of years.  Except, that is, for the huge Rexroth/Bosch hydraulics factory that sits, cheek by jowl, with the narrow cobbled streets, quaint coffee shops and original timber-framed houses.  Well, people have got to have jobs!

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But don’t be fooled.  The town centre is delightful – even on a cloudy day in October.


And the various businesses seem to compete with each other to show who has the best wrought-iron sign outside their shops to tempt in the passing customers.






But apart from its hydraulics factory and its pretty town centre, what is Lohr famous for?

Well, let me introduce the Brothers Grimm.


Both of these gentlemen were serious academics with several dictionaries and a number of weighty tomes about the history of the German language to their credit.  However, they are better known to everyone today as the authors of fairy stories such as Sleeping Beauty, Rumplestiltskin and Snow White.

Actually, none of these stories was was entirely original.  Most of them had existed in folklore and legend for hundreds of years.  The Brothers Grimm just wrote them down in an accessible form in collections of stories for children.  Well, a man’s got to eat!

Many of stories had to be rewritten several times in order to soften their impact on the delicate psyches of young German children.  Some of the earlier version were considered too blood-thirsty and graphic for young sensibilities. For example, in one version, it was Snow White’s actual mother, not a wicked step-mother, who sent her into the forest to be killed by the soft-hearted huntsman. She instructed the hapless hunter to bring back Snow White’s lungs and liver for her to eat!

And the descriptions  of a sexual relationship between Sleeping Beauty and her handsome Prince were soon consigned to the cutting room floor!  ( I always had my suspicions about that Prince!)

Nevertheless, the legend of Snow White lives on and the good burghers of Lohr are very happy to defend the town’s claim to be the birthplace of a story that, thanks to the efforts of a certain Mr Disney from American, has taken its place at the heart of Western popular culture


Roughly translated as “This is where the Fairy Story began…  In 1986 it was proved that Snow White came from Lohr.”  There was then a long explanation that justified Lohr’s claim to be the birthplace of Snow White and her Seven Dwarfs, but if you want to read that, you’ll just have to go and visit Lohr. You won’t be disappointed.





A bit of Brexit, perhaps?

During our recent trip to Germany, I saw this sign in a big department store.


I wondered if we mono-lingual Brits are already being punished for our perverse Brexit decision.  Or, worse still, have we just become irrelevant?

I have seen the future….

… and it’s a bit scary.

I was in Germany a couple of weeks ago.

Now Germany is famous for being way ahead of the rest of Europe when it comes to recycling.  Households are obliged, by law, to separate out their rubbish into glass, plastics, paper and so on, and can even be fined if they don’t do so. Nothing new about that.  They’ve been doing it for years, ever since the Green Party held the balance of power in government.

The Germans also have a bit of a reputation for being well organised and tidy.  Also nothing new.

And guess what?  They have the same kinds of wheelie bins for their household rubbish as we do.


So why am I telling you all this?

Well, there we were driving around a well-to-do suburb in a town called Lohr in northern Bavaria and it was rubbish collection day.  The wheelie bins were neatly arranged in pairs on the pavement and along came the truck to collect them.

Now this happens in Brighton every week and as the truck makes its way slowly down the road, the ‘refuse disposal operatives’, or the dustmen as we used to call them, follow on behind, attaching our wheelie bins onto a hydraulic lift which tips them into the  back of the truck.  They then return our empty bins and put them back, roughly, where they found them.

Not in Lohr they don’t.  The only human being involved in the collection operation was the driver of the truck.  A huge hydraulic arm came out from the truck, grabbed the two neatly placed bins and emptied them into the back of the truck.  Then the truck moved on to the next pair of bins and eventually disappeared over the hill and away. A gang of three or four  had been replaced by a mechanical arm.

But how, I hear you ask, does the driver know whether the householder is observing the recycling regulations?  Answer: The whole operation is monitored by CCTV within the cab of the truck!

We are already well used to getting our money out of a cash machine in the wall of the bank instead of walking in and talking to a human being.  We are starting to get used to paying for our groceries at an automatic scanning machine in the supermarket and we think of it as progress.  The question is, where are the jobs going to come from to fill the time and support the families of the people who have traditionally done this work?

And how long will it be before the driver of the refuse truck in Lohr is replaced by a driverless vehicle?

As I said, a bit scary, eh?



The nights are drawing in.

One of the less agreeable things about being back in the UK after our adventures in  South Sudan and then in Papua New Guinea is the fact that, at this time of year we see less and less of the sun.  We haven’t even reached the shortest day yet, but already the sun doesn’t come up until after 7.30am and by 4.30 pm it’s dark.  The autumn leaves are falling and the air is getting colder.  It feels like the year is closing down.

We just have to get used to the very short days and look forward to next March when we will start to notice each day getting a little bit longer than the day before as the daffodils start to break through the earth and  the spring starts to arrive.

So, in order to bring a bit colour into this increasingly colourless time of year I thought I would share some pictures that I took during a walk though a small park in Lewes a few weeks ago.  I hope you like them.







Roll on the spring, I say.


Oops! Forgot this one.


Bizarre, huh?


And it was all going so well…

Faithful followers of this blog might remember my mentioning, from time to time, that there was a certain amount of work required on our house when we finally took it back from the tenants after twelve years.

Please excuse my hollow laugh at the mention of ‘a certain amount of work’  There was, in fact, a massive amount of redecoration, refurbishment, refitting  and repair needed to make the place habitable and, more to the point, to make it feel like ‘our place’ again.

Since April, we have gone through a mountain of sandpaper, miles of masking tape, endless rolls of wallpaper, gallons of paint and untold litres of white spirit.  I have been up and down the stepladder so often that I have lost eight kilos in weight and have the calf muscles of an Olympic athlete.

Linda has taken so many carfuls of rubbish to the local tip that they are planning to invite her to the Christmas party and organise a reunion sometime next year.

The old kitchen came out and the new one was installed.  The garden jungle was hacked down. The entire house was re-wired.  Gradually we moved from room to room endlessly sanding down, undercoating, top-coating, filling in holes and wallpapering.  There were times when we thought it would never end.

But suddenly, there was only the back bedroom to do.  Just one more room!  We were nearly there.  There was light at the end of the tunnel.

Have you ever seen one of those gangster movies where the notorious bank robber falls in love with the pretty lady and decides, after a life of crime, to go straight  – after just one more job?   And that is, of course, the job that goes wrong.  The criminal is arrested and sent to jail so that the Hollywood yin and yang can be brought back into balance and we can all go home reassured that justice has been done. Well, the back room was our final bank job.

The light at the end of the tunnel was attached to the oncoming train!

As soon as we started stripping the wallpaper of one of the walls, disaster struck!  Great chunks of the wall started to come away and we learned, at first hand, how walls in Victorian times were made not of bricks but of ‘lath and plaster’.


These ‘laths’ has not seen the light of day since 1896 when the house was built.

We were in big trouble! This was not a job for a ‘bodger’ like me. I had already tried to repair the large indentation just to the left of the light switch, (see white patch in the picture below), where a previous tenant had tried to deal with his anger management issues by punching a hole in the wall.


This new catastrophe needed someone who knew what he was doing, so I reached for the phone.

It’s amazing how many plasterers don’t answer their phones and don’t respond to hysterical cries for help left on their voicemails.  Finally I got hold of Geoff to whom I poured out my heart.

Moved by my desperate plight and incessant sobbing, Geoff’s heart softened and he agreed to come along – on a Sunday morning, no less,- to repair and replaster our wall.


Four hours later, we had a new wall.


Geoff says that it’ll dry by Tuesday.  Good ol’ Geoff!  You’re a star!





and these…



and even a wall full of dogs.


Then a wall full of monster


and whatever this was supposed to be.


It was at this point that I decided to draw a line under my attempt to document the entire range of street art to be found in Brighton.  Believe me, there is plenty more to be found.  However, there is a limit to the amount of time that you can spend hanging around the backstreets of the city with a camera in your hand before you either get propositioned, beaten up or somebody calls the police.


And then there’s this.


Street art for all moods.

Sometimes it’s serious…


Sometimes it’s serene…


and sometimes it’s downright bizarre.



… but it’s never boring.


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