Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 118

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Friday - Sunday, October 16 - 18 2009 (diary)

Somehow it appears to be always on or just before a weekend that I have a car mishap or breakdown, so that I can do very little but wait for the following Monday to arrive. To make up for this week's broken windscreen last Tuesday I therefore get a tyre failure on my way back from Friday night's (cancelled) bridge evening. A piece of rubber is ripped out off my left rear tyre just a few kms before reaching home. So Saturday I order a new tyre, but the order can not be processed until Monday and it will probably take the best part of a week to arrive. Well, I just have to live with that.

Cover of 'The Seville Communion' On an entirely different note :
As we grow older it increasingly feels as if our memories become more important than our life itself. Something to this effect is expressed in Arturo Pérez-Reverte's novel The Seville Communion (a wonderful book by a brilliant Spanish writer) I am reading at present.

I have never really thought about this before but believe there is a lot of truth in that, certainly in my case, especially since I have moved into my 70s. And I believe this is not a bad thing either.
It can be good and beneficial, as one moves into the final phase of one's life, to reflect and contemplate on one's life and memory flashbacks are one way to activate and stimulate that. Sometimes a tiny thing, even a single word, can trigger a memory in one's mind, like for example the brief appearance of a bootblack (shoe shine boy) in the novel I mentioned above.

I have never seen a young shoe shine boy in Spain when I worked there as a Geology student way back in the late 50s and early 60s. They were never young boys then but always much older adult professional "bootblacks" (often selling lottery tickets as well) who roamed the city streets for business.

I remember one sunny Sunday morning in Santiago de Compostela (in Galicia in NW Spain and about 30 km South of my fieldwork area at the time) when I was sitting on the terrace of a city Cafe drinking a "vermouth con sell" (vermouth with soda water). It was probably during the city's annual, month long Fiesta Mayor. A bootblack walked past and I asked him to polish my shoes. He sat down on his little stool, put my foot on his footstand-toolbox and proceeded with his job.
After he had finished and I had paid him I, on an sudden impulse, asked him to sit in my chair while I would polish his boots. Too surprised to think about this he obliged while I sat down on his little stool and to the best of my ability imitated the service he had just provided for me. After I had finished he got up, gave me a great smile and walked down the street, stopping every 10 paces or so to look down and admire his now shiny boots.

As this silly story flashes back into my mind while reading Arturo's novel, it suddenly occurs to me that this brief quirky event reveals in a rather unusual but deep meaningful way who I am and always have been.

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Monday & Tuesday, October 19 & 20 2009 (diary)

It is rather hot these last few days, close to or right on 40°C, and I drink lots of fluids throughout the day, fruit juices, vegetable juices, soft drinks, even milk. The night temperatures however are very agreeable, dropping down to around 20°C or just below that. My new tyre was supposed to be at the garage today, but of course was not. When it will arrive is anybody's guess.

Movie poster for 'The Fencing Master' I am on an Arturo Perez-Reverte reading kick at present and now well into my third novel of his. They are an interesting mixture of adventure-love-detective stories set in Spain with lots of relevant historical data thrown in.

The first book I read of his, The Fencing Master (set in mid 19th Century Madrid) features a male-female relationship which reverberates strongly with me. It portrays the (used but unreturned) love of a fencing master in his mid sixties for a young (mid twenties) beautiful and very intelligent woman with great fencing skills, who he reluctantly takes on as his only female student.
The fencing master is a very honourable and sensitive man and although he falls ever deeper in love with the young woman he restrains his feelings because of his old age. Perez-Reverte describes these feelings and contradictory emotions extraordinary well, and they reflect to a considerable degree my own feelings for women at this stage in my life.

With me the emotions (how wonderful) are still there, but they too (like the fencing master's) are restrained by the awareness of a body in physical decline and an increasingly selfish mind. These two moral "fences" are surrounding the core of my emotional feelings with a halo of nostalgia and (yes) considerable regret. But this is a phase of life any sensitive single man I believe will experience and to some extent even cherish. Can these fences still be breached ? Perhaps, one never really knows.

Interestingly in all three of Arturo's novels I have read so far it is the man (a fencing master, a sophisticated Roman Catholic priest and a rough sailor) who in each case is the emotional, sensitive, idealist hero, but set against a rational, pragmatic, even ruthless (Spanish) female heroine.

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