With roughly more than seven decades between the beginning and now, one has to allow for some discrepancies on this heap of memories. The order and dates might not be exact but the events are true. One might also have to allow that the events are somewhat embellished to make them more readable or perhaps even enjoyable. A French polished table doesn’t make it less or more of a table if presented in raw oak. The specimen of my life is not any different from the multitudes of other lives. It is also not any more unique in its minutia than those other lives of this world. I write what I feel was important. But the nature of writing an autobiography implies a certain amount of egoism. I do it to continue with my life as I have in the past. Keep myself off the street. I enjoy the confessional part of it, but also realize it is a race against time with the inevitability of those final last words that befalls all of us. The pole vaulting days are over but writing about it makes solid the past. A kind of coagulation of a mishmash of memories rusted onto the years gone by. The words as yet not said do remain ringing.
The school that our daughter went to was about a ten minutes bicycle ride along a sweet little country lane into the small town. She used to come home for lunch and go off again for afternoon lessons. At no stage did we even contemplate that there were dangers of traffic or bad people prowling about. Children getting to school on their own was the norm. At least in The Netherlands. It was idyllic. Even in the country, no distance seemed beyond a ride on a bicycle. No helmets were worn either. All was safe and there were bicycle path separating riders from cars. We had sheep, chickens and a pregnant Shetland pony. What could one ask for more?
One winter morning there was a furious tapping on our bedroom window. Our bedroom was at the front of the farm overlooking the meadow in which the sheep and pony grazed. It was our neighbour. He was a serious farmer unlike us. “You have a foal, Gerard.” “Get up and hang the afterbirth” he said. Of course it wasn’t in those words. The dialect in the area we lived in was as unlike Dutch as Scottish is from English, or Welsh from Irish. Is there some unwritten law that men respond to tapping on bedroom windows and not the female? In any case, it had snowed outside and our bed was warm. Even so, I did admire and liked our neighbour’s care for our pony. He had already told us it looked she might un-pack at any moment. I got out of bed and went outside just wearing slippers and a morning coat. Indeed there was this lovely little foal barely able to stand up and take its first suckle.
Sorry for the B/W picture only. It was a triptych painted in acrylic..
I don’t know why an afterbirth had to be hung up from a tree away from ground hugging predators such a canny fox or, indeed a wolf or bear. It was a tradition steeped in folklore and we apparently had chosen our farm in a village that were the harbingers and last owners of some very ancient habits which must not be disregarded. We, after all were living here as strangers and really almost imposters more than traditional owners and had to tread carefully with respect to keeping their traditions. I stumbled about found the afterbirth and flung it over the large elm next to the farm house. Both mother and baby Shetland were doing fine. Our neighbours were happy too.