CULTURE AND NATURE
THE square in front of the book shop was full of windmills. Different colours,
shapes and sizes to fit every conceivable windmill-taste.
The windmill is to the German garden as the gnome to the British, although
at least there were not yet any fishing windmills. Despite the slight breeze
they were motionless, except for a few rotating with uncanny regularity driven
by their electric motors.
From being a source of energy the windmill has been converted into a means
of wasting it.
In one corner elaborate electrical preparations with microphone, wires, speakers
and amplifiers were taking place, promising enough watts for an ox-roast.
The beer seller was already busy as the tables and seats filled with a waiting
audience. Men blew on mikes and counted eins, zwei, drei.
This was a folk event, and an old lady in some traditional fishwife's costume
was shelling and selling shrimps, her worn fingers quick with years of practise,
but still proud to show her skill to some young girls, and laughing at their
Then on tripped the "Jolly Sailor Boys", a group neatly
got up in some cross between ethnic fishervolk and sailor suits, to
perform a species of nautical barbershop, more or less accompanied by an accordion
and lukewarm applause from the crowd.
The beer however was cold and cheap and a necessary anaesthetic. I slipped
off round the corner only to collapse laughing in front of the pet store at
the sight of a hamster caged in a miniature Wild West Saloon. I can almost
swear that he was wearing a Deputy's badge and gun.
IN the Indian Village, Joseph bought a head-dress and feather from the Indian
Chief. Crow perhaps, I thought, the feather that is, for the closest the Indian
had approached the prairies was probably Hamburg (or Homburg?). But even there
they say How!
Later on that same day at the wild-life park we watched the peacock displaying
his wares to a bored peahen who had so obviously seen it all before. We were
more impressed, and Joseph gained his second feather; a peacock's, its eye
yellow-green and brown and blue-green and a deepest indigo and magic.
THE Wild West Train had just dieseled out as we stepped across its track into
the Fairy Tale Wood and along the pointlessly sinuous path through the densely
Pausing at a series of small sheds, children fought to press buttons to illuminate
the tableaux, start the tinny music and jerk the occasional puppet into unconvincing
Babes in the Wood, Hansel and Gretel, Snow White and all
their cronies waited woodenly to be slightly animated for our benefit.
Eventually we managed to escape, fingers unpricked, unkissed by frogs and
unenchanted, just in time to rush up the hill past the chair lift to nowhere,
the shooting gallery and the side-shows to an afternoon snack included in
our excursion ticket,
As we tucked into our few thousand calories of cream cakes and coffee, hundreds
of pairs of dead eyes watched us from the doleful brown and khaki walls, the
horns and antlers of the hunters' grisly hauls.
Perhaps here we were nearer to what the woods were really about. No fairy
tale, but what was once an activity essential for survival turned by progress
and civilisation into a cruel, unnecessary sport.
All pictures and text © Peter Marshall, 1985, 1997