THE WEB OF LIFE
WE were in a floating restaurant in Hamburg. Appropriately
it was a fish restaurant. Since I don't care for fish - eating them that is
- you may ask what I was doing having lunch there.
Well, there are times when a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do in the
service of peace, quiet and marital bliss, although currently the quiet was
under heavy attack from some excessively leaden oom-pa-pa Muzak.
On my plate a spicy aromatic sauce was struggling hopelessly to overpower
the nauseating amine overtones of an oily coelacanth.
You'll understand how I felt if you've ever travelled overnight via Harwich
for the continent, ten hours bouncing on a North Sea storm to arrive at a
bleary Hook to find that the Boat Train has just this minute left because
the ship was so late, so you all have to squeeze together in a very smart
but very small blue and yellow local stopping everywhere service along the
side of the estuary to Rotterdam.
The line passes an unnaturally neat chemical plant, so neat that you can
imagine you are travelling on a model railway layout, but the whole neighbourhood
is enveloped in a perpetual miasma, a synthetic putrefaction now resembling
rotten fruit, now decomposing carcasses, which invades to produce a tautness
and throbbing between your temples.
Edging the site are rows of model Dutch houses lived in by model Dutch people,
their faculties no doubt cauterised by constant exposure, every pore and organ
saturated with the oily stench. Here too was surely the water from which this
fish had been plucked, for the olfactory danger signal reaching me from it
was distinctly in the same register. Fortunately -what happened next absolved
me from any obligation to eat it.
We were suddenly surrounded by a troop of senior citizens in full gear -
hats, lederhosen, dirndls, the lot (the complete compulsory dress for almost
any German TV show) and obviously all set for a great day out.
Photographs and text by Peter Marshall
photography and writing are necessarily
Any resemblances in this work to actual people places or events
are simply resemblances
Soon their tables were head high with steins and great steaming plates and
tureens, waitresses at the double to the repeated cry "more potatoes,
more potatoes!" & cutlery and reserve were abandoned in a furious
stampede of eating and drinking.
We quickly paid our bill and ran for the door, making dry land just in time
as the weight of the meal capsized and sank the restaurant. Linda reached
for her hanky; there was nothing else we could do. A few handbags and hats
floated to the surface among the bubbles and debris as nature red in tooth
and fin got down to feeding in their turn of the food chain.
A simple illustration of one of nature's many cycles.
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All pictures and text © Peter Marshall, 1985, 1997