No More Pencils

Not even waving

It’s All Connected

First published 31 Jul 2013

I remember sitting by the side of a field years ago and gently unfurling a leaf. Inside the curled up leaf there was an orange, slightly translucent earwig with nasty-looking pincers.

I opened more leaves and there were more earwigs. Some leaves had several earwigs tucked inside them.

Wriggling, segmented, translucent orange insects with big pincers were not top of my list for beauty and I remember thinking that the earwigs were invaders.

That was in the days when I saw everything as disconnected.

And yet I saw myself as a keen nature lover. I often went out and looked at birds and trees and plants and fungi and insects, and at just about everything from the clouds to the sea to the earth and the rocks.

I could see myself as a keen nature lover and yet dislike certain parts of it.

That wasn’t so strange, was it? After all, some parts of nature are definitely unpleasant for humans if they come in contact with them.

But taking myself out of the picture, it was also true that I saw nature as disconnected.

Now, over the years I have come to see that the leaf depends on the earwig and the earwig depends on the leaf.

I see that there will be something – a microbe, a bacterium, a process – something that dictates that the balance is preserved as long as there are leaves for earwigs to curl up in, and earwigs for leaves to curl around.

I see that the balance will be broken if there are no earwigs. If that happens then somewhere down the line there will not be any leaves.

I Wailed At The Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem

In about 1996 I went to Yad Vashem – the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem.

I queued for a ticket, and in front of me there was a young couple. Neither was Jewish but from the conversation I made out that the young woman’s father or maybe her grandfather was one of the righteous gentiles who had helped Jews during the war.

Apparently he was commemorated in the museum and the woman in the ticket booth explained to the young woman where she should go to find the records.

While I was waiting, I saw a postcard on a shelf in the booth. It was a photograph of an installation in the grounds of the museum. It was few railway boxcars on a piece of track built into a hillside and leading up into the sky.

When it was my turn to buy a ticket, I asked about the railway cars and the track.

The woman in the booth explained that the railway cars had been ‘rescued’ and brought to the museum and that yes, those very cars had been used to transport Jews to the death camps during the war.

I said that the image was terrible, and the woman said with a sympathetic tone said ‘Yes, this is Yad Vashem.’

I felt a wave of sympathy; it was so sad.

I walked on towards the buildings and started to walk along a path between rows of trees planted to commemorate the righteous gentiles who had helped Jews during the war.

I suddenly had an image in my mind of a thin woman with a headscarf standing near an old stove and holding a frying pan and I saw in my mind’s eye German soldiers marching with shiny helmets.

The woman wasn’t someone I recognised specifically, but how shall I say it – In principle, it could have been my great grandmother.

I don’t why that image came into my mind.

I had been to the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam years before and I had touched the frying pan on the stove in their hiding place – or perhaps it on the floor below.

I remember that I imagined that Anne had touched it, although perhaps it was just a frying pan brought in to put on the stove for visitors to the museum to see.

And on TV programmes like The World At War, I had seen German soldiers marching,

But the woman holding the frying pan that I saw in my mind’s eye as I stood in the sun at Yad Vashem – I didn’t know who she was – only that I was connected to her.

I mention about the Anne Frank House and the TV programmes I saw because my rational mind is trying to explain what happened.

What happened next was that I reeled and almost fell against a large rock in the garden and I wailed.

I felt my insides opening up and I wailed. I didn’t cry – I opened like a dam. I said, almost shouted, complained – into the air – ‘They killed them all: They murdered them all.’

Even as I was wailing, I thought it must be all too common for people to break down in Yad Vashem. I realised that I didn’t care whether I was making a scene, or causing some kind of embarrassment in pubic. I just didn’t care. I was not crying. There was nothing in me that was intentionally pushing or letting out the wailing – it just came out of me.

I was truly wailing.

It was a revelation to me. I felt that I didn’t know myself. Where had that wail come from?

It made no sense – I wasn’t even born then when it all happened.

Audiences, Culture, and Rubbish In Cinemas

Rubbish in cinemas bugs me. There, I said it.

So here’s what happened.

Tamara and I like to watch a film to the end of the credits, so we are are often the last to leave.

Seeing the room after the film has ended is like seeing a room after the party has ended – rubbish (‘trash’ in American English) and detritus everywhere.

Call me a fuddy-duddy (actually don’t), but I can’t believe the mess that a gathering of human beings can leave after being in one place for two hours.

Popcorn, discarded cans, boxes, wrappers – the popcorn sometimes looks like someone decided they didn’t want popcorn after all, and scattered the contents of the box on the carpet.

One night we went to see Coco Before Chanel – a French film with subtitles, with Audrey Tautou in the lead role.

As we were leaving, I noticed that the floor was clean.

A cleaner came in with her black plastic bag to pick up the rubbish, and as we passed her I commented that the room was unusually clean.

Oh yes, she said this one and Screen 3, which was also showing a French film. I asked whether this was always so, and she said yes, audiences at foreign language films always left very little rubbish.

So now we know.

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