To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road,
to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
One day in the far distant future, when I might be too old to be making many new memories, there are some I will unpack from storage and enjoy all over again. And isn’t it funny … they don’t tend to be the huge life events, but the happy accidents of time and place.
Now I am conscious that I’m collecting these, I’ve even come up with a formula. It’s something like
- Be There. Somehow, things happen when you’re somewhere else – not so much in your own ordinary patch. So get out there.
- Be Aware. You’ve got to give opportunities a chance to happen. If you don’t notice them, they’ll just slip by.
- Got for it! I like what Danielle Steel wrote: ‘Life, a good life, a great life is about “Why not?” May we never forget it. ‘
Let me illustrate with an earlier happenstance, and then tell you what brought this bouncing fresh into my mind.
A few years ago, we were in Mörbisch in Austria to see My Fair Lady on the lake-stage there. (I’m still not sure what an Austrian audience made of Cockney culture.) Margrit and I were exploring town – and we saw a poster. It said something about the street being closed the next day – and something about music. That was enough for us.
Next day, Margrit and Roman, Mani and I, strolled down town – and yes, there was a marquee across the road, and the band was playing, and tables were laid with wine and beer. We sat near the band, and Mani went off to find how, and how much, one paid. He found a lady in a dirndl – looked like a hostess – asked her. Well, she was The Hostess – the wife of the Fire Chief, who was celebrating an anniversary, with this private (!) party. “Oh no, we’ll go!” “Oh no, you must stay and be our guests!” And of course we did, and the band leader had great fun talking about these folk who’d come from New Zealand and Switzerland to honour the Chief, and we sang, as we do given any band anywhere, and … it may well be that when the Chief and his lady wife remember that celebration, their memory has that extra spice of the unintended gate-crashers. For us…. It’s a story we retell with such pleasure.
And… last week … another one for the memory box.
Mani and I were in Hungary, down the south end of Lake Balaton.
A bus stop housed a huge old wine press: that had to be promising.
A narrow road, vineyards alongside… and then, down a drive-way we see people at a table – with wine-glasses.
a seven-point turn (it was that kind of road)
and back to the driveway.
Oh happiness! The folk already at table were welcoming. More than that, they were overflowing with the joy of sharing their pleasure and their knowledge. They knew this place. They knew the man who grew the grapes, made the wine and served us with it. He was the twelfth generation of winemakers here.
And if the wine was wonderful, even more so was his cognac. An old family recipe, and this one 8 years old. He had his own blend of white wine too – quite properly named Rezi “Nektar” . Both cognac and Nektar came home with us.
Wine is bottled poetry.
Robert Louis Stevenson
Life stories were sampled… along with more wine.
They were locals-of-a-kind – splitting their time between Germany and here.
Klaus and Inge, and Erwin and his wife Sabine had houses here, they knew where the wine-hills above Heviz really were, indeed they were planning to go there for dinner… would we like..?
I think we were saying yes before the sentence was finished.
En route, a visit to both couple’s houses.
Inge introduced me to their huge white mulberry tree, dropping its sweet fruit on the ground. For me, mulberries are special, but that’s another story.
Erwin’s place – another serendipity! I’d been grabbing photos of the traditional style thatched roofed Hungarian houses … and now, in front of my delighted lenses… two! The Big House, and the cottage, both picture-perfect.
and I recognised its 13th Century church, small, and not too much altered over the centuries.
Inge and I caught up with the men at one of the many restaurants and cafes along a little wine-street.. and so it went….
Then the final serendipity. It started to rain. Mani and I looked at each other in the same “oh-no-second”: we’d left our bedding airing on the balcony. And because it was that sort of day, when we finally got home, the chap who ran the pension had brought it in and laid it sun-aired on the bed.
So – toast with us the pleasure of unexpected events in good company!
Drink today, and drown all sorrow;
You shall perhaps not do it tomorrow;
Best, while you have it, use your breath;
There is no drinking after death.
Ben Jonson – born1572