Mixed emotions: Papa was a rolling stone

Life is full of serendipity and awkward coincidences.

I recently wrote about the trip down memory lane which the sorting and filing of digitised photographs was due to take me; what I hadn’t foreseen was how emotional a ride this would eventually become. Anyone looking through old photographs knows to expect to see pictures of those who are no longer with us. This is normal.

We know they’re dead, and they’ve usually been so for a while.

Not so in my case: A few weeks ago I was sorting through old photos of my father while, simultaneously and elsewhere, he lay dying a bitter and lonely man. Life is cruel.

When the police came over to make the announcement the following morning I was overcome by a sense of relief. It was almost… expected.

Emotions were mixed. They covered the full spectrum from elation to grief.

Once the initial shock was over, it was a matter of collecting his stuff, informing others, starting the necessary arrangements, and getting some affairs closed and in order. Reaction to the news was rather indifferent — if not muted. Nobody seems to care. Some are relieved that the Antichrist incarnate is no more. Their troubles are now over.

Mine have only just gotten worse. Along with anger and disappointment, it is I who now is caught in the machinery of German funeral bureaucracy. This is what happens when you live in one country, die in yet another, are a citizen of a third, and spent your life gallivanting and working all over the planet. There were periods where I had absolutely no idea on which continent my father currently was living on. We weren’t exactly “close”.

Papa was a rolling stone
Where ever he laid his hat was his home
And when he died, all he left us was a loan
(which we’ll never see paid back).

My father was a restless nomad. He gathered no moss — only belongings nobody wants.

Mr. Hönigsperger: Man on a wire

When he did stop over while he was on his way somewhere else or when he happened to be working nearby, our home acted mostly as free lodging. Except for criticising, he didn’t get involved in our lives and showed little interest in the core of our person.

It was all about him. He was too important to stoop to humility and most certainly had to be taken with a pinch of salt. As the first-born, I grew up knowing his mannerisms and accepted them as “normal” because in the eyes of a young boy Dad is “awesome”.

Father and son, ca. December 1973

When he came to live with us three years ago he was in a really bad situation.

His life plans had crumbled; he no longer understood the world. He had become obsolete. Brexit and the corona pandemic pushed him further down the decline. Instead of affording the chance to re-connect, our relationship grew progressively worse as time went on and I learnt what a bullshitter par excellence the man had been all his life. He sowed seeds of discontent wherever he went and burnt bridges when he left again. Little did he realise that he was burning his boats too.

We should be considerate to the living; to the dead we owe only the truth. –Voltaire

He wouldn’t understand that his present situation was the sum of everything he’d ever said or done throughout his entire life. He couldn’t move beyond tragedies and unfairness from the past; he scratched open old wounds and stubbornly refused to change his behaviour.

He appreciated neither offbeat comedies nor science fiction and therefore didn’t grasp the reference when I once described my efforts to those of Luke Skywalker’s in redeeming Darth Vader. If “there is still good in him” then he certainly didn’t want it known for fear of being exposed as weak or anything less than perfect. He was quick to change the subject when a conversation got too close to revealing his lies, hypocrisy and flawed ideologies.

To a child, Dad was an important guy who had loads of money, knew how to fix everything, travelled to many an exotic location, and worked hard to provide for his family.

As an adult, I realise how hard he did work to blow money on ephemeral trips and things that are precious to nobody but himself. He was a poor investor, and his lasting legacy shall be that he’s made me re-evaluate my own priorities and values.

Papa never was much on thinking
Spent most of his time chasing women and drinking

My father may have raised me but it was my wife who made me a man.

A man is never complete until he is married. Then he is finished.

And here we are, back to sorting photos. There will be many old pictures of him filed away. I can deal with those because I’ve seen them many times — but there is one picture that I dread discovering: that one photo that, ultimately, would be the last one of my father alive.

Mixed emotions? Oh, absolutely.

All photos via Herbert Hönigsperger Snr.

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The obsolescence of family photo albums

One of my projects for the year is to digitise my “photo albums”.

Like many people from my generation, I still have genuine photo prints from the analogue childhood days, along with school class photos and those received from friends and family through the post. These are stuck into carefully assembled photo albums.

Then there’s the proverbial shoe box full of other random pictures that never made it into photo albums — not to mention slides, negatives, and later CD-ROMs from when photo labs started to give you image files instead of the negatives from a roll of film. Everybody has photographs of some sort and in some form(at) stashed away somewhere.

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Review: 2021

Although the year 2021 isn’t quite over yet, we may as well write it off now.

This last trip around the sun didn’t really happen. It felt just like an extension of 2020 — the year of the coronavirus. In 2021, the pandemic has dominated our lives since day one.

In all honesty, sometimes I’m not sure what even happened this year because I was cooped up for most of it. I felt disconnected, as if my head was stuck in sand for most of the year — but some noteworthy events did take place after all.

Let’s recap, shall we?

As of the first day of 2021 a certain Austrian village no longer bears the name of “Fucking”. It’s been renamed to “Fugging“.

On January 6th, a mob of Trump loyalists rednecks storms the U.S. Capitol in Washington in an attempted insurrection.

Insurrection! (image via aljazeera.com)

Five people die in what is effectively a declaration of civil war against democracy. Facebook and Twitter kicked @realDonaldTrump off their respective platforms.

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Rediscovering philately

A few days ago I made a mistake: I opened a cabinet door.

Behind that cabinet door lay my stamp collection.

The last time I spent any real time with it was in the year 2002 when I bought a range of new stockbooks to replace all those loose and haphazard ones I had amassed as a child. The stamps were revised and neatly rearranged, and I also used the chance to integrate the collection of an ex-colleague who had been kind enough to donate hers some years prior.

Since then all I did was occasionally flip through the albums but paid philately no further serious attention. This changed when I discovered a certain box of spare stamps and I emptied its contents over the scanner.

Digital philately: Spare stamps for Bethel

That box of spares and duplicates was my stock from back when us kids used to sift through each other’s stash of extras for trading and swapping. It’s about 40 years old.

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More media madness, obviously!

Earlier this month I finished my wife’s artist portfolio website. Check it out here.

Obviously it includes a store.

Obviously you check out the competition while setting up shop, and obviously it doesn’t take long to discover the stranger side of Etsy. Even books have been written about certain regrettable products.

One of the more interesting items I stumbled across was this Hi-Fi rack.

Wouldn't mind the reel tape player, though (image via Etsy/SilverBeardLampCo)

Just look at it. It’s gorgeous!

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