Bij 5 december
Uit: De heerlijkste 5 december in vijfhonderdvierenzeventig jaar
‘Daar zitten we weer,’ zei Sint. ‘Zegt u dat wel,’ zei Piet. ‘Op de stoomboot naar Nederland. Net als ieder jaar. Voor de hoeveelste keer is dat nou, Sinterklaas?’ ‘Voor de vijfhonderdvierenzeventigste keer,’ zei de Sint. ‘Bah,’ zei Piet. ‘Wat nou “bah”…’ zei Sinterklaas verontwaardigd. ‘Waarom “bah”?’ ‘Ik heb er zo genoeg van,’ zei Piet. ‘Maar je houdt toch van de kinderen? En de kinderen houden toch van ons ?’ ‘Welnee,’ zei Piet. ‘Ze houden alleen van onze cadeautjes, ’t Gaat ze enkel om de pakjes. Verder nergens om. En ’t gaat nog stormen ook. Bah !’ ‘Hoor ’s Piet, dat mag je volstrekt niet zeggen,’ zei Sinterklaas boos. ‘Als je nog een keer “bah” zegt, ontsla ik je. De kinderen houden wél van ons. Ze zijn gek op ons…’
Hoeii… voor Sinterklaas verder kon spreken kwam er een windvlaag die bijna z’n mijter meenam… de storm stak op… de lucht werd inktzwart… de golven werden hoger en hoger… ‘Daar heb je ’t nou…’ schreeuwde Piet. ‘We vergaan!’ ‘Onzin,’ riep Sinterklaas, “t Is al vierhonderddrieënzeventig keer goed gegaan met die boot, waarom zouden we dan nu ineens… haboeh…’ Sinterklaas kreeg een grote zilte golf naar binnen en hij moest met de ene hand z’n mijter en z’n staf vasthouden en met de andere de reling. De storm werd steeds erger en heviger en woester en wilder en vreselijker. Huizenhoge golven, torenhoge golven… de stoomboot leek wel een plastic speelgoedscheepje op de Westeinder Plas.
‘Ik ben zo bang…’ huilde Piet. ‘Onzin!’ riep Sinterklaas weer. En toen ineens… een ontzettende schok. Het schip was op een klip gevaren. ‘Help… help…’ schreeuwde Piet. ‘Help, de boot zinkt !’ ‘Wat zei je zo-even, Piet?’ vroeg Sinterklaas, terwijl hij probeerde te zwemmen met zijn mijter op en zijn staf in de hand. ‘Ik zei: De boot zinkt…’ kreunde Pieter, die naast hem zwom. ‘O,’ zei Sinterklaas. ‘Wel, je had gelijk. De boot is gezonken.’ ‘O, wat ben ik nat,’ zei Piet. ‘O, wat ben ik nat en koud en zielig. O, wat heb ik een medelijden met mij!’ ‘Denk liever aan die arme kindertjes in Nederland,’ zei Sinterklaas. ‘Als de Sint verdrinkt zullen ze nooit meer lekkers en speelgoed krijgen op 5 december. Daar ga ik, Piet. Ik ben te oud om in de Golf van Biskaje te liggen. Vaarwel dan, Piet.’ ‘Nee,’ riep Piet wanhopig, ‘niet zinken, Sinterklaas. Daar drijft een grote balk ! Misschien kunnen we erop klimmen.’
Hè hè, voorlopig waren ze gered.”
Annie M.G. Schmidt (20 mei 1911 – 21 mei 1995)
Uit: Gabriel’s Gift
“Although Gabriel was fifteen, until recently his father had usually walked him home from school in order to keep him away from any possible temptations and diversions. Not long ago Dad had had to rescue Gabriel from a dangerous scene in a nearby block of flats. Fortunately Dad was a musician and often had spare time during the day; too much spare time, said Gabriel’s mother, who had started to find Rex himself somewhat “spare.” Going to the school had been the only “structure” Dad had, apart from his daily visits to the pub, where several of the other parents also considered the world through the bottom of a beer glass.
Gabriel and his father often stopped at cafés and record shops. Or they went to collect the photographs Gabriel had taken recently, which were developed by a friend of Dad’s who had a darkroom. In the sixties and seventies this man had been a successful fashion and pop photographer. The girls with ironed hair and boys in military jackets he had “immortalized,” as he liked to put it, were as distant to Gabriel as Dickens’s characters. The man was out of fashion himself and rarely worked; however, he liked to talk about photography, and he lent Gabriel many books and tore pictures from newspapers, explaining what the photographer had tried to do.
Dad liked to say that school was the last place where anyone could get an education. But outside, if your eyes were open, there were teachers everywhere. All that Dad recalled from his own school days was something about wattle and daub, freezing swimming pools at nine in the morning, and the rate of glacier movement, which was — well, he couldn’t remember.
Getting home was a protracted business for Gabriel and his father. Planting his legs wide on the pavement and swinging his hand for illustration, Dad would ask the most intimate questions of people he knew only vaguely — How much do you drink? Do you still go to bed together? Do you love her? — which, to Gabriel’s amazement, the person not only answered but elaborated on, often interminably, as Gabriel’s father nodded and listened. The two of them would discuss the results for the rest of the way home.
Now Dad had gone and was living somewhere else. If the world hadn’t quite been turned upside down, it was at an unusual and perilous angle, and certainly not still.”
Hanif Kureishi (Bromley, 5 december 1954)
Uit: Slouching Toward Bethlehem
“Just to watch the front-page news out of Los Angeles during a Santa Ana is to get very close to what it is about the place. The longest single Santa Ana period in recent years was in 1957, and it lasted not the usual three or four days but fourteen days, from November 21 until December 4. On the first day 25,000 acres of the San Gabriel Mountains were burning, with gusts reaching 100 miles an hour. In town, the wind reached Force 12, or hurricane force, on the Beaufort Scale; oil derricks were toppled and people ordered off the downtown streets to avoid injury from flying objects. On November 22 the fire in the San Gabriels was out of control. On November 24 six people were killed in automobile accidents, and by the end of the week the Los Angeles Times was keeping a box score of traffic deaths. On November 26 a prominent Pasadena attorney, depressed about money, shot and killed his wife, their two sons and himself. On November 27 a South Gate divorcée, twenty-two, was murdered and thrown from a moving car. On November 30 the San Gabriel fire was still out of control, and the wind in town was blowing eighty miles an hour. On the first day of December four people died violently, and on the third the wind began to break.
It is hard for people who have not lived in Los Angeles to realize how radically the Santa Ana figures in the local imagination. The city burning is Los Angeles’s deepest image of itself. Nathaniel West perceived that, in The Day of the Locust, and at the time of the 1965 Watts riots what struck the imagination most indelibly were the fires. For days one could drive the Harbor Freeway and see the city on fire, just as we had always known it would be in the end.
Los Angeles weather is the weather of catastrophe, of apocalypse, and, just as the reliably long and bitter winters of New England determine the way life is lived there, so the violence and the unpredictability of the Santa Ana affect the entire quality of life in Los Angeles, accentuate its impermanence, its unreliability. The winds shows us how close to the edge we are”.
Joan Didion (Sacramento Valley, 5 december 1934)
Speak not, lie hidden, and conceal
the way you dream, the things you feel.
Deep in your spirit let them rise
akin to stars in crystal skies
that set before the night is blurred:
delight in them and speak no word.
How can a heart expression find?
How should another know your mind?
Will he discern what quickens you?
A thought, once uttered, is untrue.
Dimmed is the fountainhead when stirred:
drink at the source and speak no word.
Live in your inner self alone
within your soul a world has grown,
the magic of veiled thoughts that might
be blinded by the outer light,
drowned in the noise of day, unheard…
take in their song and speak no word.
Vertaald door Vladimir Nabokov
When the sequence of the earthly years
When the sequence of the earthly years is over —
The earthly structure is, at last, destroyed —
All that was seen will vanish under water,
Which will reflect the image of the God.
Vertaald door Yevgeny Bonver
Fjodor Tjoettsjev (5 december 1803 – 27 juli 1873)
Standbeeld in de Dichtergarten, München