At last, few days off and an escape to southern Sweden; big skies, autumn colours, skeins of wild geese arriving and the pervasive scent of log fires in the air.
In my world being able to find a few days to get away sometimes proves an impossibility but this time it worked out and here we are. In another world – one that deals with international disasters, distribution of aid and the bringing solace and comfort to people and places where they’re needed – fate and coincidence combined to return The Kev to us for a few days. He moved back to New Zealand in March – I wrote about it here – and that seemed to be that as far as anecdotes around smoky fires and long evenings putting the world to rights were concerned. Seems I was wrong and all those air miles and a round trip from New Zealand that took in Haiti, London and Sweden mattered not one jot.
The Kev was back and, with only a few days here, a celebration was called for. More importantly, a fire was called for and he is the Master of Fire. The stone fireplace that he built in his garden has a lot of history and has long ago passed into the folklore of our little hamlet. Of course, fire is frequently associated with folklore; a story is told in the mythology of South America that the Jaguar was the Master of Fire and ate his meat cooked, the smell of grilling being so delicious that man, who had no secret of fire, couldn’t resist it. Jaguar was a generous deity so man ate hungrily of the cooked meat and learned to use Jaguar’s weapons, repaying him by killing his wife and stealing the secret of fire. Since that time the Jaguar has lived alone in the jungle, waiting for his chance of revenge, while man fears his wrath.
We’re not certain if there is direct lineage between The Kev and the mythical Master of Fire – I don’t discount a connection after having been seduced by the smell of the mountain of pork chops that was being cooked – but we do know that he holds the secret of making a superb fire. So, a quorum was assembled in order that important issues could be thoroughly debated; the necessity for iPods, cash payments to the victims of international disasters, the fecklessness of youth, the joys of Scotland, how the numbers of wild boar are increasing in our neighbourhood and the links between cause and effect of unlimited energy use in California. It pleased the Gods; Dionysus and Hephaestus saw fit to grant us a sunny afternoon that turned into a clear evening sky full of pin-sharp stars and we, in homage, consumed copious amounts of wine and stoked the fire.
Roasted potatoes accompanied the sausages and pork chops. It wasn’t quite a barbecue and it wasn’t quite a hāngi – the traditional Māori cook-out using heated stones required far more patience and more petite appetites than we had – but the results were delicious and delighted all the senses, being cast as background to more than seven hours of continuous, animated and increasingly raucous conversation.
What is it that makes for such a continuous, diverse and uninterrupted discussion? One theory put forward at some time was that no one had a partner of the same nationality; New Zealand/Swedish; Swedish/Hungarian; Dutch/German; Kurdish/Egyptian-Swedish; English/Swedish-Hungarian. There were as many opinions as there were nationalities so it’s little wonder that the UN gets, well, not very far in reaching consensus. We were more successful.
Coward that yours truly is, I scuttled away out of the fire’s glow and into the darkness after the baked apple and vanilla sauce but before the seal was broken on the bottle of Haitian rum. My ‘mornings-after’ of nursing crushing hangovers are strictly rationed these days. True to form and in what is now a time-honoured tradition, The Kev appeared next day bushy-tailed if not entirely bright-eyed, but modestly unaffected by the success of the previous evening. He’s now on his way back to New Zealand, the fireplace is raked and the ashes have barely cooled. Quite a visit.