Anniversary

Today one year ago…

What a magical, hilarious and sublime wedding we had!

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My Precious Man, every day with you is wonderful. Thank you for sharing with me everything that the year brought. I have never been so sustainedly happy as I am now.

I kiss your soul.


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Crayfish

(This chapter is not for the fainthearted. If you are teetering on the edge of vegetarianism, this may tip the balance!)

The Swedes love their crayfish so much that they have a special party for the opening of the season at the beginning of August. There is a strict protocol about catching crayfish. No-one is allowed to put out any crayfish pots until the 1st of August, not even in one’s own pond! Once the season is opened, the lake is strictly divided into areas, and you are not allowed to just go and catch your own crayfish, not even from the shores of your own land!

Frank’s hunter-gatherer spirits rose, so we made a trip to Emilio, a neighbour of Eva’s, some 3kilometres down the road (the sense of neighbourhood is somewhat spread out in these parts). Emilio is a spirited and slightly gruff octogenarian who owns a pond where previously Frank had been allowed to go crayfishing. Emilio is on his way to see a friend, but with a sweeping gesture of his arm, he allows us to put the pots out and help ourselves to everything we need to do so.

First we search his barn for a garden fork, to dig for worms to go fishing for bait. 10 minutes later, we have about 20 poor wriggling creatures in a little plastic pot.

We take a fishing rod that’s leaning against the barn and take up position by the mill leat.

Although I have done lots of fishing as a child and even skewered the worms onto the hook myself, somehow as an adult I have more feelings for the worms, who don’t die an instant death but keep on wriggling on the hook for a long time. In fact, it’s essential that they do, otherwise the fish wouldn’t be attracted to them. While Frank is casting the line, I am starting to wonder if my lust for crayfish justifies the slow murder of over a dozen worms.

The fishing goes remarkably fast – after about 20 seconds, Frank reels in the first one, quite small, and with beautiful red fins. It would be too small for human consumption, but as crayfish bait it is perfect. After a couple more fish are pulled on land and had their heads smashed to ensure as swift a death as possible, my memory of fishing with my dad takes over and I want to cast a line too. I pull out quite a big one, almost big enough to have for dinner. But this evening, we are fishing for bait, not for ourselves…

Once we have about half a dozen fish, we proceed to the  pots, with the death toll having risen to about 20. Frank cuts the fish into bits, and with a lot of fiddling, organises the bait to hang in the middle of the pots. Then we sink them into the pond and go home for dinner.

All evening, I feel slightly haunted by the fact that we have killed so many animals in a day.

 

The next day we return to lift the pots out of the pond, and lo and behold, 8 pots yield 32 sizeable crayfish. They are beautiful creatures! One by one, Frank empties the pots into a big Tesco bag. It is obvious that crayfish are solitary, territorial animals who prefer the dark – they show distress at being in the bright sunshine all on top of each other. They start to fight with each other, with some of them winning and others losing a limb in the process…

By now, I am quite upset at seeing so much suffering. As Frank tips out a pot, one crayfish falls on the ground beside the bag and I don’t point it out. I think, give him an even chance – if Frank doesn’t spot him, he may be able to just slink back into the lake! But unfortunately he makes for Frank’s foot instead, and, thinking of 10 days of Tango Mango ahead of us, I warn Frank of the impending danger. He ends up in the Tesco bag (the crayfish, that is).

By now, I’ve definitely seen enough of this murderous process, without watching the cooking. I’m certainly not eating any of the crayfish tonight!

Needless to say, I try to keep my mouth shut and not spoil the fun for anyone else – the Swedes really do go for it when they have their crayfish parties, complete with specially designed silly hats, lanterns and particular drinking songs. I enjoy the merry atmosphere and eat salad instead.

This killing spree has its impact on me.

I think I only want to eat meat when I feel I really need it. There is hardly any meat on those crayfish!!! I think it would be more efficient to kill a pig or a cow, thus lose only one soul and have plenty of meat.


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Sweden

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Just before the Tango Mango, we went to Sweden, to join Frank’s family in their celebration of Eva’s 70th birthday party (Frank’s sister-in-law). It was quite rainy, but this didn’t dampen the spirit of celebration! We went for walks to gather blueberries, swam in the lake, had many good conversations and caught up with family member’s news. Every evening, someone else was cooking for the large crowd of mainly 20-30 people. On Eva’s birthday, the numbers swelled to over 100 and we were joined by a fantastic band, which got everyone dancing.

For some photos of the lovely time we had, go to flikr. More photos to follow…


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Tango Mango

Dearest Mangoers,

What a fantastic Mango this was! We are still full of the lovely sounds and dances….the rich, yummy food, the warm embraces, the sharing of so many stories, the shooting-starlit nights and the morning conversations while waiting for our turn to play with the ducks in the shower. It couldn’t have been better (except for my dodgy knee maybe, but dancing less allowed me chat more with everyone).

Having arrived in the UK only three days before, we hit the ground running, but everything was in place by the time you arrived, thanks to our amazing team, without which the Mango could not happen. Lots goes on behind the scenes for a big event like this to happen smoothly, and at its best you don’t notice. But this year, we’d like to offer a glance behind the scenes – we are very blessed with a strong support team! Here is a list – it may not be complete – if we’ve forgotten anybody, please forgive us, there were so many of you!

A huge thank you for help in the pre-Mango phase goes to:
*Jim, who single-handedly erected the lovely hot outdoor shower,
* Natalie who, at home, made a whole lot of elderflower cordial earlier in the summer in preparation for you thirsty dancers, tried out various new dishes for us, ordered all the food ingredients in advance and came in a day before the Mango to set up, together with…
* the team of Kitchen helpers, Alex, Jimini, Elise, Jakob, Martijn, Yoli and Sally, some of whom also helped  transform the Steiner School for the Mango, carrying desks, wiping floors, cleaning toilets etc.
*Annie, who always arrives a day early to set up the chill-out space, deep-cleaning the kitchenette, moving furniture, arranging the soft corner and hanging cloths and lights to create a relaxing atmosphere.
*Harriet, for arriving a day or two early to set up her beautiful Glamping Tents.
* The local hosts, Margaret, Adele and Leela, who welcomed our teachers and orchestra into their homes.
*Our contacts from the school, Mark the maintenance man – always just a phone call away in an emergency, Kevin the new estate manager and Julia the caretaker who knows where everything is and helps us hunt for the little but important things, like a key to get into the music room, or a stamp or a plaster.

The next phase is the unfolding of the Mango, and our thanks go to:
*Yolanda, who received everyone in the Hall and dealt with the finance, fielded questions and introduced newcomers to the workings of the Mango.
*The teachers, Korey and Rebecca, Michael, Siobhan and Oliver, Paras and Paul, Carsta and Alex, who infused the Mango with their passion for dance and teaching, creating the space for all of you to take another step or two along your Tango road. Their wonderful DJ sets kept us all on our feet, dancing up to 12 hours a day!
*Daren, who stays on campus – always the first one up and the last one to bed,  looking after the campers, cleaning the upstairs, locking all doors and shutting windows and who tirelessly checks the toilets for fresh towels and paper.
*Sally, who was the mug fairy for the first half of the Mango, forever washing mugs that others forgot.
*Our Reflexologist and Shiatsu practitioners, Kate and Sacha, who helped us recover from an overdose of dancing, as well as dealing with other aches and strains that we may have brought with us.
*More thanks to the kitchen team headed by Natalie, who created 19 delicious meals! Everything is fresh and made with local, often organic ingredients. For sure, it is a central ingredient to making the Mango what it is – eating such healthy food for 10 days influences our dancing and our interactions with each other.
* Our four orchestral coaches, The London Tango Quartet, who brought so much verve with them, encouraging us to give our best, tickling and challenging us – laughing with us.
*Yanna, who looked after the needs of the musicians during the last weekend, providing them with coffee and being there if anything needed to be done.
*All of you dancers who came and brought your energies to the event, who let themselves be charmed by the Mango spirit and who took what was on offer and in return ga your passion for the dance, your willingness to explore unchartered territories, your creative spirit and thoughts, your openness to include the new Mangoers and make them feel at home. Each Mango is different and unique, shaped by the group of people attending. You are at the heart of it all.

When the Mango is over, we clear up, put away, clean and sort everything to get it ready for the next School term. This is always the hardest part, as we are all quite tired, so we REALLY appreciate those who stay on and help, even if at the time we may be too tired to express our gratitude!!!
So a hugeTHANK YOU to all
* Those participants who stayed a little bit longer to lend a helping hand to clear up, wash floors, lift chairs and desks, empty bins, clean toilets, wash blackboards and generally return our mango home back to its school status, always cleaner than we found it.
* The team of kitchen- and general helpers, most of whom stayed on and helped wherever help was needed, until everything was finished, especially Daren.
* Annie, and anyone else who helped her take down the chill-out room and clean the kitchenette
* People at my house – Wendy, Natalie, Maria – who helped with endless washing, drying and folding of towels
* Natalie, for dealing with the food leftovers, sorting boxes of staples that can be kept and making sure that perishables get passed on and used so nothing goes to waste.
*Yolanda, for dealing with the financial tally, for keeping a clear head when we’ve lost ours, remembering to pay everyone the right amounts.
*Jim and Alan, for taking down the shower
* The hot composting team, Alex, Wendy and a woman from Totnes who doesn’t even have anything to do with the Tango Mango! On Monday afternoon, we dealt with more than 300kg of Mango food compost, creating a mound layered with grass cuttings, food compost, manure and sawdust. By now, the temperature in the compost will be around 90 degrees celsius, and 10 weeks later, we will have fantastic earth. Each Tango Mango gives a big mound of black gold to our garden :-)

By Wednesday afternoon, Frank and I had finished closing the Mango down, and on our way out of Devon, we drove past Chagford to return the sound system to Alan’s house. Thank you Alan, for letting us use your system once again!

When all is said and done, my deepest thanks go to Frank, who is by my side from the beginning to the end: from designing the web page, choosing the teachers, sharing the thought processes that go into each event, to working hard before during and after the Mango. He is a fantastic host, opening his arms to everyone, and still, at the end of a long day, those arms have enough good energy to wrap around me, comfort and nourish me. You are my pillar in all moments of joy and sorrow. Life has truly and profoundly changed for me since we’ve been together.

During the Mango, I am too close to the event to get an overview, but now, when I take a step back and I close my eyes and try to see it as one whole thing, I see one big creative process. I see a plant growing slowly, forming a bud in silence but then the moment comes and it opens with a great and lasting, beautiful roar. I see colours swirling out of it and big delicious sounds emanating from it. After a week, the flower closes, wilts on its stem, draws back its energy and shuts down for another year, slowly collecting energy for another great opening.

Aaron Davies' beautiful photo of the Orquesta Tipica

Aaron Davies’ beautiful photo of the Orquesta Tipica

This year’s Mango was truly wonderful, thank you!

Next year’s Mango runs from August 12th – 21st – put it in your diaries and look out for some interesting developments…
Perhaps you’d like to join us before then, in Devon, at our November Workshop, with Ines Moussavi from Berlin

Love, Ruth & Frank


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Teaching in Lohne/Oldenburg

There is a small and very friendly Tango community in Lohne, just South of Oldenburg where I’ve been invited to teach a one-day workshop. We arrive a day early to join the dancers for their Summer open air Milonga. I love it how everybody celebrates Summer in their own unique way: this town, miles away from the sea, has created a little sandy ‘beach’ at a central point, complete with deck chairs to lounge in. Well, really, it’s just an oversized sand pit, but still, it’s in the middle of town and young and old enjoy it. the outdoor Milonga has some live music – an Argentine pianist from Bremen – and people dance enthusiastically until past midnight.

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The workshop next day is fully booked and they all work very hard. We are literally in the middle of Nowhere, on a pig farm, dancing Tango! Gertrud, our amazing host, explains that actually we are in the middle of everywhere – people travel for up to an hour and a half from all directions to come here, and as it’s near a motorway, it’s easily accessible for everyone. Small Tango scenes always remind me of our beginning years in Devon, and there is something in that which is irretrievably lost once the scene grows bigger. Just like little children grow up and never return to that early stage.

 

At the end of an afternoon of teaching, learning, laughing, chatting and sharing delicious cakes, Frank and I return to Emma to find her humming with flies inside! Note to self: Don’t leave windows open on a pig farm, unless you want to perfect your swatting technique – we spent the next two days swatting several thousand flies.

 

We leave Lohne extremely well fed and rested, thanks to Gertrud, our very attentive host, and we look forward to returning in October for a weekend of workshops.


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Oldenburg

A couple of years ago, while in Paris, I was looking for someone to repair my bandoneon. I wrote to a bandoneon Yahoo group: ‘Looking for a good quality repairer/restorer of bandoneons, in or near Paris’ – within minutes I had the reply: ‘the nearest GOOD one is Rocco in Oldenburg’. Well, that’s some recommendation, at over 700km distance!

 

I happen to have a cousin who lives in Oldenburg, so we combine visiting her and her family with taking the bandoneon for an overhaul.

We find a lovely car park for our overnight stays, just on the outskirts, near a lake and a train line. It seems the train line goes from a car factory to somewhere: long trains with hundreds of brand new cars on them pass by several times a day. To Frank’s surprise (and mine too, really), I turn into a train spotter. I find it fascinating just how many new cars roll past us, and where do they go to? What can you do with more than 1500 new cars per day? I imagine the production and the loading to make this happen. There is something unrelenting about it, something so drastically materialistic, it’s eerie. Especially when they continue to rumble past in the dead of night and on weekends.

 

Oldenburg celebrates Summer with a month-long music festival. The main square by the baroque castle, in the centre of town, is filled with people of all generations and backgrounds, listening to music in the open air. We also drop in on the opening evening of the Oldenburg Tango Festival. Although we have not been here before, I recognise at least 40 out of the 100 people. The Tango world is so small…

We also meet young Lotta who lives in Oldenburg – she was a helper at the Tango Mango a couple of years ago. It’s lovely to see her, she is such a lively person, full of energy and zest for what’s ahead of her. We swap some travelling stories – she’s recently been to Russia and various other places.

In my cousin’s house big bellies are being compared: two of her daughters are pregnant, one with twins. We share meals, catch up on family stories and I spend one afternoon delving into deep conversation with Gesine, one of the daughters, about family dynamics.

 

Rocco takes a week to repair my bandoneon, and he does a great job. While we are there, we hatch an idea for a Bandoneon Festival some time next year. One week, just for bandoneons… we’ll create Bandoneon Heaven, for players of different levels, with international teachers, and also with a bandoneon maintenance workshop, so that we learn how to treat the little ailments of our instruments.


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Travelling North

On our way to Oldenburg, we stop off at a friend’s house in Zons. This is a trip down memory lane; I’ve known Lotte since my teenage years when we used to hang out together in Spiekeroog, a beautiful, car-free island in the north of Germany, inflicting inventive pranks on unsuspecting adults. We were quite an unruly bunch, but I still think that our ideas were quite unique. For example, I remember lying in wait with invisible fishing line on either side of the road, catching groups of holidaymakers, wrapping them in a big loop of string 10 or so people at a time and demanding a song for their release. Sometimes we got a song, more often than not a stream of invective or even the odd slap in the face. They were trophies to be counted at the end of the holidays – who got the most slaps? Somehow us girls could never truly compete with the boys on this front. They seemed to collect the punishment for all of us.

We used to be slightly scared but totally fascinated by an old woman who lived next door, who would come out to speak to us in the evenings. She had far advanced Alzheimer’s, and we would spend the time chatting to her about the same topic, round and round, checking out how quickly she would forget what we just had said. It seems cruel, but really, she had fun with us and we laughed a lot together – we really connected. I think she waited for us every evening; we may well have been the highlight of the day for her. One year, we arrived in Spiekeroog to find out she had died and it left a real hole in our sunny summer evenings.

Lotte and I haven’t seen each other since my children were 2 and 4 years old. Now mine are grown up and hers are teenagers. They live in a beautiful and very old house in Zons, an ancient toll town just outside of Köln. We spent the evening chatting and sharing food.

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More photos of their beautiful house on flikr

 


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