14th February (1919)

Got rid of more of our vehicles and harness today – nearer the end, I hope.  Attended usual bi-weekly lecture – went to the Opera to find that the programme had been changed and instead of Hauffman, I re-heard what I must take to be Verdi’s masterpiece – the remarkable Aida.

Finished Adam Bede with many regrets at parting with him and his belongings – like the work of most great writers, the book grows upon you as you progress with it.

Thursday (13th February 1919)

My day off.  Went in the morning to Lindenthal.  There a fair-sized lake is frozen over, and skating is in full swing.  To me, a novel sight, the gliding inter-volving crowd, dotting intensely the dazzling surface of the ice, all crusted with the powdering from the steel skates.  I stayed there for about an hour watching the trickery and turning of the expert, and the graceful appearance which this pastime gives to anyone of reasonable skill and good carriage.  Two “flappers” waltzing made a particularly pretty picture, and the bright sweaters of many of the girls gave a welcome touch of colour to the sharp study in black and white.

Die Meistersingers took exactly five and a half hours.

First, I must remark on the astonishing vocal power of the man (one Frederich Schorr) who took the part of Hans Sachs.  Throughout this great work his voice, a bass, is in almost constant use, yet at the end one could detect no sign of fatigue.  (Footnote: Years later records of his voice became known on gramophones.)

Eva was one of the favourites (Wanda Achsel) – a graceful fair woman, with a pleasing voice, who does not strive for much effect in her acting, but “gets there” all the same.

It did not seem a bit too long – the music beautiful; the setting and acting splendid; it is permeated with a broad strain of cheerfulness, no darkening cloud of tragedy impending, no stupendous terror let loose, but something just as human and as vital, I think – an enlightening insight into folk-life and folk-lore of a nation once great and lovable.

A bit stiff after my long sojourn on the hard seats of the “Gods”, I walked the two miles back in the fresh moonlight, with the slightly exalted sensations of one who has added something to the treasury of the mind.

IWM (Q 3595) Skating at Cologne, 10 February 1919

[Image: Skating at Cologne, 10 February 1919. IWM (Q 3595) Note the exact location of this photograph is unknown, but potentially it could be the lake at Lindenthal which Lincoln refers to]

IWM (Q 3593) Skating at Cologne, 10 February 1919

[Image: Skating at Cologne, 10 February 1919. IWM (Q 3593) Note the scene photographed is not Lindenthal where Lincoln visited, but is in the heart of Cologne, on the Rhine]

IWM (Q 3596) Skating at Cologne, 10 February 1919

[Image: Skating at Cologne, 10 February 1919. IWM (Q 3596)]

Wednesday (12th February 1919)

All day the Rhine has been chequered from bank to bank with patches of thin, floating ice, scintillating in the sun.

Out riding on a good horse, in charge of a sporty corporal who led us at a gallop, here, there, and everywhere.

Then to the Opernhaus – my Hun was there, and at an exorbitant figure I obtained tickets for both tomorrow and Friday.  Then away to find my concert hall.  It proved to be a stuccoed and gilded salon in one of the hotels, and there I passed an hour and a half of undiluted pleasure.  The programme will reach you with this.  The Beethoven Sonata was, of course, superlative.  The four Schuman pieces all delightful but the last – the Brahms, Variation and Fugue on a theme of Handel!  It growled, it joked, it became hilarious; it danced mazurkas, Maori Haakas; grew curiously inquisitive; insolently provocative; took a serious turn – chanted, sang, marked time, swam, flew, and executed hair-raising aerial experiments; then plunged down, down, into a maelstrom of warring harmonies, from which it leapt to an abrupt and pinnacle conclusion; as though startled to silence by the sudden solution of its own riddle.  A plain black Bachstein piano, a less plain girl in a plain black dress, and there you have it.  (The revellers have decided to “have a spoonful of honey each and go to bed” – so I shall too).

nlnzimage 1-1 002098-G NZ troops looking at Hohenzollern Bridge, Cologne, Jan 1919

[Image: Three New Zealand soldiers, foreground, look towards the Hohenzollern Bridge over the Rhine in Cologne, Germany, following World War I. Tram cars are on the bridge. Ice floats on the river. Also shows Cologne Cathedral in the background. Photograph taken January 1919 by Henry Armytage Sanders.  Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Ref: 1/1-002098-G]

11th February (1919)

The afternoon consumed by a lecture on land tenure in N.Z. (introducing a series on “Economics” – save the Mark!).  Went off after tea (a vile stew, but I mustn’t growl because we had steak for breakfast) to my concert.  The Debussy was an intricate tricksome affair, not easy to grasp at one hearing.  I enjoyed the Frank Sonata much more; the lady pianist being very brilliant.  The Hayden quartet was, to my mind, the pleasantest.  You would have been amused by the four instrumentalists, all old, short, and queer-looking, but masterly old geysers.  A Digger who had, like me, stayed there, showed me a ticket he had obtained for a piano concert tomorrow.  After the concert I obtained one.  This will be the third concert hall I have nosed out.

The scene from the bridge tonight was enchanting.  A slight mist lent an air of mystery to the glassy river, in which the reflex of the hundred lights on the suspension bridge higher up stream plunged downward like pillars of fire.

nlnzimage 1-1 002111-G NZ soldiers in classroom, Mulheim, Germany, cMar 1919

[Image: Unidentified New Zealand World War I soldiers in a classroom, Mulheim, Germany, circa March 1919. A graph on the left blackboard is titled ‘Seasonal’. Information on the right blackboard is titled ‘Unemployment’. Photograph taken by Henry Armytage Sanders. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Ref: 1/1-002111-G]

Sunday (9th February 1919)

We are now having the bright cold season.  Each morning a red sun rises above the buildings and smoke stacks of Deutz, and each evening ruddily sinks behind the forked apex of the “Dom”.  There is no wind.  The bare trees stand motionless, firmly outlined against the clear sky.

During our nocturnal prowl on “Town Picquet” we encountered numerous tipsy denizens of the demi monde, male and female, squeaking, giggling, and reeling about.  For this they were born, reared, educated, and prepared for life!

I hanker for the throbbing of propellers – single, twin – any old kind: so long as they revolve and push across the intervening brine something that will remain afloat.