21st February (1919)

Even grousers have luck sometimes.  I go on leave tomorrow morning.

At stables I groomed by last ‘donk’, and he tried to kick.  Othello proved a grand if somewhat harrowing work.  Most glad am I to have heard Aida and Othello; Verdi in these seems to have excelled himself.  The opening of the Opera was most dramatic – no overture – a tremendous crash of drums and cymbals and the curtain rises.

I have packed up my belongings, and, I hope, most of my troubles “in my old kit-bag” and, though it rains now in torrents, feel that the morrow will produce some of the smiles mentioned in the famous song under quotation.

I have taken out my ticket to Penzance, so when next you hear from me I may be “apprenticed to a pirate”.

Like all experience, this will be interesting in the retrospect, though it has of late become very tedious, with the one alleviation of music.  What a great amount other countries can learn from Germany in the State support and management of theatres.  Here is a community that can see the works of the great masters at prices which in our country would hardly admit one to the “movies”.

nlnzimage 1-2 013774-G NZ troops at Ehrenfeld Station, Cologne, cDec 1918

[Image: New Zealand troops and transport assembled at Ehrenfeld Station on the outskirts of Cologne in Germany. Several soldiers appear to be packing their kits. Loaded wagons and a truck appear in the background. Photograph taken after the end of World War I, probably December 1918 by Henry Armytage Sanders. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Ref: 1/2-013774-G]

Thursday (20th February 1919)

Obtained Opera tickets from a small-boy-profiteer.

The hall in which the concert was performed tonight is a very fine one, handsomely decorated and artistically designed.

The audience evinced great enthusiasm for the songs, locally composed and accompanied by the composer, a black haired giant who, on being recalled for the manyeth time, solemnly blew his nose before retiring.

19th February (1919)

Billets rotten.

We are right under a large Church, the bells of which clash out volubly each morning, about half an hour prior to reveille.  The remarks of the awakened sleepers are hardly devotional.  Still earlier, the cook chops wood on the hard cobbles, which almost rivals the bells in their responsive tintinnabulations.

Amazing to find myself, the erstwhile new chum, almost the oldest soldier of the remnant of my battery.

Any dicta of mine anent Germany and the Germans have been haphazard and ill-digested, and I am continuously changing my views.

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)]