Last week I asked the question ‘Where is Tor Borsen?’ Now the hebdomadal sprinkler has swung back around and, prompted by a curious reader or two, another such question pops its furry head out of the damp and quizzical lawn of life. ‘Whither Heidi?’
Truth be told, this is a different kind of question – and not just because it uses the word ‘whither’ instead of ‘where’. Tor Borsen was a true exile, the face of whom I had not seen for many months. Heidi Kohlenberg, on the other hand, is a continuous presence – albeit one that Underneath the Bunker readers may have missed during the last few weeks. Clearly this break in normal operation has affected some of you – it is not impossible to understand why a series of rambling thoughts from a careless curmudgeon may not be seen as an adequate replacement for full-length articles from a range of malapert masters. Which is why I’m here to reassure you that, not only is Heidi Kohlenberg still working on a piece or two for my review, but that (for the exceedingly keen) her words can also be found elsewhere. Last month she wrote a review for Jave de Lasse’s new rag Earthly Delights. This week her honeyed commas and sweetly-scented semi-colons can be uncovered in Majfisk, the best food and literature magazine on the south coast of Sweden (much much better than Strömming).
Truth be told, my grasp of the Swedish language is no more assured than that of a greasy gloved engineer on the body of a particularly anxious eel. Luckily I have friends in high places – most of them mountain goats, admittedly, but a few of them human – and at least one of them with a working knowledge of the Swedish language. Unfortunately, they were not in when I called. So I did the sensible thing. I rang Heidi herself (which is to say my wife rang her: the telephone and I have never been the closest of friends).
‘What’, asked I (by way of my go-between) ‘is the content and meaning of your article in Majfisk?’
‘Why’, she replied (or so it came down to me) ‘it is a brief anecdote relating to the first occasion on which I set eyes on the writer Jens Klofferson.’
I ought to add at this point a word or two about the work of the writer Jens Klofferson. But I won’t.
‘Pray, tell me more’ (said I). ‘What was it about the first occasion on which you first set eyes on Jens Klofferson that made it worth writing about in a Swedish food and literature magazine?’
‘He was eating jaffa cakes.’
(pause, followed by fumbling – my wife had dropped the phone)
Heidi continued: ‘I had arranged to interview him at his house, late in the afternoon. It was dark as I approached the purple building and all the lights in the house were on. Walking along the garden path I could already see Klofferson, standing in the centre of a strangely tiled kitchen. He could not see me. It was like seeing someone on stage – indeed, there was something of the actor in his pose. In his left hand he held a packet of jaffa cakes, from which he removed biscuits one by one, by way of his right hand. The manner in which he consumed the cakes was extraordinary. He held one out in front of him, like Hamlet and his skull, and then jerked his head towards it, like a woodpecker bashing his beak against a tree. When his head reached the cake he took barbaric bites, almost injuring his fingers. I have seen ravenous lions go about their dinner in a less ferocious manner. Each cake was eaten in four such bites. I watched him go through the entire packet like this. The interview never took place…’
I didn’t ask why.