Wednesday, January 30, 2008

~ sleep is a mouse

Each night, when I was very small, my parents and I would kneel and say prayers by my bed, heads bowed, hands clasped together in reverence. On the wall was a painting of the biblical Samuel in a similar attitude, giving homage to what appeared to be a supernova. I had selected that image from a wide selection at the church shop, because the holy man depicted bore my name.

Most nights, my father would sing me a lullaby in Latvian, his native language: aijã zuzu lãca berni. It was a story of a mother and father bear bringing honey and berries to their cubs – though I never knew the meaning of the words. The lullaby has stayed with me. It’s the sweetest memory I have of my father. And it’s the only piece of real Latvian culture he left me.

It saddens me, but I don’t blame him. I know what he went through, and how frightened he was. He kept as far from the local Latvian community as he could for fear of communist spies. And spies there were. It was not just paranoia.

When I travelled to Latvia, early this century, I made sure to get a recording of the song. I learnt that it was generally known as ‘The Latvian Lullaby’ and was based on a melody by one of the great composers.

From the liner notes …

The Latvian mind imagined that sleep is provided by a dear, sweet little mouse. The mouse is seen as a tiny quiet creature, the colour of the evening dusk, who is able to simultaneously guard boundaries and cross them.

As the magical moment of sleep arrives for the children in our arms, we rock them with an age old movement and we sing to them. What else could one do at suck a moment? Sometimes you can’t even call it singing – it’s crooning, humming, lulling – something heartfelt and primordial.

After my return, Polly was born, but by that time – of course – I’d misplaced the CD. Throughout her short life I’ve been singing her the pigeon-Latvian version I remember from my childhood. My dear friend Ieva - a magnificent woman of honour and intellect, who guided me compassionately through the reunion with my estranged aunt – promised to post me another copy and each day since Polly has been checking the letterbox without result. The months passed and it seemed that the CD had been lost in the mail.

But today, on the eve of Polly’s first day of school, the disc arrived - and from this point on I can invest her with this little silvery flake of her heritage.

[It's a rather beautiful album, by the way.]


I have removed the post ‘Lemon and Orange’. Much to my surprise it was discovered by the subjects of the article and, though no names were used, there was predictable outrage. It is my tendency to colour reality as brilliantly as possible and in this case I succeeded in making an already seedy series of events appear shockingly squalid. I can only speak for what I witnessed; what I learned second hand seems to have been the product of emotional heat.

All up, it was the result of my naïveté as a personal blogger. I have much to learn about what I should and shouldn’t say – though the urge to tell it warts and all is almost irresistible. [I wonder if James Packer will go for me next?]

I must admit, I have been warned – by Pink Light and by Donald – but I thought the use of pseudonyms would be sufficient.


As a footnote to my previous post, Robert’s boarding house is not – as I suggested – at peace. The management and the police are doing very little to restrain the troublemakers, not all of whom have been imprisoned. More threats have been issued and another resident has been assaulted. Robert is working towards a restraining order.

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