On the road in Ireland’s wild west

von Gabriele Berthel

Illustriert von: Helga Kaffke
124 Seiten
2018 EDITION digital
ISBN 978-3-95655-898-6

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In the art scene of Schwerin their names were as well known as the State Theater, the museum or the castle of that city – Helga Kaffke, painter; Gabriele Berthel, author. That was during the last quarter of the past century. In the cultural news of the current capital of the county their names can’t be found. Both artists haven’t lived in Germany for more than twenty years.
First they looked for the centre of their lives in France – and then found it – since the millennium – on the North-West coast of Ireland, in Mayo. They settled there, got married, worked.
“May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be always at your back.” This old Irish blessing didn’t always keep its promise: the wind was often a gale and shook “the old house that rose out of the rocks”. The two artists counteracted this with their passion: for life, for painting, for literature. They had their talents and a backpack full of knowledge and experience, gathered at the colleges in Leipzig – tied forever to their country of birth, from which they had become estranged.
The painter Helga Kaffke died in the winter of 2017. Since her death her spouse Gabriele Berthel shares her life with thousands of pages.
Watercolours, colour on paper, portraits of landscapes, people and animals, in Kaffke-style. Kaffke-style is a mark of quality. Nobody painted watercolours like her: falling lines, sloping verticals, seemingly so chaotic, one already imagines the fall of Carthage – and yet somewhere a glimpse of sky remains. Magnificent. Gabriele Berthel paints with words; equally magnificent and emotional until it hurts. She paints in prose and poetry, mixes fairytale and reality, and covers earthly realism with melancholy.
Thus a book is created, in a remote place of the world where in comparison to sky and sea a person appears to be a dwarf. A book about love and life and the strength to endure it, for every place in world.
“In this place her life was always blowing in the wind –
jacket like trousers between two brittle poles.
And she keeps still, facing the earth – she knows it well –
it was her life worth.”
Helga Kaffke. Gabriele Berthel. For a long time their names had vanished from the cultural news. This is about to change.
In Schwerin and other places.

Farm with view of Achill Island
Doona, Ballycroy
Springtime in Doona
View of Rosturk Castle, Clew Bay
John’s Row, Westport
Westport, Oktagon
Westport, James Street
Still-Life with Cottage
Fishing for salmon in the Valley of Delphi
At second glance
Half way to Heaven
Debate at the boat-house, Sligo
Sruhill Lough, Achill Island
Rosses Point, Sligo
Mullaghmore, Sligo
Glowing Primroses
Lonely Boats
Castelhill Church, Mayo
Starlings above Tullaghan Bay
Fahy Castle, Ballycroy
Fahy Castle with view of Slievemore
Bundoran, Donegal
Mayos Mountainsheeps
Killala, Harbour
Under the rainbow
Burrishole Abbey, Clew Bay
Clew Bay
Clew Bay
Cathedral Newport
Newport, Mayo
Excellent connections
Birr Garden with Castle
Covered walk, Birr Garden
Southwind, Passage East
Summer in February
Wild geese at Mayo’s Coastline
Dear Life, Bina McLoughlin
Words of Comfort, Friedhof Faulmore
Country Life in Mayo
Rush Hour, illuminated
Lough Arrow, Leitrim
Rainy Day
Rainy Day
Hook Lighthouse
Before the Catch
Last Credits, Inverin, Connemara
Last View, Leenane
Killary Harbour
Dreamhouse 1. Lower Skyroad
Dreamhouse 2
Fishermen’s Friends
Tony’s Cottage, Leenane
Little Harbour. Salin, Mullet Halbinsel
Swinging Town Belmullet
Unshorn. In the Moor
Coastline in the fog, Killary Harbour
Signals in the Moor
Before the sail
Flotilla, Passage East
Cosy Port, Dunmore
Killary Harbour near Asleagh
Lough Mask
The way home. Mullet Halbinsel
Cashel Town
Rock of Cashel
Cashel. Panorama
Palaver. Mullet Peninsula
Leenane, Main road
View from the Upper Skyroad, Connemara
Janny’s Cottage, Connemara
The Twelve Bens, Connemara
Blacksod Bay. Mullet Peninsula
Albatrosses above Faulmore
In the mud-flats. Murveagh, Donegal
Fishing Port Killibegs, Donegal
Again and again: Peepholes of the Lord

Biografische Anmerkung zu den Verfassern
Helga Kaffke
Born in 1934 in Leipzig, Germany, Helga first worked as a photo-lithographer. She was awarded a diploma by the University of Graphic Design & Book Art in Leipzig after five years studies. She was a painter and graphic designer, and has worked freelance since 1959.
Helga has made academic travels in Bulgaria, France, Hungary, Ireland, Poland and Romania.
Her work has been exhibited in many one-woman shows in Germany (including Chemnitz, Flensburg, Leipzig, Rostock Schwerin). She had single exhibitions of her work in France (in Rouen, Sassetot and Yport), in Belgium (Eupen) and in Ireland (Westport, Belmullet).
Group shows in Germany include Berlin, Bremen, Dresden, Erfurt, Kiel, and her work has been in group shows in France, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland.
Books published: „Who brushes the hair in the Soup?“, „Life, what else“, „VALSE MUSETTE – Rouen en miniature“, all books together with the writer Gabriele Berthel.
Lived long years until her death in 2017 in an old farmhouse in Ballycroy, Co. Mayo, Ireland.

Gabriele Berthel
Born in 1948 in Schmölln, Germany. Five years studies at the Technical University in Chemnitz. Graduated Engineer. Three years open university course at the Literary Institute in Leipzig. Writer, Collagist.

Books published: „Short and mature“ (edition), „Departureof truth“ (Texts and Collages), „The deviltry reaches further than you believe“ (Collages to Proverbs of Klaus Bernhardt), „Who brushes the hair in the soup?“ (together with the illustrator Helga Kaffke), „VALSE MUSETTE – Rouen en miniature“ (stories to water colour miniatures of Helga Kaffke).
Single exhibitions in Germany include Chemnitz, Dresden, Erfurt, Gera, Hamburg … Single Exhibition in Belgium (Eupen).
Group shows include Ireland (Ballina), Gabrovo (Bulgaria) and in Germany Berlin, Bremen, Chemnitz, Dresden, Flensburg, Nürnberg …
Lives since long years in an old farmhouse in Ballycroy, Co. Mayo.

Everything depends on balance. Just another five steps, six, after that the road descends steeply into the hollow. You have to keep an eye on it. You have to focus firmly on the crest. If you are too fast, you are down straight away. It really knocks you sideways. In the hollow the damp lingers longest. Because the wind only whistles over it, and the sun doesn't bother appearing at all, or only very briefly, only to let it be known that she is not going to turn up at all. There, below, at the bottom, the road remains as it always was. With large potholes from the rain, with deep mud-holes. It is a difficult stretch. You can only put one foot in front of the other. You have to know the trick. It's best to walk exactly in the middle, because the road is staggering a little. The muck in the drain is not painful. It only takes a while to get up again.
The Stout is twittering in Paddy's brain. Paddy can hear it clearly, he knows every note, he can tell them apart exactly. He went to wet his throat a little, in Snoopy's Bar, but he holds himself as upright as he can, you have to be able for that, to finish off all the drink and walk in a straight line afterwards, everything depends on balance, you have to manage that. You have to know the trick, then it is as easy as putting one foot in front of the other, slowly, no need to be in such a rush. If Paddy is honest, he must admit: his boots would not tolerate more speed anyway. Not that they are falling apart, leather, as Paddy knows, is durable, is tough. But the laces, they are gone, that sort of stuff perishes quickly, at the end barely fit for a knot, Paddy couldn’t do it. Of course he could buy new ones, he could afford them, just doesn't bother, the boots are a bit loose, but it will do, it works, relax, to panic would be no use.
Also because of the drain. It doesn't hurt Paddy, but Martha, Martha would notice straight away if he had been lying in the muck. Martha sees everything. Then the nagging would start all over again. The whole lament. Or possibly not. Because Martha is gone as well. Not tough enough. Not tough. Martha can't stand Snoopy. Because he can't find an end, when Paddy doesn't know one, when he pours too much oil on his lamp, but what else can he do, he's only doing it so that the music returns, the twittering, that takes time.
Snoopy's Stout is good for music. You have to drink it in small sips, in very small ones, nearly like tea, that takes time, you have to be able to wait. Anyway, Paddy is always the last one at the counter to be served, the very last one, that takes time, Paddy can wait endlessly. The smaller the sips, the later the tingling arrives in the stomach. The later the tingling arrives in the stomach, the better the music in the head. That is simple. Like putting one foot in front of the other, slowly, Paddy knows how.
Shut up, Martha, Paddy says, as a precaution, so that it doesn't start all over again, and that is a reprimand, but he says some more things, nothing special, just stuff, for Martha, she'll have an ear for it, Martha always listened carefully.
The road from Snoopy’s counter to Paddy’s bunk plods along, Paddy talks walking and walks talking, and he doesn't seem to be surprised that a conversation just hangs in the air like that. He remembers how to do that, to grab the word as it passes. The road plogs along, staggers, but is safe, Paddy really knows another kind of staggering, long ago, long gone, but nothing is lost, Paddy knows every note, every call, he can tell them apart exactly - whereafter all everything depended on it at that time; whether the fish landed in the boat or the boat with the fish, and of course the box of mackerel from the catch for Paddy the handyman, the helper, Paddy was good at that, he could do it, a life can pass over this, just don't rush it. Paddy won’t have any large catches anymore, he did what he could do, it was alright, it worked, it took time, now there is nothing to catch anymore, but life is good to Paddy: something is still quite open.
The road plogs along, it stretches out, but Paddy has time, plenty of it, and that is good so, because in his bunk, in his stupid trap, bang, just like that, the music stops, power gone, turned off, not the slightest bit of twittering.
You can only lie down, stretching all fours, you can listen forever, no use. Not even a croke, not even that. Not even crows outside the window. Because there are no pine-trees anymore. No crooked, leaning sideways into the wind ones, that reminded of Padraig O'Toole. Paddy is still there. Pine-trees are not. But the logs were tough, even in the fire, Paddy's eyes were watering, so much smoke. It didn't do them any good. The crows, naturally, are gone, too. Paddy has peace when the music is off.
The hollow is behind him now. The one with the watery potholes. With the drains. The difficult stretch. Up here it's blowing again. But the sun also shines on Paddy‘s hide, and she takes nothing for it, she does it for free, he has a soft spot for that. She creeps up his damp backbone, that is nice, as he has to go past Martha shortly now. Martha can't be seen from the road. But Paddy knows where to find her. First he has to step through the narrow gap in the wall. Not everyone fits through, he does. Or he could take the back way undo knots, knots that are disintegrating, like the squeaky hinges to which the twine is tied. The gate that fitted the hinges is lying in ambush in the grass, like a metal skeleton. You have to know the place, otherwise you quickly land flat on your face. Rust is chewing away, but couldn't get the better of it, not yet, you have to have patience, you have to be able to see the grass grow, juicy grass, it grows like crazy, but it can't cover everything, not all the rust, not all old stories.
Usually Martha is waiting. Sometimes he has to chase the sheep away first. Not that Paddy would keep anything secret from them. But after all, he has to come more often because of them. The green grass growing over Martha is not enough for them. They get itchy, and then it's the stone's turn. Paddy had little cash those days, that's why it remained rough, has rough edges. The sheep like coming to Martha. But no stone can stand that firmly, can survive so many sheep. Once it starts leaning over, it can topple soon. But after twenty years Martha is no stranger to the stone anymore, It's allowed to lean over her. But to be heavy on her soul, by God, it is not allowed to do to her. Paddy has to get stuck into the stone then. Paddy goes for a look frequently. And Martha, if he understood her rightly, has forgiven him.
In the past Paddy could maneuver the heavy piece by himself. Now he can forget about that. Now he would be lost without help. One pulls, and one pushes. It depends on balance. Usually Paddy finds somebody. And when nobody is there, he can't help Martha. Then her breathing has to be more shallow. Paddy tells her everytime not to forget to breathe. But Martha doesn't reply: „Hey, Paddy, thanks, I‘ll remember“, or something like that, which she really could do, because it is good advice, Paddy knows how important breathing is, one has to do that, it's as easy as drinking tea, you have to take your time for it, and Martha surely has enough of that. No, sometimes Martha isn't quite right in the head. sometimes she mutters gruff nonsense, crazy stuff, just things, for Paddy, who knows every note, who can tell them apart exactly. But if he feels like it, he can stop listening. He won't worry his head about any old nonsense, the beautyful head with all the music in it. Shut up, Martha, Paddy says, shut up!
Martha rarely answers, but Paddy knows that that won't make any difference to him or to the world. Nothing gets lost, nothing really important, even the stuff Paddy says into the wind is not gone away, the wind lives in the wires above him, and up here he whistles to him that his ears start glowing, that they start ringing, music to music, that is good.