In 2007 in Munich I presented the strategic work we had been doing for a client, Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, to their assembled delegates from around the world. PEFC is the world’s largest forest certification organisation, so not unnaturally, they chose to hold the event in the magnificent, yet slightly quirky, Deutsches Jagd- und Fischereimuseum München. Though I had known about Wolpertinger for some time, this was the first time I was surrounded by so many of the vicious creatures. Normally they are a bugger to find, let alone put down, so it was heartening, amongst all the tweed jackets and guns, to see many of the little fiends finally put behind glass.
“Wolpertinger” by Rainer Zenz (1502) in the style of Albrecht Dürer – licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
This inspirational event led to a lifelong passion to spend time at the end of the year helping to improve the planet, as people have discovered over the years from out-of-office messages:
2008 – Apologies if you’re trying to contact me as I’m shooting Wolpertinger in the Northern Bavarian Alps in hopes of stuffing them with haggis for the traditional Frankonian Hogmonayfather Day, but I shall be back online in January. And if you’re out snarking north of Würzburg, you can always try texting …
2009 – Apologies if you’re trying to contact me as I’m spending time with the family in the lowlands of the northern Bavarian Himalayas. Naturally we’re hunting Wolperdinger, plucking Christmas tree gherkins and otherwise trying to nog up. I shall be back in action in January 02010 (in the Long Now reckoning). If it’s urgent or you’re trying to get dates to meet up, Monique Gore at the office would normally be happy to help, but she’s in New Zealand. But if you want to, and you’re wearing protective clothing (vicious creature the Wolperdinger) and quite a good shot, you can always try texting … And while we’re on these subjects, a fable for the festive season (sleep in) – “The Shrike And The Chipmunks“. PS – sent from a snark-free zone.
2010 – Apologies if you’re trying to contact me as I’m in Germany fighting off vicious Wolpertingers in a desperate attempt to get the Euro, Pound, Dollar, and Yuan back on track. Just another normal holiday for a socially-concerned family trying to save the international financial system while stranded in the high, upper, northern and slightly back(ward) Bavarian Alps. Still, despite the casual exertions, every intention of being back online in January. If you happen to have a Wolpertinger arquebus and a hipflask, do feel free to text … though I may be grappling with forces beyond my control at the time you do so. “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” – Philip K Dick, I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon
2011 – You will receive an intermittent service from now till January. I’m away, as ever this time of year, ranging from hunting Wolpertinger up near the oxygen line in the remote forest Wirtschaften of the northern Bavarian Rhöner Alp system, to chequing out (sic) whether or not the jet d’eau in Geneva freezes. But if you’ve had a rare sighting of Wolpertinger, do feel free to try and share some of the sauce that helped you see straight by texting … And for those of a thoughtful nature this Season: what would our world be like without hypothetical questions?
2012 – Yet again we undertake our pointless and delightful annual expedition, this year via Stuttgart, to the hunting grounds of the ferocious Wolpertinger up near the oxygen line among the remote wilderness Wirtschaften of the terra incognita that is the northern Bavarian Rhöner Alp system. If you’ve had a rare shot at a Wolpertinger, do feel free to try and share some of the sauce that helped you shoot straight by texting … “What you most need to unwrap isn’t hiding under the Christmas tree.” – aphorism of the Ancient Wild Wolpertinger Hunter.
2013 – Out and about on our annual wildlife conservation expedition in the frozen wasting lands of the Northern Bayerische Alp System trying to save a beast of lore and yore near the limits of unaided oxygen high above the sea line. No equipment as we strive to keep the watering holes open which preserve this creature’s rare habitat. Bare hands only. Makes the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog look like child’s play, Nessie a Midsummer Night’s Dream, and as for the Yeti… Albrecht Dürer’s 1509 snapshot reveals some of the terrifying details of this ferocious feral fella’, but of course he’s dead now. Albrecht I mean. Intend to return with bragging scars on 3 January.
2014 – Wearing my sustainability passions on my sleeve, yet again I’m on another Wolpertinger conservation safari this winter, due back at work in January. We intend to follow the migratory patterns of these vicious varmints from the flatlands of Salzburgerland to the Rhöntops of the Northern Bayerische Alp System. With a ‘selfie’ handed to us by Albrecht Dürer, it should be simple to avoid skiing over the crazy critters at first, but we do intend to take the battle to them as they proliferate in the Wirtschaften further north on the edge of Thüringen. Ahh, the tales we will tell!
2015 – And the hunt continues … Nasty brutes. Be careful. I always bring a medicinal flask of sprudel-waßer. Works wonders if they bite…
In deep Bayern Mainelli’s hunt a vicious little creature,
So ye feel safe at home, with no fear of Wolpertinger.
It’s a special way to holiday, save drunken carol singers.
2016 – Well, 2016 has been anno mirabilis or anno terribilis for some, but certainly anno confusionis for all. As the family decamps for our annual Weihnacht fortnight, I intend to take refuge in some excellent Wirtschaften and contemplate das Jahr der Verwirrung between Würzburg and Bad Kissingen. As the brain clarifies the Schnapps, perhaps I’ll take aim at my traditional foe, the odd Wolpertinger, though of course they won’t seem that odd this year.
I’d say contact the office in my absence, etc., but they’re mostly absent too, which perhaps you should be in this post-truth, post-work, post-modern, era. And as our world needs to stop leaking its sense of humour to prevent global warming, ask yourself, “what constitutes having an ‘advanced’ sense of humour?”, before reading the last thing that made me laugh out loud – Alt.Warmth.
Of course, in a Kneipian emergency you can always try texting while you practise your post-Brexit translation and diplomatic skills:
“Wenn wir”, sagtest Du, “die Menschen nur nehmen, wie sie sind, so machen wir sie schlechter; wenn wir sie behandeln als wären sie, was sie sein sollten, so bringen wir sie dahin, wohin sie zu bringen sind.”
“When we take people”, thou wouldst say, “merely as they are, we make them worse; when we treat them as if they were what they should be, we improve them as far as they can be improved.”
« Si nous», Vous avez dit, «seulement prendre les gens comme ils sont, nous les faisons pire; si nous les traitons comme si elles étaient ce qu’ils devraient être, donc nous les amener à l’endroit où ils doivent être mis.»
“Se”, Lei ha detto, “solo prendere le persone così come sono, li facciamo peggio; se li trattiamo come se fossero quello che dovrebbero essere, quindi abbiamo portarli a se sono destinati ad essere portati.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in Wilhelm Meister’s Lehrjahre (Book VIII, Chapter four, 1795) from Werke, Hamburger Ausgabe in 14 Bänden, Verlag C. H. Beck München, Herausgegeben von Erich Trunz.
2017 – During the dangerous (W)interval we head, as every year, to the darker side of Europe, deep Deutschland. As the snow swirls before the locked gates, we ponder life, food supplies, and some reruns, while our traditional foes, the Wicious Wolpertingers, snarl round the corners of the Hof. This year we employ special hunting equipment borrowed from the Deutsches Jagd und Fischereimuseum that we hope will prevent a repeat of last year’s sousing incident. Those of you around on 1 January are encouraged to raise your glasses in praise of our saving-the-planet-again work. If you can’t raise your glass, we may have failed, though you should be able to watch it all again during a responsible bingeing session of Mutant Angry Crystal Zombie Dinosaurs with Penguins. That said, you may be a bit confused as Hollywood took terrible liberties with the plot (and who says I look like Brad Pitt?).
If you’re hunting too, and dying for a dram of Jägermeister (geddit), then do text, otherwise watch the lights stay on till 4 January. And what better quote for a repeat New Year’s quest than Hegel’s, “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.” Oh well, in the interest of accuracy over brevity, it was actually:
“But what experience and history teach is this, that peoples and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.”
“Was die Erfahrung aber und die Geschichte lehren, ist dieses, daß Völker und Regierungen niemals etwas aus der Geschichte gelernt und nach Lehren, die aus derselben zu ziehen gewesen wären, gehandelt haben.”
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), Lectures on the Philosophy of History, Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Weltgeschichte (1832).
With all best wishes to you and yours during this Winterval!