I’m Legal Now

Why do the forces of the universe find a joyless satisfaction in allowing a human being to become ill on the first day off work ?
Is it something we’ve done ? The looks ? The fact of our mere existence ?
Coughing, wheezing, sweating in the cold Eastern, I dragged my sore body – and the pounding head ! – over the groundless Franconian paths, slippery from treacherous mud and dirt, towards the big grey house where the authority dwells, embodied in my old nemesis, Miranda the evil dwarf.
When I first entered this crumbling building years ago and wandered through its endless corridors that look and smell like dried up pea soup, I was confronted with this gerbil like creature in the Bureau for Peasant’s Affairs. But gerbils have a soul, emotions, they even feel friendliness. Miranda the evil dwarf hated all and everything, himself, the job, the peasants. So he was the natural choice for the first desk opposite the entrance to the dimly lid file storage room that he controlled by miasmatic disdainfulness, you could have sawed blocks out of it …
To my amazement the steely stare I switched on before stepping over the threshold fell on a robust youngish woman. I noticed that the room was distinctly brighter, I was offered a chair ! Miranda seemingly is retired, maybe he kicked the bucket or simply vanished in the cellar to everybody’s relief. He took with him the nineteenhundredthirty’s ameublement, the pus coloured curtains, and the smell of fear & despair I remembered so well.
The young woman nevertheless interrogated me about personal details, like my hight (no idea), the colour of my eyes (changes, but there is always green in it), and put special emphasis on my nationality (“Coburgian”, what was dismissed). I never held two different passports, and – that was new to me – never served in foreign regular forces, thus acquiring a second nationality.
In front of me on the desk was a little thing like a tablet, like something you find in a shop, where you put the money down. It turned out to be a tablet and there I was shown the forms she had filled out, was asked to read through and control the details, and signed it with a stylo. I asked, it is a valid signature.
The new ID-card comes in the form of a cheque card size plastic piece with an embedded chip that stores my personal data and, if I allow it, the fingerprints of both forefingers (no way !). It also allows my identification online, valid for legal transactions ; but for this I’d need special soft~ and hardware, particularly a reader for the ID card.
I relinquished this functionalities, simply because I could not figure out circumstances in which I would need this. I avoid online-transactions generally, and can not think of a situation where I would need valid identification for a legally binding transaction via web – like … what ? Buying a house – no, I want a contract on paper and see who signs it. Opening an account at this respected Russian bank on The Caymans ? There are specialists for this, and again, you must see a person – hence you know whom to shoot when you are ruined …
The lady checked the photographic portrait I had acquired for expensive money, looked at it a bit quizzical, but it did fit into some scheme she used, and she glued it on a form. I payed my thirty Euro, one last signature (“This is the one that will be on the card.”), and that was it.
They send the whole stuff digitally to Berlin, the Bundesdruckerei (not G&D, I asked the lady, and she was firm about this : they cheated) will start the press, and sometime after Easter I will have a new, valid ID-card.
I went back through gardens of budding blossoms, cheered up by the distant laughter of children, wiping the image of an ugly mean dwarf from my memory.



The 1630s were a tough time in the entire Reich, and in Westphalia it slowly became real bad. What later was called the 30-years-war started 1618 as a local fight between different groups over the succession and rule over Bohemia. This conflict slowly started getting pace and finally got out of hand; more and more groups got involved, finally it reached an European dimension. Basically the catholic “Liga” and the protestant “Union” were fighting over the predomination within the Reich, but other conflicts and interests run across this fundamental line.
Westphalia, the north-western part of the Reich came largely unharmed through the first years, but from the end of the 1620s on war arrived. 1632 catholic forces under Graf Gottfried defended Wolfenbuettel against a protestant army, 1635 the “battle” of Haseluenne took place, where the emperor’s forces despite a numeral superiority were beaten by the Swedes. The town of Bielefeld was consequently taken by one or the other party in regular intervalls: No party destroyed the town, because they both needed it. And the contributions. Bielefeld was in 1720s still paying depths from this time, but it was luckier than Minden or other places around that became smoldering heaps of ashes during the various campaigns.
In February 1636 count Gottfried was the highest commander on the emperor’s side in Westphalia. He had at least twelve regiments in the area. The Swedish countered this ammassement by pulling together own and allied, protestant, forces: The two armies faced each other in the area between Bielefeld and Herford. They played the waiting game for at least 10 days; minor “Scharmützel”, gunfights, took place, but the real battle was avoided. Finally the Swedish got reinforcements by Hassian troops and so tipped the scale: The catholic army found it wiser to draw back, a major engagement would have cost too much and success was not in reach any longer.
In these days the council of Bielefeld complained to the high-commander about the costs of the war and the quartering.

He answered that he really understood what they have written to him and what their secretary had told him. After all the treaty between the city-council and his command and the order about the rations (“Verpflegungs-Reglement”) were to be observed, nothing else.
In the course of his letter he allowed them to present this writing to officers who would demand more. After all God may help them.
Count Gottfried could at this point of his life look back at 18 years service in the emperor’s army, later that year he will be promoted to the rank of General and at the beginning of the 1640s he will resign. One can assume that he knew very well that besides the protection by a piece of paper, God’s help was the best the people could hope for.


Here we go again. I tried to phograph out of my new kitchenwindow, but the results were thus disappointing, that I did not want them to be seen by anybody! Maybe in the evening, when the sun sets on the other site of the house. It is amazing to see how old habits survive in new surroundings. For example I ritually put on my watch, ring, wallet, handkerchief or put them in diverse pockets – but where to put them in the evening in the new room? I remember watching my father doing his preparations for the day in a similar way and I thought that I would never do such a ridiciulous thing! But rituals structure the flow of live that otherways would be without form. The weekend saw me transcribing letters from the 19th century Germans in America wrote to each others. The “originals” I had were grey photocopies, but amazingly it worked. I can not always be such a good original as the 16th century billing I worked on before. Here you see a cutting from it.

Mr. Telekom did fix my telephonline, not my private net-connection … Ah yes.