412 Esperanto in my life (6)

What happened next must have been fairly unusual, although at the time it seemed the obvious thing to do.
Meeting your future partner at work isn’t at all unusual, of course; and meeting in an Esperanto context is nothing like as unusual as you might imagine. But I don’t know of any other couples who got together while both working in an Esperanto office.
Naturally, as in any office, there was a certain amount of activity of a certain nature in and around the Rotterdam office and not all of it ended happily; but some office romances do turn out well, as you can read, or will be able to read, on p. 920.
Immediately after returning from Rotterdam in 1975 my priorities were, of course, to get a job, and to save up money for the wedding, the honeymoon, and a deposit on somewhere to live. There was no Esperanto in any of this, though I did resume contact with the London Esperanto Club. I didn’t immediately rejoin the national Esperanto Association. I don’t know why not; maybe it just seemed like small beer after the excitement of working in Rotterdam.
About a year went by, and we were able to set a date for the wedding. This, we reckoned, was to be in Turin. After that (though my future brothers-in-law had assured me I could easily find work in Turin) we would return to England and before long set up house on our own.
Now there is some Esperanto in that.

Before going further I should remind you that all of this happened long before the days of E-mail, so all long-distance contacts had to happen by post (very slow – letters could take a week to reach Italy) or in hasty telephone calls (very expensive and not too reliable – no fibre-optic cable in those days). So, from hundreds of miles away, I couldn’t take much part in setting up the wedding or the honeymoon. I had to leave it all to the    in-laws, some friends of the Frus family, and local Esperantists – which suited me perfectly well, of course.
One part of this was that I came to know that we were to be married in Esperanto and that the reception would be held in the local Esperanto Centre. Some pictures of all this will eventually appear here. The ceremony would be conducted by Fr. Albino Ciccanti, a colourful character well known for globe-trotting by means of Esperanto and the benevolence of some airlines, all without infringing his vows of poverty. How he managed this has never been really clear. In our case, though, he only had to travel a couple of hundred miles.
Over the years quite a few wedding ceremonies have been conducted in Esperanto, but they still attract a lot of attention. It was no surprise when the event was reported in the Esperanto press, from the modest newsletter of the S. E. France Esperanto Federation all the way up to the international magazines Esperanto and Heroldo de Esperanto. What was more surprising was that a journalist and photographer from La Stampa, no less, turned up to interview the pair of us, with the result that a brief article, with photograph, appeared on the front page of the newspaper. I still don’t know who set this up.
Obviously, getting wed in Esperanto wasn’t a publicity stunt, it was just the best way to go about things, but it was a classic example of the right way to publicise the language – don’t contrive things, just be doing something genuine and worthwhile in itself, and then let people know about it.

For the next six years very little happened on the Esperanto front; we were frequent visitors to the London Esperanto Club, where Maria became very popular and made various friends. We visited some Esperantist acquaintances, and once guided an Esperanto Club outing around Trent Park (in north London – I think they call this kind of place a “country park”). Now and then I was persuaded to address the Club on various topics, mostly musical. Our home life, between ourselves, was in Esperanto, but we agreed that Maria would speak Italian to our daughters and I would speak English to them; so, for better or worse, they only ever got a passive understanding of Esperanto. Some Esperantist parents find that if they bring up their children in Esperanto, the language is then cast off along with all the other childish things, as the children grow up; but quite a few of them do stay around, especially if they find a way of pursuing their Esperanto interests entirely separately from their parents.
Also, it often happens that people drop out of Esperanto completely in the “busy” years of their life – roughly from starting work in earnest through to the “empty nest” stage of things – and then come back, many years later, usually with their knowledge of the language more or less intact. As a result, Esperanto organisations tend to be run mostly by students and pensioners. I think we did quite well to stay in touch during those years.

Another simple lesson that a lot of Esperantists need to learn is this – only do what you’re good at.  Many Esperantists find themselves trying to do work that they would not dream of doing in ordinary life. It is, of  course, easy to get pressured into doing things you aren’t really qualified for. If you’re one of only six members of the Ashfield-cum-Thorpe Esperanto Club and you can add up reasonably well, you’ll probably get pushed into being Treasurer. After all, someone has to do it.
It took me a long time to learn this lesson; at different times I’ve taken on various responsibilities without the necessary knowledge, and inevitably I’ve done them badly. Early in the 1980s – I don’t remember exactly when – I took on something I can do fairly well, which at the time no-one else was prepared to do, and 25 years later they haven’t sacked me yet.
Sometime around 1982 the Esperanto Association noticed that their Librarian (whom I shall not name) had gone AWOL and was no longer turning up, so they decided to seek a replacement. So it was that one day I got a phone call from their then Secretary, the wonderful Herbert Emil (Bert) Platt, who asked if I would be interested in taking on the Association’s Montagu C. Butler Library. I had little hesitation, probably none, in saying yes. It was a daunting challenge as very little had been done for a couple of years. I’m still working on some of the backlog now (2007); it has always been a dilemma whether to concentrate on cheerful new books, which brighten up the shelves and make the library look good, or whether to go for those older, less  glamorous, items (especially archive documents, which can look really dreary) which are in fact what researchers most often ask for. The result was then, and is now, a kind of uneasy compromise between the  two.
If nothing else the Association gained an extra member (me) since you can hardly be the EAB librarian without being a member.
So that, and nothing else concerning Esperanto, is what I’m doing now. The Library’s founder, Montagu Butler, died in harness after 40 years of beavering away at the Library. I don’t specially want do either of these things (die in harness or serve for 40 years) as I don’t think I would do a particularly good job at the age of 75. Of course, by the time I am 75, I may think differently!

There is another story, which may appear on page 920, dating from the 1990s ; but it concerns someone who is currently out of Esperanto circles (as far as I can tell), and doing quite well in academic life. I know my information is incomplete, I would be in danger of over-sentimentalising the story, and I wouldn’t want to embarass a very likeable person. So I may keep it to myself, and, as my subject is very likely to outlive me, you may never know what I am hinting at. All through these ramblings I am facing a dilemma; I may be just talking to myself here (I really don’t know) in which case I can put down everything regardless of how accurate it is or whom it might embarass; but the thought of others reading it all holds me back for fear of offending people who are still around to tell me what they think about these revelations. Any similarly scrupulous  bloggers will be welcome to comment.

5 Responses to “412 Esperanto in my life (6)”

  1. Leonora King Says:

    You’re not talking to yourself! Whether I read it or not probably doesn’t have much bearing on whether you tell the story though.

  2. Debora Webster Says:

    I would like to add another number to the “you are not talking to yourself” camp.

    I can’t say I am a scrupulous blogger, but I can understand your dilemma. All the same, I for one would like to see this page 920 materialise!

    • geoffreyking Says:

      Don’t forget both of you could appear on page 920. Family and friends are the hardest to write about – except, of course, that most of mine are dead!

  3. Debora Webster Says:

    Well, we asked for it! You can’t do something like this without getting personal. That’s fine with me – I think…

  4. Martin Morris Says:

    Definitely not talking to yourself. You’ve piqued my interest about the 900’s too!

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