9 - Stories from the Pyrenees 1956 :
by Michael Furstner
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Testing my nose in Cabdella
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Watching, of all things, a cooking competition on SBS TV (The
Iron Chef) hijacked my mind quite unexpectedly right into the
middle of the story of my memories from the Pyrenees. I had planned to relate that in its proper order. But never
mind, I will get aroun that.
As you may have noticed from some of the photos : I have a crooked nose. Halfway down
its length it suddenly turns sharply both right and down. The nose bone itself makes a
sharp 45° angle, but the surrounding flesh does not quite reflect that.
never actually aware of this, except when I am reminded of it when I see someone else
with the same peculiarity. That happened last night, as the challenger on last night's
program, a 26 year old Italian chef from a well know restaurant in Tokyo, clearly
exhibited the same quirky smelling organ.
This type of deflection is not necessarily caused by an accident, but, as for example
in my case, the expression of a quirky variation in my genes. My son Jeroen (to the great surprise
and interest of some medical specialists) too was born with a similar shaped nose.
Unlike me however, he suffered frequent headaches and sinus troubles as a young child
and his nose was therefore straightened during an operation at age 6 or 7.
During my teens I was advised several times by my family (probably especially by my
Godfather Uncle Ansco Dokkum who
was a nose, ear & throat specialist), to have my nose straightened in order to
avoid breathing or headache problems. But I did not suffer any noticeably problems at
that time, so I kept my nose as it was.
In the summer of 1956 came the big test in this regard. At the end of our first year as
geology students, my best friend Hauk Fischer and I joined senior student Richard Boersma as
"meelopers" (junior assistants) in the field at Cabdella, a tiny village high up in the Spanish Pyrenees,
about 40 km West (as the crow flies) from Andorra.
Cabdella was at the very end of a narrow mountain
road and as far as one could travel by vehicle in the valley, with mountains rising high
all around us.
This meant that we had to climb every morning about 800 meters in altitude before starting our
field work. This early morning climb was always an athletics style exercise.
Walking in tandem (like in a bike race) we set a blistering pace, small steps but at
high frequency. We took turns in taking the lead in order to maintain the high pace for a few
hundred meters, always following narrow sheep tracks, before dropping to the back of the
We always timed these ascends and managed to cover 800 meters in altitude
within 55 (sometimes even 50) minutes, an excellent effort when we compared our times
with other geology students in the region.
For me these were always special tests. Would I be hindered in breathing by my crooked
nose? I always tried to breath through my nose for as long as possible during these high
tempo climbs, which was not easy. But throughout the month or so we did these climbs, I
always managed to keep up with the other two guys and do my full share of pace setting,
which pleased me enormously.
So after my return to Holland I was clear in my mind :
my nose would keep its shape it had been given at birth. And in retrospect quite
correctly so. Throughout my life I have always felt markedly different to anybody else,
and a distinguishing feature on my face was therefore (I felt) quite appropriate.
Copyright © 2010 Michael Furstner