Herbert Christoph Fluggs
9th July 1897
Albert Christoph Fluggs and Brigitte Anna Fluggs
both born in the region of Westphalia
Herbert Christoph Fluggs was a poet whose work was characterised by a belief system that relied heavily on self-analysis and how this “self” was connected to the world at large. He was born in the German city of Gütersloh at the end of the 19th century. By that time the city was already an industrial hot spot as manufactured goods were shipped, first by the river and then by train throughout the region of North Rhine-Westphalia and beyond. Today Herbert is largely forgotten in spite of rubbing shoulders with all of the great thinkers of the age.
Herbert’s upbringing could best be described as non-conformist. Both parents were keen naturists. Clothing would be dispensed with as soon as the couple arrived home. They believed that the human body was a temple designed by God and that they should not feel ashamed of showing it off. More than once this led to clashes with local officials. Once, when gardening, it appeared that Brigitte was naked and concerned neighbours contacted the local authorities. It transpired that she had indeed been clothed in a tight-fitting, flesh coloured, dress with short sleeves and what the neighbours had objected to turned out to be her yellowing cabbages and black spindly carrots. Later Herbert noted in his diary that his parents would always describe this incident as “hilarious” whenever they discussed it with friends and relatives. Instead Herbert noted how very ashamed he felt by their behaviour. In truth, though Herbert became accustomed to his parents being naked, it did little to help him deal with the reactions of school friends when they were invited over to assist in homework.
Father Albert financed the family by working long hours on both the railway and the river that dissected Gütersloh. Though his work never took him far from the city he would often not see the family from one day to the next. Herbert was a deeply troubled youngster who was constantly in fear of the strange man that he would sometimes meet on the landing overnight. This father figure became a returning theme in Herbert’s later poetic journey. It is true to say that his relationship with his father became an important catalyst to his literary achievements.
Herbert’s mother Brigitte was of farming stock and was thus obsessed with growing her own vegetables in the couple’s small back garden. Her own father being a very successful farmer she naturally felt that she too would “have the gift.” However it was not to be, as harvest after harvest offered only shrunken cabbages and long mis-shapen carrots and parsnips. Even potatoes refused to grow under her ministrations. None of these calamities ever put Brigitte off from once again sowing her various crops to be once more disappointed by the dismal rewards. Brigitte also loved to dance, ballet being her favourite, and would often be found cavorting about the front garden in between the rose bushes – naked, naturally.
The couple had tried to conceive another child but, having failed to do so, came to the diabolical decision that they must, somehow, abduct a child. To this end they made elaborate plans during the harsh winter of 1910 that, had they proved to be successful, would have delivered a little African child called Zuka to their small abode. The child was that of a labourer on the railways, whose disappearance – the Fluggs’ thought – would be hard to trace as the labourer was in the country illegally and thus unable to get the police involved. Such was the Fluggs’ zeal to carry out this plan it does not seem to have occurred to them that the arrival of a small, coloured child in a caucasion family might be deemed to be suspicious. However, fate intervened, when Albert Fluggs suddenly took unwell and was rushed to hospital with a viral pneumonia that ultimately killed him several days later.
It appears that Brigitte was lost in grief for the next five years of her life and took little enjoyment without her “dearest Albert.” She continued to attempt to garden, but with ever diminishing results. However she still loved to dance and would now think nothing of doing so all the way down to Berliner Strasse, sans clothing, of course. Often the authorities would come to pick her up, wrapping her in a blanket, and taking her home, believing that she was quite mad. It was a belief that was well founded as within a couple of years Brigitte was committed to an asylum. One morning she was found dead behind the door by a staff member. It appears from records kept at the asylum that Brigitte had, as usual, been dancing and had tried to do a cartwheel or two in a space that was far too small. Brigitte’s head had taken the full force of the trauma. Ballet was put down as the cause of death. (to be continued..)
prose © copyright Brian Shirra 2012