My mate Paul comments that continental quilts will stop working after 29th March. I do hope not …
I recall the very first time I came across these excellent items of bedware. It was 27th or 28th May 1965. The band was in transit to Rome in an old 15 cwt van to take up a month’s residency at the Piper Club in that city; it was the first time that any of us had been outside of England, and needless to say, none of us spoke any other language than English.
After Belgium, we were travelling through Germany, suppressing hilarity at the Ausfahrt (exit) signs on the Autobahns, when shortly after coming into the state of Baden-Württemberg in the south of the country, a red light lit up on the dashboard. This was serious, because it meant that the dynamo (alternator in later years) was no longer charging the battery. We took the next Ausfahrt, and drove into the city of Ulm.
Ulm, as I learned later, is famous for at least two things: it has the tallest church steeple in the world – 530 feet – and is the birthplace of Albert Einstein. We knew nothing of that at the time, and heading for a garage, we soon learned the German for the fault with our van: it was Lichtmaschine Kaputt! The Germans were very decent and accommodating, but it was late afternoon, and we would have to come back tomorrow to pick up the repaired van.
We found our way to the central square of the city, and a very helpful girl in the tourist information hut found us a hotel for the night. It was an inn really, and we caroused with the locals – all of an age such that they must have been involved with the war, over only 20 years before – but of whom none seemed to bear us any ill will. On the contrary, we played a hilarious game with them, consisting of clucking like a chicken on hands and knees, and ducking ones head between the hands of the opponent, who tried to catch the opponent’s head between clapping hands. It sounds absurd but it was most amusing, and quite difficult to do.
Come bedtime – our rooms cost us 7 Deutschmarks each, (exchange rate, 10 Deutschmarks to the Pound) – we were seriously confused, assisted no doubt by the beer we had consumed. Anyone who has travelled in Austria or Germany knows that hotel beds are made up with the bottom sheet and pillow, but with the continental quilt usually folded in half at the foot of the bed. And so it was, and we had no idea what to do with it.
I was detailed to find out. I went downstairs, and finding the landlady, who knew as much English as I did German, I managed to get her attention by the expedient of taking her by the arm and dragging her up to our rooms. I pointed to the beds and signalled incomprehension; she understood and showed us how to use the quilt.
Apart from the beds, the other thing that intrigued us were the lavatories. In those days, the standard German lavatory bowl was arranged, how shall I say, back to front, with a ‘ledge’ at the back so that the results of using said item could be ‘inspected’ before they were flushed away … Funny, how something so basic could cause such consternation when first encountered.
The next day we picked up the van with a brand new Lichtmaschine and went on our way. It was a most instructive interlude. The very pleasant evening we spent with the locals in that inn in Ulm, who were as friendly as one could have wished, did generate one memorable trope: long before Fawlty Towers, we had coined the phrase, ‘For God’s sake, don’t mention the War!’
But they were all so generous and uncomplicated. I have had a soft spot for Germany and the Germans ever since.
17.4 million British voters voted ‘leave’ in the referendum, so why aren’t we leaving? Theresa???
The problem is that the brilliant Oxbridge-educated ‘experts’ who authorized that event just forgot to ask: ‘What sort of leave?’
Leave the single market? The customs union? The free movement of people? Oh, and by the way, what about the Irish border? – an issue that really has been kicked down the road for best part of 100 years.
It is this conundrum that has split both main political parties, and no wonder! God knows what is going to happen.
Beam me up Scotty ...
In 1986, President Reagan ordered the bombing of Tripoli, Margaret Thatcher authorizing the use of British bases for the raid. There was a subsequent reticence among US citizens to visit Europe following this – and of course the various terrorist atrocities in Europe that had precipitated the action.
At the time, I was visiting the USA fairly regularly on business, and on BA flights back to Britain, British Airways organized a quiz among the passengers, the prize being a return flight on Concorde between the USA and London in order to encourage Americans to fly to Europe.
Well, I won one of those quizzes, and I received a letter from BA to say that the prize was either a return trip to New York on Concorde for one, or a return trip for two, Club Class, to a US gateway city.
I agonized for a short while, quite a short while, asking BA if they would concede Concorde one way for two, but finally settled for the Club Class tickets. My wife and I flew to San Francisco, and I used some Advantage Club miles to travel on to Honolulu. We had a wonderful holiday there one Easter.
Some years later, I was travelling back to the UK again from San Francisco – flying Club Class, as the company allowed in those hallowed days. The aircraft pushed away from the jetway, only to return almost immediately. There had been a bomb threat, and the flight was delayed for six hours while the luggage and aircraft was searched.
Finally we got underway, but were able to fly only to New York, since otherwise the crew would have exceeded their flying time. At New York the First Class and Club passengers were separated from the rest, and I was aware that we were queuing at a check-in desk. They flew us home from New York on Concorde.
I remember only a few things about the trip. It was very noisy at Mach 2, the food was excellent, the service was great, and although I honestly do not recall the acceleration at take-off, the deceleration on landing at Heathrow was as though we had run into a sand-bank. It took 3 ¾ hours to fly back, and it was an experience I will never forget. What a truly wonderful aircraft Concorde was, and what a brilliant engineering achievement of the British and French engineers responsible.
Today's Daily Telegraph entitles its letter page "It's the hell of a mess of the EU that B********s had voted to escape", together with a lovely colour picture - that regrettably, and for copyright reasons I cannot reproduce - entitled: '"Push him under the molten pitch": a manuscript illustration for Dante's Inferno (1440)'. The picture shows several demons at work with forks and rakes pushing the damned beneath the pitch.
The various letters appended illustrate nicely the balanced and liberal views of that splendid organ:
"More than 17.4million people obviously think it [the special place in hell] looks preferable to the place they've been stuck for the last 45 years ..."
"I suspect a much hotter place in hell's reserved for unelected dictators ..."
And my favourite:
"If Mr Tusk would like to know what hell would be like in Europe, he just needs to reflect on how it was the last time the Germans ran it ..."
Mr Tusk wonders about a ‘special place in Hell … for those who promoted B****t without even a sketch of a plan …’
Well Donald, one can, I suppose, understand your frustration, but this sort of language is quite definitely not helpful, in fact it’s the kind of thing we usually associate with the other Donald T ...
And it is, of course, hugely counter-productive, because the snivelling reptiles and their third-rate toadying lickspittles that have got us into this mess, will now start bleating on about how intransigent the EU is, it’s their fault for refusing to negotiate, and ‘this is what we have said all along …’ etc. etc.
Nevertheless Don, you asked the question. I think the eighth circle is the place you need. Dante called it Malebolge, which apparently means ‘evil ditches’ – ten in number – set aside for just such as you describe. Yes! They are perfect!
Ditch 5 is for Corrupt Politicians; Ditch 6, Hypocrites; Ditch 8, Counsellors of Fraud; Ditch 9, Sowers of Discord and Ditch 10, Falsifiers.
Their punishments are delicious – refer to Wikipedia for specifics – but, for example, those in ditch 5 are immersed in boiling pitch and guarded by demons who, if they should dare to show themselves above the pitch, are ‘seize[d] … with more than 100 rakes …’
I think it would be fun to decide whom to commit to which particular ditch, but in the interests of wishing to remain out of gaol, I will not name names just now, but I am thinking …
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs