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New Beginnings

Journey To Deutschland

I headed towards the Pot Market to meet up with Adam and to catch the bus for Carlisle. It was a strange feeling travelling down the road with everyone involved with small talk and blether before they went to work, and all the time we were thinking that this was the first leg of our journey to Europe and really had no idea what the future held for us. The next leg of our journey began at Carlisle Station at which we arrived a good hour earlier before our train was departure. We filled in some of the spare time by using the staff canteen facilities, and getting stuck in to a couple of fresh bacon butties. I had been introduced to the staff canteen some years ago and new Margaret who served up the teas and made up the butties. Time seemed to pass so painfully slow, but eventually our train departure was announced on the muffled sound of the station public address system. We had no hesitation in boarding the train as quickly as possible, and each of us lit up yet another cigarette and sat impatiently awaiting the guard's whistle. This part of the journey was taken up with how we envisaged Germany, the language barrier problem, and telling each other jokes to keep up our positive mood.

We arrived in London, Euston I think, both bursting to relieve ourselves, Adam dashed off to the nearest gents' toilet, and I followed on with the two suitcases. I put them down in a position some ten feet from the toilet entrance and about a yard behind me and in front of a newsagent's kiosk intending to buy a paper or magazine. I was busy making my choice, when I was suddenly acutely aware of a commotion going on behind me, and very quickly realised that our suitcases were causing some anxiety sitting unattended to all appearances, and someone had informed the police. Adam appeared out of the toilet entrance in the next minute while I was trying to explain and convince the policemen that we had travelled from Scotland that morning, and that we were not IRA terrorists planting bombs around London stations. After I had been to the toilet, Adam and I eventually managed to convince the officers of our intention to travel to Germany, and showed them the relevant documentation to corroborate our claim. They let us off with a severe warning and we promised never to leave our luggage unattended again. Apparently a bomb had been detonated earlier in the day at another station and everybody was understandably nervous and expecting more bombs to go off.

We boarded the next train for Harwich, travelled for a couple of hours, finally arriving at the ferry port. All the formalities taken care of, we boarded the ferry and headed for the café for a cup of coffee, only to find that the whole of the sitting area was strewn with bodies, some half asleep, some snoring in a deep state of slumber. We hung around until someone decided to move off, then grabbed the vacant part of the bench. We got talking with a two lads the same age us us who explained that this situation always occurs on the evening ferry, and advised us to make the best of it by Adam or I look after the luggage in turn whilst the other checks out the duty free shop, bar and other facilities which we did very successfully. I remember dancing in the disco at one point and feeling the rolling of the ferry as the wind had freshened up somewhat. The trip to the Hook of Holland, you could hardly call it a voyage surprisingly took sixteen hours to complete. By the time we had arrived in Holland we were familiar with the layout of the ferry, especially the bar.

We docked around six o'clock on the Wednesday morning, finally boarding our train for the next leg of the journey which was to take us through the Netherlands then across the border into Germany. At this point we were both acutely aware of being in a foreign land, the public address system was every bit as unclear as the British systems but much worse for us as we couldn't understand a word of what was being said. However we managed to board the correct train and to show our passports and tickets when requested more by the conductor's gestures and tone of voice rather than by understanding the words he had spoken.

The one-armed man

We finally arrived in Wolfenbüttel Bahnhoff (train station) around six thirty in the evening. It was a small station platform about the size of Gilnockie's. Wolfenbüttel I have since found out, is where the only 'Jägermeister' factory in Germany that produces a liqueur that has healing properties, especially for the stomach. The nearest equivalent that I can think of is Underburg which is particularly efficient at alleviating hangover symptoms and upset stomachs. The English translation of Jägermeister is 'Huntmaster'. We had just stepped from the train, when a one-armed man approached us and uttered a few words of welcome in German, I think one of which was "Englander", and introduced himself as Herr Balder. After loading our suitcases into the back of a Volkswagen van, he ushered us into the front bench seat, and he jumped into the driver's position. Luckily it was his left arm that was missing, at least it allowed him to drive - in a fashion. If you can envisage this chap driving along and holding the steering wheel with his right hand, then when it is time to change gear, he would let go the wheel and make a quick snatch at the floor mounted gear stick, and then quickly grab the steering wheel again.

We were not comfortable with this situation, but had to tolerate it, strangely enough on the whole he was a good driver. We arrived some ten minutes later at a high block of flats in a housing estate, we were addressed by the man in what I took to be some sort of welcome. He pressed one of the buttons on the brass panel next to the large wooden security door and a woman's voice was clearly heard, Herr Balder replied with a simple "ja", and the door buzzer sounded simultaneously and the door unlocked. We went up a few floors in the lift to an open door where a smartly dressed woman was standing. She smiled and ushered us through the door to the inside of the apartment, where she pointed to chairs around the table, and Adam and I sat down. There was, so now I am led to believe, a plate of German fare, which resembled a small sort of pattie made from raw mince and chopped onion not unlike a British Steak Tartare along with a small mound of cabbage, along with this we offered a plateful of rye bread to half between us to accompany the meal. As you can imagine we were absolutely starving and devoured each of our platefuls in two minutes flat.

Our meals being finished, we were shown to our sleeping quarters which consisted of half the attic area above their apartment. There was a pair of single, what appeared to be, home made wooden framed single beds positioned about six feet apart at right angles. Above us we could see very clearly the internal wooden apex of the roof which had several cross beams spanning its width at various points, these were to come in handy for drying our smalls on a string fixed between them. In the morning we were awakened at six o'clock by Balder and were taken down the steps to a table laid out with breakfast. They certainly didn't skimp on this meal, there was piles of freshly cooked bacon which was not unlike very fat streaky and cut a half inch thick, tomatoes, mushrooms, the ever present piles of rye bread slices and a huge pot of freshly made real coffee that would have stripped hairs from your chest. After breakfast was finished, we made our way down the stairs and outside to where the Volkswagen was parked, we all got into the van and started off to our pace of work. The site was located about 200 yards from the edge of a forest and had a school on the other side of it some 100 yards away. We were met by the site foreman who was in an extremely agitated state, we introduced ourselves and discerned that before we were to begin work, there was a major crisis looming, because the JCB (or German equivalent) had broken down.

Herr Balder beckoned us to come along with him towards a works shed which he unlocked and opened the door wide. He pointed to a pile of shovels with six foot shanks, and gestured using two fingers that I pick two of them which I duly carried out. I handed Adam a shovel and kept one myself. Herr Balder then started to talk at a rate of fifty to the dozen about God knows what, but our gut feeling was that it was all bad news for us. Herr Balder tried to explain by gestures that a trench was required in order to lay an underground electric cable, the trench had to be dug eighty centimetres deep by twenty-five wide, to which we replied, "you must be joking". As Herr Balder didn't understand the reply, he ignored it and ushered us towards a line of string on the ground. You can see our predicament, here we are in the middle of Germany, actually only eleven kilometres from the East German border, little money to spend, no machine to drive, owing this bloke for our rail and ferry ticket for the journey, bloody great start! We couldn't refuse to do the work because we were beholding to this Herr Balder, so we would have to knuckle down to the task ahead.

We dug the trench as required which incidentally was over quarter of a kilometre long, in ten days, yes! even by then the JCB had not been repaired and returned. We decided there and then that this job wasn't going to get any better, so consequently after our supper we would go on the town. We managed to obtain a 'sub' apiece and had a night of bar crawling, returning at around three-thirty in the morning singing weel kent Scottish songs. We finally found the block of apartments in which we had been staying, rang the buzzer and attempted to be coherent when his master's voice came through the door intercom. We made our way up via the lift and were confronted by an extremely irate German. We laughed, and as I remember, headed straight for their bathroom and promptly threw up into the toilet. I cannot remember the rest of the night. I heard this voice shouting our names and opened my eyes as far as they would go, which was no more than a slit, and tried to make sense of this racket. I glanced to the side of my bed and espied a sock hanging over the edge of a plastic bucket, which on further examination was half filled with vomit, that is the bucket not the sock. As expected, we caught a huge rollicking for our behaviour but were still given the common courtesy of sitting down to breakfast before we left.

Turning The Hovel Into A Home

There wasn't much conversation that morning, it wouldn't have mattered anyway as we could only understand an odd word here and there. We were ushered into the van, then we drove off to a part off town that was very old. He stopped on a narrow street that contained detached dwellings that can had seen better days. After he had parked the van he beckoned us to the rear of it, opened the doors and handed us a shovel and a long-shanked hard brush each. What now?, we thought, but we would soon find out. He unlocked the house's old paint-stripped and battered looking door and went ahead and gestured for us to follow him inside. As we had approached the house, the appearance of it became so much worse, especially the weathered and worn brickwork with its cement pointing which took the form of crumbled and dried powder.

There must have been a garden to the front of the building because a faint outline of a pathway could be identified. I wonder who lived here when the fabric of the building was intact?, I thought, and were there children who played in the garden, I'd never know. We continued up the old rickety staircase which was situated just off the downstairs corridor to the right of the front door. He led us into an upstairs room where everything was covered with 'stour' an inch thick. Herr Balder demonstrated by action as best he could with his disability by first opening the push windows then continuing by sweeping a small pile of rubbish and dirt, then scooping it up with the shovel and throwing it out of the window, all the time talking away in German. After he had finished his little demonstration, he waffled something pointing at us, then pointed at the brushes and shovels that were held by Adam and I, then finally doing a slow pirouette with one arm fully extended, pointing to the debris and dirt lying on the floor. We followed suit and began to sweep from one wall to the opposite one in fairly straight lines ending up at the window wall, then finally swept from opposite ends of the line on the floor into the middle under the window, then we took turn about at getting a shovelful and tipping it outside the window. We had almost finished the room when he pointed to the next room folowed by gestures meaning everywhere in the house had to be 'zauber gemacht' (cleaned). We nodded a few times to let him know that we understood what he wanted.

He left the house and drove off and we carried on as before, but all the time quizzing each other. What possible reason were we doing this for, was it just for something to keep us occupied?, We didn't think so. We got our answer in three hours when the boss returned. He made it known that he wanted us to come to the van and showed us several tins of paint, more like whitewash which he gestured to us to take them into the house. He followed on with two large paintbrushes and laid them on top of one of the tins. He pulled a screwdriver from his pocket and attempted to open one of the tins with little success, so Adam said that he would do it and extended his hand to receive the screwdriver from the boss. Herr Balder understood and passed the tool to Adam who opened the tin fairly easily. The tins did indeed contain a type of whitewash which the boss was eager to demonstrate how to apply. He proceeded to slap the white fluid onto the wall, then stopped suddenly and walked of making angry noises. He returned within two minutes holding a half spade shank, went over to the open tin, plunged the wooden shank into the paint and began to vigourously stir it. After a minute it was evident that the effort required to stir was in excess of what he possessed, so he Asked Adam to work at it for a while, which he did so, and when the paint had been given a good stir for a few minutes, the boss cried "Halt" which Adam obeyed. Adam took the tin over to the wall which had been started by the boss and began to coat the wall with the now properly prepared paint. I grabbed the other brush and proceeded to apply the paint to the bottom half of the wall under where Adam was working. We had that room completed within twenty minutes, but the end result was not pleasing because it was all rough because the walls had been dusty and never wiped or washed down.

By the end of the second day working on the house and translating what little we knew of the language, we felt that is was becoming more and more evident that Herr Balder wanted us to live in this house. We were not wanting to live in this house under any circumstances and had discussed this and were going to inform the boss of our feelings tonight. We did so after our evening meal resulting in the boss screaming at the top of his voice for us to get out of his home. We headed for our attic accommodation area and hurriedly packed our suitcases and returned to the livingroom where the boss was sitting in an armchair with his head in his hand, muttering away. He rose and gestured for us to follow him and were brought down to the outside of the apartment building carrying our suitcases and bits and bobs. He gestured for us to stay still, I think he had forgotten something and would return quickly. No chance! We took to our heels and ran flat out, I suppose if anyone had witnessed us they would have thought that this looked most suspicious, but I don't think anyone did. We ran as far as we could on the other side of the road, until there was a cross street, which we headed up, and from there on zig-zagged through a maze of streets until we had come into another area of the town.

This part must have dated to the middle of the eighteenth century going by the delapidated house brickwork and rotten doors and window frames which were even worse than the house that we had cleaned and painted for Herr Balder. Amazingly we come across a hundred foot long hay barn, here in the middle of the town which was half full of hay bales. We climbed upwards into the centre of the barn and proceeded to extract about ten or twelve bales in order to make a crater that would shelter us from the wind. We both fell asleep fairly quickly and enjoyed a night of uninterrupted sleep, that is until the sound of voices broke the silence. English voices. We made ourselves known and climbed down to introduce ourselves, and to apologise for using the hay shed. We were told that there was no need for apologies, and to come into the house with them and we would be given breakfast. We imparted our sorry tale to date and thanked them for their hospitality. It seems that this man, who was a former 'squaddie' in Wolfenbüttel camp serving with the 17th/21st Lancers, he had met with an accident while serving and had been retired from the army on medical grounds, he had bought the house and hay shed for a song and made money through hay sales, hens' eggs, lambs for slaughter and had become entirely self sufficient.

The Squadron Leader and Jägermeister

We continued our conversation and during it he mentioned that a Nigerian friend of his by name of Jerry was looking for prospective painters who would be able to accompany him at his house where he had arranged to meet the boss of a contract painting company to discuss his requirements the following evening. Alan, the soldier then give us instructions how to find Jerry's house. As the weather was fairly clement, we asked Alan if we could sleep one more night in the hay, to which he hadn't any objections to us doing so, then he asked us in for our supper which we enjoyed. The next day passed very slowly until around six-thirty, half an hour before the meeting with Jerry and the company boss. We made our way to the house which we found very easily, knocked on the door which was answered by a woman and asked for Jerry. The woman was Jerry's wife, and we tried to explain why we were calling, in English. Carole took to us immediately, and asked us to come in to her home. I had been wondering why a woman answered the door when her husband was expecting visitors, but all became clear when we met Jerry. He was a small thin man around 10 stones, black as the Ace of Spades, a permanent smile on his face through a goatie beard and Carole must have been around the sixteen stone mark.

We all sat down and Jerry explained how he had heard about this man looking for painter workers, it appeared that Jerry worked for this guy from time to time, and was in charge of recruiting for his boss. We found out also that Alan had phoned ahead to let Jerry know we were coming. The door bell rung at precisely seven o'clock and Carole went to answer it, bringing in a small balding chap with side hair that was pure white. He introduced himself as Herr Kempa and immediately enquired about the origin of Adam's surname, Pludowski. Blow me! did he not come from a part of Germany that was previously Poland. From that moment Adam and he were rattling away in Polish and nobody could intervene, including myself who had not learned the language. Adam was kept busy later on with language interpretation, Polish to German, then finally to English. At the end of the evening he told us that first thing on Monday we must ensure that all our documentation had been checked and any other documents that were required would be obtained. Herr Kempa then arranged to meet us in the town square at mid-morning where he intended to take us to a lodging house he had knowledge of in a street named Tannenweg.

We met the next morning as agreed, and he gave us a lift to a higher level of the town. We all got out of his car and proceeded up the garden path to the side door, and he pressed the door bell. It was answered in a short space of time by a grey haired old lady who kept her hair in the form of a bun and who spoke extremely good English. We were introduced to Frau Kipping by Herr Kempa, and the frau showed us the rooms that she had vacant. The lady was a widow of an Englishman who had died ten or more years previous. She went back into the house and beckoned us all to follow her, which we did, all the way to the first floor where the vacant rooms were located. We checked each room in turn, which had been kept meticulously clean and tidy. After she was satisfied that the rooms were acceptable, we followed her back downstairs to her living room and kitchen which she allowed us to view also. She went on to explain that she was absent for five or six months of the year because she loved to travel and coupled each trip with a visit to one of her family.

She told us that during her absence we were allowed the run of the house having the use of the Bathroom, television, the automatic washing machine, which was the first one that I'd ever come across, and the full use of the kitchen for having meals. Finally, she stated that she would charge 80 Deutch Marks per month, which Herr Kempa said was extremely reasonable, particularly with all the access to the facilities in the house. the going rate was around 200 Dmks per month. We took our suitcases upstairs and set them in the rooms, then thanked the lady before Herr Kempa beckoned us to come to his car. We went back to the town square to the local Town Hall (Rathaus) and registered our present address under the name of the frau. We also applied for a work permit card (Aufenthalterlaubnis), our photographs would need to be taken sometime today and handed into this office. We then walked around the shops in the main square and side streets, where we sampled our first ever bratwurst from a barrow that barbecued them on the spot. Adam and I requested the ones that had been burnt black and the vendor nor Herr Kempa could understand why we preferred burnt sausages to ones that were cooked to a turn.

We made mental notes of certain shops' locations intending to return by ourselves in the future sometime. There was the opticians, tobacconists, confectioners and newsagents. Herr Kempa then invited us to dinner to welcome us into the firm, his choice of restaurant. We met later around eight o'clock in the town square and he took us in his car to a Hungarian restaurant called The Budapest in another part of town which we found out later to be on the way to his home. We had an excellent meal served on large wooden platters accompanied by a carafe of wine apiece. After we had finished our meal, he took us back to his home in Albert Schweitzer Allee and bade us to come in. Once we were inside his apartment, which was massive by anyones standards, he proceeded to explain that he was an avid philatelist and collector of old German silver coins. We enjoyed a couple of bottles of wine each that night, talking endlessly about the main differences between our countries in a manner like we had known him for a long time.

We broke up the party somewhere in the middle of the night around three-thirty or four o'clock and then Herr Kempa phoned a taxi for us. He paid the taxi driver when the taxi arrived, gave us a wave, stated the address we were going to and bade us "guten abend", and uttering in Polish that he would see us sometime in the day, so Adam explained later to me. It would be around midday when the door knocker was heard, and Frau Kipping answered it to be faced with a very hungover looking Herr Kempa. She bade him enter and we heard our names being called by her and made our way downstairs. Herr Kempa was busy explaining about the previous night, I think, going by the frau's reaction to what he was telling her. She was laughing her head off when she heard about his antics after he had went back to his apartment being a little worse for wear. Meantime Adam and I called out "aufwiedersehen" to the frau and made for the boss's car. He explained to Adam that he was not feeling at his best, but nonetheless he had to prepare things for the following day when we began work.

He took us to the outskirts of a rural industrial estate where he had lock-up premises which were full of paint, thinners, paintbrushes, wire brushes and stepladders. There was also two large cardboard cartons from which he produced half a dozen bib brace overalls. We loaded up a goodly number of each of the aforementioned tins and other articles into the rear of his Ford Taunus estate, covered them with a cloth cover and on top of that positioned a small stepladder. He invited us back to his home for a cup of coffee, to which we accepted gratefully. Once we had arrived and were sitting down in his livingroom with our respective cups of coffee set in front of us on a long highly polished mahogany coffee table, he began to outline his intentions for the coming week. First, he would call at our lodgings at seven in the morning and expect us to be waiting at the door for him. Secondly, we would make our way through Wolfenbüttel to the part of town where Jerry the Nigerian lived and pick him up along with another man called Yussef whom he had enlisted the previous day. All went as planned like clockwork with the five of us heading towards Nienburg which was a large town several miles from Braunschweig (Brunswick).

The journey was around two-hundred kilometres and took about two and a half hours and covered a large variety of environments, such as several dorfs (villages), stadten (towns), autobahn (motorway) and several nondiscript country roads. Our next stop was at a dorf called Bierde, where we met a German who was standing outside of his house and the boss arranged to pick him up two hours or so after he had dropped all of us car passengers off and explained what was required of us that day. On our country tour that we took, we couldn't help but notice 'nodding donkeys' everywhere, these apparently were used to drill for oil which ultimately tapped into huge natural earth gas reserves that nature was storing underground. We finally drew up in front of double gates that were wooden framed and covered in a strong wire mesh. Herr Kempa opened the large padlock with one of the numerous keys that were attached to his car ignition keyring, and pushed the gates in to open them wide.

He began to unload the cargo from the rear of the estate car and beckoned us all to help with the unloading, which we duly did. Everything was set along the inside of the compound wire fence including four gas masks. We cajoled Adam to ask the boss why there was only four gas masks, to which he apologised and promised to obtain more as soon as possible. His next move was to take each of us in turn and show us an object which was to be our personal responsibility, and each individual would be paid according to the finished paintwork and time taken for the job. We agreed to this policy rather reluctantly because the 'objects' varied so much in surface area, accessibility, and preparation required, we thought that the system was unfair, but only having arrived at our worksite and not having done a stroke of work, we thought it better in our own interests to keep quiet. The two Nigerians just parted their lips widely, grinned and shrugged their shoulders, looking straight at us saying nothing, signifying that this was the way Herr Kempa operated and you'd best accept it, mate!

Three-quarters of an hour had past since we had arrived at this small processing and refining plant, and Herr Kempa gestured us all back towards him with full sweeps of his arms and exclaiming in a loud voice, " frueschtuckzeit, fruschtuckzeit", which Jerry told us meant, breakfast time, breakfast time, and once more we were all ushered into the estate car, which had much more space inside since it was unloaded and the rear seats were back in their correct position. Off we sped, with only the boss's voice to be heard blethering away at nineteen to the dozen about Lord knows what. We were only on the road for no more than ten minutes and had just only emerged from a forestry road which opened up into a huge plant full of large holding tanks, miles of twisting pipes of varying diameters, and around the perimeter as well as dotted about the complex were wooden huts, large and small, and many brick built constructions I took to be offices. The entire site was surrounded by a twelve foot barbed wire fence and would easily measure a half mile in length down each of its sides. We stopped at the main gatehouse and Herr Kempa produced a passcard which was checked by the gateman whom he obviously knew quite well, each addressing each other in friendly terms.

This was the nerve centre of the entire region's gas refining and storing operation, this was the Gaz Zentral. We soon found out the purpose of our visit when we parked in front of a large brick building which had large glass windows on the ground floor and through which we could see many people sitting at tables enjoying meals talking. We entered the main room and all approached the counter closely behind our boss. He ordered four wursten for himself, then two slices of rye bread and a cup of coffee, then gestured to the girl serving to repeat the order another four times. We selected a vacant table and placed our platefuls of wursten and cups of coffee down, then sat down. Herr Kempa made a lunge for the senf (mustard) and coated his wursten with a zig-zag pattern. I attempted to explain in broken English that in Britain they call theses sausages Frankfurters to which he immediately made the connection to Frankfurt city. We all had a go at making a pattern on our wursten and following the boss's example ate them one at a time with a slice of unbuttered bread. We had finished our wursten and were drinking the remains of our coffee when a large gentleman stood at our table and bid "guten morgen", accompanied by the word "mahlzeit" and shook each of us by the hand.

As was explained later in the week, the gentleman was Herr Hagendorf, the managing director of the entire operation who had known Herr Kempa for many years. They discussed things for two or three minutes, then Herr Hagendorf bid us all aufwiedersehen and walked towards the door. Jerry spoke up then and volunteered to tell us why the gentleman had said "mahlzeit", which apparently everyone greets each other at mealtimes by this method and shakes their hand at the same time, I thought this was a terrific custom and should be practised wider afield in other countries. Our frueschtuckzeit over, we were allowed to quickly relieve ourselves and then meet back at the car. The boss explained during the return journey through Jerry's interpretation that this morning was a treat and a one-off, in future everyone would need to buy their own 'bait', and those who hadn't enough money would be given an advance against their wages, which applied to Adam and I. We made the return journey to the Gaz Anlaager via the small dorf we had visited that morning where we picked up the man we had seen earlier.

He introduced himself as Jürgen and he can only be described as 'goofy' in appearance as well as in character. He was a man about twenty-five years old, easily six feet three inches, and walked knock-kneed, he had large protruding upper teeth which caused him to 'slevver' from his bottom lip to his chin which perpetually had the stuff hanging from it. He was wearing his work clothes at this time which looked ridiculous on him, consisting of half-masted trousers and a once white cotton jacket, the sleeves of which were easily four inches shorter than his wrist, and to finish the ensemble, a pair of lace-up shoes that were UK size fourteen. All his clothing and shoes had seen many years of painting going by the multi-coloured spots that covered most of them We were to learn in a very short space of time that Jürgen was a moaner, nothing was ever right for him, either brushes were worn, his work entailed far more cleaning up as anyone else's, and to emphasise his protest, he would be forever thumping the heel of his hand against his forehead exclaiming over and over, " junge, junge, junge, das gibt doch gah nichts". Back at the work site we all set to work on our selected objects, finally finished each of them, and the boss was apparently satisfied with the work.

The time must have been close to four o'clock when Yussef picked up an object from the corner of the compound that he had placed there earlier on without anyone noticing, it was his prayer mat. He tucked it under his arm and walked through the open gates, unrolled it to reveal a woollen skull cap which he put on with one hand, he placed the mat about twelve feet away freom the gates and looking at the position of the sun ascertained which direction was due east, he then got down on his knees on the mat and starting chanting and bowing forward every so often so his forehead touched the prayer mat. Jerry explained that Yussef was a muslim and said his prayers in this fashion at four o'clock every day, be the weather rain, wind, hail, snow or sunny he would never miss his prayers. The boss also knew about Yussef's religion and allowed him to offer his prayers to Allah daily.

First Night In Forest Digs

The day's work finished, we all piled into the car, firstly we drove Jürgen back home, then continued on until we arrived at Blanke's Gasthaus in Bierde by the side of a forest, presumably the same one that we had passed through this morning on the way to the Gaz Zentral. The boss parked his car by nosing very close to the front wall of the building, then we all followed him to the reception desk where he was greeted by a jolly man with rosy cheeks who introduced himself as Herr Blanke who obviously knew him. We were all introduced to the man who handed us two keys between the four of us and then the boss told us to go upstairs to wash and change. He would get our clothes from the back of the car. Our rooms were clean and very acceptable, the windows looking towards the forest, but we couldn't see a soul going about.

We made our way downstairs again to the reception and asked a woman where Herr Kempa was, to which she replied, "da hinten", and pointed towards the rear of the house, which was the direction of the kitchen going by the aroma wafting towards us. At the end of the corridor we entered a large open room which had a heavy wooden farmhouse table sat in the centre with five place settings, and there at the top of the table sat the boss, his arms folded and smiling. He beckoned us in and to take a seat, then lightly dropped a leather wallet on the table. He counted out eighty marks and laid it in front of Adam, then repeated the action with myself, then Jerry and Yussef. His policy had always been to pay the workmen's subsistence money in advance so that they were able to pay the cost of accommodation and food themselves to their landlord or landlady at any time through the week. The landlord came through shortly with a large silver salver which he placed in the centre of the table, then two young girls followed closely behind with dishes of vegetables and chips, or as they are known there, pomme frites. He removed the salver cover to reveal five half chickens roasted to perfection, we each in turn impaled a portion of chicken on our forks and placed it on a plate, followed by our chips, tomatoes and green beans in vinegar and sugar, and of course doorstep slices of dark brown rye bread.

We were all ravenous, having had nothing to eat since the wursten at our ten o'clock. The boss ordered a flascher (bottle) of malz bier for each of us and after pouring his bottle into a glass, raised it to give some sort of toast to us which we acknowledged. We tried to communicate between our various language barriers the rest of the evening which produced many laughs as I recall. Adam and I discussed the day's events when we retired to our room, we'd cracked it! Next morning arrived so quickly, so much so it took us by surprise, because neither of us had an alarm. However Herr Kempa ensured that we were fully awake at seven o'clock and sitting down to breakfast by quarter past. The breakfast consisted of three different kinds of cooked sliced sausage, slices of rye bread and jam or marmalade, and a litre pot of freshly made coffee, nothing cooked.

We didn't comment as it was both tasty as well as filling, then went out the front door and breathed in the crisp air that had a distinct aroma of fir trees, I don't know which variety. We drove via the village that Jürgen lived in, picked him up and continued on to the anlaager we had been working at the previous day. Before we started, the boss explained that today we were to work as a team on one job which was cleaning and painting six pipes around six inches in diameter, which followed the line of the perimeter fence all the way round with the exception of the gate entrance. The pipes were clamped together in a bunch and the bottom ones would be about a foot off the ground. We were all handed wire brushes (dratbürsters) and the boss went through the motions of using these tools correctly. All of us got stuck in brushing furiously at the pipes and their flanges which took the best part of two hours. After the boss had checked different parts at random he pronounced that we could begin painting now. We all headed towards the side of the entrance gate where the cans of paint were sitting, then the boss proceeded to open one five gallon can and told us that this grey paint was the primer coat and had to be applied very thinly.

He then produced a two inch wide piece of wood about two foot long and started to stir the can of paint, then he poured out a measure of a quarter litre apiece into six empty half litre cans that had string tied round the collars. He then topped up each tin with thinners (verdünung) and handed each man a tin. We were then issued with brushes about one and a half inches wide, but the likes of I'd never seen before, they had long flat handles nearly as wide as the brush heads, but they were bent about an inch below the end of the bristles. We soon found out why though, they were tailor made for getting in between the pipes and for squeezing into the flanges. Once the pipes and flanges had been completed we were given instructions of how to apply the mid-green undercoat after our cans had had the residue emptied back into the larger can and had been flushed out thoroughly with thinners, and finally, that each person's paintbrush had been rinsed and thoroughly cleaned. This coat went on much easier and didn't run so much as the previous because it had no thinners added. That coat being finished, we went on to the final light grey top coat repeating the previous procedure over again.

I must admit that once the final coat had been applied, the pipes looked like they were brand new, and it made me very proud when I saw our efforts come to fruition. The jobs over the next few months varied from cleaning and painting an entire anlaager, which incidentally was hazardous work as we learned sometime later. Apparently, the year previous, a man was killed by being pierced by a hole about the size of a pin, this was caused by a tiny fracture in an old pipe which carried gas under colossal pressure. We also found out about the gas masks which were purely there for the safety inspectors' benefit and were a farce according to reports of workers being gassed without warning, apparently once a person has smelled gas, it was too late, and they will die in about ten seconds, such was its potency, but we never wore the masks to be able to avoid being gassed. Located in each enlaager were many small tanks attached to motors, equipment blowing off steam, ammonia dripping from small pipes, and sulphur-caked pipes, meters, and tanks, but the most dangerous area was not explained yet. It was the hundred foot chimney approximately ten feet in diameter and its function was to expel as much gas as possible in the shortest time possible.

Apparently all the equipment that we had been working around was linked to sensors that would trigger the computer to blast the gas up the chimney if there was likely to be a fire risk. Now, when the time came to paint these chimneys, the management at the Gaz Central would not allow the sensors to be switched off until we were past the half-way point of the chimney. So, here we were, having no say in the matter, putting our lives at risk. But you just got on with the job at hand without thinking about the danger. Apparently, if the gas was triggered to be ejected, the bottom half of the chimney would freeze almost instantaneously with the speed and the enormous pressure of the gas being forced skywards, and then what we found out later on, the gas is ignited also to prevent it blowing away in a cloud and causing contamination to people, animals, and vegetation. There was one worker from the gaz engineers' squad who had witnessed this scenario, and he had seen the gas flame lunging into the sky over a hundred foot high which caused the paint on the chimney to melt under the extreme heat, and the ground outside the corner where the chimney was located, being scorched.

We were told each time before ascending the chimney ladder to ensure we had our safety belts attached to our waist harnesses, and to lash each other's paint can to one wrist, and similarly tie each other's paintbrushes to the other by inserting the string through the small hole at the end of the brush, then make a loop with a slip-knot to afix it around the right-hand wrist. Good advice indeed, if I had heeded it, but being new to the game, I thought that this was so unnecessary and a waste of time, how wrong I was. Imagine after climbing the ladder attached to the chimney for eighty or ninety feet, the safety belt has been fixed to a rung of the ladder, and you are hanging freely attempting to paint behind the ladder, with the pot of paint held by its handle and the brush stroke is mistimed, twists and falls from your grasp, you watch it falling all the way to the ground where it bounces on gravel and sand. First assess the situation. First, what will I do with the pot of paint? Balance it on the rung of the ladder leaning inwards to rest against the chimney. Next, unclip the safety rope from around ladder and yourself, then clip it back onto the ladder. Already five minutes have passed, start climbing down the ladder until you reach the ground, find the brush, take the brush covered in grit to where the thinners are, open the can without the aid of scraper, knife or screwdriver - use a coin if you have one in your work clothes.

Happily the lid has not been pressed down to heavily and opens by pulling with nails and fingertips, no spare pots to use for rinsing, pull your hanky out of your work trousers below overalls and immerse hanky into thinners, rub the brush head furiously until the grit disperses, dip the hanky back into the thinners, nobody will know and repeat the procedure until brush is clean again. Before returning to the chimney, have a look around for a piece of string in the rear of the car, found some, thank God, sneak up to a worker and ask them to tie the brush to your right wrist. Back to the chimney, begin climbing that ladder again and finally reach the height at which you were previously painting, take a breather - knackered, after a couple of minutes buckle up safety harness to safety rope and attach around ladder, try to position yourself so as to tie the paint pot handle to left hand, take a deep breath and continue painting.

Believe it or not, that little escapade wasted twenty-eight minutes from start to finish, and what was worse, the boss had watched my every move with great interest, hiding behind a storage tank. I thought that nobody had noticed what I was doing, but found out different later on when the boss told me. He docked my wage by an hour to serve as a lesson for not taking his advice, as if I would have forgotten in any event. As I mentioned previously we were rarely working on the same site for two days running because there were so many jobs for us to work on which were not large enough for all six of us to work on simultaneously, so we were dropped off in twos and threes at different locations and after the job had been explained to us, were left to get on with it, sometimes never seeing another soul all day until we were picked up. I remember in December or January having to brush off snow that was lying on pipes and tanks etc. in order to clear the work surfaces for painting. The work tended to be repititious in nature so there were not many unusual events to relate. Continuing on to the end of our first week, we were driven back to Wolfenbüttel on the Friday evening and arranged to meet the boss on the Monday morning to finalise and pick up our necessary registration documents, which we did.

The three of us had a walk round Wolfenbüttel's shops and were introduced to a pork casserole-cum-stew called Ragout which was only sold ready to eat at a particular butchers, it was delicious and hot, we were to eat it many times in the coming months. We were also advised to purchase meat, cheese, and liver paté to ensure we had fillings to go with our bread for our working 'piece'. Normally, we returned to Wolfenbüttel for the weekend, that is if there was no painting to be finished off, which an odd time was the case. This weekend was to be one of those exceptions when we didn't, instead we were driven to a small gaz storage depot not far from Fallingbostel where I believe there was British Army barracks, although I had never seen them. We were taken to a gasthaus, again in a forested region, which was not unlike Blanke's in Bierde. We dumped our workclothes and changed into clean clothes on the boss's instruction, had a meal then set off for Essen.

We stayed over at a small gasthaus during that time and spent the two days looking in antique shops, coin shops and stamp shops. Adam and I bought a few stamps that the boss advised us to invest in. We also bought a couple of stamp albums each to house our forthcoming stamp collection. On the Monday morning we set off bound for Essen for what purpose I don't know, all the boss had told us about the trip was he had made an appointment to meet a business gentleman there. We drove what seemed a fair distance, taking over two hours to get there, and headed for the city centre. About half a mile outside of the centre, the boss pulled up in the middle of a crescent shaped street which was on a slight gradient. We naturally asked him how long he was going to take to which he answered, "nicht lange", and he disappeared round the curve of the road. We of course had no idea where we were. We lit up a cigarette apiece and began to wander along the street in the direction from where we had come, we past a middle-aged man who had a bad limp, not two minutes later another limping man passed by, this time a good bit older. We crossed the road and a man came out of a door directly in front of us, and he was limping.

By this time Adam and I were laughing about the coincidence and taking bets on how long it would be before another man with a limp appeared. We hadn't long to wait, within five minutes he appeared and Adam won the bet. We kept on walking in the sunshine and hadn't really noticed how far we had gone, so we turned and headed back to the spot where the boss had parked his car. Still no sign so we headed off in the direction he had went, passing many high solid wood doors on our way As we climbed the small incline we were noticing how the architecture of the buildings was becoming more and more grandiose as we carried on up the hill. We walked for a further twenty minutes and decided to turn and head back to the car and when we were about half way down the hill, a door opened to the left of us and the boss stepped out, that was good timing! We formed ourselves in a line three abreast and walked towards the car. The boss was looking very pleased with himself indeed but was saying nothing. We would be around twenty-five feet from the car when a man came out of a door with a limp and we began to snigger quietly and the boss glowered at us disapprovingly, but he didn't know the full story, that was number five.

We never found out what the purpose of the visit was that day, it had certainly cost him having paid for three people for two nights accommodation and the fuel on top. We reckoned he was holding a clandestine meeting with a married frau.

Getting Into A Routine

After the first few weeks Adam and I started to make the Saturday morning in town a regular thing, but on our own, this way we had the opportunity to have a look around the pubs. There were three pubs that became a regular part of our lives as I remember, first and foremost was the Jeverecke which became our 'local' because we met many squaddies who became good friends, one, Jimmy who came from Currie even got a job with us for two weeks. The second pub (Gastatte) was known to us as Theo's where we made friends with several Germans and in the year of the Weltmeisterschaft (World Cup) we had a Scottish rosette pinned to a shelf behind the bar which turned out to be a conversation piece to the patrons of the pub. The other pub called 'The Museum' was a real dive, but again we met and kept up friendships with several of its regulars, and we had many a good night's drinking with them.

The World Cup

The day of the World Cup final happened to be one of the Saturdays that we were required to finish a job which resulted in the three of us getting back after seven. We were tired and so consequently asked the boss to drop us off at our lodgings, and after we had sorted out our laundry and put our bags away asked him if he would like to join us in a beer before going home to which he declined. There was a pub which stood about a hundred yards down the street from our digs which we had had two or three beers in some weeks before. We decided to pay it a visit because it was only two minutes walk away, stepped into the main bar where all hell was loose, but in a fun way, people dancing on tables, groups singing their hearts out and swinging their 'steins' back and forth, some barely able to stand through an excess of alcohol intake. The proprietor, Jochem beckoned us to the bar and gave us a small beer each which we asked why was there a party going on, to which he answered "Deutschland hatten der Weltmeisterschäft gewund", and at that moment the penny dropped.

We enquired how Scotland had fared and the reply was to the effect that although they had won their last game, they had lost out on aggregate overall, and to which Jochem added that he was very sorry but Scotland had played brilliantly. From that moment Jochem ensured that everyone in the bar knew that we were 'Schottländer', Scotsmen who were very welcome to join in the party, and from that moment, for the duration of the entire night and morning to somewhere around seven in the morning, we weren't allowed to put our hands in our pockets to buy a drink. We were absolutely guttered, so much so that neither of us could recall most of the morning between two and until we had been advised to go home which was around 8.30 on the Sunday morning.

Harz Mountains

A fortnight later the boss mentioned that he would like to visit the Harz mountains and Bad Harzburg which was a town which boasted health giving natural waters which contained sulphur. We agreed and decided to go on a Saturday and made arrangements for pick-up time and location. We drove off in a north-easterly direction heading for the mountains. Within an hour we could clearly see frontier barriers and guards patrolling the eastern side of the frontier only about 150 yards away. We felt the difference in the air as we climbed ever higher up the mountain passes. We stopped for lunch at the Klöster Restaurant which had been a monastery many years previous, hence the derivation of cloister. We continued through some spectacular scenery through the mountains once more and arrived at Bad Harzburg where I bought a bier stein and have kept as a memento to this day. We didn't try the health baths nor did we enter the casino, that way we were neither worse nor better off. We ambled around the village for an hour then once the temperature started to drop, the boss decided that it was time we went back to Wolfenbüttel and we agreed.

Christmas Holiday

We had managed to put a few marks aside to use for our Christmas holiday, and that added to the money the boss gave us as a present covered the cost of the entire journey, that is trains, ferry and taxis. Natrurally we had to make a good impression with our families and in order to do this we bought a few Christmas presents in the local shops. I remember visiting the confectionary shop in Wolfenbüttel town square where all the main shops were situated. I entered, and after exchanging pleasantries I stated to the lady assistant that I wished to purchase some chocolates for gifts. She reacted strangely by grabbing her throat and making strangled noises, then started to laugh. She composed herself and then gave me an apology for her behaviour and attempted to explain to me in a mixture of German and vague English that firstly she did not sell such chocolates because it would be against the law. She went on to say that I had asked for poison chocolates by uttering the word 'gift'. Anyway I bought a couple of boxes of German chocolates, then remembered that I had intended to buy a little something for our landlady Frau Kipping, and with this in mind decided an appropriate item would be a box of mint chocolates and what better than 'After Eight' mints. I asked the assistant if she stocked them, and if so, could I buy a box. This started her off laughing hysterically again, which she did for some time. She tried to explain in broken English that this was a terrible name for a box of chocolates but wouldn't give me the correct definition. I referred to my English/German dictionary later at night and discovered the reason why she had been laughing, it seems that 'after' in the German language refers to one's anus, no wonder she was cracking up.

Adam's Birthday

It was Monday the 25th February 1974, and we had completed the first day's work of the week in good time. Adam had been dropping hints all day about it being his birthday and I'm sure his ploy worked because the boss had ensured that the jobs we were working on were not going to take the whole of the day to finish. We cleaned our hands and brushes with thinners, then a quick wipe with an old rag, got the car loaded up with full cans of paint,then more or less hustled into the car. Off we went in the opposite direction from which we had come, then turned off this particular road onto an even narrower road and carried on for twenty minutes or so. We arrived at a country gastatte which could not by any stretch of the imagination be called up-market, stylish or fancy, it was a basic rural pub in the middle of nowhere. We all got out of the car, allowing the boss to take the lead and he lead us into the main bar which was empty as regards customers.

We all stood in a line along the bar and Herr Kempa knocked on the bar top three times which caused a young man about twenty to appear through a narrow door at the rear of the bar. He asked us what we would like to drink to which the boss replied, "Drei Malz bier bitte", which of course translates as, three malt beers please. We were asked to take a seat at one of the tables and the barman brought the beers over to us. The boss stood up with a bottle of bier in his hand and gestured to me that I should stand also. He then wished Adam a happy birthday by uttering "Froh Geburtstag Adam", which I repeated. We sat and chatted for ten or more minutes, or until the first bottle was sunk, then the boss went to the bar once more and called for service. The young man appeared once more and asked what we would like to drink, to which the boss replied, "Noch drei malz bier und drei Jägermeister bitte".

He continued chatting to the barman by saying he lived in Wolfenbüttel where the only production factory for Jägermeister was in existence. The barman was clearly unimpressed by this gem of information and finished serving by setting the three Jägermeisters and malz bier on a tray and carrying them to our table. Now, no matter where you go in the world when drinking in a bar, there is always a connoisseur closeby who's knowledge regarding his particular area of expertise is absolutely irrefutable, such was the nature of the boss when referring to fine wines, liqueurs, beers and spirits. He told us that he new what temperature each should be drunk at, what type of receptacle was best suited to drinking them, and of course the method of drinking, be it sipping, with or without fruits, with either ice or water, drinking some neat while others must have mixers with them to taste at their best. He then focussed on Jägermeister, which he said was full of various herbs and spices, definitely tasted of liquorice, and had to be thrown back in one gulp to delay intoxication, but enjoy the curative properties that lay within.

In reality there wasn't the slightest possibility of this working as per theory because a: we were drinking on empty stomachs not having had anything to eat since ten that morning, and b: having had a couple of beers, albeit malz beers shortly before starting on the Jägermeister, we would not have long to wait before we felt the effects. We stayed for over two hours and drunk nothing but malz beers and Jägermeister for the duration, we had many laughs and a major disclosure from the boss, he was only an ex Luftwaffe Squadron Leader who had headed a raid on the submarine pens at Rosyth in 1940 something. He set off with forty planes and only five returned to their base in Germany. He reckoned that he had seen a huge death head (totenkopf) in the night sky that night and his hair had turned white as a result of the continual explosions of the flak from the anti-aircraft gun shells. The boss finally decided to settle up with the barman for the last round before setting off to the Gasthaus for supper. So much for the expert advice given out by the boss to throw the measures of Jägermeister down in a oner to delay intoxication, fat chance, we were all legless, but worse one of us had to drive the car to the Gasthaus, one who knew the road well enough to find it in the maze of roads that encompassed us.

There was only one choice in the matter, actually two looking back with hindsight, we could have ordered a taxi, but at the time who was thinking straight. Anyway the boss had already convinced himself that he would be able to find our way back and be able to drive the car with no apparent problems. Whether we believed him or not is irrelevant, the fact is he did drive and through some inexplicable reason he managed to find our Gasthaus, this I knew by the noisy thud of the car hitting the wall of it and wakened me. My God! I'd fell asleep, totally oblivious to the boss struggling to drive his car while very much under the influence. We congratulated him on his fine driving and each in turn attempted to exit the car and try to stand erect which we found was most difficult. We entered the guesthouse, the boss blurting out apologies as we continued on towards our rooms. I woke up suddenly, most disorientated and trying to work out where I was and it took about a minute for things to come together in my mind, the wearing of overalls on the bed was a dead giveaway. But where was the boss and Adam?.

I crept out of my room into the deserted upstairs corridor and listened intently but there were no voices at all to be heard. I nipped back into my room and got stripped down, washed and shaved. The effects of a premature hangover were looming and my stomach was burning leaving an acid taste in my mouth. I tried to put it out of my mind, began humming lightly and put on a clean shirt, trousers and shoes. I would have a shower early in the morning. After I was changed into fresh clothes and clean shaven with a wee dab of after shave I was really looking forward to my supper. I went downstairs where there wasn't a sound and all the lights were dimmed. I decided that enough was enough and went back upstairs and knocked on the boss's bedroom door and let myself in. There he was still wearing his khaki bib-brace overalls on top of his light blue, short-sleeved shirt, and he was spreadeagled on his belly on top of his bed and snoring.

At this point silly niggling notions were creeping in to mind like, shall I throw a little water on him and shout, "Feur, feur", or maybe set his alarm clock to go off in two minutes, unhappily Adam appeared by the side of the door looking decidedly seedy and asking me what I was doing, to which I replied I was going to play a practical joke on the boss, at which point the boss wakened up, turned onto his back and finally made it to a sitting position over the side of the bed and all the time exclaiming, "Ohhhhhhhh! Nein", over and over whilst supporting his head with his hands that were cupped in front of his face. He took a minute or two to rally round and it was plain to see that he felt embarrassed in front of us and a little longer before he realised that Adam and himself had not changed into clean clothes yet. His first question was enquiring about the time, to which I answered, "Acht uhr", and this caused him to flare into action.

He asked me how I had managed to get changed without anyone knowing. The answer was simple when the state of the others was taken into consideration who were oblivious to sound and movements going on around them at the time when I was washing and changing my clothes. I agreed to look for the proprietor downstairs while Adam and the boss got themselves freshened up and walked down the corridor towards the stairs which I descended. There still wasn't any sign of life in the foyer and the short corridor leading to the kitchen so I shouted quite loudly, "Wo sind alle leute heute abend?", which roughly interprets into, "Where is everyone tonight". To which a reply of "hier" was heard, and a woman about fifty appeared from the back of the kitchen. She threw questions at me thick and fast, which I endeavoured to answer correctly and truthfully. I told her the whole sorry story about finishing work early and going to a strange pub at an unknown location, how we were all guttered through drinking too much and on an empty stomach.

I also told her that the boss had managed to drive to her guesthouse, but as he was in such a state at the time, I would appreciate if she didn't mention it to him, he'd be lucky if he could remember any way. She agreed, saying she understood the situation perfectly, then asked me if we would like some supper which would only be homemade soup followed by chicken and chips, to which I agreed wholeheartedly. I then asked her if she would bring three bottles of malz bier to our table to toast Adam on his birthday, and for Rosa Montag which she was only too happy to do for us. We did enjoy our meal accompanied by the bottles of malz bier afterwards and the events of the day were simply forgotten about - Happy Birthday Adam.

Kleine Chicago

I remember one event vividly that occurred in Wolfenbüttel about ten minutes after we had left the Museum bar. We were sitting on a bench on the corner of the street and at the end of the pedestrian precinct some hundred yards from the Museum after two in the morning, when we could hear the sound of someone running accompanied by shouts of Halt! Halt! several times, the man turned off the street and headed up the precinct, just then two policemen skidded to a halt, guns drawn, shouted Halt! once more apiece and then opened fire at the running man, the man kept on running so we assumed that he hadn't been hit. I remember Adam looking directly at me and shrugging his shoulders, at the same time exclaiming, "kleine Chicago eh!". We never did find out why the man had been chased, but did hear that there had been several drugs' raids that night in Wolfenbüttel and assumed that the chase was connected with it. The time of year was around the middle of June, where in the Museum that same weekend we were told of the forthcoming Braunschweig Folk Festival which was scheduled for two weeks from that day. We decided there and then that we were going!

Braunschweig Folk Festival

That weekend unknown to myself or Adam at the time was to be the beginning of a major change in my life, and it started when Adam wrote a letter to his sister Eva who was living in La Spezia in Italy at the time. He had completed the letter and asked me to append a really zany anonymous PS to it, which I found pleasure in doing, and it wasn't until three weeks later that a letter was received in return and in it Eva said that she was intrigued by this weird postcript. Little did I know that destiny was weaving her threads at that very moment because I married Eva three years later and all because of that PS in the letter. Two weeks had passed since we were told of the folk festival and now the day had finally arrived. We made our way to the festival on the Sunday morning by taxi and managed to meet up with some of the group of lads and lassies from the Museum. We wandered around with some of them listening to small impromptu renditions of folk songs. We mingled in quite easily singing along with our friends.After discussing the idea with some of our friends it was agreed that two of us would go around collecting a few marks apiece from people who were either drunk or stoned on the pretext of organising an indoor wine bar. We were very successful in raising enough money to buy a dozen two litre bottles of Hock which were hidden away, only members of our group knowing their whereabouts.

Luckily the bottles were corkless, having screw tops which were easily removed and so we simply swigged the wine from the bottle. I swear to this day that I have no recollection of the remainder of that night but I can tell you that we slept on a cold concrete slab somewhere in the park. On the Monday, which was a bank holiday we arrived at the edge of the lake in the park. There were a large number of adult men and women, many with their children walking about on an extremely bright sunny morning. Our group formed a circle with us all sitting in a cross-legged posture. One of the lads passed a pipe for me to smoke, which I was instructed to pass to the next person on my left and so it continued. You've guessed correctly, it was pot in the pipe. This was my first experience of smoking cannabis which as I recollect was not an unpleasant experience, rather to the contrary. Being new at the habit, I was fairly rapidly affected by it and only wanted to giggle endlessly. Somebody shouted to me something that was totally bizarre, he said words to the effect of, "Have you got the lettuce?", and "Do you see the fly upon it?, Has it got large eyes", and finally, "Tell me all about it". I remember attempting to speak about the eyes on the fly which was sitting on my lettuce, but my mind was going too quickly, my tongue couldn't catch up with it.

The more I tried the more confused I became, ending up with something like the fly has a lettuce with eyes balanced on its head, or some nonsensical definition. Strange as it may seem, nobody took a blind bit of notice at our antics, even though the air in our vicinity was heavy with that sweet but acrid aroma. After a couple of hours had passed which some of the time I had slept through, I became aware of the gentle heat emanating from the rays of the early summer sun. I barely remember coming round from the effects of the 'smoke' and feeling like death!, possibly the effects of the wine mixing with the effects of the pot that made me feel like I did. I can also partly remember making our way through various streets and being fortunate in catching a town bus which took us to the main city terminal where we eventually managed to get a bus direct to Wolfenbüttel. I remember the expressions of disbelief and suspicion on the faces of other passengers, I'm not surprised we probably looked like something that the cat had dragged in. When we arrived back at Wolfenbüttel we made our way to our digs, thinking that the boss would have given us up by now as it was after ten thirty, wrong!, about quarter of an hour later he rang the doorbell which we answered sheepishly. He made his way into the house, obviously in the know that the frau was not at home, at the same time shouting a whole load of derogatory terminology in our direction accompanied by hand gestures and grunts.

When he finally cooled down we tried to explain where we had been and why we were late for picking up for work. He did forgive us which was a shock but because this had been the first and only time we had reported late for work he really could not complain. We set off for the Nienburg area to our work location after lunchtime and when we had arrived we carried on normally as though nothing had happened, which we were grateful for but at the same time we were both feeling the worse for wear due to our activities and through the wine we had drunk and couldn't wait for the working day to come to an end.

Kidney Stone

The next day we carried on in the anlaager we had been working in while the boss went off to collect other workers. Moving on to the Wednesday, the boss mentioned several times that he was experiencing pains from his lower back and by lunch time he was doubled up. He went to see a doctor in the afternoon in Braunschweig and reported back to us looking and sounding quite chipper. We naturally bombarded him with a salvo of questions to which he answered using the explanation that the doctor had given him, apparently he had slipped a lower disc and had a trapped nerve. He had been instructed to take it easy and advised to rest up for a few days, which he had agreed to, and told us that we would be returning to Wolfenb üttel so that he could rest up and we would have a long weekend. The next day we went over to his apartment to see how he was doing and he replied that he had been feeling much better and bade us to have a glass of wine with him. Hardly five minutes had passed when he began to roar with agony and was throwing up. He told us to tell Herr Schröeder next door and he would contact a doctor which we did.

We sat on two chairs beside the long couch on which the boss was lying and tried to keep his mind occupied which would hopefully ease the pain. The next thing, the doorbell rang and two male paramedics were standing in the doorway asking for Herr Kempa and proceeded to lift him onto the stretcher that they had brought with them. The boss was then carried out of the room shouting instructions to his neighbour concerning the security of his apartment, and told us to come with him to the hospital. I never imagined that I would ever be sat in the back of an ambulance in Germany which appeared to be driven by a total maniac. It was very dramatic with the strange sounding siren honking and blaring simultaneously. Adam and I accompanied him into the Krankenhaus (Hospital), waited around for a couple of hours up until a nurse approached us and told us that the boss had been admitted and would probably be staying in the hospital for several days until tests had been completed and the results of the tests were known and we could return tomorrow to see how he was doing. We went back to our digs by taxi shortly after and discussed the situation because we were concerned about the boss's welfare, also we did not know how our working arrangements were to be affected and indeed if we would return to our normal working arrangement. We eventually concluded that there was no good going to come of thinking in a negative manner, and what would be would be and there was nothing that we could do until we saw the boss, then things could be discussed and the situation clarified.

We returned to the hospital in the early part of the next afternoon, given instructions how to find the ward that he was admitted into by the receptionist, which we found fairly easily and found him sitting up in bed with a broad grin across his face. Representing the boss at work and first week of independence Herr Kempa beckoned us over to the bed and began to explain what the doctor had told him that morning. All the early indications and symptoms had pointed to a kidney stone which would hopefully be broken down and dispersed through his urinary system. He went on to say that they would not be certain of this until his results come through later that day, but up until that time he was going to act accordingly like this was the case. He first made it quite clear that Adam and I would be returning to work at the gaz anlaagers, that I would drive his car in order to transfer painting materials, pick up the casual workers, and most importantly record all items of completed jobs, who had done what, how long each object had been worked on, and give us instructions to pass on to our temporary digs proprietors.

Our first reaction was total amazement caused by the boss placing so much trust in us, which we were naturally grateful for, then a little concern crept in. Certainly, as far as I was concerned, I was worried about the driving aspect of his proposal, not because I didn't possess a foreign driving licence, because for some reason I had applied for an AA International Driving Licence through no particular reason only the previous year, it was the prospect of driving hundreds of miles around Germany, after all the anlaagers around Nienburg were two and a half hours drive away, but to drive a left-hand drive vehicle which I had never driven before, be responsible for all the passengers and any materials in transit. I think I was gently cajoled into carrying out the boss's wishes, which give me a buzz of excitement if the truth be known. We left feeling pretty good about ourselves and about the responsibility that had been placed on our shoulders. We returned the next day to visit after we had finished our shopping to find the boss sitting in a chair beside the bed with a large demi john type of receptacle with a tube leading from it via the inside of the hospital pyjama trouser leg. He explained that the bottle was in full view so that any change in his urine colour would be immediately noticeable to himself and the ward staff.

We left him two pairs of pyjamas that we had agreed to pick up from his apartment on his behalf and a small basket of fruit. He declined the fruit because he had been instructed to eat very little or no fruit until his problem had been rectified. Off we went from the hospital to organise our activities on paper for tomorrow when we planned to load up the estate car, first ordering a taxi to take us to Herr Kempa's flat to pick up his car keys, then drove to our digs with his car. We decided that night, after we had noted down all the essential items, to pop down to the Jeverecke for a few drinks with the boys from the 17th/21st Lancers Regiment, but were disappointed to find the usual crowd absent. Jochem, the proprietor told us that they were away on manoeuvres for a week and didn't expect them back until the following Monday. We skipped the bier and decided to have a few rum and colas instead. Bad idea, we were wrecked when we left the gastatte (pub) and I had to leave the boss's car where I had parked it. The next morning we made our way down to the town with throbbing headaches coupled with nauseous sensations that would not leave us.

We finally got within a hundred yards of the place where I thought I had parked the car and started to walk very slowly, in the back of my mind continually nagging at me was a picture of the car with the windows all smashed and the wheels missing. We carried on to the on-street parking bays and spied the car about five places from where we were standing, which from this distance appeared to be OK. We rushed up to the parking bay to find the car completely untouched, what a huge relief that was, I'll never forget the feelings that I experienced at that moment. It had been bad enough that week already, when the boss had to wait for us returning from the folk festival, then he was rushed into hospital suffering from a kidney stone, but if his car had been vandalised and found in a seedy district of the town, he would have disowned us on the spot and very probably had us extradited back to the UK. I quickly opened the driver's door and jumped in the car, then unlocked the passenger door, started the car and headed off to the boss's rented unit in order to sort out what we needed for the next morning, we then loaded all the materials into the rear of the estate car, covering them with an old blanket. That evening we stayed in and played music on Adam's inexpensive record player that he'd bought from a squaddie, then went to bed early. Next morning arrived and we both got ourselves organised pretty smartly, had a quick breakfast then set off for Nienburg a good hour and a half early.

Herman and Hilda

The trip was surprisingly uneventful and we arrived with plenty of time in hand so we made our way to our private accommodation which was run by Herman and Hildegart. Herman was a slightly built, balding, quiet spoken man who was very friendly and told us that he would do his utmost to make our stay a comfortable one, Hilda on the other hand was a buxom woman, about forty, easily sixteen stone and had a mouthful of buck teeth that had spaces in between each of them. After booking in and securing our dress clothes in the room allocated to us, we were coaxed by the couple to have a cup of coffee and some rye bread with leberwurst. We finally set off in the direction of Anlaager 39 where we had been working the week previous, I dropped Adam off there along with several tins of paint and thinners, a few brushes and a couple of lambswool hand rollers, and told him I'd be back within the hour. I found jürgen's village without any problem and pulled up outside of his house and honked the horn a few times. jürgen appeared at the window and gave me a wave of acknowledgement, then appeared two minutes later carrying a bundle of clothes under his arm. The puzzlement in his expression said it all, right enough as soon as his backside had touched the passenger seat, the long interrogation began.

I apologised on behalf of the boss, then outlined all the events of the last week. When I explained that Adam and I would be overseeing all the work he first refused to work under these conditions but then relented after I threatened him with the sack as the boss's representative. He went quiet after that and went into his muttering sessions. It was obvious what he was complaining about, two Englanders telling a native worker what to do in his own country did not go down well. We arrived back at Anlaager 39 and joined Adam who was diligently working away on a container tank. We decided to take our morning break there and then, and as for Adam and I having had a substantial breakfast, we were content to have a cup of coffee and a cigarette, or two. The remainder of the week went very well, with working relations improving as the week went on and we did not experience any problems that we couldn't deal with. After what we thought was a good constructive week, we finished as usual on the Friday, loaded up the tins of unused paint, the small stepladder and any other materials to go back, and this time instead of taking Jürgen home first, I inveigled him to jump in the back of the car and lie on his side, resting on his forearm, then Adam sat in the passenger seat and we all set off together.

We made a phone call from Herman's after he obtained the number from the operator of the hospital in Wolfenbüttel where Herr Kempa was a patient. He was to be discharged in the morning because the stone had passed through him as a result of drinking copious quantities of water, and he was feeling great. We settled up with Herman to pay for our accommodation for the week, packed our bags and headed off, Wolfenbüttel bound We had arranged to pick him up in the morning from hospital which we did and headed off to his apartment. One of the first remarks he made, and jokingly was, something to the effect, I see the car is still in one piece, little did he know what the relevance of what he was saying was doing to me. We soon arrived and after getting sat down and the coffee on, we set to going over the work that had been completed that week, who had done it, and how much the person concerned was to be paid per object. The boss made it plain that he did not want any coffee as he had been advised to cut it out because it had been a contributor to forming his kidney stone. We went over all the details of the week's work of which he was well satisfied by his reactions. An hour or so later having checked all the relevant details, he asked if we were willing to take on another week by ourselves as he needed to take another week off for convalescence. We would be travelling to Anlaager 38 which was only two kilometres from the one we had been working on the previous week. As it was so near to the previous one, he enquired if we would like to lodge with Herman and Hildegart and we replied that it would be fine by us. He gave us money to pay our digs with and said that he would reserve our accommodation by phone, and later on would phone us at Frau Kipping's house in Tannenweg.

Second Week Of Independence

The routine of packing and checking was not unlike the weekend previous with the exception of a small tin of red paint which was to be used to paint the background of a danger sign. We received the phonecall from the boss around 7pm confirming that we were booked into H and H's for the week, and he asked us to call round on Sunday after twelve o'clock, midday which we did. The boss had decided that he was going to take us out for lunch at the Klöster Bar which was like many bars throughout Germany which served food to accompany a drink. We went to the establishment, the boss introducing us to the proprietor as we entered, was there nowhere that he wasn't well known? The man that he had spoken to was evidently surprised to see him, probably not having laid eyes on the boss for some time going by his reply. We ach ordered a half chicken that this gastatte was famed for in Wolfenbüttel, this was accompanied by a huge plate of pomme frites (chips) each. We were stood a malz bier apiece by the boss to wash our meal down. We were also served with a small bottle of spicy tomato sauce to put onto our meal which was picant and delicious. Adam and I were so impressed by the food that we returned later on in the day to repeat the experience. On the Monday morning we set off early heading for Nienburg once more and on to H and H's lodging house.

On our second night at the house we asked Hilda if they had such a thing as a transistor radio, which she had and was only too happy to loan it to us. After our evening meal we tuned in to Radio Luxembourg and listen to English being spoken that we had not heard in a long time, and better still most of the chart hits were English songs. That was a very enjoyable evening, but all good things have to come to an end. The next morning we were both rather tired because we had sat up late listening to the radio, consequently we had both slept in. I heard Hilda calling "früschtuck" in the distance and the next minute I looked up and there was Adam standing over me pretending to play an invisible guitar, sound effects and all. We very quickly got ourselves washed and dressed and went through to have our breakfast. We sat down at the table where H and H were already sitting down,. I could tell from their tone of voice and by the looks coming from them that they were most displeased because we were late in rising. I apologised to them both and explained as best I could that we had been listening to the radio and had lost all track of time and that was the reason why we were so sluggish. Hilda threatened to take the transistor back but I managed to change her mind, saying we would be going to sleep much earlier for the rest of the week, which she appeared to accept. That night we were to be served with mince and mashed potatoes, or German equivalent according to Hilda because she thought it would be a treat for us to eat an English dish for a change. We set off to pick up Jürgen and then went to our work location at Anlaager 38. We put in a day's work that had nothing special to report about, and on the way home after dropping Jürgen at his house.

Mince And Tatties Battle

We stopped off at a country gastatte and bought half a dozen bottles of bier each, this would help to spend the evening pleasantly. We arrived back at H and H's and headed for the bathroom for a quick wash, then changed into our civvies. About twenty minutes later when we had finished our first bottle of bier, Hilda knocked on the door and entered with a tray that contained two plates of mince and tatties, a bowl of red cabbage, half a dozen gherkins and a large plate heaped with rye bread spread with butter. We thanked her and replied "mahlzeit" to hers. She disappeared fairly quickly, but returned within a couple of minutes apologising for the intrusion and placed a pair of small glasses and a bottle of Korn which was a type of rough Schnappz and bid us to help ourselves to it. We thanked her a few times and continued with our meal which to say the least was bloody awful consisting of underdone mince and dry potatoes.. Adam then picked up the bottle of Korn and filled up the two nip glasses, we saluted each other by clinking the glasses together and both threw the spirit back in a oner. We repeated the actions another two times and Adam inadvertently brought his forearm down quickly onto his fork which was balanced and protruding over the edge of his plate.

When he hit the fork handle it caused the fork tines which were ready loaded with the next portion of potatoes, to flick upwardly and consequently the forkful hit me in the face covering my spectacles. I immediately retaliated by flicking a forkful of mince and cabbage back at him which he managed to dodge and the flying morsel splattered about half way up the wall. Adam laughed and decided to pour out another glass of Korn apiece which we both saluted by simultaneously exclaiming, "pröst". As if by some unseen signal we both grabbed our forks, scooped up some tatties and mince and flicked it at each other, the food ending up all over the room. At that point Hilda knocked and entered not believing her eyes. She issued a torrent of what we thought must have been a torrent of abuse and scolding us at the same time because her right forefinger had barely stopped wagging in front of her face since she had entered the room. We attempted to make excuses in very very slurred tones, these caused by the imbibing of alcoholic spirit never tasted before at a rate not advisable considering we had not much food in our bellies to soak it up. Hilda went from the room and returned only a minute later with Herman. We retried blaming the strength of the spirit on stomachs nearly empty.

We managed to quieten down Herman and offered him a bottle of beer which he accepted and joined in a drink with him with the other bottles. Before long Hilda appeared once more with nostrils flaring and this time directed her wrath in Herman's direction, which he chose to ignore. Finally she left and Herman said that we should not worry about the mess because it could be tidied up easily with a damp cloth and a bucket. After he had drank his beer he went for a cloth and plastic bucket and returned and had the room shining like a new pin in under ten minutes, then left the room for a few minutes and returned well satisfied with his efforts. We bid him sit down and we each opened a bottle of beer ready for a chat. He told us that his parents knew Hilda's parents extremely well and they formulated a plan for Hilda and himself to get married. At first he objected then after a fair bit of consideration he relented when Hilda told him that her parents were very well off farmers who lived about five kilometres away. She told him that her father would build them a three-bedroomed house if he would marry his daughter and realised that it was a wonderful opportunity to make something of his life, after all his parents were basically peasant farmers who lived from week to week.

He told us that they had a huge wedding with everyone invited within a six mile radius, and how they had went to Austria for their honeymoon. He reckoned that two weeks had caused him to lose much of his hair, lose several kilos in weight through Hilda's insatiable sexual appetite. In fact, the now bald Herman said with a wry smile, she hasn't changed much that way in seven years since they were married and believe it or not I am very happy, but I would like to get out more with male company if I could, but Hilda is very possessive. We spent the rest of the night drinking the remainder of the bier and each relating to their individual day to day existence.

We really warmed to the guy, he was decent. The next morning we all sat at the breakfast table, the three men looking decidedly seedy, and I tried to begin the conversation by apologising pathetically to Hilda for our unforgivable actions, and also for keeping Herman up late. She had mellowed a little by now and surprisingly accepted our apologies, muttering something like she would not mention the incident to Herr Kempa when next on the phone to him. Boy! were we lucky yet again. We never returned to that neck of the woods again, but I have often thought about Herman and Hildegart and that week. We returned to Wolfenbüttel on the Friday after paying for our keep and thanking them for looking after us so well. We wished them well and set off on the journey home probably wondering what the next week would bring. We arrived back and went straight to see the boss and he offered to buy us a meal and a drink at the Klöster again which we accepted. The boss told us how well he was feeling after his rest and now was raring to go. We covered some details concerning the week's progress but did not go into it in great detail, that we would cover tomorrow.

Glass Boot

The night was still very early so Adam and I headed for the Jeverecke and hit on a busy night. Immediately through the door and many squaddies were shouting "Hello Jock, how ya been?". It was always a great feeling when we entered this particular gastatte, there was Jochem sorting out our bier deckels (beer mats) with our names on them and a few little pen scores on the edge of each of them denoting that we were in debt to him for five rum and colas each. We'd forgotten all about that night that I'd parked the boss's car along the road and collected it the next morning, but Jochem hadn't. After we had settled up we sat down at a large table where ten or more squaddies were sitting including Lance Corporal Jimmy Crawford whom we hadn't seen at first, but he made up for that and told us to sit down because he was buying. There was a birthday boy in the melee who we didn't know, he was at that moment being handed the glas stievel (glass boot) which is self explanatory and holds two litres of fluid and the protocol was for the buyer to take the first drink, thereafter it was passed in a clockwise direction around the table, the level going lower and lower until there was only a mouthful or more remaining and the person who finished the beer off had to buy the next boot.

This particular night Jimmy must have been extra thirsty, he was sinking beer like there was no tomorrow and naturally he was getting drunker and drunker by the minute. He announced that somebody had left their jacket under the table and for pure spite he urinated on it, then poured some beer from the stievel onto it, trampled on it sitting down and finally kicked it behind him and forgot about it. Come half past four in the morning, Jimmy announces that he is heading for the barracks and had anybody seen his suede jacket anywhere, you guessed it!.

Numismatists and Philatelists

The total time we worked as painters was only ten months, but it seemed so much longer at the time. When we first began working with the boss we quickly learned of his idiosyncrasies and how to go along with them, but later on he became possessive towards us and wanted to run our lives for us. I'll give you a example of what I mean, as I told you previously, he was an avid collector of old German coins and was a keen philatelist, he was so keen that he bought two hundred blocks of six stamps when a new stamp was issued, a hundred blocks would be supplied in mint condition, and the other hundred blocks were rubber stamped by the head post office on request. Apparently in Germany the government post offices will go out of their way to assist philatelists by ensuring that the stamp had an even, centred crisp frank marking applied, the person who is posting the letter simply writes 'schön stempeln bitte' clearly on the envelope near to the stamp(s) nothing like Great Britain where the circular impression is made to the side of a stamp and unsightly rows of wavy lines are stamped across the face of stamps. Anyway, the boss thought that it would be good for us to become interested in stamps and coins, and he would buy a few stamps on a weekly basis, which on the face of it is fine, but for us it was more money being deducted from our monthly wage.

We were also encouraged to collect the currency of the day, which also may appear a little strange, but from his point of view it could only increase in value. Collecting German currency is not straightforward as it may seem, first of all each coin was minted in four different locations, the markings of which can be seen on the coins, in alphabetical order there was an 'B' for Berlin, 'D' for Dusseldorf, 'F' for Frankfurt, and finally 'S' for Stuttgart. So in essence to have a complete up-to-date collection starting from say 1960, you would have to look for 15 years x 4 mints x 5pfennigs, then repeat with 10pfgs, 20pfgs, 50pfgs, 1 Mark, 5 Marks, bearing in mind that the coins we were collecting were current legal tender, in all there would have been 360 coins worth 441 Marks, which would be around £230 worth, so you can see that, although we were happy to collect, and not wishing to offend the boss, we really could not afford to, and in the end the coins we had collected were to be used for spending money at the time we went back home.

Braunschweig-Brücke Strasse

A month or two later we met up with Jimmy Crawford our squaddie pal again and we all agreed to have a night out in Braunschweig (Brunswick). Jimmy had bought a second-hand BMW car by now and arranged to pick us up in it, which he did and we all set off for the 'smoke'. Every soldier who is posted abroad makes a concerted effort to find out where the local red light districts are, and Jimmy was no exception, in the case of Braunschweig it was and probably still is the infamous Brücke Strasse (Bridge Street). We chose a bar at random which to our surprise was more than half full with Turks. We couldn't see the bar or what was behind it for a group of men huddled together who stood about five deep from the bar, but shortly they began to break up which give us the perfect opportunity to breach the gap and witness for ourselves what had held their attention. It was a pornographic film which was projected from bar height onto a small screen approximately 4' x 3'. This was a surprise to us all to see such a thing in a public bar, but seemingly it was quite commonplace. We managed to view one film which lasted about twenty-five minutes and two pornographic cartoons, each about ten minutes long. We had only been in the bar for a little over an hour and were enjoying ourselves by telling each other jokes and reminiscing about days gone by, when an argument broke out between two Germans and two Turks.

One of the Turks drew a curved knife and started slicing the air all around himself and at the same time was shouting in his indecipherable home tongue what we guessed were serious insults and threats. Suddenly one of the Germans involved in the fracas lunged towards the Turk and grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and his breek erse, turned him in mid-air until he appeared to be lying horizontal above the German's head, then he smashed the troublemaker's head first through the glass of the Jukebox, there was blood everywhere, and needless to say we were out the bar door like a flash. At that time the Turks were hated by the Germans because they would work at most jobs with reduced pay, consequently many German workers, particularly in the car industry were replaced by these workers. After leaving the bar we moved on to a night club called 'The Bodega' which was recommended to us by another squaddie called Hamish who incidentally hailed from Dunfermline in Fife. We made our way to the club and managed to get in without any problem. Once we were inside the entertainment area, we each had a bier each. We had barely finished when a waitress appeared and insisted that we must drink German Sparkling wine, the equivalent of Champagne, it certainly was pricewise.

We replied to the effect that we did not wish to drink the wine which was going to cost 30 Marks for a ¼ bottle which was equivalent to £5.00 in those days. She began to argue in broken English, then beckoned a 'bouncer' who was built like the proverbial s........ door to come across and he beckoned us with one finger which we did directing a tirade of protestations and a few well chosen words, then we were personally escorted to the door. We never returned to Braunschweig during the remainder of our stay in Germany.

Opportunity Of A Lifetime

I didn't mention that the boss was building a bungalow in a small dorf which was attached to the outskirts of Wolfenbüttel and we had done a bit of paintwork at the weekends. The work mostly entailed painting the plastered wall foundations with a waterproof sealant, probably silicone based. While we were beavering away one Sunday, the boss called us in for a cup of coffee and stated that he wished to speak with us both and that he had something very important that he would like to know how we felt about it. He starting to talk and appeared to skirt around the core of the matter, but finally his suggestion was made, he wanted Adam and I to take over as foremen, in charge of full jobs as per contract, and to that end was prepared to build us a bungalow at the bottom of his garden so that we were close by him. We knew that he had been courting a woman and he had mentioned that he would like to get married and retire a little early so that he could enjoy retirement while he was in good health. Well, we were gobsmacked as you can imagine, and said that we would need to think about it which we did, and after weighing up all the pros and cons, we decided not to.

In retrospect it was probably the biggest mistake that I made in my life. At the time we were imagining that we were being bought and would be obliged to Herr Kempa for most of our life. So basically what happened in the next few weeks relations with the boss deteriorated dramatically, all favours disappeared and he was extremely strict about our time-keeping and standard of work, consequently our situation become so intolerable that Adam and I decided to return to Langholm, which we did. We set off hitch-hiking to Hamburg where we caught the ferry to Harwich, then using the railway system eventually arrived back in Carlisle very tired indeed, mostly due to the all night disco on board the ferry which we had danced to most of the night. Eventually we both arrived back at Langholm having mixed emotions about our experiences of Germany, sad that we had to leave, and glad that we had many pleasant memories to recall in years to come. We were occupied with relating our adventures in Germany to our friends for the most part of the following week. As in all good things, they must inevitably come to an end.

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