Sunday, 1 August 2010


Amazingly, it is about 25 years since I first met my good friend Thomas from Bremerhaven, who is coming to stay with us here in Bath with his young, marine engineer girlfriend, sometime in the next day or two.

As far as I know, they are presently in the Lake District, where they had planned to meet up with a German woman friend, but due to a mix-up with dates, she will not be there until next weekend, when they will be back in Germany. I have not met Thomas's girlfriend yet, but according to Thomas, she can get easily confused about arrangements like this. The last time they were in England, she noticed a sign at the side of the road saying 'No hard shoulder for 3 miles' and thought it meant 'No hard feelings for 3 smiles'. She was impressed that the traditionally unemotional Brits would give such caring advice to tired and emotional motorists.

Thomas is a dentist, and when I met him, he was training to be one. Normally, the training lasts for about 7 years in Germany, but because he kept flunking various exams, his training continued for a few years beyond that - all financed by his 'extreme rich Aunt'. I know for a fact that he is an excellent dentist now, though, so if you should find yourself in his chair, you will be in good and caring hands. He has only just started to make real money in his profession, because it has taken years to extricate himself from a partnership he formed with an elderly Hungarian, who he referred to as 'Dracula'.

Thomas first came to visit me when I was living in a one roomed cottage in a village near Bath, and he was brought over by a gay friend of mine from Hamburg. Assuming that Thomas was the latest boyfriend of his, I put them in the same bed, whilst I slept on the floor in the same room. Having spent the entire evening sampling British braun beer, then throwing up on the bonnet of a huge, 1950's American car outside the village pub (which Thomas referred to as 'a pimp's car'), I could see from the look of hatred on their faces next morning that they had not slept at all that night, and they later told me that they had never, ever, heard snoring as loud as that which I produced obliviously all night in the tiny room.

Thomas is a great person to be with, and is living proof that Germans do have a sense of humour and, quite often, very good ones at that. He is an anglophile through and through, to the extent that he is addicted to the early British TV series, 'The Avengers', and drives an original Mini, which he has spent years lovingly restoring, occasionally bringing it over to drive on British roads. One night, he and a friend were driving it on an autobahn, and his friend had donned a full-face, latex mask of an extremely elderly and witch-like hag, complete with wild hair and warts. They would cruise up alongside another car and when they were side by side, turn on the internal light of the car as Thomas's friend slowly turned and looked at the other driver. How they laughed as they saw the other car swerve all over the road in shock - apparently the mask was very realistic.

As far as non-visual jokes are concerned, I think Germans have attained the 'no sense of humour' reputation purely because of the structure of their language. British jokes depend - usually - on the last word at the end of the sentence forming the full-stop to the punch-line. In German, it is not often that this word is right at the end - it is usually right at the beginning, so there has to be a degree of cooperation between the teller and the listener.

Anyway, I had better get on with cleaning the room where they will sleep. This time, I will be sleeping downstairs on a couch - hopefully far enough away for my snoring to be unheard...maybe.


  1. Great story and another great Thomas - so now there's two of you :>0. Is it their house, in September that you're going down to St Ives? I like the bit where his girlfriend translated 'no hard feelings for 3 smiles'. It's usually the alternative highway code hand signals you come across round here. Have a great reunion all of you. Moll

  2. When quite young, the late Lady Diana Cooper saw a sign in Kensington Gardens which said 'No Birdnesting'. She turned to her nanny and said 'What a terrible shame, I'm sure they do no harm'.

  3. I've almost finished cleaning the room - what a nightmare. What a slut I am. Only one real Thomas in the house, Moll! (my real name is Cecil)

    What a life the Coopers lead, what a beauty Diana was. When in Farnham, I flashed past a sign on the end of a lane which read, "To: Runfold Palace and the Towers of Jocasta". When we went out to inspect this fabulous place, the sign actually read, "To: Runfold Place, The Towers, Jocasta". Three nice little bungalows.

  4. P.S. - No, they don't have the house in St. Ives, Moll - they live in Bremerhaven. Our Bath mates have the cornish gaff.

  5. Sounds like a good time will be had by all. I can bear witness to Germans definitely having a sense of humor, after all, Rudy has remained with me for 36 years. (He's Austrian actually.)

    I was on a BA flight once from London on my way to meet V. in Rome.
    A very nice young, English, handsome, black, male flight attendant asked if I would like a glass of wine. I replied "yes", to which he enquired further "and will you be having wine widja meal?" To which I enquired "Who's Jameel?". kidding...the truth.
    One of my funnier blond moments.

  6. ....send three and fourpence...we're going to a dance?

    No...I said....

    "send reinforcement, we're going to advance!"

  7. Fork-handles... I have a Saudi friend called Jameel. (Germans get very upset when mistaken for Austrians, but it doesn't happen very often. Same with Canadians and Americans, Kiwis and Ozzies...)

  8. and Austrians for Germans! who knew?

  9. I think we can blame Hitler for that one.