It was a bit of a flying visit, and I picked him up at Exeter airport on the monday and took him back on friday. It is a 4 hour round trip to the airport from St. Ives, and he had to be at Exeter for 6.00 am on the return flight, so I arose at 2.45 am that morning, made the trip, and was back in Cornwall by 8.30... I slept well that night.
In general - rather like Basil Fawlty - we try not to talk about the war incessantly when with our German friends, but since our friend's (Thomas's) father was a pilot in the Luftwaffe, my father was a gunner in Bomber Command and Thomas's trip coincided with the celebration of the Battle of Britain, the subject was broached a few times.
After a bracing walk over the cliffs and down into St Ives town centre, Thomas and I called into a real pub (not a tourist one) for a refreshing pint of beer, one afternoon. We could tell that this place was frequented by locals, because many of them had the word CORNWALL tattooed on their arms.
The beer of choice that day was the excellent 'Spitfire' on draught, brewed by the oldest brewery in Britain, somewhere in Kent, then transported to the other side of the country where it sits uncomfortably close to the local 'Betty Stogg's' bitter at the bar. Thomas was given a dedicated 'Spitfire' glass to drink his, and as he raised the glass, I noticed - engraved into it's side - there were three level marks going down to the bottom. They read: "Goering, Goering, Gone". We thought that this was a rather jolly joke, and Thomas was naturally inspired to talk about the old nazi, and his passion for all sorts of narcotics, including heroin and MDMA. I mentioned that Goering designed all those pretty coloured uniforms whilst under the influence of these mind-bending drugs, about 70 years before the first rave was held in a field, somewhere in southern England.
Thomas then told me about the fictitious instruction manual on how to start an old, German, BMW motorcycle. For some reason, this joke is hardly ever told in polite company in Germany, so Thomas was glad of the opportunity to give it an airing. It goes like this:
You begin by trying to kick-start the bike, and it sounds like this:
HITLER! HITLER! HITLER! HITLER!
Then, as the engine fires up, it goes:
GOEBBELS GOEBBELS GOEBBELS GOEBBELS GOEBBELS
As you flick the throttle, it then says:
GOERING! GOERING! GOERING!