Thursday, April 19, 2012

1980: A town that's right for me

It's May 1980, and I'm really not looking forward to having my German exhchange person coming over.

I had enjoyed my trip to Germany beyond my wildest expectations, and had made some top friends, but now I heard that the person I really wanted to see, a girl called Beata Hack on whom I had a major crush, was not to be among them. She couldn't afford it, apparently.

We had a tearful (her!) phone call in which she couldn't speak much English and I couldn't speak much German and that was the end of that. Whenever I see Run Lola Run, I'm reminded of her, with her dyed hair and punky attitude she was a like a goddess. I wonder what she's doing now? Anyway, the shine had kind of gone off the whole thing.

So I was slightly worried at the thought of Kai's iminent arrival. Though we'd got on fine in Germany and I really liked his family who had made me so welcome, we didn't have much in common. He was into green issues, I was into Hughie Green issues, he wore those chunky beads tightly round his neck and and had a Shaun Cassidy hairdo. Compared to what was going on in Britain, with its new wave and ska double-header, he looked like he'd be more at home listening to Gallagher and Lyle at a sit-in in 1975.

I was right to worry, however, as he was a nightmare. Off-hand, piggish, un-coperative and a whingebag, mum and dad were appalled. We'd set up tons of sight-seeing trips, but he only wanted to go to Stonehenge. On top of the many things the school had organised, there wasn't to be a dull moment, but to him, every moment was a dull one. He sulked all the way up to London as Lipps Inc's Funkytown came on the radio every five minutes. That song will always remind of that day. We were stuck in traffic forever, five hot and cross people crammed into dad's metallic green Capri to visit the Tower Of London and other German-friendly sites. He didn't enjoy any of it. Dad dug his heels in and refused to go to Stonehenge. I think he was just being bloody-minded. It wasn't that far away.

Kai sulked most evenings in my bedroom, sneaking packets of pork 'n' beans flavour Rancheros in the dead of night until the whole box was gone. Sometimes we'd just go out and leave him there. Those 10 days seemed like an awfully long time. A continental presence such as this we'd never known. Were they all that ghastly?, asked mum. They weren't, but having them here was not nearly as much fun as going over there. In Germany it was all new and different, every day brought a new experience, and all in a foreign language. Having them here they were just unwelcome guests.

I never heard from him again.


  1. I cannot stop laughing at this story. It's like something from a Mike Leigh play. And I am overawed that your Dad had a metallic-green Capri. Perfect.

  2. Worra an ol' sourpuss - I take it you didn't stay in contact?

    PS back from New York last week - what a place! I can't shake it off. Clean, friendly, safe - and the sights to see! We cant wait to get back *sighs*

  3. That's what it does to you, Mondo. Glad you had fun. I feel far safter there than I do in London.

    Glad to make your day, KK. Turn it into a play, I challenge you. Dad had a series of Capris, and then, inexplicably, a bronze Honda Civic.

  4. "Sometimes we'd just go out and leave him there." [at home].


    Now of course, the solution would be a quick budget flight home, or a one way ticket on Eurostar..

    What's German for 'entente cordiale' I wonder. Is there anything Germanic for that sentiment, really?

  5. You must have Googled Beata Hack. You must have. Or looked on Facebook. Or LinkedIn. Or...