It was the Summer of '69. I got my first real six-string, bought
it at the five-and-dime.... no, no, NO
! Begone with
you, Bryan Adams, aarghh!
Where were we... ? The Summer of '69 and in my case, for
three weeks anyway, in Germany. I've written a little here
about travelling around in the back of a racing green Jaguar MkII and
having a wobbly tooth in a thunderstorm. Today I stumbled
across an old photo, the only one I have from that trip, of Micha and
me reunited for a day. Micha and her family had been next door
neighbours for a couple of years before they moved back to Germany.
I loved Micha - she was my first, proper, best friend. When she
left, she gave me her gold-painted bike 'Dobbin' and a little
elasticated bracelet with pictures of alpine flowers on each of the
white plastic links.
The lovely Micha on the left
It's funny what you remember, isn't it? For instance I don't
remember a thing about the food on that trip, or much about the
weather. My recollections are like sparse cuttings from a magazine,
as if someone has gone through pages and pages full of detail and
imagery but has only snipped round a few sentences and a handful of
pictures, then stuck them in a scrapbook and thrown the rest away.
Every time I flick through this mental album I see those same
snippets, I see them clearly, but I can't fill in the blank spaces
So I remembered about the wobbly tooth and the thunderstorm. I
also remember staying in a house which had wooden shutters on the
windows and I became briefly obsessed with them, “Mummy, can we put
shutters on the windows at home? Can we? Please
course we never did...) I also loved the fairytale theme park in
Ludwigsburg where they had a Rapunzel Tower. Rapunzel was my
favourite story of all time, albeit that was only a six year lifetime in my
case; still, it was magical. My Ladybird edition certainly was well loved.
Just as the Prince did in the fairytale, we had to call up,
“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!” (“Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
lass deinen Zopf herunter!”) and as I waited so excitedly, holding
my breath in anticipation, a big plait of flaxen
hair came down
slowly from the one high window. It didn't come down quite far
enough for anyone to actually grab it and climb up it, which was a
little disappointing, but not so much so that it tainted the
experience. I just imagined she'd need to grow her locks a little
longer and then maybe I could go back one day and actually touch it
when she had.
I remember my big sister getting a mosquito bite that flared up
really badly and had everyone worried for days, and I remember
feeling worried myself when looking down from the top of the
Television Tower in Stuttgart – I really didn't like it at all.
“Look at the tiny cars down there!” my sister exclaimed as we
peered nervously over the edge. I have a vague memory of a trip to a
musty old castle with lots of steps, and another of driving along the
Autobahn and my parents arguing because my dad had missed the
turn-off and my mum was supposed to be navigating. In a shop where we went to buy some souvenirs there were some toys with the laughable name 'Jobbies' - you
always remember that kind of stuff, don't you? I didn't come home with a Jobby; instead I had a little doll with red hair dressed in a dirndl. You also never forget
the holiday romances and it's true, I had a brief flirtation in a
restaurant with a young German boy who seemed to have the hots for
me. Sadly the only thing I was able to say to him, over and over
again as I remember, was “Ich spreche kein Deutsch” (carefully
taught parrot-fashion by my mum – at least I think
what she'd helped me to say to him) but I still recall how nice his cheeky
smiles made me feel, even then.
There were people, lots of people – friends of my parents who
let us stay in their houses, took us to places, gave us presents, like Heidi, and Gudrun & Franz, and Theo and Rudolf. And Micha.
Micha who posted that photo to me in England on our
return, with a little note on the back.