by Northern Life
By David Walker, Barrowford
Recycling. Shred. Recycling. Shred. House insurance. Good heavens, is it due already? Doesn’t time fly? It seems only yesterday that I sent them a cheque. Recycling.”
Fed up with all the doom and gloom, I had switched off the TV news and was watching my wife sort through the pile of mail that lay on the table. Judging by its size I reckoned that the world and his wife had decided that today was the ideal time to launch new products, hold a sale, promote satellite TV, extol the virtues of smart meters, persuade us to change our energy supplier, and subliminally imply that unless we insulated our wall cavities and lofts, the human race would be extinct in fifty years’ time. “No.” Vera hastily extracted a multi coloured flyer from the recycling pile. “On second thoughts I will hang on to this one. I’ve been thinking about getting a new three piece suite for a while. The one we have is getting shabby and there looks to be some bargains here.” The very thought of trawling the shops looking at furniture made me groan out loud. Fortunately for me Vera was so engrossed with the next item that she did not hear it. “Oh, just look at this Norman. It’s a postcard from my sister Babs. It says, “After a day relaxing at sea we have now docked at Antigua. The views are lovely. Forget Bognor V and book a cruise. C U soon. Love B and E.”
Six months ago Eddie’s Premium Bond had come up. It was not a massive amount but it was enough to pay for a two week Caribbean cruise. “They seem to be having a fantastic time,” Vera said “I wish we could afford a cruise Norman.” Seizing what I thought was an opportunity to get out of furniture shopping, I suggested that if we did not buy a new suite then perhaps we could put the money towards a cruise, albeit I added hastily, a short one like say, the Norwegian Fjords. I was only granted a temporary reprieve because after a moment’s thought the idea of a new suite won and she returned to sorting the mail.
“Hello, what’s this then?” Vera held up a cream coloured envelope. “Who on earth can be writing to you from Germany, Norman?”
“A letter for me, from Germany? Your guess is as good as mine love. If it isn’t Angela Merkal wanting to know why I voted for Brexit then I haven’t the foggiest idea,” I replied jokingly. “Anyway, hand it over and let‘s have a look.”
It turned out the letter was not from Angela Merkel but Muller, Muller and Schultz, a firm of solicitors in Luneburg. “Dear Mr Clark,” I read out. “I would be grateful if you could kindly contact me at your earliest convenience when subject to the clarification of your personal details we may be able to elaborate on the reason for contacting you.
Helmut Muller Snr.
“So, are you going to contact them Norman?” Vera asked. “I’m not sure love. I’ll have to give it some serious thought. It could be one of them scams you read about. You know, where they promise they can get you money then when they have got your bank details you later find they’ve hacked into your account and transferred all your cash to a bank in the Seychelles.” Vera laughed. “I doubt that will happen. You make Scrooge look like a spendthrift. From my experience they’d have more chance of getting blood out of a stone than getting money out of you. Anyway Norman, I’ll leave it to you.”
Luneburg was where I spent my National Service. Like most lads my age I had not looked forward to the prospect of spending two years of my life serving Queen and Country, but after being subjected to all sorts of indignities by a team of Army doctors, the OHMS envelope eventually arrived and it was off to Preston. After basic training, it was goodbye Blighty and hello Germany.
On arrival we were sent to different platoons and to my delight I found that the Army had taken into consideration my training as a mechanic and I was to be in the motor transport platoon and also B Company’s commanders’ driver.
I had a great time. Major Grattan was a shooting, and fishing man and duties permitting, at weekends he would travel all over Germany and where he went, I went as well.
The solicitor’s letter got me thinking. Could it be connected to something that had happened during my time there? For example, during my first trip into town I had been confused by the signs Damen and Herren and found myself in the ladies’ toilets. I knew that some of the lads had been faced with paternity suits but I had obeyed to the letter the warning that we should not fraternise with the Fräuleins. I vaguely remember running over a cockerel when we were on manoeuvres. “Oh, my God” I thought, “I bet it is about me selling cigarettes to a farmer.” Germans would pay any price for English cigarettes and being a nonsmoker I regularly sold my allowance to make some extra spending money. In the Army’s eyes this was a major crime and could result in the culprit serving a month in the glass house, but surely I thought, they can’t be chasing up something that happened all those years ago. The only other time I was in Luneburg was the twin town trip in 1995. By coincidence it was also the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the peace treaty on Luneburg Heath and thinking it would be a good idea for the party to include someone who had done their National Service there, the council put a call out on the local radio. I enjoyed seeing the town again. It had not changed all that much, and I am happy to say that this time I did not repeat the toilets mistake. To make our visit even more personal our hosts took us into their homes rather than hotels. Anyway I thought, the only way to solve the mystery is to phone Muller, Muller and Schultz.
On Wednesday nights we have a darts match at the British Legion. Tonight we were playing a team from the George and Dragon. It was a needle match because it was the play off for who won the league. I was at the oche throwing a few practice darts when our visitors arrived. I was going for double top when a hand clamped itself on my shoulder. “Nobby Clark. I am arresting you for impersonating a darts player. You have the right to remain silent but anything you do say will be taken down and may be used in evidence.” I immediately recognised the voice. It was Jimmy Drinkwater, the Motor Transport platoons practical joker. He was grinning from ear to ear. “How are you going on me old mate? It must be what, twenty years since I last saw you. I wasn’t sure if it was you at first.” He prodded my stomach.
“You’ve put some weight on and your tan had me fooled for a while. I bet you didn’t get that at Blackpool.” As I shook his hand I had what can only be described as a light bulb moment.
“You are dead right Jimmy.” I said, steering him towards a corner table. “Me and the missus spent last month cruising in the Caribbean.” “Blimey Nobby, that must have cost you a few quid. Did you rob a bank?”
“No nothing like that Jimmy. “Actually, I’ve just realised the reason I came into a few bob is all down to you.”
“Down to me? What the heck are you talking about Nobby? I’ve never sent you any money.”
“Not directly Jimmy but can you cast you mind back to when were in Luneburg on that town twinning trip and I stayed with Frau Fischer and you were next door with Frau Schmelling?
He nodded, “But I still can’t understand what the heck that has that got to do with you coming into money?”
“Well, bear with me Jimmy, all will be revealed. You don’t need to answer this if you don’t want to, was there any shenanigans between the two of you that night?”
A cheeky grin spread over his face. “Too bloomin’ true mate. From the moment she showed me to my room it was clear she fancied me. She told me that she had been a widow for thirty years and how lonely life had been without a man to keep her company, so I thought I would do my bit for Anglo German relations, but I still….”
“Right, be honest with me Jimmy OK? Did you use my name?” I interrupted.
“Yes I’ll hold my hand up to that Nobby. I thought it would be a bit of fun. I didn’t mean any harm honest. You aren’t mad at me are you? I mean, it was absolutely ages ago.”
“No, no, Jimmy. On the contrary, I am extremely grateful to you. It seems that your attempts to, as you put it, improve Anglo German relations, so delighted Frau Schmelling that when she died last year she left you, sorry, ME, fifty thousand euros!”
Oh by the way, we won the darts match. Our opponents couldn’t understand why their star player had suddenly lost his form!