Was That Chap a Foreign? The Weekly: Maintaining Britain's Standards
PERIWIGS: THE WINTER COLLECTION
Monsieur Pompadour

The Dig-My-Wig

The Hair-of-the-Dog for gentlemen wryly referring to their previous savaging by a starved, crazed hound

Novelty musical import The Wigeridoo

Mr No-Bald

Super Wig 57
Millington's Face
God Rest Ye, Merry Millington
My thinking was, "If the Millennium Bug wipes out the whole of civilisation's infrastructure, better to be in Germany than in England." In England the collapse of all vital services would send us cartwheeling into chaos and anarchy. In fact, that'd probably be the result if the buses went on strike for a week or there was a prolonged shortage of lottery scratch cards. Our National Emergency Plan simply calls for lots of middle-aged women to stand around in Post Office queues saying "Well, I said it'd happen" until we all starve to death. In Germany, I reckoned, the utter destruction of the modern world would be fixed by mid-morning. Die Zeit would mention it briefly on page four.

So, I engineered that I would be in Germany for the three weeks around New Year 1999. Rather than die screaming in a scorching cloud of atomised aviation fuel as I was flung around inside a shattering fuselage on a pitiless, concrete runway, I decided to go by coach again. I'm used to it now. In fact, I find to hard to sleep if my face isn't distorted against a window. We're staying with the German side of the family not far from Stuttgart. Margret has flown out, of course - "Crash? It wouldn't dare" - and we're being put up by her brother, Matthias, and his wife, Anja. They have a new house in a village called Hochdorf.

" Fat and Stupid "
This is significant. In two ways, as it happens. First there's that name, "Hochdorf"; in German "hoch" means "high" while "dorf" means village. However, "dorf" can also mean "idiotic." (Laurel and Hardy aren't known by that name in Germany; because of the German insistence on direct language I've mentioned before, they are known simply as Dick und Dorf - "Fat and Stupid.") Next is the whole New House thing. We've just bought a new house in England. In the move from the Mad Max set where we'd made our persistently burgled home for the past six years, I left the decision about the new house to Margret. Margret plumped for paying a laughing man four years' worth of my salary for a functioning letterbox around which we must construct a viable house. I'm sure it'll be very nice when we've had the damp course, bathroom suite, kitchen suite, completely new plumbing and central heating boiler put in. I have no doubt that once the drainage, chimney, windows and roof have been fixed it'll be fine. It has, you see, good light. Good light. You do see, don't you? Good light. Not lighting - no, it needs entirely rewiring before they'll even insure the place - but good light. This is how women choose houses, apparently. "Light." Light and atmosphere. I'm still not sure what "atmosphere" is, precisely, but I've surmised that a house can't possibly have it and sound flooring.

But anyway.

Margret spends the days getting everyone in Southern Germany involved in choosing which hob we're going to have. This is fair enough, I suppose. She's been showing variations on marble effect work surfaces to me for over three weeks now and I've simply run out of ways to say "I don't care." More tiresome is her prefixing her presentations on the reinvention of our cupboards with the nodding aside "Mil ist kein Handwerker" - this is true; I own no trowel, and yet still feel strangely whole - because the reaction of the coffee-sipping huddles of Germans Margret tells this to is to turn to me with sad-eyed, sympathetic smiles. It's the kind of look I'd get had she said, "Of course, he's entirely dead down there since the operation - but he never complains, and he still has his garden." And we're staying in the house her brother has hewn out the rock with his bare hands.

At this point a hurricane would be nice.

So, Hurricane "Lothar" hits us mid-afternoon on Boxing Day. Anja has an environment-friendly bin to turn rubbish into fertiliser. The environment causes it to explode across the garden. This is excellent. With each surge of air, the windows bow inwards. Darn impressive, I think you'll agree. Other highlights include a kiosk housing a portable toilet flying down the street like an alarming Tardis, trees being torn up at the roots like weeds and the huge construction crane reaching above us swaying like a bloody big rubbery thing that's about to crush you to death. The whole affair is straight out of that Buster Keaton movie; you can actually jump down the hill and land further up it. Then the electricity cuts out. And the phone. I've only two hours' power left in this laptop - the end of civilisation appears to have arrived a week early.

" The top of the hill the hill "
Now the area we're in is called Swabia. The Swabians are regarded as ridiculously industrious and punctilious by other Germans. Yeah, by other Germans - just think about that for a moment. They're out cleaning up the very second the thing dies down a bit. (Even about two-thirds of the way through it the elderly woman across the street puts on a big coat and takes her dog out for a walk. "Because I always do at this time," she would surely have said, had I felt the need to venture out into the flying debris to ask her why.) Our house is on the top of the hill, the hill is in Hochdorf. It's like God has decided to get beered up and throw stuff at us. Then Matthias appears zipping up his blue overalls. He is, of course - of course - going up on to the roof to replace the tiles that the wind has ripped off. Seconds later he's knotting a length of mountaineering rope around his waist and clambering about in the swirling air. The other end of the rope is around me, in the bedroom. Tragically, my German has failed me as I don't seem to have the remotest idea how to say, "No, you hold the rope and I'll climb out on the roof in this high wind." Oh for a phrase book.

I've got this thing about not dying where I was born. Dying in the same town you were born in is, well, it's almost like what was the point coming back from the hospital? But here, in High-Stupid, is not where I'd like to die either. And certainly not by being pulled out of a window by the falling brother of my girlfriend. He's being brave on a roof - if he falls all of Swabia will toast his selflessly giving his life for his masonry. But what kind of Tom and Jerry death would I have? Matt's doppler "Yooooooooooo...." as he falls past, a glance down at the rope whipping out from the coil on the floor, I look plaintively into camera, then I'm yanked out of the bedroom window into Eternity.

Matt is splendid enough not to fall off. The power people, on Boxing Day remember, rapidly fix the electricity supply. Everywhere there are neighbours with brooms. Someone rights the toilet and places it in its original location. EVEN THE PHONE COMPANY QUICKLY MEND THE PHONE LINE, FOR GOD'S SAKE. Anja's brother comes round for coffee with his wife - kitchen/"Mil is kein Handwerker"/sad-eyed, sympathetic smiles - and the radio news says something like "Hurricane Lothar leaves a trail of temporary untidiness across Germany'. I'm telling you, this is an entirely different country.
Comfortingly undemanding:
Millington's Face | God Rest Ye, Merry Millington | Splendour Of The Deep | Road Movee in a Coach Stylee | I Am Going To Die

Christ! What was that? It was Millington's Book.
UNWISELY CHOSEN MURDER IMPLEMENTS
A section sawed out of the gas-pipe

A pot plant

A big knife engraved with your initials that uses electronic trickery to play a recording of you cheering to a background of your favourite song whenever you use it to stab something

An untraceable black-market gun, but you've shot your victim at dinner with everyone looking

A pea
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