Wednesday 27 May 2009

If you look back you'll turn to stone (2)

One of the happiest periods of my life was the months I spent between school and University. At the time it was unusual to take a year off...although certainly not unheard of.

The first few months were not quite so great, as I decided to use the time to see if I would like to become an accountant when I grew up. I can tell you that beautiful as it was to be based in the city of Oxford, I soon discovered that my achievemnet of a Grade A maths at 'O' level in no way related to my ability to understand figures in the outside world. It was a complete mental blank for me, and my greatest achievement was was to work out how to use the coffee machine. So my apologies to my cousin who had arranged for me to go there, and it must have been of considerable embarassment to her when I decided to leave.

Breaking up with my first true love made for an unhappy time outside the office as well as in it. And the distraction she had been meant that I flunked my application to the University. I hope that's a lesson to all that follow.

Even in those days I thought life outside the confines of this island nation might be more interesting, and I applied for jobs in various French hotels (I could mumble the lingo so it seemed like a good idea), but they all trned me down and I ended up going to a village in Bavaria called Oberjoch. I travelled by train and bus, and managing to get a snog from a Belgian girl on the way seemed to prove that the world was a place full of adventure. My previous experience of the Austrian and German Alps were family holidays combined with my father's business trips to look at oversized printing presses.

On arrival, the owners of the hotel (which hadn't yet opened for the summer season) took me up to their apartment for lunch, which was taken in stony silence as their English was as good as my German. The only other person there was a German girl who had arrived a few weeks earlier as the chamber maid. It took a couple of days to discover that she was in fact English from Manchester and we had both assumed the other was German. She became a fabulous friend who I kept in touch for many years afterwards, but eventually we lost touch - I think Julie Cordwell went into the prison service. She called herself Esther in Germany...I don't know why.

I spent the first few days cleaning furniture (lesson in life - don't spray paint the woodwork with plastic chairs and tables underneath) before being introduced to the decrepit dishwashing machine which was to be my responsibility for the next few months. I'd only seen domestic machines before, so loaded it up and then asked what I was going to do for the next couple of hours. Five minutes or less later, I was refilling it. Again and again and again.

We were soon joined by more staff including the gorgeous Silvia Borzel who drove a less than reliable Beetle. I spent much time looking at her with puppy dog eyes and occasionally she returned the look. We spent much time together. Much fun was to be had taunting the owners, but with hindsight that was quite harsh and they were genuinely lovely people.

I could write a book on our adventures over the summer months, but that might just be of interest to me rather than anyone else. On my days off I travelled widely seeing Munich, Stuttgart, Ulm and smaller places such as Obserstdorf. When not venturing further I would climb the hills and mountains. Strangely, I now suffer from mild vertigo. Sometimes taking a rest, falling asleep to be woken by a kiss from a curious cow. Midnight naked swims in alpine lakes, beerfests aplenty, trips to night clubs that turned into strip clubs for no obvious reason and returning to midnight feasts raided from the hotel kitchens were all part of a great adventure. I even picked up some German. The rumour that one hotel still had a swastiki carved into a wall, but hidden by an oil painting was never proven, and probably the creation of a vivid student fantasy.

It seems tame now that students travel around the globe, but at the time it opened my eyes to a different life...and one that was so enticing that for a while when I went to university I thought might be the better option.

I worked abroad during all my university summers, but at different places including the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Castle (Neuschwanstein), but never returned to Oberjoch. And that was 30 years ago.

Our planned holiday for this year had been to go to the Himalayas...something the boy and I had discussed for a very long time, even once before trying to book only to discover all the flights were sold out. However, at the last minute, the boy became reluctant, and I suspect because he doesn't want to do it as part of an organised trip. There are some parts of the world that when you're 14 you need to go in an organised group, and I'd count the Himalayas as one. It's a real shame as I think he will miss out, but perhaps his mind will change in the next year - there won't be too many more summer holidays we share together before he ventures off with friends, abandoning me to teh delights or otherwise of singledom holidays.

So instead of one mountain range we will venture to another, and together we are going to stay at the hotel I used to work at. But this time we'll fly by Sleezyjet and rent a small car. It is now run by the daughter, Manuela, I think. It still looks the same, and we will explore all the places I used to venture to. I hope it's fun for the boy...of that I'm pretty sure as we'll be able to walk and climb as well as go to things like the BMW Museum and Olympic Stadium and English Gardens in Munich. For me, I wonder how rose-tinted my spectacles have become over the passing years.

My room was one of the windows in the loft.


  1. What a fab trip down memory lane. I hope the boy enjoys it as much as you do!

  2. I do hope you have a fabulous time and that the hotel and area are just as good as in your memory. It is nice that the hotel is still in the family. Will you be able to meet the parents again? It reminds me of all the travelling I did in Germany (I studied German at Uni). I used to hitch around Bavaria and Austria when I was a student. Your post brought back so many happy memories.

  3. Mud...thank you

    Rosiero...I shall send postcard!

  4. Sounds wonderful - why would anyone need to go to Thailand, or even the Himalayas, to have an adventure?

    You were evidently a lot more adventurous than I was at that age (merely moving from Ireland to England!).

    I hope you both have a wonderful time and that your memory serves you well re the trip down memory lane.


There's only one thing worse than being commented on...not commented on