This will make more sense if you have read, at least, part 1. It is here.
I have had a bad experience, my dear readers.
Yes, a German spa holiday in Bad Saarow! I’m sure you will understand immediately whose idea this was: not your beloved correspondent, of course, but his good lady wife. Herself has been torturing me for ages to go on a healthy holiday for a change, rather than the usual wine-fuelled dining spree in the South of France or Italy. Recognising that I couldn’t hold out forever, and that a happy wife makes a happy marriage, I consented, against all my better instincts. The holiday was sold to me on the basis that the thermal salt water and a good massage would sooth my aching muscles and tired old bones, and that I needed a proper rest. I have no need to tell you, dear readers, what my idea of a proper rest is: a dinner of Tournedos Rossini with foie gras accompanied by a large glass of Burgundy, in a well-shaded square, preferably with a fountain in it. The idea of hot springs and mud baths, bratwurst, and Liebfraumilch – I shudder to think of it – filled me with dread. No sooner had I relented than my poor head was assailed with regrets. What kind of madness was I suffering from to agree to such horrors?
I must admit to certain factors that swung it. Not only the joy sparkling in my dear wife’s eyes, but two images in the brochure: a golf course, and a rather attractive young masseuse. It occurred to me that a lengthy pummelling from her after a day on the links might not be so bad. And the place did look rather picturesque, a neat, clean resort on the shores of lake Scharmützel.
In the end, our holiday was like the curate’s egg: good in parts. The golf course did not disappoint, and I spent quite a bit of time out there while Herself soaked in mud by candlelight and got rubbed down by young men in towels. She was positively ecstatic with the whole thing, which made for a pleasant trip – happy wife etc. But I have to say the massage experience was not to my liking. Not at all. It seems that the gorgeous young woman of the brochure was a myth; the photograph was nothing more than a cheap promotional gimmick to draw in the unwary. After my second session I enquired about her of my masseuse, a heavy woman with arms like a Lurgan butcher, who said nothing in response, but dug her fingers deep under my shoulder blades with more than a hint of malice.
When I related this experience to Herself she smirked. A sceptical man – unlike myself – might suspect that she had put a word in somewhere, but she is a decent sort and above such trivialities. I am confident, as ever, that she has my best interests at heart. Her suggestion was that I go for a swim every day instead of the massage. Given that the resort had a number of pools of differing temperatures this seemed like a much better plan, and I made a start the next day. It was wonderful, readers, just wonderful. In fact I got so caught up in the swimming that one fine day I thought it might be bracing to take a Scandinavian-style dip in the lake itself. I observed, however, that while there were many small boats skimming across the water, I could not spy a single swimmer, and this made me ponder deeply on the situation. Being aware of the necessity to always check things out thoroughly before proceeding when in foreign parts, I interrogated one of the gardeners on the subject, to see if there were any restrictions. It was just as well I did so, I can tell you. Upon being asked if the lake was for swimming he replied: Nein. It is strictly verboten.
All of which leads me nicely onto the next gem from the diaries of our esteemed Professor Wankel:
Belfast, 18. November 1993.
I have been observing the role of the traditional singers for many years now, mostly in the informal pub music ‘sessions.’ Quite often the musicians use the song as an opportunity to visit the bar or the toilette; this is a wery good idea for practical purposes, because it means that the music is interrupted less for such matters. Usually before the song is started somebody will call for ‘order’ like in the parliament, to get the people in the bar to stop talking so that the song can be heard. This is not always successful especially if much alcohol has been consumed, and the listeners have to be encouraged to keep quiet. In noisy bars, where it is difficult to get silence and there are many drunken people, I have seen the singer insert a finger in one ear, which they say helps them hear better. Because of this some musicians call them the ‘finger in the ear brigade,’ something I find wery amusing. Imagine a brigade marching into battle with a finger in their ear as they sing the ‘Lili Marlene.’ Helmets off men, it is song time!
There are some
k customs amongst the singers that I do not understand at all. What is this thing with the händes? It was most confusing that time in Cork when I sat next to the old man to hear him better and before he started to sing he grabbed my hand. But it was not to say hello. I introduced myself as a gut-mannered gentleman should, but he did not let go! Mein Gott – he held at my hand all the way through the song, shaking it like he was at the willage pump. At the end I was too embarrassed to ask him what he v was doing, and went to sit at the back off the room with the noisy people.
Another common practice is for the singer to insert extra
sylabb letters into certain words for emphasis. This usually comes in the form of a nasal ‘n’ or ‘m’ sound, Viz.: ‘Boney, o mmmmmBoney…’ &c (n.b. this song is about Napoleon, nothing to do with the pop group of the 70s, Boney M). Usually the ‘n’ sound comes in the mittel of a word with a wvowel, Viz.: ‘I went ounnnnntside.’ I asked about this to a man who had just sung wery nicely (about Bonaparte!), and he said that it vas to make the song more interesting. He promised that he would sing later on a song about a woman who had an amazing hair cut, especially for me. But alas, I was tired and left without hearing it. I have asked since many times for the song, but I think this man must have been the composer, because nobody else seems to know it. I would wery much like to hear it.
– Return to Cork – find composer of ‘Hair cut’ song and get field recording.
– More research into the hände phenomenon. I believe this was not just an isolated incident by a madman; the audience seemed to think it was normal. But maybe they were just used to him..? More work needed.