With sunken eyes and clutching a bottle of cough mixture, he looks like a Peruvian spectacled bear. His nose runs as he asks how far it is to the shopping centre.
My reply – ‘ a fifteen-minute walk’ – has him wincing, and coughing; rather than attempt such an undertaking, he shuffles despondently round his trailer. It’s as though I’ve suggested a twenty-mile trek through searing desert.
What he desperately needs – aside from new lungs, new feet and a hairstyle – is an extension lead. Yes, Namibian wants mains power to his truck, to watch films on the laptop.
But, wait, how selfless – this lead, I’m told, is for both of us. What do I need a power lead for? I’m never in my truck when it’s stationary. In fact, if I could get away with being absent while it’s moving, I would. Remote control trucking from my seaside home in Hastings – now there’s an idea.
‘Yes, but it’s good if you need power,’ he hounds me, intimating that perhaps I might like to run this errand for him. Putting my hands over my ears, and singing: ‘la la, I can’t hear you,’ does me no favours – the irascible Namibian becomes moodier.
There is an icy gale this morning; even wearing layers, it simply tears through one’s bones. “Alice” – who is really called Mark, I hope you remember – sidles up. After at least twelve hours’ sleep, he seems on top form.
‘I slept with an icy Gail once,’ he says. ‘She had wind.’ As I head for the tram station, snippets of conversation waft in the breeze: ‘Isn’t a bidet when you do a handstand in the shower?..’
You know how I love superlatives? Oh, you don’t? Well, I do. Saxony’s Leipzig has the biggest tram network in Germany – more than 300km of tram network. And a short hop on Tram 16 brings the traveller to Central Station and, believe it or not, one of the largest terminus train stations in Europe, with expensive toilets.
Bus 690 takes me, via Grimma – made even grimmer by the rusting Trabant parked in the square – to Colditz. A weak sun tries to punch through the pervasive mist as we pass Adecco’s PERSONALDIENSTLEISTUNGEN. Blimey, they just make words up in Germany, don’t they?
Jolly unfair on the foreigner is what I say. And fancy having a language that ascribes a sex to inanimate objects. I mean, how can a table be a man in German yet a woman in French? Why not just say “the”?
Anyway, Colditz Castle is built on top of a high cliff promontory, jutting out over the River Mulde. Deemed to be escape-proof after World War 1, it received escaped Allied officer prisoners of war from 1940-43.
The castle was floodlit from every angle – despite the blackout – and barred windows looked down at clear drops of 100 feet. I watch goats nibble at the fenced allotments far below as I contemplate being a prisoner.
Well, it wouldn’t suit me, would it? No rock and roll tours? I would have to escape..