Hamburg – Vienna

If you were to hide a camera in a building overnight, where would be the last place you’d choose?

Astute trucker, Joe, chose the oven, then got drunk and slept in. You can see what’s coming… By the time he emerges today, lunch is prepared, and those reckless caterers haven’t checked the cooking area for electronic devices. “Melted” would be an understatement.

My German friend Norbert – ‘from a wery small willage’ – introduced his considerably younger girlfriend last night. He is overtly flouting an unwritten rule, apparently: Germans and Austrians do not, I’m told, see eye to eye. This relationship works, however, because Norbert is from Bavaria, once part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

Some years ago, Norbert stayed in my house as a foreign student learning English. Substantially his junior, I was nevertheless referred to as ‘my host daddy’.

Like me, he is something of an international gadder, so I called him yesterday to check he was actually in Vienna.

‘How are you?’ I began simply and slowly. ‘In the office,’ he replied, showing a worrying regression since leaving my tutelage.

‘HOW, not where,’ I persisted conversationally. Actually, his English is excellent, save for a few delightful mispronunciations.

In fact, we ended up chatting over Campari until 3am last night. I know, it’s not a very “cool” drink for someone in their early thirties, but it’s trendier than tea? I’m trying. And fine, if you’re going to be pedantic, I’m mid-thirties, I suppose.

Now, the complaints have started among the trucking fraternity on the Tina Turner tour: our railway siding parking area in Vienna comes without toilets.

The nearest are at the station, a ten-minute walk , which, quite rightly, upsets Namibian, needing to “go” at five o’clock in the morning. A simple matter like this, while the rest of the crew enjoy en-suite hotel bathrooms, breeds unrest.

While I cycle contentedly around the city – I re-visit a 16th century trombone in the Antiquities Museum; the instrument, then known as a sackbut, has changed little in the last 500 years – others have time to brood. In fairness, most of my colleagues will have been to Vienna fifty times compared to my seven or eight visits over the last ten years or so. They have become jaded.

‘Crouchers are better for you than Western toilets,’ Captain Birds Eye informs me, cryptically, then bombards me with statistics regarding bowel cancer in Europe versus Asia.  I think, however, we can safely attribute the marked difference in figures to diet rather than squatting techniques.

After a brief foray into toothless ferrets again – ‘they can give you a nasty suck’ – matters inevitably turn to sex.

Birds Eye, hogging conversation on occasions says: ‘Cos of the tablets, I have to book an erection two weeks in advance.’

I could of course choose to omit these quotes, but I think you can better empathise if they are included? People are for ever telling me what a great job I have, but look what I have to put up with.

Other colleagues start to arrive in Catering, glum-faced and bereft of cash, bitterly regretting late-night negotiations in the nearby brothel…