Seeing as it’s Christmas and I haven’t shared many stories on here about life in The Hague, I thought I’d let you in on a gross little tale that’s been going on in my life since I moved in May.
Much like Luka, I live on the second floor, and directly across from me, in a near identical block of flats, lives a man who, almost nightly, watches what one might refer to as nudie flicks on his extremely large television.
He doesn’t close his Venetian blinds, he doesn’t appear to indulge in any manual vigorousness, he just sits down and watches terrible people riding for hours. And hours. And more hours. I have made complex and laborious stews and eaten them and taken a a nap and when I’m washing my plate he is still just arsing around watching Sasha and Josh bate the sexy heads off each other in a police station. (He is very into police-themed stuff.)
He’s upped the ante since the nights got darker, so now I can’t so much as make a cup of tea after 7pm without seeing a HD fanny a few yards away.
Sometimes he sits at his desk near his window and browses stuff on his computer while the panoramic intercourse takes place in the background. Ordering a few bits off Amazon while Shirley does reverse cowgirl over his shoulder. He must just like the sound of it. Just sitting by the wintery seaside, in a soundscape of moans and seagulls. My very odd neighbour.
Hermann Dunkel was his name, but we called him Hermann The German. He was German, as you would imagine was the case, and for many, many years as a smallie I thought he must be the most Germanic of all the German people and was possibly even the King. Surely nothing could bind you more to your home country than having a name that rhymed with it?
Hermann was a solid and much loved fixture of our youth. He would arrive from Stuttgart with mystical objects that might as well have been carved from moon rock, such was our fascination with them. We still to this day have a Duplo set in the house that consists of a little Duplo cowboy, a horse trailer and a horse to put inside the trailer. I still, at 31 years of age, sit and wheel the trailer around the table every time I’m at my Mam and Dad’s house. I thought of him today when a Cork Facebook page posted this beautiful picture of the Gorch Fock, the boat on which Hermann first visited Cork in the early 1970s.
The story of Hermann started with a chance meeting between him and my Mam’s younger sister somewhere around 1970, as far as Mam can recall. They met in the Grand Parade hotel in Cork City where Hermann fell wildly in love with her but her interests were leading her elsewhere. When he came back to win her heart a few months later (accompanied by a pal for backup), she had no more interest in him than the man in the moon and he was stranded in Cork; a lone sailor with a useless wingman and a broken heart. Which is where my family comes in.
My parents looked after him and his pal and took them to see the coast and countryside and he fell deeply in love with the people and places of Ireland. My Mam says that he most strongly adored the beauty of West Cork, and Sherkin Island in particular.
Hermann came back to visit many, many times after that first trip. He came back with his children and his wife, and after she died tragically he brought his second wife here. Two happy marriages in one life is a testament to his good nature and wonderful spirit.
Hermann died last year, and we were all heartbroken to lose him. I would love to have seen him back in Ireland again with my parents and spending time in his beloved Cork Harbour. My Mam sent me a copy of the note below that Hermann left with them during his first stay when they rescued him and his broken heart. I just love that this story is a neat and beautiful illustration that a lifetime of joy and a new adopted family can emerge from what initially might seem to be a broken heart in a strange country.
“Dear Kay and Pat, only in case [you] don’t see us in the evening. This as a little souvenir for all you did for me. Before I started in Germany I had never expected that it could be so ‘grand’ here. Thank you very very much.”