Home > Chapters > 12 – About Fast Food, Love, Life and Death

12 – About Fast Food, Love, Life and Death

1980 was probably the most defining year of my youth.

If my 18th birthday, in the June of that year, was to be my passing from adolescent to adult, then the previous two years had been, as well as formative, my Rites of Passage. I had sat my exams again, fallen in and out of love several times,  left school, started work, popped my cherry, seen Monty Python, attended a proper party, watched porn, been a DJ, publicly confirmed my metal head status, got totally legless, gone to two major gigs and participated in a search party for a missing six year old girl, amongst other things.

It was certainly an eventful couple of years. I had indeed passed my exams this time round, albeit with the barest minimum grades, C’s throughout in Maths, German and Art. I actually left school on my 17th birthday, the one and only day I ever got drunk at school. I sneaked in a bottle of Apfelschnapps and sipped it all day. In hindsight, I think I am actually still at school because I don’t really recall coming home that day. Although it was my birthday, getting drunk wasn’t really the most sensible of things to do considering that I started work the next day.

Discounting my first job, a Saturday job at a Christian bookshop in Guildford, work was a wonderful new experience for me. I was graded as a C3 civilian and worked for the Army on the base in Dülmen. I was the Rations Storeman, keeping stock of all the foodstuffs required by the various Messes and the nursery school according to what was ordered. I would travel three times a week in a Bedford TK truck, with a German driver, to Münster to collect the rations, distributing the fresh stuff on the way back and putting the dry goods into stock in MY storeroom.

By day, my storeroom was a great place to be. No stress, unlike the jobs of modern day life…well, except when Captain Westbrook, the Quartermaster, did his weekly stock check, but even that usually went off without a hitch. Free food was also in abundance, courtesy of the jolly and rotund cooks of the Catering Corps. I earned money for counting food and life was good. I got to spend the wages whenever I wanted, and on what ever I wanted. Usually I spent around half of it on drink, food, girlfriends and general good times and then just wasted the rest. But at the age of seventeen, no transport and in a foreign country, there are limits to what is actually achievable in the pursuit of hedonism. Mostly we found ourselves in the local bar for drink and the ‘schnellie’*  for food.

*Schnell Imbiss – Fast service snack bar. Sort of an early German forerunner to McDonalds but much nicer. What I wouldn’t give right now for a Bratty or a Fricky!

During my time in Germany, although I do not recall exactly when it was, I had my first experience of meeting someone from my past. I never knew his name the first time round, because when you are ten you just don’t ask guitar playing demigods what their name is. I’ve been racking my brains to remember his name from then and also from this time in Germany but to no avail, so I shall just refer to him as Chris.

This time around, Chris was no longer a gangly guitar-playing teenager but a fully fledged soldier, complete with German wife and a very cute six year old daughter. I did not have much to do with him but vividly recall the moment that the memory of him surfaced, whenI asked him if he had ever been to Belgium and his resultant questions as to how I knew that. When I indicated his deformed finger and how I remembered his guitar playing in a Belgian forest, our acquaintance was acknowledged.

One night, sometime in early 1980, a bunch of us decided to go to the schnellie for a some quick food and a few beers. When we came out, we came out to general uproar in the English speaking quarters. Heidi, the adorable six year old daughter of Chris and his German wife, had gone missing earlier in the evening and simply everyone was getting ready to search for her. Needless to say we all made ourselves available and soon there were groups heading out in all directions with torches and whistles to search the surrounding areas. The local nursery school in Am Osthoff Strasse was seconded as the central coordination point and my CB radio was set up to keep in contact with those in cars equipped with CB too. The search went on long into the night with probably around two to three hundred people involved. But there was no sign or trace. The decision was made by the local authority late on in the night to drain the lake. With search all but called off, many involved had nothing more to do but await the result of the lake draining

It was probably around 2am when the level dropped low enough for them to see her body. No foul play was suspected but a huge pall of sadness descended. Heidi was a well known little individual, happy and bi-lingual, she had made an impression on many people, not least some of my group of friends who had been her baby-sitter on occasion. And now she was gone… her last moments a horrific mystery.

There was no music that night, nor for a few nights after. There was much self recrimination for we had encountered Heidi, playing alone in the street, on our way to the schnellie. And if I had a time machine, that single moment would be uppermost on my list of destinations. I didn’t have much more interaction with Chris after that. The community was in shock for several weeks and time just sort of whittled away until our departure from Germany in the June,


Categories: Chapters
  1. July 30, 2011 at 16:31

    How absolutely tragic. What a thing to witness at age 18.

    P.S. It’s probably common slang to you, but I loved the phrase “absoluely legless.”

  2. lifedeathpreeclampsia
    July 30, 2011 at 20:49

    Is “absolutely legless” a british saying? Can you enlighten me? 🙂 I have been here in Dülmen for the past 4 years and I enjoyed reading your take on this city.

    • July 30, 2011 at 21:09

      Legless refers to being very drunk, to the point where you have no control over your legs and might as well not have any. 🙂

      As for Dülmen I really loved it there. As you can see from my posts I used to live in Am Osthoff Strasse..where abouts are you in relation to that?

  3. August 3, 2011 at 09:25

    Quite a punch to that entry. It started like so many blogs but that last section is really moving. I wonder where the parents are today…

    • August 3, 2011 at 22:11

      I’ve been moved in many different ways over the years and that was certainly one of the most moving. Something like that puts most other trivialities of life into perspective.
      Thanks for dropping by and commenting

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