Published: February 12th 2010February 12th 2010
12th May ’09:
It’s the little things that make us laugh in life. Yesterday I witnessed a spherical chap order a Diet Coke with a LARGE bag of chips. Continuing in a comical vein, I thought I’d include a brief, behind-the-scenes anecdote from my private life, a predicament that simply brightened my day. Let me introduce my pal Eunuch, once grappling with asexuality but now showing worryingly libidinous traits. He has struck up a relationship with a Russian lady on the internet, and things are rather hotting up. Her daily epistle - by email with tasteful photographs - continues from behind the Iron Curtain, though now shows signs of seriousness.
He telephones me via loudspeaker today - while soaping himself in the shower - to ask for my home address. ‘The Russian embassy need it for her visa,’ he casually explains. Heavens, I don't mind my place being used for a spot of romance while I'm away but this is starting to smack of KGB. Or identity theft at the very least. ‘I've told her not to come until July, but she's trying to bring the date forward to next week,’ he adds, lathering his undercarriage. Dubbed the
“Kazan kiss of death” (by me), the pictures are rather titillating; I can see what’s got him so worked up. Eunuch plans to impress her with a cup of tea, out of a roadside van, on the way back from Gatwick Airport. Good luck mate - we all have our fingers crossed.
Meanwhile, the AC/DC tour potters along - today we are in Leipzig, achieving rather less than I would have liked. I borrowed a broom, you see, from Number One - our lead driver. He's had this broom for possibly a decade and was understandably peeved when, within four eminently gentle sweeps, I broke it. So, instead of investigating the old town - the world's first newspaper was published here in 1650 - I'm fooling about in hardware stores, desperate for a replacement brush. And I've had to appease Namibian today because, like nearly all of us, including me, he hit the roof of the stadium this morning. He is ruffled, knee bouncing up and down with nerves. To look at him, anybody would think that the world had collapsed. My placatory ‘What's the matter, fatty? There's no damage done,’ does little to soothe him. Honestly, it never
ceases to amaze me that these buildings' entrances are made so low that trucks can't get in without a scrape.
You remember how Germans amalgamate words? Well, try this for size: the Volkerschlachtdenkmal Monument, in Leipzig. Fancy asking directions for this mouthful while travelling by bicycle. You'd get as far as Volkersch, then choke and have to apologise for covering your chosen member of the opposite sex in spittle. Fortunately, it is also known as the Monument to the Battle of the Nations, and it is Europe's largest monument at that.
In 1898, the first turf was dug and 82,000 cubic metres of earth were removed for the foundations - they alone took five years to complete. Why was it built? To commemorate the Battle of the Nations, obviously. In 1813, Napoleon was given a sound thrashing at last; Russians, Prussians, Austrians and Swedes fought the biggest battle EVER in world history - it involved 500,000 soldiers and marked the decisive turning point in the war of liberation from Napoleonic rule. There is an excellent view from the top.
Cycling back into the city, I make a beeline for Coffee Baum, one of
the oldest coffee houses in the world - Cafe Procope in Paris pips it at the post apparently. The cafe is described as a 'coffee temple', and has been in operation since the first half of the eighteenth century, a period when Leipzig was Germany's biggest producer of coffee grinders. Coffee, the last gift of culture from the Orient, came to Europe via Arabia, though the origins of how the Arabs got it are sketchy.
When it did arrive, however, the Muslims went mad for it, welcoming a non-alcoholic stimulant with open arms. Thus, in the mid-sixteenth century, the coffee house, or 'tavern without wine', was born. And did you know that coffee is the most important world trade product after mineral oil, and grown in more than 70 countries around the equator? Yet there are times when only a cup of tea will hit the spot. In an English crisis, perhaps a death in the family, you will still to this day hear a rallying cry of, ‘now, we'd better all have a nice cup of tea.’
There are more photos below