Wednesday, 5 March 2008

36 Steps to Vienna: 1 Flaming Adèle (1)



Adèle. Adèle. Flaming Adèle.
When the Dover ferry docked at Ostend, she wasn't flaming there. Not on the quayside, not by the customs exit, the purple stamp still wet on my passport. Not even by the harbour pedestrian entrance. And she'd promised. A week earlier, in a Kentish orchard, as midnight struck, cloaking the undertaking in a solemn witching-hour intensity. In both languages, to make sure.

I promise. Kiss, kiss.

Ich verspreche es Dir. Küsschen, Küsschen.

Capital K for the second kiss, because German nouns start with capital letters. This grammatical convention may have over-dignified the kiss, which as I remember wasn't much more than a peck. But then by this time, after about an hour and a half of saying goodbye for now, until next week in Ostend, her back was tiring: she was considerably taller than I was. Always a mistake for short Brits to become involved with tall German girls. And in my case to encloud them still further by putting them on a pedestal.

Whatever I may have said under my breath, however deep the stab of acerb disappointment and suspicion of betrayal, however needle-sharp the foxcub's teeth beneath one's Spartan tunic, face had to be preserved. George, my travelling companion, must not know how crushing the blow was. The current Classical Sixth-form expressions of shock, distaste and surprise formed on my lips, Olympian in their rarefied coarseness, expletives fit to bandy with Demosthenes at the Eleusinian Mysteries or with Cicero at the Saturnalia:

Well, buggeration. Clutch my cluster. Pee on me. Sod me rigid.

She wasn't there. Flaming Adèle. And there was no means of getting in touch.

1 comment:

cello said...

Hello Mr Campbell-Howes/Christopher/Dad,

You might remember me from Fiona's blog. I played a small but crucial role in the life of your future grandchild.

I am very excited about the title of your blog because one of my favourite Beethoven string quartet movements is in the Lydian mode (Der Heiliger Dankgesang from Op 132).

Anyway, I just thought I'd say hello and congratulate you on starting the blog. I am always in awe of people who can do it.

ps I have also read 2 of your books...