Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Dusseldorf, my favourite German city...

Butternut squash tortelloni at Rhubarb
I was sitting in Rhubarb, an air side restaurant at London City Airport, enjoying a light lunch, when I spotted the former leader of the Scottish Nationalists, Alex Salmond. What's he doing in England? Shouldn't he be sitting in some stone castle in the highlands of Scotland wearing war paint and a kilt while waxing the dolphin in front of a poster of Mel Gibson? Perhaps he was on his way home to do just that, I figured, tucking into a ridiculously small portion of plum crumble and ice cream.

And then, over the Tannoy, I heard "Would passenger Weller proceed to the main terminal?" Not the Modfather! I had visions of meeting the great man and berating him for closing down The Jam in favour of the Style Council with that Talbot bloke from the Merton Parkas. What a fucking liberty! But if it was the white-haired wizard of the 1980s mod revival, I never saw him. He certainly wasn't on my flight.

I love turbo props. Proper flying! And while it was a little bumpy heading out of London, once we'd cleared the low cloud, all was well with the world, especially when a couple of small bottles of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon had been offered, along with a fairly inoffensive bag of crisps. I could have sat there reading (I had Mark Beaumont's The Man Who Cycled the World with me) but I chose to chill out instead, looking at the setting sun and the cotton wool clouds and generally taking in the view.

Plum crumble at Rhubarb...
The flight time to Dusseldorf is about an hour and by the time I'd enjoyed just one of the small bottles of wine given to me by the air hostess – yes, 'air hostess', you won't get any politically correct 'cabin crew' rubbish from yours truly – the plane was virtually on the ground. "The weather in Dusseldorf? Pretty much the same as it is here; a little low cloud..." as the pilot seems to say about virtually every place in the world that I ever land in. There are so many things that I now take for granted when I fly. One is that ''it's a pretty full flight, Mr Moggridge, so I'm afraid I can't offer you a window seat" and another is that the weather is always 'pretty much the same as it is here', meaning the UK. Not that such comments bother me. I'd be rather concerned if they started talking about hurricanes and severe storms, but so far I've been lucky on that score – apart from one flight from Dubai to Qatar at 0200hrs a couple of years ago. That was bad. I remember hearing the word 'turbulence' and then all hell broke loose. But I'm still here to tell the tale, so again, I'm not complaining.

Through the clouds over London...
Once off the plane and through customs I sat at a place called Gusto Ice Cream and enjoyed a relaxing cup of tea, although I forgot that, when in Europe, I don't really get a decent cuppa. For a start, they bring out a box of tea bags, like a humidor, offering a wide selection of flavours including the all-singing, all-dancing and terribly bog standard English Breakfast. Then they hand over a portion pack or two of coffee creamer – where's the milk? It's simply not cricket.

I took a taxi to the hotel, the Schnellenburg, which is right on the banks of the Rhine and in front of the convention centre where I will be tomorrow for most of the day. I've never stayed here before, but I have eaten here (and taken a dump!) The food is good, but I can't remember the state of the public conveniences, although they must have been perfect as I have no witty anecdote to impart.

And now here I am, sitting in my room watching CCTV. No, not closed circuit television but some kind of African television station. Let's see, what's happening? AB InBev is to buy SAB Miller for $107 billion. Who cares? Nissan plans to double South Africa output with a new model. Who gives a damn? UK unemployment falls to its lowest level since, well, I can't remember. But it's worth remembering that the whole thing is a con. They probably include people on apprenticeships who, as far as I can make out, are taken on at below minimum wage, are given a load of menial tasks to do, like cleaning out the bog after the CEO has taken a dump, and are then 'sacked' just before they should be taken on as full time members of staff. Travesty! Cameron simply has to go. I mean how come the Tories were only supported by 37% of the electorate but still managed to take 51% of the seats in Parliament? We don't want the Tories! Get rid of them! Wear a Guido Fawkes mask! Go on the rampage! Armed struggle! Burn a copy of the Daily Mail!

Sometimes I must say that I do sympathise with the views of that anarchist group Anonymous. Are they anarchists? Probably not, but I see their point of view where 'austerity' is concerned and I'd like to own a Guido Fawkes mask too. Over the weekend I was in Lindfield in East Sussex and there was a Remembrance service going on – nothing wrong with that. In fact, I observed a two minute silence at 11am this morning and rightfully so. But as I made my way down Lindfield's main street I noticed that even in a quiet Sussex village, there was a 'police presence' and it struck me that, had I produced (and donned) one of those Guido Fawkes masks, I would probably have been approached by the filth and asked a few awkward questions. It's quite amazing how simple little things – the Guido Fawkes mask, the hijab, the long beard – have become symbols of dissent. Put on a Guido Fawkes mask and you're immediately branded a troublemaker.

On the descent into Dusseldorf...
So I'm in Dusseldorf, but I'm near the airport and nowhere near the centre of town or my favourite restaurant near the central railway station. Da Bruno. What a fantastic place! And excellent value too. I could go there, but the cost of a taxi there and back would negate the economics of the whole thing so I'm going to stay here in the hotel as I know the restaurant is pretty good.

A few words about the hotel. For a start it's on the Rhine, but it's dark outside now, being that it's nearly twenty past seven on a mild November evening, so I'm not going to see much until the morning. That said, my room is not on the Rhine. In fact, there's something a bit 'motel' about the place. When I arrived in reception and filled in the form I was then directed 'outside'. Whenever that word is mentioned my heart drops. I've just come from 'outside' I don't want to go back out there! Show me to the elevator, tell me the number of the floor. "That's room 608 on the sixth floor, sir." But oh no! My room is 'outside', follow the white wall and turn right and then walk down the stairs. It's like something out of No Country for Old Men.

In all honesty, it's a good room, although I hate – with a vengeance – rooms on the ground floor that open out onto the 'street' so to speak. The room doesn't open out on to any street, but it opens out into the fresh air, the outside world, not a hotel corridor, and I don't particularly like that because it means that people can, if they so wish, linger outside my hotel room in the early hours and, if the curtains aren't drawn, even peer in – and I don't want that.

There are paper-thin blinds that are see-through, meaning that if you're outside loitering with intent – and the aforementioned curtains are not drawn  – it is possible to look in at the person in the room. .

But outside of that problem it's not too bad. I felt mildly inconvenienced when the hotel receptionist didn't give me the WiFi details before packing me off 'outside' to seek out my room (I had to go back 'outside' to ask for the code) but other than that it's very nice. Roomy – now there's a good word – a decent bathroom, a mini bar, wardrobe, decent TV and so on. Nothing to complain about.

So I'm sitting here typing – make that 'writing', I'm not Jack Kerouac. Truman Capote once said of Kerouac's On the Road that it was not writing, but typing. He had a point. Kerouac did feed a huge roll of paper into a typewriter, took a load of amphetamines and then started 'typing'. The end result was On the Road. It's a book that I'll have to re-read, just like Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, which was excellent. I remember reading On the Road  in the same way that I read Salinger's classic, and not really paying much attention. That's either because it was 'typing' and not writing or because I was just going through the motions. One day, I'll pick it up again, but for now, and bearing in mind that I need an excuse for not reading it, I'll go with Capote's assertion that it's typing, not writing.

There are 52 television channels being piped into my room and only CCTV News can be understood by somebody who, shamefully, only speaks the English language. "Well, it's international, innit?" It's not big and it's not clever. CCTV News is some kind of Africa-centric television station, but it's good, a kind of African CNN or BBC World. There's also CCTV 9, which I'll check out later.

This is going to be a whistle-stop trip. Tomorrow evening I fly back home. I'll let you know how dinner went. My colleague, unfortunately, is stuck in a traffic jam some 200km from here so it looks as if I'll be dining alone.

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