Gerhardt is his name, a chuckling smiling happy German mountain biker who my wife inadvertently gave our address to at Auckland airport. (Okay, to whom. Shut up. Pedant.) This was a Mistake: we live in the remotest corner of the world where the only visitors now are slightly bemused iceberg-stranded Emperor Penguins on their way to the Copenhagen summit. The Antarctic ice shelves are breaking up, to which the local businessmen remain wilfully indifferent. There are 120 floating towards us at present. - Icebergs that is, not businessmen. -
But anyway when you're this far from civilization everyone hands your address out to all their friends - 'Oh, New Zealand? I know somebody in New Zealand!' and presently two smoking German students pole up in a battered camper van, annoying you by playing ping-pong late into the night in the sheds. Amazing how penetrating a noise is a ping when you're trying to sleep. (The second day we defeated them by stealing the balls.)
So what with my wife and these two and now Gerhardt the place has been heaving with Germans. It's as if we lost the war. The students were furniture restorers or welders or something and came to our notice by inverse invitation from a wife's cousin (sic.) who was at school with Kirsten. They telephoned in that questioning manner the young have:
'Helo, here iss Kirsten from Berlin? Iss Heidi there?'
which always makes me want to ask
'Here iss Richard?'
but I never think of it in time.
They used our address as a mail forwarding address so we can look forward to future visits, and maybe Kirsten will restore some of our furniture or Jens will weld a few recumbents for me in gratitude, which is as far-fetched an idea as their obtaining antique restoration work as paid employment. I fear they will discover ere long that the New Zealand farmer does not want his furniture restoring by young German students. He wants his apples picking. However that should still allow time for plenty of sex, which is the only thing I can think of that draws them together since it doesn't seem to be conversation or cycling, Jens being a keen Rennrad and Kirsten a keen and gasping smoker. I liked the idea that Jens was a Rennrad. The German does not separate the two concepts racing bicycle and racing bicyclist. He had a go on the penny farthing, and very soon separated the two concepts penny farthing and uninjured survivor because he didn't want another go. When they come back I shall be interested to see if his brain has calculated why I am a gunbag-owner, because he looked with alarm at the gunbag that he saw me carry out, and asked what it was, and looked even more alarmed when I said it was a gunbag, and mopped his brow with exaggerated relief when I showed him that it was empty. Later he didn't get to see me load the gunbag into the van, more's the pity, because by then it had a deceptively terrifying-looking Olympic target air rifle inside it which I was taking up to the range to test. Perhaps he thinks I just aberrantly collect gunbags. He borrowed two of my books which I doubt he will voluntarily return, and then maybe it will be time to reveal why I do keep a gunbag.
Now they've gone there's only Gerhardt the smiling happy mountain biker who laughed all the way to the kitchen table ('Oh I shall sit here! Ha ha ha ha ha!') and spent the afternoon distracting Susie from her revision. He smiles a great deal and laughs happily whenever he says anything regardless of whether he deems it witty ('Will you pass me a small spoon! Ha ha ha ha ha!') and he smiles and laughs so prettily and so much that I actually want to whack him in the face with a short piece of wood to which I've lashed a 12" adjustable spanner with a strip of innertube, just as an experiment, just to see if he can do anything other than laugh. I think I actively hate him, he's so agreeable. Like the students he doesn't get up till noon. Maybe it's endemic. You remember those Simon King documentaries that always began 'Dawn start' and there he is fiddling with a camera the size of Mons Meg while mist rises up over the Winchester countryside? Your German student has one that goes 'Noon start'.
I am going to be very kind and give him Mr Knight's address. I can't think of a valid reason for Mr & Mrs Knight being exempt from the pleasure of his company. He's so cheerful that after a while you want to whack him in the face with the adjustable and never mind the experiment. I'm hiding from him right now. Even Jens and Kirsten hid from him, he was so cheerful. Yesterday I had to go to the bog to hide from him because Jens and Kirsten were hiding from him in the kitchen, and now I've come out here and he's gone off to his room, I think, because the light's on and the door's open and anyway if it wasn't I'd make sure it was just so some mosquitoes will go in and bite him all night. I'll go and put my Jean-Paul Sartre novel by his bedside in the hope that it will stop him being so pleased with himself. I only have one Jean-Paul Sartre novel. Nobody ever has more than one Jean-Paul Sartre novel because when they finish reading it they're so depressed they commit suicide. Heidi saved my life in 1991 by putting it back on the shelf when I'd got to chapter 4, and (obv.) I haven't touched it since.
Tomorrow I shall harden a reamer I'm making out of a file that warped when I annealed it, so we will see if it warps again when I harden it in the drill press. You besmear it with liquid hand-soap to prevent scaling, pop it in the chuck, switch on, heat to orange-red, and raise a pot of water up round it while it's rotating and then it's supposed to harden dead straight. Even if it fails I'll do it just for the opportunity to give Gerhardt a sudden unexpected blast of propane to see if it makes him stop laughing so happily.