Monday, October 10, 2011

Tony takes his teutonic tonic

Happy days

I blogged here about my time at Tübingen University and some of the lovely people I met.  One of them was not so much lovely as interesting.  He was, at that time, about the poshest person I’d ever come across.  I won’t name him in full; I’ll just call him Tony.

Tony actually had 3 first names and a double-barrelled surname, was an ex Westminster public schoolboy, wore a signet ring, lived in a very desirable London postcode, was intelligent and articulate but totally lacking in common sense, and he was as street-unwise as they come.  You’ll find this hard to believe, but he would actually use words like ‘topping’, ‘ripping’ and ‘wizard’ without even a hint of irony (“She’s a wizard with pastry” he once said of a girl who had cooked him dinner).  He even referred to the Germans collectively as ‘Johnnie Kraut’ or ‘JK’ for short.  Sadly, as we suspected even then, and as he himself acknowledged many years later, he was an alcoholic.

We all drank a lot in those days, but within our circle Tony’s boozing was legendary, not so much for the quantity he consumed (he drank no more than we did), as for the behaviour which followed.  While we might get silly and giggly after scooping a few beers, Tony would become ever more manic.  We drank because we wanted to; Tony drank because he had to.  I have no idea what his demons were, but there was something in his home life that wasn’t quite right.  He certainly didn’t seem to think much of his father, who was or had been an army officer.

On a visit to Berlin, we all wrote postcards home.  Not for Tony the traditional ‘Wish you were here’. Instead he wrote his father an incredibly vicious note outlining the alcohol, the drugs and the prostitutes he was enjoying (the latter two being figments of his imagination), and some general accusations about his father having made him an evil person.  We managed to persuade him to tear up the postcard rather than send it.  He did so and then literally sobbed into his beer.

Tony once locked us all in a friend’s room, himself included.  He was feeling lonely and at one in the morning he didn’t want the party to break up.  So he locked the door and threw the key out of the 2nd floor window into the darkness below.  There were no mobile phones in those days, so we had to shout through the window for someone to knock on the caretaker’s door and get us out.  A few nights later he attempted to do it again but this time we physically restrained him.
Look out below!

I’m not sure why we put up with him.  He was difficult to shake off, like a drunken puppy following us around.  But we rather warmed to him over time and eventually he was just accepted as part of the ‘gang’.  We even became protective towards him, which once meant getting involved in a stand off with a bunch of angry Tunisians whom Tony had upset over a game of pool.

Perhaps we stuck with him because he was at times hugely entertaining without even meaning to be.  We were in a friend’s room one night.  Unusually for student accommodation the friend had an en suite shower.  Tony decided we should all have a shower together (mostly because he was very keen on one of the girls in our group). “Great idea Tony” we said, “you get in there and get the water warmed up”.  Off came his clothes and into the shower he went.  Out of the window went his clothes, and we ran off giggling to someone else’s room, which was high up a tower block on the other side of the ‘student village’.  An hour later we were joined by Tony, wearing nothing but a very short bomber jacket tied around his waist.  It hadn’t occurred to him to borrow a pair of trousers and a shirt from the room we’d left him in.  Instead he’d walked around the student village virtually naked until he found us.  “Didn’t anyone see you like that Tony?” “Only a couple of JK in the lift”, he replied, looking hurt.  “I just nodded and said ‘Guten Abend’, but they didn’t do me the courtesy of a reply”.

I lost touch with Tony after Tübingen, but he contacted me out of the blue a couple of years ago.  He’s been living in America since I last saw him, was married but is now divorced and he has a daughter. Best of all he’s been dry for several years.  I hope his demons have left him forever.

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

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