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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Greetings from the (c)old "Vaterland"

 

My much older brother is getting on in years. When Mozart was his age, he'd been dead for forty-six years. (Did I tell you we were a closely-knit family? I didn't? Good! Because we weren't!)

Once a year his ice-and-snow-covered Christmas card informs me that he's cheated normal life expectancy by yet another year. And, of course, it's electronic which means I can't hang it up or stand it up. Which is just as well as I want no reminder of my own last ice-and-snow-covered Christmas.

I had returned to the (c)old "Vaterland" at the end of 1967 on completion of my two compulsory years as an assisted migrant in Australia. Having learned a new language and started a new career wasn't quite enough to keep body and soul together on the meagre wages I earned as an ANZ Bank officer.

I returned to the old country when the Deutsch-Südamerikanische Bank promised me employment in their head office in Hamburg and an eventual transfer to one of their many branches in South America. And so I started with the Banco Germánico de la América del Sud - as I preferred to call them so as to practice my recently acquired basic Spanish - at the Neuer Jungfernstieg 16 in Hamburg in the depth of the German winter.

Neuer Jungfernstieg

I had taken a room in out-of-town Kiewitzmoor which I left when the sky was still pitchblack in the morning and to which I returned when the sky had turned pitchblack again at night. During my short lunchbreaks the sky would turn itself into a foggy grey and it was during one of those short lunchbreaks that two directors bailed me up as I leisurely descended the bank's marble steps.

Wasn't I an employee of their bank? Yes, I was! Well, then it was not for me to descend those marble steps but to use a humble sidedoor around the corner. Well, that was enough for this not-so-obsequious employee of theirs: I walked right back up those same marble stairs and tendered my resignation.

Lemmings have a better plan than I had at the time. Somehow I managed to work for the rest of the German winter in the "Auslandsabteilung" of the Braunschweigische Landesbank in my hometown Braunschweig and then during summer as "Devisenhändler" (currency dealer) with the First National City Bank in Frankfurt which was conveniently close to Germany's major international airport for me to relocate to South West Africa before the onset of yet another winter - but that's a story for another day.