Mutti was now in permanent residence in Hermann’s Deni-zen apartment while he had to make do with Thistle City’s last minute.com rates. Mutti declares herself greatly taken by the Great British TV bake-off programme. ‘Far superior to Das gross Backen.’ She effortlessly learns the Wikipedia entry by heart, however shot her minute-to-minute memory. ‘The signature challenge is for the amateur bakers to show off their tried-and-tested recipes that are rustic and altogether home-made-looking.’
Why memorise when you can look up, wonders Hermann.
Mutti had given the apartment a hippie makeover: paisley, patchouli and joss-sticks, which failed to hide the smell of sophisticated shit that seemed to be part of the design of the building.
Hermann noted that the Greek bake-off franchise was still available. Mmm. Maybe better for being outdoors and not baking. BBQ Parthenon. (‘The open range in the world’s premier location’). Paraffin. Lighter fluid. Glowing coals. Waft of roasting flesh. ‘Premier iconic location.’ (Why not, for once, thinks Hermann, who is anti-iconic. Justified use.)
The thrice-bankrupt Hermann still fancied his entrepreneurial skills. Mutti insists on buying a Primus stove from City Hardware so they can have their own bake-off in the apartment since none of the kitchen appliances worked, apart from the freezer, which seemed to be being used to store frozen body parts. ‘Nothing to do with me,’ says Mutti. ‘I thought they were yours. You always were a strange child. Kate Moss just moved in.’
‘She ought to know better. Are you sure?’
Hermann suspected Mutti was confused. She was reading Kate’s biography and had just reached the drunken airline rampage (Tabloid headline: Kate Mess), which Mutti intended to replicate on the Ryan Air flight home, plus Primus stove, for a mile-high bake-off. Hermann says the airport Gestapo would confiscate.
‘Such spoilsports. They will believe me when I tell them it is my iron lung, trust me.’
Hermann wonders: The Dementia Show, whose ‘signature challenge is a test of cognitive memory skills, with a climax of recited Shakespeare learned by rote for the occasion’. Shakespeare too highbrow? (Not if Stephen Fry chairs UK show. Hermann hopeful of introduction because of shared history of credit-card fraud.) Hermann thinks Bjorn Borg to chair Swedish Dementia Show or Abba Agnetha, who’d had a stalker. International franchise, here we come. (The DM Show, as it will become known, sells worldwide, including the two-dozen countries even Game of Thrones never cracked.) Signature tune I Forgot to Remember to Forget. Presley rights out of the question. Hermann memos himself: check if Robert Palmer recorded.
Hermann also successfully launches a fake dementia show — Dementia Minus — in which contestants are judged for the best impersonation of memory loss by a panel of ‘experts’, chaired by Gregg Wallace. Scandal when some experts are exposed as fakes.
But Hermann by then will be so rich that he will contemplate buying the whole of the Deni-zen with a view to knocking it down in an act of belated philanthropy.
But success brings no happiness. Of course, he should give up the Deni-zen and move somewhere less blighted, where the air conditioning, as described by an elderly Chinese woman in the lobby, does not smell of the stench of corruption. ‘Bad men build this building,’ she warned Hermann, wagging an admonishing finger, as though he were somehow responsible.
But the apartment proved unsellable and worse, unmarketable. However many times it was put on Rightmoves, the details failed to appear. Apparently it was the same with other Deni-zens. By then there was a stampede to offload, yet it was as though they were living in a phantom building. Hamptons. Foxtons. Felicity J. Green. Hermann tried them all and they failed, throwing up their hands. ‘We just can’t get it to upload. It may as well not exist.’
The nice but aggressively dim young thing from Foxton’s had even more of a problem. When Hermann showed the building to him — or was it a her? — s/he could not see it. Inside the same. In the lift the same. Even in the apartment s/he could see nothing. Yet Herman could see he-she reflected in the mirror while he-she said he-she couldn’t see him-herself, which was when Hermann realised all of them there were the undead.
In the sleepless, small hours Hermann would riff on migraines, memory loss and the Atlas-Profilax treatment, which had left him in a neck brace. And whatever had happened to MBT shoes (‘Our sole purpose’)? The remedial trainer was so fashionable for a couple of years that if you looked under the table at any executive meeting at least four people were wearing them, some modified to be acceptable with suits. They were going to cure the world’s collective back problem. Now you saw no one wearing them; ergo, did that mean treatment was successful?
Hermann dreams, briefly, that his best friend has had a hair transplant.
Hermann, furtive, learns by heart the whole following passage from the nambla website.
Parallel to, and overlapping with, the early pederast movement in Germany were the Wandervogel and youth movements. The first Wandervogel group was founded in 1896, the year the first issue of Der Eigene appeared. By 1913, there were approximately 800 different Wandervogel groups, with more than 25,000 members. The Wandervogel (which literally means ‘migratory bird’) was initially all-male, and organised youth into outdoor activities such as hiking and camping. It represented a reaction to the constraints of bourgeois society. The movement continued off and on until it was largely subsumed by the Hitler Youth.
It was not a gay movement, and its ideology was ‘lead and be led’. The Wandervogel institutionalised homoerotic sentiment — though not necessarily sex between leaders and followers. This outlook contained an inherent ambiguity: it institutionalised something like the Greek mentor relationship on the one hand, but on the other contained an implicit militaristic potential. Today, most of us would find the combination of homoeroticism and leadership outlook less appealing than the free development of all forms of tenderness and true democracy.
Hermann and Mutti rehearsed Kate Moss’s cabin rant.
‘EasyJet!’ says Mutti. ‘Attagirl! Hope for the world if Kate takes EasyJet.’
Mutti reported that Kate was on a vodka swig after a five-day detox in a Turkish clinic, following Sadie Frost’s fiftieth.
Fine prose from the Daily Beast, googled by Hermann in an idle moment.
There are few public figures who can claim the iconicity of Kate Moss, and fewer still who can claim the kind of ever-evolving badassery that made Moss an icon in the first place. She is an emblem of cool, her image an evergreen source of inspiration for youthful nonconformists since her debut at 15 in the world of high fashion. Photos of Moss (often with her most famous ex, Johnny Depp) that once ran in magazines now take up space on millions of Tumblr pages and Pinterest profiles—a badge of the nostalgia harboured by today’s teens for the halcyon days of a ’90s era they couldn’t quite experience for themselves.
‘Iconicity’ and ‘halcyon’ within the space of a few lines. Bravo! They should have a show the equivalent to Strictly Come Dancing for prose like this. Judges’ praise for the twirlery of ‘ever-evolving badassery’ but marks deducted for repeat of ‘icon’, ‘emblem of cool’, ‘evergreen source of inspiration’, ‘badge of the nostalgia’. End result disappointing. Tired moves. Minus google minus score. Plus five for ‘couldn’t quite experience for themselves’, but minus two for inclusion of ‘quite’.
The Kate Moss Wandervogel Show. Not a huge stretch. Come on; second home in the country; Hunter wellingtons; goes to festivals (Glasto, which Hermann had always thought a laxative). Perhaps the divine Kate, the nearest the Brits had to Greek goddess, could be contracted to ramble and lecture on the joys/evils of pederasty, depending on country of franchise. Kate ‘takes a walk on the wild side’. Kate: ‘This week, let’s talk Greek, courtesy of the BBQ Parthenon show, where, just for today, I am special guest judge.’ (Minus marks for inclusion of ‘just for’; Hermann can’t stop himself.)
The Dementia Show. The Disabled Room. Maybe even The Mental Channel. Meeting slotted with Sir Richard to discuss Virgin Homes for the Aged (Hermann permits himself a brief tennis-champ fist pump), with free access to the Beatles’ entire back catalogue. Cool funerals. Hermann memos himself to patent Cool Funerals. Climax of which is a frail appearance by live ancient rock/folk act for rousing send-off. Donovan? Hermann contemplates his own demise. He thinks: rock stars turn out for rich people’s private parties, so there is bound over time to be a ‘trickle-down effect’. His own funeral would be the perfect time and place to indulge his very secret guilty pleasure for Neil Diamond. R. Palmer would be the natural last companion of choice, of course, except dead. (What was his funeral like? C of E vicar probably. Dommage. Fuck these desert boots, Hermann thought.) Mmm. What about the common/poor people’s Cool Funerals? Taylor Wimpey Central London pall bearers for all dead Deni-zens; motto: ‘We stiffed you from the start.’
Hermann looked around the apartment. Not somewhere you would die by choice. Found dead in perhaps. He had seen Mutti’s Kate Moss in the lift. Close but no cigar, as she was around a third of Kate’s height and looked like those little people in David Lynch films, with rubbery faces and voices too deep for their size. Also this Kate was Oriental, probably Chinese. She said, ‘Hi, I’m Kate. I’m the new face of the Deni-zen.’
Hermann asked himself what would be the number one choice in the Cool Funeral chart. Led Zeppelin, Stairway to Heaven would be a bit boring but predictable. Hermann’s nightmare: that Mutti would outlive him somehow and, mischievous to the end, substitute Led Zepp for the Rolf Harris (paroled for the day, or was he out already?) jokey cover version. Ooooh, and it makes make me wonder. It does, Rolf.
Hermann has his moment of epiphany. A Cool Funeral in the style of Robert Palmer. The tribute band! Eureka! Google minus times one trillion. Negative invoice. Maybe Badass Funerals! (with exclamation point).
At 35,000 feet (fact check needed), crossing the Dutch coastline, Mutti lights up the Primus.
‘Drop scones. Let’s not get too ambitious first time out. It’s a common mistake among contestants.’
Hermann, almost beside himself at the thought of googling minus (or should that be google minusing?), stands and moves into the cabin aisle to recite aloud, ‘Parallel to, and overlapping with, the early pederast movement in Germany were the Wandervogel and youth movements.’
Upon safely landing, the passengers treat them to a burst of spontaneous applause. Over the intercom, the captain congratulates H&M on their unorthodox entertainment, which has kept usually unruly passengers entranced for the duration. He makes a joke in poor taste about German Wings, which rather spoils the show. (Use of ‘rather’ permissible under the circumstances, decide the judges: plus 3.)
Mutti: ‘Performance art and the pressurised cabin, what’s not to like?’
On leaving the aircraft Hermann, handcuffed, pauses to clasp the hand of the doe-eyed cabin steward (Bulgarian) to repeat, ‘Today, most of us would find the combination of homoeroticism and leadership outlook less appealing than the free development of all forms of tenderness and true democracy.’
It would Hermann thought make a lovely season’s greeting for TWCL’s forthcoming Christmas card, signed Love, TWLC — tender construction.
And not out of the question either, as Hermann had just bought TWCL’s PR company. His mission would be to spike the chairman’s Christmas drink at the office party, for him to say: ‘We no longer see ourselves as merely in the construction business, we now consider ourselves building love bombs.’ As demonstration of his intent, the chairman would announce that the name of their premier flagship building The Deni-zen would henceforward be known as Love Bomb (no ‘the’).
Mutti’s hash brownies went down very well and everyone went home happy, arms linked, led by Hermann singing, ‘I love to go a-wandering’.