“They call me Hermann the German,” he calls
in an ever-so-slightly falsetto stage voice.
I wonder if this is because
he’s introduced himself that way to ‘Them’, too.
His once-perfect English deteriorates now
and German and French (we are all in France) creep in
to his conversation, which is more anecdote than dialogue.
As usual, the stories are peppered with the Big Car Smash
and the Plane Crash and the piece of metal in his arm,
which has been taken out again.
Last year no-one saw Hermann and no Christmas cards
arrived for those who expected them.
We all thought we’d seen the last of him
but now we learn he was in hospital.
He invites me to feel his head (I’m not keen)
where they cut him from here, right down here
and down to here (somewhere in the chest area.)
It’s not clear to us what they did, but
“they took away my driving license!” he chuckles,
“But it’s ok, I still have a Swiss one!” - punchline laughter.
So we have been blessed one more summer by
this genial Europhile historian with impeccable timing,
turning up to camp in our yard just when we are here.
No longer searching for flint tools or taking aerial photographs,
now he is giving away all his positives and negatives,
he tells me. Giving away his flints. Everything.
Everything except his campervan.
Maybe it is better for him to travel hopefully,
believing he’ll find someone to drive him next year,
than to arrive at the knowledge that he won’t,
but I think this was our last meeting
with Hermann the German.