Bonn Diary: No sign of German efficiency when the tap starts dripping

AFTER nearly half a year of waiting, we finally have cold as well as hot water in our bathroom. There are probably thousands of unemployed plumbers out there, but finding one that is willing to fix your tap in a hurry proved nearly impossible.

The few that work are sheltered from competition by a myriad of regulations, and are therefore free to toy with the customer, charge enormous rates and be as rude as they please.With this in mind, I am happy to relate the experience of a senior government figure, who recently tried to summon a plumber.

"Cash in hand or on account?" the master inquired. The official tried to explain that the government was not about to sanction tax fraud. "Fine," the craftsman replied. "For those jobs, there is a three-month waiting list." Guess which method of payment the state chose.

ONE advantage of living in a village of a capital is our proximity to Mother Nature. Instead of domesticated pigs charging through gardens, which I gather is the closest Londoners get to the wilderness, we get boar. We hear them rustling outside our window at night, and at daytime can see their tell-tale imprints in the mud.

The best places from which to observe the hairy beasts are the lookout posts which dot the Kottenforst, the woods surrounding Bonn. But lately these rickety towers have been vanishing. Although they are on public land, they are owned by people who lease hunting plots from the council. Every so often, the leases are put up for auction, and if there is a new owner, he is usually expected to strike a deal with his predecessor and agree an equitable price. This time, the German genius for compromise seems to have eluded the two hunters, so the previous owner took out his chainsaw and chopped his worthless towers down. Suddenly, the life expectancy of wild boar has shot up.

Le tout Bonn is scandalised by scurrilous reports that the town's most famous son, Ludwig van Beethoven, may have died from the booze. Hot on the heels of a discredited book alleging that Goethe was gay, come revelations that Beethoven's list of well-known ailments had stemmed from the bottle.

The composer was not entirely at fault, it has to be said. Rather than the alcohol, it was the lead-based additives which caused his rapid decline, including the deafness and foul mood which afflicted him in the latter stages of his life. Nevertheless, the implication is that, had Ludwig gone a bit easier on the sauce, he might have been able to extend his symphonic score into double figures. So it's all down to Viennese plonk, we are told. In the days before anti-freeze, the Austrians apparently mixed lead compounds into the wine in order to reduce its sourness. The maestro was partial to Rhine wine, but could not afford to have it imported in the copious quantities he required. Rhinelanders' pride, sagging under the shame of Liebfraumilch, is salvaged.

"WE do not invest in the Euro - Do you?" Adverts with this kind of eye- catching slogans have been proliferating lately in the press, urging Germans to raid their piggy-banks before Brussels does.

So where should they hide the million or three they have been stashing away, pfennig by pfennig, over the years? A quick trawl through the classifieds nets some exotic solutions: Sink it into cargo ships, suggests one company. Buy US high-tech shares, implores another. (Motto: "The euro comes - the dollar stays").

A company based in Austria is trying to dazzle euro-refugees with "diamond shares", while a Swiss firm is promising good prospects in West African gold mines. But for the truly adventurous, nothing beats the lure of an "off-shore firm", operating from an address on Finchley Road, north London.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Specialist - Document Management

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A leading provider of document ...

Recruitment Genius: Legal Secretary

£17000 - £17800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to work ...

Recruitment Genius: Ad Ops Manager - Up to £55K + great benefits

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a digital speci...

The Green Recruitment Company: Operations Manager - Anaerobic Digestion / Biogas

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Operation...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent