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
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
newsChester Zoo have revealed their newest members
Sport
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
News
peopleCareer spanned 70 years, including work with Holocaust survivors
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Insight Manager

£40000 - £43000 Per Annum plus company bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Hydrographic Survey Manager

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Structural Engineer

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Structural Engineer Job...

Commercial Litigation

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHELTENHAM - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - A...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape