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
News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

News
people
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
art

The Sistine Chapel is set to be illuminated with thousands of LEDs

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Sport
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
Latest stories from i100
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

Middleware Support Analyst

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Senior Java Developer/Designer

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: My client are looking fo...

Domino Developer and Administrator

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Domino ...

Systems Build Engineer (Development) - Peterborough

£35000 - £45000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful, inte...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?