Saturday 31 December 2011
It is New Year’s Eve. Most of us can think of a million people to call and, blessed with British Telecom or Orange contracts we can blag away convincing aged and lonely relatives that we really care even though we could not be arsed to climb into the car and drive over, favouring a hot and sweaty disco serving lukewarm spumante instead.
I saved my beer tokens, investing them in recharge cards instead and prayed like mad that the system would not overload and called my Granny in Germany.
I got through.
She is 93 years old but as soon as she heard my voice, delivered via an African telecommunications system and fed into God only knows what sort of international satellite system before being delivered to her aged and inefficient ear she said, ‘Andi?’
My father was English and had an excellent sense of humour, an acerbic wit that perhaps I have inherited to a degree. He and my German mother didn’t really get along, much to my distress and also that of my Grandmother who, like all grandparents, provided that rock, the definitive bearing on the chart of one’s life that could be relied upon to steer a certain course. To the rest of the world I am known as Thomas. To my Granny I am known as Andreas or Andi for short. Long time since anyone called me Andi.
What do you say to a ninety three year old who more or less brought you up yet you have only seen three times in the last fifteen years? When my Grandfather, von Borken senior died I was in the middle of Lake Albert moving an oil rig and I remember her authorative voice over the satphone telling me it was my duty to finish the job off and that Opa, since he was soon to be in his grave, would wait for me. Prussians to the end.
I wanted to tell her how much I loved her. How badly I missed her. How much I would like to be by her side, even just to make her a cup of tea and serve it to her or to hold her hand as she fell asleep while I looked upon the peaceful face of the most beautiful woman in the world.
She asked me how things were going so I lied and said ‘fine’. She isn’t stupid, if it really was ‘fine’ I would have been able to shell out for the tickets for the family to travel from Angola to Germany and pester her for the whole five minutes it would take her to get irritated and tell us to piss off. Instead she asked me about my heart.
It is pointless lying to your Granny. Grannies have intelligence networks stretching over generations so I said ‘it’ll be fine once I get the operation’.
She said, ‘you know that Opa and I gave up smoking years ago?’
How the fuck does she know I am still smoking?
‘Granny, please don’t give up’ I said.
That came out all wrong. She had binned the tabs decades ago but she knew what I was bleating about.
‘The Lord will call me when he is ready’ she replied. Well that's good. Since God is an Englishman and all his postal workers are on strike, I was in with a chance here but I didn't explain that to her in detail because she was German after all. Imagine, praying your whole life in the wrong bloody language and not being able to understand the deadly telegeram when it eventually arrived.
‘Can you at least hang on until I go? Then we will be able to meet Daddy and Opa together?'. I had just sacrificed twenty or thirty years of my life but really it was bugger all if we consider the longevity of the female members of my family against the fragility of the males who generally gave up the ghost in middle age. I guess my time was up.
‘I’d like that’, she said. See? Even my Grannny thinks so.
Then I ran out of credit.
I need to pack in the fags. If Granny is going to hang on for me, I’m going to make sure it is a hell of a long wait.