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Tuesday, February 28th

February 28, 2017

Alas I only got to spend three nights in bed with Reacher before we reached the end of this particular adventure. I am no closer to answering the question of why this guy is so appealing to women. But that’s not what I’m thinking about this morning. Thanks to the novel being set primarily in Hamburg I woke up thinking about someone I got to know in that city.

When, in my early twenties, I was attempting to get my first job in journalism I came up against a sort of Catch 22. In those days journalism was a closed shop. You couldn’t work as a journalist unless you were a member of the NUJ. Being a good working class lass, I had no objection to joining a union. I was all for it. I went off to the NUJ office and said I would like to become a member. I was asked where I was working. Well, I said, I’m not. Well, I was told, you can’t be a member of the NUJ unless you are a working journalist. Gah.

The only option open appeared to head out of London to some provincial weekly where I would be expected to cover gymkhanas and flower shows. Gah. I didn’t want to leave London. I mentioned this over a pint with my older cousin, the deputy editor of a provincial daily. He would happily have offered me a job, just so I could get my NUJ card, but he understood that I really did not want to leave London. He suggested I go for a trade press job. The trades, he pointed out, frequently hired people from whatever industry they covered, who were not already NUJ members. I followed his advice and was eventually offered a job as a reporter on a shipping trade magazine.

The three other journalists (males who apparently had not been impressed to hear the latest recruit was going to be a female) and the editor had indeed worked earlier in either shipping or shipbuilding. Fortunately my beat wasn’t terribly technical. I was covering the news, both political and industrial. It actually turned out to be much more interesting than I thought it would be, what with British shipbuilding dying on its feet from competition in Japan and South Korea (and that was before Thatcher got her hands on it), US protectionism, the scandal of flags of convenience and the suspicion that pretty much all the cargo ships in the Eastern Bloc fleet also being spy ships.

And the job did involve a fair bit of travel in Europe, so that was a bonus.

My first European assignment was to cover a conference in Hamburg. The conference did not promise to be interesting. The subject was Ro-Ro shipping, as in roll on, roll off container transport, new advances in same. There was also a trade show attached to the conference. Oh, goodie.

My editor, who’d been asleep at the switch on this one, didn’t decide I should go until fairly last minute. He told me to talk to John, the ad manager, who was making the travel arrangements. The ad team had a separate office. At that point I’d never stepped inside the office, never met the ad manager. Into the office I went. There was one bloke at a desk. I asked if he was John. He said he was. I introduced myself, told him I gathered he was in charge of travel arrangements for the Ro-Ro conference. He seemed a bit hostile as he informed me that the ad team would be driving to Hamburg, as they had to transport the stand for the trade show, so I was on my own. I decided I didn’t particularly like John. Off I went to make my own travel arrangements.

Because my editor had left it so late to register me and make arrangements, there were no rooms left at the hotel hosting the conference or at two of the other three offering conference rate bookings. The third was the Vier Jahreszeiten, one of the great European luxury hotels. Bonus!


Off I flew to Hamburg to check into my five star hotel. My room was a single, with a single bed, but it was beautifully appointed and, as for the bathroom – oo la la!

Monday morning I wandered through Hamburg to the conference hotel. I registered, collected the fat book containing all the papers which would be presented during the conference, checked out the trade show until I found our booth.  Ernie, the assistant ad manager, whom I immediately liked, was manning the booth. I chewed the fat with him for a while, dumped my coat and headed off to the first session. I have no idea what it was about, only that it was tedious beyond belief. Why the hell had my editor sent me to this? It should have been the shipbuilding editor who would have some idea what was being discussed. I ate lunch, toured the trade show with some guy from Hapag Lloyd (major German container shipping company), went back for the second session. It was even more mind numbing than the morning’s offering. There was another session starting after the coffee break. I skipped it, headed back to the booth, hoping to schmooze with Ernie for a while. Ernie wasn’t there. It was John. I didn’t care. I told him I was in danger of lapsing into a coma. We yakked for a bit, then Ernie came back. John asked if I wanted to go to the bar. Yes, I did. We went to the bar. And talked and talked and talked. Don’t ask me what we talked about, we just couldn’t stop talking. I had decided by the time Ernie turned up to tell us they were packing up the trade show for the day that somehow or other I was going to go to bed with John that night.

I should backtrack here for a moment. Two weeks before I headed to Hamburg, I had said goodbye to a man with whom I had been having an affair for several months. I had been head over heels in love with this man. As far as I was concerned, he was the great love of my life. Unfortunately he was also married. I had never for a moment thought he might leave his wife and children for me nor had he ever in any way suggested this. (He did on one occasion wonder out loud, as these guys do, why he couldn’t have met me when he was fifteen years younger. I simply pointed out that I would have been seven years old.) I knew this wasn’t going to last forever, but, as he was clearly a bit of a rogue, I thought we were looking at a couple of years before the guilt set in. But, no, it was months, not years. And now I was faced with the challenge of trying to get over him which I figured was going to take a very long time.

You know what they say: You never get over the last one until there’s a next one. And there I was in Hamburg with a likely candidate. Not that I was looking for a long term relationship, just something to kick start me into getting over the other guy.

John, who’d been to Hamburg for work many times previously and knew his way around, suggested the three of us go out for dinner. He knew a place. They were staying at the conference hotel, so I went up to his room with him for ten minutes while he got out of his suit. We talked about music. Turned out we were both big Patti Smith fans. We met Ernie back in the lobby, got in John’s car, drove to my hotel. They were duly impressed. I went to my room, changed quickly and headed back to the car.

No idea where we went for dinner. No idea what we ate. At one point I decided that, while I was definitely not in the market for a long term relationship, having just finished shagging a married man I was not particularly inclined to do so again. (It wasn’t a deal breaker, but I wanted to know.) I turned to Ernie, asked if he was married. Yes, he said, to Clare. He even pulled his wallet out and showed me a photo. Clare was lovely. I turned to John, asked him the same question. He said he didn’t know how to answer. What the hell? Either you were married or you weren’t. How hard was the question? He was, he said, in the process of getting divorced, but it wasn’t yet finalised. Good enough.

After dinner we went for a wander around St. Pauli (the red light district). Bit of sensory overload there. We ended up in a bar where the process of waiting Ernie out began. Finally, about 1:30 in the morning he suggested it was time to get back to the hotel. John and I said we were up for another beer. Ernie yawned, said he was going to get a taxi back. He left. We watched through the window as he waved a cab down, climbed in. As soon as his cab was around the corner, we downed the remainder of our beers, headed back to his car and drove to the Vier Jahreszeiten.

Had we discussed this plan at some point in the evening? We might have, but I honestly don’t think we did. I think we both understood this was a done deal back in the conference bar.

When the deed was done (providing me, I should add, with more satisfaction than my married lover ever had) and we were curled up together in my single bed, I looked at him and said I hoped he didn’t mind that this was a one night stand. He laughed and said he’d been waiting his entire life for a woman to say that to him.

Of course, it didn’t turn out to be a one night stand. There were two more nights in Hamburg and both involved sex with John. So, a three-day fling. That was fine by me.

Oh, dear, time’s up. I have a doctor’s appointment (at which we will discuss some forward planning for the post-performance crash coming), then there’s the gym, then there’s a rehearsal.

If anyone is the least bit interested in learning more about the post-Hamburg tangled web, I suggest you leave a comment.

  1. Irmani permalink

    Bite. More please.

  2. Catherine Stewart permalink

    I’m in. More please. And can I just say that this saga sounds suspiciously like – a date. Let’s see: you met him, were repulsed, not at all attracted so no shag in that future. But then – you met again, ended up talking, dining, spending time together at the pub and presto – attraction/shag. So all it took was – a date :)?

    • For the record, there is (in my world anyway) a world of difference between deciding to go with someone to have a pint and making an arrangement to MEET someone for the first time in a pub or a restuarant. 🙂

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