“Mart? It's Gab.”
There was a yawn at the other end of the line.
“Why does anything have to be up?”
“Because like, you never call me unless you want something, what time is it anyway?”
“Ten thirty? And nothing's wrong, I was just gonna pass on a message ; I got a letter from Bern.”
“Bern? What did she say, did she get my letter?”
“You only gave it to me this week! She's gonna write but she hasn't got your address where she is, she says she misses you.”
There was a sigh at the other end of the line, “ Thanks, Gabs ; hey great party last night.”
“Yeah,” I agreed, “look gotta go but I thought I'd best let you know soon as.”
“Okay, see you Monday, tschuss.”
I closed my handy and settled myself back into the seat.
“What are you plotting now?” Dad enquired.
Washing done, we were ready not much after ten so we were already on the E31 heading up towards Köln.
“Hmm.” He didn't sound convinced.
We travelled in silence, well the radio was on but we didn't talk, Dad hummed to himself and I was lost in my own thoughts. The autobahn was busy, especially on the Köln Ring but we made good time nonetheless and it was only twenty-five to twelve when we left the motorway at Haan. The last bit of the journey didn't take long and we arrived at the Grönberg's a little before quarter to.
Ron was talking to a girl on the front when we pulled up; they both looked over when I got out.
“Well I must be going.”
“See you Monday Mon, tschuss.”
“Hi Gaby, see ya!” the girl pushed off on her bike and waved back at us, “bye!”
“How'd she know my name?” I enquired.
“You remember Monika, I'm sure you've met before.”
“Not that I remember.”
“Maybe she recognised you from a picture?”
By now Dad had the car locked so we headed into the house.
There's still something wrong with Monika somehow recognising me, I just can't put my finger on it.
“You two want some food before we go?” Angela enquired as she put the kettle on for tea.
I know Dad gets a bit embarrassed by this hospitality stuff so I intervened on his behalf.
Roni snorted but Angela didn't miss a beat, “ S ame for you Dave?”
“You could twist my arm.” He allowed.
“Peter? You want schnitzel?”
“Eh?” Roni's dad enquired coming into the kitchen cum diner.
“Schnitzel? I'm just doing some for Dave and the kids.”
“Sure, sure,” he agreed, “so Dave, where are you dragging my wife and daughter off to this week?”
“Hamburg, it's the Hessen Grand Prix.”
“No trip to the Reeperbahn eh?” Herr Grönberg winked.
“I um, don't think that's on the itinerary .” Dad coloured up some.
“Peter, give over. He can be so rude.” She opined.
“What's the Reeperbahn?” I whispered to Roni.
“Tell you later.”
The speed Angela rustled up the grub she must've had it prepared already. As you might expect from Frau Grönberg, the meat was just so, the sauce just right and the salad crispy. She herself just had a bowl of salad but the rest of us tucked in with gusto to the meaty delight.
Food disposed of, crockery loaded in the dishwasher and the bus loaded; we departed a little before one for the long drive north. As usual Ron and I made a bit of a nest in the back and settled in for the journey.
“So what's this Reeperbahn place then?”
“I can't believe you don't know.”
“Well I don't so spill.” I urged.
“Its like the most famous red light district in Germany, there's like loads of clubs an' stuff.”
“I think its all been cleaned up for the tourists these days but it used to be notorious.”
I guess that would cover the nudging and winking back in Mettmann.
“Its gonna be weird.” Ron stated somewhere up around Münster.
“You not being here.”
“Its gonna be weird for me too, it's only for like a few weeks though.”
“Give you a chance to win a few.” I suggested.
“Josh is coming down for a couple of weeks.”
“Won't be the same though.”
“Hey, I just thought, how come your friend called me Gaby?”
“Don't come the innocent with me Veronike Grönberg, you know she did.”
“Um. Sorree, she like asked who the little blonde was, you know in that picture from Stuttgart.”
Well I guess it doesn't really matter, its not like I live in Mettmann is it?
“So they given you a programme yet?” Ron deftly changed the subject.
There's another can of worms. Apparently there is no set programme, just goals, primarily medals at the World Champs in September. The UK domestic programme is, shall we say, a bit light on international quality events so, Carol reckons, we'll be spending time back this side of the Channel.
“We could end up in the same races!” Ron perked up at that news.
“I guess, but not on the same team.” I pointed out.
We made a comfort stop somewhere near Osnabruck then it was back to the featureless landscape that covers so much of northern Germany. Bremen was soon behind us as we started the final leg across Niedersachsen and up to Hamburg. The road might be boring but you tend to make good time, we were crossing the Elbe not much over four hours after leaving Grönberg's.
“Are we staying in the centre?” Roni enquired.
“Not far out, some place by the river.”
It'll be some little pension miles from anywhere knowing Dad. I'd expected us to follow the ‘Centrum' signs but instead we followed the Lübeck signs back across the river, weird. We turned off the motorway almost immediately, the satnav earning its keep for once. The area was old industrial, not exactly nice, where were we staying, a navvy hostel?
The traffic was fairly light and after we crossed under the autobahn it turned into , if not quite open country , at least more rural.
“This looks like us.” Dad stated as a tower block emerged from the trees – well I guess it's not a pension then!
We turned into the drive and made our way into the car park of the Holiday Inn, Moorfleet.
“Whoa!” I offered.
“Not bad eh ? ” Dad mentioned.
“How come… ? ” Roni started.
“We get to stay here?” Dad completed. “Well I was a bit late booking, everything more central was booked out, I got a cancellation here so it's actually costing less than usual.”
“Neat.” I put in.
“Come on then, let's get booked in, the others should be here soon, we can discuss eating and so on then , okay?”
Not only had Dad got a deal on our accommodation but he'd arranged the use of a meeting room as secure storage and workshop as well. Our rooms were up on the tenth floor, the view eastwards up the Elbe was spectacular, the room Dad had scored looked the other way over the post industrial landscape of Port Hamburg.
The rest of the team arrived in a hired bus having detoured via the centre to pick up Josh and Tali.
“It's a bit posh like.” The Geordie opined.
“Don't get used to it.” I told him.
“Hi you guys.” Gret grinned.
“Drewbie!” Tali announced, chucking her arms around me, “so who's with who?”
“Eat here or in town?” Dad enquired when we reassembled in reception.
“Town!” was the loud decision.
“Best take the hire bus then.” Dieter stated.
And so we streamed outside and climbed into the Sprinter that the northern squad were using, although the Vito has the same number of seats the bigger bus was – well bigger, less cramped. We managed to follow the signs into the city, parking by the big lake in the Centrum.
The lake, the Innen Alster was pretty busy with tourist boats, the nine of us headed around the shore towards what looked like some sort of floating restaurant. For a change we hadn't done the dressing up thing, it was too warm for fannying around, even Josh had shorts on. We finally got to the restaurant, it looked well cool.
“What do you think?” Dad asked, “ Italian here or look for somewhere else?”
“They do do steak.” Tali mentioned, having read the menu more thoroughly.
“ It's half seven , Dave, we could end up in McDonalds®.” Dieter mentioned.
“Italian it is then.”
To be honest a good bowl of pasta was probably a good idea, a bit of carbo-loading before tomorrow's 160km, steak could wait till afterwards.
Despite appearances they easily accommodated our party, out on the deck literally over the Alster's waters. The weather had changed from overcast back at home to a balmy summer evening; it was cool to just chill out for a bit. Of course Dad had to spoil things a bit by talking shop as we ate.
It had started to turn a little chilly by the time the coffee arrived.
“Anyone want a quick spin around the sights?” Dieter offered.
“Its nearly dark , Dad, we won't see anything.” Gret stated.
“That's where you're wrong,” Tali told us, being a local she'd know, “the city comes to life at night, the Reeper, the water front, it's pretty cool.”
“So?” Dad enquired.
to be continued....
© Maddy Bell 10.10.2011