Before reading this tale I feel a few points need to be made. First off, this actually happened a few years ago while I was night portering in a hotel near where I live. Second the mention of 'Sooty' was a glove puppet from the TV of my childhood. The rest is just me being me and just wanting to entertain the hell out of you all. So without any more preamble, Please enjoy.
At 5:16am and twenty two seconds precisely the phone rang as I was passing the reception of a hotel I was night portering for while I was resting between commissions.
I picked it up and announced my heartiest salutations for the day, and was answered by a crisp German lady.
“Goot Mornink” she began “dis is der Von Applestruddels in room 56 unt ve are haffing trouble mit der television”
“I’m sorry to hear that” I replied, “and what seems to be the problem?”
“It is not doink vot it says unt der tin lid---Perhaps you vill come unt sort it out, ya?”
I agreed and a few minutes later I was heading along the landing that serviced their suite. As I cornered the curve I saw her standing outside her room, looking immaculate
“You vill haf to excuse my appearance” she stated flately “I haf just voken up unt I haf a severe case of der bedroom head”
“It looks lovely” I said in an attempt at conviviality. She harumphed
“Dat is probably because of der BMW hair rollers I put in mine hair last night. Come on in”
She stepped back to allow me access to her room, but before I could place one footstep over the threshold she was speaking:
“Der person you vill find in mine bed---fiddling mit his mini i-pod --- is mine son: Heinrich Von Applestruddle lll, heir to der Applestruddle millions”
I nodded my hellos and he nodded his curtly back, and I swear he clicked his heels together under the bed sheets.
His mother moved with an accuracy and style that demanded admiration and was around the bed, stabbing at the TV remote control within a second.
“It von’t vork. Every time I press der dumkoph button it refuses to do anythink” I took the hand set and looked at the controls, seeing if I could spot anything obvious when she broke the silence:
“Ve vere watching Sooty last night, and it voz vorking zen!”
“Sooty? You like sooty do you?” I said in an attempt at small talk.
“Yes, it is young Heinrich’s favourite programme, unt for der last veek it has been a staple diet unt essential viewing at der Von Applestruddle family Schloss”
I stared at them for a while and young Heinrich stared back, daring me to do something technical in his mother’s presence, when she spoke more:
“In Germany ve are von hour ahead of you.”
At the time I had no idea why she said this; whether it was some thinly veiled slur at how much slower we are than them, or how incompetent this nation is compared to her uber efficient one, but thank god I was still picturing the whole Von Applestruddle family sitting straight backed in their lederhosen and laughing in strict chronological order to the Sooty Show, and not enquiring as to whether that meant they had lost the war a whole hour before we had won it?’
Instead I fiddled a bit more and continued with the small talk.
“I used to like Sooty when I was a child”
“Unt vere vas that?” she replied.
I assumed she meant where was I, and her translation was a bit out, so I answered her by stating ‘in Solihull’
I was met by a host of blank expressions from the Von Applestruddle bed.
“Vere is dis, ‘Sol-e-hull?”
“In the Midlands”
More looks of confusion
“In der English Midlands?” she probed as I moved onto checking to see if the wires were all connected.
“ That’s right” I chirped happily.
“But Sooty isn’t in England”
My head popped up from behind the TV and I cracked it on a wall lamp, knocking a light bulb out.
“Are you sure, I thought Sooty was British”
“Nien, Sooty is Russian”
“He is?!” I said with genuine concern, “Well that explains why he never spoke English” and I went about fiddling with more wires thinking that Sooty was probably the first ever eastern block immigrant.
“Nien, Sooty has always been in Russia, ever since der beginink of time”
That statement stopped me messing with the scart lead completely and I turned to face them, ready to argue history and epoch theories.
“I don’t think so, I’d say 1960’s---1950’s tops, but not since the dawn of time, and anyway, I’m pretty sure the dinosaurs came first, if they didn’t I’m almost positive David Attenborough would have said something by now”
There was a brief period where they studied me like I was an idiot (Ha! Like they’re the first ones to give me that particular look), so I carried on hitting random buttons on the remote control when suddenly the TV burst into life.
“That’s it, that’s it!!” they said, clapping their hands with glee, “It’s sooty”
I turned slowly to look at the TV and there I saw---not a subversive commie glove puppet spy from the old Soviet Union--- but someone skiing down-hill while been heavily commentated upon. The light bulb went on, I handed them the remote control and said
“Ah, Sothi---the winter Olympics”
They in turn looked at me “That’s what ve haf been sayink. Sooty”
I smiled and left the room and as I closed the door I’m pretty sure young Von Applestruddle lll muttered a Dumkoph or two before going back to fiddling with his mini i-pod, while mother Applestruddle blared out the German national anthem in a bass tenor that just sounded all wrong.
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