Odd things.

Moving On

I travelled miles to get the perfect picture of this amazing medieval pilgrim in Herford. He was to augment my blog on Wagner’s Tannhäuser’s return to Venus.

Now, after being on the back burner for a while, he will finally see the light of blog on 

Posted 26 weeks ago
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Posted 26 weeks ago

Heidi Hetzer’s Low-Key Return.

The east wind made it feel colder than the actual 8 degrees at the Brandenburger Tor – Berlin’s Marble Arch. I arrived before noon and expected the area to the west of the quadriga, to be packed. In fact, there were around a hundred spectators surrounding a 1930 Hudson 8, upon which, a diminutive woman’s figure was perched. It was Heidi Hetzer. She isn’t a small woman, but in that vast space, she seemed lost. As I approached, I realised my mistake. She was fighting the background noise of tourist buses and holding a question and answer session with her fans. She had no public-address system, not even a megaphone, no police to control the crowds, just Heidi and her most intimate well-wishers, turned out to welcome her back to Berlin, after travelling round the world in her ancient American jalopy. There was a good contingent of Harley fans, their gleaming models parked confidentially close to the Hudson.

Why the fuss? Heidi is 79 and only seven years younger than her car. She has travelled around the world in the Hudson and taken 960 days, visiting parts of Asia, Australia, New Zealand, North and South America and South Africa. The milometer shows an increase of around 60 000 miles. That may not sound many, but Hudo, as she has nicknamed her car, was built to travel about 10 000 miles in its lifetime. The well-wishers made it difficult, but I managed to get a glimpse of the wheels – the spokes are made of wood. When she left Berlin in July 2014, she carried four spare tyres. I think she brought two back. Not bad. Her inspiration was the Clärinore Stinnes, who undertook a similar trip in 1927 in an Adler Standard 6. Clärinore’s car was new, but she needed her spares tyres. Few roads had an asphalt covering.  

Why did Heidi bother? There are easier ways to travel.

Heidi has spent a lifetime with cars. Her father opened an Opel sales and service garage in the 50s. She set up her own car firm in her late teens, but it was hardly competition. The story goes, her main income was hiring a VW Beetle out to courting couples, for a few marks per hour, so that they had somewhere to snog. Takes me back! So, was this trip a final gesture to her life with motor cars? Someone in the crowd shouted to her, ‘Heidi, you look 20 years younger than the photos.’ She smiled. No false modesty! She agreed, which could mean she is not finished with motor sport, although her days as a rally driver are forgotten.

There may be another reason for the trip – money. Heidi’s father died when she was 32. She returned from America to take over the firm, but found it insolvent. She is proud to say, there were no redundancies and the firm survived. Then came the 2008 bank crash. Opel/Vauxhall owner, General Motors, tried to save itself by sacrificing its European operations. That can’t have been easy for the Hetzer company and I speculate that Heidi dug deep into her personal fortune a second time. NDR publicise her blogs and there is a detailed article on her in the Berliner Zeitung, still available on line. That must be where she is earning. Good luck to her!

Why low-key? The local TV station (RBB) had to struggle to get near Heidi. I asked the RBB journalist if there was an official press release. Not that she knew of! Had it all been said, or had she signed an exclusive?

As I watched Heidi chatting with fans and friends I noticed how uninterested in accolades she was. She was among those special people, who have been following her blogs from around the world. They wrote back to her and watched video clips of some adventurous driving. These are still available. Thus, she might have thought she had said it all, and just wanted to be among friends, greet the fans, then have a rest with the family. No such luck. The main welcome took place in the afternoon at the Olympia Stadium. Mrs. Merkel wouldn’t have far to walk, although she would be excused her absence. She is another amazing woman with rather a lot on her plate just now.

Do I sound surprised at Heidi’s exploits? Yes! She returned at the end of the week, which celebrated international women’s day. I’m ashamed to say, I knew nothing of her adventures, until Friday. I sat in a café in Herford, and noticed a copy of the Herforder Kreisblatt, carelessly thrown on a chair near mine, with a title-page picture of Heidi, sitting on her car, admiring an unnamed lake. Climbing on Hudo for the photoshoot, would test most septuagenarians, never mind driving the monster, with no power-steering or assisted brakes. Who changed her tyres, carried the fuel canisters?

More unanswered questions? We shall have to wait for the NDR documentary, which I’m sure is in preparation.

Posted 26 weeks ago
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Posted 26 weeks ago

Heidi Hetze comes home.

Heidi spent months travelling the world in a car, older than she is. I was there for her return to Berlin.

Posted 26 weeks ago

Charlotte Roche - another amazing woman.

Glass ceilings or what? Charlotte Roche has shown that if you tell it as it is, then you can make a mark, whatever the challenges. This of course, must apply to men too. I think of the courage I’ve had to screw up to take an unpopular stance, or become a trade union rep in a non-union shop. And then, late in life, I read Feuchtgebiete. People will say one day, that this was not a great novel (maybe) nor even a good novel (OK) but what they won’t be able to take away is the originality, the bravery, and the honesty of the authoress.

It isn’t a read that is there to be liked. I doubt many are entertained by it, (I was) but it puts the human body and emotion into the 21st century the way Lady Chatterley put sexuality on the front page of the 20th. We all have the wet areas, we all suffer the trauma of parents who just don’t get it, but only one of us has written with such courage and accuracy about the topic.

Now Schoβgebete is in a different league. This was obviously cathartic in a different way. I strongly suspect that it is more autobiographical than the loss of siblings in a car accident. It lays bare the need for therapy, the way our own sicknesses can cause us to destroy that which is most precious to us. It is most powerful, because it was written by a woman and could only be written by a woman.  It is a clear and honest cry for us to be true to ourselves before it is too late. Men always fudge that one.

I read these two novels straight after witnessing in the newsreel, the amazing courage of Pussy Riot and Snowden. Add to those Charlotte Roche. If Putin has time to read either novel he will be glad Roche is Anglo-German, not Russian. It doesn’t matter though Mr. Putin. All our governments try to maximise profits by being part of a global economy. Look for the Marxist dialectic! A global economy means global connections, which means that nothing can remain hidden for long.

The movement to tell it how it is has started. I believe it will keep rolling and if it does it will get bigger. Pussy Riot was inspirational but transient, Snowden is inspirational but Obama will find a way to negate him. But Roche? She will be an inspiration forever. That is the power of the novel.

Posted 182 weeks ago