10 September 2013

Breakfast with some Fochers

I took my breakfast with three Fochers this morning. German Fochers.

I am in the city of New Delhi and am staying at the Hilton Hotel. I have stayed here a number of times before. There is a conference being conducted at the hotel for some sort of German car part manufacturing organisation so the establishment is full to the brim. If I had known in advance that this event was on I would have stayed elsewhere.

I have used the term ‘took my breakfast’ rather than ‘ate my breakfast’ as I am slowly and involuntarily becoming Singaporean. This distresses me a little as my sanity is already questionable. In Singapore one takes a meal rather than eats it, we stay at a place rather than live in it, we use the words ‘can’ and ‘cannot’ very liberally – and we completely inexplicably throw in the word ‘lah’ into many conversations and sentences. ‘Lah’ has no meaning. It is gibberish.

I am trying to stop speaking in Singaporean Singlish but I cannot lah.

Fuck. There I go again.

When I went down to take my breakfast this morning the restaurant was packed full of Germans and Indians – many of which were wearing lanyards around their necks denoting that they were conference participants. There were very few spare seats and no empty tables and the very nice and quite apologetic restaurant manager asked me if I would mind sharing a table.

Even though I did mind - I told her that I did not lah, and she ushered me to a table for four that was occupied by three. The three were very large German car part manufacturing dudes and they were piling into enormous plates of full English breakfasts.

The full English breakfast is eggs, bacon, baked beans and toast. When in India I eat local food and I consider the full English breakfast to be an abomination. I consider the English to also be an abomination and the Germans may also be considered thus.

For my breakfast I ate some fresh mango followed by some butter dosa, tomato upma and some coriander idli. 

They were stonking.

When I was ushered to the table I said “good morning” to the three German car part-manufacturing dudes and one of them grunted something incomprehensible and Germanic at me, one ignored me and the other gave me a fairly cheery, ”Guten Morgen”.

The one that guten morgened me did so whilst he was munching on a piece of bacon which I thought was fairly disgusting.

I did not wish to make conversation with the three German car part-manufacturing dudes whilst they or myself were eating – mainly because I was disinclined to see them speak with food in their mouths. They all ate with their mouths open anyway whilst making horrible guttural noises. I tried to ignore the sight and the noises whilst tucking into my dosa and idli and upma but it was not easy. When the Germans had finally finished their food I introduced myself - and the one that had guten morgened me said,

“Ya ya helloo helloo mein nam is Franz Focher unt dis is mein bruders Fritz and Helmet”

I was sipping on my double shot vanilla flavoured coffee latte when he said this and to my shame I actually spat some of it out.

The spitting of my coffee was an involuntary action and I did it not because of the “Ya ya helloo helloo” bit – although admittedly that was a bit strange and a little amusing – but moreso because of the declaration that they were Fochers.

The pronunciation of this in the Germanic way it was phonetically uttered to me was ‘fokkers’.

I work with a lot of English and many of them are fokkers. I tell them this on a regular basis but it is rare for anyone to inform me that they themselves are fokkers. This may be the first.

“So you are all Fochers?” I asked

“Ya ya” replied Fritz Focher.

“And your mother is also a Focher?” I could not help but enquire.

The question was irresistible.

“Ya ya” the Helmet Focher replied.

“So there is a mother Focher?” I pushed.

“Ya ya our mother ees also unt a Focher” Franz the Focher replied.

I have met a German Helmet once before although these were my first Fochers. It is a not uncommon name amongst the male Germanic population. Most people would associate the word helmet to be a type of hat used in the military to protect the head from bomb and bullet stuff but the English also commonly use it as a derogatory description of someone who is a bit of a dick. The association in this context is that the helmet is the glans or head of the male reproductive organ. A bloke who used to work in our office in Singapore was a real dick and we referred to as helmet boy. He is no longer in our employ.

I have met many Germans in my work and leisure travels and I am well aware of their inability to pick up on salacious humour. I was also feeling a little mischievous and felt like pushing the envelope.

The phrase ‘to push the envelope’ means to go beyond what are commonly regarded as acceptable boundaries. I have pushed it before and will push it again.

The phrase came into popular use after the publication of Tom Wolfe’s book ‘The Right Stuff’ in 1979. Wolfe wrote many books and my favourite of his works is ‘The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test’ which was about Ken Kesey and a group of Hippies in the 1960’s launching themselves across America in a frenzy of LSD consumption. Ken Kesey went on to write the brilliant ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” – of which a film adaptation was made starring a very young Jack Nicholson. According to Wolfe, Kesey consumed vast amounts of acid in his time with the Merry Pranksters and he very much lived in the cuckoo nest about which subsequently he wrote.

The envelope that Wolfe referred to in ‘The Right Stuff’ was not the type of envelope that most of us think about. It was not the paper variety that one puts some paper in and then licks and puts a stamp on to post.  It is in fact a mathematical type that in very clever scientific terms is described as “the locus of the ultimate intersections of consecutive curves”.

‘What the foch?’ you might think – and I would not blame you.

The mathematical science envelope is most commonly used in aviation and in aeronautics and was termed during World War Two. The Big One. It was first recorded in 1944 in the British Journal of the Royal Aeronautical Society that published:

“The best known of the envelope case is the ‘flight envelope’, which is in general use in this country and in the United States ….. the ‘flight envelope’ covers all probable conditions of symmetrical maneuvering flight”

For dummies like me – the envelope is the limits that a plane is able to be be pushed by a pilot - with regard to its speed and altitude. “Pushing the envelope” was a pilot testing such limits. It was considered to be both dangerous and reckless.

“Are there many Fochers here at the conference Fritz?” I asked the German at the breakfast table.

“Nein nein, we are the only Fochers here” he replied.

I was very curious as to why there was a repetition of the ‘No’s’ and the “Yes’s” uttered by the Fochers but I did not want to spoil the moment by enquiring. I can tell you that writing phonetic German is causing the auto spell check function of my Mac to go into overdrive. It is also endeavouring to change the word ‘Focher” to “Fucker” which I think is brilliant - however I am manually over riding it.

Whilst I had a second cup of coffee I asked the family Focher which part of Germany they were from and they told me that they were Bavarian. When I enquired as to whether they owned and wore liederhausen and slapped their knees in beer festivals they told me with a great deal of enthusiasm that they did. Liederhausen are long-length leather shorts worn by some German men as a type of traditional costume and there is much funny German dancing where knees are slapped in Bavarian Beer festivals. I have witnessed this first hand.

I only talked for a little while with the Focher brothers, as I had to go off to meetings in my Delhi office - meetings with the English Fochers that work there.

It was an excellent breakfast conversation where I think I may have used the word Focher at least fifty times.

I hope to do it all again tomorrow morning.

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