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The class outing

We recently spent an afternoon at a parent’s and kid’s event, organized for our daughter’s school class. This naturally required a venue suitable for all ages, so we went to a pub and got sloshed. To be more accurate, we went to a large beer garden about ten miles out of town.

As it was a sunny bank holiday (they generally are sunny between May and September. We have a summer here each year), the place was doing a roaring trade. Whether the live band helped or hindered might be a subject for discussion, but I suspect it was the former. They were a reasonably typical, Bavarian, beer tent group, although there wasn’t a tent. The staple musical diet is old hits, and the playing is characterised more by enthusiasm than elegance.

Some of these German hits would be familiar. Take Me Home, Country Roads is compulsory, and I still find this song’s plaintive homily to the singer’s mountain mama puzzling. Is “mountain mama” in any imaginable way an endearment? Remember, kids – using this term at home might result in serious injury. I learned this the painful way.

Another must appears to be I Can’t Get No Satisfaction. I start out with much sympathy for the plight of the unfortunate singer. However, this lessens at his xth assurance that he tried and he tried, that he tried and he tried. Towards the end, I’m always wondering why he didn’t stop whatever it was he trying, and take up a less frustrating pursuit instead; macramé perhaps, or flower arranging. There must be something. After all, satisfaction is a by-product of worthwhile activity.

That as maybe, this is one song which has a surprising effect upon the more committed members of das Publikum. Perhaps propelled by supernatural forces, some spectators have to start stamping and dancing on the tables. And these are trestle tables, not solid oak affairs. Nevertheless, they must be remarkably well made, because I haven’t yet seen one collapse. Perhaps the singer should join them, as they seem to obtain satisfaction by the cart load. I can never figure out where those table tramplers put their glasses, other than for the participants who wave theirs around, and slop beer all over the places and faces.

This beer garden is particularly scenic; old buildings and the shade from a generous supply of majestic trees. Sycamore seeds seem to be in this year, judging from the numbers which dropped into my glass. (A full litre by the way. That’s a pint and three-quarters. Halves denote namby-pambies.) It’s set by an aqueduct, where the old canal (Ludwigskanal) crosses a small river.

This canal was a wonder of late eighteenth century engineering. It provided a link between the River Main and the Danube. As the Main feeds into the Rhine, it thus connected Rotterdam with the Black Sea. This was built by Ludwig I of Bavaria, though not personally of course. About 9,000 nameless someones undertook the spadework. The finished item is about 120 miles long, and the building costs were twice as much as expected. Some things never change.

There were some slight snags with this late eighteenth century Meisterwerk. The plans were drawn up in 1830. It opened in 1846 and was more or less out of use 17 years later. It fell victim of a new technology known as railways and it was a financial disaster.

However, for complete monetary ruination, try Ludwig II of Bavaria, who started kinging in 1864. Neuschwanstein Castle’s the best known of his numerous follies. It’s much sought out by tourists and seems to have also inspired Walt Disney. The Cinderella Castle in Disneyland is probably based upon it. Amongst other names, Ludwig II is also known as Ludwig the Mad.

As reported, the beer garden was very busy. This could explain why only four families appeared. Perhaps others were dotted about in odd crannies, and each group was wondering where everyone else was. We certainly addressed this theme. However, given the extensive mobility inherent within childers, if others had indeed been present, they would have found no hiding place obscure enough.

One mother was much concerned by the ability of her son to end up with mud on his face. We’d rather view that as an inevitable consequence of boy meets towpath. I’ve often got mud on my face, though our six-year-old is generally somewhat cleaner. One of the undoubted highlights of the occasion came when the band stopped playing at six.

No, I don’t mean it like that. The timing was coincidental. The young man in question again returned from the towpath, but this time without any visible mud. This was no miracle. Rather, it’s the sort of thing caused by stretching out too far, when tempted by a twig, floating tantalisingly by in the refreshing water. And very refreshed he looked too. Instead of seeing this as some kind of improvement in appearance, his mother began to worry about the possibilities of pneumonia. Some parents are impossible to please.

The evening was rounded off by a drunken accordionist and the choral efforts of his friends. They’d obviously been enjoying themselves in the traditional way for some hours. It’s fair to say their singing was a step or two up from their walking.

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