I have been thinking a bit recently about the times I spent working and living in the then divided city of Berlin at the height of the Cold War. This has been partly stimulated by the excellent series Deustchland 86 which showed how loyal East Germans saw the disintegration of their state before their eyes. It was an awful regime, and I have a bit of a personal grudge (I thought that using poison was stepping outside the rules of the game: in retrospect, I should have worn camouflage).
However, in practice, the east-west relationships were very complex, made even more complicated by the fact that the Occupying Powers, including the UK, had rights in East Berlin. One of the more bizarre roles I have had in my life was to cross over the wall and assert them, albeit as a junior aide to my American boss who was very keen on staging 'provocations' against the 'Commies'. I thought it was all a bit childish, parking in a space reserved for cadres and then calling the VOPO a 'plastic ****hole.
In those days, my German was reasonably good. Needs must. Indeed, with suitably shabby clothing, I could pass off as a DDR citizen, being once mistaken for a member of the Party delegation in East Berlin. Some twenty years later I was at a technical meeting in Kiel which was being conducted in English. I decided that I could make my point more precisely in German. People exchanged glances and I thought I had made a faux pas which is very easy in a foreign language. Afterwards, someone came up to me: 'This is very strange. You speak German with the accent of someone who grew up in a small town near Berlin under the Communist regime.'
One other interesting experience I had in Kiel, the home of the Kriegsmarine was meeting a former U-boat commander. In charge aged 19 at the end of the war, he had refused to take his boat out in a futile action which would endanger his men. This did not go down too well with the Nazis and he was ordered to be executed. However, the Nazi state was still a Rechstaat and in the confusion of the end of the war, no one could find the right paperwork, so he survived.
The German Addicks have come over for the play offs and final. My German has now deteriorated to the point where I could not sustain a conversation, but I hope to meet them. And I won't go on about the Cold War.
Curse of manager of the month?
Lee Bowyer is League One manager of the month. I think all this talk about it being a curse is a nonsense. People were saying the same sort of thing about playing in front of the Sky cameras before we beat Portsmouth.
I am not expecting results from the Isle of Thanet until early to mid-afternoon, but I will report on how any 'Roland Out' candidates do.