Jim Vanderpump returns with the latest instalment of This is Norwich '98. This month sees Darel Russell and Peter Grant learning German.*
*May be entirely fictional.
“Dick! Dick! Dick!”
It quickly became apparent that Peter Grant was only learning German so that he could insult me with impunity.
“Sehr gut, Herr Grant,” said our teacher, Frau Bischenschaft, patronisingly. “Ich mag dich- I like you.”
“Ich mag, dick!” repeated Peter, changing the emphasis of the sentence and staring challengingly into my eyes. “Miss Bitchen-whatsit,” he said sweetly, turning back to the front of the classroom, his face a picture of innocence. “How do ya say ‘I hate you?”
The situation had become intolerable, but I wasn’t surprised at this German stunt. It was merely the latest of Peter’s many attempts to belittle and undermine me, a punishment he bestowed upon me for breaking into the first team at his expense.
“I’d have scored that with my cock,” he’d snorted when I’d taken a shot from 30 yards and hit the post.
“Youse even trying to lift them weights, Professor?” he’d jeered from across the gymnasium, with a proud puffing of his naked torso.
“Call that parallel parking, baw-bag?” he’d scoffed, beeping his horn and leaning out of his car window. “Who taught you to drive, frigging Ray Charles?”
Bullying at training was one thing, but I drew the line at him following me home.
Dear reader, I have long been a fan of the phrase penned by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos in his epistolary novel ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses’: “La vengeance est un plat qui se mange froid”. So, the next chance I got I smashed Peter in the head with a football.
I’d never struck a ball so cleanly.
“Rasc, Darel-marn, you could have killed him,” shrieked a panicked Craig Fleming.
“Somebody call an ambulance!” roared Matt Jackson.
“Russell, you’re in the team for Saturday,” said Bruce Rioch and tried to light his roll-up without the wind extinguishing the flame from his lighter.
Peter lay still on the grass behind the goal, eyes closed, arms and legs spread; like a starfish with long hair and tattoos. Concerned colleagues rushed over and encircled him, anxiously making suggestions on how he might be revived, apart from Andy Marshall who said he thought it was already too late. The recovery position was touted, then several sensible but useless techniques learnt from peremptory first aid courses.
Victory had been sweet but soon my worst fears were realised. Peter opened his eyes.
“He’s alive,” said Andy Marshall, slightly disappointed, and the others began gently tending to the convalescing Scotsman. “The ambulance is on its way”.
Peter’s wide eyes moved from right to left, examining the faces of his team-mates as if they were all completely insane.
“Krankenwagen?” he said, sitting up suddenly. “Worüber redest du? Ich muss nicht auf ein Krankenhaus gehen.”
My heart suddenly sank. Peter’s German accent was perfect, he must have been taking extra lessons, and now he was mocking me. This was his revenge of my revenge. Well, if you think it’s going to end here, Peter, wait and see how cold I serve the revenge of your revenge of my revenge. No amount of Sensodyne is going to save your teeth. Of course, I didn’t say any of that, I merely thought it (apart from the bit about Sensodyne, which I confess occurred to me later, whilst taking a shower).
“He’s talking like a punk, let’s waste him!” said Neil Adams, reaching into his jacket.
“Steady on!” said Matt Jackson, then gripped Peter firmly by the shoulders and shouted far too loudly into his face. “Do you know who you are?”
“Naturlich,” Peter shrugged and then, still in German, said, ‘I am Peter Grant, the best midfielder ever to play for Norwich City.’
“My God, he’s delusional!” said Iwan Roberts, upon hearing my translation. “Where’s that ambulance?”
It had already arrived and we all piled in, which was unnecessary because we had our own cars. En route, Eadie gave us his theory.
“It’s just like a documentary I watched on TV. This bloke had a knock on the head and when he woke up he could remember every meal he’d ever eaten in his entire life. And he was a fat bloke too. I reckon Granty getting knocked out has given him the ability to speak German.”
Amazingly the Doctor at the hospital confirmed that Peter was suffering from ‘Foreign Accent Syndrome’, a rare condition affecting the cerebellum, which controls motor functions in the brain. The lucky bastard! I’d been studying for hours every day, hoping to broaden my horizons and enjoy the works of Marx, Neitzsche, Goethe, Bukowski, etc. This oaf gets a football in the face and is gifted the keys to the kingdom.
The upside of the illness was Peter seemed to have completely forgotten our feud. Once back at Colney he became as nice as pie (or Strudel).
One day, he was sitting on his own in the canteen, reading a collection of plays by Friedrich Schiller (a classic probably!), when he looked up and spotted me. His mouth opened into a broad grin.
“Darel, wie geht's dir mein Freund?”
His face had lost the sourness of a Scotsman and been replaced by the laissez faire expression typical of a German (although confusingly that is a French expression. Incidentally, I would describe the typical Frenchman’s expression as being one of… ‘schadenfreude’.). Furthermore, he had cut his hair, gone were the matted ginger strands of a homeless man standing outside a Londis, and in their place was a style which included a shaven head with a long fringe at the front and one single, ‘rat’s tail’ at the back. He was at least shirted, although I have to admit that I found the leather trousers and braces an almost offensive stereotype.
“Ja,” I muttered pathetically, realising I hadn’t responded to his ‘how are you?’ “Gut.”
He smiled politely, made a ‘hmm’ sound, then lowered his eyes back to his brilliant, foreign literature. I knew what ‘hmm’ meant, he was unimpressed with my level of German, the condescending, wurst guzzling little… Rotzlöffel (I had to look up an insult).
There was only one thing for it…
“Come on, Che, just hit me on the head with the cricket bat!”
I was bent over, hands on my knees, facing away from Che Wilson, but I could tell he was hesitant about following my orders. Eventually, opening my eyes, I craned my head to look at him.
“I don’t understand why?” he said, lolling the bat around uselessly in his hand.
“It’s simple, I want you to knock me unconscious so that I can wake up and be really good at something without having to go through the rigmarole of wasting time learning it. Only a moron wouldn’t get it. Are you a moron, Che?”
He was. And he hated being called a moron.
“Good, then hit me over the head with the cricket bat… Harder, moron,” I goaded. “Harder. Come on, moron, harder. Look,” I said, standing up and turning around to face him. I was about to issue further directions on how to knock someone out when my legs gave way beneath me and everything went black.
When I awoke, I was lying in a hospital bed, as per the plan. Despite the pounding headache, I felt an anticipation I had not experienced since embarking upon the final chapter of ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’. Hopefully, though, this wouldn’t be as big a disappointment.
“Has it worked,” I said eagerly, studying the faces of the visitors surrounding my bed.
“Oh, awake are we?” sighed Eadie, slapping down a four month old edition of Hello magazine.
“Can you understand me?” I asked, hopefully wondering what language I would have got. Russian would be useful, but it might be more fun to have something niche, like Singaporean.
“Why’s he talking funny like the other man?” asked Darren Kenton and began to cry into Eadie’s shoulder.
‘Like the other man?’ He must mean Peter, I thought. My plan’s worked! Excitedly, I began to ramble. I could tell by their faces that to them my words were barely comprehensible.
“Darel, why are you talking like that?” Che Wilson asked, screwing up his face and staring at me. No wonder foreigners hate us if that’s how we look at them.
“What language am I speaking?” I pleaded. Although, how were they to know? I would probably have to record myself talking and then play it back.
“You’re speaking English,” Eadie said, with a frown. “But what’s with the accent?”
“Accent? What do you mean accent?”
“Mate, you’re talking like a Brummie.”
“What?” It couldn’t be. A Brummie? Impossible, how could I have got it so wrong? I started to argue with him, telling him he must be mistaken, but as I did so I could hear the slow twang of the West Midlands in my own voice.
It was true. I was going for Albert Einstein but instead I’d got Ozzy Osbourne. I let out a desolate cry of despair.