Monday, 15 September 2008

My war.

As the result of a misunderstanding - My professors wife having misunderstood the time of her husbands return from Antwerp - I was drummed out of Art school and obliged to find refuge elsewhere. The army at that time (1914) seemed a safe place to hide; had I paid more attention to world events I might have realized otherwise. Very soon, after a rudimentary training, I found myself in the trenches. I quickly resolved to remove myself from the theatre of war by any means possible.

The opportunity arose on Christmas day. An armistice had been announced for 24 hours and we were enjoying the opportunity to dwell on the horrors of war without the constant bombardment of the senses that was trench warfare. Somewhere down the line a whistle sounded and as we peered over the ramparts a troupe of Tommies marched into no-mans-land armed with nothing but a football. A corresponding team of Germans emerged from their own trenches while a French major appeared from no-where offering to referee. The leader of the tommies called to us saying they were a man short; I promptly volunteered and found myself embroiled in the strangest football match ever to have been played.

My first (and last) act in the game was to synically scythe down a German corporal whose silly little moustache offended me. Corporal Hitler was stretchered off (later to be honoured for his injury recieved in the field of battle) and I was unceremoniously sent off... I trudged disconsolately to the sideline and as no-one seemed to be paying attention, continued walking.

Some time later as night was falling I found my path blocked by the North sea. Without thinking I rid myself of my uniform and waded into the icy water placing myself at the mercy of Neptune himself. I was pulled from the water by two fishermen, close to death they lathered me in lard and wrapped me in felt blankets allowing me to live on and tell this tale. I was nursed back to health in a rudimentary hut among the sand dunes by the charming young daughter of one of the fishermen, my sojourn only ending when my young nurse and I were caught self medicating one afternoon.

I managed to find passage on a cargo ship heading for Norway.

Years later I recounted this story to a German aviator named Joseph Beuys as we sat in a Munich bar killing a bottle of schnapps. I seem to remember that he took notes.

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