Wrong key right friend


Translated by Andrew Fentem

In January 2000, I left Glasgow for Manchester and found a flat via a rental agency in the Whalley Range area, south of the centre of Manchester, a place where I stayed a record 18 months. When the agency handed me the keys, they told me they checked them but if there was any problem, I should give them a call. Arriving in front of the house where my flat was by taxi, my two suitcases in hand, I tried the two keys I had been given – once, twice then a third time but, in spite of my efforts, I could not get in so decided to ring the buzzer for the first and then second floors. Eventually somebody answered and let me in and I was at last able to pass the threshold of my new home. No sooner had I put my things down when the burglar alarm went off however. Seeking contact with my neighbour upstairs, I asked him if I could give the agency a call so this unbearable din might be stopped as quickly as possible. I think I couldn’t get through to them though, as I remember setting off for the agency on foot before, no doubt having heard the alarm stop, I turned back. My new neighbour told me the alarm had stopped but it would only be a brief respite and was going to start up again - even louder. He told me the agency had called to say the code was on the keys. This was something which occurred to me after I had set off there on foot to be honest. As far as I can remember I must have entered the code then as the alarm stopped for good this time. Musicians know there are some silences you appreciate more than others and the one which followed the noise from the burglar alarm was definitely of this ilk.

The episode at least enabled me to exchange a few words with my new neighbour. When I told him I was a French-speaking Belgian but had come to Manchester to work with Dutch people and Dutch-speaking Belgians, he found that interesting and added he was a German teacher. He also told me French was his second foreign language.

Since then we have both left Manchester. He went to live in Germany and I returned to Belgium, after a detour via Stevenage and Chester. This weekend I am going to Berlin as he is getting married to his betrothed on Saturday, a German woman who is also the mother of his son.