On the plane home, there was only one British paper to choose from—the Daily Mail.
XQ had taken a copy of the Mail with her when she left for Germany; she had wanted to be able to show the German kids what a British tabloid newspaper was like, but had been too embarrassed to buy The Sun. As luck would have it, that day the Mail had had a two-page spread by Paul ‘Why oh why” Johnson, entitled “What if we had made peace with Hitler?” and detailing how Sir Winston Churchill would have been publicly executed as a traitor.
The copy of the Daily Mail I got to read on the plane was almost as frothing. “Plans are underway,” it revealed, “to rebuild Hitler’s Reichstag as the centre of a united Germany.”
Well, not quite. Firstly, the Reichstag was almost entirely rebuilt long ago. What they’re planning is to do something about the glass dome on the roof, which was never replaced after we bombed the shit out of it at the end of the Second World War.
Secondly, it makes as much sense to talk about “Hitler’s Reichstag” as it does to talk about “Thatcher’s House of Commons”; the Reichstag was the centre of German government at least as far back as the nineteenth century. In fact, it was the burning down of the Reichstag in 1933 that Hitler used as an excuse to suspend constitutional rights; the Nazis found a convenient scapegoat and decided he was guilty of arson, although the suspicion is that they burnt the building down themselves.
This twisted little article was only a side-attraction, though; most of the rest of the page was taken up by the story of the Russian journalist who had supposedly found bits of Hitler’s skull in a box in some KGB archives. The Mail was obviously very excited, and included some real big pictures of Hitler, with dotted lines showing which bits had been found.
I found myself wondering what on earth the plane’s German passengers must have thought of the Daily Mail’s articles. The question was answered when I overheard a voice from the next row of seats: “I’ve got a copy of the Guardian here. Who wants to start the bidding?”
I certainly knew when I was back in Britain. We arrived at Heathrow a quarter of an hour early, because German air traffic control had been unusually efficient. We then had to wait three quarters of an hour for British Airways staff to unload our baggage. BA claims that it doesn’t have enough baggage handlers; but curiously, it sacked half of the ones it used to have last year, doubtless so that Lord King could have his golden handshake.
Eventually I collected my luggage. The next day the coach to Cambridge was half an hour late. I almost wonder why I came back.