I see him. It is only in the corner of my eye but he is there alright; a shadow in my mind’s eye that will not go away.
Dortmund and Bremen serve up a real humdinger of a football game. The lead changes four times as Dortmund come from behind to win 4-3. Victory guarantees Dortmund third place in the table and a spot in the lucrative European Champions’ League.
The season isn’t over yet, not by a mile. Next week the team travel to Berlin for the cup final against Frankfurt in an all-or-nothing dash for glory. Sieg oder Siberien: Victory or…well if your German doesn’t help you then your Russian just might.
There may be trouble ahead. Spiderman in the number 17 shirt has been offered big money to play in China and today may be the last time I see him. The coach too may be on his way out: camp fever among the players has fermented into mutiny. Somewhere out in the suburbs of Dortmund a group of hard core fans has taken on the police and lost. They will not be with us today.
Inside the stadium it is all about the party. The Faithful hug and kiss at the final whistle. We may not see each other for the next few months so let’s face the music and dance.
And then I see him and the music stops. I haven’t seen him for a long time and I never see him for more than a second but there he is. My Doppelganger. My blood runs cold and I want to punch him.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against doppelgangers. I have several doppelgangers and I admire our shared values and beliefs. Failure to listen to us is the singular reason that the world is in such a mess. There should be more of us. They are good-looking too.
Take Kaeding for example. My Scottish-American guide when I was in German-American Iowa is known throughout the town as the guy in the kilt. It doesn’t matter which of the seven German-speaking villages you go to –they know who you’re talking about and nobody thinks of it as anything other than normal. My life in Germany, transported seven thousand miles across the Atlantic.
Or the strange case of B from Glasgow. B moved to Germany in the same year as I did and follows Borussia Dortmund. That’s where we met in fact, in one of those Livingstone and Stanley moments when he first saw me decked out in kilt and glengarry. “You’re Scottish I presume…” It turns out that we even shared an address, albeit in different cities. He lived at Kronprinzenstraße 14 in Dortmund. I lived on Kronprinzenstraße in Bochum –at number 41. I will not give him a pseudonym because our Christian name is yet another tie that binds us.
But today’s doppelganger freaks me out big style because he is a fake. There he is, decked out in a black and yellow kilt and Walter Scott style headwear and he is German. He couldn’t be more German if you put sandals over his black and yellow socks.
Don’t get me wrong: you don’t need to be Scottish to wear a kilt. If that were the case then the Royal Mile in Edinburgh would be home to nothing but boarded-up windows and Everything A Pound shops.
A kilt on a man is like salt in a soup –when done right it enhances the flavour of the personality. Some of the best kilt-wearers I know are German. Mad Raimund with his six-day stubble and woodbine in the corner of his mouth looks hard as a welder’s cough when you put a kilt on him. He doesn’t speak a word of English so why does he identify with Scotland so much? “None of your fucking business” he inevitably replies. He’s absolutely right.
Or German Jock. At six foot six and with a Scottish accent that far outclasses my own, he is a sight to behold in Royal Stewart tartan. He’s from Dortmund and is proud of it although he now lives in Glasgow where he fits in to the patchwork perfectly.
So why do I hate my Doppelganger so much? Why is he fake when B and Kaeding and Mad Raimund and German Jock are real? It is because my Doppelganger knows he’s got a kilt on. Close your eyes and tell me what you’re wearing right now. I bet you have to think about it. Not so my Doppelganger. He’s got a kilt on, he knows it and he wants you to know it too. He’s looking at you to see if you’re looking at him.
Oh, and the look is just too good. Real kilt wearers known that only Allah is perfect. There is always something wrong: socks too short, hemline too high or too low, training shoes instead of ghillie brogues. Mine stinks of beer and it is my “fat kilt”: the one I purchased in my mid thirties as opposed to the one I bought in my mid twenties. I hope to be back in my “thin kilt” next season.
Like most true kilt wearers I forget I am wearing it when I am sat on the metro with my legs wide open. I bend down to pick things up and onlookers are reminded of the battle scene from Braveheart. My Doppelganger would never make these mistakes. There is a procedure and he has studied it. The rest of us don’t have the time.
When I look at him, he looks away. He knows he has been rumbled. This is why I never see him for more than a few seconds. He is looking at me looking and him and he knows that I know and so he vanishes into the shadows. He’s not so much a doppelganger as a poltergeist.
I’m not sure if I believe in the paranormal or not. But I do believe in parallel lives. There are only so many personalities to go round and so yes, I do believe that people are the same wherever you go. For every Brian living in Germany there’s a German Jock living in Scotland. I’ve met the German version of me, I’ve met the American version, I’ve even met the Danish version. And I’m convinced that this is the same for everyone and I find this reassuring.
On football days like today I often think about what life would be like if I’d stayed in the UK. Here, Saturdays are taken up with football in all its manifestations: matches, committee meetings, painting the clubhouse and mowing the grass. Pretty much exactly the same as when I was in North Yorkshire doing my A-levels. Football is the same wherever you go; it doesn’t matter whether it’s Northallerton Town FC or Borussia Dortmund. In den Farben getrennt — im Herzen vereint is what German fans say: Colours divide, the heart unites.
I’m reminded of a friend who worked in China for a year teaching Derbyshire English. A couple of folks went out to visit him and he took them out to a restaurant for some “real” Chinese food, not the fake stuff they serve up in Manchester. He ordered a plate of thinly sliced pork, a regional speciality, with a fried omelette and locally sourced lap cheong sausage on the side. It was only then that he realised that his favourite Chinese meal was an exact replica of a British cooked breakfast.
Spooky? The paranormal at work? Fake news? I won’t comment except to say this.
The German words for “poltergeist” and “doppelganger” are Poltergeist and Doppelgänger. How spooky is that?