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March 16, 2003
Ich bin ein Phafflebusser
I've been meaning to get to the Port Fairy Folk Festival for many years, and last weekend I finally got there. I took Razza and Mayhem and spent one last weekend pretending to be a hippie.
A crucial part of the operation was my antique Kombi Van, the troop carrier of choice for the Woodstock generation. I was astonished to discover that the Kombi Van, despite being a German car, is not actually called "a Kombi Van" in Germany. Razza, a reliable person of German origin, said that it's called a "VW Bus," which I found shocking and confusing. To further complicate the issue, "VW Bus" is pronounced in a German accent, which means it sounds something like "Fowl-Vee Bus." Try as I might, I found this impossible to say. The closest I could get was "Phafflebus," which Razza assured me was completely wrong.
Undeterred by this, I sought the counsel of Mayhem. She also assured me that I was completely wrong.
I've yet to introduce Great Mayhem, and it's high time I did so. Her parents took the unusual step of naming her after a small village in South Yorkshire. Nestled on the banks of the River Ow, it's only a few miles away from Upper Psychosis, in one direction, and Middling Indifference, in the other. Last year, in a bid to boost tourism, the local council created the Neurotic Trail, which struck a chord with disaffected Londoners, who now visit the area in astonishing numbers and buy t-shirts and postcards. Mayhem keeps up to date with these developments, but doesn't take them personally, which is probably just as well.
Mayhem asked Razza what "Port Fairy" would be in German, and got the delightful answer of "Elvenhaven," which earned her a spontaneous round of applause. Elvenhaven, officially, is only a three or four hour drive from Melbourne, but that's driving a normal car, and a Phafflebus is clearly not a normal car. For a start, it looks like an oversize refrigerator with a bumper bar, and by an extraordinary coincidence, actually is an oversize refrigerator with a bumper bar.
A Phafflebus is capable of moving at almost any speed, but only when it's sitting on top of a more powerful vehicle, such as a road train or a liquid oxygen propelled rocket. Road trains and rockets were unavailable, so we had to plan accordingly. The festival started on a Friday, so we left on a Tuesday. We departed Fitzroy as the sun was coming up, and by the time it was high overhead we'd reached the western edge of Fitzroy.
The relaxed pace of our journey meant that we had plenty of time to fill in, so I suggested playing one of those games that I could win. Both Razza and Mayhem were against this idea, so we compromised and played a game that I could lose.
The game we picked was "translate everything into German." Razza, who's a literary translator, ran out to an early lead, and stayed there for the rest of her life. Mayhem, in second place, put on a surprisingly good show, and I didn't. The problem is that I have a very sophisticated level of incompetence with other languages. This is best illustrated by an interview I gave several years ago:
Is it true you can speak French?
So as we drove along we'd translate our conversation into German. I soon realised that I only knew one word of German, and that was Phafflebus, which wasn't even real German. Eventually I thought to ask what "passenger" was in real German, to discover that it's "fahr gast." This means something like "drive guest," but I was struck by the sound of the words: "far gust." A distant wind. I also liked the word for "Kombi Van driver," which is "Phafflebusfahrer." But then I tried to say it, and nearly crashed into a tree.
So I shortened it. I called myself a Phafflebusser. Razza and Mayhem were Phafflegusters. Together, we were Phafflevolk. We filled the car up with Phafflejuice, and off we went to a volk festival. It took us three days to get there, but I had a new mantra to get me through the journey: Ich bin ein Phafflebusser.Posted by Sean Hegarty at 10:41 PM in the Kombi vans category | Comments (0)
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