MAT MARTIN | Emil

9 April, 2011, 18:56 | Blog · Touring · Writing

Two nights ago I played a show in Dachau with Kirsty McGee. Above the door of the café was a wooden crocodile on wheels. I was amused by its expression, and this broke the ice between us and the café owner, who later introduced us to a large man with a moustache. He also had with him some binocular spectacles, which of course we took turns to try on.

The conversation turned to lake swimming – a popular pursuit on a warm day in Bavaria. The man said ‘of course, there is a crocodile in the lake here – people are nervous to swim here now.’ We looked at him askance. I laughed out loud. He fixed me with a warm, beady eye as if to say ‘this is true, you know’. What he actually said was, ‘yes, his name is Emil’. This made our host laugh in turn: ‘Yes, Emil! What an old fashioned name for a crocodile!’. This was of course my principal concern with the story so far, too. Who would call a crocodile Emil at this point in the history of dangerous reptile distribution?

The moustached man continued: ‘Yes, he was my crocodile – we were friends and I used to take him swimming with me in the lake. He was not too long then and he never bit anyone’. I considered asking if he had wheels like the one above the door. ‘But one day he went down and didn’t come back up again. I had to give up and go home alone.’ The note in his voice made me think that he perhaps was for real with this crocodile story. A man with binocular specs who would keep a crocodile as a pet in Germany was, after all, perhaps to be expected to take it swimming on a warm day. It’s what crocodiles do.

‘Of course, no-one knows how long a crocodile lives for round here,’ said the man. Maybe he is still under there. I guess it is a bit cold once you get down to a certain depth. Maybe his body shut down and he went into a kind of hibernation.’

Apparently no-one has been bitten by Emil, but he is a local celebrity, and people keep reporting sightings from the lake, like those that come up from time to time around Loch Ness. I’m not sure what he eats, but then if he is asleep maybe that’s okay. Of course, I might have eventually bought into some nonsense. I did feel like going to the lake though, just in case.

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