November 2, 2014 by helenwaldron
In which Hamburg is compared to Venice and Writewell fills in a form incorrectly. ***
Insurance. The business of trading on people’s fears, thought Writewell, as she fed the Happlon Group address into her sat nav.
Although to be fair, Happlon had been around almost at the birth of the industry. They were one of the oldest insurance agents for shipping in Europe, located in the Old Town, a stone’s throw (or an insurance broker’s hop) away from the business worlds of the Town Hall and the Stock Exchange in one direction, and from the Docklands and the river Elbe in the other.
Let’s hope they have parking, thought Writewell, grimly ignoring the beauty of the wrought iron lanterns over stone corniced bridges and the canals beneath. Hamburg has more bridges than Venice, but like many towns it has built over its waters to gain more land. In Hamburg the canals were called “fleets,” reminiscent of the River Fleet in London, now all but bricked over. All these cities are built on water. It seemed appropriate that Fleet Street in London, where the newspapers had once had their offices, had a river flowing underneath it, washing away the previous day’s news.
They did have parking. Happlon’s offices spanned one of the old buildings, but also a modern block with an underground garage.
At reception Writewell was asked to fill in a form.
“Mr Happlon’s expecting me.”
“Everybody has to fill in a form,” said the receptionist firmly.
The form said “Name”, so Writewell wrote down her name; Julia.
Then the form said “First name.”
“Damn,” said Writewell. “Could I have another form, please?”
“No,” said the receptionist. “Ms Julia,” she added, looking at the botched form. “Mr Happlon is on the fifth floor.” She pointed to the lift and then, turning her full attention away from Writewell, she picked up the phone and informed Frau Reppentrop that a visitor was on her way.