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Mario and Mario November 29, 2005

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

The festive season seems to have come especially early this year. Or perhaps I’m just in a good mood. But having had the odd fear that Blogland had maybe had its day, or was in a rut, it seems all sweetness and light again now. Mark’s got a nice old chat about whether (Anglo-)Blogland is pullulating with public school boys raging chez lui, Pavvers goes in for a spot of (not too harsh) self-criticism but ultimately concludes that blogging is good for you, IAF also wonders about the class-factor in Anglo-bloggery but manages to blog some straightforward shagging too, in time for Advent, Liukchik finds reason to smile in other blogs and Wyndham the Triffid manages to amuse even when plotting the demise of his fellow man. OK, there’s a touch of an unfestive spat going on in the comments to a post at PooterGeek, but emotion of the hour for Blogland seems to be lurve. So maybe some folk are fretting what this whole blogging lark is all about, but we can cope with that. Maybe we’re a bunch of geeky nerds with too much time on our hands and a preference for the virtual to the real. But so what if we are? Let’s be geeky, send each other messages, pat each other on the back and tell each other stories.

I’m in a fiercely story-telling mood these days. Again, it must be the festiveness. I’m constantly remembering amusing old anecdotes that I think deserve an airing. And why the bugger not? Here’s as good a place as any to store them before my drink-addled brain loses them for ever. And so, apparently induced by nothing, Mario and Mario have popped into my head.

Mario and Mario were a couple – no, not in that sense – of Croatians I met at the Volkshochschule, or Adult Education Centre (according to Leo), when I first arrived in Berlin in October 2001. The German-as-a-foreign-language course was marvellous. Not for the lessons, which were pretty dull (and started at 8am and lasted for 2-and-a-half hours), but because it was so precisely like Mind Your Language – incidentally, the episode described here reminds me so much of an incident when my father’s colleague, an Italian named Franco, decided that he and my father, who did the pools together, had hit the jackpot. “Me anna Timmy (my father’s name was Owen, incidentally) winna pool. We winna jackapot. We winna million a poun,” he was heard to scream around the premises. They had in fact won 200 quid – and we all fitted our national stereotypes so perfectly. There was the little gaggle of eastern European beauties, all called Natas(c)ha Schmidt, or Olga Braun, who’d been purchased on line and shipped over from Ukraine/Russia/Latvia. There were the effusive Latins – Peruvians, Cubans, Mexicans – who never shut up but kept us amused. There was the odd miserable Pole, always on the verge of tears. The occasional old DDR Gastarbeiter – Vietnamese, say – who thought it was time to get to grips with the language after all these years, a couple of us sleepy Englanders in one corner, the odd colonial here on business (NZ, USA), and Mario and Mario.

Mario and Mario were the most stereotypical of all, although I had thought they were Italian to start with. But they were perfect southern Slavs: like their northern cousins – philosophical, charming – but without the gloom. Mario 1 was more outgoing than Mario 2. And Mario 1 was the thorn in our teacher’s side. Any question he was asked would always be answered with something along the lines of, “Bier, Fussball, Frauen,” which must be Croatian for, “Wein, Weib, Gesang.” She would huff prissily at the predictability of his answer. He would look for moral support from the other men in the class and ask, “Aber was mehr gibt es?” Beer, football, women. That was Mario’s lot, and perfectly happy he seemed with it too.

Mario and Mario were, it goes without saying, best friends. I thought they’d probably met two weeks before and that I could easily be vying for that best friend spot within days if I played my cards right, but, no, Mario and Mario, it turned out, had grown up together in Zagreb, fought in the war together AND worked at TGI Friday in London together. Now that is a labour of love. Mario and Mario were never to be parted.

Months later, I saw them stick something on a lamppost down the road from where I live. I dashed to see what it was. Turned out they’d set up a flooring business together. Good old Mazzer and Mazzer, I thought. They’re the type I’d love to be. Happy to try their hand at anything to get on in life. Probably not liking Germany THAT much but seeing it for the opportunity it was.

For similar reasons, it’s why I’m chuffed to bollocks about the eastern European folk from the accession states who’ve turned up in London in such numbers. The Poles, the Lithuanians, the Latvians… They’re there to work, and work hard, if need be, to make a living. But not only are they good for the work-force. Much as I like to moan about my time in Russia and as many minus points as there are to life there, what also needs to be remembered is that most eastern Europeans – excuse the generalisation for people from about 20 countries, but I think it works – are fantastically well-educated people who, I think, would be a great boon to British society.

I only hope that some of them stay on once they’ve made their (relative) fortunes.



1. lukeski - November 29, 2005

Blog more dear boy. We will both have to work incredibly hard to reach the standards of In Actual Fact, whose post Cheap, Meaningless Sex is, I believe, almost perfection.

2. Broke in Berlin - November 30, 2005

Lukeski, I’m delighted you’ve discovered IAF. He’s awfully good, and a fellow Englander stranded in Germany. Not only does he write nicely and entertainingly and wittily, he also takes the trouble to comment on every comment, which is awfully gentlemanly, you’ll agree. Comment and you’ll see…

3. Wyndham the Triffid - November 30, 2005

I say, thanks for the link. Nice picture – are you single?

4. actualfactual - November 30, 2005

lukeski: Look, comments like that are only going to fuel my feelings of adequacy and I’ll be off looking for a publishing deal or some other such madness. Okay, that particular post did get put in the “Blogged” book, which Mr. Holland got a post in too (although he has a far greater sense of decorum about talking about it than I, despite the excellence of his piece). Thank you all the same, I’m truly flattered.

BiB:Awfully good? Well, without wanting to admit the kind of school I attended, I’m going to print this comment page out and glue it to my English GCSE certificate. I’m the proud owner of a grade “E” in English Literature GCSE, which I suppose implies I can’t read and my English Language mark wasn’t much higher.
By the way, my instant comment notifier is broken at the moment, so I might not actually reply to every comment. Also, I know I was in JSoc at university, but when I read IAF, I think of these people, and I’m scared of flying.

5. Broke in Berlin - November 30, 2005

IAF, you cunning old stealth Jew. I never knew. But aren’t you from Staffordshire (he asks, thinking this must be the unlikeliest spot on the diaspora map)? I’m a wannabe Jew, and am still asking my mother, at the age of 35, are you SURE your mother’s maiden name – hopelessly Celtic. Might as well have started with a Mc – didn’t end in -stein? But, alas, no, I must resign myself to goyhood. Anyway, accept our humble praise and get onto every publishing house immediately. (By the way, what was Mark’s post that made it into that famed book?)

Lukeski, I am going to take a line out of IAF’s book, so to speak, and answer everyone in turn. The nice thing about being your blogging big brother is that I can dictatorially swerve you towards blogs I like. So, in case you haven’t read Mark, whom IAF refers to, do. It’s full of lovely rants from another perfect gent.

Wyndham, my very newest blog pal, alas, I am not single. But my mother – we’re very similar, if ya hear what I’m sayin’ – is.

6. Broke in Berlin - November 30, 2005

…and anyway, isn’t there Mrs. Triffid to think of?

7. Broke in Berlin - November 30, 2005

You old convenience Jew, you! That was cunning. I am becoming ever more convinced that you are something of what our Russian friends would call a babnik (baba = lady, -nik you know). A roister-doister indeed. (Quite right. Endless Black Adder in my youth. (My cousin and I used to try to get through our favourite quote, “…and thruppence for a celebratory slap-up binge at Mrs. Miggins’ pie-shop,” without collapsing into laughter. We still haven’t managed it.) A Hungarian in my 6th form once told me that if it weren’t for Black Adder, I’d have no humour at all. So ruthlessly unmasked by an immigrant teenager. The shame! The shame!)

I’m so going to get sacked. I have a deadline for tomorrow and am nowhere near finished. Have spent the whole day in awe of blogdom.

Have Faber & Faber got back to you yet?

8. actualfactual - November 30, 2005

BiB: I’m not Jewish, but I have enough great aunts (German and Polish child refugees from the 30s) and so on that although I might even have got away without compulsory sterilisation according to the Nürnberg racial purity laws (on the condition that I condemned a fair chunk of the family to death, of course)….I er naturally, was drawn to the president of JSoc during freshers week at uni. It had absolutely nothing to do with her looking gorgeous and asking me out for dinner either, no sir…..

9. Mark Holland - November 30, 2005

Tim put this post of mine into his book. Spooling mistooks and all. I still can’t believe that I’m a published author.

10. lukeski - December 1, 2005

this is now your second most popular post evah! And they say flattery gets you nowhere….

11. Wyndham the Triffid - December 1, 2005

Mrs Triffid is history – I’m only thinking of ewe now.

Heh. Heh. Hehehehehehe.

*Wyndham sighs and once again picks a speck of lint off his shoulder before leaving*

12. Blonde at Heart - August 29, 2006

You are a Black Adder fan? Oh my God!

13. BiB - August 29, 2006

BAH, well, it’s a long time ago now, but, yes. The funniest comedy I’d ever seen on British TV.

(Fun coming this far back and looking at old comments. Wyndham now in semi-retirement. Lukeski still then a novice. Mark then and still a grand old man of blogging…)

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