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Isaura the slave-girl December 28, 2005

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

“Maybe I’ll go and write something on my blog then.”

“Write what a bastard you are,” came the helpful suggestion. With those words, I left the Russian in the kitchen, slaving, like Isaura the white slave-girl, as he likes to put it. He is the chief cook in the house, it has to be said. I do the laying-table and cleary-uppy and washy-uppy bits afterwards. A division of labour he moans about rather a lot more than I do. Anyway, it’s got me free to blog while he is chained to the stove.

I’m afraid the weather’s going to have to get another mention. The slave-girl and I are fairly fresh back from a joint walk. (They always end in disaster.) Once I’d got the early stages of hypothermia waiting for Isaura on the street outside the flat, I realised that going for a walk in -5 isn’t actually that much fun. Yes, refreshing and all that, but not as nice as sitting indoors with the heating roaring expensively in the background. But we soldiered on. Now I am a moaner, and a poof, but I still purport to be a believer in the stiff upper lip. Which is why it is so fucking infuriating when you’re outstiffed by a Russian. But I suppose he’s always going to outdo me on the weather front. But it is just a tiny bit infuriating, as you realise on the first properly arctic day of winter that actually you really do need to dress rather a lot more carefully for weather like this, to have the word “warm” mouthed in a hail of icicles from somewhere in the immediate proximity. Now maybe I’m being a stickler, and the word that any Russian student will learn as meaning warm – тепло – doesn’t actually just simply mean warm. It also means not cold. But it does also mean warm. Bikini, swimming trunks, swaying palm trees, cheap booze warm. I don’t want that understanding to be prejudiced by an image of people grimacing as their limbs go numb and noses redder than the nearest AA convention.

“No, it’s arse cold.” But the clouds of ice that formed as I uttered my words perhaps meant they never made it to his frostbitten auricle.

When I studied in Russia in 1998, in a fairly northern town – just whipped out my atlas. As far north as the northern tip of the Faroes – I first understood this тепло-doesn’t-mean-warm-it-only-means-not-fucking-freezing malarkey when my hostess (not in a strip club) declared that it was ‘warm’ when the thermometer hit the dizzy heights of 0 degrees. Yep, that’s freezing point to you and me, but she had uttered the word ‘warm’ and I sensed an internal longing for Yalta or Sochi cloud her internal world momentarily. But there was no time for wishful thinking then. It was back to defrosting the washing she’d left out on the balcony to (freeze-)dry.

Anyway, where can one ski in Berlin? I possess neither skis nor coordination, so of course couldn’t possibly hope to perform any skiful act. But the Russian’s constantly gagging to go off for a bit of cross-country skiing as soon as it’s ‘warm’ and snowy enough. Any tracks in the environs, Berliners?



1. I hate my neighbours - December 28, 2005

The Westberliners used to ski on that Berg where the NATO golf-ball-antennae things are/were. Teufelsberg, is that what it’s called? My brain has left me for the moment. Anyway NATO were always a bit suspicious (but as it turns out, as ever, all the spies were inside in the warmth, armed with photocopiers, not skiing outside in the cold, with only a Super 8 camera to hand)… And there’s a Rodelbahn (apparently) in Volkspark Friedrichshain (on the Trummerberg)…

2. lukeski - December 29, 2005

I have to say that a bit of skiing wouldn’t go amiss here. Actually snowboarding is more my kind of thing (I think). Guess I’ll have to move to Mitteleuropa before next winter…

3. BiB - December 29, 2005

Lukeski, there’s a thought. Maybe you need to tear yourself away from the comfort zone of living in the Big Smoke and get your arse and surfboard – have you grown your hair? – over to the continent for a spell. You could be my ersatz (heterosexual) boyfriend. I’ve always much preferred hets to queens. I’m sure both IHMN and I can highly recommend it. (The continent, I mean.)

IHMN, which do you recommend more highly, the Big Smoke or the Bundeshauptstadt? (Where have you actually spent more time?)

4. leon - December 29, 2005

Speaking as someone who is deeply enamoured of the disgusting spectacle that is London (people always claim that they like it because it’s ‘always changing’; I disagree, it’s always the same, it’s the things people choose to project onto it that interest me), I actually preferred Berlin in many ways. But then again I was only visiting, it might be different to live there.

5. lukeski - December 29, 2005

I was thinking of somewhere a bit further south with a little more Staropramen and Gambrinus. And a famous king who appears in an English carol.

6. BiB - December 29, 2005

Well, I always think the Czech Republic is the perfect compromise for those with a yearning for the Slavic soul. The Czechs ARE the Dutch of Slavdom. They haven’t got the tragedy of the Poles built in. And obviously they’re fantastically good-looking. Their beer can’t be as good as the German stuff, but I’m sure you’d cope heroically. Aber another new language? Are you sure you could bear it?

Leon, I might try to get a raging heated Berlin-London debate going. Trouble is, whenever I specifically ask folk to comment on something, I’m bombarded with silence. Might give it a try, though, if I’m feeling brave.

7. leon - December 29, 2005

“I was thinking of somewhere a bit further south with a little more Staropramen and Gambrinus”. That’d be Camberwell, last time I checked…

[BiB] The nice thing about Berlin is that there’s a) a lot less of the depressing paraphenalia of the commuter lifestyle around you (harassed-looking people in cheap suits, people swilling bad white wine in identikit All Bar Ones, etc) and b) much of the shabbiness is quite genuine, rather than artfully preserved shabbiness a la Hoxditch. All this a result of fewer people having gainful employent, I suppose.

I do remember one very good Czech beer from when I was there years ago, a dark beer called Eggenburg. Never seen it get as far as the UK.

8. I hate my neighbours - December 29, 2005

I’m off to the land of Staropramen and Becherovka (and, er, Eggenburg) tomorrow morning. “Big Smoke” or “Hauptstadt der DDR”…hmm. Well I’m not sure if the outskirts of the District Line count as “Big Smoke” – and I spent the first 18 years of my life there (as compared to the last 7 here). I prefer it here, partly for the reasons that Leon has given, but mainly for the fact that I can live in poverty here (and get by) on 2 days work a week, where as everyone I know in London lives on very little money but has to work a 38 hour week for it (and spend about 3 hours a day commuting).

If I could be bothered to do that much work here, I’d be rich! (Or, in fact, I’d be paying a lot of income tax, to make up for the fact that Schröder’s government cleverly abolished taxes for businesses, leaving a bloody big hole in the state kitty/Staatskatzen). Obviously I’d have no time to do anything with that money, which is the down side of working every day.

9. I hate my neighbours - December 29, 2005

Lukeski: sadly, I read somewhere that “Beckton Alps” closed down a few years ago. So I have no idea where you could ski in London. Leon?

10. BerlinBear - December 29, 2005

BiB, you need to get hold of the latest Tip. Just came out yesterday, I think. And it has one of those little mini-books they do stuck on the front, called “Der Winterplaner” or somesuch. Anyhow, it has in it, amongst other things, a list of all the places in Berlin you can go iceskating, sledding, etc. That’d sort your Russian out.

And on another note, if you do get the whole London/Berlin debate going, I will have something to say – and I will be coming down on the Berlin side, big style. So go on, get that post written. Can’t wait.

11. I hate my neighbours - December 30, 2005

BB, sorry, but whatever the Tip says, just surely has to be avoided, doesn’t it?

12. leon - December 30, 2005

Not sure about where in London one can ski in this day and age. Ice skating rinks seem to be sprouting up everywhere though. It’s nearly impossible to walk anywhere throughout Central/West London anymore without falling on your arse, as you will most likely be standing on a skating rink (slight exaggeration there). It’s also getting very difficult to find non-mulled wine, but such is life.

I was right about Eggenberg beer (though not about the spelling) – click on my name for more details. No idea what Cesky Krumlov is like nowadays; it was wonderful about ten years ago, which means it’s probably heaving with Austritsy and Yanks by now.

13. I hate my neighbours - December 30, 2005

It takes 10 hours to get to Český Krumlov by train from here, perhaps you’d want to take a look next time you’re in Berlin?

14. leon - December 30, 2005

I certainly would. I’m quite surprised Ceske drahy (can’t be bothered doing the accents) still run trains there, actually, as when I was there the line was barely visible under weeds and the train itself (I got one from Gmund to Budejovice and then another to Krumlov) was in the final stages of decreptitude.

15. BiB - October 16, 2006

You make the Czech Republic sound wonderful. I want to get a dilapidated train somewhere along weed-infested tracks, and drink that eggy beer.

Hm, that Berlin-London debate still hasn’t materialised.

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