Handy April 29, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
…which is German (and Finnish) for mobile phone.
The Russian, when out shopping for some new accessory for his stinking computer – we might have to move to a bigger flat to accommodate them all soon – found a mobile. He announced this with unnecessary anger to me upon his return, as if I had forced him into a particularly thorny moral dilemma. I asked, good-citizenishly, if he’d rung its owner. “Нет.” My petit bourgeois housewife genes went into overdrive and I took the job on with full Margo-Leadbetteresque vigour. (Gosh Paul Eddington was a diamond geezer. Has anyone ever seen him interviewed? Incredibly nice man.) Obviously I had a good rummage through the phone beforehand though. “Who owns a Handy like this?” I mused, in a Boston accent. The make was exactly the shitty one I got two of “for free” with my laptop before Christmas (or was it the laptop free with the two mobiles? Daggi, you were so right not to go for the same deal. I’ve never had higher phone bills in my life. I checked the mailbox in New Zealand – admittedly a silly thing to do – and it cost over 30 euros. Thieving cunts), an extraordinary lightweight piece of crap which I initially took for a maquette of the ‘real’ phone I would find as I waded through further packaging. Anyway, so the loser – of the telephone, I’m not casting aspersions – had a crappy phone like mine. This made me think they must be working class, plus they’d lost it on our street, which reinforced that suspicion. What reinforced it doubly was that the crappy piece of plastic had a camera in it. “This person’s life just so hasn’t got anything to do with Heidegger,” I continued, Bostonianly. The loser had also plumped for a two-tone variety of shoddy plastic. Hmm. I began to go through the address book to see if there was an obvious number to phone in preference to all others. Gosh, you can get to know a lot, it turns out, about a mobile-loser from their lost goods. Within minutes, I knew the loser’s parents were divorced, that it had grandparents (not divorced. Honestly, the parents of today), that it had a brother and a sister (3 children, eh? Mutti doing her bit to keep the population up) (and it called brother and sister Brüderchen and Schwesterchen, so that suggests a happy family, at least, since father fucked off, perhaps. Although relations with him clearly weren’t too bad as it had his home and mobile numbers stored too) and that it had a darling, listed as ‘darling’, in English. Hmm, probably a girl, then. I don’t think a boy would write ‘darling’, in English. Mind you, perhaps, if he was 18, and a closeted homosexual, say, and this was his first girlfriend. Or maybe the loser was just a homosexual and ‘darling’ was his boyfriend. Or it was a lesbian. Or just a girl. Mother, it turned out, had a job, as there were two numbers, so quadruply respectable by Berlin standards. A job! In 2006? NO-ONE who’s anyone has a job in Berlin. Jobs are seriously uncool. But Mutti had a job. There was a work number and a mobile number for her. I fingered onwards, and eventually hit the jackpot with My Home Number. I got dialling, bracing myself to speak German for the first time in months. Pants. Answering-machine. I fumbled a sentence, avoiding articles where possible, in a sort of telegramese – My-name-BiB-Handy-found-*-Straße-my-number-* – and put the phone down. “Hm, that won’t do,” I thought, Margoly, and decided to ring Mutti on her Handy. Another answering-machine, but with Mutti’s name, so I now knew the phone belonged to a person with a bog-standard German surname. I also called Mutti’s mobile from the lost goods and a recorded woman told me there wasn’t much money left in the phone and could I jolly well get on and fill it nicely back up with money. “Hm, unemployed young person or child,” I concluded, with ever-increasing smugness and certitude. But mother sounded normal enough in her message. No overtly Berlin accent. No long-term alcohol problems. All in all, she sounded your average, early-40s, short-blond-hair-and-glasses divorced mother of three teenagers. I repeated my telegram and hung up, wondering what exciting twist the saga would next take.
About half a nanosecond later, the average, early-40s, short-blond-hair-and-glasses divorced mother of three teenagers rang back. “You heff found ze telefon of my daughter,” she said, with a hint of accusation, and in real, not comedy German. “Yes, yes,” I said, trying to sound urbane and not-foreign. “Well, I’m at home now so your…” “Oh, she is already on ze vay.” “Oh, good, well, my surname is…”
“Bzzzzzzzz.” Fuck, that was quick. I’d hardly had time to make further judgments about Mrs. Standard-German-surname’s daughter before having to speak to it, I mean her, at the door. “2nd floor.” I opened the front door and could hear the guffawing and ecstatic gushings of a multitude of teenage girls thundering enthusiastically up the stairs. I braced myself for exposed midriffs, ipods and the combined odour of cigarette and kebab. The perfectly-ordinary-actually daughter, not reeking of Döner, then loomed into view with her acolytes, gushing gratefully and politely before skipping off out of my life again for ever.
Because I’m insane, it all troubled me inordinately. Not her divorced parents and the slight wankiness of the phone itself, but that the cunting thing should have been deemed a thing of such total importance. I imagine her guffawing, dribbling acolytes must have been part of a search-party that she’d had casing our Straße since the moment the loss was observed. The speed with which she got here means she simply must have had a helicopter on standby for when the important news came in. (She may, of course, have lived nearby.) And perhaps she’d eaten a lot of sugar today, or was herself of unsound mind, or was giggly in an American-teenage-tennis-player kind of way, but I slightly minded her being SO happy at her phone being found. I thought she ought to be saving that level of happiness for when something REALLY good happened, like when she discovers she’s done well in some exam or other, or been accepted onto her nail-varnishing course or, heaven forfend, when she discovers a loved one whom she thought was in danger in Turkmenistan was in fact alive and well. But not for a flipping Handy. I could hear her and her friends continue their gush as they frolicked off back down the stairs, amazed at the miracle of all that had happened. Or perhaps she has an inexhaustible supply of happiness and I should try to resist the urge to turn into the grumpy old git who tells children playing on his street to keep the noise down. But the kids of today. We were happy with an apple at Christmas.
Still, if Mrs. Standard-surname sends us a bunch of flowers on Tuesday, all will, of course, be forgiven.
Furnishings sought April 28, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Darlings, I’m a bit mystified what this all means, really, but it seems to be a project to get all that junk out of your life and send it to Kreuzberg, as far as I can understand. Let the Wessis have it, that’s what I say. (Damn, and due to a major bout of DIY last week, we threw away a perfectly shit IKEA Carlos (or maybe Stefano) which could easily have gone to a bad home in the West. Aber zu spät. I had suggested to the Russian that we at least neighbourlily put up a notice (presumably to then be bollocked by the Hauswart for having used sellotape or blu-tak or whatever the forbidden adhesive du jour happened to be) to ask if anyone wanted to ruin their lives with a piece of unspeakably shoddy junk. But he had it flat-unpacked in minutes and I still await the repercussions from potentially having chucked it all in the wrong big bin. I know just how Mandelshtam felt, scared of the doorbell and all that. Though perhaps the Soviets were worse than the Hauswart, on second thoughts.)
Anyway, this has been forwarded to me by an awfully nice and kind person, and she’s involved in it, so this is the least I can do…
Franz, you do my head in April 28, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Doing a bit of blog-zapping this morning, I ended up here (can’t effing work out how to link to a single post there) and the mention of Schubert got me thinking about, well, Schubert. I am an utter dilettante when it comes to music (as in everything else) but I do at least know I adore Franz. Just adore him. Austria. I will never belittle your name again.
But it’s a complicated love. I find myself drawn to Schubert, erm, whenever he enters my head, really. And when I do dig out one of the few pieces I have, I can never tell if it’s having the wonderful effect I’m expecting it to or whether it’s secretly filling me with turbulent thoughts of gloom and misery. In any case, I stick to the knowledge that I love it.
The link in the Virtual Stoa post is to his songs. My own favourites are his piano works where Schubert is, at least for me, totally unshackled and at complete liberty. In my youth – long since forgotten – I would have only enjoyed the bombast of full orchestral works, but now I am never happier (or more disturbed. I don’t know which) when alone with Franz, a piano sonata and whichever genius is performing the damn thing. (Kovacevich and Uchida do it for me, but that’s only because they’re what I have lying around.) And although I think much of his work is disturbing, or at least clearly the result of a profoundly unusual mind – and thank god for that – I still think Schubert is good for a musical dilettante because I refuse to believe anyone couldn’t find these piano works beautiful, uplifting, depressing, mad, everything. I’m trying to think whether my mother – the litmus test for someone who hates everything – would bear to be able to lend it an ear, and I’m sure she would (while secretly wishing I’d turn it off so she could get back to Home and Away). A quick google has led me here, where there are a few free downloads. If I may, I can’t recommend the Impromptu – the second of the two freebies – highly enough. But what I turn to again and again and again in times of trouble, joy, woe, emptiness, standard-Thursday-afternoon-in-November-ness is the A major Sonata (D959). The Rondo, blasted extremely loud, is excellent for, well, making you forget everything else, really. It is also the music that was performed at the best concert I have ever been to, in a small concert ‘space’ where I sat an inch from the pianist and folk – not me, of course, because of being such an autistic arse – were shedding unwanky tears.
The troublesome thing about Schubert also for me is not just that his music so hits a spot – I repeat, I don’t know which one – but him. Dead at 31. It is thought from syphilis, or the side-effects of its treatment. But how can someone so young have produced so much? And have been such a genius? Well, I suppose we partly have illness to thank for this. Only a brain addled by some sort of madness could have given us such maddening beauty. When you think that some of these works were written within weeks of his death, his health a mess, I think that goes part of the way to explaining the complication of the emotions that some of these piano works are full of.
Abuse April 28, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Tags: booze, sport
Gosh, those flag posts don’t ‘arf (why not ‘alf?) take it out of you. I haven’t had such blogstipation since, well, the Punjab in ’77. I should never have risked that garam masala. And now, as shortly after any bout of the aforementioned ailment, I’m overcome with grief at all the vignettes I could potentially have blogged. All the little slices of life that would have had you gripped. All the tales of household bliss. Of blithe concubinage. Of intercultural relationships. Of DIY. Of how my Italian dictionary – note to self (another one): when asked to do an Italian-English translation, remind yourself, “BiB, you DO NOT speak Italian. Being able to pronounce the name of dishes and knowing that gn doesn’t have a g sound in it does not count” – was so made by a boy. In that inbetweeny bit where one lingo ends and its partner begins, there are a squillion illustrated-in-colour pages of boyish things with the Italian and English names for them. Who knew that ‘mud flap’ was ‘aletta parafango’ in Italian, eh? I think it’s Italy 1 England 0 on the poetry stakes there. Mud flap could only mean, well, mud flap, or be the name of a particularly grim village in some godforsaken county in the environs of the M62. Whereas Aletta Parafango… Well, Aletta Parafango could be anything. She could quite easily have been a revolutionary type. Dario Fo’s probably been to bed, or had wrongness in a meadow, with a heavily belipsticked lady called Aletta Parafango, cigarettes smoked throughout. Or it could easily be Italian for, say, Spotted Dick. (I once heard Spotted Dick said in the best comedy French accent ever. I mean, by an actual French person. He pronounced Dick ‘deek’, of course, but it was just perfect.) Or might easily be the Italians’ denomination for a type of spicy cocktail, a Shag at Butlins, or whatever that cocktail is called. Aletta Parafango. Marvellous. Hurrah for Italians. But I mustn’t translate from your language again. At least not for money. I just mustn’t.
Yes, so, blogging. Well, it’s relentless, isn’t it? You upload a few words to amuse yourself and hopefully another couple of kind folk and then before you know it it’s time to do another bloody one. Couldn’t blogger perhaps put a time limit on them, so that once you’ve reached 500 posts or whatever, your blog just nicely dies?
But, anyway, onwards and upwards.
So I was thinking. What to write about today, now that the occasion has presented itself so providentially. It was a toss-up. Football, of all things, so nearly won the day. Its defeat is not utterly ignominious because I’m still going to give Middlesbrough a mentionette. Did anyone watch their glorious victory over Steaua Bucharest? German commentary only made the occasion all the better. 3-0 down on aggregate and then storming back to win 4-3. It was north-east-tastic. But would I not like to bump into ANY female Middlesbrough supporter in a dark alley. Ever. I think it was the thought of getting mugged by them that made the players up their performance and do the fans proud. And don’t think for a second that I failed to mention to the Russian within a microsecond of the final whistle being blown that England has a team in two European finals and that Zenit – admittedly ‘our’ Russian team, from St. Petersburg – was knocked out by Partick Thistle or someone about 25 qualifying rounds ago. Because I did. “Probably Russian owns team,” he said back, languidly and good-lookingly. So I’ve stolen his cigarettes as a punishment.
No, what the meat of this post just has to be is booze. Awful news. I’ve given it up. Not for ever, I suppose, as then life would just be uncontemplatable. But, like it or not, I have, for the time being, given up booze. Which now means I am a non-person. Such a wrench. My personality only truly ever came to life/light once the first euphoria-inducing glug of Weissbier had passed my lips and tonsilless throat. I’m hoping there’s going to be an upside to all this, but it’s yet to surface. (Still, it’s only been a week.)
This is all to do with health, allegedly. I wrote a few posts back that my body now resembled something only vaguely reminiscent of the (male) human form. I am still mulling frantically all the ideas kind bloggers gave me about which sport an utterly unsporty blogger should take up. Frantically. The trouble is I still get a hot flush whenever I think that Mr. Decline and Fall does both rowing and weights. (God I fancy a beer.) But, anyway, I’ve decided booze is the root of all evil and that it has to – temporarily, I repeat – go. Which is awfully dreary. I’ve tried to make myself addicted to Bionade, but that’s no doubt full of sugar and since when has drinking Lucozade in a bar ever been vaguely acceptable? That said, I’ve already had a night or two out (and in) with folk drinking and I coped heroically admirably with that. It would be comforting to be able to say, “Gosh, as a non-drinker, sitting with drinkers, well, they were just so awful and really made fools of themselves and I’m just so glad I don’t drink.” But I can’t and they didn’t. They looked lovely and normal and happy and full of beans.
Anyway, I’m not a Protestant (or anything else), so don’t think self-abuse is the wickedest thing on earth (or is that Catholics?). So I’m looking for alternative forms of abuse until I can get back on the booze. Smoking’s definitely stepped up a notch. I find narcotics of the illegal kind too dreary for words, so don’t suppose I’ll be tempted down that road. (It’s not because of the illegality I find them boring. I’ve just never seen the appeal majorly.) But, in a twist to the suggest-a-sport theme, can you now suggest a vice so that I don’t fade away into monasticism altogether? Crime would be dreary. And I’m sure I’d be hopeless at mugging folk. (Erm, excuse me, would you mind awfully if I stole your handbag? Hopeless.) (Reminded of slice-of-life vignette from former life. Poverty. Youth. Ex-boyfriend. Bank bounced two cheques for the massive total sum of 50 pounds a second before ex-boyfriend’s salary went in and charged him precisely 50 pounds for the privilege. He rang to suggest this was perhaps a touch ungentlemanly of them and might they reconsider. They wouldn’t. At which pint he said to bank person, “Well, I’m going to have to go out and mug old ladies now.” “Well, I hope you won’t have to do that, Mr. BiB’s-ex.” Nice exchange.) Perhaps I could become an oligarch and buy Middlesbrough FC. Your best abusive suggestions are eagerly awaited…
The trouble with devolution April 19, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Tags: devolution, flags
Those are all knotty problems, admittedly. But the real problem is, if devolution takes the path that many fear it might and leads to the break-up of our glorious kingdom – in a Yugoslavia-but-with-cups-of-tea scenario, as I once heard Andrew Sullivan call it – is what are we going to do about the flag? Sorry, I’m being a bit anglocentric here. I mean, the Scots love their flag, I think. (The Russians wouldn’t have minded a cross of St. Andrew when it came to getting rid of the Hammer and Sickle and alternatives were being sought. I think it’s what they have on their naval flag(s?).) The Welsh, understandably, as it’s such a top flag, love theirs (or at least should). Northern Ireland’s probably appeals to the majority, but I don’t suppose the minority likes the cross of St. George and the red hand. (Mind you, what do folk think of the cross of St. Patrick on the Union Jack?) (Ulstermen might have to do a Bosnia and come up with some ludicrous compromise flag.)
No, I mean England. I’m aware we’re talking hypotheses here, and I don’t really think that the UK is going to be torn apart and that there’ll be tanks at Monmouth and Berwick-upon-Tweed. No, I’m talking pure aesthetics. I mean, I know the English have vaguely taken the English flag to their hearts and wave it when Jonny Wilkinson is parading around town on a bus – I’d wave anything I was asked to at a bus of rugby-players – and that teenagers paint their faces with it at football matches, pretending to be Scandinavian. (It’s a bit easier than the Union Jack, luckily for them.) But if, in some crazy twist of events, England really did find itself going it alone – at least then we wouldn’t have to justify to foreign folk why we have four football teams as one country and not one – would the Union Jack bite the dust? It couldn’t. It’s just too bloody pretty. So I suggest – I might send this to a think-tank, or have to set up my own think-tank. God, it must be because of spring. I’m (mentally) setting up NGOs and think-tanks like nobody’s business these days – that rather than a Yugoslavia-style break-up of blood and acrimony, we should have a velvet divorce, à la Czechoslovakia. Not only did they break up civilly and agree to remain friends, they even did a bit of border-fiddling to make sure Slovak villages ended up on the Slovak side of the border and Czech villages on the Czech side. But what to do about the flag? While it wasn’t as pretty as the Union Jack, in my view, that nice constructivist blue wedge was pretty original, and not to be done away with. But the Slovaks said, “No, you can’t. That’d be naughty, Czecho, to keep the old flag. We’re getting a new one, you should too.” To which the Czechs replied, “Erm, no.” And keep it they did.
This is all blogging’s fault, by the way. Nothing to do with jingoism. I was looking at my deeply unimpressive stats and my visitors tend to come from the UK and Germany. Germany’s flag is a touch dour. France’s is nice, in a straightforward way, but Lithuania’s – yes, I had a visitor from Lithuania, imagine! – looks like a colour-blind person has designed it. No coordination. Actually, Canada’s is pretty fab, so compromise solutions can work out after all. Maybe it is down to a yearning for warm beer and old maids and cricket on the green – mind you, I grew up in London. Our nearest bit of green was Queens Park, and no-one played cricket there. Just us local urchins and other nefarious ne’er-do-wells loitering, if I remember rightly – but I think we should keep the Union Jack and let Georgia have the cross of St. George all to itself.
Note to self… April 18, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Camels April 17, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Just an amusing detail from the night out, to make sure strangers are familiar with EVERY detail of my life. I met a wonderful, kind, nice, humble, beautiful, lovely friend – excuse the enthusiasm. It’s to make up for all the rude things I’ve written about German friends here in the past – and we went and danced and smoked and drank and beed merry. Over the course of the evening, drink taken, I chatted to some of the other patrons of the establishment. Nothing major. Just a minor greeting, say, as we waited for the barstaff to pay us their attention. Berlin, being a big city, is, not surprisingly, an international place. Within minutes, I had two international encounters at the bar. An Israeli queen said a hello but could only be unbitchy for ten seconds at a stretch and reverted to rudeness within moments. That relationship didn’t flower, then. An American queen and I then got chatting. I mentioned the bitchy Israeli queen and he said, I thought amusingly, “Shall we beat him up?” That tickled me, I must say. (He wasn’t serious, obviously.) He then said to me, “We could. You look pretty tough.” I look like Charles Hawtrey.
But camels. I abused my innards woefully and decided I needed a walk to start the detoxification process. Just as I was nearing our flat, on a patch of what is normally wasteland, a camel was wandering around with that dispossessed look on its face that camels always have. A touch surprising to see a camel in a fairly dreary bit of northern Berlin early on a Sunday morning. I didn’t pinch myself, or double-take, or anything like that, because I’m not in a book. But I did think it was decidedly odd. Awfully odd. Perspective, as is so often the case, saved the day. Once I had a full view of the exciting patch of wasteland, I could see the circus had come to town. (I must say, the circus can’t be raking it in for them to choose such a dreary location.) There was in fact more than one camel, and there were tigers doing that pacing-up-and-down thing in their cages. And tents. And ropes. And it all somehow looked utterly uninteresting, though maybe I have been inured to the circus since seeing a bear riding a motorbike at the circus in St. Petersburg and one of the tiger stunts getting cut short for fear of a Siegfried-and-Roy moment when a new recruit seemed a touch too frisky for his handler’s liking. (Mind you, a visiting friend from England told me it was better than what was on at the Millennium Dome.)
Anyway, I don’t know if it was the camels or a programme about folk driving across some desert or other I caught in a moment of insomnia, but it all got me thinking about desertification. Even the BBC’s come up with the goods to satisfy me today with a video story on its site about sandstorms now being a frequent feature of Beijing life. So couldn’t it be stopped? Couldn’t it all be turned green? I remember on one long-haul flight, the aeroplane map plotting our route had very nice graphics and I could see that the Sahara was now creeping into northern Nigeria. And as pretty as the middle-of-the-night programme was, and as much as I like Le Petit Prince, it’s not much good, is it, this desertification lark? No good to man or beast. Well, OK, camels, but as the circus shows, they can adapt happily to wasteland in Berlin, so they wouldn’t mourn its passing too much.
So what do we do? Haven’t the Israelis managed to turn the desert green? Or bits of it? And didn’t Gaddafi/Qadafi/Gadafy have some project which involved boring down incredibly deep and eventually coming across water, thus turning the desert green again? And didn’t the Chinese have some huge project to plant trees between Beijing and the desert precisely to stop the sandstorms? (They’re perhaps not being very successful.) I don’t, as anyone who’s lingered here for more than half a second might have gleaned, know my arse from my elbow when it comes to anything practical, but I DO know words like capacity-building, sustainable, empowerment and ownership so think I have the savvy to start an NGO to undertake a massive tree-planting/irrigation/whatever-it-takes programme to make the Sahara bloom. All we need is a whopping EU grant to do a bit of fact-finding and write a mission statement and then do a bit of evaluation of something or other and we’ll be laughing. So who wants in? And I suppose we’ll need a sexy, punchy, catchy name. All suggestions gratefully received…
Update: flip, others are onto us. Better be quick…
My favourite teleologists April 16, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Tags: filth, teleology
I am fully aware that this blog has plumbed the depths of filth and degradation in recent days, but before I move on to matters intellectual and bring you the BiB’s-favourite-teleologist range, I’ll keep it vulgar for just one more post, if you don’t mind awfully.
Now I know we’re living in a largely post-religious era – well, OK, some of us in some bits of the world are – but pornography in Easter eggs? Isn’t that a tad rude? The Russian purchased a couple of Easter eggs yesterday in a nod to non-Orthodox Christianity. (Theirs is in two weeks, now you’re asking.) Only wee ones, because we’re not children. And we’re watching our weight. (Ha!) These eggs were along the lines of Kinder eggs, but they weren’t Kinder. They were something else. But the principle was the same, right down to the plastic blob inside with a toy. I scoffed my egg in a jiffy, then struggled with the blob for a second and then gave up on creativity for the day as I couldn’t get the bugger open. I wasn’t overly distraught, be it said.
On my next trip to the kitchen, I saw a bit of plastic perched painfully in the cactus. Upon closer inspection, I saw it was Spongepant Bobsquares, with a look of utter euphoria plastered across his obscene features, being rogered by an equally euphoric pink blob, roughly the shape of the drop on a bottle of Vosene. “And where was this all happening?” I hear you ask. Good question… Only sitting in a hollow nutshell. Is this what the makers of toys now see as fit for children and middle aged queens watching their weight? Euphoric sponges and drops of shampoo engaged in such acts? It’s dumbing down, I tell you. They should never have done away with the O Level.
Shopping and fucking April 15, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
…but without the fucking.
Actually, a blogger saved my life. This blog now appears to do nothing but link to Berlin Diary (haven’t worked out how to link from e-mail yet. Tried it yesterday and BSE broke out all over the place. I’ll tweak and fine-tune later) but if it will be beautiful and such a useful life-guide, then blow me if I won’t link. Had a mosey over to Berlin Diary, then, and saw he was blogging about shopping. What, on Easter Saturday? You mean the shops are open? Obviously I’d missed the boat on Thursday and resigned myself for the festivities to a fridge which, while bulging with uninteresting items in the minuscule freezer-compartment – a whole (disease-free, we assume) chuck and some frozen fish – was a yawning chasm when it came to the in-betweeny section. OK, maybe a limp and mouldy old carrot, half a pepper and three drops of UHT milk. Still, we’d survive. But the shops are open, it turns out. What better way to avoid work, get a gram of fresh air into my pleuritic lungs, and purchase alcohol than go to my shop, which provides a blogging story one trip in three?
Only a minor shoppery today. The Russian had refused to come. I dashed to herald the exciting news about the shops. He was naked and chose to cover his genitalia with an item of clothing when I burst in on him in the bathroom. I could understand him covering his genitalia if a mere acquaintance, or even a relative, had walked in on him in the bathroom, but he must be aware that I am, not surprisingly, after a hundred years of concubinage, very intimately acquainted with his genitalia indeed. (Though less and less so with the draining of the sands, alas.) Anyway, perhaps from the shame at having his genitalia made an exhibit of, he refused to join me on the jaunt. He gave me the plastic ersatz euro for the trolley and off I went alone, whistling as I went. (I can’t whistle.)
I mooched up and down the aisles, eyes always alert for an exciting bargain and the hint of a good-looking man in the environs. No, this was a minor shoppery. No exciting purchases. And I hadn’t been paid yesterday, so wasn’t feeling falsely rich and doing things like buying caviar. No, a dreary minimum that could be carried by my own two fair hands that would get us through to Tuesday. Liquids, for weight reasons, had to be kept to a minimum. A single paltry bottle of (I hope delicious) Spanish red, a single paltry carton of apple juice, a single paltry flagon – sorry, running out of receptacle vocab – of mineral water. I trundled to the checkout. The old woman who had been wandering around with a young homosexual had been abandoned by him when it came to the hard work of putting the things on the conveyor. Fair-weather friend. I didn’t know if he was her grandson or social worker. But just as I was thinking of working out the grammar of offering to help, and just as she was nearing the end of her struggle, the homosexual appeared with a number of grooming products and stuck them on her bill. Hm, so social worker after all. She accepted it all in good spirits. She’d survived the war and had probably been deported from the Sudeten or Silesia at the end of it all and lived in a refugee camp for a couple of years. A freeloading homosexual wasn’t going to dent her spirits.
Once I’d finished battling with the conveyor and had dragged back my items to stop them getting mixed up with the slower old lady’s for the final time, the cashier and I got busy with our transaction. She can only be described as a working class gal. God had not been ungenerous with his endowment. If it wasn’t for the ludicrous make-up and obscene hair-colour, she could have been called pretty. Not nice, by any stretch of the imagination, but at least pretty. She bleeped away. I packed away. Then the working class gal made a noise resembling speech. I remembered with horror, yet again, that I lived in Germany. I’d hoped it was her holding up the spring onions to shout out, “Oi, Helga, ‘ow much is the fuckin’ onions?”, except in German, of course. But, I realised, to my horror, she was articulating at me. I hadn’t understood a word, it goes without saying. I leered plaintively. She was holding the flagon of mineral water in her hand and leering back, full of venom and hatred and with already thin lips pursed to virtual extinction. “Eene Kiste oder eene Flasche?” By the time I got round to understanding this was Berlinois for “crate or bottle?”, my mind had already wandered off to Magritte and other metaphysical questions. Why would she ask if this was a crate or a bottle, when it was clearly a bottle? OK, a flagon. She harried and hated further. “Eene Kiste oder eene Flasche?” “Oh, am I buying just a bottle or have I got a whole crateload of water on the trolley’s basement, you mean, you wicked witch?” I thought. “Just a bottle.” I indicated that she hadn’t noticed my voucher for the deposit bottles and fumbled slowly to get my card out when the time came to pay up. She cackled something about Schöne Feiertage and we bade our farewells.
I finished my packing, noted the presence of a 7-or-8-out-of-10 man at another till and prepared to trundle back into the real world, my thoughts already back on work, Madonna, Magritte, debts, genitalia, the Russian, we-need-to-buy-some-picture-frames and the like. A familiar mass loomed into view. The Russian, panting frantically, red-eyed from months of not having left the computer, coming from the opposite direction than if he’d been travelling between our flat and the supermarket (I suppose he could have got lost, but seeing as it consists of one left-turn, it’s unlikely, and there has never been any sighting of life in the direction he was coming from. Too odd), genitalia incident behind him, was clearly intent on shopping. We then had shopping stichomythia. “Tomatoes?” “No.” “Apple juice?” “Yes.” “Chocolate eggs?” “Fuck, no.” “Wine?” “Obv.”
Maybe he just doesn’t like being separated from the plastic ersatz euro. Maybe it’s his talisman. In any case, he grabbed it back and disappeared off into the shop. Relay-shopping. It’s probably the latest thing…
…further experimentation April 15, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Hmm, who fancies a beer?
Couldn’t Madonna hire a better rhymer, while I’m here and REALLY struggling for something to say? I’ll have you know I’ve been a ‘dialogue coach’ in my time, and I’m sure, given a financial incentive, I could branch out from being a pronunciation guide to giving hints on rhymes too. Now I like Madonna. And the Russian and I are known to occasionally fling ourselves around the living room for a few enthusiastic nanoseconds until my body caves in (at which point the Russian reminds me I am 40 years – or thereabouts – Madonna’s junior) to a Madonna number. Duly, I display enthusiasm for what I think is the latest album. But, Madders, please. The rhyming! York and dork? Mad, glad and sad? A bit weak. So Mads, if you happen to drop in on BiB, as I’m sure you probably do most days, let me know if you need my help. I could help you say all those foreign words you need to say better too, or do you mean to be so deliberate? Maybe it’s the Kabbalah. Anyway, normally, I wouldn’t charge much for proofreading rhymes, but I think you can nicely be expected to pay at least 50 times the going rate…
And I haven’t even had a drink in days…
Über den Tellerrand April 14, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
It’s the accidental discovery’s wot’s dunnit. Realising that I can now e-mail direct to my blog has liberated me from the shackles of my living room – sorry, our office space – and I’m now casting all caution to the wind and have actually, for the first time in BiB’s short history – I think we’re technically known as a start-up, still – decided to try and blog from elsewhere. So here I am… only fucking blogging from the kitchen!
Darlings, but this growth and progress comes at a price. Namely, to my conscience. You see, the thing is, this household is in possession of a laptop computer. It was decided it was a necessary addition to our technological portfolio back in January before I went on a junket to New Zealand as I didn’t want to be uninformed about market movements as I lounged around by swimming pools and drank fantastic local wine. Obviously, it wasn’t used for a single second and even now mostly sits dustily by the bed at BiB inc.’s Berlin office, but have one nonetheless we do. But the conscience thing… The thing is, we don’t have wireless in this flat. But someone else in the house does, obviously. And I do own that spatula thing that you can stick in the back of your computer to pick up wireless if it’s to be had in the environs. Darlings, is this theft? Is BiB inc. going to be taken to court and sued for theft of something or other? Or does etiquette mean I’m allowed to ponce someone else’s bandwidth? It feels awfully naughty. Thankfully, I don’t do it often, as, I repeat, the laptop mostly sits dustily by the bed, ignored. But the new-found freedom of realising I can e-mail my blog means I just have to try new things.
So here I am in the kitchen. I’m looking for kitchen inspiration. We’ve got an awfully nice kitchen table, in an awfully nice blue. It was found on the street (the table, not the blue. We never just find random splashes of colour for keeps on the street). It Paddington-bearishly had a bit of paper tacked to it, saying, “Rescue me,” or something along those lines (and in German). Rescue it we did, got the bastard home, painted it blue and here it now is, jerking – not in the American sense – violently as I tap away clumsily.
(Darlings, live experiment happening this second. Here I am, surreptitiously blogging, and the Russian has come in, cast a glance at the computer-screen and clearly thinks I’m writing to my old aunt Ethel in Tonbridge Wells. Brilliant. It’s working a treat, this ruse.)
OK, this is too much excitement and too much trickery for one experimental blog-post. I’ll be going to Potsdamer Platz soon to wankily post there (all the while pretending to be impressed by the architecture and that cunting fountain). And I so wanted to tell you about a new Eurovision site I’d discovered. Soon, soon…
…fuck April 14, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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This might be initial fervour speaking, but I see this as a fillip to my blogging credentials. I could never get away with sneaky blogging before as, if the Russian walked in and I was meant to be working, I could hardly pretend I was with that great, big, fuck-off blogging window open. There was just no way of pretending that was work. At all. But now, if the Russian walks in with his frown prepared in advance, I can say, “No, darling, I’m writing an important e-mail about that very important job that we’re both very eager for me to get so I can sit at the computer for just a bit longer and make sure my body atrophies just that tad quicker,” and he’ll be none the wiser. Oh, the delicious deceit of it all. (Flip, unless he gets up really close and sees the ludicrous e-mail address.)
Right, once I work out how to do links and photos and all that malarkey, I’ll be up and away.
Happy Easter, folks.
Does this work? April 14, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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Options April 10, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Tags: friends, suicide
Right, so pushy German friend is in town. Pushy German friend used to live in Berlin. Pushy German friend now lives in S_, rather a long way from Berlin (though still in Germany). PGf wants, while he is in town, for me to a) spend every second having hijinks with him or b) spend every second that we’re not having hijinks on the phone to him discussing how we’re next going to get round to having hijinks. I’m not anti-hijink, strictly. But there’s talk of the hijinks being extended into a phase 2.
Since PGf left the Hauptstadt for S_, he has spent most of the time on the phone to me asking me to come and visit. A reasonable enough request. But to a miserable anti-social old Wichser like me? But I have always fully intended to eventually plan to get round to going at some point or other. PGf thinks that time should be NOW, this weekend. Personally, I think that’s overdoing the sociability factor. PGf being in Berlin and then me going back with him to S_ for extended hijinks? Un peu trop.
OK, not the world’s worst dilemma. Unless you’re me. And barking. And, as discussed at various times in the course of this blog’s life, not THAT rich and don’t fancy spending quite an oodle of cash on a train trip to a not earth-shatteringly exciting town to spend time with PGf and his friends, none of whom I know (but who would no doubt be trying to organise my life for me, pushily, within minutes) and who are all, if I have gleaned correctly, 19-year-old frat boys. Though this would no doubt provide moments of eye-pleasure, the thought of talking about fencing (I mean with epées, not what you shut the neighbours out with) and having burping competitions, in German, appeals little. And it would be a new weapon in the Russian’s armaments to bring up in any future ‘conversation’ about money. (New Zealand’s got legs, let me tell you.) And, anyway, I don’t want to go.
So what do I do? What I WANT to do, and should do if I wasn’t English, was capable of saying no, standing up to pGfs etc. is say, “Sorry, pGf, I don’t want to spend a lot of money (that would get me and the Russian to Paris for a weekend) (though I wouldn’t say that bit) (well, I won’t say any of it) on a (long) weekend in S_. I’ve got work to do. It’s an extravagance I can’t afford. It will be a bone of contention at BiB Towers for ever and a day. I have no social interest whatsoever in 19-year-old strangers. And I like being at home, actually.” But I won’t say any of that. So what do I do?
I have a number of options, as I see it. Your advice is sought, natch.
1) Commit suicide. Seems a bit drastic for the sake of a few days in the provinces.
2) Fly to London, today, for a break. Hm, rather defeats the saving-money and having-to-work principle. Plus, I’ve checked Easyjet and it costs too much.
3) Hide under the bed till it all blows over. The Russian might not tolerate it. And there’s not much room to work under there.
4) Send an SMS to pGf saying, “Sorry, no,” then switch off my phone in a hurry before he can answer or ring and hide under the bed till it all blows over. Might raise stress levels.
5) 4) but without the hiding-under-the-bed part. Dunno.
6) Feign illness. Has served me well in the past.
7) Make myself ill. Dreary.
8) Go to S_ for three or four days, make the social effort, have a bearable time, come back and be livid with myself for having gone. Hm.
9) Go and have a nice time and live happily ever after and wonder what all the fuss was about. Unlikely.
10) Write an incredibly fraught and gut-wrenching SMS to pGf saying that, for various reasons, I find our friendship too difficult and I can never see you again. Touch drama-queenish, and not (really) true.
11) Become a monk. This is my favoured option, actually. But I don’t believe in god.
So your wise words are sought. How can I not go to S_ and satisfy my anti-social desires?
Better shape up April 8, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Now as the title of this blog suggests, I am not a rich man. But I’m not really broke, of course. I mean, often a bit knapp bei Kasse, but rarely facing starvation. In fact, since living in Russia and having got used to not being loaded here, I have a complicated relationship with poverty. I wouldn’t recommend it by any means, but then I don’t think it’s so bad either. I sometimes snigger when I think I might even qualify for some ‘official’ definitions of poverty. I don’t know what the German yardstick is, but if we do qualify, then I would be seriously concerned that my social justice tolerance indicator might lower a tad. For if I do qualify as poor, then poor just ain’t that bad. I have a roof over my head, heating, hot water, food and sometimes even booze and fags. A shirt on my back. Shoes on my feet. Bling on my fingers. (OK, that’s not true, but I’ve only just learnt the word bling and wanted to bandy it.) We have a number of household appliances. Computers. Mobile phones. A regular phone. TV. Fridge. Washing machine. Etc. Etc. Etc. I pay tax. I have health insurance. I go to England occasionally. Even to New Zealand, for fuck’s sake. I just can’t complain.
I do complain, of course. But I shouldn’t.
Anyway, the BiB household is a little bit LESS skint than usual these days. With rueful consequences. For the second we stop having to pay closer attention to what we buy, all concerns for health seem to go out the window. There is a poverty/regular-body-shape index and my curve has definitely shot off in majorly the wrong direction. It’s not all in the purchase, though. Poverty-reduction measures have entailed more sitting-on-arse in front of computer and less going-for-satisfactory-body-shape-maintaining walks. But there is the cheese. The cheese. When we’re properly poor, we might discard it altogether. But when we’re richish, we have it by the fridgeload. Different sorts. Goaty sorts. Bovine sorts. Creamy sorts. Crumbly sorts. Rubbery sorts. Just to make sure I look as ludicrous as possible, we found some lovelily friable Halloumi yesterday and fried it up with an oodle of bacon for extra calories. Woe are we. Especially me.
Yet I am not fat. Just ludicrous. I am now an utterly repugnant combination of fat and thin. I look a tad like Otto Dix’s pregnant woman. (I was actually looking for a far more grotesque picture than this but came across this one and thought it would do just as well.) Ludicrous skinny little arms. Two twigs of legs with big nodey knees. And then that unforgivable roundness of cheek and chin. And even more unforgivable sag of chest and stomach. My nipples are on far better neighbourly terms with my elbows than they ought to be. And I’ve gone beyond pretending that these jeans must have shrunk in the wash when I heave to fasten them. My weight has gone from a pleasing mid-to-late *ties to the disappointingly round number above.
None of which is to blame ‘wealth’. I have nothing against money. Nor is it strictly to blame cheese. The only good thing to say about having been relatively poor is that it enforces discipline. And in the first flush of wealth in a while, the anti-cheese will-power has been severely lacking.
So, it’s either time to shape up – by knocking the cheese on the head – or to… erm… shape up, by knocking the cheese on the head and doing some sport. But sport. Can someone recommend a version of it for the least sporty individual on earth? I’ve never darkened the doors of a gym in my life. I have been known to lift 10kg dumbbells in this very abode, but was disappointed that I wasn’t Dolph-like within weeks, although my nipples may have had to bid a fond farewell to my elbows and perhaps my arms didn’t look precisely like stringy bits of dead chicken. (Never did anything for my beanpole legs, mind.) But that tradition has gone into abeyance. Swimming makes me eat at least forty times my bodyweight the second I’ve swum more than half a metre, so that might be a mixed blessing. And I can’t do team-sports for various reasons: a) homosexuality, b) anti-socialness, c) (related to a) inability to co-ordinate leg/arm-ball movements.
So recommendations please. I am genuinely disgusted by the shape I’m in for the first time in some years. And I’m not willing to surrender to the steady decline of middle age just yet.
Filofax blues April 8, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Tags: filofax, melancholy
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I’m having post traumatic stress disorder syndrome. I think. I’m overcome with regret. I should never have bought those filofax pages.
Are Mr. and Mrs. Filofax, presuming it was just such a couple that invented the filofax phenomenon, Austrian? (I like, for babyish comic effect, to pronounce the first syllable of Austrian ‘awe’. I amused myself for a whole evening once with an unknown couple in a Berlin bar by accusing them of being Awestrian when they were from round the corner. They put up with me very charitably, including when I began to tell the exceedingly nice and kind gentleman of the couple that he wasn’t nearly nice enough to his very nice girlfriend. She assured me all the while he was a total angel but I was having none of it.) Because sifting through all the pap pages I got with my filofax pages – the ones that go straight in the recycling plastic bag – is one fanfaring Schulferien Österreich. Erm, aber how quickly do the words ‘egal’ and ‘Scheiße’ now come to mind? (I wonder what Steiermark’s like at this time of year.)
But back to the regrets. Nothing to do with a late-night visit to Melancholie and, I repeat, having to stand in a queue for half an hour to get in. Indeed, the only Melancholie that exhibition brought on was a) it wasn’t nearly gloomy enough and b) the Neue Nationale Gallerie seemed to have quadrupled in size since I was last there. My heart sank as I rounded every corner only to see art disappearing off into the distance before me. Oh, while I’m here, could Picasso just fuck right off? In the blurb next to some Picasso or other, there was an excerpt from a letter he’d written. In my fury, I chose not to make a better note of it, so my version could quite easily be utterly mendacious, but it went something along the lines of, “Don’t forget I am a Spaniard, and we Spaniards love melancholy.” No you don’t, you dead arse. Spaniards don’t at all love gloom. And know nothing about it. As didn’t you. So just shut the total hell right up. Now on the gloom front, Munch excelled himself, I thought. An awfully good performance from Edvard. He knew a thing or two about gloom. And being barking. Van Gogh provided the only thing of pure, sheer, total, utter beauty for me, but I’m a colour slut. Otherwise, I think I need to take up painting in time for Melancholie II. The skulls and webbed bits of animal turned me off within minutes.
But where were we? Melancholy. Ah, yes, Mr. and Mrs. Filofax. No, the regrets are seeing, along with the Awestrian school holidays and Lithuanian weights and measurements, all the events I’ve already missed this year. And not just in Awestria. No, right here in Berlin. The Messen und Ausstellungen 2006 (Alle Angaben ohne Gewähr, by the way, before the litigious among you see a quick euro in this) informed me, with undisguised cruelty, that I have missed the HomeTech – Internationale Messe für Hausgeräte (Trade Fair for Household Appliances, for the uninitiated) and, even more tragically, back in February, admittedly in Bremen aber immerhin, fish international.
Maybe 2006 will be shit after all…
Happy New Year April 7, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
No, I’m not getting my Pesachs mixed up with my Rosh HaShanahs. I mean happy 2006. It’s been a busy start to the year in the Bib household and I seem to have done nothing but work and worry since January 1st. Anyway, yesterday was declared a public holiday and we decided to go and have some art therapy, preceded by a bit of emergency retail therapy and succeeded by a bit of drinking, eating and smoking therapy. (Darlings, NEVER go to Amrit on Oranienburgerstr. It’s impossible not to eat twelve times your bodyweight, even if you just ask for a small glass of water and a slice of cucumber you’re inundated with rice and sweetmeats and all sorts of subcontinental delicacies.)I’ve explained before that the Russian(s) think(s) fun is a sin. Ease is also a sin, so every operation of any kind must be made as difficult as possible to make sure a hint of suffering somehow enters the equation. If the phone bill comes, and you have money in your bank account to pay it, hide it in a murky draw until you get the reminder and threats to cut you off and a fine making the whole process nicely more expensive. That kind of thing. Similarly, if you want to buy a new screw because one has fallen out of the back of your computer, or replace the quarter-watt – or is it amp? – lightbulb from the fridge, don’t go to the nearest shop but do three days of surfing to virtually shop around beforehand and then find a shop in Spandau that’s open for half a minute a month for the sake of saving 3 cents. And so it was yesterday when paper had to be bought. Not wall- or news-. Just paper. Plain white, A4 paper, for when we want to print something out, which happens about once a millennium. “We can probably get that in the shop fantastically conveniently located nearby, can’t we, and not have a detour on the way to our art therapy class?” “No, I want the type that’s made from recycled Albanian deciduous forest cowdung, which you can buy in Charlottenburg.”
But darlings, I shouldn’t complain. For as we shopped for Albanian paper, I got my year back on track. Not that it’s been THAT off track. But I’m sure it would have been EVEN more on track had I only had 2006 pages in my filofax. Now I have. (Honestly, you think they’d have been reduced by April. Cost a bloody fortune.) So now the year can begin, and I can pen in the hundreds of social occasions I’ve only got synapsed in currently (once I’ve written to all the people who’ve promised to visit to remind me when they’re coming. Oh, and the annual summer Euro-wedding).
This might turn into a longy. Maybe it needs to be one topic per post. We’ll soldier on. Let me know if you’re still with me…
So, with the Albanian cowdung paper, filofax pages and emergency underwear and sock replenishment purchases having been made – whatever did happen to the ablative absolute? – we S-Bahned ourselves to Melancholie.
No, no. Too much for one post. Melancholie can wait, as we had to, for half an hour to get in…
Shreds April 6, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
But I thought this Japanese gent’s reaction at being asked to stop browsing magazines in 7-Eleven was rather classy. Went away, got a chainsaw, threatened to chop the staff to shreds, then left the chainsaw running and carried on reading till the police arrived. OK, an overreaction, perhaps, but I can’t help being a little bit sympathetic.
But whose side are you on? The (potential) shredder’s or the shreddees’?
Resisting the urge to make a Czech/check/cheque pun… April 5, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
My blog, for those who are interested, and I’m sure you are manifold, has a number of chief interests. Belarus is one. Being silly is another. Well, that’s about it, really. But who am I to complain when blogging acts as a combination of Friends Reunited, JDate, GayRomeo and everything else?
Anyway… Where was I? I really should drink less. If I took drugs, I should take fewer of those too. Perhaps I should START to take drugs… Oh yes, Belarus. Well, I have an excuse to link to a marvellous Belarusian site. Wait! WAIT! Before you switch off in droves and click over to… erm… somewhere else, this one’s got something for those of you not as consumed with things Belarusian as I am. The blog in question is (the award-winning, incidentally) br23. It is the virtual home of a Belarusian in the Czech Republic who blogs in two languages about things Belarusian but not only. And this is where those strands can nicely come together. I’ve got a feeling that four of you blogger pals – actually, I’m not sure about you, B., but I did see Czech on your site once – have some psychic connection with the Czech Republic. So, in a unifying, bloggers-reunited mood of my own, imagine how happy I was when I saw a Czech song in all its glory over at br23. Now my Czech’s not up to much, but I see plenty of words redolent of the torment of a Slavic soul. I’ve got a feeling there are stony hearts, rainclouds, nights, evenings, windows, flowers, death… the works, короче. So get over there and listen. And then leave me some comments telling me how much you love me.