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Camels April 17, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
The animals, that is, not the cigarettes. If you’re feeling a tad disorientated after a longish night out and decide to make the journey home pedestrian rather than availing of Berlin’s wondrous public transport to blow away some of the cobwebs, make sure to check local websites beforehand for any surprising events in the neighbourhood.

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…



1. leon - April 18, 2006

We could describe our remit in as few words as possible and then call ourselves “Laconic Irrigation”, perhaps.

Dear me.

2. BiB - April 18, 2006

Leon, brilliant, thank you. My first recruit. Welcome on board. You can be chairman. Or something.

3. daggi - April 19, 2006

I’d go for the more direct title of “International Grant Embezzelment Ltd.”, with a hedgehog as a logo. The company would be ideally be registered in Gibraltar, as it’s the only part of mainland western Europe not to be part of the EU.

4. BiB - April 19, 2006

Daggi, another brilliant idea. Honestly, why didn’t you and Leon go into business together? Right, so we’ve got a logo, two titles, a “siège” in Gibraltar. Sorry, I’m being a bit slow with the mission statement. Mind you, I once heard a factoid that Bill Gates could afford to irrigate the Third World so maybe we’d better get onto the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation rather than/as well as the EU? Daggi, would you like to be Executive Directrix?

5. daggi - April 22, 2006

Directrix and dominatrix in personal union (as I imagine the Germans say, as I know what I’m trying to say, but it doesn’t seem to make much sense in English…), if you don’t mind. That means if Bill and Melinda Gates don’t give us a donation, I can whip them or something.

6. Bowleserised - April 25, 2006

Do we use the greasy spoon as a front?

7. BiB - April 28, 2006

Do we aim to operate out of a Greasy Spoon? Would that be good for our corporate image? We’re talking serious embezzlement, remember…

8. daggi - April 28, 2006

Those gentlemen’s tailors, you know, those small shops that sell suits, shirts and cuff-links, regardless of where they are in the world, the’ve all got to be fronts for something else. Best Italian Shirts? Made by the Sicilian Mafia, I bet.

I won’t even mention (here) amusement arcades round the corner from here. Never seen anyone come in or out of the place. But it’s open every day.

9. BiB - April 28, 2006

I am reminded of wicked rumours about 99% of the kebab shops on Green Lanes in Haringey…

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