Stereotypes May 6, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Now, darlings, you mustn’t fall into that nasty (but very tempting) habit of going for stereotypes and thinking nasty things about, say, Russians, but the Russian ‘found’ a wallet yesterday. There was the exciting story of the mobile phone last week. Now a wallet. With money in it. And a resulting angry homosexual.
The boy and I went out for a late afternoon sunshine stroll. The Russian in nice shorts, some appropriate 2006 casual footwear, and a vaguely freshly-purchased upper-body garment. I was wearing a pair of sandals that cost about 3 baht in Thailand five years ago which STILL cut my feet to shreds every time I put them on, a 50-year-old hand-me-down T-shirt from my ex-boyfriend and a pair of shorts that made me look like a homeless explorer. But it was only a stroll. It wasn’t as if we were going to go anywhere, and be seen by anyone. We popped in, still pretending this was a minorly domestic-themed strollette, for the sake of convenience, to an extortionate Asian supermarket to buy coconut milk and some tikka stuff in a jar. Could get precisely the same things for half the price round the corner at Spar, of course, but there was solidarity amongst foreigners in buying there. Actually, to de-Spar the event, we made sure we bought a ton of chillies – wrap them in newspaper to make them keep was the top tip from the lady working there – to make sure my stomach ulcer never gets a moment’s peace.
(Darlings, I must tell you about my Russian stomach ulcer one day. OK, now. I got a stomach ulcer in Russia, I think from working with some of the nastiest individuals on the planet. Amusingly, once, the very nastiest one, with a Thatcher hair-do, the bluest make-up this side of South Shields and a look of hatred etched into her wicked features, à propos de rien, at a ‘party’, declared to me, “BiB, in vyest, you laaaaaav only maaaaaaaaaney. Khere, ve laaaaaaaaav only people.” So, yes, from her – yes, it was you, Svetlana Grigoryevna, in case you’re reading, you wicked old hag – and assorted like-minded devils, I ended up in Russian hospital. (Alzheimer’s check. Have I posted this before? Have I posted this before? Don’t think so.) The Russian was allowed to sit with me during the admission process, which included having a finger inserted in my bottom in a room full of the general public – for my sins, I then saw it happen to others, so it wasn’t special treatment or anything – and then inspected by the doctor, but was then sent away, departing to the sound of heavy, clanking metal doors. “They’ll be a story about me on the BBC website in 70 years’ time,” I thought. ‘An Englishman whom, for years, the Russian authorities considered a raving hoax, has been found by a visiting psychiatrist from Swansea in a mental institution in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskij. Dental records were checked and proved that the man was who he said he was. Local staff member, Svetlana Grigoryevna, commented, “Oj, ve just sink he is raaaaaaavink. He shout somesink laik, “Get me the fuck outta this hellhole,” over and over for 50 years, but ve ignore and shout byeck, “Shut up, Boris. You crazy feesh”. He is now being repatriated to a village near Swansea, where the visiting psychiatrist can keep a close eye on him.’ A dour, glowering, depressed female member of staff asked me to hand over all my valuables. I was led to the most depressing room ever, along the lines, I imagine, of that big place in Camden Town – what’s it called? – where homeless men can sleep. Six beds squashed together. Soviet paint job. Light-bulb. “You can khev own room if you pay half-rouble,” the dour, glowering, depressed female proffered. “I’ll take it,” I said and was led to my luxury equivalent of aforementioned room which actually had an en-suite bathroom with a loo with no water in it – but I got a potty – and a bath with no plug. (Soviet stereotype number 1.) As a foreigner, I was soon the star of the ward. Stars of the Russian stage and screen – OK, the hospital – were dropping by to tell me about their ulcers. One doctor from another section of the hospital came panting in one day. “You vörk khere for charity?” “Yes.” “Vot number I must fone to get much maaaaaaaaaaaaaaney?” There was a nurse, the only unbeautiful woman in all Russia, who asked me, “You laik some kaaaampany for night-time?” And the star of the stars, the nice, young, student doctor who had no interest in medicine but liked me enormously. “You from Inkland? I been Manchester. I like Beetlz veeeeeeeeeery maaaaaaach.” And then sang, yes, sang, ‘Dyezmond khez barrel at market-plyaaace’. He was crestfallen when the Russian, who happened to be present for this performance, asked when I might be released, seeing as no medical attention appeared to have been paid to me since I’d been committed, I mean admitted, however many days before.
This bracketed aside is just going to have to have a second paragraph. God that hospital’s got legs, blog-wise. Every morning, we ill folk had to go and line up to get something inserted into our buttocks – probably window-cleaner, à la Man with Two Brains – to the procedure room. No, they didn’t come to us. We had to go to them. And queue. And there was nowhere to sit. Once, as I stood ulcerously in line, an old gent toppled over before me. I was convinced he was dead. Quick as a flash, and without a word, two of the other ill folk had a hand under each arm and, thank goodness for lino, slid him at a frenzied pace back down the corridor and round the corner, reminding me of the scene in many a nasty WWII film where someone is taken round the corner to be shot. I don’t know if they just dumped him there and it was a case of, “Put him where no-one can see him. It’s no good for morale to have dead folk littering the corridors of a hospital.” (Mind you, another foreign friend who ended up in a Russian hospital had a perfect and privileged view of a cemetery from her bed. I don’t think I was allowed a window.) The next morning, there he stood again, waiting for his window-cleaner, right as rain. The procedure room had a door-sized grinning bunny holding a massive, fuck-off syringe painted on it, to cheer us up, no doubt. When I went in, having waited my turn – this was a rare privilege. Normally, cringing, I’d be ushered to the front of any such queue with some official explaining bumblingly to the rightfully annoyed other folk, “Foreigner” – I made some greeting and the window-cleaner administrator, not actually a bunny but a virago with hair so stiff you could knock a nail in with it, softened slightly – there was the sound of cracking plaster as she removed her frown – and said, “Oj, English gentleman. Russian vould nyevyer, nyevyer say hello.” Which just can’t be true. But I decided not to challenge her stereotype and offered my buttocks. As I shuffled back to my suite, foaming at the mouth, probably, a gentleman just emerging from the smoking room abutting my suite – yes, there was a smoking room on the ward – approached me with fresh enthusiasm, thinking he’d found a light in this endless darkness, and asked, plaintively, “Are you from Azerbaijan?” I was so gutted to let him down. If I’d even had O-Level-level Azerbaijani, I’d have given it a shot. But we only had Greek and Latin at my school.)
So where were we? Oh yes, chillies on Schönhauser Allee. This got us thinking of food. Dropped into a Thai place. Had (bad, actually) food accompanied by beer for the Russian, ginger ale for me. (Yes, still sticking at it. God, it’s boring.) Strolled onwards. Bar Gagarin, or Cafe Gagarin, or whatever it’s called. Not a Russian in sight, apart from the Russian, and I was hoping to satisfy a minor pang of nostalgia. Getting towards evening time now. Festive evening time. “Queers?” “OK.” Dived on the U2 to Nollendorfplatz. Looked at all the stunningly handsome queens littering the bars around aforementioned U-Bahnhof – thank god it’s spring. Even the Russian, who’s never paid anyone a compliment ever, had to admit some looked lovely – and drank, me, ginger ale, still, the Russian beer, wine, beer, wine, beer – can’t be good for you – and smoked till the early hours. I got home none the wiser about “the find”.
Today, not early, because of being out till all hours, the Russian announced, mysteriously, “I have to contact a certain young man”. “Yes?” “Yesterday, in toilet, I find vollet.” My heart sank at the repeat realisation that I live with an insane person. “Darling, what a sane person would have done,” I explained, teacherishly, “unless he intended to steal it, which only an absolute cunt would do (I didn’t say that bit) (I’ve actually been pickpocketed in a gay bar. Still livid), is hand the wallet over to the staff there, in the bar where you found it. The owner might still have been there, or might have at least worked out that that’s where he lost it and rung them the next day etc. etc.” “Oj.” Voices may or may not have been raised in the ensuing exchanges. In any case, the loser’s telephone number had been found online, but there was now a further inexplicable delay in phoning him. “You must phone him now,” I hectored on. “He’s probably considering suicide this second. It’s ruining his day. You MUST phone him now.” The Russian then phoned, using a hilarious phone voice nothing like his own, and was apologising within seconds to the clearly utterly unthankful and bollocking loser for having managed the find all wrong. So now I think he should have just stolen it. Not really. They’ve agreed to meet, at somewhere fantastically inconvenient for both…
But while the Russian’s away…