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Im nin’alu July 30, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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Ofra Haza, along with Larry Grayson, is one of those deceased stars whose death still makes me properly sad. Can’t work out quite why. In her case, perhaps because she looks such an angel here, and the song is so beautiful. Larry Grayson because… I just don’t know. Anyway, that’s it. No more youtubing. No, really.

The fridge supremacy July 28, 2006

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It’s hard being usurped by a fridge.

Again, I am unsure if this is an age-related matter, but the balance of power in the BiB household has gradually but irrevocably been reversed. And it ain’t in my favour. Boringly, this is partly a money thing. While I plod away doing as little work as possible to pay the bills and leave me enough time – say, 20 hours a day – for blog-related pursuits, the Russian has been raking it in. He’s bought a second solid-gold helicopter now because he didn’t like the propeller on the first one. Honestly, some folk just have TOO much money.

Whereas, in days of yore, I was the one called upon to be grown-up in times of need – booking plane tickets, organising visas, doing the washing-up – I feel that, rather like M. Chirac on the political scene in France, I have taken a back seat while the Russian has sarkozied up out of nowhere and stolen the show. Whereas I used to be the one doing the urbanity, keeping the small talk going on tricky social occasions, I now see folk – this is EXCLUSIVELY the case if homosexuals are involved – looking over my shoulder and thinking, “When’s the gobby one gonna shut up so we can look at the pretty Russian in peace and quiet?” Wicked, cruel age. As my appearance hurtles out of control downhill towards a point of no return, the Russian is in the very blossom of his strengths, as his countrymen would say. As I discover new aches, pains and ailments, the Russian blooms with vigour and bounce. I plod. He has élan.

Wealth undeniably has its uses. I was wealthy once, just as we moved to Berlin, in fact. Not earned wealth, of course. No, inherited. And, better still, from someone still very much alive, and praise be for that. I thought, for a fraction of an inkling, about doing sensible things like paying off debts, ceremonially cutting up credit cards and investing the rest. Instead, and with considerable assistance from my Russian companion, I might add, I pissed it up the wall in a matter of months on booze, restaurants and a ludicrously lavish trip to Thailand. The debts are bigger and better than ever they were. My wallet still bristles with money-swallowing credit cards. I cringe at family occasions when I remind myself that siblings’ spouses must secretly, through the smiles, be thinking, “Give me back my money”.

In spite of my windfall, I did, for a few weeks, stick to my frugal aims of purchasing sensibly. Arriving in Berlin from abroad, and renting a new flat, meant purchases galore. Rented flats here are empty. Light-fittings don’t even come included. You have to buy the works. One day, as the Russian settled into life at university, I took the chance for a bit of frugality by going and purchasing domestic appliances alone. My mother would have been so proud of the deal I got for the second-hand washing-machine and fridge. And I was proud at having managed to complete the transaction knowing twelve words of Deutsch. A big, cuddly Pole delivered the items the same day. Slavic brotherhood meant we managed to communicate in a combination of invented Russian – him – and invented Polish – me. Everyone came away happy. He probably bear-hugged me on the way out.

The items were not the dernier cri by any means. Both appliances, while basically white, had a generous lashing of socialist brown in their palette. I think the washing-machine was the cleansing branch of the Trabant dynasty. The fridge was made in Turkmenistan. In the 17th century. The brand was called something along the lines of Red Yurt. But they served their purpose. As I frothed with enthusiasm to the Russian as he traipsed in from the world of academia, he looked a hint disappointed to have been transported straight back to the Soviet Union. “But, darling, they were CHEAP!” I said, becoming my mother. (My mother once bought an East German blender in London because it was cheap at a second-hand shop. It was, inevitably, brown. And now sits, no doubt full of asbestos and pumping out carcinogens to the best of its ability, untouched and unused in the most inaccessible cupboard in her kitchen.)

The fridge broke in minutes. The cuddly Pole came and took it away under one arm. It was returned to us, brownly, some weeks later. And splutteringly kept things reasonably cool from that day till almost this. But Red Yurt struggled with this summer. It let out plaintive thuds throughout the night, no doubt keeping the neighbours awake and making them moan about the foreign poofs next door. I thought we could plod frugally along with it until it got its breath back in the autumn, but the Russian decided that it had to go. A brand new one was to be purchased. He got his staff onto it. The decision went to a spanking, huge, gleaming thing. As white as the whitest building on earth, that cathedral in spotless Helsinki. Not a sniff of brown in sight.

D-day was today. At crack of dawn, the doorbell rang. I had already languidly shuffled ‘my’ fridge sorrily into the corridor. I pressed the buzzer and then made way for the Russian to do the grown-up part of the transaction. He and the men had manly talk about good fridges and bad fridges. They probably had a quick shot of Jägermeister. I stayed apologetically out of sight and got on with some embroidery.

And there it sits, in our formerly humble kitchen that any suburban housewife with a four-wheel drive would now be proud to call her own. Further testament to my diminution in day-to-day matters in the BiB household. The Russian will fling open the door with aplomb at every breakfast. I will sink apologetically into my chair and ask if I’m allowed a second Brötchen. The Russian will huff and call his staff to have some more rolls flown in from Paris.

It’s hard being usurped by a fridge.

Что это может означать? July 28, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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Я знаю, что у меня очень мало русскоязычных читателей. Очень мало. Поскольку я знаю, ни одного настоящего русского у меня нет – кроме моего друга, который читает мой пиздёж раз в шесть лет – в списке виртуальных поклонников. Есть малейшая возможность, что читает этот блог пара беларусов. И потом есть пара друзей англичан с которыми я учился в Лондоне. Они также могли бы читать моё священное писанное.
Так что, КАК это возможно, что, как только я решаю принимать участие в определённом блоггерском проекте, по правилам которого надо писать, в моём случае, по-русски, что число моих читателей всё растёт и растёт? Это не справедливо. Позову ментов! Благодаря моей блоггерской статистике, которой даже Министерство госбезопасности ГДР бы гордилось, наверно, вижу более менее откуда мои читатели. И там нет русских. Они почти все из Великобритании, Америки и Германии, как и всегда. По такой логике, я должен разуметь, что самый успешный и удачный момент в истории этого дурацкого блога, это тогда, когда я написал несколько предложений, которые почти никто может разобрать. Начинаю жалеть, что языковая неделя скоро кончится. Как только начну заново писать по-английски, как и раньше, никаких гостей у меня больше не будет. Жаль!

Сломанный язык July 24, 2006

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…как побыстрее гарантировать “массовое” исчезновение своих малочисленных читателей? Ответ простой. Записаться на языковую неделю и соглашаться писать свой блог, в течение одной недели, на другом языке. В моём случае, это на языке, который не знает большинство моих малочисленных, но ценных, читателей. Зато, почему не экспериментировать раз в году?

Конечно девушка молодец. Писать на другом языке – отличная идея. Некоторые даже обычно пишут свои блоги на иностранном языке. Есть просто море беларуских блогов на английском, напрыклад. Здесь в Берлине есть двуязычные блоги и блоггеры. Молодцы они все.

Но это не всем получается. Во-первых, конечно, потому что многие, особо в англоязычном мире, не знают иностранный язык. Во-вторых, потому что многим, даже если знают второй язык, не получается так свободно, красноречиво или смешно выражаться не на своём родном языке. Сам принадлежу этой второй категории. После 4 лет в Германии, идея не пришла бы в голову что-то здесь написать на немецком. Мученье было бы. И после 6 лет совместного житья-бытья с русским человеком и ежедневной болтовни исключительно на русском языке, мучаюсь написать эти вялые, пустые предложения на языке Пушкина, всё время сомневаясь, что это вообще похоже на настоящий русский.

Язык – это идентичность. Слава Богу, можно выучить второй, даже третий, четвёртый язык. Без этого, я не мог бы общаться с любимым человеком. Но родной язык играет такую важнейшую роль в самовыражении, что боюсь здесь попробовать “сочинить” что-то не на английском. Всё зависит тоже конечно от уровня своих знаний. Если бы я вырос в двуязычной семье, скажем, то м.б. я свободнее, легче относился бы к самовыражению на инязыках. Но я в такой семье не вырос. И я уже слишком старый, для того чтобы стать двойственным.

Простите, русскоязычный мир! Ваш язык безумно красивый. Гибкий. Колоритный. Но я могу быть я только на английском языке.

P.S. Исправления приветствуются!

Let’s not beat around the bush here… July 23, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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Hairdressers simply ARE sex-workers by another name. And I just had to visit a hair-brothel yesterday as I had a blog-guest in town and had to look respectable. (Don’t know if I pulled it off.) Hurrah for international blog-meeting. What a jolly little community we are. Always happy to receive a visiting, blogging (one-woman, in this case) delegation. And very nice it was too.

So I needed to visit the sex-workers. The funny thing is, sex-workers are just as hopeless on the service-providing front as every other customer-service-oriented purveyor in Berlin. And not only was there a blogger in town, but there was also a gay thing in Berlin yesterday so there was double the call to be pretty. I trotted out into the scaldingly hot day in the early afternoon. Not earlier, because the Russian and I had popped out for a loaf of bread (or something) on Friday evening and got home at 5 in the morning. (The diversions you meet across your path on the way to the baker’s!) I sauntered up to my regular, old-lady hairdresser-cum-sex-worker. But she’d shut up shop. I was instantly gripped by panic. I shuddered with horror at the thought that perhaps all the sex-workers-cum-hairdressers might shut up shop early on a Saturday. And they do. The horror. Thoughts flashed through my head that I might have to ring GSE and pretend, because of my barnet, that something had come up and I just couldn’t make it. I sweated my way towards more civilised bits of Berlin. Salvation came in the form of a plasticky shopping centre where the sex-workers are obliged to work till 8 like all the other shops. I deleted the drafted SMS about my cactus having droopy-spike syndrome to GSE and strode into the hussies’ parlour.

“A dry cut, please.”

The madam looked gutted that I wanted such a minor transaction, but resignedly showed me to my chair. A bubbly child then got to work on my riah. She insisted on chat, and I had major recourse to my stock conversation with a dyed-in-the-wool Berliner of enthusiastic and hopeful jas. I ja’d for my life, and seemed to get pretty much away with it. The junior sex-worker asked me what I wanted. “Just a bit of slap and tickle or the full bollocks?” “Slap and tickle, please.” Although I didn’t express it as succinctly as that and passively agreed to her improved version of my request.

And she was all fiddly and prissy. Whereas I was hoping she’d hurtle into my locks in a blind frenzy, using that lawn-mower thing with gay abandon, she was all for filtering half a gram of hair through the comb and then pecking at it gently as a French woman eats her food. “I’ll miss both of today’s events at this rate,” I thought, sneeringly, the hatred welling up inside me. “Yes, it is hot, isn’t it?” I fluffed serenely when called upon to do so.

I think this hairdresser-cum-sex-worker was new to the trade. Perhaps I was her first client and she thought, therefore, that I needed to be treated with kid gloves. In her eagerness to please, she was occasionally all fingers and thumbs. And comb. As her comb drew blood from my ear for the eighteenth time, I couldn’t help slightly thinking that this was a touch reminiscent of a poorly-performed sex act. Which is what got me thinking about the sex-work comparison in the first place. And just as that nasty germination of a thought took more concrete form in my pervert’s brain, the madam went and had public sex with a client.

A strapping, handsome, blond gent with no need of a haircut wandered in and asked for a haircut. “Slap and tickle or the bollocks?” “The bollocks.” And she gave her minion, wedging her comb into my earless head at the time, a masterclass in how to satisfy your customers.

As I sat staring at myself in the mirror, the strapping, blond gent took a ludicrously sexual pose in the hair-washing chair. He laid himself back, practically split his shorts – so wide were his legs spread – and placed himself in the madam’s capable hands. She languidly took a big squirt of shampoo and began rubbing it into his head, all the time catching my eye with a look that translated something like, “See what your tightness made you miss?” I was a touch embarrassed to be such a close-range witness to this flagrant show of cranial sex. I thought that this must be what it’s like when groups of businessmen go off on a trip together. All inappropriate intimacy and doing things in front of your friends which you really shouldn’t do. My own lady looked utterly defeated as she tended to my locks in her comparatively unprofessional way. I felt defeated at being so utterly outstudded by the blond hunk.

These visits to the hair-brothel are just about as much as a man can take. If I wasn’t so attached to my riah, I’d welcome baldness with a quiver of glee. Alas. Alas…

I thought I’d died July 19, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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…and gone straight to the set of an Emir Kusturica film. Not that I’ve ever watched a Kusturica film, per se, but I imagine it’s all slivovitz, tragedy and accordions. And nothing wrong with a bit of Serbian drama whatever the weather.

Aber in Berlin’s Ruislip?

So there I was, minding my own business, toiling through some paid labour, windows flung open in a concession to the boilingness, when what should start up but an accordion? And not just a youngster languidly playing Bésame Mucho without especial verve or gusto, but beautifully-played, mournful, wistful, baleful and any number of other adjectives ending in -ful, Balkan-sounding (to my utterly inexpert ear) music wafting towards me.

I dashed to the window and then remembered I was only in my pants – STILL boiling – so loitered at a decent distance. It was quite the most excitement B_ Straße has seen since someone flushed their loo at 10.05pm and the police had snipers surrounding the guilty flat within minutes. I think the accordionist might have had a drink. He was in his fifties. Of ruddy complexion. And lingering under balconies in the hope, no doubt, that he’d be thrown a golden taler or two or perhaps be invited in for a hearty fish supper. Unluckily for him, he chose to strike up his one-man show just as he came to rest under the 100%-long-term-unemployment house across the road. Not only couldn’t I go out onto the balcony to tell him of his oversight because I was in my pants, but it would have actually been rude to accompany his music with my hollering about them all being more skint than I am. So I let him perform mournfully on.

Normally, like everyone sane, I loathe the accordion. It reminds me of national costumes, bad teeth, headscarves and dirty fingernails. But it was so beautiful when it started here, in Ruislip, on a boiling hot day, shattering the suburban silence and transporting me to somewhere I’ve never been, like the Sanjak of Novi Pazar. The wandering musician must have smelt my enthusiasm because he caught my eye at the only split second when eye-contact could feasibly have been made. He gave me a big, hearty, rubicund grin. I recoiled a tad so that I wouldn’t have to cross his palm with silver. (Anyway, surely you can’t hurl money out windows at folk? In Ruislip?)

I went back to my paid labour, without paying him for his. I could hear the neighbours huffing and puffing and screeching their plastic balcony chairs and shutting their balcony umbrellas – tossers – in protest and shuffling back indoors to watch whatever is the German equivalent of Bob’s Full House. You think they’d have been happy with a bit of live entertainment. I certainly was.

The strains of the accordionist’s music wafted away into silence. I don’t suppose we’ll be seeing him round these ‘ere parts again. It may well have been before the 10pm watershed, but it was just a little bit too much excitement for B_ Straße to cope with. Damn you, suburban silence.

Make your own Love Parade July 16, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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If anyone desperately wanted to be there yesterday but couldn’t and missed the Love Parade, fear not. Your feckless blogging friend went and had a butcher’s and was neither blown away nor overly horrified. I can see the attraction if you’re 15 and have pretended to your parents that you’re going to hang around the pedestrianised centre of your town – all the shops boarded up and the tower-blocks being torn down one by one – in Brandenburg and then snuck onto a train to Berlin and strutted your stuff and gawped at lots of semi-naked folk for the first time ever. I did feel a touch old and I actually was the only person wearing a shirt. But anyway…

So, as I say, if you missed the thing but want to make your own Love Parade any day of the year, here are my top tips:

1). While still at home, take two to three teaspoonfuls of Ecstasy. As with other medicinal products, we advise against over-consumption of alcohol while under the influence.

2). Buy a walkman. (Or, even better, but this will only work once, or as often as the museum in question is willing to replace the exhibit, go to the Akademie der Künste, conveniently located near Unter den Linden S-Bahn, and steal the one-man disco exhibit, consisting of headphones rigged up to some infernal machine playing very loud music and personalised flashing lights.)

3). Take the S-Bahn to Unter den Linden.

4). Remove clothes from above the waist, apart from glasses in a silly colour (buy these when buying the walkman). If male, you ought to have shaved your chest. If female, quickly paint your top half so that folk don’t realise you’re actually topless within half a second of seeing you.

5). Switch on your walkman with heart-attack-inducing music to its maximum volume.

6). Pass through the Brandenburg Gate and prepare to amble in a straight line as far as Ernst-Reuter-Platz. Hopefully, if you’ve just trained in from Brandenburg or Saarland, the Ecstasy won’t have worn off. If closer to home, the Ecstasy will, with luck, now kick in.

7). (For Poles.) Unfurl a huge, fuck-off, Polish flag which you have scrawled the name of your town – Rzszczyczyczow – on beforehand. Wave this furiously.

8). Strut down Straße des 17. Juni, flailing your arms, pouting your lips and making lurid advances to people of the opposite sex.

9). (For males, possessed of a quite ludicrously good (and shaved) body.) Climb atop a lamp-post and sit and feel silly for forty-five minutes.

10). Take a very public wee in the Tiergarten.

11). Have very public sex in the Tiergarten. DO NOT wait till it gets dark.

12). Remove Polish flag with ‘Zbyszek i Zdzislaw byli tutaj’ emblazoned upon it from your face.

13). Blow a whistle and move your arms again.

14). Pretend you want to drink Red Bull.

15). Buy a stale pretzel for 14 euros.

16). (Having reached the Siegessäule.) Cheer at nothing in particular. Wave at the TV cameras whizzing past you on string overhead. Think of sex.

17). Think, “Fuck, I wish I’d got on the S-Bahn at Tiergarten and not bothered walking to Ernst-Reuter-Platz”.

18). Dress and take train back to Brandenburg/Saarland/Poland.

Quick! Someone lend me a whistle and crop-top! July 15, 2006

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Actually, no time to blog PROPER rubbish today, so just a couple more France Gall and youtube moments. (God it’s hard to resist the youtube temptation, nicht wahr?)

I have to admit I’m struggling to believe, innocent or not, that old Francey didn’t have a hint of an inkling of a smidgen of an idea that this song didn’t have just the tiniest double entendre. Then there’s Alizée’s not-that-good version of, “Ella, elle l’a,” but, gosh, isn’t Alizée a babe? She almost makes me want to be heterosexual. Although I don’t know if it’s the design of the bikini in this snap of her or just my inexperience in the breast department, but her glands look a little picassoesquely far apart to me.

Anyway, to make sure Alizée doesn’t turn me into a red-blooded hetero any time soon, there’s the first of Berlin’s two Gay Prides today, so I’ll probably go and blow my whistle, shout, “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re not going shopping,” leer at the policemen and stock up on gay genes for the winter. This Gay Pride mark I – ‘cos you need two, and two weekends running – coincides with the Love Parade, which I’ve never seen, and I might go and have a peek at that, although I’m already having flashbacks to the Goa float at the Carnival of Cultures, with seven 17-year-olds dancing behind a lorry with someone blowing bubbles through a bubble-machine. Not majorly impressed.

Gay Pride isn’t actually called Gay Pride here. Today’s thing is the Stadtfest. Next week’s is CSD (Christopher Street Day). And why not, for the word pride has surely had its day. And I can’t say I’m actually “proud” to be gay. But then I suppose Gay Don’t-Really-Care or Gay Most-of-the-Time-I-Forget hasn’t got the same ring. Then again, the word pride had its uses in the old days. I remember once going to purchase jeans with my first boyfriend in Leamington Spa, or perhaps Warwick, when we were at the gooily, can’t-not-touch-each-other-for-more-than-half-a-second, in-love stage. Our jeans vendor was a friendly queen who enjoyed engaging with a pair of poofs in love. Once the transaction was done, with much help from the aforementioned employee, he bade us farewell and hollered a valedictory, “Wear them with pride!” If we’d had even the shadow of a doubt that he might not be a friend of Dorothy, we didn’t now…

Friday the 14th July 14, 2006

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Darlings, I’ve got a major oodle of work to do at the moment, so expect my blogging to increase about tenfold in quantity until next week’s deadline.

To my horror, as I sat down to ignore my work as studiously as I could this morning, I noticed that it was Friday the 13th. As I thought nothing untoward was actually likely to happen, I thought perhaps I’d better scald myself deliberately with coffee or set my hair on fire again, but then I realised I just hadn’t moved the calendar on a notch and that it was actually the 14th after all. Phew!

So how to avoid work without having the option of leaving the house? To pretend I’m working, I’ve opened the software necessary for every modern translator. It costs a fortune, just to make sure the job is a little bit less pleasant, and tends to slow down the work, if anything, but that’s progress for ya. In any case, like blogger, it’s big and blue, so I can brandish it on the workbench, or whatever that computery word is, if ever I’m interrupted. (“Look, I’m working!”) Well, I’ve visited every page on the internet already. But no, at times like this, it has to be Eurovision and fingering my way through some glorious old videos. If you follow my advice and go to the link, click on multimedia lounge, then on video, you’ll be able to watch this year’s entries, 14 past winners and various clipettes from over the years. The 14 – to match the utterly auspicious date, no doubt – provide some pretty glorious moments. There’s Abba, of course. Then Sertab Erener, Turkey’s only ever winner. And Dana International, the Israeli transsexual who – surprise, surprise – caused a bit of a scandal back in the homeland.

But it’s the French-speaking world wot wins it. France Gall is so sweet and innocent – representing Luxembourg, and not France – that you might even want to shed a tear. (Innocence was a bit of a thing with her, it seems. Was she not happy at singing a song by M. Gainsbourg which she thought was about lollipops and was, in fact, about blow-jobs.) But just LOOK at Céline Dion munt for Switzerland in a wicked perm and wearing a dirty old bit of net curtain. She looks like she hasn’t been home for the night. And why Switzerland? Isn’t Quebec still a territoire d’outre-mer? Couldn’t she just have sung for France, to make up for Luxembourg Gall’s oversight?

OK, 1pm. Time to take a break from working for now. A long lunch, perhaps…

The blower July 14, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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Darlings, between you and me, I’m a phonophobe. A terrible screener, phone-call ignorer and flagrant pretender that I haven’t heard the mobile going off, which, admittedly, it doesn’t do too often. And praise be for that. I know this is frowned upon in many quarters, and many a friendship has been put under strain by my taking fourteen years to answer a call, or answering it with an SMS (and then, of course, dashing to turn off my phone), or an e-mail, or even a hand-written letter. (I think folk should be grateful, of course.)
The Russian has gone from being a happy-go-lucky phone-picker-upper to an anti-social old misery in the however-long-it-is-since-we’ve-been-together and it is not uncommon to see him carry on pottering around with his affairs with the phone going harassingly away in the background. The Russian could shop for… well, Russia, and came home a bazillion years ago, just when we’d moved to Berlin, with a ludicrously expensive-costing but cheap-and-shoddy-looking phone. I was slow to join in with his euphoria. “But look at that,” he said, if my memory deludes me correctly, pointing to a little screeny bit atop the number buttons. I peered, wanting to know more. “It shows the number of the person who’s ringing.” I was taken with the possibilities immediately. I might even have rubbed my hands with glee – it was getting on for winter, after all – and gone out onto the balcony, crouched down so that I couldn’t be seen and thrown pebbles at passing children. But I might not have either. There would no longer be any mystery about whether to screen or not to screen. The number would – admittedly, not always, but it often even works from abroad – flash up and I could say to myself, “Auntie Brenda from Ross-on-Wye? What the fuck does she want?” and ignore till my heart’s content.
And so went the telephonic lives of BiB and the Russian, in happy silence, until a couple of weeks ago. Then, all of a sudden, all the phone’s posh functions died. Not only does it not now show the number of the person calling, it can hardly be bothered to ring at all and makes a little whelp as if implying it would really like to be pensioned off. This has led to a dilemma. We have a built-in answering machine that only allows you to listen to the message once it’s done and dusted so we don’t even have the option of picking up as soon as we hear a desired voice, panting, as if just having run out of the bathroom because we just couldn’t have got to the phone in our enormous flat a second earlier. (To improve the sound effects, I recommend leaving a glass of water by the phone so you can drip drops of it into the earpiece to replicate the sound of residual shower-water.) So we are faced with the terrible ordeal of just STRAIGHTFORWARDLY PICKING UP THE PHONE. Terrifying. Nine times out of ten it’s some bastard trying to sell you insurance, or someone wanting to give you work – cunts – or, worst of all, someone thinking you actually want to spend forty-five minutes talking about this and that. Are those people quite mad?
Anyway, the phone rang this evening. The Russian and I looked at each other in horror. “Shall I?” “Oh, go on then.” I saw the Russian’s features contort into an expression of terror. “Yeees, I fine, sank you,” he wailed, all the while flailing his arms at me to show it was my mother. I thought I’d let him stew for a while and have the same conversation he’s had every time he’s picked up the phone to her in the last six years. “Oh, sank you, my Eeeeenglish byettyer? Oh, good, but BiB speak me only Raaaaaaaaaaaaaashan.” (Whispered aside, “BiB, pick up the fucking phone, it’s your mother.”) “Yeeeees, I still staaaaaaaaady, and vöööörk. Very beeeeeezy.” (Aside, louder whisper, “Pick up the fucking phone.”) I imagined my mother saying, primly, “Oh well, it’s much better than before,” and then using colloquialisms that I am hard pushed to understand. (My brother once rushed into the room to tell me and his wife, when we had all converged chez my mother in London, that she had just said to the Russian, “Soon time for din-dins.”)
I eventually put them out of their linguistic misery and picked up the phone. We then did a high-speed rundown of everyone’s gossip. “How’s that sibling?” “Oh, you know, much the same.” “And how’s Auntie Brenda in Ross-on-Wye?” “Oh, you know, the op went well, but her sight’s suffered.” “We’ve got a lovely storm lashing here at the moment. Thunder and lightning. Can you hear it?” “Lightning?” came my mother’s quivering reply. “Yes, lightning.” “I’d better go. It might come down the phone and kill you.” And she rang off without once complimenting me on my almost fluent English…
So that’s the way to do it. If you want to get off the phone, say, “Dark o’er Bill’s muther,” and they’ll be off like a shot. Phonophobia, like all good weirdnesses, comes in many forms.

Darlings… July 13, 2006

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I think middle age has crept up on me and firmly ensconced itself. Which is bliss. I can now out myself as being almost addicted to Billy Joel (can anyone make that link work?), I have two pairs of sandals – I did only have one but the Russian, who has mysteriously become loaded, from I don’t really know what, but there are horses’ heads and barrels of oil strewn and sloshing around the place and a solid gold helicopter now sits on our street, much to the bemusement of the residents of the 100%-long-term-unemployment house across the road, and he insisted on buying me another pair as he says the Thai ones from 1854 were just TOO disgusting. The new ones are nice, and an Italian could get away with wearing them and looking cool, whereas I just look like a pink, English poof in sandals – and my head is resplendent in grey hair, although I did, admittedly, accidentally singe my fringe earlier today when I decided, for kicks, to set the lighter to flamethrower setting, and that has sped the onset of sexy greyness along nicely.

So middle age it is then. No more going out on the pull. No more having to want to do things and see places. No more pretending to want to give up smoking. No more cringing at wanting a glass/half-bottle of red at lunchtime. No blushing at admitting I don’t know who/where Portishead are/is. No pretending, even for a billionth of a fleeting moment, that I have to feign interest and not yawn obscenely ostentatiously if someone mentions Macau’s Portuguese business culture. (This happened once, and it was a couple discussing it. I assume they split up that evening. I think it was meant to impress.)

Darlings, especially those under 35, get yourselves put to sleep for however many years it takes and wake up cosily middle-aged. Anyway, can’t stop. I’ve got to go and ring a cab to get it to deliver some fags.

Quick! I need someone else’s body July 11, 2006

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The beautiful friend – tbf – has just sent an SMS suggesting we go to “the beach”. Darlings, how do I transform my body in half an hour? I’m having a cigarette while I think about it, hoping that might suck up some spare tyres.

I want to go the beach. (Berlin is full of lakes, for those reminding themselves that Berlin isn’t on the sea.) It’s a perfect way to avoid work, although the work I should be doing is actually a favour for the Russian, so it’s very naughty not to do it, but maybe I could delay it for another day (having dragged it out for about 20 years). Plus, the Russian’s invited to the beach too (but is coolly delaying answering my SMS, pretending he’s not that excited about seeing tbf with his kit off). And I want to go to the beach, because it’s STILL boiling – I thought FIFA really had been making this weather, aber it seems not – and, of course, I want to see tbf with his kit off too. But is it a mistake to go and take one’s kit off next to someone who makes Virgilijus Alekna look like Marty Feldman on the beauty stakes? Will I never be the same again? Will it be both a fatal blow to my own self-confidence plus an end to all pleasures knowing that I can never, ever see such beauty again (for the first time)?

And I’ve got a cold sore.

OK, better go and do a press-up.

Grooming tip №2 July 10, 2006

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I think there was a №1 ages ago, but that one was just for the boys, whereas I think this one covers the board. Darlings, do not use lime-based or lime-scented hygiene products. If you smear yourself with lime-based or lime-scented shower gel, say, you end up smelling PRECISELY of stale sweat, which is no good to man or beast. Well, good for a no doubt very small number of folk with a BO fetish, but otherwise it’s a no-no. Give it a swerve.

That is the end of this public service announcement.

SMS news July 10, 2006

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SMSes I received yesterday:
1). (From French gent in Berlin covering World Cup for French radio, on Zizou’s moment of madness) “Incroyable ;-( le suicide d’une icone devant 3 milliards de téléspectateurs” (Unbelievable – won’t translate the punctuation expression – an icon commits suicide in front of 3 billion TV viewers.) (That translation should set you back 1 euro 60, but I’m feeling charitable.)
2). (From ex in Sussex visiting his 94-year-old grandmother recovering from hip-op (not hip-hop) in hospital) “Gran pointed to an utterly decrepit 95-year-old and told us, in a low bellow, “Ethel went to the theatre last night, so she can’t be in as much pain as she makes out.” Actually, it was the operating theatre that poor Ethel had visited. How we laughed…”
I thank you.

Donnerkrieg July 8, 2006

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b_12_mauresmo_116_getty_p_cole.jpg
I’m a day late with this, and the quite fantastic storm that we had in Berlin yesterday has already been blogged elsewhere, but it can be blogged again, and it was so marvellous – I’ve always said – well, OK, not constantly. It’s not the only thing I EVER say. I mean I often say – that the best storms I’ve ever seen have been in Berlin – that it even had consequences…

Perhaps it’s because Berlin is in the middle of the North European Plain, or whatever it’s called, that, like that tornadoey bit of the US, there’s nothing to get in the way of and break up a good storm and we occasionally get thundered to smithereens. Local Berlin news is awash – boom boom – with pics of policemen up to their knees in water and folk redoing their roofs. We got away with nothing worse than an upturned clothes-horse which had tipped some of the clothes into the soily bit of our one-and-only plant that needs any attention. (We are strictly cactus folk otherwise. Can’t cope with high maintenance.) (Mind you, the one-and-only plant, which is called a Decembrist in Russian, because it’s only meant to bloom once a year, can’t cope with the weather either and is sluttily putting out months too early.) But, darlings, why was lightning war – Blitzkrieg – called Blitzkrieg and not Donnerkrieg, or thunder war? I don’t know if Blitz has the same sense of speed in German that it has in English, and I couldn’t help thinking, as I stood sheltering for at least two eternities under a random balcony yesterday waiting for the lashing rain to pass – it didn’t – that surely thunder was the noise of war. Nothing lightning about it at all. The thunder was so loud that not only did I experience a quiver of fear, I even got to witness the shortest dog-walk in history. A man appeared with his dog from the house whose balcony afforded me the vaguest of protection. They took a gazillionth of a step, then the dog looked plaintively at its master and turned around and dashed for its door. The man made a friendly witticism to me, which I – quelle surprise – didn’t understand, but I humphed approvingly and hoped, as ever, that there hadn’t been an element of a question in it.

The Russian and I had been out on separate chores. We thought the weather had better put paid to those and arranged to meet. We were a couple of hundred metres apart but set a time in the distant future to factor in underside-balcony-hugging. I hugged galore. There were other spectacles to be seen in addition to the world’s shortest dog-walk. Mostly it was folk running, but there was the odd – in both senses – type who revelled in the chance of catching their death nicely. A topless gent splashed by on his bike, in what was the most flagrant display of flippancy of the storm.

We set Berlin, the café formerly known as Amsterdam, as our meeting-point. Darlings, from Berlin or elsewhere, homosexual or otherwise, I can’t recommend this place highly enough. The gent in the centre of the photo, in the black shirt and tie – I presume he’s the boss – is the friendliest and jolliest gent in the world. But he’s got the level just right. No fawning. Just perfect. That man could lighten the mood of an England football team about to take penalties. He’s that good. The food is delicious and cheap. It’s not unknown for the bar-staff to be gorgeous (although I was secretly disappointed that the total dreamboat wasn’t on duty when I squelched in yesterday and one who looked like Charles Hawtrey on chemo was) and they have been well primed in matters of charm by their heavenly boss. There’s even a hotel upstairs. (OK, ad over.)

So I squelched into Berlin having given up on the rain ever ending. The perfect boss gave me the perfect welcome. I looked around for the Russian. He was nowhere to be seen. I sat down next to a lipstick lesbian couple nuzzling each other nicely. It was 6pm or so and pitch black outside. The lighting was dim. A billionth of a second after I had sat down to rest my water-clogged bones, the gramophone struck up something by Cesaria Evora. The Lusophone world may be pulsating with England’s football Nemeses, but you could translate Volksmusik into Portuguese and it would come out beautiful. Apart from a minorly nagging doubt that the Russian had perhaps been struck by lightning, the atmosphere couldn’t have been more perfect. To round it off, I thought I ought to, by rights, go home and have frantic sex, preferably on the rickety kitchen table, crockery and Teasmades smashing all around us, with a woman with an eating disorder, luscious flowing locks and small but eager breasts. Jane Birkin sprang to mind. Then we would cry and smoke for the rest of the evening.

The Russian walked in.

I could not have been happier. I sat, drank, ate and smoked with the man I love. We managed to get through a whole meal without the slightest of carps (although perhaps I did advise against a second glass of wine, primly). Nature provided the most perfect setting. The service was delicious. Cesaria cooed. The ruched curtains gave me glee. The prices were so low we tried to pretend we hadn’t paid the bill the first time round so we could pay again. We said warm goodbyes to the perfect host and, reluctantly, left to return to normal life.

Thoughts of translations had shattered the idyll within minutes. We trotted onto Schönhauser Allee and deliberately turned the wrong way to put off reality for a moment longer. Within half a second, we bumped into our friends the Frenchies, here for work/holidays/the World Cup. “Where are you going?” we asked eagerly. “Er, we thought we’d go to the café formerly known as Amsterdam for dinner.” “We’ll join you.”

Some things are good enough to be enjoyed twice.

(Excuse the red herring Wimbledon photo. As if I wasn’t ecstatic enough, Amélie only went and beat the loathsome JHH – “tellement platte qu’on pourrait la faxer” or “so flat you could fax her” as a female Belgian friend once said – in today’s Wimbledon final. I repeat. I could not be happier.)

Buy your own, goddammit! July 6, 2006

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Darlings, I’m sorry to moan on about the same things over and over. Football should be done and dusted soon enough. The Russian has kept blog-worthy moments to a minimum of late. Good-looking men can wait for a post or two… But I just have to moan about cigarette-poncers once more. The blind flaneur did this long ago but then only went and deleted – yes, DELETED! A crime, as if bloggers should feel they have any right over their own words once they’ve been put in the public domain – the post so I’ve got nowhere specific to send you to. (Mind you, he and I also share an interest in hair.) (Modern heterosexual men make life very difficult for us queens you know. All that looking after themselves and crying. I hope they don’t complain when women don’t come onto them and gay men do.) (Your own flippin’ fault, innit? Go and put on some weight and burp once in a while.)

So, yes, cigarette-poncing. It’s peaking to coincide either with the crescendo of footballing events or the searing hot weather. It is seriously boiling. I am usually an enemy of shade but as I went for a 24-hour work-avoidance stroll yesterday, I did occasionally have to get the better of my stubbornness and trot to the other side of the street. Scorching. Anyway, tbf – the beautiful friend – and I met for a post-loss, consolation beer within seconds of the Italians covering themselves in glory. The atmosphere was still lovely, although I did, I admit, stick strictly to non-nefarious parts of Berlin, peopled exclusively by the type of heterosexual man described above. (Well, and women too.) I expressed, on behalf of English folk everywhere, my sincerest condolences to tbf. We drowned our sorrows the only way we know how, and were reminded that German men are quite obscenely good-looking. It was wall-to-wall totty. And determined festivation. But two beers into drowning our sorrows and we were ready to go and commune with our homosexual brethren.

The Ackerkeller – the link makes it sound much more unusual than it in fact is – is just about the only homo place I know in the centre of Berlin, and very nice it was too, with a nice selection of types. But then the poncing began. A handsome type came to poach cigarettes with unashamed brazenness. But vaguely politely. The two of us held out our different-brand cigarettes. I offered red Gauloises, all the while mentally squeezing the packet as school-friends used to do if one ever asked them for a crisp. Tbf held out Nil. (Not nothing. Nil is a brand of cigarette.) My packet was very sparsely populated indeed. Tbf’s was pulsating with Nil. Just as the suspense was about to kill all three of us, he plumped for one of mine, the sod, although perhaps I should see it as a moral victory. Maybe he secretly fancied me, although he did dash off once his thank yous were done and was never to be seen again, so perhaps I shouldn’t read too much into it. In any case, I put the incident behind me. Achieved closure. Moved on. Reinforced the thought that the good-looking, sporty, 25-year-old ponce had probably had to fight an almost irrepressible urge to kiss me… And then came the ugly mate.

I have quite the most extraordinary capacity to attract the attentions of the least desirable patrons of any homosexual establishment. I am reminded of the occasion a man in his third age struck up conversation with me in another old haunt. I struck back with gusto. His hand was on my groin before he could even finish his patently bollocks story about Klaus Wowereit – the gay mayor of Berlin – going to Berlin’s seedier gay bars incognito. So the ugly mate – drunk, leery and letchy – shuffled over. “Hast du eine Zigarette für mich?” – everyone’s least favourite chat-up line – he asked in a Spanish accent. This time I had the solo privilege of the ponce’s solicitations. I held out my depleted stocks without so much as a smile, and certainly not a word, and went back to conversing with tbf in English as loudly and bitchily as I could muster. The Spaniard lingered on, like a dog at a dinner table, with baleful eyes and what I think was meant to be a sympathy-inviting droop of the shoulders. I smoked as fast as my lungs would carry me for the rest of the evening. There was no time for conversation. It was a race against time to see if I could be the sole smoker of the remainder of my supply. I puffed for all I was worth.

Struggling for breath and making sure that my inhaler was trustily in position, I decided it was time to take leave of tbf and head home for the night. I was reasonably satisfied with a ponce-count of just 2. I drank in tbf’s beauty one last time, hugged him good night and went to make my way into the boiling hot air. “Er, er, Esuldigu, hath du noch eine Thigarette für meech?” piped up the long-since-forgotten lapdog in an attempt at seduction. I fingered one out of the packet, icily. Went upstairs, bought some more fags and walked home in a cloud of smoke along the most deserted streets I could find.

The end of the affair July 4, 2006

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I don’t know if this is England-being-out-and-the-interest-waning talking or honesty, but the World Cup really needs to be a week shorter. There is no need for fifty-day hiatuses between matches once the group stage and second round are over. Presumably, once every four years, a handful of footballers can be called upon to play a few matches more than they usually do in a fairly limited time. And I’m even struggling to still desperately want Germany to win the bastard. The stickers of the German flag given to me by a drug-addict “for my wife” early on in the tournament – on my way to meet some bloggers (and other humans) for the first time, actually. Well, not other humans. I’d met some of those before – still poke out of my wallet and I’m yet to adorn them on my mug. But a mini German flag does now perch on top of the map of Europe – darlings, invest in a map of Europe, or anywhere interesting. Our guests spend practically ALL their time looking at it – in the hallway. And I’ll try my best to urge the boys on in front of the TV this evening. Unfortunately, I have remembered I have to work to finance being alive. Well, fortunate I’ve remembered, I suppose, but unfortunate I have to do so. I still haven’t forgiven my parents for not being The Queen and Prince Phillip (although I’d hate all that pretending to want to have a military career. Did even Edward – aka Betty – go through with the charade?). So translate my piffle I must.
Still, maybe I’ll be eating my words next week when Germany will go back to hating itself and flags will be removed, folded and either tucked away at the bottom of the deepest drawer in the house or burnt ceremoniously. TVs will sheepishly return to every café’s dusty cellar and enormous flat-screens will go back to the hire shop. Depression levels will soar. Strangers will stop feigning interest in how long is left for the sake of striking up drunken conversation. Even if Germany win the thing, the honeymoon could be short-lived. I have some Frenchies in town at the moment and their quiver of glee at winning in 1998 didn’t get them to the millennium. Not by a long chalk. Or country mile. And what with old Mr. Ullrich having been suspended – why have the words ‘ablative absolute’ just leapt into my brain? – the Romans laid waste to Carthage. What? I mean, sorry, what with Jan – oh, I see he’s an Ossi. I quite fancy him, actually – out of the Tour de France – Jan has no idea why he’s been suspended, by the way – Germany can’t even pretend to get consumed with that. Carnival will be over and we’ll have to make our own entertainment again. (Personally, I’ll be doing some embroidery and singing songs with my friends around a campfire with nothing but a guitar in the way of modern technology.)
Maybe I need a holiday.

Halbe Treppe July 3, 2006

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I loathe not updating this bastard blog as the realisation that I get three clicks a day – two of them from me – within a day or so of ignoring the thing is like a knife through the heart. So I need to update. To refresh. But I feel as inspired to write as a 27-year-old café-owner who’s fulfilled his lifelong dream of opening his own cosy little place and gone bankrupt within two weeks feels like making someone some Eggs Benedict. I’m running on empty.

But needs must so it’s some lazy, TV-inspired blog-meat for today. In a last desperate attempt to avoid work for the day, the day’s play already over at Wimbledon and not a sniff of football in the air, I switched on the TV to see if I might catch a random episode of Wife Swap. German TV is actually very good. Any flat I’ve lived in in Berlin has always had a gazillion TV channels because you need that box-thing to get reception which picks up every channel from Reykjavik to Singapore. So you’re bound to find something to tickle your fancy. If you’re in a Camus mood, you can go straight to Arte, a Franco-German channel which pitches every programme at an audience with an IQ of no less than 140. Sure enough, this often makes for puking pus about the history of the Slovenian Green Party, but occasionally they provide something that hits the spot. And so it was this evening with Halbe Treppe, a heavenly German film from 2002, which, according to its imdb link, was released in the English-speaking world under the name Grill Point. Even if you don’t speak Deutsch, I recommend finding the trailer somewhere to give you a hint of what you’d be in for if you were to take my advice and dash out and hire the video ASAP. I can’t write a review because my IQ, like Linda Lusardi’s, and unlike the real ARTE audience’s, stands at 11 (a dead pig’s is 12, as a German friend of mine likes to say) but what I will say – I’m sure I could be a New Labour MP if I tried – is that it’s a fucking good film about two Ossi couples who get into a mess when an affair starts between two of the four. My only gripe is that the moral of the story seems to be if you’re fat and have an unglamorous job, you deserve to be left by your wife, but it’s still a corkingly good watch. I laughed out loud and shed the odd tear. I’d considered giving up smoking again this evening but was so buoyant when the credits rolled that I floated out the window and accidentally bought some emergency fags.

I know this is all part of my almost pornographic love affair with everything German at the moment, but this is a properly, lovelily good film. I’m trying to think of who could possibly hate it. Classical musicians are the only category I’ve come up with so far, as they, in my limited experience, loathe everything bar classical music. It’s sort of Dogme-like with a Mike Leigh twist. Gloom and humour in equal measure. Some lovely portrayal of fun, drunkenness and ordinary Ossi life. Watch it, and then click on my blog and tell me you love me…

Château de Toilette July 2, 2006

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Darlings, what can it mean when an Engländer WANTS Germany to win the World Cup? Am I sick? Have the nasty old Boche somehow managed to spike my Weissbier? Is it time to get a one-way Easyjet ticket the hell outta here? (God, I hope there are tickets to Gatwick. I won’t even get as far as immigration at Luton without swallowing cyanide.)

Well, it’s still all a bit too raw to muse about England’s defeat. Was it heroic? It probably was. What a shame they weren’t leading 5-0 at half-time and didn’t then somehow manage to throw it all away with six Portuguese goals in the last six minutes. That would have had a bit more glory about it. And I must say I hadn’t quite realised to what extent my enjoyment of the World Cup was dependent on England still being in. Because I’m now a Euro-mongrel, I thought I’d better do something drastic to demonstrate my grief. Not violent, obviously, because I’m not four. Nor did I throw the TV out the window, which I might have done if I’d had a true Slavic soul. And it couldn’t even be spontaneous, as I didn’t watch the match and only found out the result when two friends sent SMSed condolences. I trundled back into the flat, opened the bottle of wine I’d just bought for dinner, poured myself a glass and then, in a very grown-up gesture, went and poured the rest down the loo. It wasn’t even Portuguese. But it was red, and believe me, darlings, if this now starts a wave of copycat protest actions, may I suggest you buy white wine instead as the red doesn’t half stain your bowl. (I regretted this piece of theatre the second my glass was empty, of course. Luckily, there was some emergency beer in the fridge. Rooney and the kick-missers weren’t going to keep me sober after all.)

So now I can get back to straightforwardly supporting Germany. Germany’s win on penalties over Argentina was a moment of sheer sporting joy, the intensity of which I don’t think I’d felt since I read on the trusty BBC website one winter’s morning that England had won the Rugby World Cup. I watched with a smattering of foreigners and we outgermanned the Germans with our joy. It was high-fives, roaring and physical intimacy all over the shop. And drinking. The Russian and I wandered down the streets afterwards holding German flags. I wondered what our ancestors would think. I remembered that one of my previous moments of sporting joy was watching Bulgaria knock Germany out of the 1994 World Cup at the quarter-final stage. But my about-turn has been complete. The carnival atmosphere and Germany’s intense rush of self-approbation has been completely contagious. Nothing will bring the party to a more sudden end for me than an Italy Portugal final.

In any case, through gritted fingers, and in the spirit of grown-upness, I congratulate my several million Portuguese readers on reaching the semis. (Have they got this far before?) But just so that the party might go on as long as possible, Klinsi and the boys, keep doing your thang…

Who needs free music downloads… July 2, 2006

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when you can actually get free CDs delivered to your front door? Admittedly, it means outing yourself to Lukeski, but I can vouch for his utmost discretion (although I will be willing to pay him for any inside information he’s willing to spill). Anyway, he’ll moan if you don’t go and sign up, so just bloody well do.