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Breakfast for dinner September 15, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
I’m a bit bored of the loneliness. The novelty of the Russian’s awayness and me being able to be a slob and buy what I like and haphazardly make the bed and only wash up every other day is slowly wearing off. Although those things do remain a joy, as does smoking with Parisian abandon at the computer, or anywhere bloody else, for that matter, without having to have windows flung open and doors closed and me being rooted to some spot far from the computer and close to or, goddammit, even ON the balcony. No, those things are nice, but it’d be nice to have the Russian stalwartly around.

Now I’m a nasty, selfish, spiteful, bitter old queen, so there’s a good deal of egotism – that t is all wrong – in the missing. Cooking is a loathsome chore. And I do it badly anyway. I’m half-tempted to live on my professed diet of choice of weetabix and bananas, but have been advised that bananas make one fat, and as anyone worth his salt knows, I’m on a new musclathon, involving minimal physical effort but an unnaturally high intake of strawberry power-milkshakes. Still, as I ogled in disbelief at the contents of the fridge this very day, I knew it was time to go out and get some real sustenance.

“This is a queer state of affairs,” I thought to myself as I trotted back from the supermarket with bananas, weetabix and a herd-load of milk. “Here I am in East Berlin. I’ve always been a bit one for abroad, but how the buggery fuck did I end up here?” Not that I’m complaining, really, and my World-Cup-initiated love affair with Berlin is still on the go. “If I’d made a few different choices,” I went on, “like what’s-‘er-face Paltrow in that film, I might be at home nicely in, say, Leamington Spa, in a three-bedroomed semi with a Vauxhall Viva and planning my trip to Homebase on Saturday with, say, Jeremy. And yet, here I am, trundling back from the supermarket, laden down with bananas and weetabix and planning a dinner of breakfast. Life can be too queer.”

I plopped my bags down on the rickety kitchen table, whipped off my shoes Russian-style, went to pick up the parcel – some beauty product the Russian had ordered for himself – that had been left with the neighbours (thankfully not ones I’ve had noise or flooding issues with) and psyched myself up for a brinner/brupper (delete according to class status) (brea, should anyone north of the Watford Gap be reading) of exquisitely delicious and freshly baked pumpkin-seed bread – God, the Germans do good bread – either some Camembert or Brie (not brea) (can never remember the difference), some roughly hewn lumps of tomato and sexily milky coffee, which I hadn’t had for two days because of quoffing all the milk to get those flipping muscles. It was all lovely. I settled in for the post-prandial and wondered how it should have come to pass that of all the places I seem to have ‘ended up’, I’m in Germany, a country I couldn’t have had less of a psychic connection to until the moment I stepped off the plane at some Berlin airport or other a bazillion years ago.

It came to me in a flash as I contemplated some Fleischsalat. “Boyfriends.” Flipping boyfriends. Not that I don’t love them, of course (though one at a time. There’s nothing poly- about my relationships), but I now realise I am geographical putty in their hands, a powerless feather blown wherever they so care to wish.

I have one major ex. He happens to be the kindest, gentlest, most helpful person on the planet and is one of the least likely homosexuals I know. (His mother still claims he’s a ‘closet heterosexual’.) He must be 100kg of pure brawn and works in one of the manliest environments on earth, happily taking his rather more obviously homosexual 4kg-boyfriend along to any worky occasions and no-one, thankfully, giving the slightest of tosses. We were the on-off type of relationship. We can never answer when folk ask us how long we were together because the mental arithmetic is too tricky. 6 months here. 3 years there. Another 2 years in the middle. (OK, five-and-a-half years.) Anyway, it struck me, over the contemplated Fleischsalat, that he was the one that started getting me deported around the globe against my will when I’d just as happily have been in Leamington Spa with Jeremy and the Vauxhall Viva.

The ex believed in the full service deal. Not only was it selecting the right model, (high) maintenance throughout the five-and-a-half, disjointed years, there was even post-sales service. When we decided to split up after the first proper go of being together, his life gliding smoothly along well-oiled rails to a specific destination, mine derailing at Tring all the while, he decided I needed to go abroad. Naively, I thought this was all utter altruism on his part, rather than him wanting to see the back of me. Still, I couldn’t complain. He got on the phone to his friends in Paris, asked them if that boyfriend they’d met about one-and-a-half times could turn up and live with them for an undisclosed period and for total free in about ten minutes’ time and I was on the coach before I’d penned the letter to uni asking if I could have a few months off to find myself learning to drink in France.

Two years later, having learnt the lingo and done a job that I will have a one-way, first-class, TGV ticket to hell for, if hell exists, I was back, sniffing around his heels and asking if my deportation order had expired. Sure enough, it had. Wangled my way back into university, got the Tring-train hoisted back onto the tracks, removed the leaves and the powdery snow from the line and seemed to be rolling gently back towards stability.

Before I knew it, I was being bundled – handcuffed, blindfolded and gagged – onto a plane to Russia. “It’s for the best,” he assured me. “Working for a religious charity and earning $50 a month in a city with the world’s worst climate is EXACTLY the right career move for an atheist homo who’s just finished university with quite glitteringly good results.” (Have I mentioned those before? I promise that is the quote verbatim.) “You’re sure I shouldn’t stay here and find, say, a Jeremy in Leamington Spa with a nice Vauxhall Viva and a loyalty card for Homeb…” “Trust me.”

So once more I found myself trudging the wide and windy streets of a foreign city, appreciating the clemency of the weather when the thermometer hit the dizzy heights of -10 and spending an inordinate amount of time surrounded by Catholic priests. And then up popped the Russian, doing all the flattering things that young-people-in-love do, loitering outside my flat when I got home from a hard day of drinking tea (and learning the Lord’s Prayer in Russian) at the office, rustling up delicious dinners, taking his shirt off, telling me I had no soul. It was all marvellous. But for the German connection…

The Russian had studied German in his time. After a year or so of our togetherness, there was the chance for him to spend some time in Berlin. The charity closed down for the summer, as that’s when poor people stop pretending to be poor and take their savings out from under their mattresses and spend their time in Gstaad, so I was free to waft aimlessly around the Bundeshauptstadt without a care (or Pfennig) in the world. The Russian had arrived a couple of weeks before me. “Isn’t it vaaaaaaaaaanderful?” he assured me forcefully as he took me to a deserted Alexanderplatz late on a Thursday evening. “No, it’s the ugliest architectural ensemble I’ve seen since being ushered to my flat in Petrozavodsk when I was still a student,” I replied, love struggling to disguise the rancour. We stayed on for a few more weeks, me loathing every second, and had the most Hollywoodish goodbye imaginable at the airport as his visa expired and I thought I’d try and stay on and see if we could emigrate here immediately.

Thankfully, that was impossible and I was back on a plane to St. Petersburg within weeks. I hoped Germany might slip off the radar screen. But sure enough, the old deportation gene kept busy on the quiet and all of a sudden it was announced that there was a place waiting for him at Humboldt University. I whooped for joy as it looked like he wouldn’t be able to get the visa on time. But the gods of deportation had the last laugh and now here I bloody well am, having breakfast for dinner while he lives it up on his babushka’s potato patch.

And I could have just seen myself in a Vauxhall Viva.



1. Bowleserised - September 15, 2006

You might miss him, but I’ll tell you this – your writing is absolutely fecking stellar. I should know (being in the biz and all)

2. daggi - September 15, 2006

Yeah, what do you read in English, Bib, to provide you with such writing skills, which are (apart from the translations) only used for the benefit of the likes of us? It can’t only be online fayre (and can’t only be in Russian), so come on, what books have you been reading?

I’ve just again realised that I don’t read/write enough English – that is a German paragraph in English words. Look at the length. And it’s Thomas Mann-German at that.

P.S. Do you know anything about Esperanto by any chance?

3. chendaberry - September 15, 2006

How familiar is that. I know for a fact that at least two of your readers know exactly what you’re talking about, waiting for fate (i.e. some fit bloke) to come and decide where we should live next. And then suddenly – many years later – you’re still there and asking yourself what happened. Oh yes. Practically every ‘what brought you to Berlin?’ conversation i have these days elicits the rather embarrassed response ‘love’ – cue to look down with an embarrassed expression at shoes and then off into far distance..

4. daggi - September 15, 2006

At least my reason was different. But the question still applies…

5. Blonde at Heart - September 15, 2006

BiB, your ‘tour of love’ makes mine look very modest indeed. The furthest I went for a bloke was another city. No crossing of borders and stuff. Anyway, lovely post.

Daggi, Esperanto is an attempt to create an international language, created by some Jewish (yes, we are everywhere) linguist named Zamenhoff. I think they have a web site.

6. Ed Ward - September 15, 2006

Esperanto was responsible for one of the great record labels of the ’60s, ESP, which put out scads of crazy (and sometimes good) free jazz, not to mention the Fugs, while simultaneously releasing gems like Let’s All Sing In Esperanto!.

I know an American here who swears that there are only three things which bring Americans to live in Berlin: love, school, the military. Because like me, he can’t believe anyone would come here because they like it.

Unfortunately, his best German friend married an American who came here for just that reason. “Anomaly, anomaly,” he mutters when I bring that up.

Oh, and just for the record, me: love. Short-lived indeed, but that’s what got me on the plane the first time.

7. MountPenguin - September 15, 2006

I’m not American so maybe it doesn’t count, but I came here when I was 18 for a few months to learn German (mainly by selling newspapers) and decided I liked the place much more than anywhere I came from or would have gone to (various locations not all that far from Leamington Spa) and now it’s 2006, egads.

(When I say “liked” I mean not as in “stunned by the exquisite beauty of this ancient city and its famously hospitable inhabitants”, it was more a fascination with the immediate post-unification city and all the history bundled into just one century which got me started).

8. daggi - September 15, 2006

Blonde, thanks for that. But having done various Esperanto-by-post courses at the age of 11, I was actually hoping for a bit more info. “They” have many websites.

But Ed – that sounds a bit more interesting. Thanks. ESP, you say. And you don’t happen to have a copy of “Let’s all sing in Esperanto!”, do you? There is a reason behind this questioning, not just mindless wondering.

9. BiB - September 15, 2006

Daggi, I’m afraid I only know as much about Esperanto as BAH. Well that Zamenhoff did his work in Poland, I think. There used to be – perhaps there still is – an always-empty Esperanto shop on Holland Park Avenue, right next to where I went to school. A nerdy languagey friend of mine and I once went in and chatted to the nerdy man who ran it. We asked him to speak Esperanto for us, and he did. It’s all perfectly regular, of course. All I remember is that the verb to be conjugates: estas, estas, estas, estas, estas, estas. I wish German would do likewise. Germans have been known to laughingly scold me for some of my mistakes. (I will never say heisste for called again.) I don’t know if Volapük is more fun than Esperanto. I invented at least two new languages in my misspent youth. The word for shark was krap, so I must have just watched Jaws.

Daggi, again, reason you came to Berlin, please. And when are we going to get the amusing gay Nazi anecdote? I’m on the edge of my seat.

Mountpenguin, sometimes I think timing just makes one end up in places. I discussed this with an Australian who was here as part of the stag-do last week. He was convinced he’d be in London for a year, but said his girlfriend had found a top job and all that. I warned him he might end up getting stuck there, which he didn’t sound too bothered about, although I am always mystified that Australians would choose to live in England with that climate to cope with. (A freezing day in Perth, he assured me, was +16.)

Ed, Chen, BAH, so are we for or against this being shunted around for the sake of love? I suppose it’s as good a reason as any to be in a place, as long as the place ain’t TOO bad. I think I would have drawn the line had the Russian suggested we move to his provincial town with a worse climate than St. Petersburg or, worse, his grandmother’s village, although he said there was a dishy dentist there with pictures of naked men in his surgery. Russia is the oddest country on earth. It has to be.

B., Daggi (again, again), my addled brain and a foreign boyfriend are responsible for this language. I’m currently still struggling through Murakami, though keep getting distracted by other books on the way, but hope I don’t go sci-fi any time soon. I do switch off the (not) bedside lamp when he gets too scientific. Recent books have been ‘A Woman in Berlin’ (in translation into English, which I know was naughty), a collection of Daniil Kharms stuff, a bit of Nietzsche’s ‘Why I Am So Wise’ (also in translation) and various half-hearted attempts at thinking about finishing ‘Don Quixote’, ‘The (fucking) Shadow of the (fucking) Wind’ and ‘Perfume’ (but I’ve got that in French). Translations, translations, translations. I discovered to my horror I also have some Flaubert on my shelves. Maybe I need to attempt to read some of him too. Or just stick to blogs…

10. Ed Ward - September 16, 2006

Daggi, I have a bunch of ESP stuff on CD, but not Let’s All Sing in Esperanto. Sorry, have I just derailed your budding hip-hop career? Someone must’ve sampled it somewhere along the line; after all, my friend John in California says he can’t keep the Folkways record Sounds of Throat Surgery in stock. But if you ever feel a need to encounter Patti Waters’ 16-minute shriekathon of “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair,” just let me know.

And BiB, I think sometimes being shunted around is a very good idea indeed, and if it takes falling in love with a pre-psychotic German female to do it, well and good. As is not mourning her decision to become a lesbian astrologer Chinese herbalist, or her subsequent decision to go to Mass three times a week, get married, and have three kids. But I’d been shunted, and I’d like to shunt again.

11. daggi - September 17, 2006

Not knowing much about free jazz (though I have been to the odd, and I mean odd, concert here, e.g. at the Finnish cultural institute), I am quite curious when it comes to 16-minute shriekathons. “Ni Kantu en Esperanto” isn’t in the Berlin public library system, and the Russian “legal” download sites don’t have it either. Am I surprised? No. “Lesbian Astrologer vs. Chinese Herbalist” is actually my new stagename, as it happens.

12. BiB - September 17, 2006

Ed, as seconded by Mike, I am hide-bound from using certain abbreviations, but I did have to… laugh out loud, several times, at “lesbian astrologer Chinese herbalist”, which I know is ungentlemanly. I think I already knew the pre-psychotic and lesbian bits, but completing the picture just gives it extra pizazz. Yes, here’s hoping the next coup de foudre will whisk you Francewards.

Daggi, may I abbreviate it to LACH? And, if so, is it to be a German or English ch? These things are important.

13. daggi - September 17, 2006

A Welsh one (as in “…gogogoch”. Ask Leon.

14. BiB - September 18, 2006

Good old Llanfairpwll…gogogoch. Is it Barbarella where it’s used? Quick (not very) interesting Welsh linguistic nugget. Now, presumably, Welsh ch is the same as German ch if -gogogoch is to be trusted. (Leon, Welshy, can you confirm?) In New Zealand, they have summer cottages which they call bach, which is a Welsh word, so presumably pronounced like German bach, but the NZers say batch. (Why have I bothered typing this out? I think you could have lived without this information.)

Anyway, Lach (with throat-ridding) it is. When’s the concert again?

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