Drinking, smoking and homosexuals November 30, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Just settling in for the long haul. I’ve had a brilliantly constructive day. I must have thought about doing a jot of work for at least twelve seconds, perhaps twice, before confining the idea to the dustbin, but it’s good to know where you stand. Then the Russian and I went off on a shoppery. I’ve got a feeling brokeness might be about to attack again soon so, before it could get a look in, I decided to be extra extravagant. Card not refused. Signature correct. Got home. Had a delicious and early dinner, to whose manufacture I contributed, thus avoiding a domestic moment. The Russian dashed off to bed, because he’s been working like a demon of late and didn’t sleep AT ALL last night. So here I am. Just me, you, the computer, red wine and fags.
Which all sounds heavenly. And is heavenly. But, and I don’t know if it’s from vestiges of religious guilt and me feeling naughty at having sniggered at religious leaders’ garb earlier, but I’m feeling awfully conscience-stricken. I might have to pour myself another glass of red.
I think it’s perhaps a combination of religious residue and exposure to Russia, actually, that has sent my conscience whirring into a rare moment of activity. I think I was vaguely brought up to think pleasure and comfort are sins and best avoided by doing soul-destroying work and eating sandpaper between meals. And then Russia is only going to reinforce that message.
And I had such a deliciously debauched and fun evening yesterday. Proper, straightforward, non-religious, non-Russian fun. Drinking, smoking and homosexuals. An awfully good combination. (Though I love my hetero-brethren too, I hasten to add.) (But queens are better gossips.) (I think.) And I even met another Berlin blogger. The list of bloggers I’ve met in the flesh grows at a cracking pace. And I’ve so nearly met, and will soon, I’m sure, one more.
So the queens and I had a lovely night out. Gossip. Drinking. A bit more gossip. Making concessions to nominal grown-uppery and talking about work for 10 seconds. Then a bit more gossip. Willy-talk. More drinking. Smoking like mad. Saying, “No, we really must go home.” Then staggering in at an obscene hour, frazzled but happy, only to find the Russian red-eyed and exhausted slaving away over a hot computer. The poor bastard.
“I’m bored of this regime,” said the Russian, wearily, as he sipped at his constitutional glass of red with the delicious and early dinner to whose manufacture I had contributed. The Russian, being an immigrant from an undesirable country (as far as the EU is concerned), is strictly limited in what work he can do. Student jobs within the university are the best option, as they are less time-restricted, but he has found a labour-intensive one, which has the saving grace of being perfectly interesting. But he’s slaving, slaving, slaving. And all for a pittance. While I blog and drink and smoke with homosexuals.
So I’m feeling awfully guilty. I’m feeling more pangs of conscience than I did even when I nicked a Mars bar aged about ten and decided to make use of my cousin’s coat-pocket as the hot goods’ getaway vehicle. We got away with the crime, it turns out (but was my cousin – not the perfect one. Another one. My childhood was just like Eastenders. Endless tea and popping in and out of each other’s houses – not pleased at being an unwitting accomplice) but my conscience made me tell my mother, who promptly took me to the scene of the crime and instructed me to pay for the item I’d “forgotten” to pay for… I mean, I don’t think there’s anything morally reprehensible about drinking and smoking myself rancid – with homosexuals or otherwise – but I sometimes worry I’m an awfully poor husband. Is there an operation one can have to remove the fun-seeking elements of the brain and have them replaced with seriousness?
God squad November 30, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Darlings, look at those cozzies! Someone teach me how to believe in god. I MUST join the clergy.
My perfect cousin November 29, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
“Name me two tribes who have invaded England,” ordered my cousin, J_.
I’m not sure how this conversation began. I’m two-and-a-bit years older than cousin J_, and I might have been concerned that he was cleverer than me so probably started telling him how much better my school was than his. So he thought he’d catch me out. “Bugger,” I thought. “Erm, the Zulus and the Canadians,” I proffered, on a wing and a prayer.
“Oh well, I can see history clearly isn’t your strong point,” said J_, like an old-aged, overweight alcoholic. He was 8.
You never know what’s going to leap into your head as you stand under the shower, checking for Alzheimer’s. Why under the shower, especially? Because that’s where I’m always struck with my most vivid moments of short-term memory loss as I can never, ever remember whether I’ve shampooed my riah. Or maybe I’m worrying in vain, and I just simply never have shampooed my riah. Which might explain the bird’s nest… So I punch the code into my mental keypad. Try accessing brain. “Have I shampooed my riah?” I ask brain. Brain makes clunking noises and spits out cousin J_ before the whole thing crashes and I’m left none the wiser.
“Hm, there must be something in all this,” I think to myself. “I may have serious, early-onset Alzheimer’s and the greasiest hair this side of Glastonbury, but perhaps my brain’s brought up cousin J_ for a reason. Reviving the competitive spirit? My brain telling me to get on out there, to go kick some intellectual ass? To read a book? To find out the truth about the ancient Kingdom of Canadia?”
I telephone my mother.
“Yes?” curtly, and annoyed at having Home and Away interrupted.
“What ever happened to cousin J_?”
“Cousin J_? Cousin J_?” I reassure myself that I don’t have Alzheimer’s after all and think about when I might next have a beer-&-fag session. “Oh, he’s still working for the same people he’s always worked for.”
“And is that, in your opinion, a worse job than being a translator, and I’d appreciate an answer that takes into account both moral and intellectual sides of the argument?”
“What?” (She switches over to Neighbours.)
“Can you list his academic achievements for me, one by one?”
“Well, I know he dropped out of university after a week and went back to live with his mum. Where he lives to this day.”
Bingo. I could hardly have hoped for a better answer. Thank you, oh mushy brain! Thank you, oh short-term memory loss! Thank you, oh filthy barnet!
Syphilitic recycling November 27, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
I’m recycling old ideas, all the while pretending it’s technical revenge on blogger. But, actually, I have still got cold feet about linking and doing anything vaguely complicated, ever since wordpress welcomed me by losing an early linkful post, but, I know I’ll need to conquer my fear eventually, so, Pats, how does one upload music too? I’d wanted to upload Dix’s Syphilitic when over at the last place – blogger vetoed my choice and the whole system collapsed – and want to upload my favourite piece of inspirational music, which I’ve blogged about before, by the syphilitic Schubert. As November enters its final furlong and I avoid work for England, Schubert is being an awfully faithful friend.
But, darlings, speaking of technology, though of a much simpler kind, I’ve just been given my first ergonomic mouse-pad. Aren’t they AGONY? Much more painful than almost severing an artery in my wrist on the edge of the desk. But mouse-free life on the laptop instantly cripples me. It’s all very hard.
Update your links, if you can be bothered. I think I’m here for ever now (though I can’t work out how to make the posts neater and tidier, as I anally could over there, and am I right to suspect that you can’t see any of the images in older posts?).
The trouble with Nietzsche November 25, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
…and attempting to read Also sprach Zarathustra, in German, when your language skills are, as you realise, again, when attempting to read Also sprach Zarathustra, in German, piss poor, is that, missing one word in three, it’s just like doing an extremely long and arduous eye-test where all the letters are tiny and the ß provides the only moment of joy and recreation. I’ll stubbornly read on, probably, but it could quite easily be replaced by some random DNA code by some wicked fairy that gets up to that kind of thing – on a tram, say – and I don’t think I’d notice the difference. STILL, I’ll be able to say I’ve read (read, looked at) Also sprach Zarathustra. In 2010.
Note to self: carry on reading German stuff, unless about as intellectually challenging as Kaminer or a bus-ticket, in translation.
Supermarket sweep November 24, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
I’m a man of routine. And the November routine is not one to be envied. It’s all darkness, darkness, darkness. My fault, of course, for being a night-owl, but at times like this I would love to be a regular guy, up with the lark and sucking up every ray available from 8 till 4. But I’m not. By the time I’m ready for the day to begin, have abluted, have tried (and failed) to talk the Russian into some wrongness, have done a good five hours of blog-surfing and work-ignoring, I barely make it to the supermarket before closing time when we decide that – oh, go on then – we WILL – surprise, surprise – have wine with dinner after all.
Crime has come to Pankow – German for Ruislip – and the Russian recently told me with great excitement that our local Edeka was held up. Imagine! In Ruislip! So we’ve decided to stop doing huge shopperies and, as we used to do when we had excellent markets on hand in St. Petersburg, go shopping every day in the hope that we might get a piece of the action. At 7.30pm.
But there’s a price to pay for this routine. Apart from never having witnessed a hold-up – perhaps criminals are early risers – my metronomic regularity coincides with the metronomic regularity of Radio Edeka, which has, presumably, only bought the rights to play four songs over and over.
Today’s shoppery was meant to be strictly wine only. Straight in, whizz straight to the last aisle, wine in trolley and back to my old lady on till 1. But my autism and decidely low-tech internal computer refuse to let me take such a revolutionary short-cut. No, it was up and down all the aisles, including the cat-food one. I rolled lugubriously down the fruit-&-veg aisle, worried that folk would think I was awfully scummy as I made it to the end of it without an item darkening my trolley’s door. To punish me for my unhealthy lifestyle, I was forced to endure Whitney wailing, “And I-ee-I-ee-I will always love you-ou-ou-ou-ou-ou-ou,” all the while. I tried in vain to turn my trolley in a south-westerly direction, but the wheels jammed fast and insisted I show extreme restraint as I went down the sweeties aisle, wondering throughout if ANYONE had ever bought those sweets in the shape of a violin with Mozart’s mug on the box.
To my pleasure and, thanks to drink-induced Alzheimer’s, surprise, Whitney was replaced with, “If you’re going to San Francisco, doo-be doo, be sure to wear…” I lingered lovingly at the powdered soups, hoping I might see a hint of criminal activity and singing along. “Cor blimey,” I thought. “I wonder if that revamped version of The Farm’s “Altogether Now”, reworked as part of a Challenge Anneka special to see if she could find them all queuing for opening time at Liverpool pubs on a Tuesday morning will come next.” And sure enough it did. I bought myself a Pot Noodle in their honour.
Thankfully, my quest was almost at an end. By the time I’d selected the evening’s tipple and communed with my favourite till-lady, I was only just lucky enough to catch the opening strains of, “Ooh, what a feeli-i-in’; we’ll be dancin’ on the ceilin’.” I bought myself some fags to celebrate.
Learn Russian with homosexual terms of endearment! November 23, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
“Darlink, you kvite educated person,” began the Russian, with perhaps the greatest compliment he’s ever paid me, as I stood peeling potatoes over the kitchen sink. “Vot fish eat?”
I got to grips with an annoyingly tiny potato and my equally tiny brain got to grips with, “Do fish eat plankton?” and then with wondering whether I could get away with saying plankton with a Russian accent and that actually turning out to be a Russian word. (Not to be tried too frequently, that one, for any of you thinking of hazarding guesses at vocab with random Russians you meet. I couldn’t remember the word for desert once and inevitably came up with something that meant dessert.) (It worked in this case, though.)
Of course it all got me worried about how uneducated I was. All those years of edumacation and I don’t even know what fish eat – I had a mental flash of my niece desperately hoping I’d kill the family goldfish as she tried to get me to feed the bastards, all the while happily telling me about the time her brother accidentally (we assume) overfed the aquarium’s previous tenants to death. They kill goldfish more classily in Russia. The Russian’s brother was once blitzing his zits with a quartz lamp but accidentally blitzed the goldfish to death too. I think the fate of a goldfish is an unhappy one, torn from nature to live in the suburbs and mentioned only in stories of their untimely and, usually, unheroic deaths – and can’t be sure what Russian for plankton is. All that tax-payers’ money gone to waste.
So to assuage my guilt, and to make sure whoever may come across this will learn something useful from my blog, and to – who knows? – stimulate a part of your brain that might not ordinarily be stimulated, it’s time for your first (with BiB, at least) Russian lesson. Learn with BiB.
Now when I was a professional tea-drinker in Russia, one of the duties I was meant to perform, between sessions of sloshing around in tea, was to give the ne’er-do-well ruffians I came into contact with something resembling English lessons, all the while keeping an eye out to see if any of them were nicking each other’s coats or, which was a less frequent occurrence, were engaged in something that could, by any stretch of the imagination, be called nice. But what my vast wealth of pedagogical experience taught me was that if an element of competition could be brought into the lesson, and there was winning and losing to be done, which, if they were lucky, might even lead to an opportunity for some sour feelings and, if doubly lucky, a chance for a bit of wanton violence, they were gripped.
So your Russian lesson’s going to be a quiz.
Now whereas Chaz and Caz, unless that whole tale is apocryphal, or bespeaks some perverse twist of my own memory, went in for calling each other ‘my little tampon’, the Russian and I, when bothering to speak, and in addition to the classic ‘darling’, think terms of endearment should come from the animal kingdom. And be in the diminutive. So it’s my-little-…s all round. No ponies though, sorry.
So, fill in the blanks.
1. Моя рыбочка (moja rybochka) – my little …
2. Моя кисочка (moja kisochka) – my little …
3. Моя жабочка (moja zhabochka) – my little …
4. Моя свиночка (moja svinochka) – my little …
5. Моя крысочка (moja krysochka) – my little …
6. Моя выдрочка (moja vydrockha) – my little …
(*pronunciation guide, to make sure you don’t unimpress your Russian victim. ‘Moja’ is pronounced maya, stress on the second syllable. The stress is on the first of the three syllables for all the cutesy words, and is to be followed, more or less, by utch-ka.)
OK, six cutesy names for animals should do you for your first lesson, and have you sorted if you plan to fall in love with a Russian any minute now. Two are guessable, perhaps. Whoever can come up with all six covers themselves in out-and-out glory. If the learn-Russian-with-BiB franchise takes off, I’ll make merchandise including wallet-size flashcard prompts so that you’ll never be left high and dry.
Oh no stamps, no apples, no translations, no… November 20, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
…to be sung, hummed or straightforwardly said to the tune of Oh no John.
It’s more crises of confidence at the BiB hovel. Needless, probably, yet frantic worry about everything. About blogging, about socialising, about work, about money, about my hair, about… everything.
Darlings, can everyone who is obeying the laws of mathematics and time – all people getting younger, switch off now – tell me if worry and ageing go hand in hand? I’m sure they do, of course, though I can’t see the logic. Yet having sneered at every female relative of mine every day for the last 36 years – they are ALL scared of EVERYTHING – I have now turned into a gay composite, worrying about everything from missing a flight I might potentially take next year to me getting my signature wrong when I get to the till at the supermarket. And I don’t mean because I’ve stolen the card.
The Russian and I did our best at appearing normal on Saturday and accepted a dinner invite. This, naturally, led to many days of worry beforehand. Would I be the pinkest person there? (Certainly the oldest, but that was OK, as I feel sorry for young people having to be so young.) Would I be dressed like a cunt? (Yes, it turned out.) Would I have to sit in silence in a corner having given up on trying to speak German after three minutes when I was once again frying-panned over the head with the realisation that I just can’t converse in non-English? (Yes, but I hope it made me look wise and aloof to the youngsters, when really my head was as empty as a teenager’s on messenger (or whatever it’s called. Has myspace taken over?).) Would I drink myself bloated? (Yes.) Would I annoy everyone by smoking? (Yes.) Would I politely desist? (No.)
In any case, to give me something extra to worry about, we set off ludicrously late. And, darling, no, if we’re due at the other end of town at 6 – yes, 6! – we cannot leave home at twenty past and make a detour to the post-office to buy one stamp to send some pus to Reader’s Digest by frustratingly fingering 55 one-cent coins into the machine only for it to spit them all out again just as you’ve fumbled the 53rd one in. No, darling, no. And then more frantic worry at going to a flat I have never been to and being completely in the Russian’s hands, and him saying reassuring things, as I looked hesitantly at my watch about eight times a second, like, “I must look at map. Can never remember if we must get off at Westend or Westkreuz”. And then we had to go shopping. And then we arrived obscenely late, me preparing my excuses in a selection of languages as we trudged up the stairs, only to be met by a host who clearly hadn’t given his watch a second glance all evening.
Apples are a poor choice of snack if you have a worry-induced hunger pang.
But, darlings, the work! Hacking blithely away at this blog and the old one over the last week and ignoring translations as best I could – I can be very good at that – now means I will have to work like a demon for, ooh, DAYS, so I’ll have to do a bit of worrying about that. Believing, I think rightly, that a trouble shared is a trouble doubled, I thought I’d let the Russian in on my woes. “Darling, am I the worst person on earth? Can’t you get a nice job so I can be a kept queen and never have to do another translation again? Should I just nicely throw myself off the balcony this sec?” “No, you just need haircut.”
Better go and worry about something.
Moving home November 18, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Gas board? Check. Electricity board? Check. TV licence people? Check. Electoral roll? Check.
Honestly, this moving blog lark is just as hard as moving home. Especially if you’re as technically gifted as I am, which is roughly Stig-of-the-dump level. (It’s such a pain being a linguistically-minded internationalist. When reading that book aged whatever it was, I thought it was awfully Scandinavianist to give the caveboy of suburbia a Scandinavian name.) Had all gone smoothly, perhaps the whole move from there to here might have taken an hour or two. Or less, even. But of course I couldn’t resist pressing all the buttons at the shiny new wordpress site at the same time and the import died just as it seemed to be nearing its end. Cue a week of further attempts, deleting random posts over there that I assumed just MUST be the problem, getting rid of the ads (which earned me a grand total of $0.00 in however long they were there) and largely fruitless, though polite and speedy, correspondence with the wordpress people – but at least they exist! I’m sure blogger’s do too, but how do you find the bastards? Better hidden than a bottle of wine at an Iranian wedding… And even though I can now start gleefully hacking away at the old site, gaily deleting bits without actually deleting the whole thing, I’m still not quite done. Should anyone else ever think of making the move – I followed in
…oh god, half the post has disappeared. I give up.
OK, I’ll carry on, but without the eloquence and beauty, no doubt, of what was deleted. Incidentally, the deleted part started with a link, so obviously links are an ishoo and I may never link anywhere ever again. (Or wait till I’ve worked out how to do it more smoothly.)
What I wrote before, when I was feeling charitable, was that if you were thinking of making the move, because wordpress works and is just so wonderful, importing all your posts from blogger is easy enough but you can’t import links as far as I know and will have to reenter those yourself. Which I did, frazzled and red-eyed at some obscene hour. If, during the move, your link has fallen out of a box and escaped down a crack between blogger and wordpress, do please let me know. Any other link suggestions greatly accepted. Just WHOM should I be linking to, folks? New blog location, new horizons, and all that…
What else is nice over here so far? I like the templates, although Daggi at I Hate My Neighbours – I daren’t attempt a link again yet – told me they are importable to blogger, so I’m trying very hard to convince myself I’ll remain permanently technologically incapable of ever doing something so complicated to make me think I haven’t wasted my time by spending a working week on this still-incomplete move. (Non-blog links still languishing over there. Will work out how to list them somewhere other than the blogroll in 2014.) Also, posts aren’t timed, which means I don’t have to cringe about posting at 4 in the morning and people knowing what a weirdy I am. And, so far, I don’t have to put in a gazillion passwords and word verification riddles whenever I feel like doing anything at all.
So far, so – I think – good.
Cut and paste November 17, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
I’ve been tagged by Marsha Klein. I have to say 5 things about myself (and then tag 3 other people, I think – I’m not sure of the form). (And the text at the bottom has to stay in.) (If you don’t obey this, all your hair will fall out and you’ll have a miserable future.)
OK here goes:
1) I’m one of the nastiest individuals I’ve ever met.
2) I’ve taught Matt Damon Russian.
3) I drink and smoke too much.
4) And eat too much.
5) And I’m probably not very nice to my boyfriend.
Now I tag the following three people whom I’ve never met and who are too far away to do me any physical damage if they hate having been tagged. (Oh go on. I resisted, but was got in the end.) (It’s quite exciting actually.) (It’s a bit like finally being selected to play football.) (Gosh, isn’t Kes a good film?) Blonde at Heart, Kiss and Tell and Arabella Lost.
‘Remember that it isn’t always the sensational stuff that writers are looking for; it can just as easily be something that you take for granted, like having raised twins or knowing how to grow beetroot. Mind you, if you know how to fly a helicopter or have worked as a film extra, do feel free to let the rest of us know about it.’
2007 words November 16, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
I don’t mean 2007 words. I mean words for 2007. Some dictionary or other will probably be reinventing itself, so I’m thinking of sending them a couple of my very own contributions to see if I can create the squariel of the year.
My words are from little domestic observations, but don’t you think for a second that I mean these words apply to our own situation. Heaven forfend. Although I do think, perhaps, these words might be more easily applied in homosexual households.
Word 1: Pornburnt. ‘på(r)nbö(r)nt adj. p.p. vb. to pornburn. The phenomenon whereby food is burnt as the person preparing the food is reluctant to tear him/herself (most frequently applies to homosexual males) from internet websites featuring ill-clad men or worries that, if staying to attend to the food under his control, thus avoiding pornburn (n.), some new such sites might appear and pass him/her (most frequently applies to homosexual males) by. [Gr pornē a prostitute. In OE the transitive weak verb bærnan, bærnde, bærned has been confused with the intransitive strong verb beornan, byrnan, barn, bornen; cf Ger brennen to burn]
Word 2: Porncold. ‘på(r)nkōld adj. The phenomenon whereby food is eaten arctic as the person preparing the food is reluctant to tear him/herself (most frequently applies to homosexual males) from internet websites featuring ill-clad men or worries that, if staying to attend to the food under his control, thus avoiding porncold (n.), some new such sites might appear and pass him/her (most frequently applies to homosexual males) by. [Gr pornē a prostitute. OE (Anglian) cald (WSax ceald); Scot cauld, Ger kalt; cf cool, ON kala to freeze, L gelidus, from gelū frost]
Moan November 15, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Gosh, can’t times be hard? I don’t mean I’m living through the blitz, or a blockade, or have been taken hostage or don’t have enough to eat and will be happy if I get a bit of tongue on my ration card this month. No, just modern hard. Sort of easy hard. Still, good enough reason for a bit of a moan.
Now I’m a great believer in the blame game, so let’s look for some scapegoats, shall we? Well, November deserves the death penalty – at least – for a start. I’ve done my November moan before, but could there be any ghastlier month? It’s ugly. The weather’s cack. Not even properly cold. Just cack. And guaranteed to make you and everyone in your environs sniff till December 1st. I’m foghorning away with the best of them and the Russian is also a great believer in making the most out of an illness. It’s all wailing and noises of such drama that I have to dash next door to check that the latest production isn’t a death rattle. “Darling, what was that incredibly loud and spine-chilling noise?” “Oh, I just sneeff.” And then he sniffs, to prove his point, and then gives a tuberculotic cough, to prove it again. I’ve got aches and pains that a 36-year-old, by rights, shouldn’t have. I might see if my posh insurance will cover me a Christmas prezzie of a hip, knee and shoulder replacement.
And don’t even talk to me about wanking technology. And about wanking blogger. For some days, I have been battling to be allowed to use my own wireless connection – brand new. A faggot above a load, if you ask me, though I may be about to get addicted – and battling for another equal number of days, at least, to try to get in touch with blogger. How I loathe companies who do their best to hide their contact details from you – yes, I mean you too, Amazon – having instructed you to get in touch in the first place. But blow that for a caper. We can soldier on regardless. Effing and blinding all the while that blogger and all its employees deserve eternal misery and damnation.
But, darlings, what’s really put me to shame, and made me have a bit of a moan, with the only possible scapegoat being myself, is being outdone by my mother. I telephoned, filially, this very evening and we did our regular rundown of family gossip. I gave her my non-news. She gave me hers. I said I’d probably be boycotting Christmas this year. She said she’d harangue me till I caved in… “And have you e-mailed J_ for me to say how happy I am that she’s had a baby?” “Oh god, I can’t remember,” I confessed. “If you had a computer, you could, of course, e-mail her yourself.” “Oh, I don’t want to get involved in all that.” “You could still watch Emmerdale,” I put in, by way of compensation. “And Eastenders. And Home and Away.” … “Do you know, I was in the gym last week and there were three TVs showing three different channels.” “The gym?” “Yes, I go about once a week,” explained my mother. Talk about secret lives. I thought the omnibus editions were as exciting as my mother’s life got. And now I know she’s probably hanging out with more muscly queens than I am.
Wake me up in May.
Search complete II November 10, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
It’s a Berlin thang, you see. I mean, Berlin’s all well and good, but the 11-and-a-half month winter might be a bit of a pain. And, just occasionally, in the exile’s constant quest to find out is-it-or-isn’t-it? on the ideal-home front, Berlin might occasionally strike one as a touch of a shit-hole.
The Russian decided today that some smart items of clothing were in order, so we trolled off for a last-minute panic shop that was vaguely meant to cover shoes, suits and ties. We left the shops without any new garments but laden down with comestibles. In a moment of supreme abstemiousness, I decided against pressing the red Gauloises button on the machine that cleverly spits cigarettes right onto your spot on the supermarket conveyor belt as the Russian was paying and I didn’t think I could cope with moaning till spring. But we WERE feeling rich, for god knows what reason, so had at least treated ourselves to a posh supermarket. “BiiB, I don’t vont cook tonight. Ve jaast buy sinks like snyecks. Pyeppyers filled viz kreem cheez. Some trout filyay. Some khoumous.” My mind filled with images of rotund homosexuals rolling happily home, and I agreed heroically. Managed to sneak some quite posh wine into the trolley. And we trundled off into the night. (Germans and residents of the Bundesrepublik: DO NOT buy houmous in Germany. Germans just CANNOT do it. Even the English can make nice houmous. So it’s a mystery. But don’t waste your money. And stay thin.)
The weather is not good at the moment. Not utterly arctic. But unpleasant. And windy. And rainy. We stood forlornly, waiting for the tram. The Berlin equivalent of a dot matrix indicator – did folk know that’s what the ones in the London Underground are snappily called? A friend of mine once suggested that, rather than you turning up on the platform at Kentish Town tube only to see “Bank 24 mins” greeting you, the machine might just read “Fuck off” instead. I don’t know if he’s got on to TfL with his suggestion – informed us it was 9 minutes till the next tram. The Russian, having integrated into non-Soviet life far too well for my liking, decided this was an inordinately long time to stand in inclemency and insisted upon parting with some hard-borrowed cash in a convenient cafeteria.
Deciding I’d better match generosity with generosity, I splashed out in the cafeteria and ordered two massive fuck-off bits of cake and two cauldrons of coffee. All in all, it was about an extra 15000 calories, and similar number of euros. The waitress informed us that the establishment was thinking of closing at some point that evening and, as they’d done the washing-up once and couldn’t be bothered to do it again, we’d be served our coffee in paper cups. She stretched to plates for the cake, rather than us having to snuffle it off the floor, but we were also given plastic utensils. My radar for automatically-but-unwittingly always finding the worst spot to sit in any establishment worked like a dream and we settled in a draughty corner being buffeted by hurricane-strength, icy winds if the door to the street ever opened by more than a millimetre.
Which it did.
A lady who had last had a moment of lucidity in 1983, looking 99 but probably about 40, lunged towards us with an open bottle of beer in one hand and, oddly, a toothbrush in the other. I was indulging in a sneaky ciggy, all the while regretting my abstemiousness in the supermarket. (Indeed, I sit here utterly cigaretteless now.) She initiated conversation with my absolutely least favourite line and asked if she could ‘buy’ a cigarette from me. I thought I probably wasn’t going to bother relieving her of 20c so gave her a cigarette and even bothered with a ‘bitte schön’ for the sake of… don’t know. To my horror, the lady tarried. She ranted and spewed forth drunken wisdom. The man at the next table gave a knowing chuckle. The paper-cup waitress wondered whether it was part of her job to do something. I ignored the lady as best I could, occasionally reminding her mid-flow that I didn’t understand. The Russian then informed me that she was BOLLOCKING me. BOLLOCKING me! It appears I had handled the transaction of her being given a cigarette by me incorrectly. She didn’t want my charity. Wasn’t her money good enough for me? This she really couldn’t understand! I presented her with the most withering look I could muster when being buffeted by hurricane-strength, icy winds and consuming 15000 unnecessary calories, all the while worrying about the low cigarette-count.
We had actually cunningly positioned ourselves (or so we thought) to have a view on the dot matrix indicator. Sure enough, it was tram to the rescue. We gathered our comestibles and prepared to dash for our conveyance. Showing there were no hard feelings, I said goodbye to the woman with beer and toothbrush who hadn’t had a lucid moment since 1983. She announced that she was coming with me. Unfortunately for her, a minor, two-step sprint had to be made for the tram, and that was beyond her. Our friendship ended there.
The Russian and I sat middle-agedly on the tram. “Meine Güte!” I said, adopting my best petit bourgeois German housewife face. “That would never happen in Pyongyang!”
…So if any of you hear about a vacancy at a Pyongyang doctor’s surgery, give me the nod.
Citius, Altius, Fortius November 9, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Which seems odd.
Darlings, you must cancel all flights from the UK for at least the next 500 years. Just hunker down nicely for the winter and cancel your trips to your second home in Switzerland, your time-share on Mallorca or your once-in-a-lifetime holiday to Disneyworld. It ain’t worth it. Or at least not until the BAA has got its new security measures off-pat and stops trying to guarantee that everyone flying out of, say, Gatwick Airport, considers ending either his own life or that of one of his fellow-queuers knowing that his flight is likely to take off to say, Berlin, with his bags but without him.
Thankfully, I only fly EASYjET and their flights are always late, so I had as long as usual sitting in the departure lounge once I’d eventually done my queuing, taken most of my clothes off and, annoyingly, missed my chance of a free grope from the man with the beeping stick. (Mind you, I’d cheated at check-in by blatantly going to the hand-baggage-only non-queue and, having gone through every item of potential explosive, was thwarted by my toothpaste which came in a special, 25%-extra-free, 101mg tube. That’ll learn me for inheriting my mother’s ‘buy-anything-that’s-cheap’ gene, including Eritrean champagne. Still, the man took pity on me and took my luggage off my hands there and then.)
Miraculously, I was seated in the front row, which affords leg-space and inappropriate access to the trolley-dollies’ ‘private’ conversation. “Is it something I’ve done?” wondered Estuary-English trolley-dolly who had a save-the-world complex and thought he must be the root of every evil. “Nein, I just can’t bear it zat people don’t vont to help,” answered his stern, painfully-thin, Calvin-Klein-underpant-clad colleague. A plain lady with an inflated ego and expensive luggage panted on to the plane. She must have had a ‘scared-of-flying’ code on her boarding card as great fuss was instantly made. Estuary-English trolley-dolly was attentive and reassuring. The stern, painfully-thin, Calvin-Klein-underpant-clad colleague pretended he needed to count the kit-kats. A female member of staff, who was meant to be serving another bit of the plane altogether, even tried to get in on the act and started asking the plain lady if she’d like to sit in the front row. “Well, I would, but all the seats are taken,” she said, loudly. The female member of staff looked us over. I took a cue from my German neighbours and held my ground, whereas I am, of course, genetically programmed to say, “No, I don’t mind moving for a plain lady with an inflated ego who was the last person onto the plane because she was busy telling strangers about herself in Gatwick Village.” She sat behind me, hollering at the staff throughout. Annoyingly, both her German and English sounded so perfect that I couldn’t even tell which she was. Perhaps she was Namibian…
It was a night-flight. I looked out the window. London, presuming there isn’t some other metropolis between Gatwick and the English coast that I’ve never heard of, went on and on. The lights looked lovely, in a way, but the only things that stood out at all were the sports facilities, looking like computer screens glimmering away for all they were worth. Lovely little patches of green (probably astroturf), floodlit to buggery. My thoughts turned to the poor family hurriedly gathering its possessions in Stratford, all the while being stood over by masked men pointing machine-guns at them, the parents frantically packing electronic goods and Sunny Delight as their children, Alchemy and Romeo, stood crying.
“It’s not right, is it?” I said to my German neighbours. “It’s going to be like the Three Gorges dam all over again.” When I’m sure all those world-class athletes wouldn’t mind hopping on a bus and doing their running, skipping and jumping at Bexley Heath Sports Centre.
Doigts de poisson et petits pois surcongelés November 7, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Don’t tell anyone but I’m blogging from the middle of nowhere. I’m so excited to have been able to get wired up to technology in this outpost of civilisation that I can hardly think of what to say. I’m on a sponsored sitathon. Every now and again, I visit my old lady friend, which isn’t a euphemism for visiting a prostitute. Anyway, it would have to be a very special fetish to want to visit an old lady – I’ll leave that to Wayne Rooney – or quite an extravagance to fly in from Berlin when I could just pop down to Oranienburgerstraße instead. And who’d be prepared to fly eAsyjet for the sake of a paid shag? No, I mean I REALLY visit an old lady.
My old lady is very old. Indeed. Even her daughter says she looks a thousand. Which is fun because she’s from a world which barely exists any more. There are some corkingly good stories. And some corking misbehaviour. And cases of temporal culture shock when I see her and her male teenage great-grandchildren – loping about like lazy lions, looking as if they’d happily shag, eat or kill something – in the same room.
Yet in spite of the fun, I have made a mental note to myself to make sure I remember to die before I am utterly helpless. Although it must be quite fun in some ways to have an NHS retinue that The Queen might marvel at, it can’t be that much fun to be rooted to the spot for much of the time and when any movement is roughly as difficult an engineering task as lugging Stonehenge’s stones from Wales to Salisbury Plain.
My old lady is rather posh and from the most interesting family in England (perhaps). So it is rather surprising that my diet whilst here is a tad on the… well… unposh side. “Old lady, what would you like for lunch?” I ask dutifully. “BiB, darling, there are some delicious fishfingers in the fridge and lashings of frozen peas,” and so I dash to the kitchen to make the slap-up meal enumerated in this blog-post’s title. “Darling, do you think I might have some heavenly toast and marm to take to bed with me?” she might then ask, marm being an abbreviation for both marmite and marmalade so there is a moment of unbearable tension as I wait for the -ite or -alade suffix to be appended.
Entertainment is thin on the ground in this neck of the woods – I’m almost sad I can get online – so we make our own. My old lady finds old age lonely, but in fact has a racingly good social life that most thirty-somethings might envy. There is a poetry meeting once a week, when she and other posh old ladies sit around and read and discuss poems together, tea being provided by some saintly neighbour and long-time friend. (“Darling, she was a terrible boozer once, you know. Almost permanently blotto.”) The theme is set a week ahead, and this week’s theme was love. “So which poem are you thinking you’ll read, old lady?” “BiB, darling, I just don’t know. Darling, be a darling, and fetch me that book,” she says motioning majestically – queen of all she surveys – shelfwards. I shuffle off and come back with a dusty old volume bound in a way reminiscent of Latin verbs. I flick through. “BiB, darling, you’ll think I’m awfully demanding but will you fetch me that other volume too… Darling, what IS taking so long? Poetry is the top shelf.” I reappear at her propped-up ankles, like a trusty retriever, with both volumes. I find one poem by my old lady’s grandmother, and another, lovelier, though I’m not sure it’s got the official thumbs-up, by Edna St. Vincent Millay. “American,” announces my hostess with a combination of shock and disdain. Earlier, the old lady’s lesbian granddaughter came to visit with her “eccentric family” (wife, two daughters. Daughter one: granddaughter, earlier heterosexual liaison. Daughter two: wife, internet, turkey-baster) and we sang as best we could.
But the visits are mostly a time of quiet contemplation. The old lady in her chair. Me shuffling around when sitting at the fire, rustled up by my own fair hand – no easy task for an inner-city homo, but I think I’ve mastered it now – gets too hot and then back when, two centimetres away, it is soon too cold again. Telling the old lady who is dead as she insists I turn immediately to the obits when the paper is delivered by another saintly neighbour. (“No-one I’ve heard of, darling.”) Watching as my hostess struggles with her pipe and pipe-cleaners and refusing when offered a pipe myself, though I agree that Gauloises do somewhat lower the tone given the circumstances, though at least they have the benefit of being the brand her husband – dead for over 30 years and adored to this day – smoked himself to an early grave with. Looking out the window to a perfect English landscape, dazzling in the crispness of an early-winter morning and ultimately agreeing with my old lady, when I have given up on trying to be positive, that, yes, old age is shit.
An NHS woman with terrifying hair arrives. I repair to the kitchen and make Soupe aux Tomates à la Heinz.