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Resolve December 30, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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Maybe I’ll find some resolve in time to have a resolution for 2008.

But I do have hopes for 2007. Or rather, a hope. By this time next year, I hope to be living under round-the-clock medical supervision in a house by the sea. I hope to spend much of my time there, while not having my drip changed, looking out over the water. Occasionally, I will get restless, and the friends and medical staff – all female – looking after my every need and whim will rush around in a panic, flashing each other concerned looks and wondering what the best short-term solution will be. I will shout for wine and fags, and wine and fags will be provided.

From 2007 onwards, I will only be wheeled out into public for the rarest and most important of social events. The assembled company will be thankful that I seem to be in a restful near-coma, attached to my drip, in a distant corner, but I’ll aim for a scandal-count of at least one per occasion. Just when others are settling nicely into tiddliness, I’ll rip my drip out and start banging my walking-stick loudly off the metal frame of the bed (I’m chained to). The men present will drink on. I’ll hear, “Just ignore him,” in manly tones. But some of the ladies will dutifully spring up. Once they’ve given me the necessary dosage of oxygen for me to make an utterance, I’ll wheeze, “Speech. Speech.” A wet flannel will be applied to my wrinkled, sweaty brow. “I won’t be ignored,” I’ll add, glennclosishly, “like some kinduva cunt.”

“He wants to say something,” the ladies will say fretfully to the men.

“Let the old bastard speak,” the men will answer, taking hefty swigs and realigning their balls as one.

And then I’ll heave myself up onto my elbows, see the eyes piercing my frail frame, and start spewing forth some vitriol, with targeted attacks on each of the people present. “I never liked you,” I’ll start bitterly, targeting the best-looking man present, “and as for your wife…” And then my elbows will slip, and I’ll crash back onto my bed, and then I’ll be heard to burst into unmanly tears, and the one woman who’s decided that, in spite of such a performance, I still deserve to be looked after, will reapply the damp flannel and say, “There, there, BiB. Helga (or something) dab it better.” And I’ll be rechained to the bed and wheeled to the most distant (and soundproofed) room of the house by the sea.

Or maybe I’ll just stay here after all.

Red Felt Star December 26, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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Does anyone – FAQ? Ben? Yuhang? (all I can understand from Yuhang’s post is the word S-Bahn standing out like an ugly sore thumb amongst all that calligraphic beauty and I am instantly convinced that China has nothing to learn from Europe) (OK, apart from when it comes to trains. Didn’t the Germans build that Shanghai train that goes at 400lyps (light years per second)?) – know what the Chinese for ‘red felt star’ is and is there a town in China called it?

The only sign that it’s been Christmas in the BiB household at all, apart from me feeling as rough as a cat’s tongue, but that sensation doesn’t have to wait for Christmas to come round, is that, as I traipse around the place prissily thinking of things to divert me from work and blogging, I keep stumbling across these little red felt stars which have dropped out of our Christmas tree (a bit of whirly Ikea bamboo). And naturally this all got me thinking about the state of capitalism with a Chinese face and China’s own industrial revolution.

So does anyone know how it all works? Does China do it Soviet-style, only better? Is it localised, so that one town does red felt stars (for all occasions) and another does blenders and another does Santas and another does computer chips? That’s a bit how things worked in the Soviet Union (but without the Santas). And is a bugger if your country’s going to go and insist on ripping itself to shreds. Belarus was left with tractors and machinery for heavy industry carried out elsewhere in the Soviet Union. Now you can never have too many tractors, of course, especially in countryside areas with a high homosexual population density, but you can have too many bits of machinery if you’re in Belarus and the process they’re needed for is taking place in Uzbekistan. Now I am not an economist by any stretch of the imagination, but I am awfully clever, so this is my warning to China, because their spate of growth might easily be improved with advice from me. Concentrate your bits of industry here and there if you please, but don’t put your spare parts industry in breakaway regions because you’ll be buggered then if the country tears itself apart. And, while I’m at it, my warning to Uighurstan and Tibet is not to concentrate exclusively on making things for other things made in the rest of China or you’ll be berating yourselves like nobody’s business if your breakaway dreams come true.

Phew! That’s China saved. And one fewer resolution for 2007.

I also began to wonder what sort of place Red Felt Star Town, if it exists – which it probably does, let’s face it – might be. A former fishing village upcoast from Shanghai three weeks ago and now a sprawling, exhaust-fumed metropolis of skyscrapers and 20 million souls? Rich, definitely. Obviously we didn’t choose to purchase the red felt stars which are now practically crowding us out of our flat but some viral product placement campaign which we were too weak to resist somehow got them placemented with us. So someone is buying their product. Red Felt Star Town would probably have quite a slew of red-felt-star-themed recreational facilities. The Red Felt Star ten-pin bowling alley would be next to the Red Felt Star hypermarket. There’d probably be a Red Felt Star beer (though that would admittedly come from a satellite village – 3 houses and 12 people last week, skyscrapers, motorways, congestion charges and 14 million this – down the road). The Red Felt Star factory would be the town’s main employer and would dominate the formidable skyline. It would have helped fund the construction of the city’s rapid transport system. It would run kindergartens. Children’s theatres. Homework clubs. It would finance twice-yearly trips for the staff. The day would begin with employees chanting the Red Felt Star philosophy and mass physical exercise. The town’s inhabitants would wear protective face-masks.

The Soviet Union produced its fair share of Red Felt Star towns. Up shit creek now of course, many of them. (Although I hasten to add that I’m sure many are blossoming back into life in new guises and hope that my fantasy Chinese megalopolises will never meet the same fate.) I have a friend who is the most positive person in the world. I want to be her. She is beautiful and charming. Incapable of complaining about anything. Can only see the good in everything. And just as well, as her job is to single-handedly transform the former Soviet Union into a Western-style paradise. She actually gets to give the advice and warnings that I don’t get to give to China to bits of the old SU. I was in awe as, a second after graduating from university, whilst the rest of us went off to work as people-smugglers, or think of doing another degree, or wondering where it had all gone wrong, she whizzed off to Shymkent in Kazakhstan to transform it overnight. By all accounts, it was not the brightest jewel in the silk route’s crown. (Oh my god, I see it’s twinned with Stevenage, ACTUALLY the most horrible place on earth.) Its main industry – I think it was making tyres. Perhaps for the tractors in Belarus – had collapsed. I wondered how positive girl was going to find a bright side. But she did. “It has a lovely market,” she explained.

Christmas is a fearsome pain, but hopefully we’re keeping the red-felt-star-makers happy.

Reasons to be cheerful December 22, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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Part I.

Well, only one reason, really. It’s December 22nd. Which means we’re not heading towards December 21st any more, which means the days are getting longer, and we can all now live in hope (and peace and prosperity, probably) until June 21st 2007, whence it’ll all be downhill fast once more. And so on. And on. And on.

I went out for a constitutional, bracing walk today. That’s as exciting as it gets round here in the build-up to Christmas. But it was surprisingly festive, firstly because the weather is so lovely – about +9, and no depressing wind. So crisp, but in a boiling way – and some ill types really do seem to have caught on to the Christmas spirit. Folk were laden down with huge plastic bags, the type that you can only get in those overlit shops staffed EXCLUSIVELY by youngish men and selling things-with-plugs only which INSTANTLY have me rooting through my virtual manbag looking desperately for virtual SSRIs.

My walk had a goal, actually. My mother sent me 20 quid so I thought I’d go and put that in my bank account, but I forgot that banks close at about 9.15am on Fridays, so my wallet is still awash with pounds – and nothing else, as I was also planning to tell the bank-folk that I have lost my card, which happens as regular as clockwork about twice every three years, which I think is not a bad average – and I turned round, defeated. But not that defeated, actually, as I can probably count on the Russian to throw the odd morsel in the direction of my slavering dewlaps over the coming days and the mood on the street was just so damned jolly. Apart from the folk with big bags, I heard young ladies harmonising a (nunrecognisable) pop song and another youngster giving his female companion a rather public massage.

I fingered the Russian a feelingless text. “Fancy taking me out somewhere?” But he answered that he was in the process of administering himself some complicated hygienic procedure – Russians ablute in the most complicated ways imaginable. They may only be rivalled by the Japanese when it comes to obsessive cleanliness – so I carried on walking aimlessly. I texted the ex. My phone buzzed into life. Actually rang. Which happens so rarely that it normally gives me a panic attack. I picked up heroically. It was the ex (not surprisingly), ringing to be festive, but we couldn’t hear each other and he was driving, in the famous fog, and then we agreed that it would be a shame if he died at the wheel for the sake of an inaudible pre-Christmas greeting so we gave up the ghost.

Speaking of the fog, I heard a Finn on the BBC complaining about being stuck in Heathrow. “We have and always have had snow for eight months of the year in Finland and we can cope with it. You have fog for one day and everything breaks down. It’s ridiculous.” I breathed a sigh of relief on my country’s behalf that he’d probably never not been able to take a train because of snow, leaves or betomatopipped poo on the tracks. And then wondered about the fog. Is fog our national weather-marker? Our meteorological brand? Finland has snow. Our logo is fog? I thought it was rain. But, UK folk, be warned if you ever go to Russia that you will also be asked, especially if you come from London, about fog AND smog. It’s the same word in Russian, but I had to go and check in my dic when it came up in conversation 94 times within five minutes of me landing in the country. “Maybe it’s also a posh word for ‘and'”, I thought to myself. Then I learnt Russian for, “No, that’s bollocks,” so that I could truncate with due alacrity any conversation that ever started with, “Is it true that the smog in London…?”

Fast-forward to London and the Russian and me sitting in my mother’s kitchen. My mother is originally a country girl but moved to London in her teens. I resolved to get the smog thing sorted once and for all and then seek an EU grant for the Russian to go back and do some capacity-building awareness-raising in Russia and set the record straight on our weather. “Mum, this smog thing then. Fact or bollocks?” “You cou’n’t fuckin’ see yerands in fruncher fuckin’ face,” answered my mother, transforming temporarily for no good reason for the purpose of this blog into a cockney fishwife.

So there was smog. But now it’s gone. Because London’s so clean. And there’s salmon in the Thames. So that’s another reason to be cheerful.

What else is there to be cheerful about? Ooh, lots of things, probably. At least nine other things, no doubt.

Darlings, and, to take advantage of the festive spirit, a bit of blogging/technical advice please. I asked Geoff, the man with the world’s shortest blog, if he approved of the move over here and he did but added, “I’ve got to say, though, BiB, only some kind of wanker would have a header picture – is that what it’s called? (This is me, not Geoff.) The illustration across the top of the blog – like that.” Well, OK, I may be sexing up his words slightly, but he hit the nail on the head, and I do want to change that image in time for it to be in the shops by Christmas. But, darlings, can I do it? Can I buggery! I’ve tried a million times, and it keeps finding something wrong. I’m sure I’ve changed the pic I’ve got in mind to the right number of dots, but something always goes wrong. But, by Christmas 2008, I hope I’ll have my very own personalised illustration. But just in case you can’t wait, here’s a sneak preview.

eberlin.jpg

The photo was taken by all-round winner EiNY and is a view from our very own house, which I like because it seems nicely Berlinish, with an old, un-done-up house and a done-up one nestling alongside each other. So does it suit, darlings? Does it suit? And how do I get it up there?

December 22nd greetings to one and all!

As sexy as it gets December 20, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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Roll up, roll up. It’s the BiB pre-Christmas, last-minute, almost Weihnachtsmarkt-like, but more sort of indoor and cosy, sextravaganza. But only a BiB sextravaganza, so not very sexy at all, and we don’t really DO sex on this blog, as I like to think I’m appealing to any potential 95-year-old English ladies who might be reading, so it’s sex-lite. Sort of Channel 5.

But it’s in honour of Christmas. It could be in honour of anything, really. It being Wednesday, for example. Or Easter. Or New Year. Or The Queen’s birthday (real or official). But Christmas will do just as well, and I suppose, with the calendar nudging us relentlessly ever forward, it’s time to get into the swing of things.

Of course, being an exiled homosexualist, suffering cruel banishment in the snowy steppes of the Great North European Plain, I get to largely ignore Christmas. Not in a majorly humbuggy way. And I wouldn’t mind people remembering to be a bit nicer to each other than usual once a year and eating tolerably tasty food if youngsters didn’t have to get in on the act and ruin it for us grown-ups. But being here, and living with a Russian, for whom Christmas means precisely zilch (though he’s heroically managed to cotton on to the present angle), means we can mostly just nicely ignore it.

Now ours is quite a good ruse for getting out of Christmas. Working like a dog and forgetting all about it isn’t bad either. And I’ve seen some other good ones out there too, should you wish to follow suit. I’ve seen Valerie play the atheist Jew card (but can’t remember where), which is pretty watertight. Whereas this atheist Jew actually wants to celebrate Christmas, and in Denmark of all places – last ever mention of Denmark, I promise – but is being thwarted from doing so by bureaucracy. But we atheist goyim can hold our own on the Christmas-avoiding front too if we have to, and I’ve plumped for the very simple but honest, “Mum, sorry, I don’t think I can be bothered,” which she took like a man. Or woman.

Yet let it not all be non-festive. We banished Berlin bloggers are pulling our fingers out and doing our best to give a nod in Yule’s direction and shore each other up should loneliness pangs set in. This gent (goy, no idea whether theist or not) has very kindly offered to rustle up a Christmassy dinner for us. And who knows how many other foreigners abandoned in Berlin – bloggers or otherwise – might not put out a Christmassy electronic SOS over the festive period? After all, the Russian and I overdid the ignoring last year and then had Christmas-envy and went out looking for the last glimmers of the thing…

So, the sex bit. Well, when I did used to celebrate Christmas, i.e. when I lived in England, one of the good things, or devices for keeping people who might otherwise want to drink themselves to death rather than spend a goodly number of hours in the same room as certain relatives, was games. My sort of in-laws were very good for games. And they kept us going till oblivion finally hit on a wave of tears and raised voices later in the day.

So what game can we play? Well, sticking a billion photos of vague celebs onto a big bit of card and then people having to name them would take ages on a blog. Well, no longer, actually, than doing it physically, but I can’t be bothered with that. And as it’s the shortest day of the year tomorrow and stress levels might be going through the roof for the hostly amongst you, I thought a bit of sex-lite might be just the thing to give you a fillip.

So…

The game is, if it can really be called a game at all, to name me, erm, 3? – well, or 1. Or as many as you like – people you fancy of the wrong sex. Of course fancy is not quite the right word, because you don’t really fancy people of the wrong sex. But I’m sure you know what I mean. Lezzers, het males, name the men you sort of fancy but wouldn’t actually want to play hide the sausage with. Poofs, het girls, name the ladies who shiver your timbers but whom you don’t actually want to get into the vagina business with. Bisexuals are barred. Or can play twice.

Now I know straight males pretend they can’t tell if another man’s good-looking, but everyone knows you’re pretending, so just play along. (And they also secretly worry that every gay men they ever meet is going to ravage them. Boys, they never ravage me, and I’m virtually irresistible, so just calm yourselves.)

I’d thought of saying name the ugliest person you fancy too – Gazza is mine – but I think the wrong-sex version is better. Stick in your ugly fancyees too, if you feel like it.

Right, I’ll start. I fancy but don’t actually want to do anything naughty with Kate Winslet, the blonde one from this fine group, Natters and Benners (when she’s not doing the big-glasses look).

OK, that’s your lot.

Legal alien December 15, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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She was perfectly nice, actually, as aliens go.

It was quite the least likely place to meet my one and only alien, in the office at my job – one with all the moral merits of child-trafficking – in Paris. And of course, to start with, I didn’t know she was from outer space. She’d had to disguise herself to get through the recruitment process, to start with, and it probably would have been a legal minefield getting a work-permit for an extra-terrestrial in France in the mid-90s.

So she disguised herself as a Dane.

Which was a brilliant bit of disguise, actually, when you think about it. For those of you who haven’t had the good fortune to have had an extended sojourn in Paris, you should know that the city is awash with young Danes, though mostly of a terrestrial nature. Her tribe, presuming she wasn’t a lone operator, though I didn’t get a chance to go into the polity of her world with her, had clearly done some quite careful research before sending her down to mingle with us earthlings with whatever maleficent intentions – call me an alienophobe if you will, but I don’t trust ’em – it was they had. “Tell you what,” they must have said to each other, at an alien powwow, though their musings would have looked something like ╨╤◘∩‡₪₣⌂⌂◊ in the original, I’m guessing, “rather than disguising her as an obvious alien, like Sigourney’s one, a big black cock with a poor oral hygiene record, let’s make her be a blonde Dane, and we’ll send her to Paris, as that seems like one of the epicentres of the earthlings’ activities.” And that’s what they did.

I didn’t know it at the time, of course, but the aliens had somehow orchestrated for me to be the one earthling in the company to have the rare privilege of close access to their emissary. I was to train her. And she was awfully nice, and had been endowed with many of the characteristics of her new compatriots. She was jolly, friendly. Had had perfect English implanted into her alien cerebrum along with French, Danish (natch) and, oddly, Norwegian. She was affable and intelligent, and learnt the job more easily than many before her, superior life-form that she was.

But there had been one small flaw in the aliens’ plans. The company’s training period was two weeks long, which meant by the end of it I practically knew the alien as well as if she were my own wife (though not in the biblical sense). And she made a few obvious non-human slips that should have had alarm-bells ringing straight away, the most obvious of which was wearing white tights, which no human has ever been known to do. And her ability to sing along, in perfect tune, and with all the words, to whatever pop-song came on the radio was also testament to a non-human brain. The girl knew too much, and I knew all was not right with the world.

But what really gave it away was the eyes. Sort of window-display dummy eyes. Lifeless. Glassy. A bit like Laura Bush’s. Our job entailed quite a lot of doing precisely nothing and staring out at passers-by in the Quartier Latin. (The aliens had chosen well. I’ll give ’em that.) And you’ve never seen a blanker expression in your puff. I think it was a combination of the aliens saving energy – her body would shut down when not required to do anything – and her using the time to telepathically send them all the vitally important pieces of intelligence she’d picked up that day: there’s a drink called a kir aligoté, French people don’t hold doors open for you, or stand on the right and walk on the left. That kind of thing.

In the name of harmonious intergalactic relations, I stayed in touch with the Danish alien when our life-paths diverged: mine back to London, hers back to Saturn or wherever. A letter arrived, with a ◘:^¬¤Ð postmark – see, they’re not infallible – though addressed Paris, asking if she could come to London to visit. “Of course,” I said, and she turned up at the appointed hour with a human Dane in tow. “Oh, it looks just like Denmark,” she said, keeping up the pretence of being human as we walked back to my place from the tube station before heading out to the Mongolian barbecue.

The London leg of her research was tiresome for a local. Her superiors had insisted she go to a musical and to see Evita, starring top humans Madonna and Antonio Banderas. To be hostly, and in the name of those harmonious intergalactic relations, I went along. Evita was bad enough. She sang all the songs on the tube on the way home. But Grease was worse. She sang the songs from that on the way home too. And did the actions.

Now I know having an alien in one’s social set should endow one with a certain cachet. And for the sake of the advancement of humankind, and as it appeared I was the only one who had noticed she was from outer space – I never heard a Dane say to her, for example, “Your Danish is perfect, but is that a trace of Saturn I hear in your accent?” – I know I should have asked her what fuels they used in her world, and had they come up with a way to achieve social harmony, and did God exist, and what was the best way to balance social freedoms with order, but I didn’t do any of that. I just let her drift out of my life and get on with her research unhindered. Nor did I jam the metaphorical switchboard and alert the authorities that there was an alien Dane in our midst.

And did she abduct me back to the mother-craft for a bout of being prodded and rodded senseless by the best her kind had to offer? Did she fuck…

Interkulturelle Fachkommunikation December 12, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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22 comments

…or how not to hit it off with your mother-in-law-to-be.

Darlings, apologies in advance. This is going to be yet another of those wot-I-done posts, which I know are of no interest or good to man or beast, and I promise I’ll start posting about global warming any second now, but just quickly let me get this one out of my system first.

The Russian had a birthday, which was metronomically predictable, and we celebrated as metronomically predictably as possible and decided to abuse our bodies with booze, nosh and fags. “Darlink, vee khere 5 year now. Vot our favourite restaurant?” Which should have been an easy enough question to answer, but it wasn’t, and we realised we don’t have one, and thought that going to Berlin, which I’ve mentioned before, wouldn’t quite hit the spot on the festivity stakes.

“Darling, shall we go to that really horribly touristy (probably) arch-German one, called Lederhosen Pumpernickel or something, on that touristy street behind the monastery?” It was a deal, and off we set to Zur letzten Instanz (last resort) without so much as a reservation between us.

According to its website, it’s, “…a place full of history and poetry, of worldly charm and Berlin wit”. ‘Berlin wit’ means rudeness, incidentally. But the interior was just as we’d expected. Lots of dark wood. Waitresses carrying beer. And thankfully, considering we’d entered from utterly deserted streets, it was packed to the rafters. And it wasn’t that touristy after all. The clients were overwhelmingly German (both numerically and on the collective hysterical laughter front). And old. Which was lovely as I can’t bear anyone under the age of 80.

I explained to the boss, a great exponent of Berlin wit in its native environment, that we didn’t have a reservation but could he do his darnedest to find us a comfy spot? He hollered something back in Berlinese, which I didn’t understand, naturally, but we went in the direction that his flailing arm instructed. There didn’t appear to be a free table in the house but further helpful hollering made it clear that we were to take the free corner of the table that the group of four tourists – the only ones in the place, as far as I could tell – had just taken up.

The four tourists were three women and a man. I made some grammatically criminal attempt at politeness and asked if they wouldn’t mind awfully us perching at the unoccupied corner. The buxom matriarch looked at me with disdain and disgust out of overly made-up eyes and answered, in Esperanto, to my surprise, “Sin problemo”.

We made ourselves uncomfortable – I must start taking my own cushion with me to places – and got down to some serious eavesdropping and neighbour-watching. The younger two of the foursome were patently a couple. The older ladies were obviously family of some sort, but the relationships were unclear. And, as it turned out, the young gentleman was German and his girlfriend and her two older companions were Italian.

Which just made for such fucking brilliant eavesdropping, you can’t believe.

Now the youngsters were in love, which was lovely to see, even to my jaded and wizened old eyes. The young Italian lady was wearing a huge, fuck-off ring, so I think marriage was on the cards. And here was the German, doing his filial-in-law duty and taking the in-laws-to-be out, for what appeared to be their first meeting, and show those Italians what Germany was really like. Lederhosen, pumpernickel and all.

As we waded through our kilos of Rotkohl with a ps of main course – all very lovely, actually. Goose me, duck the Russian. And tonnes of it – the Russian and I were still unsure if the bossy matriarch was the mother or not. And who was the second older woman? But eventually the word ‘mama’ was to be heard emanating from the fiancée’s lips and we decided that the second woman was mama’s spinster sister who had only had a few dodgy boyfriends and had come to no good but was taken along to Germany to give a second opinion on this Teutonic interloper in the absence of a father who had, no doubt, been gunned down by the mob in the Sardinian – I heard Olbia mentioned – oregano wars.

The older ladies looked horrified when their Eisbeins (knuckle of pork) arrived. And not surprisingly, perhaps, as the Eisbein comes in one size only: absolutely fucking huge. Desperate Dan would baulk. The spinster aunt picked away moaningly and asked her niece to ask hubby-to-be if he and his friends – a clear dig at him living in shared accommodation and was that all her niece could expect? To live in not much better than a bedsit when didn’t he know who her father had been (before he was gunned down in the Sardinian oregano wars)? – had a dog to take the 99% leftovers home to. Fluttering her eyelashes lovingly, the niece translated this into passable English only for the very unlatin German to answer teutonically literally, and in much better English, that dogs were not allowed where he lives.

Mama would occasionally get bored of not being matriarch and would deem that she needed to take proceedings in hand. She decided she spoke English. “Allora… quando (aside to daughter, “Come si dice quando?” Souffleuse daughter, “a-when-a”) … a-when-a I was-a in Africa…,” “a-when-a I was-a in India…,” “a-when-a my a-daughter a-was-a three-a years-a old, I (aside to daughter, “Come si dice mandare?” Souffleuse daughter, “a-send-a”) … I a-send ‘er to English-a lesson.” “Shoulda fuckin’ sent yourself, luv,” I had an insatiable urge to cry out, in a Cockney accent, but I DID sate the urge, heroically.

And so their (and our) evening continued, with them struggling to overcome the language barrier and us suppressing bitchy giggles hardly a foot away. It all somehow reminded me of meeting my Croatian penpal when I was 14, me wearing a Smiths tie and struggling for words… They decided food was safe territory. Matriarch explained that bananas tasted different in Italy and Africa. Know-all son-in-law-to-be (though not if mama and aunt get their way, I shouldn’t wonder) explained without hesitation that this was down to freshness factors. He explained the difference between the store set by pasta and pesto in the German and Italian psyches. When the couple would drift off lovingly into each other’s eyes, mama and spinster aunt would shake their heads – their decision made – shrug their shoulders, raise their hands and begin utterances with an undisagreeable-with, “Ma!”

The ladies decided to drink the pain away. The bill was ordered. They both lit up elegant, slender, postprandial fags. And do you know what he did? He reached across the table and, without so much as a word, nudged the ashtray as far away from himself as was geometrically possible. The ladies gave each a very knowing look.

Come si dice ‘burn’ e ‘bridges’ in italiano?

Pipe and slippers December 10, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
33 comments

Darlings, I wasn’t designed for being young. I was born to be old. I think there are at least several types that fit into this category. And it doesn’t just apply to personality (though that’s the sense I’m applying it to me). No, I know many a type who was born to be young on the physical front and others who were born to be old. Now Prince William, zum Beispiel, was born to be young. Awfully handsome up to a certain age and now getting less so by the minute. Which couldn’t matter less, of course. But, for the sake of keeping it in the family, Hazza provides a not bad example of someone who was born to be old. Not that, aged 20 or whatever it is, he could really be called ancient, but it’s clear that he is a late bloomer. Ugly as hell as a youngster, but blossoming into a fine figure of a man.

Which is all to say I was born to be old. No, not à la Prince Hazza, as it turns out. I was just born to be 70. And I’m livid I’m not it already. 70.

Yesterday, in what was meant to be, to the best of my knowledge, a recreational activity, the Russian and I went shopping. For “fun”. I couldn’t refuse as it was to buy the Russian his birthday present, but my heart did sink just a tiny bit further as it was announced we would be going up West. Mind you, travelling by S-Bahn (fast, overground trains, for the uninitiated. Like the RER in Paris. If London gets its Crossrail, I think it’ll be he same. NOT to be compared to anything with Silverlink in its name) is just about my favourite thing ever, because the trains are sort of squidgy and luxurious and have announcements and screens and, if your route is right, take you right past the Reichstag and through the new central station (which looks identical to suburban Potsdam’s station, to my inexpert eye) and other exciting locations. Plus taking public transport in Berlin is also awfully reassuring if you think you have a drinking problem. Before 6, people were dolled up and slaughtered. I felt monastic and abstemious in comparison, and pouted with an indignation I have learnt only since immigrating to this fine land. I thought of engaging my old-lady neighbour in a pouting competition, actually, but thought better of it as the Russian and I had been speaking Russian and she would have thought it was a prelude to a crime.

So we arrived at Zoo and I wondered how I could make this bout of fun as brief as possible. Normally this involves leaping on the first item we see and me suggesting with unprecedented vigour that it is JUST what the Russian needs. I thought of offering to buy him the Gedächtniskirche. The last time we did this, he ended up with an old man’s suit. I would try to be patient on this occasion.

And Zoo and its environs were, I suppose, as close as I could ‘hope’ to get to the near-Christmas Oxford St. shopping experience. Masses of people, gushing with excitement, zigzagging hither and thither. I struggled to negotiate every centimetre of the way as I carefully made sure not to bump into this person or get entwined in that group, whereas I would see the Russian disappearing off into the distance as he steamrollered ahead in a straight line between points A and B as perfect as a Roman road.

The first shop we hit on was reassuringly expensive. I don’t have a penny, of course, but I DO have a credit card with a freshly increased limit and was not afraid to use it. But, darlings, how can people BEAR to shop? Places were as brightly lit as an operating table. The plywood walls pulsated with hellish, ghastly music. The aisles were more heaving and boiling than the nefarious parts of certain homosexual establishments. (The only moment of relief was when we stumbled into a shop for 70-year-olds like me, with deliciously wide aisles – presumably for people to manoeuvre their Zimmer frames and motorised wheelchairs around with greater ease – and hardly a customer in sight. Nothing you’d want to buy, of course, but that didn’t matter.) And perfect-looking, over-made-up children approached to offer their assistance. My eyes settled on a coat which, by some deus ex machina, suited the Russian in every sense possible: style, look, price.

I’ve never diversified my debt portfolio with such speed or willingness.

Happy at last December 6, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
46 comments

No, not me, though I am, it goes without saying, ecstatically happy at all times. Why Erik Ramgren, of course, whom misery compelled to set out from Sweden to the Caribbean in an old baked bean tin and whom I’ve mentioned twice before, not that any of you noticed, you heartless things, you. It’s only taken him fifteen years to get there, and his journey has been strewn with disasters and a very early and protracted stop in Norfolk, but what a story. Go Ezza! Go Ezza! I knew it could only end in success, though I was hoping he’d settle in Norfolk and find himself a nice local lass. But he’s out till all hours in Trinidad, or so he claims, and I suppose we can’t say he’s made the wrong choice as far as climate is concerned.

On an utterly separate and quite unrelated note, the Russian has discovered my new blog, which, for however many naughty weeks it’s been, I’ve pretended didn’t exist. “What, you just deleted the blog?” “Yes (tee hee).” “But you wrote so much.” “Yes, but you were quite right, darling. It’s a footling and time-wasting thing to do. You were right all along (tee hee).” Cover blown. ABER, blogging’s going to get a little honeymoon period and, in a conciliatory gesture, he has discovered this piece of software, which, allegedly, we blogging wastrels all need. I shan’t touch it with a bargepole, of course, but perhaps you clever types might let me know if it’s a great life-improver.

Nutmeg lesbian December 4, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
67 comments

It was as multikulti as you could have hoped a dinner party to be. And as multisexi too, as all the permutations were represented. Hets (of both sexes), poofs, lezzers. It had the lot. And Europe was represented in all its colours. We had Belarusians. We had Poles. We had Russians. We had Moldovans. We had the Swiss. I did my best to not shame Her Majesty. Good god, there was even a German for good measure.

The party took its regular course. There was eating. There was boozing. There was smoking. There was – as is inevitable when folk of different nationalities get together – violence. No, not really. There was discussion of this and that. I was called upon, in one horrific moment, to give a lecture on Christmas pudding. And morris dancing. (Sorry, another fib.) The queens cackled. The hets beed as benevolently tolerant as could be. And, as time went on, the lesbian, in a minority of one, as it turned out, lectured.

And lectured.

This was dealt with at many levels. Some chose to make themselves absent. Some sought solace in youtube in the kitchen. Some drank themselves into oblivion. Some sniggered. And some lectured back.

The lectures ranged far and wide. God’s ears should have been burning. Any restrictions on immigration were madness. The world might easily end tomorrow. Adoption. And on. And on. And on…

Luckily, the Russian sat between me and the lecturing lesbian, buffeting me against the wind out of her sails. Of which there was no taking to be done. For decency’s sake, I might occasionally pop my head out from behind the bulk of the Russian, and nod approvingly or hum my agreement. Only then to have an opposing view coming from the other end of the table, at which point I would languidly twist my creaking neck and nod and hum in that direction too, all the while bemoaning Englishness and thinking this was perhaps a tactically good time for a sneaky ciggy.

My intake for the evening was perhaps not the ideal diet. But the party was in honour of winter, and we stocked up on spare calories like nobody’s business. There was cheesiness and fattiness galore and it was all heaven. Some of the contents were enumerated. Nutmeg reared its – I now know – lethal head. Once we’d had a quick round-table of nutmeg in the 900 languages we all spoke, the lesbian sat higher than she had in her saddle all evening and gave us a heart-rending and very serious lecture.

“Nutmeg? Nutmeg!”

“Erm, yes, nutmeg,” the room resonated, sheepishly, and in a selection of Euro-tongues.

“And are you all aware how dangerous nutmeg is?”

Sharp intakes of breath.

“If a kiddy ate one whole nutmeg nut, he’d die. It’s that dangerous. Why oh why aren’t there campaigns about this? Is nutmeg labelled as poison in the supermarket? A kiddy playing around in the cupboards at home could find nutmeg, eat it and he’d be dead.”

I rifled through my pockets, looking for nutmeg, wondering all the while if its posh name was polonium. Alas, crumbs of nothing even vaguely poisonous-looking were all I could come up with, which I took as my cue to depart, making an extra-special effort not to exchange phone numbers.

We got out into Berlin’s boiling winter air. Once more, I wobbled between whether or not it was a good or bad thing that I have no convictions about anything whatsoever.

Happening upon happiness December 1, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
9 comments

It’s all conflicts of interest at Château BiB at the moment. All black and white. And twains never meeting. But not conflicts of interest in a nasty, underhand sense. Just interests and desires diverging diametrically.

I wish the Russian would hurry up and catch up with me in age. He’s still wanting to explore, discover, experience. Whereas I’m as stale as a pint of gold-top that’s been left on a sunlit doorstep for days on end. The Russian wants to climb mountains, discover new continents, try new narcotics. Whereas I would happily have a Stannah stairlift connecting me from my current perch leading right down to the pavement where a chauffeur-driven motorised wheelchair would be waiting.

J’exagère, of course, and I don’t want my staleness to have folk reaching for pills/knives/the off button. Because I mean it to be the opposite. Perhaps it’s gloom disguising itself as something else, or me pulling the wool over my own eyes, but I can’t help feeling sometimes I’ve stumbled across something called contentedness. The ingredients for which recipe should have me being carted off to the nearest loony bin. Because, as I see it, contentedness à la BiB, in 2006, is being skint, detesting my job, living in a country where I have the language skills of a retarded toddler, and a boyfriend who’d rather I was someone else. But life seems fine, in an odd way.

I’m not sure what the moral of this non-story is. Trial and error? Striking lucky? Low expectations? Age? Being mad? But I just cannot force myself to want the things I’m meant to want. I have nothing against money, by any means, but if doing my ludicrous job provides me with enough to scrape by in relative comfort, then I’d sooner have that than no sleep and working my nuts off. It does also mean no car – I can’t drive anyway, but, actually, Annie’s getting me one for Christmas – and no weekends in Honolulu and no rent-boys smeared in caviar, but I can heroically do without.

Anyway, it’s only the today me writing. Perhaps because it’s a lovely day. And perhaps because I’ve managed to convince the Russian that he needs to hurry up and get old. (Actually, he’s making a special effort and is having a birthday soon. He declared earlier, “You can buy me either a trip somewhere or a new bookcase for my birthday.” I was on the IKEA website before you could say, “Not another fucking flight.”) Tomorrow it’ll be all gloom, suicide threats and lamenting my tragic fate.