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Pipe and slippers December 10, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

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.



1. bowleserised - December 10, 2006

I *wish* I had difficulty shopping.

2. pleite - December 11, 2006

I might vaguely enjoy it if the upshot is that I end up in possession of something nice/useful/beautiful/emprettying, but the journey is still an arduous one. The Russian insisted I should be trying to upgrade my wardrobe on the trip as well, but rifling through jumpers with a noisy background was no competition for Glühwein and dashing for the S-Bahn home.

3. Marsha Klein - December 11, 2006

I enjoy buying things of a domestic nature (kitchenware, soft furnishings etc) and love buying presents, cards and giftwrap (and all the bits and pieces to make a pretty parcel) but clothes shopping? God give me strength! We had a brief trip to the shops yesterday, clothes shopping for No. 2 daughter and, given the choice of doing that or poking a sharp stick in my eye, well, let’s just say I’d have to give it some serious consideration!

4. BiB - December 11, 2006

Marsha, being a wicked homosexualist, I will never get to experience the true selflessness of shopping for a child. Shopping! For a child! If it’s not a secret, how old is daughter no. 2? Tantrummy age? Or difficulty-in-betweeny age? Or hating-everything age? Or lovely age? And did the shopping trip fit my stereotype? Mind you, I think I have vague repressed memories of being taken clothes-shopping by my mother. This seemed chiefly to consist of supporting BHS and M&S. I was the least fashionable youngster in London. Bar none. It’s why I’ve had to emigrate.

I can just about cope with fantasy online shopping. This is normally for flights, and, even when I find one to Australia, via Brazil and Mars, for 2p, I still decide it’s too expensive, so my credit card remains thankfully undented.

5. Marsha Klein - December 11, 2006

Daughter No. 2 is eleven (just turned) and is probably best described as at difficult in-betweeny age (although, as she’s No. 2, forewarned is forearmed and all that). Yup, your stereotype pretty much fits my experience yesterday. Having said all that, Christmas shopping for children (and, occasionally, with children) can be a lovely experience. (Yes, I really believe that!)

6. wyndham - December 11, 2006

Shopping is my favourite thing ever! Even shopping for children is a pleasure these days because I can never resist buying something for myself as a result of the warm, self-congratulatoy glow I can from being a generous parents. In a few short years he’ll want video games and films with spaceships in them – hooray! It’ll be like buying for myself! A few short years after that, he’ll want alcohol! A whole vista of present buying pleasure is opening up before me.

7. pleite - December 11, 2006

Actually, I think I’ve occasionally worked myself up into a fairly toyful tizzy – in a good way – when doing Christmas presents for nieces and nephews – I’m boycotting this year; well, not boycotting, just staying at home – only to then be deflated when, after an orgy of ripping paper open at random in a blind frenzy, a child holds it up and asks, in a Scottish accent, since you ask, “What is it?” It was a bloody good Harry Potter mousepad too, in my opinion…

8. pleite - December 11, 2006

Wynders, parenting sounds more and more attractive with every comment. I must go and have some reorientation therapy. (Although I’m informed I was once quite high up on a list for a lesbian who was on the lookout for a bit of spare sperm, I’ll have you know.)

My brother, now also a father, got this practice down to a t early by using me as his guinea-pig son. He would buy me albums he wanted for himself. I remember being quite impressed with getting two tapes one year – Kate Bush (the one with her face in big on a white background) and Prefabricated Brussels Sprout (as my French teacher once called that group) – but I think they were repossessed with lightning speed.

9. wyndham - December 11, 2006

Three ladies have all told me that I’m third on their list in the spare sperm department. I’m always third, never first or second, but I’m trying not to get upset about it because a/ it’s better than nothing and b/ two of them are not exactly my cup of tea in the looks or personality department.

10. BiB - December 11, 2006

…and wouldn’t the lovely Veronica mind you giving your sperm out to all and sundry? Or is sperm of low moral value in these wicked times?

I would have been in quite a dilemma if the lesbian in question had got round to asking me for a bit of spare sperm. Thankfully, I was saved from this by being so far away, and she got someone from the internet instead – don’t know if blogs were involved – who routinely does it and has 900 children, or thereabouts. And he isn’t EVEN the King of Swaziland. (As far as I know.)

11. MountPenguin - December 11, 2006

Does nutmeg play any role in all this?

12. BiB - December 11, 2006

Nutmeg… Nutmeg… Is there nutmeg in Glühwein? No, I suppose not. But the Glühwein is the ONLY consolation of these trips. Well, that and the S-Bahn. (By the way, there’s a Stammtisch this Thursday. Might you be up for it?)

13. narrowback - December 11, 2006

after lurking for quite some time I just cannot let the observation about the S-bahn slip by without comment… folks have been after me for years to explain why I find Berlin so alluring… and BIB you hit the proverbial nail on the head… one ride on the S-Bahn (to be precise the Zoo/Alex stretch) during morning rush hour and I also feel “monastic and abstemious”…

14. pleite - December 12, 2006

Narrowback, hello! I’m chuffed to bollocks that anyone lurks at all and doubly chuffed to bollocks that I hit the S-Bahn nail on the head for you. That Zoo/Alex stretch – but are you a Wessi? For me it’d be the Alex/Zoo stretch, I must say – is lovely, isn’t it? That majestic sweep by the Reichstagy bits, and no doubt doing irreparable damage to the Museuminsel as it trundles through there, practically scraping the sides of the Bode Museum, and then those mysteriously empty-feeling but built-up bits… Berlin IS still an odd place. I was out near Klosterstraße last night. One stop from Alex and not a soul to be seen. But not in a City-of-London, empty-central-bits-of-a-big-city way. Life just hasn’t taken organic hold there yet. But I suppose the Docklands in London show that dead places can come to life. I’m ALMOST excited about Berlin’s future.

15. bowleserised - December 12, 2006

I’ve bought another fistful of knitted finger puppets from the Christmas Markets for the tiny people in my life. One is so sinister I might blog about it…

Re: sperm donation. The highest compliment that one of my lesbitarian friends could pay a man was to tell him she had a tupperware container with his name on it on stand-by.

16. pleite - December 12, 2006

B., darling, of course it must be blogged. Although I worry I’m beginning to go overboard on the blogging front and am now actually just blogging every single bloody thing that ‘happens’. I’ve just had a cigarette and am contemplating blogging it. Well, OK, not really. But finger-puppets deserve gebloggt (or gebloggen?) zu werden.

And is THAT what happens at tupperware parties?

17. Ed Ward - December 12, 2006

Dang, of course there’s nutmeg in Glühwein! It’s German, isn’t it?

18. BiB - December 12, 2006

Ed, do you know if any of these places make their own Glühwein or is it just all industrial packs of ready-made stuff poured into industrial cauldrons? I forgot to notice when I tried the Finnish version in the Kulturbrauerei. But surely it can’t be THAT hard to come up with one’s-own-recipe Glühwein, can it? So I always think that these folks must be making a tidy packet if they just have to pay for heating a box of stuff they bought at Aldi for 25 cents.

Penguin, delayed reaction. Sorry. Lesbian-spare-sperm-nutmeg. Slow, slow, slow. No, this sperm-seeking lesbian was back on the island. (No more than two guesses for which town.) Don’t know if Wynders’s sperm-seekers had anything against nutmeg. Or, indeed, if they were EVEN lesbians.

19. MountPenguin - December 12, 2006

Well, with my new Generic Nutmeg Growth Patches (available from all good Canadian Pharmacies) I am ready and willing to satisfy the needs of any number of tupperware container-wielding persons of the female persuasion, _and_ go to the Stammtisch afterwards.

(Sorry, shouldn’t have snorted all that Glühwein powder earlier).

20. pleite - December 12, 2006

Is nutmeg not only lethal to kiddies but ALSO good for potency? Well I never!

Splendid, splendid. The Stammtisch is Thursday at Krüger. If you contact http://radiofreemike.com/blog/ – though I can’t see a contact on his blog, actually, but there IS a photo of him, so you know whom to look out for – he’ll e-mail you details in future.

21. leon - December 12, 2006

Doesn’t Gluhwein just involve boiling up the left-over contents of your spice rack in the nastiest industrial-style cooking wine possible? With sugar? I suppose this is what mediaeval wine must have been like; highly spiced and sweetened to disguise the fact it had been gently oxidising on the caravel over from Sardinia, or wherever it was the British got their wine from in those days.

I have rashly promised to make gluhwein this Christmas, for a girl. Perhaps I should track down some real German red wine to make it with.

22. pleite - December 12, 2006

Leon, if it’s for a girl, you’d better pull out all the stops. Nutmeg and cloves are the only noises dancing round my head as far as German comestibles are concerned, so stick those in some red wine vinegar, bung in the sugar and you should be laughing. Or do you do home-made Sangria too? If you heat that up, if you’ve got any sloshing around, that might work too.

BUT, more brilliant sailing-vessel vocab. Thank you. I’ll get onto the etymology straight away. Can’t be Welsh too, can it?

23. narrowback - December 12, 2006

Most likely I used the Zoo to Alex direction due to the fact that this is the direction I’m traveling in at the start of my days in town. A wessie…? god no, your audience is far more global than that. I’m a yank in Chicago – albeit one who visits Berlin on a somewhat regular basis. Your post just brought to mind one of my first impressions of Berlin – a suit and tie type draining a “tallboy” can of beer on the S-Bahn platform at 9 a.m. Steeling himself for yet another day at the office I suppose.

I concur that the stretch near the Reichstag and through Museuminsel is quite majestic. I do miss the scars from ’45 on the wall of the Bode that face the tracks that have for the most part been patched over. I thought the added character did much to reduce the “disney-fied” appearance that is the mark of so many tourist destinations…

Berlin is indeed an odd city and observing its continuing evolution (both good and bad) is what keeps me coming back…that and the type of tourism described in Ed’s “counter spin” post from yesterday…

btw a piece of unsolicited advice regarding, ahem, donations to your favorite lesbian couple. exercise due caution. a friend got whacked with a pretty nasty paternity suit and a hefty child support payment when the lesbian couple he had assisted imploded leaving the biomom with a child sans income. thos the situation may be different on that side of the pond.

24. pleite - December 12, 2006

Yes, it all strikes me as a moral and legal minefield. Of the couple I know who might have thought of asking me for a donation, I know the one-who-wasn’t-going-to-be-mum best and the mum-one hardly at all. And there might have been my child, growing up, presumably, with as little input from me as they would have wanted. It seems quite a sacrifice.

On the legal front, in the UK, at least, if I’m not mistaken, financial matters are taken out of your hands. I knew one couple – no lesbians or sperm donations involved – who had a child, though they were never married, and split, and relations were good, and I think it was impossible for them to reach a financial agreement on their own terms. Of course this is meant to protect the mother in cases where the father might want to be a shit, but it also takes the private out of private lives.

Sperm donation also can’t be anonymous in the UK now, which, inevitably, has stopped many from donating. (I think it used to be a popular way for students to earn beer-money.) Which makes the search for those seeking sperm far harder.

25. narrowback - December 12, 2006

a moral and legal minefield it is… and as this occurred some 16 years ago there was little in the way of legal precedent here in the states. The matter was handled by the courst as if my friend had suddently lost consciousness (of his otherwise purely gay sexuality), had a drunken one night stand with a bar wench and then swiftly departed town upon hearing news of the pregnancy… Simply put, the court said “regardless of the circumstances you are the father of the child and you will pay 1/3rd of your salary to mother of said child for the next 18 years.” All this despite previous attestations by the couple that all they wanted from my friend was a bit o’ sperm and an occaisional “father figure” for the child.

While I had enormous sympathy for my friend I must say I did enjoy the experience of lining up some free legal counsel for him. This entailed explaining to a staunchly hetero family law attorney friend of mine the circumstances of the conception …

Me: “I have a friend who needs some legal help on a paternity/child support suit”

Him: “were they married?”

Me: “no”

Him: “Was it a one night stand”

Me: “Er, no, well not exactly”

Him: “What do you mean not exactly?”

and then watching him shoot beer out his nose when i explained precisely the circumstances and the, ahem, tools involved.

I bet he never looked at a turkey baster the same again.

26. BiB - December 13, 2006

Marvellous! I have just google-image-searched turkey basters as I didn’t actually know what the things looked like. What if I’d helped give birth to something green: http://saltaquarium.about.com/cs/aquariumcare/a/aa020703.htm

No, it all doesn’t bear thinking about. I’m staying childless for now. Tupperware-and-turkey-basters or no tupperware-and-turkey-basters.

Actually, regarding your friend’s situation, I’m guessing that must be what the legal state in the UK now is also. If you provide the sperm, you are the father (obviously) and that comes with responsibilities. (Although I presume the students who happily donated in the past aren’t now being presented with bills. But I think I have heard that changes in the law mean children born of sperm donations are entitled to find their father, so many past donors must have had shocks with unknown children turning up on their doorsteps.) But I AM guessing. I don’t know if this means the gent who helped my lesbians – and various others – out is also now forking out great wads of his money. Actually, that seems unlikely. I must be talking bollocks.

27. narrowback - December 13, 2006

unfortunately “the gent who helped the lesbians” did and continues to fork out great wads of money…thus the moral of the story. He did however in the end gain a fairly decent daughter and believe it or not gay fathers are a niche social subset here in the states

28. leon - December 13, 2006

A caravel is a….actually, let’s just see what Wikipedia has to say on the subject.

29. pleite - December 13, 2006

Narrowback, I’m assuming that was you, unless someone else has the same story, but your comment came through as anonymous, so I’ve added your name, which I hope you don’t mind awfully… Yes, as you say, he has a daughter, which is a pretty rich prize for his efforts.

I once met a pair of oldish Canadian queens in Berlin. They were both dads. Both were married in the past. I expressed something bordering on envy, to which one answered, with great conviction, “Get a dawg!”

Leon, where would we be without Wiki? But I’ve looked the word up, and it’s from French, via Latin, via Greek: karabos, a light ship. Suspiciously close still, in my view, in sound and meaning, to whatever the Welsh was for coracle.

30. narrowback - December 13, 2006

yes, that was me…I plead guilty to late night PWI – posting while intoxicated.

For myself, I’d agree with the Canadian…but I’d opt for something with even lower maintenance like a reptile or ant farm.

31. pleite - December 13, 2006

My computer/wordpress/this blog likes you, though, because normally, I think, anonymous anything would be sent straight to purgatory but you waltzed straight into comment heaven – sorry, that sounds megalomaniacal – without a problem.

We own some cactuses. Until they dro(o)p dead, they’re beautifully low-maintenance.

(Do you blog yourself, sir?) (And I realise now, having read back through your comments, that there is no evidence at all you are a man, but I’m guessing you are.) (But just in case, do you blog yourself, ma’am?)

32. narrowback - December 13, 2006

T’was a correct guess.

It’s often been said that I enjoy the proverbial luck of the irish (a dodgy concept in and of itself – what luck? famine, colonialism, diaspora?) maybe there’s a electronic/digital aspect.

No, I don’t have a blog. It’s only in the past year or so that I’ve started checking out blogs beyond those that are purely political in nature so it is a relatively a new sphere of interest. I do a lot of writing – technical – as part of my employment so it doesn’t really appeal to me as a recreational pursuit

33. pleite - December 13, 2006

Yes, I don’t know what the luck might refer to. Being colonised, faminised and diasporised at the hands of the English and not the French, perhaps? Dunno.

I can’t say whether I’d recommend blogging or not as a recreational pursuit. It’s a love-hate thing for me.

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