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Reasons to be cheerful December 22, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

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.


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!



1. Annie - December 22, 2006

Smog! Tssh! That was only in the days of Queen Victoria surely? What do those Russian folks think, we’re all chirpy cockney chimney sweeps and chambermaids who survive on eel pie and mash, going on about ‘peasoupers’?

Oh… I like your header. But your new one is looking good too, it reminds me of a Vermeer painting I really like:

I’m the last person who should be answering anything technical but in tinkering with the WordPress templates, it seems a matter of going to the ‘Presentation’ tab, then ‘Custom Image Header’, then uploading the photo from your computer. If it doesn’t fit, usually you have an option to resize the image in your computer software. *crossing fingers for you*

2. Daggi - December 22, 2006

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.

Or to Germany, as the Germans are obsessed about London being full of fog as well. The current goings-on in Heathrow have started them off again.

3. wyndham - December 22, 2006

The British nation couldn’t give itself a better Christmas present in these uncertain times than a news story featuring something dear to our hearts – slightly inclement weather. Particularly weather which is evocative of our world-beating Empire days when our smog was the envy of the civilised world.

All the best to you, my blogging chum, and of course, the fastidious Russian. I look forward to more of your highly entertaining posts and sentences I wish I had written (“I fingered the Russian a feelingless text”) over the next 12 months.

4. MountPenguin - December 23, 2006

Here at Chez Penguin we are congratulating ourselves for having made the decision not to venture over to the Land of Fog, aka “Merry Old England” (sic) this coming Yuletide. According to the BBC the direly provincial CheapO’Jet Airport we would have used also seems to be fogbound, and any onwards travel involves a series of direly provincial trains run by people who have obviously not yet cottoned on to the fact that they are operating a railway.

5. David (TEFL Smiler) - December 23, 2006

The Great Smog of 1952 – explains a lot.

I used to get that in Slovenia – either that the country was covered in fog/smog, or that it was constantly pissing it down. You know, it never dawned on me to suggest a possible incompatibility between the two…

6. pleite - December 23, 2006

David, would some nice rain or snow dispel the fog, then? The Soviets were able to create the weather for the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Couldn’t a few helicopters have been sent up and sprinkled whatever magic was necessary for the fog to clear and all to be well? I realise I don’t know what fog actually is. Nor can I remember the last time I saw it. Maybe 1952.

Penguin, staying put is where it’s at. We went on a panic last-minute shopping spree today deciding that it would actually be just too wrong to eat pasta on the 25th and have ended up with a duck. Hopefully we’ll manage to rustle up some festivity somehow.

Wynders, I hope you’ve hunkered down for the season now or do you have to set off from the safety of London and travel along a road starting with M? Has there been anything good like a power-cut to accompany the inclement weather? I hope your 2007 will be full of good things, blogging amongst them.

Daggi, there has been a stampede to my door by random natives wanting to get a real Londoner’s angle on the fog. It’s been as much as I can do just to hold them at bay, I tell ya. Have you had to audibly drone when natives have asked you about it? I think I’ve only got one regular-see native friend – the beautiful friend, in fact – and when I saw him the other day, we instantly became drunk in half a second and didn’t even bother with polite preamble.

Annie, should I keep a note of that new link-address for future reference? Is that going to be your new home? And thank you for the lovely Vermeer. I wish I had wooden shutters. And a bonnet. Maybe I should try to put that picture up instead of the one I wanted to for the time being. The problem with my one is the size, but every time I resize it to the proportions required, the computer or wordpress or I get BSE and all hell breaks loose. I’ll work it out eventually… And I hope you’re not feeling TOO seasonally unfestive.

7. David (TEFL Smiler) - December 23, 2006

Dunno. It’s basically cloud, isn’t it?

Hey, I’ve just worked it out! Angels ride on clouds. So when clouds come down to earth as fog, it’s so that angels can do their good work. Or maybe collect someone to take them up to Heaven. That must be it, then: fog is parked angel-chariots.

And rain? Angels doing their laundry! Well, you can’t expect them to wear smelly old, erm, angel clothes (?) all the time, can you?

8. BiB - December 24, 2006

David, have you been at the aquavit again?

9. David (TEFL Smiler) - December 24, 2006

Haha – not at all. Hadn’t even had a drop of sherry!

Would it have been better if I had? ;-)

10. BiB - December 24, 2006

Well as you should now be, if I know the Danish calendar, in full vicarious Christmas mode, I hope you’re treating yourself to a tipple now. God Jul and all that.

11. Mangonel - December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas BiB, and everything wonderful for you and the Russian in 2007.

12. Arabella - December 24, 2006

Have a cozy Christmas.

13. BiB - December 24, 2006

Mango and Arabella, thank you both, and best seasonal greetings to you too. Hope it’ll be all you want it to be. (I can’t think what to do so am cleaning like mad.)

14. David (TEFL Smiler) - December 24, 2006

Hope you have a very Glædelig Jul, too! :-)

Can’t remember the exact phrasing in German – something about the first night of woe, isn’t it? ;-)

15. BiB - December 24, 2006

Yes, perhaps Wehnachten would be better than Weihnachten, which has something to do with holiness/consecration. Hopefully mine will be relatively pain free.


16. Beaman - December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas Mr BiB and ‘The Russian’. Don’t eat or drink too much!…which of course means…stuff yourself silly with whatever there is to hand. I look forward to a post about your festivities.
Mr BiB, thank you for your help earlier in the year, I’ll never forget it.
Merry Christmas one and all!

17. BiB - December 24, 2006

Beaman, thank you. Your words have properly moved me. And it couldn’t have been more of a pleasure, of course.

Well, I’m not sure I would put our Christmas and the word festivities in the same sentence, but maybe we’ll manage to get festive with a duck tomorrow. And some booze. Luckily, Ed of http://berlinbites.blogspot.com/ is planning to festive us up on Thursday, so Christmas is on hold this year!

I also hope you will be all jolly tomorrow, and every god damned day in 2007.

18. Daggi - December 26, 2006

Happy Xmas and that, and new year to you both. A few years ago, the streets were dead round here on the 25th, but today, they were full of joggers, parents with children, and a dog owner relieving himself on the side of an electricity substation, while his dog “Othello” did the same thing alongside. Perhaps I do “need” a digital camera. But the weather was quite nice, so I suppose that´s a reason as good as any not to stay inside.

19. Greatsheelephant - December 26, 2006

Happy Christmas, my darling.

20. AGF - December 26, 2006

Hope you and the Russian had a wonderful Christmas.

Also, I removed the block on my comment box so that non-bloggers can now comment as well ;)


21. pleite - December 26, 2006

Daggi, thank you. Did you get a digital camera for Christmas? The Russian and I have pretty much ignored all the formalities, although, to our horror, a friend presented us with a present! In a box! Wrapped and everything! And we muttered something embarrassedly about doing it the Russian way at New Year instead. We drank to ease the pain.

GSE, thank you. And all the way from Argentina too! I hope the sun and warmth at least lighten the spirits at this oh-so-festive time of year. We tried to diversify our festival of choice by going off to track down the Menorah which had been placed in front of the Brandenburg Gate. Didn’t find it. Which may have had something to do with us looking for it too late. Or it never having existed in the first place. Dunno.

AGF, thank you. (GSE, please also allow us outsiders in from the cold. I sometimes get such blogspot envy.) I hope your Christmas was a roaring success and that you can now look forward to your return to Berlin in a chilled but bloated atmosphere.

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