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Happy Mondays February 5, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

Darlings, it’s February, I can’t sleep, I’ve got work to do, I’m worried I’m about to have lots of work to do (which should be a cause for celebration, of course, but just isn’t), my body feels sort of wintrily fragile… which I thought were all cues to spread a little bit of gloom.

Life feels horribly eventless at the mo. The Russian is sick and refuses to entertain me. “Darling, take me to the cinema,” I holler, “or I’ll start an argument.” But he answers, “Seeck,” and so I have to make quite an effort not to watch German TV’s attempts to recreate the atmosphere of summer 2006 with the home nation’s glorious victory in the Handball World Cup. Jiggy-jiggy would be, it goes without saying, unthinkable for any Russian with an illness on the go. “But, darling, I couldn’t give a fuck about the germs,” I didn’t say, but might have thought, but he would see the whole transaction as far too microbially sordid.

So, no cinema, no jiggy-jiggy , I don’t want to overdo the work… So blogging, natch. But what about the eventlessness? Nothing on earth to blog about. So I’ve flicked through my mental and blogging archives, yet again, and a nice bit of gloom I’ve been meaning to blog for ever has presented itself as most suitable blog-meat candidate.

The Russian and I were in Thailand in 2002. We had a shit time, all in all, because I hate leaving the house, my skin burnt to a crisp within 1 second of arrival, and because it was deemed that English was more likely to be understood in Thailand than Russian – not wrongly – I had to be in charge of every transaction whilst there. Plus our combined social autism meant we weren’t allowed to talk to strangers, so it was three weeks solid of each other. On holiday. I did think of suggesting we meet back at the airport on the due departure date and tell each other stories of how we’d got on. But we stayed solitarily together. There was one handsome Australian gent that we kept bumping into, who was with his girlfriend, whom he hated, and they would never do anything together, and we would see him at some recumbent Buddha or other or doing a mime of what we wanted to order in a restaurant and there he’d be, and we’d exchange smiles, but no more than that, and we’d abandon him to his lonely fate or to other tourists. (I once heard him engaged in a riveting convo with a German about how Thais wrote text messages.)

So just me and the Russian. The Russian happy to be in Thailand. Enjoying sun in winter. And seeing the trip as a great privilege. Not everyone gets to go to Thailand, after all. And taking notes in museums to pass on the knowledge to his family at a later date. (He does this in London too. Even I have to admit it’s sweet.) And me loathing every minute, and even when I would accidentally get carried away and forget that I was meant to be having a horrible time and notice that ACTUALLY Bangkok was pretty fantastically interesting and the rest of the country had oodles going for it too, I would try to rein in all feelings of positiveness and try to re-etch the scowl into my face. (Can’t remember if the Russian had finished the milk within the previous couple of years or if there’d been some other egregious crime.)

Anyway, one day, in Bangkok, we ended up in an utterly uninteresting part of the city, which probably put me in an ungovernable rage, and made me scowl so hard that my eyebrows met my chin, but the Russian resourcefully thought we should make a good out of a bad and so we pretended it was now a shopping trip (by which time my lower teeth were embedded in my brain). The area was modern. Sort of skyscrapery. And seemed to be where Indian wholesalers plied their trade. So the shopping was unlikely to be interesting. We’d pop into another mini-shopping-centre and there’d be more people selling more curtain material. We bought ourselves some flavoured ice in a plastic bag and decided to go for one last shoppery before we’d call our mummies and ask them what to do when lost in a big, foreign city.

And, darlings, I was washed over in gloom. Traipsing through the utterly uninteresting shops was gloomy and soul-emptying enough but as we escalatored ourselves ever higher, the floors got more and more desolate. Floor seven might only have had three or four tables with curtain material folded nicely on it. Floor eight had even fewer and an automatic drinks machine. Floor nine had nothing but its strip-lighting and one upended plastic chair. We somehow had a feeling that the tenth and final floor wasn’t going to mysteriously turn into Harrods but we did see that it had a toilet so allowed ourselves to be elevated ever upwards.

And there was gloom itself. In the overlit gangway, on the lino floor, between escalator and toilet, was a karaoke machine. The karaoke machine had an attendant, a concerned-looking young woman. She was holding the microphone and clearly trying to explain to someone who didn’t know the routine how it all worked. He seemed at a loss. I loitered to watch the scene, which probably made the attendant more flustered. And then the man, having gleaned what he could of the procedure, began to sing. He was old and wizened. Decrepit and senile. He sang poorly. The girl looked more concerned than ever. Perhaps her regular clients – though god knows how many of them there could have been with only the smelliest toilet in Bangkok as an accompanying attraction – were teenage girls. But she needn’t have. The man was no trouble. He just wanted to sing. I didn’t know what the song was, of course, but it meant something to him. And it was all much the sharpest stab of sheer, unadulterated, unmitigated gloom I had ever felt. Not pain, because I have, of course, experienced worse things than a chronically lonely man singing badly. But something about his loneliness and the way he was combating it struck me as irredeemably pathetic. The poor bastard.

My jaw shot through my crown before I’d even got round to verbalising my new-improved gloom to the Russian. We entered the world’s smelliest loo. A leering idiot waggled his willy at us.

I’d had better days.



1. Marsha Klein - February 5, 2007

BiB, your description of your ever deepening frown made me laugh out loud (I think I have begun too many comments recently with the words “x made me laugh out loud” – ho hum).

February IS eventless. That’s why someone invented Valentine’s Day (insert expletive of your own choice). It’s also why my sister got married in February (“because nothing ever happens and I hate it”)

In other news I am concerned to see, from Daggi’s comments in your previous post, that President Ahmadinejad is a Traffic and Transportation Engineer – so is Mr K!! Dear God! What can this mean? Mind you, it does explain some things. This burqa for a start…

2. Mangonel - February 5, 2007

O.M.G. BiB – Three Weeks. Was this your first holiday with the Russian? Have you been on holiday together since?

That shopping centre has its twin just off the Karlsplatz in München. I feel your pin.

3. Ed Ward - February 5, 2007

Well, maybe you Brits just have Valentine’s Day, but we brilliant Americans have both Washington’s *and* Lincoln’s birthdays, which the government went and squashed into one holiday, “Presidents Day,” but not until I was out of school.

I see the Bloggies are coming up, so I’m off to nominate BiB for “Best Seasonal Affect Disorder Blog.”

4. pleite - February 5, 2007

Marsha, is there a Smiths song called ‘Blogger in a Burqa’? I have a pal who is of Iranian origin and she was in Iran not ages ago with her mother and sister. They covered their hair as naughtily freely as they could get away with. The sister wore a long coat, with a slit up the back, which, I think, gave a sneaky preview of a bit of jean, and a man approached the mother to explain that her daughter was a threat to society. Now I like Iran, ever since flying over its lovely mountains, but I think I am as much as glad that I don’t live there. In the same comments, I said to Daggi I’d rather live in Venezuela than Iran. Do you have a non-democratic country of choice that you’d like to live in? I should choose Belarus, really, but in Venezuela I could use lots of words ending in -ista and thump my breast as I talked about my ‘struggle for freedom’ – I could be, perhaps, both a luchista and a libertadista – and go to the beach… My eventless February is threatening to be very work-heavy indeed, so this might be my last comment till mid-March.

Mango, we have largely dispensed with holidays, thankfully. We’ve been to Paris and Barcelona since then, and, if memory serves, I think we had an execrable time on both occasions. London has actually worked well on the holiday front, oddly, as you’d think boyfriend+family would be a recipe for double-disaster, but two wrongs really do make a right. Poland coming up, but we’ll have other grown-ups with us to keep us in check. Unfortunately, I will be fretting about work throughout. Oj vej…

5. pleite - February 5, 2007

Ed, we overlap. Thank you. I would be happy if something came out of my SAD. What I really can’t cope with is work, which I don’t suppose will get me much sympathy. I mean work-load, really. If it’s heavy, which is the only way to stay afloat doing this shitty job, really, then I fluster and moan and want to sleep for ever. So hopefully I’ll fall off a sled in Poland and break a fingernail and that will have me Übersetzungsunfähig (?) (unable to translate) until the summer, by which time I will have starved to death. OJ VEJ…

6. MountPenguin - February 5, 2007

Too much work for comments? Hmm, wonder if there’s a market for “blogsitters” (dashes off to slap together a Web2.0 company).

On a more serious note, if I had to choose a non-democratic country to live in, it’d have to be Thailand. No large oil reserves and no designs on nuclear capability, so safe from US intervention, and corrupt in a laid-back sort of way, and lots of beaches.

7. BiB - February 5, 2007

But Penguin, isn’t Thailand democratic, give or take the odd military coup? Actually, I did like it there, although I found the number of tourists a bit overwhelming. I mean, I know I was one ‘n all. But I slightly had the feeling that there wasn’t much of Thailand left in the bits I went to. I mean Krabi, though beautiful, has everything written in Swedish. How perverse is that? There must be unbeaten tracks, of course, but as we had made no plans and done no research, we ended up in all the depressing places with 19-year-old whities. Apart from Bangkok and the island Koh Tarutao, which is part of a national park, the place that most struck me was Surat Thani. We got stuck there between buses or trains from one touristy hellhole to another, and I think it was the Thai equivalent of Luton or Eisenhüttenstadt, and was, for that reason, lovely. Non-descript. Ordinary. So few whities that we would acknowledge each other’s whitiness on the street, flip-flopped, vested, shorted wankers that we were. “Look, there’s a whitey!” And, by chance, or perhaps it happens a lot, there was some festival happening. We guessed a new temple was being consecrated. And there was a huge crowd, though a sitty-downy one, which was lovely. We didn’t have to sway or hold lighters or anything. The local nutter did approach us, much to many locals’ amusement. Then the Russian found out his uncle had died. And I refused sex with the girl waiting for us at reception. And we had to get up at crack of dawn and we saw the monks collecting alms, which was nice and mythic, but there was a 7-11 in the same field of vision, which slightly lowered the myth-factor and…

Well, my first worky deadline isn’t till tomorrow afternoon, so I expect I’ll carry on footlingly footling until about midnight and then switch on my translating-robot mechanism. And look forward to breaking my fingernail. (By the way, blogsitting happens galore.)

8. MountPenguin - February 5, 2007

It’s not a dictatorship or anything obviously undemocratic I suppose, but despite all the elections I get the feeling power passes back and forth between various groups (army, police) with vested interests. And the corruption is pretty breathtaking. And sometimes people get bumped off in an extra-judicial sort of way. The beer is very drinkable though.

9. pleite - February 5, 2007

Russia was my closest thing so far to living in a non-democracy – it was quite exciting Yeltsin resigning on December 31st 1999. Stylish. Aber who was this Putin geezer? – and even though it’s bureaucratic and reglemented in many ways, the chaos and not-knowing-arse-from-elbow-ness brought with it another type of freedom. As does size. I felt I could go and disappear into the woods and build my own shack somewhere in Russia and no-one would bother me. Which I’d hate, and I’d die of starvation within minutes or, if there did happen to be berries and discared cans of food lying around – which I wouldn’t be able to open – I’d die at the first sniff of winter as I wouldn’t be able to build a shack, of course.

10. Taiga the Fox - February 5, 2007

Aww. Taking notes in museums really is sweet.

11. BiB - February 5, 2007

Taiga, it is, but you mustn’t for a second make the mistake of thinking that he’s the nice one and I’m the nasty one or anything like that. It just ain’t true. (OK, that was it. My last blogging moment till mid-March. The Russian and I are already fantasy-flight-surfing, spending the money I’m yet to earn. And I’ve just remembered our carbon footprints, and am wondering where we can go by train. Somehow Hamburg just doesn’t sound as appealing as the south of Spain.)

12. narrowback - February 5, 2007

well BiB I hope you’ll reappear on the blog between now and mid march long enough to set up our beer drinking meet during my visit.

13. pleite - February 5, 2007

Well, of course I was lying, well, fibbing, and I’ll probably be here constantly throughout, but you must remind me 18 times before you arrive of your dates again, which I will forget to write down anywhere and I only buy pages for the next filofax year in, say, May, but I’ll write your trip in then for posterity’s sake. But I’ve got a feeling it’s mid-March, by which point this work-rush will have subsided, and I’ll be so beer-ready that I might just drink the world dry and we’ll all shrivel up and be as wizened as my sad, old Karaoke-man.

14. wyndham - February 5, 2007

Taking notes in museums, that really is very cute, although it would probably drive me mad if I was with him.

If it helps, my work-load has unfortunately increased of late, which is why I haven’t been commenting much lately. Although my first proper job after having that few months off has consisted of staying in a luxury hotel and wined and dined. So you won’t even find me complaining. However, your sad story about Thailand brings back happy memories of that lovely, dotty country.

15. BiB - February 5, 2007

Wynders, do you mean you’re fully up and running again on the employment stakes? My commiserations, of course, but also my congratulations if it exclusively entails being wined and dined, put up in posh hotels and starring in soap operas.

Right, red-wine-induced brain-mush check. I actually mentioned this sad tale on your blog once – can’t remember à propos of what – and you said, “Sounds like you could blog that,” or something, and I’ve been meaning to ever since, and the early hours of this morning finally provided the occasion, for no good reason, really. So I should have given you a mention. So here’s the mention. Wynders inspired my gloom-spreading, people (though in the nicest possible way, of course). And I’m about to drink more red wine now, and I’ve got work to finish and it all seems like a recipe for disaster and life is a bit relentless, isn’t it, but January’s over and I think I can feel another winter’s conquered.

16. wyndham - February 5, 2007

So you’re telling me that your sad story is actually bringing back your memories and not mine? – thank God for that. I thought I’d liked Bangkok.

17. BiB - February 5, 2007

Wynders, I hope I’m still another few wine-years off remembering other people’s experiences as my own or, worse, palming my own risible memories off on others. I think I’m sure this happened to me and the Russian, though I have no real way of knowing, or corroborating the knowing. If I had a digital camera or camcorder, I suppose I’d have filmed every sorry moment. As it was, we used a rubbish old camera that one of us found on a bus… I remember the nice temples though. Clearly. And the amusing moment in one when two Chinese girls approached a monk full of reverence. And he started chatting with them in English and asked if they were from Hong Kong – they were – and then asked them for their phone numbers as he was planning a trip to Honkers any minute now. They were stunned, but obliged.

18. Beaman - February 6, 2007

“made me scowl so hard that my eyebrows met my chin” haha, that made me laugh. The imagery that came to mind.

The Russian, via your written word, has given me wonderful advice. That of taking notes during museum visits for family later on. Super idea!
Or I could just do the exercises in my ‘Improve your Memory’ book I bought decades ago.

19. BiB - February 6, 2007

It is a good idea, isn’t it? I first noticed it in The National Gallery. Russians would know their own art like the back of their hand – well, mostly – so he wouldn’t have bothered making notes in any St. Petersburg gallery as its secrets would be well known. But as he wandered round The National Gallery, on his first trip to England, he made notes about Constable and Turner and all that type as they are relatively unknown in Raasha, at least to the layman. He wrote massively long letters to his mother from London as well, describing his impressions. The only highlight on the drive from Stansted to where my mother used to live (near Paddington) was Walthamstow Dog-Track. Oh dear. (Mind you, I went to Walthamstow Dog-Track once with a gaggle of pals, including three Scandinavians. It was a tiny bit of a hoot to be standing in the queue behind my Finnish pal(ess) and hear her placing a triple trifecta. She and I both left the place richer than when we went in. Too queer.)

20. narrowback - February 6, 2007

BiB/Pleite… I’m scheduled to arrive on 3/15 & staying until the 20th.

sorry to be curt but I’m off to a stadtrat meeting…

21. BiB - February 6, 2007

No problem. Those dates are perfect. I’ll be deliciously post-rush. Though probably already beginning to worry about when folk will pay… Anyway, looking forward to it. Would you be up for meeting some of the other Berlin crowd? Perhaps I could ask Radio Free Mike to organise a Stammtisch at the time…

22. MountPenguin - February 6, 2007

I still can’t work out the bit about the girl at reception (post 7). Was she waiting especially for you for nefarious heterosexualist purposes?

23. BiB - February 6, 2007

I think she was waiting for us because we were foreign guests in the hotel, which may not have happened too often. Or perhaps she just found us irresistible.

Thank you for being up in the middle of the night. I’ve still got an oodle of work to do. I’ve already had breakfast and am drinking coffee… Not big and not clever.

24. narrowback - February 6, 2007

Great. Glad to hear that your schedule will have eased up… I always feel guilty when my visits drag one friend away from his work

don’t set up anything special on my account but if there is an opportunity to meet some of the rest of the gang that’d be cool. I was going to offer to bring Ed some corn husks for tamales or other fixin’s for authentic mexican food but he said he’s out of town then…

I’ll try to remind myself to remind you of my travel plans

25. BiB - February 6, 2007

Narrowback, thank you, and please don’t even have a millisecond of guilt at dragging me away from the computer. I will be more than willing to be dragged away. Looking forward to it in advance!

26. Appy Linguist - February 6, 2007

In comment no 15:

“January’s over and I think I can feel another winter’s conquered.”

Sorry, BiB, but it looks like you’d better get ready to eat a lot more stodge and open a few more bottles of red wine – they say there’s snow and freezing temperatures a-coming. This week, in fact.

OK, I’m basing that on Danish met office stuff, and they’re always getting stuff wrong. I wouldn’t normally believe them, but I will this time simply because I always expect the worst of winter to come in February. And I’ve got an interview this Thursday in my new pinstripe suit. Brrr!

27. MountPenguin - February 6, 2007

Following the warmest January since 1796 in Berlin, they’re predicting almost seasonably chill weather here too. However the days are getting longer and Spring is once again a plausible concept.

Don’t the Nordics wear thermal longjohns or whatever beneath their suits?

28. Appy Linguist - February 6, 2007

Snow’s just been sighted again here in Copenhagen, but only for a few minutes. It’ll probably return when I look away.

Shops, offices and public transport tend to be over-heated, and so I get the impression the locals tend to avoid going thermal. Most men in suits also drive cars.

29. pleite - February 6, 2007

Appy! Hello! You’re back! And I like the new guise enormously. (Though do wear the longjohns. I hate taking mine off even in summer. They look awful under shorts though.) I’m sure winter will come back and bite me on the nose, which I wouldn’t mind too much, but the grimmest days are surely behind us (though I’ll happily open the red anyway). Mind you, it’s boring when you’ve already started expecting it to be warm by, say, the end of April and it’s still absolutely bloody freezing. And I hope the new whistle gets you that job…

Penguin, yes, the new, unimproved http://www.wetter.com – what’s this getting gradually closer to your city of choice with ever more teasing clicks? One click used to do – is predicting -7 and snow and all sorts next week. Hurrah! But I won’t leave the house for work for another year anyway. Damn.

30. MountPenguin - February 6, 2007

There was a showering of stuff which couldn’t decide whether it was hail, rain or snow a short while back.

But BiB, I found the Wetter in Berlin by selecting “Berlin” from “Das Wetter in…” on the startpage of wetter.com (which I don’t think I’ve ever used, but egads is that a horrible layout / colour scheme, I think I’ll stick to looking out of the window).

31. BiB - February 6, 2007

Yes, the internet doesn’t make everything easier. Now, if I want to make a phone call, I go online and check http://www.billigertelefonieren.de first. Which adds to the labour. Just as well I never phone anyone.

The balcony is my low-tech meteorological station. I can confirm from a supermarket-trip walk that the weather is standardly, Februarily dull.

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