Seek February 7, 2007Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
No, not an injunction for you all to go out and find yourselves and perhaps make your way to a big city with nothing other than the clothes on your back and a couple of bread rolls for company to make your fortune. Or to reflect on who you are, what your place in the world is and to find happiness that way. Although neither of those is that catastrophically bad an idea, actually, so if you want to go out and have a bit of a seek, far be it from me to stop you.
But when I say seek, I mean Russo-English ‘seek’, i.e. ‘sick’.
Now I’m always sick or pretending to be sick at one level or another. But the Russian appears to actually be sick. Man-flu. Sniffing and snorting. Coughing demonstratively. Wailing plaintively. Wandering around dressed like he’s on day-release. And, of course, I am a paragon of sympathy throughout. Mopping his brow with a damp flannel. Providing him with basins of warm, soapy water for his feet. Asking him if he wants a little ciggy.
Now I’m up to my cock – as Raashans say – in work so thought that – a bit of sneaky emergency blogging aside – I’d better create some other diversionary tactics to put the inevitable off as long as possible. It would have to be something practical, and something which couldn’t be defined as recreation, so shopping it was. We didn’t really need anything but, after a good ten seconds’ research, I decided I could justify a trip to the shops for fags, Weetabix and a toilet duck.
“Buy me paracetamol,” came a husky exhortation from the Russian as I donned my winter woollies for my journey into the known. I dashed off to our depressing new shopping centre. The first establishments you come across are an ice-cream parlour – all plastic and colours everywhere – and a grotty café – all plastic and colours everywhere – which seem to attract precisely the same clientele, namely hardened boozers who order nothing to eat but are seen happily nursing a bottle of beer. I expect to be a regular by the end of the year.
Now when I say I’m always sick or pretending to be sick, the emphasis should be on the pretending. Naturally I convince myself about twice a day that I’ve got cancer or meningitis, but mostly my health trundles along nicely unremarkably. I only bother the doctors when I strictly have to. And I never bother with painkillers as I normally like to milk any illness for all it’s worth and if I can convince the Russian an illness is the real thing, I’ll usually have e-mails from his mother within a day or two instructing me which exercises to do and which herbal remedies to take.
Which is all to say I didn’t think buying paracetamol would be a Herculean task.
Growing up in England, after all, meant quite a range of drugs on offer from the local pharmacy. Plus they didn’t seem to close at 11am, as they do here. As I scooted past the ice-cream parlour, accidentally kicking over discarded beer-bottles and getting a fine from the Noise Department and tuts from everyone in Germany – I think it made the local news – I came across a very closed chemist’s. There’s a chain called Rossmann here which, even though not strictly a chemist’s, sort of looks like the ones you get in England. People in white coats and tampons, make-up and coffee-filters on sale. I dashed breathlessly in there as it was about five to eight and I hadn’t even started my toilet-duck shoppery and rather than wandering fruitlessly up and down every aisle, I decided I’d ask the lady-in-white if they had paracetamol. “Do you have paracetamol?” I asked in, I thought, passable German. Look of total befuddlement from white-coated lady. “PA-RA-CET-A-MOL,” I repeated, with as much aggression as five syllables would allow. Shrugs and bewilderment. I repeated my request in as capital-letters a way as I could muster and she finally twigged. “Aah! Paracetamol!” “Yes, paracetamol (you old witch and, by the way, do you know your hair’s horrible?).” Honestly, what’s the point of pretending not to understand paracetamol? It’s not as if we’re even in Paris. They’d have understood in Bhutan. And I once again thought that the worst thing about Communism was that it didn’t allow people to travel… I gave her a chance to check her handbag was stored out of theft’s reach once she realised she was dealing with a foreigner and then donned an inquisitive expression. “So, about that paracetamol?” “No.”
And I wondered whether I was on a hiding to nothing. I dashed through the supermarket. Toilet-duck? Check. Weetabix? Check. Some-token-fruit-and-veg-so-people-won’t-think-I’m-a-pleb? Check. Not that it’s hard to be outplebbed by the Germans. The only things anyone seemed to be purchasing were cauldrons of cola and things in tins. I got to the druggy section. And all it was was herbal teas and vitamins. Not a proper drug in sight. And it dawned on me that you mustn’t be able to get any sort of proper drug in this country without either a doctor having agreed to it first or having to justify your need to the chemist. I once decided that the root of all my ills was that I wasn’t getting enough iron and marched into the chemist’s to sort my life out once and for all. Again, nothing on display but herbal tea and vitamins. “Erm, no iron tablets?” … “IR-ON.” “Ja, of course, but vy you are vonting zem?” “Because I’m mad and have decided I don’t get enough iron,” and then I stuck my tongue between my bottom teeth and lip…
So can’t you get drugs here just like that? It’s a far cry from England, if so. And an even further one from Russia. In Russia you can get absolutely everything over the counter. It’s fantastic. Once, when the Russian went on one of his six-month holidays to the motherland, he was hardly back in the door before I had my arm out for presents. And he dutifully produced. A teach-yourself-Hebrew CD or DVD. (I was having a Jewish phase.) Some book or other. A Russian keyboard. A basquillion cigarettes. And a little box. “Oh, is it a ring?” I wondered. But it wasn’t. It looked like medicine. ПРОФЛУЗАК, went the lettering. PRO-FLU-ZAC. “Erm, darling, what’s this?” “Oh, I buy you some Prozac,” came his impatient reply amid hurried unpacking and realigning his Raashan soul to its heartless, wicked-west setting…
I haven’t indulged. But we’d kill for some aspirin.