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How rich are you? March 11, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

The Russian and I are preparing for the onset of fabulous wealth. I’m already surfing for bling on ebay and the Russian is working out how to upgrade the contract-killers he uses on a regular basis when someone makes some egregious, death-worthy transgression like look at his pint of red wine and coke the wrong way or call him a poof.

And we’re also preparing for the feeling of moral rectitude that will go along with our fabulous wealth being earned. I won’t have got rich with a lottery win, as happens on Australian soap operas – I don’t think Madge ever lived that down – and the Russian won’t be rich on the back of his oligarch braazer’s ill-gotten gains. No, he’ll be as rich as Croesus from his nice little university job. I’ll be as rich as Croesus from my appalling translation efforts.

Like any folk who basically never have any money, the Russian and I spend a good 90% of our time fantasy-flight-shopping on the internet. Luckily, fantasy-flying leaves a carbon footprint an especially lazy sloth might be proud of so I don’t have to have guilt-pangs at all the toxins we’d help spew if we did indeed fly to Venice this week, Dubrovnik next week and Jerusalem the week after that. (Sometimes, I’ve got to admit it, I’m glad the Russian needs a visa to step outside the front door.)

But the fantasy’s nice while it lasts. With all those pfennigs I’ve earned of late, I think to myself – presuming they’re ever paid – I’ll be able to irrigate the third world, pay for Iran to abandon its nuclear programme and find a cure for the common cold. And then, as the euphoria wears off and the cold wind of reality starts to bluster once more, I remind myself that we won’t really be very rich at all. By the time we pay bills – on time, for once – and some debts and go on a posh shoppery and double our jeans-and-jumper count from one to two, we’ll be skint again.

But the moral rectitude will still be there.

And then suddenly a flashback to being seven. Third year infants. Cross-legged in shorts on a freezing winter’s day on the wooden floor of the school hall waiting for our Belgian-witch deputy-headmistress to take assembly, which normally involved screaming about the evils of chewing-gum or enumerating our routes to hell. Thankfully, aged seven, my classmates and I were all wise enough to know that the Belgian witch was laughably wrong and we amused ourselves with our own conversations. I grew up in a standardly riff-raffish part of London. Some of my classmates lived in flats. Imagine! But we still had to pretend we were as rich as Croesus after an especially good day at the casino and thus it was that I heard Caroline K_ bigging up her family’s wealth. “My dad’s well fuckin’ rich,” she said, unconvincingly. But Linda E_ wasn’t in the mood for compromise and was, anyway, a faster runner than Caroline K_ so knew the gods were on her side. “How rich?” countered Linda, which boded well for a career in academia. “He’s got at least 100 quid in the bank,” Caroline jousted feebly back, cuing snorts of derision as far as Maida Vale, even if it was only 1978.

For me, time has stood still and I now secretly envy Caroline K_’s minted father. Yet I sometimes try to convince the Russian that we are living proof that the rat-race is a lose-lose situation. “Darling, we demonstrate – admittedly, you do need to live in Berlin and not London or anywhere else with money sloshing around for this to work – that you can be (sort of) comfortable on peanuts. We may earn 4p a year between us, but we have a very comfortable life, just without the frilly extras.” Which is sort of true. And where would the thrill be if every time you went to a cashpoint-machine you knew in advance that it would make the heart-lifting sound of whirringly counting out your money? If you think there’s a chance it’ll swallow your card or tell you to fuck off, it’s cowards’ Russian roulette thrown in.

So darlings, are any of you really going to try to tell me you’ve got more than 100 quid in the bank? I’ll know for a fact you’re fibbing, whatever mickey-mouse currency it’s in. But, just in case some of you are secretly minted, can you let me know whether I’m REALLY missing out by not making it my life’s mission to marnerishly hoard gold?



1. Lukeski - March 11, 2007

I recently had over ten pounds after taking all my change to one of these machines at Tesco’s in Wembley. I then spent it on Polish pork products in the self same store.

2. MountPenguin - March 11, 2007

With all those pfennigs I’ve earned of late…

Ah, there I see part of your problem. You’ll need to take those pfennigs down to the Bundesbank (neatly wrapped in paper rolls of course) and get them changed for real money. Or pop by to C&A – they still accept DM, which is very useful because Mrs. Penguin keeps finding the stuff (I think she ferrets money away like a squirrel, if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphors) and keeps us in undies.

Is “marnerishly” a real word, or one you’ve made up?

3. pleite - March 12, 2007

Lukeski, what a brilliant machine. They never existed in my day. Do they only belong to Tesco? And can you only spend your hard-ignored change at Tesco? I love machines that accept tiny change. My only joy in Berlin is in buying stamps. The tram/U-Bahn machines are quite good, but won’t accept even the shitty 1c and 2c coins. Let’s become small-change millionaires.

Penguin, alas, I can’t claim any Lear-like, runcible-style originality. I merely added an -ish to Marner. And then I remembered that I am 90 years everyone’s senior. In our day, Silas Marner was (I think) a school English-class staple. But in your funky GCSE day, I suppose it had been replaced by The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole. Honestly, they should never have done away with matric.

4. MountPenguin - March 12, 2007

They used to have one of those machines in the Sparkasse on Alexanderplatz. It was very useful when I was selling papers, because my income consisted largely of coins. But it kept blocking, and at some point they got rid of it.

Ah, Silas Marner rings a bell, Wikipedia claims it’s a book by George Eliot (who she). Don’t think we actually read books for GCSE; the school I was at had “mixed sets” for English (i.e. all abilities in one class), all I remember were very depressing poems by Seamus Heaney about rotting blackberries or something. No Adrian Mole or anything remotely enjoyable.

5. MountPenguin - March 12, 2007

Going back to the subject in question, I have 160 Slovenian stolars in reasonably crisp notes, which look very impressive in a “let’s copy the DM notes” kind of way. If I recall correctly they’re the change left over from when I was passing through there around 1995 and exchanged 10 DM so I could buy a cup of coffee and a cake for myself and one other person. Probably wouldn’t even be enough to buy a teabag now.

6. pleite - March 12, 2007

I’m scared of Seamus Heaney, having once seen him being very clever on French TV and have never read a word. Or maybe just one or two words. Although there’s a nice portrait of him at the National Portrait Gallery, featuring nice swirly carpets that any Polish landlady should be proud of. And I read his new translation of Beowulf, but, infuriatingly, the edition didn’t show the original, which I’d have loved to see. Another book of mine which mysteriously seems to have vanished into the ether and explains why I have the most yawning IKEA bookshelves this side of the Beckham residence.

George Eliot is always a corking read, although her intellect is as intimidating, to me, as Mr. Heaney’s. But I daren’t plug Daniel Deronda on this blog AGAIN lest I’m accused of being repetitive.

7. pleite - March 12, 2007

…and Slovenia has just gone euro. Go and change them quick. Or go back to Slovenia especially, which wouldn’t be the best value for money, admittedly, aber trozdem.

Actually, what I sort of meant to write about in this post, but forgot as I got caught up in a swirling torrent of self-absorption, was to ask you folk, hopefully all a touch richer than myself and with knowledge of such things, where to go on our next hol. Croatia is putting in a very serious bid indeed at the moment, thanks to Germanwings flights for 100 euros.

8. MountPenguin - March 12, 2007

The Beckhams have IKEA furniture? You mean they have some miniscule amount of taste? Or is it some kind of sponsoring arrangement?

As for hols, how about a gold mine?

9. pleite - March 12, 2007

Oh, on the Poland hol, I heard a joke about Paul McCartney’s wife and gold-mines/gold-digging but can’t remember it.

I don’t suppose they stoop to IKEA furniture, unless it’s refashioned and made of platinum. I’ve always had a feeling that He-Becks might be rather sweet. But that neck tattoo is tricky. I’ve got a Becks story, naturally not anything to do with me. A friend’s brother played football with him when they were god knows how old. Let’s say 11. And Ma Becks said to my friend’s mum, “I do ‘ope – sorry, maybe she pronounced the h – David makes it in football. He’s got nuffing – sorry, maybe she said ‘nothing’ – else.” Still, he takes a mean free-kick, or has he moved to LA for Hollywood rather than footie?

10. Appy Linguist - March 12, 2007

I had some money at this time three years ago. It was a lovely feeling. Sadly, it’s all gone now, and it’s taken a great many hostages…

@MountPenguin: Was it not the tolar in Slovenia? I used to have many thousands of them until I was chased out of the country by spikey-club-wielding, death-threatening locals, also in 1995. You could have hung around and given me a lift – instead I had to make it to the coast, smuggle myself across the border to Trieste on a local bus full of old women and hens, and then jump an international train to Munich. And most of that story is true!

11. Valerie in San Diego - March 12, 2007

I have been sell-your-19c-used-record-collection-for-supper poor (note this is less poor than never having had 19c used records). Now I am fairly comfy — would be rich anywhere in the US but California. The primary thing that increased my happiness was not the moolah, but the significant other. The money lets me buy appreciably more crap, but I cannot say this is a good thing. Our house is filling with crap. I waste things. I don’t like this. On the other hand, it lets me donate more to charity and buy lots of people people prezzies, which is a good thing.

I was saying to SO today that the most rewarding thing about having plenty of dough is not having to think, at all, about money when shopping for groceries.

So I dunno.. money makes life easier. But it doesn’t make me a better or happier person. And it definitely doesn’t make me less of an idiot shopper.

12. pleite - March 12, 2007

Christ, Appy, that sounds a bit hairy. Have the full details been revealed on your blog? It is indeed a lovely feeling not being skint. But, when I balance things up, somehow the effort of making myself rich seems to be outweighed by not working myself to the bone and scraping by. As long as there aren’t payment hiccoughs – which there frequently are, of course – it normally works just about OK.

Valerie, I agree wholly. Money makes life an awful lot easier. I like your shopping example. I thought of giving in the post the example of my ex, whose wealth has considerably increased since we split up – funny that – that he never has to worry about getting his hands on cash now. No worrying in supermarkets. No worrying at cashpoint machines. And that is undeniably more comfortable a sitch than having to sell your old records. There was some famous utilitarian essay written by someone or other in the UK a couple of years ago that had its fifteen minutes of fame and got commented on by everyone. Basically, the man’s logic was that rich people are certainly happier than poor ones, but very rich people aren’t happier than comfortable ones. Achieving comfort is as far as money-related happiness can get you. From there on, other factors count far more.

13. MountPenguin - March 12, 2007

@Appy: you’re right, it is Tolar. So they’ve gone all Euro now? Missed that, and I read the newspaper every day. If I’d known I would surely have arranged some kind of lift. (As it happens I was being given a lift myself by a friend of a friend, who was regaling us with stories about the Croation spikey-club people they knew).

14. Lukeski - March 12, 2007

I think, and I may have just made up this figure, but according to a recent report, in the UK you need £24,000 per annum to fulfil all your basic comforts (this may be in London, of course) without going into the red. Most new graduates start on £16,000 (with another £12,000) of debt, doing a media slaes job they absolutely hate. You do the math (as our Transatlantic cousins say).

15. Lukeski - March 12, 2007

This poem was part of my GCSE English Literature (the course that destroyed any nascent interest I had in literature):


Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.

Under my window a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade,
Just like his old man.

My grandfather could cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, digging down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mold, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

Seamus Heaney

16. Appy Linguist - March 12, 2007

@pleite/BiB: I might have written about it previously, but if so it’s no longer available. I’m not sure I have provided any more details, though, as the place still scares me. I’ve never been back, due to my fear of my picture being at all border crossings. I won’t bore you with further details.

The Russian drinks red wine and Coke? I used to have that in Slovenia. In the part I lived in (“escaped from”) it was called bambus, if memory serves me right.

@MountPenguin: They seem to be keen on their spikey clubs down there. Especially at this time of the year. And belts with big bells attached to them. So at least you get to hear them coming.

17. Welsherella - March 12, 2007

More than a hundred quid?! You have to be kidding! I am as skint as skint can be. In fact, for an heiress (to an incredibly healthy, with many fantastic years ahead of him, daddy) I am amazingly skint. Paris Hilton wants to have lessons in normality from me, I’m telling you.

18. pleite - March 12, 2007

Welshy, wealthy parents, as Caroline K_ could have told you, are awfully handy. But, and without wanting to pry overly, if you’re skint and he’s loaded, couldn’t he, erm, drop you some wedge? Or is he being billgatesishly insistent on his children making their own way first? Which is probably very wise and good for you, but I’m a major path-of-least-resistance type. In the past, I would have been against rich parents coughing up dough to their offspring, but then I had my first nice, middle-class boyfriend who taught me to stop being a bitter old thing and said that of course his rich dad should give his younger sister money for whatever it was she wanted. But, darling, you are training to be a nurse. We can’t have you falling over hungrily in the middle of shifts. Do you want me to write your father an anonymous letter?

Appy, sounds like a good story. And slightly puts me off the idea of Croatia now. Though my ex is of Croatian origin and it’s a place I’ve wanted to go to for a long time. But I’ll try not to do anything – if we do go – that will have people trying to run me out of the country… And the Russian doesn’t drink red wine and coke. But there have been amusing/horrifying (depending on your point of view) reports of ‘new Russians’ ordering posh wines in posh Paris restaurants and then adding coke to it. The Russian read on some travel website recently the complaints of a new Russian(ess) somwhere in France on how, when she ordered the bottle of wine for 50 gazillion euros, the sommelier had a look of disgust on his face as he poured it for them!

Lukeski, I’m so not buying a one-way ticket to London any time soon. Comfortable penury will do for me. And I think you’ve instantly conquered my fear of Seamus Heaney for me. As I was reading your poem, I wondered if it was from the Poems on the Underground collection – it might be, even – but then, as the Irish references got stronger, I thought, “It can’t be, can it?” And it was. Or did you compose it yourself, in faux Heaney style?

Penguin, it’s all true. The first of the accession states to go euro. The news had footage of sultry Slavic beauties drinking euro-coffee, fashionably. Can you hazard a guess at what Croatians might brandish a spiky club at me for?

19. MountPenguin - March 12, 2007

Speaking Serbian?

Anyway, what are you doing indoors? Or are you sitting outside some sun-drenched coffeeshop with laptop?

20. marshaklein - March 12, 2007

Hello! I’m back (properly in the blogosphere that is). Please come and visit – not that there’s a lot to see (yet).

21. Welsherella - March 12, 2007

Ah, bless you Bib – I would love to read that letter! No, to be fair, my rich daddy would never see me homeless or starving; he just wants me to work at things! I have warned him that I will not tolerate having a nervous breakdown due to my putting up with my horrid place of residence for one second longer than I have to once I’m qualified, however, so he will just have to get the old chequebook out if I can’t afford to rent somewhere decent for a month or two! And my mother visited last week and restocked my fruit bowl (and salad drawer) so I shan’t be without my vitamins :)

22. Appy Linguist - March 12, 2007

The red wine in SLO was domestic Merlot. The Coke was an improvement. You could either have it ‘pol-pol’ (half-half), or two thirds wine and one third Coke. With the perfect balance it’s delicious. Too much of either liquid and it’s putrid.

The spiky things on sticks were connected to Carnival celebrations. This might help. I lived in Ptuj (‘Pettau’ in German), the heart of all that stuff.

But I digress. I’ve become so desperate for money I’ve even started to buy a Danish lottery ticket. I think someone needs to knock some sense into me!

23. wyndham - March 12, 2007

Happiness is enough coppers in the pocket to enjoy a coffee in the morning and getting the other half to dip into hers for a bottle of wine at night. That will do me, you can keep yer millions.*

* Opinion subject to change should I meet a filthy rich bird.

24. wyndham - March 12, 2007

That should have read, of course: filthy-rich bird.

Or should it?

25. pleite - March 13, 2007

Wynders, I’m a great believer in hyphenation, so I’d go for filthy-rich, unless, of course, you meant a rich lady who also happened never to wash, which I’ve got a feeling you didn’t. But I’m with you on the coffee and wine. Our daily wine intake started ludicrously early today, which was actually heaven. Even less of the day stone-cold sober. Hurrah!

Oh my god, Appy. Were you chased out of the Balkans by a giant chicken? But you have my very heartfelt and (I think) expert empathy if money is desperately short. When I flippantly say rich folk can have their cash, I don’t for a second belittle the utter misery that brokeness brings with it. Money worries are, to date, still the worst worries I’ve ever had.

Welshy, quite right. The second you graduate, ask him to buy you a two-bedroom flat as a congratulation gift. My next material dream will be an extra room. Here there’s a bedroom, a living-room and a kitchen and bathroom. I want an office/internet-room/blogarium. Gets you money off your tax too, apparently, if we’re properly mercantile about things.

Marsha, I’ve taken the liberty of attaching a link to your comment, which I know is a type of (reverse-)censorship or tampering, but then you did say, “…come and visit,” so I assume you’d just forgotten to link to yourself. And welcome back! Blog away…

Penguin, I still occasionally provocatively call the language Serbo-Croat, though I might dispense with that epithet if I ever do make it to Split and the environs. I have a pal in Bosnia and she calls the language Bosnian. I’m sure there probably are differences, but I’m not sure how stark they are… And I’ve never dared allow myself to use my laptop in public. One because it’s so crap and the battery lasts for 3 minutes and I’d probably be laughed all the way to Maida Vale (and bump into Caroline K_). And I get flustered as it is with making sure all the contents of my pockets are in place. I wouldn’t be able to cope with an extra item. I look forward to summer. Fewer layers will mean less pocket-junk.

26. Arabella - March 13, 2007

I’m rich in natural anti-oxidants, me.

27. MountPenguin - March 13, 2007

My Croatian friend, who took me to her home in Istria (very nice area, short on sandy beaches though) that summer, told me the Croatians were busy differentiating their dialect from Serbian, and that she was having to pick her words carefully, as she had been away in Berlin in the intermediate time and wasn’t au fait with the newest linguistic developments.

28. marshaklein - March 13, 2007

Hello again! Was I supposed to link to myself? Oh dear! So much to learn! (have linked to you, by the way)

29. pleite - March 13, 2007

Marsha, just in the fiddly bit here when making your comment so that folk can nicely click on your name and be spirited over to your gaff. If you make a comment here, has your computer miraculously stored your info so that you don’t have to log in each time? If so, add your blog details in the website or url bit or whatever it’s called and then hopefully I might be able to send the odd blogger your way. Good for you for returning to the fray.

Penguin, I’ve sometimes allowed myself to suspect that Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian are roughly as different as English as spoken in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. But maybe that’s not true. I’ll carry a dictaphone with me if I do make it there and will record the slightest difference should I cross the border into B-H.

Arabella, I am so unscientific that I had to look up anti-oxidants to see if they were a good or bad thing. If they’re anti, my Calvinist side thinks that must be a good thing. Do you recommend them? Should I try and become rich in them too?

30. Marsha Klein - March 13, 2007

Eh? Is this what I should do?

*cuts and pastes and…runs away*

31. MountPenguin - March 13, 2007

Cooompletely off-topic, but I’ve been presented with an unusual request for information and you’re the only person I can think of who might straddle the cultural divide. And the question is: do you know of a homosexualist-type bar or similar establishment which sells Guiness (or do you know of a pink Irish Pub)?

32. daggi - March 13, 2007

The one in the Gleimstr. on the side of the Kino Colosseum? It’s not strictly Homosexualist, but a bit pink purely due to its location. And The Oscar Wilde, despite it’s name, is just an Irish pub and isn’t gay at all. But I’m sure BiB would know better.

33. Mark Holland - March 13, 2007

Bib, you are rich. Rich in wordsmithy talent. Better than many professional writers that’s for sure.

On a related note.

The Theory of the Leisure Class An economic mystery: Why do the poor seem to have more free time than the rich?

34. marshaklein - March 14, 2007

I’m having trouble uploading an avatar – I’ve done everything wordpress wants and yet I’m still just a bunch of question marks!

35. Arabella - March 14, 2007

To obtain anti-oxidants we have to eat lots of blueberries , and I don’t mean muffins (unfortunately). But can we really believe anything ‘nutritionists’ tell us? Thought for the day.

36. pleite - March 14, 2007

Arabella, I think you should nod sagely and frownily when hearing nutritionists’ advice and then nicely ignore it. Although I approve of good food and eating properly. I think the Russian and I eat well, but the blueberry count is low. Does jam count?

Marsha (in your 30, not 34 incarnation), yes, that’s it (re. the comment thing). But then your link disappeared again. So maybe wordpress doesn’t save details. And I thought that was one of the joys of the place. Avatars, avatars… Can’t remember how I got Dolly up there. I’ll have a peek and see if I can work it out and get back to you.

Mark, thank you, you old cockle-warmer, you. I like that article, and am proof that it’s true. I could choose less leisure time and more money. I choose less money and more leisure/less work. Which is, on days like today, when the bills are paid, lovely. If it was just 10 degrees hotter and I didn’t live on the shady side of the street, life would actually be perfect.

Penguin, I think I’ll have to refer you to the comments my right honourable friend Daggi gave a moment ago. Pink Guinness. I just don’t know. Gay bars in Berlin are rubbish, anyway, I’ve decided. Empty and rubbish. I’ve never looked out for Guinness as I think it’s actually the nastiest substance man has ever created, but I must say I’ve also never seen its familiar logo jumping out at me in any homosexualist establishments. Yes, The Dubliner, which Daggi mentions, is just across from two gay places, so perhaps the person in question could get a Guinness at The Dubliner and then drink it in the middle of the street. Otherwise, I’d recommend a crawl of Motzstr. and the environs as that’s where the highest density of gay places is to be found. But Guinness? I just divvun’t knaa.

37. MountPenguin - March 14, 2007

You know, it’s odd – having lived here (within high-velocity spitting distance of the Schönhauer Allee Arcaden) for half-a-decade – that I never realised how many homosexualist establishments are around here. OK, I was aware of most of them on an individual basis, but it wasn’t until I was browsing through Siegessäule (as one does; I think Mrs. Penguin picked it up somewhere) that I noticed it has the second highest concentration after the Motzstr. area. (And probably the highest concentration of babywear shops as well, none of which sell Guinness as far as I’m aware).

Didn’t we come to the conclusion recently that the Dubliner was NBG anyway?

38. pleite - March 14, 2007

Penguin, I”m not sure I’m aware of them all, to be honest. Well, there’s the place that can’t decide whether it’s called Berlin or Amsterdam on Gleimstr. which is perfectly nice and does good rump-steak and I’ve seen Vladimir Kaminer in there – but didn’t dare say hello – and it’s not very exclusively gay at all so if you want cheap steak, I recommend it. Schall und Rauch just down from there has no atmosphere, is staffed exclusively by bitchy queens who huff and puff at having to serve you at all and woe betide should you then proffer a visa card when the bill comes and has no identifiable saving graces at all. (But their food might be OK, for all I know, and, again, no-one will faint if you go in there with a woman.) And I can only think of two bars, next to each other – Greifbar and Villi’s – where women would very much turn heads.

Aber what is NBG? National Bank of Greece? Kann nicht sein, oder?

39. MountPenguin - March 14, 2007

“No bloody good”. I may have made that up though.

40. liukchik - March 15, 2007

A test.

41. mountpenguin - March 15, 2007

And very nice it is too.

42. pleite - March 15, 2007

Liukchik, a test of what? My feeble intellect? Do tell!

Penguin, I’m sure you’re right that The Dubliner is NBG. I sat opposite it this evening on a more or less deserted Gleimstr. and, for a wee moment, Berlin seemed dead and NBG. But then it was a vaguely chilly March evening. Got to be patient…

43. mountpenguin - March 15, 2007

Methinks avatars are being tested. Seems to take a long time for them to propagate throughout the system, but they’re there now. (I imagine there’s some poor Praktikant (is there an equivalent word in English) manually copying the files from the configuration server to the avatar server, or whatever.

44. liukchik - March 15, 2007

Yep, I am in a transitional phase. A whole new world of WordPress is just beginning. Although I can’t upload a header image. Grrr!

45. pleite - March 15, 2007

Lukeski, I’ve given up on trying to upload a header image, though it must de doable, but I can never make whatever image it is be the extraordinary dimensions wordpress wants. Let me know when you work it out. And welcome to wordpress!

Penguin, the Americans have intern, but trainee or apprentice isn’t as satisfactory in UK English, is it? Folk would probably say, ‘the work-experience boy/girl’.

46. mountpenguin - March 15, 2007

Hmm, doesn’t have quite the same ring. A Praktikant is someone who studies until they’re about 28, then is grateful to have the chance of working for a pittance, or just working, as a highly skilled Mädchen für alles for about 6 months at a proper company in the vague hope of getting a proper job, after which they embark upon a long-term career as customer at the Arbeitsamt.

47. Daggi - March 16, 2007

Gay bars in Berlin are rubbish, anyway, I’ve decided. Empty and rubbish.

I’ve rarely been in a Berlin gay bar. I’ve been in a womens’-only-bar in Halle/Saale, which is a different thing altogether. But not all GBB (gay bars in Berlin) are empty. Never walked past the Besenkammerbar under the S-Bahn at Alex? It sure looks rubbish, but it always seems full. Hang on – Besenkammer, broom cupboard, that explains it.

48. Daggi - March 16, 2007

Studying until 28? Until 36 morelike, which is understandable when you consider that most students work part-time to finance their studies, combined with the state of Berlin universities. I’m off to the Arbeitsamt later.

49. mountpenguin - March 16, 2007

28? What was I thinking? That must have been the average age of the class in my first year. Mind you I did actually manage to graduate by that age, in the almost record time of eight years or so. (Still have occasional nightmares that I have to go back and do another semester).

50. daggi - March 16, 2007

Someone who managed to study – “to the end”. In my subject the “Regelstudienzeit” was 9 semesters (4.5 years), while the “Durchschnittsstudienzeit” was 20 semester (10 years). And this was in a subject where most seemed to be loaded and not having to go to work. We were advised to “take a few semesters off and move to Paris, Vienna, Naples”. History of Art. So, come on, what were you studying, mp?

51. daggi - March 16, 2007

That should have read:

MP: Someone who managed to study – “to the end”?!?! Blimey!

52. pleite - March 16, 2007

Daggi, I once wandered into that bar. It was pitch-black – though I don’t think that was meant to add to the raunch-element – and tiny and as packed as any self-respecting broom-cupboard, though Boris Becker was nowhere to be seen. I turned around and left. I’d have stayed if Boom-Boom Boris had graced the place. He makes ginger sexy. Although I disapprove that blond shock he’s been going in for since about 2002.

Penguin, my most frequent nightmare is having to make another best man’s speech. I think I liked my studies. I managed to take almost as long to get my BA in London as Germans do to do whatever is they do at university here. I really was destined to move to Berlin.

53. mountpenguin - March 16, 2007

9 semesters Regelstudienzeit!? Intellectual lightweights. At the Institute of Countries with Insanely Complicated Languages at the FU we had 10 (actually 8 plus 2 semesters of intensive language study at the start). Plus it was expected that one spent an additional year in the relevant country to relearn the language properly. Which makes six years. Didn’t do too badly, thinking about it (and yes I was self-financing). Not that anyone apart from relatives has ever wanted to see the bit of paper I got at the end. And to top it all, despite actually graduating, the university bureaucracy expelled me (zwangsexmatrikuliert), which I found most amusing.

54. pleite - March 16, 2007

Expelled for doing what? And expelled post-graduation? This sounds like a supremely German story.

55. mountpenguin - March 17, 2007

Expelled for not renewing my student status (and not paying the 100DM or so fee) because I’d assumed they would put two and two together and work out why.

56. daggi - March 17, 2007

8 plus 2 semesters Propadeutikum – Russian by any chance? Osteuropainstitut? I gave that a go at the Humboldt. A week off with the flu mid-winter and that was the entire verb system, aspects and approx. 2000 vocab items missed, and that was that, really. And then when I considered re-doing it, the 4 days a week intensive course had become 2-and-a-half days, which was clearly a bad joke.

57. pleite - March 18, 2007

Penguin, so, yes, a very German story. Sacked after resigning. Still, it probably gave one of the office witches a quiver of glee expelling you so let them have their fun.

Daggi, if Penguin is being enigmatic, let me say – I think this isn’t giving away suably much – that the languages he studied were from even further east. Aber what is this wonderful Propadeutikum word? The Russian’s insisted I clear up my desk and now my dictionary is out of arm’s reach and google hasn’t been instantly revelatory…

58. mountpenguin - March 18, 2007

I did say Insanely Complicated languages, not merely ones with an over-propensity for grammatical cases.

“Propädeutikum” is German University Latin for “crash course”.

59. daggi - March 18, 2007

And “crash course” is English for “a mental 10 years of language learning squeezed into about 8 months (ca. 8 hours per week)”.

60. daggi - March 18, 2007

And “crash course” is English for “a mental 10 years of language learning squeezed into about 8 months (ca. 8 hours per week)”.

I knew I was missing an Umlaut somewhere.

61. pleite - March 18, 2007

I’ve just realised I’m basically doing a new language a decade. Obviously, my first crash course was English. Then, from ten(nish), French, school. Then twenties, Russian, uni. Thirties, German, life, twisted fate, bad luck, love, cold war. Gripped to know what’ll hit on my 40th birthday. Though as I’ve now drunk, smoked and sniffed – OK, that’s not really true, but I thought it’d make me look well ‘ard – almost all of my brain away, I think I’d better go for something easy, like Dutch. Or Scots. I’ll be looking out for 8-month/decade-long Propädeutika like nobody’s business.

62. mountpenguin - March 18, 2007

The Propädeutikum I went through was a nominal 16 hours a week, plus a voluntary 2 hours extra class, though as it officially started at 8am, it didn’t really get going until about 8:30. Incredible attrition rate, of the 70 or so who started, only about 30 made it to the end. Gave me my first dose of caffeine addiction.

BiB: Dutch sounds so much easier than Scots. It’s the one language I can read more-or-less fluently without ever having learnt it.

63. pleite - March 19, 2007

I’ve met many a naughty German who claims that Dutch isn’t really a language at all. I’ve never repeated the claim to a Dutch person. I’ll wait till the next time there’s a Germany v. Holland football match and propound the theory to some visiting Dutch folk then.

64. mountpenguin - March 19, 2007

Ijk sproek vliessend Nederlands. Het ist een sprak det voorwirklich existierend. En op man net wissje de sproeken kann man opmeiken vielje wortje (um de oranjes veropbottom).

65. pleite - March 19, 2007

I rather like the throat-ridding sounds of Dutch and it’s far more sing-song than German. (Aaper ‘veropbottom’ hast du eernst geopmeeikt, ooder?)

66. mountpenguin - March 19, 2007

BiB, it is all geopmeeikt.

67. pleite - March 19, 2007

Vonderbaar. Als ik zeer joong waar, hab ik veele veele totaale Spraake geopmeeikt. Ik bijn zoviezo een totaale Spraakneerd geblijben.

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