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I had a dream April 24, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
31 comments

Or I might have been awake, actually. Lying in bed. Tossing and turning. Envying my utterly somniac other half. And then it came to me in a flash.

I think it’s the lovely Ben wot started it with his mentioning of a dystopian time to come. And then I was awash in nightmare visions (though I can’t see very well in the dark), imagining a hellish future with strict social stratification, where the haves and have-nots were further apart than ever but all with a twist. There was still a place for a social justice of sorts. But once you’d been categorised, by the social fashion police that will be, you were there for ever. Not even a pretence of a glass ceiling. No, a rock-hard, reinforced, ten-metre-thick concrete ceiling without even a spy-hole to peep through to see how the other strata live.

Of course I was right at the bottom of the pile, shuffling to get comfortable with all the other undesirables.

But why should I have been there especially? I mean, was I not as deserving of a place at the top, or at least not at the bottom, as whichever types it was frothing around up there? But, remember, this social-justice-of-sorts had no moral angle. I could think I’d been as good as the next man as much as I liked. It didn’t matter a fig if I’d helped little old ladies across the road, tipped generously, watered my local tree in a drought, put in my tax declarations on time. No. I’d been declared a loser. I’d be at the bottom. Swimming in the opprobrium heaped upon me by the winners above.

And don’t you get all smug thinking you’ll be one of the finger-pointers. You’re all coming with me. In my nightmare world, bloggers will be the lowest of the low.

Which isn’t much good, is it? But I know what got this started as I lay envying my somniac other half. Yes, Ben a bit. But also that wicked combination of random thoughts flying round your head and two utterly incongruous – I hope – images naughtily settling alongside each other for a second in a neurone traffic-jam and daring to fuse and make an idea. I mentally projected my brainwork onto the wall for a minute. It wasn’t pretty. All sorts of nonsense was rushing around. (I reminded myself how much I LOATHE Dali.) (Wanker.) There was an undone tax declaration taking a piggy-back from a topless Russian soldier. An outsized cup of green tea wearing jack-boots was trampling on every bottle of red wine in the world. A snore with a huge nose was giggling at a tosser-&-turner. Guilt personified, with a tattoo reading ‘conscience’ emblazoned across every centimetre of visible flesh, chased fleeing hordes. German grammar tables sat gathering dust in an unkempt corner. Creditors with visibly empty wallets begged for food. I walked past them into a restaurant serving deep-fried decadence. But the most pernicious vision of all snuck up just as the projector was about to switch itself off thanks to a well-timed neuronal power-cut. A blogger sat tapping away at his computer. Casually, a group of Cyrillic letters sidled up with Slavic swagger. The Б was the leader. They made no sense. But then arranged themsleves mercilessly. Б-О-Т-А-Н-И-К. The Б planted flowers round the blogger. The blogger threw them aside but he was no match for the Н and К, whose spindly, thorny limbs had them back in place in no time until the blogger’s blogging window was just the same Cyrillic letters over and over again. B-O-T-A-N-I-K. Botanist. Russian for nerd.

The shock of it. In all likelihood, I tossed and turned a bit further till it got light, the cock crowed and I could get on with living in my daytime fantasy world where bloggers are cool, where we are the future, a future where we won’t be laughed and pointed at by accountants, mass-murderers and pop-stars.

But, darlings, we’re not mega-nerds, are we? I’ve been shaken to my blogging core.

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Me, myself and I April 19, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
26 comments

What better way to spend the working day in weather like this than out and about, thinking how best to tackle all the tricky tasks ahead? Yes, 9-5 wandering around, soaking up some rays, trying to get a bit of a head-start tan, sitting in cafés and then heading home, fudging for a bit longer and curling up in bed with your laptop. (Darlings, any ergonomic hints for bed-blogging? Bloody agony.)

But this is work, remember, and, as I’d rather die than work in a team, these tough working days are best spent alone.

God, I’m good company.

But a slip of the Russian’s tongue/brain/sanity the other day has raised shallow philosophical questions in me. He was giving me a light-hearted bollocking for something or other as we wandered down the street – I think I’d left a piece of paper on a table in 1979 – and then did the Russian(‘s) equivalent of a deary-me or my-oh-my with the accompanying forced chuckle. But do you know what he said? He didn’t say, “Deary me, BiB, you really are a one,” with a chuckle. No. He said, “Deary me, (the) Russian – those Slavs never could cope with articles. OK, Bulgarians can, apparently – you really are a one,” with a chuckle.

I saw fit to stand still on the street to tackle this brain-slip. I can’t be shallowly philosophical and walk at the same time. Anyway, my knees are giving me gyp so I was grateful for the rest.

“Darling, why did you just call me you?”

“Deary me. I don’t know. My oh my.”

“We must get to the bottom of this, beloved,” I probably continued. “Have you started thinking I’m you, and that you’re me, and that we’ve become one big conflated blob of post-cold-war, building-bridges, knocking-down-barriers gayness?”

“Um, nyet. Actually, when I talk to myself, I usually tell myself off for when I’ve done something wrong. And I say, ‘Deary me, Russian – those Slavs never could cope with articles – you really are a one,’ and I just thought for a moment I was talking to me and not you.”

So that put my mind at ease.

But back to the hard work of sitting alone in catering establishments. I would once have been too embarrassed to do this. And still need to be fairly choosy about my venue for a good bit of socialising with myself. I mean, I wouldn’t dare wander into a funky Berlin place – replete with 70s design and tossers – alone. That couldn’t be done. And, you know, what if some person-with-an-incomprehensible-job-title decided to take pity on you, sitting there like the sole unbowled skittle, and ruined your solo-socialising by engaging you in conversation? In Germany, this is quadruply fatal, as there’d be no hope of truncating the nascent/doomed-to-failure (delete according to mood/passport) friendship once you’d said you were English. The Germans adore the English and you’d be telling each other your life stories before you’d even got round to asking, “So what precisely does someone with that incomprehensible job title do?” No. Your solo-socialising must be in the right place. The establishment should be small. Reasonably empty. Preferably bathed in glorious sunshine.

So, yes, working like a dog of late. But a further conundrum for working/solo-socialising is whether the occasion will involve food. If you are the type that might get a bit embarrassed during a bout of working/solo-socialising, then food can be a good prop. For beginners, I’d even highly recommend it. No-one will think you look like a Billy-no-mates if you’re busy gnashing away at some delicacy or other, smattering your face in goo in the process. Whereas if you sit scowling at passers-by with just a minute cup of coffee, the rate of change in which is as slow as the rate of action in a Tarkovsky film, people might find you a tad on the odd side. Which is the image I’m going for.

But all work and no play never did anyone any good. After an especially Tarkovskian coffee/working-day recently, I thought I’d better get the Russian in on the action. I didn’t have a book to distract me for when socialising with myself had got boring, and I’m still not very good at reading, though I have now mastered the Wide Range Reader. I never take my laptop anywhere (except to bed). I texted him indoors explaining I was exhausted at all this work I’d been ruminating. Might he care to join me for a brainstorming session?

He couldn’t join me, as it happens. He was busy geometrically arranging papers somewhere, in a functional take on origami. But I didn’t despair. One, because I’m such good company alone. Two, because now that I know we’re one (big conflated blob of post-cold-war, building-bridges, knocking-down-barriers gayness), he’s always with me.

Those Spice Girls knew everything.

Mutter April 14, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
78 comments

Thank heavens for events.

Darlings, it’s almost worth losing your passport so that you can get a phone call from your mother a few weeks later saying it’s been found. (Hurrah!) (Bugger. Transferred the 190 euros for a new one already? Dampen that hurrah.)

The Russian and I decided yesterday to celebrate not having drunk and smoked since Sunday/Monday by drinking and smoking. Thankfully, neither of us had lost the knack. “Darling, we’ll just have one glass (and one packet),” we said to each other simultaneously and earnestly as we sat down to join our friends in an excitingly spontaneous meeting yestereve. Mind you, the spontaneous meeting was in a (sort of gay) pizzeria on a mainish street and, even if the weather is glorious at the moment, it’s still arctic in the evenings and of course we had to sit on the street pretending we were somewhere nice, like Tirana, rather than Neasden High St., where we actually were, except in Berlin, and the queeny waiters – even the resident het has been advised to camp it up. And I know he’s not a real poof as I’ve seen him snogging a girl in a discotheque. He’s quite convincing otherwise though. One of David Beckham’s old haircuts, trainers… – bollock you back when you bollock them about waiting 45 shivering minutes for a beer to arrive.

We got in about three. Guaranteed ourselves hypothermia by going to a beer-garden, again in an attempt to convince ourselves it’s summer. Then to a bar, where I fell asleep.

So I missed my mother’s confused answering-machine message this morning about a letter, in German, and something about my passport. I was so excited when I heard it that I accidentally curled up for another few hours.

But, yes, it’s all been worth it just to hear my mother’s attempt at reading Deutsch… And there’s been quite a lot of it to be worth. All rather a fuss, this getting a new passport. Form-filling. Money-transferring. Biometric-photo-taking… And finding someone to countersign your forms. Now, darlings, if you live in the UK, this is fine. You can ask any old person you’ve known for a couple of years, as long as they’re not a dirty foreigner and, even more importantly, a chav. Oh yes. It doesn’t quite say so on the form, but what the instructions actually mean are, “Please find a middle-class (or above) person to countersign your form and write on the back of the photo that this is a true likeness of…” I suppose the worry is paternalistic in a way. The folk at the passport office must assume chavs can’t read and write yet and will ruin your photos by spelling ‘likeness’ wrong 100 times. “I ain’t very good at these long words,” they must imagine chavs throughout the land potentially wailing. So, yes, fine if you have High Court Judges sloshing around your address book, but what if you’re abroad? And what if you don’t know a gazillion British people?

I do, as it happens, but that’s not the point.

So I got the lovely B. to countersign my forms. I grilled her for a good forty-five minutes to make sure there wasn’t a hint of chav blood in the family. I thought of the questions from that famous chav-quiz. (My ex sent it to me. I scored about a bazillion points higher than him.) I asked B. if she called her grandmother ‘me nan’ and had EVER bought flowers from a petrol-station. She said not. So we popped down her profession as High Court Judge, as ONLY High Court Judges may countersign your passport application, and I lolloped home, as happy as a chav at a CenterParc (why that spelling? Center? In Leicestershire? Parc? On Humberside?).

Checklist… Biometric photos ? Check. Any old passports you’ve got lying around the place? Check. Lost-passport form GBLP17171717171? Check. Birth certificate? (miraculous) Check. Proof of payment of 190 euros? (tearful) Check. Forms and photos countersigned by not-filthy-foreigner, non-chav High Court Judge of your acquaintance of at least two years? Oh blinking buggery fucking flip. B., with considerable abandon, wrote honestly that we’d only known each other for a year. Fuck. Cue e-mail. “Darling, do you think if we think very hard about this, maybe we’ve actually known each other for two years?” I left the forms strewn around on a table, to give the Russian something to complain about, and wandered out, defeated, into the glorious sunshine…

“So there’s a letter about your passport,” my mother explained once I’d dragged myself out of bed. “Read it to me.” “It’s in German.” “Oh, but, luckily, German is almost perfectly phonetic.” I gave her a quick introduction-to-German-linguistics-and-phonetics telephone course and warned her not to come over all catatonic when she came across capital letters in the middle of sentences and she set off about butchering the language with due trepidation. My heart had begun to sink before she’d even finished the address as she happily pronounced ‘Straße’ ‘strab’. Hmm. She possesses neither a fax, a scanner nor a computer. No-one under the age of 70 was in the immediate environs. I listened on. Occasionally she’d strike it lucky and there’d be a run of three or four utterly comprehensible words but then she’d sometimes, without announcement, decide a word was too tricky to even contemplate tackling and would spell it.

Which sounds OK, but she’s Irish. Darlings, grab an Irish person in the vicinity – ask them to sign your biometric photos should you need a new Irish passport while you’re about it, presuming they’re a High Court Judge – and ask them to spell something for you. My mother actually left Ireland and moved to London when she was very young and when we (the other members of her family) were young, I don’t think we thought she sounded especially Irish. But then one day she swallowed a hot potato – no really – fainted before she could get cold liquid inside her – god, we mustn’t even have had wine with dinner. What chavs – smacking her head off the washing-machine as she did so and then, when she came round, she said, oddly, “Me face, me face,” and, even more oddly, in a rediscoveredly strong Irish accent, which has never gone away. And I have never understood a single word my mother has ever spelt for me. I think it’s an Irish thing. When folk spell something out, they run all the letters together, as if in a tearing rush to do something more important – my contact with old Irish folk when I was young showed that this mostly involved going to church. My ex, who knew my family well, once bumped into my aunt on a street, nowhere near a house of god but on a Sunday, and she said to him, “Anyway, I won’t stop you as you’re obviously on your way to church” – and you’re none the wiser.

So I might have my passport back. Once the Fundstelle – Lost’n’Found place, pronounced fund (fund as a Yorkshire person would pronounce that word) + shtella, pronounced fund (non-Yorkshire) + stell by my mother – opens again for business, for one second a week. If I’m not quick, they’ll send the bastard to Wuppertal before I know it. Though Her Majesty’s Government may have decided to cancel my passport in any case. Just no way of knowing…

Perhaps it’s not worth losing your passport after all.

Excitement makes you poor April 3, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
50 comments

…or is bad for you.

So I recommend drug- or alcohol-induced torpor, guaranteeing an eventless but pecunious life.

And it’s bloggers wot’s to blame.

Life is currently a string of excitement-rousing blog-meets. In fact, my Berlin social life is now riddled with bloggers. If I’m not meeting a blogger here, then it’s another blogger there. If it weren’t for the odd poof and the Russian’s post-Soviet connections, I’d hardly know a single person who doesn’t see fit to self-publicise online.

And thank fuck for that. Because I think we’re all fab.

So, on Friday, I met blogger and all-round good egg Daggi and her pal HRH for a concert. Daggi had public-spiritedly noticed that Marko Haavisto was playing in Berlin, and, knowing my love for all things Finnish, gave me the tip. And I public-spiritedly recommended she join me at it. Which she did.

But, darlings, I can’t tell you a single thing about the concert because I was puking from excitement at meeting a new blogger. Mr. Haavisto may be a mega-star in Finland – Taiga, can you confirm? – and may well have written songs that have been deemed suitably mournful to appear in Kaurismäki films and may well have said entertaining things as intros to his songs along the lines of, “This one is about when you look in the mirror and just hate yourself so much…” but that was before Daggi and HRH arrived and I didn’t pay a single, solitary second of attention to the music after that and grilled the newly-met bloggers for the rest of the evening to see if they were from nice families and would make suitable spouses for my children.

And they do. Phew!

But why would that make you poor?

Because, in my excitement, I, at an unrecorded (unfortunately) point in the evening’s proceedings, must have worked myself into such a frenzy that I hurled my passport away. Clean away. And retracing my steps with a magnifying glass, even if I do possess a pair of Sherlock Holmes trousers, and contacting every lost-&-found office in Berlin, and Her Britannic Majesty’s Embassy, and the establishment where Mr. Haavisto crooned, has left the trail cold.

So I am now sans papiers.

Now, casting all caution to the wind, as I had done with my passport not long before, I decided to risk losing everything and go to one of RFM‘s booze-ups yesterday. That was crawling with bloggers. Like flies they were. If it wasn’t this lovely gent here, then it was that lovely gent there. If it wasn’t one lovely lady here, then, stone the crows but there was only another lovely lady there. If it wasn’t one Chinese-speaker here, then fuck me with a big stick but there was another Chinese-speaker there. And there was even a new (to me) blogger for good measure.

I was so excited I lost all my clothes AND my left arm.

Having said my hellos and asked folk how they were, I ranted about the cost of bureaucracy. I drank some Dutch-courage-giving absinthe, stood on the table, and shouted at each and every one of them, “You’re to blame! You and your bloody excitement-rousing. If it weren’t for you lot, I wouldn’t have thrown away my passport in an unrecorded (unfortunately) moment of excitement. And it’s going to cost me 300 euros – yes, 300 euros! – to replace my passport so that Her Britannic Majesty can get me into places without let or hindrance.”

Turns out I was lying. It’s 200 euros. But still. 200 effing euros. For the sake of no let or hindrance! (And, with the new, improved tariffs, should I ever want to invite the Russian to visit our fair Kingdom ever again, he will now pay 300 euros for an entry visa!) Someone is so raking it in.

But that wasn’t all the excitement. Having put my clothes back on – still can’t find my arm, though – and sitting sobbing quietly in a remote corner, I kept an eye on the door just in case there’d be a drop of INTERNATIONAL blog-meeting. Oh yes. International. Because Slammers is in town. Luckily, she couldn’t make it yesterday, though, as otherwise the evening might have cost me an arm and a leg. Boom boom.

Still, we’re meeting this evening. I don’t even want to think of the consequences.