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Mutter April 14, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

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.



1. Marsha Klein - April 14, 2007

Ha ha! Like your post title. Despite speaking almost no German (apart from words like “cake”, “coffee” and “beer”!) even I realise that “Mutter” is “mother”…and also (in English) to speak indistinctly – very good. I’m rather confused though. Has your passport been found or do you have to wait and see?

Do I sound drunk to you? I’m not, which is a shame as I’d quite like to be – I had a fairly traumatic morning (parental pre-exam stress, God , it sucks) and I haven’t quite recovered. Anyway, I think I might go and watch Doctor Who now; there’s not much that can’t be cured by the sight of David Tennant.

P.S I took No. 2 daughter to the Edinburgh International Science Festival yesterday and, as we were at the National Museum of Scotland, I went to see Dolly, in honour of you. She’s in a revolving glass case now, at the centre of an exhibit on cloning.

2. Blonde at Heart - April 15, 2007

When I first saw the post title I thought you became all punk and was going to write about attending a Rammstein concert (their latest album is named “Mutter”).

Good new on your passport. Such trouble for a lost passport? In Israel it is much easier. You go to the Ministry of Interior and wait two hours in the queue. You tell the old hag at the counter you lost your passport. You fill forms. You wait another two hours. You get a new one and a warning not to lose it. (I think. No biometric photos [what are they?!] in Israel and nobody has to sign them and say it is you).

3. annie - April 15, 2007

Your hot potato story made me laugh. Is it really really true? I so hope so.

Someone asked me to sign their passport photos recently because I am a ‘professional’, it gave me a lift all day…

And if your lost passport has been found, and you have just paid for a new one, will you now have TWO passports? The glamour!

4. Daggi - April 15, 2007

But everyone in Germany’s some kind of professional. People don’t study business studies, they’re economists, for example. My driving instructor was chatting away to the man deciding whether he should give me a driving licence, while I braked sharply on the Landsberger Allee in the middle of a crossroads, before deciding I should put my foot down and get across the damn thing asap instead of causing a jam, and they started talking about how lucky I was as an Englishman, “never having to have done any exams” , as “no-one learns anything over there, do they, you haven’t done an apprenticeship have you”. I’m not sure whether they’re meant to involve the poor learner drivers in their conversations at all (probably not), but I pointed out the test regime of British schools, and unlike in much of Germany, to leave school with any kind of qualification (e.g. even GCSEs) you actually have to do some exams. And get a pretty crap looking certificate, or various ones, at the end, and not just a piece of paper signed by the Headmistress saying “Yeah, he was ok. In Latin top, in the rest crap. And sewing was passable, on a scale from 1 to 5.”, rather like the A5 school reports I got for a while at junior school, before they decided to write more than 3 sentences per child (and went over to 1 fully typed A4 sheet, overdoing it a bit).
My legs shaking like someone with Parkinson’s, “No wonder he’s so bloody nervous, he has never had to do an exam in his life”, they thought, and bedgrudgingly gave me the piece of paper saying “braking sharply: fair; braking dangerously: with skill; suddenly putting your footdown and changing gear 3 times in 4 seconds: excellent; parking: crap, but not as bad as last time”.

Can you get the Düsseldorf to stop producing that new passport? If you’re lucky, they won’t like the photos (the angle will be wrong, or your burka will have covered too much of your face, or something) and ask you to do them again.

Why didn’t they just send the passport to your mother? Or to the Russian, surely his name is listed in the back as someone to get in touch with if you die/are caught fare-dodgng?

5. pleite - April 15, 2007

Daggi, but you passed! Fucking well done. I feel a swell of big-brotherly pride. Will you buy a Trabi? I’ve never been in one and am longing to be taken for a spin. I think there’s a Trabi-taxi, but I’d probably have to speak to the driver, which would be a pain… Good point about why didn’t they just send it to my mother. Although I suppose, in a way, it’s handy that they haven’t as, presumably, I’ll be able to pick it up tomorrow morning on whatever ‘strab’ it was. And, alas, the second emergency address in there isn’t the Russian’s (and mine) as I got the passport just before going to Raasha in 1999, when I didn’t even know the Russian existed. Anyway, I’ve got a feeling I might still have to go through with getting a new passport as I’ve informed the authorities and they’ll want the old one blocked/gesperrt/invalidated/vernichtet for some security reason or other. (Have you visited the web-page with notes on getting your new British passport? There is indeed a photo of a lady in a hijab (but not a burka, admittedly) and how to and how not to wear it. The ‘how not to’ photo made me chortle. Sorry, but it did.)

Annie, it really is true. Honest guv. And isn’t it marvellous that it was a potato? More stories of fainting mothers and racial stereotypes please. I want a story of your mother fainting on a matzo and coming round and saying, “Oj gevalt!” Tell me it’s happened. What would have happened if my mother had been bog-standard English? I suppose she’d have choked on cottage pie and said, “Cor blimey, look at me mug,” or, if she’d been posh, she’d have choked on… what? A cucumber sandwich with the crusts cut off and said, “Air (that’s posh for oh), one’s face.” PLUS, Annie, I’d also thought of asking you to sign my passport snaps. Really, really truly. But then wouldn’t we have been up shit creek, with you writing on the form that you’d met me precisely 45 minutes before? Could have been tricky. Alas, I don’t think I will end up with two passports, although I’ll get to keep the cancelled one. I still have my old, big, hard British one where I’m depressingly young on the photo (and in years, indeed). A friend of mine who travelled endlessly for work to countries with bonkers visa regimes – ie. everywhere in the former Soviet Union – really did have two current, valid passports because she was just so well ‘ard.

BaH, that all sounds remarkably easy. I’m not quite sure what biometric means, but when the woman took my photos whenever it was, she was very strict about pose and then put a seethrough template over my photo to check my eyes, nose and chin were in the right place, which made me think it must be bad luck if you’re of irregular proportion. Actually, I was chuffed to bollocks, secretly, because I seemed to have a perfectly biometric face, which was the most normal thing that’s ever happened to me. And Rammstein… No way. Too noisy.

Marsha, you didn’t sound drunk at all. Not at all… And I can’t tell you how envious I am that you’ve seen my idol, the real Dolly. Was she looking lovely and happy? And sort of plural? And as for the passport, well, I suppose I’ll be able to pick it up tomorrow. I slightly gave up on my mother’s rendition of German bureaucracy-speak (with the odd incomprehensible Irish spelling) but I presume my passport is languishing lonelily in some office-person’s drawer THIS VERY SECOND. Quite exciting. And I’m looking forward to the next stage of dealing with UK bureacracy. Will I or won’t I need a new passport? Will I or won’t I get my money back? The fun!

6. annie - April 15, 2007

hahaha! laughed a lot. Sorry, no lapsing into Yiddish for my mum, though I do have a vaguely food-related story on stereotypes which might amuse – she used to work as a dinner lady in the kitchens at my old secondary school for a while, and one of the other dinner ladies, whose sister owned a dress shop in North London, related in hushed tones that she had Jewish customers and ‘Did you know, Jews don’t wear knickers?‘ My mum said she was tempted to say ‘I’m Jewish, do you want to see my knickers?’

7. pleite - April 15, 2007

Annie, EVERYONE knows Jews don’t wear knickers. Your mother (and perhaps you) is (are) an exception(s). (Listening, naturally, to your Sisters Mix this very second.)

8. Daggi - April 16, 2007

I really would like to buy a Trabi, but most of them have some kind of strange gear-changing mechanism which is attached to the steering wheel. And then there’s the invacar-ones, which someone on the Kastanienallee is trying to sell via ebay at the moment. Or one of the last ones, built with a proper motor which takes normal petrol, but they seem to be going for arounf 2000 Euro, which is a bit much for me. Last time we went on about cars here (or, more exactly, over at the old place), there was a Wartburg that actually did sell for 7.92 Euros (I would have paid 8 and said “‘stimmt so”; or maybe 10 if I was in a good mood). Complete with MOT and seats and the lot. But those days seem to be long gone. It seems old east German cars cost too much at the moment. I need someone who knows Polish to pop over to Krakow and get me a Polski Fiat 126. That’d be even better than a Trabi, I think. Or a Lada Riva?

9. Daggi - April 16, 2007

Seriously, if any readers do have any contacts in the Polish used car trade, please do call. Or blog.

10. pleite - April 16, 2007

Well, Daggi, I know enough Poles and Polish-speakers to get you through that transaction. Would it be easy enough getting it back across the border though? When I studied in Poland for ten minutes in 1992, three other British students and I thought of getting ourselves a Sirena which, we were told, would have cost about 50 billion zlotys, which was then equivalent to 10p. But of course we didn’t do it, put off by grown-up tales of needing insurance and all that jazz… Saw a fucking deliciously perfect Citroen DS in Kreuzberg yesterday. Someone even photographed it. It was THAT good. Never been in one of those either. In fact, one of the three other British students I was in Poland with was a bit of a professional hitcher and she once got a life in a DS.

And Marsha, by the way, have you moved back to blogger?

11. Mangonel - April 16, 2007

Can I joke about why you want to go in a car, when the loo is fine for everyone else? No. It would be a crap joke.

(I got thrashed. THRASHED, I tell you. Thanks for asking.)

12. bowleserised - April 16, 2007

Does this mean I can take off my High Court Judge wig now? It’s much to warm to wear it.

Congrats, Daggi! Can’t you fashion a car out of a Siwamat 60? People are coming to my website all the bloody time looking for instructions on that…

13. Marsha Klein - April 16, 2007

Err, not that I’m aware of, although I just clicked on my comment above and it did indeed take me to Blogger. Why? I really don’t understand this blogging/interweb thing at all.

Dolly looked very perky (considering she’s stuffed n’all) Now that you are the proud owner of at least one passport, you could always make a pilgramage to Edinburgh to worship at her feet (admittedly this is harder now that she revolves!) I’m suggesting this only because I think it would fulfil a heartfelt wish of yours and NOT because I want an international blogmeet, oh no!

I seem to remember that, on one of his many admissions to hospital, my father was in a bed next to a man with a Polish accent. Strangely, this accent had only manifested itself after he suffered a stroke (or some other trauma), He wasn’t even Polish. The brain is truly a weird and wonderful organ, innit?

14. MountPenguin - April 16, 2007

@Daggi: you’ll have to be careful that your putative new set of wheels will be allowed in the centre of Berlin after the end of this year; some clampdown on unclean, particle-emitting vehicles is in progress, meaning Trabis and co. will be effectively banned from the area inside the S-Bahn ring. (Ask someone with an actual car for details).

On a related note, you didn’t by any chance get some sort of state “sponsorship” for your driving lessons / test?

15. pleite - April 16, 2007

Penguin, I worried that this sort of thing might happen soon if it hadn’t already done so. Mind you, can’t Trabis be clean these days? Don’t catalytic converters still exist, or have we moved on to the next generation of cleanliness? And state sponsorship for learning to drive? Mind you, I don’t think I’d want to learn even if it was free. Too much of a girl’s blouse.

Marsha, without wanting to laugh at others’ misfortunes, I always find those stories a bit of a hoot. I saw a Geordie woman who’d developed a Jamaican accent interviewed on the BBC. “I’ve never even been to Jamaica,” she protested, in a perfect Jamaican accent… And I’ll go and pick up my passport – if they haven’t sent it on somewhere yet – the SECOND I finish this comment-answering. But god knows when I’ll make it to Edinburgh to meet Dolly and the Kleins (or just you). Have you JUST been to Finland, by the way? Oh, and just to prove I’m a tad more up-to-date with blogging than cars and catalytic converters, I reckon you must have been signed in to blogger – could that be the case? – so you were automatically bebloggered here.

B., hurl it out. Mind you, they cost about 700 quid, apparently. Put it on e-bay. Or trade it in for a car. Do you drive too? Should I learn? In spite of the girl’s-blousishness, I do quite often dream I can drive, but that could represent any number of failings/inadequacies. I’ll start dreaming I can speak German soon. Or that I can be a nice boyfriend.

Mango, any joke’s a good joke in my book. Though I’d never dare wee in a Citroen DS, unless from excitement. By the way, I’m on a scrabble losing streak from hell too. I keep settling in for the cosy glory of winning and then the bastards keep getting a seven-letterer on their last go. Maybe I should go back to chess with the Russian, where I know I’ll always lose anyway. (I won once, I think, by accident when huffily moving the pieces at random having lost twenty games in a row.)

16. MountPenguin - April 16, 2007

BiB, it is a lovely day for being out and about doing errands. (I was out at the unheard-of hour of before 8am in shirt sleeves only [*]). But how are the people at the Fundstelle going to identify you if you don’t have any form of identification?

[*] for the literal-minded: yes, those and other usual items of clothing; though bosoms are blossoming left, right and center (OK, just left and right) the official FKK season hasn’t begun yet.

17. Marsha Klein - April 16, 2007

I think I might have signed into Blogger accidentally in an attempt to post on a blog that only accepted Blogger/Google accounts. Only I probably signed in and tried to pretend that my WordPress account was a Blogger one or something. Anyway, it’s proof, if proof were needed, that the internet is smarter than I am. Erm, stupid question and all that but how do I sign out?

Finland was last summer’s holiday destination. Had it been this year’s I would have definitely ventured inside Taiga’s museum (rather than merely taking pictures of the outside) but I didn’t realise where she worked until after we came home. I feel certain we’ll be back though.

I plan to start dreaming that I’m the kind of mother who laughs unconcernedly at her daughter’s (apparent*) lack of exam revision and not the kind who is on the verge of a stroke brought about by hysterical predictions of wasted lives etc.

* I say “apparent” as she possibly is absorbing information despite appearances to the contrary. Maybe she is receiving revision hints form outer space via her iPod

18. MountPenguin - April 16, 2007

Erm, stupid question and all that but how do I sign out?

Go to e.g. wordpress.com or blogger.com, and if you are somehow logged in you should be able to log out there.

I don’t know about iPods, but in my day (late Thatcher era) we could pick up the GCSE space aliens on our Walkmen.

19. pleite - April 16, 2007

Penguin, isn’t it heaven? Yesterday, I saw my first unbuttoned shirt of the year. I almost pulled the emergency cord on the tram – is there one? – to get a closer gawp at near-nipple. But today I saw actual nipples. Nipples all over the place. (Male ones, of course.) And life seems so straightforwardly good once more. (Except I was wearing a too-warm and too-tight item which meant I couldn’t breathe out the whole time.) I walked back from Zoo to Pankow. Imagine. But a pleasure in this weather… And I do now possess my passport again. The man was very reasonable. He looked at the snap, decided the likeness was true enough and sent me on my way. There wasn’t even a charge to pay. In any case, I still think it’s been rendered invalid. Waiting to hear back from the official ladies I’ve written to…

Marsha, what exams has she got? Is it the Scottish equivalent of GCSEs? I’m sure she’ll breeze through them (he says, without any foundation whatsoever). Or just end-of-year regular old exams? Darling, I can’t imagine any daughter of yours won’t end up as Prime Minister/First Minister so I’m sure you’re worrying needlessly. But I’m a great fan of worrying myself, I must say.

20. Arabella - April 16, 2007

Your poor mam. Still, better a hot potato than a hot tamale. I think.

21. pleite - April 16, 2007

Arabella, indeed. If she’d been a Soviet mum (and fainted, presumably, on pel’meni, or bliny, and come round and said, “Ой, господи, моя рожа,” (“Oi, gospodi, moja rozha” = “Oh gawd, me face”)), she’d have been declared a hero mother and got an Order of Lenin and been shunted to an apartment with an extra room.

Mind you, if she’d fainted on any foodstuff in the Soviet Union and moaned about her rozha, folk might have said to her – and this is one of my favourite Russian sayings, so I’m showing off, and I’m too exhausted to leave the computer after a good two-and-a-half-hour walk in what feels like boilingness but probably isn’t really but we’re just not used to it again yet – “Не пеняй на зеркало, коли рожа крива,” (“Nie penjaj na zerkalo, koli rozha kriva,”) which means, “Don’t blame the mirror if your mug’s crooked.” About once every eight months, I miss Russia for fifteen seconds.

22. Daggi - April 16, 2007

My driving school told me “best to wait until the end of the year to buy a car, as they’ll all get cheaper because people will think they won’t be allowed to drive them any more due to particle dust etc. Which is true, but it costs 46 Euros to get any car’ converted so it’s legal, you just have to get a tiny filter thing fitted”.

The nearest parking place to my house is outside the S-Bahn ring. About 200 metres from here. That’ll do me fine.

*any car presumably except a Trabi which runs on “Gemisch” i.e.a mixture of petrol and oil, i.e. most of the Trabis apart from the very last ones.

23. Daggi - April 16, 2007

Perhaps I should start searching for a Yugo. In fact, any eastern European Fiat-replica will do.

24. pleite - April 16, 2007

Daggi, there’s also the wonderful Dacia. (There’s a photo of one on here somewhere, but I think the link’s expired.) Is that a Fiat too? Or something French? The French do/did quite good eastern-seeming cars, for westerners. Aren’t Simca and Daf both French? I think one of those would suit you perfectly too. I fucking loved Simcas when I was a nipper, though that might have something – autistically – to do with the nice sound of the word…

…no, Daf is/was (?) Dutch, it seems. Still beautiful and almost eastern-looking. Or perhaps just old. I saw a gorgeous old Volvo FOR SALE today right near the Siegessäule, still with Swedish number plates, but I’ve got a feeling it might cost 50 billion euros. It was a real beauty…

…God, Daggi, visit that site at your peril, on second thoughts. It’s brilliant. Just look at the Hillman Imp. What beauty!

25. Daggi - April 17, 2007

Didn’t Daf make lorries and buses? Perhaps I should get a Leyland National and pretend I’m driving a bus in the Potteries, for the company “PMT”.

Hmm, a Hillman Imp. Do they come with child robbers sitting in the back, or is that an optional extra? And you’re right when it comes to French cars. They probably looked so ‘eastern’ as the companies were all nationalised. I know someone (in Bristol) who’s got a Citroen DS, but I prefer the 2CV or French 1950s dustcarts. But I’ve no idea where to find a picture of one of those things.

26. Chris - April 17, 2007

Bah, you gazumped me with the Jamaican Geordie lady story… I don’t know if you get Richard and Judy over in Deutchland, but Richard was on sparkling form when she was on their programme; Judy kept asking the serious questions like “how does it feel to be channelling a Jamaican” and Richard kept giggling, asking her to say “bacon” and laughing about how much it sounded like “beer can”.

Your confusion with the Irish alphabet is possibly due to the letter “orr” which comes between Q and S and only exists in Irish.

Anyway, sounds fun. I must lose my passport more often.

When I’m richer.

27. bowleserised - April 17, 2007

Dacias rock. Erm, literally. No, just kidding – they are indestructible. Well I remember bucketing through pot holed streets and down dirt roads in the passenger seat of a Dacia driven by Romania’s former Grand Prix champ, turned driving instructor.

Oddly, all the cars in Morocco were Dacias. Or Renault Dacias or something.

28. leon - April 17, 2007

The smaller Citroens and Peugeots all have the right vibe, which is essentially “1950s-design-kept-in-production-for-too-long”, as does the Renault 8 and my personal favourite among the Renaults, the 12 (which even its fansite describes as “quite dull”). The big Peugeots from that period are great as well. Or perhaps you could go for one of the early two-stroke Saabs?

All of them pale before the DS, though. I’d love a DS, or a Mercedes-Benz W114, or a Tatra T603 for the whole Eastern European thing.

29. leon - April 17, 2007

I think I’ve just broken wordpress.

30. Ed Ward - April 17, 2007

Naw, get a Tatra:


31. matkr - April 17, 2007

dacias sold new round here are actually ol’skool renault 12s, now (re)made in romania or thereabouts… so for those pining for the good ol’soviet days of outmoded fiat-turned-ladas, these dacias would be the obvious inheritors of that proud tradition. mind you, given rover’s orphan-like status in the motorworld, there seems to be a rash of cheap and usable rovers for sale, barely breaking the €1k barrier…

32. Daggi - April 17, 2007

Dacia? Have I missed something? Are they those cheap cars from Eastern Europe, for Eastern Europe? Hang on, they seem to be Renaults. Must be something else.

33. pleite - April 17, 2007

Daggi, you’ve got an awfully specialised knowledge. You could go on Mastermind with ‘pretty cars’ as your specialised subject. I can’t visualise an old French dustcart. Not even hazily. And, yes, all Hillman Imps come with Milky-Bar Kids thrown in… And (again), I happily rode the PMT bus-routes during my two glorious years in the Potteries. Our favourite route was the (almost-)palindromic Leek-Keele. (Daf are/were all-rounders, it seems.)

matkr, now be a darling and remind me who you are again. Are you Herr Borland? Or Kean? Or someone else altogether? I know I’ve seen that collection of letters before. And thank you for the Rover info. Daggi, might you be tempted to support the (formerly) British car industry? Are Rovers now BMWs?

Ed, that Tatra is so beautiful. I really should learn to drive. I adore cars. I was a proper football-&-car-lover when I was a mere slip of a thing. And then I started fancying actors off Knotts Landing. From then on, as Frau Knef would say, es ging bergab.

Leon, you are the voice of the blogosphere. Look! Two of the cars from your retrieved-heroically-by-me comment – wordpress always does this with linkful comments. Mind you, I thought this one was gone for ever. It didn’t even appear as spam until hours later – were then mentioned by others. And, assuming this little gaggle of car-lovers is representative of the world as a whole, why the buggery fuck don’t cars still look like it? What prevents roundedness now? No-one’s ever going to fall in love with a Smart Car. Or a Ka. (What a wank name.) Or even a Twingo, which I saw today, for the first time in years, and it made me wonder why I ever thought they were süß. And glad to see Saabs getting a late mention. Thoroughly well-deserved.

B., you laik, pussy cat? I must pencil in Romania on my unlikely-holiday-destination list, in quite an advanced position, quite soon. Bucharest must have its attractions. The Carpathians looked heaven when I flew over them. The Orthodox church is the best thing god’s ever come up with. And Dracula and Dacias to boot. What more could an improbable tourist ask for?

Chris, DON’T lose your passport. I have been instructed today, by a quite helpful bureaucrat, at least, that I SHOULD still apply for a new one anyway, as who knows what nefarious types might have got their filthy mits on my thusfar-terror-free passport in the interim… But imagine being given the choice! I’m no good at UK bureaucracy any more. I want to be bossed around and TOLD what to do.

34. Daggi - April 17, 2007

I can’t visualise an old French dustcart.

Imagine one of those old BVG tube trains, the likes of which are now going around Pyongyang, with corrugated metal on the outside (I think the Moscow Metro were the same, but never having been there, unfortunately (Russia I mean, I’ve no desire to go to Moscow), I’m not 100% sure), but not painted yellow, but just unpainted, or painted a bit to look like they’re unpainted, District line-stylee, i.e. metallic-dirty-grey, crossed with a 2CV (bonnet-wise), the height and length of an ice cream van, doors on the back with mini-windows like Postman Pat’s old bright-red-van, with a couple of running boards left and right so les dustmens (that’s more Russian than French, surely) can travel along on the outside. Cross all that with a London Black Cab (of the traditional type) and there you have it, a Citroen French Dustcart. As seen in Italy, I think.

I am seriously considering, at this moment, joining a car-sharing company (either the one with the stupid name, or the one run, yes, by Deutsche Bahn – who aren’t allowed to take over Tempelhof Airport like they want to) in order to do some driving. That’s sooo snazzy even Leon hasn’t done that yet (I assume, but feel free to prove me wrong).

35. leon - April 18, 2007

Daggi: I haven’t done it yet. As for the Citroen vans, do a search on “Citroen H van” or “H-type”, which I think is the sort of thing you mean.

Bib: All cars nowadays look a bit like shoes, I mean like bulbous running shoes.

36. Daggi - April 18, 2007

Bloody hell, Leon. Spot on! It seems the fire brigade used them too (Wikipedia), and basically everyone that side of the Seine. Yet another ebay search to do. Unfortunately, there’s only one for sale over here, half-turned into a caravan, full of holes and complete with “suicide doors” according to the description. And in France, also full of holes, built in 1956 and “suitable for restauration” for 1500 Euro.

37. Daggi - April 18, 2007

Alexei Sayle does his best to get politics into his car column in the Independent:

Nowadays, Iran has started making cars of their own designs. Studying my World Cars catalogue I see that they make a fairly mad-looking saloon called the Iran Khodro Samand Sarir and a lumpy hatchback called the Saipa 141 Liftback. So, just as people have been apologising for slavery, we could make amends to the Iranians by buying their cars. I have myself put in an order for a nice blue Morattab Pazhan 3000 GLV from the Morattab Industrial Manufacturing Co, Jomhuri Avenue, Tehran, Iran. I suggest that when the Government renews its car fleet for, say, the Home Office, they buy Kish Khodro Sinad IIs.

Leon: what you say. A Citröen HY, or a Kish Khodro Sinad IIs?

38. leon - April 18, 2007

Perhaps a Barkas for the true East German atmosphere.

39. Daggi - April 18, 2007

I’d like a Barkas, but most run only on Gemisch – and they are notoriously difficult to drive, there being no bonnet. Still beats any old “VW Bus” any day. If you go and see “The Lives Of Others” some Stasi-Barkas (disguised as fishmongers’ vans) get used to transport people. But I might review that film at another place.

40. marshaklein - April 18, 2007

Daggi, film review please. “The Lives of Others” is currently showing at my favourite cinema and, having seen some very impressive German cinema last summer as part of the film festival here, I was wondering whether to give this one a try.

41. pleite - April 18, 2007

Marsha, I can’t review, but I can recommend. Go frit. I’m convinced you’ll like it. There’s nothing not to like. And you’ll see Berlin in some of its glory.

Daggi & Leon, no time to respond now. Will get back to you. But I’m impressed with your knowledge(s). Daggi, did you see at Ed’s place that Bleistifterin said you were ‘fabulous’? Quite right too. Leon, I bet you’re fab too.

42. daggi - April 18, 2007

Ok marsha, but my film review may well (i.e. it will) concentrate on some of the background and less on the film itself (I don’t want to spoil it for anyone)… I may manage it tomorrow, but I have a few very important things to do first.

43. marshaklein - April 19, 2007

I actually went to see “The Lives of Others” last night. I went by myself, at tea-time, leaving the children alone in the house AND I had an ice-cream!!! What rebellion! It did feel slightly wicked and rebellious, which is a bit pathetic when you think about it. After all, the children aren’t babies any more, I had fed them and their dad was due home about half an hour after I left.

I’d still be interested to read your review, Daggi. I enjoyed the film but it did throw up a few questions regarding the Cold War period.

44. daggi - April 19, 2007

Ask them here and perhaps (possibly) I’ll try and answer them in that review.

45. marshaklein - April 19, 2007

They mostly relate to surveillance and how widespread it was. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, I used to write to an East German boy and, while we knew that mail was opened and sometimes tampered with, I didn’t appreciate just how close some of the monitoring was. Would “ordinary” (ie considered to be loyal to the State) citizens have been subject to the same degree of surveillance as those who were considered to be a risk? Or was that reserved for known “subversives”? Also could something as seemingly innocuous as making a joke against the Party chairman really wreck a career? I apologise if these seem like naive questions, particularly for someone my age. I did enjoy the film though and, like all the best film and literature, the more I think about it the morelayers of meaning I find.

46. pleite - April 19, 2007

Marsha, I’m sure Daggi will answer your questions excellently. Daggi is currently famed in the Berlin blogging scene for some excellent consumer advice. Cue folk asking for a Daggi-That’s-Life-English-Language-Consumer-Service… Yes, the gent in the film who made the gag is to be seen at the end, also in the envelope-steaming department. A famous Russian gag goes. “Leonid Ilyich (Brezhnev), what do you like to collect?” “I collect jokes about me.” “Oh, and how many do you have?” “Three campfuls.” I’m guessing such close surveillance as in the film would only have been for those who’d actively roused suspicions. My old boss in Russia, a(n) (former) East German himself, told some ‘nice’ stories of travelling in the eastern bloc as a youngster. In Romania, closely shadowed, not even inconspicuously, wherever he went. In the Soviet Union, endless run-ins with the KGB, but he was a Catholic priest, and asking for trouble at a gazillion different levels. (And the cinema on your own is heaven, isn’t it?)

Leon, good sleuthing to come up with the relevant models, and Daggi, your description was vivid enough for me to get a pretty accurate mental picture. Those Iranian cars look pretty unremarkable to me. Mr. Sayle must either be showing off or lying when he says whatever one of them it is looks mad. It doesn’t. It looks boring.

47. leon - April 19, 2007

This conversation has, it occurs to me, made both Daggi and myself look like car-spotting autists. Whereas nothing could be further from the truth, of course.

The Iranian cars do look depressingly mundane, it’s true.

48. pleite - April 19, 2007

Leon, it doesn’t. (And thank you for calling it a conversation. That’s given me a bit of a warm glow.) It makes you look at the cutting-edge of car-liking. Or at least ‘with it’. Everyone seems to love the type of car we all seem to love. Whereas no-one loves Astras. They just don’t. Mind you, I have to veer off from mainstream love when it comes to loving cars which appear to be loved for their speed. I can’t get all-of-a-flutter over some fast Porsche or Ferrari or Lamborghini. All style over content for me.

49. Daggi - April 19, 2007

When it comes to car-spotting autisticness, when I were a lad, the place was full of Austin Mini Metros (as owned by the young and fashionable who didn’t want a second-hand Capri). I wondered where they all went to. Wikipedia suggests they were a) dangerous and b) full of rust. I wonder if my cornet teacher, then complete with spiky hair and oh-so-fashionable go-faster stripes on his Mini Metro (and unfortunate surname “Hiscock”) died in an accident on a motorway in which his vehicle of choice got crushed very easily.

And when it comes to That’s Life (of which there was a copy-cat German version on RTL, the name of which thankfully escapes me), the current source of most commenting-background information states: The co-presenters added extra personality to the show. They were all men and were popularly nicknamed “Esther’s nancies” (as they were mostly young and effeminate — A “nancy” or “nancy boy” being British slang for an effeminate man or homosexual)..
Would the Russian like to play this role to my Esther Rantzen? (Having never met him, I cannot judge on his manlyness. I’m sure he is too manly for this, but never mind.) And can he do American accents? “Mr. Ward wrote to Deutsche Bahn in 1999. He said:” I don’t want your railcard. Leave me alone!” Deutsche Bahn wrote back: (silence, much tittering in the audience). (etc. for 25 minutes, only interrupted by Doc Cox or Molly Sugden singing a ‘rude’ song on the subject of penisses (‘peni’?), I mean, misshapen carrots. Actually Ms Sugden could be played by Molly Luft, ‘Germany’s fattest prostitute’, now with her own pub in Kreuzberg, who I told you about. She has her own sex-advice and topless-dancing-show on the Offener Kanal, so she’s Medienerfahren already.

50. Daggi - April 19, 2007

And anyway Leon, we’re only Eastern Bloc-autists. You really have no excuse for knowing about Barkas.

51. leon - April 20, 2007

[daggi] Yes, I remember the roads being plagued by those strange little Austin wheelie bin things, when they were new and cutting-edge and I was very young. Back then, your average family – who of course had one car, rather than the six or so most families have now – would usually have something like a Vauxhall Viva or Hillman Avenger sitting rusting gently in the driveway; your businessman/local councillor/Masonic handshake type would usually have one of those awful wedge-shaped big Rovers; an elderly couple would have an Austin Landcrab, or a Maxi, in beige; and the younger single man would be driving an MGB with the sills rotting off, or a souped-up Chevette, or a Triumph Dolomite, or the sporty version of the Viva (with the none-more-70s name of “Vauxhall Magnum”). French and German cars were just for wierdos, Volvos were (as ever) for teachers, and Saabs for men with beards. It was all very hierarchical, not like now at all.

I was always fond of Eastern Bloc stuff though, even back when the Eastern Bloc still existed. I supposed it always seemed incredibly exotic because you couldn’t really get there very easily. I used to imagine East Germany as a lot of rather backward forested mountains under a huge pall of lignite smoke, with the odd peasant or informer shuffling about.

52. Daggi - April 20, 2007

One of my teachers had an MG sportscar, and another (with a beard) had a dark green Skoda Super Estelle (i.e. a Wartburg, but made in Czechoslovakia). The only person I knew with a Volvo (an Estate, in metallic blue) was my Scout Leader, “Chief”. Otherwise there was the VW Beetle / VW bus “workshop” outside my Junior School, and someone with about seven Morris Minors in all colours, shapes and forms (including the ones seemingly made out of wood, and some with flip-out indicator flags, as opposed to yellow flashing lightbulbs). And everyone else had a Capri, or Cortina, but they were made over the road, weren’t they?

There wasn’t really a car called the “Austin Landcrab”, was there?

I was always fond of Eastern Bloc stuff though, even back when the Eastern Bloc still existed. I supposed it always seemed incredibly exotic because you couldn’t really get there very easily.

The same still applies to North Korea. I have a Radio Pyongyang pennant and bicycle-sticker somewhere, and some rantings by Kim Il Sung they sent me. And my various Soviet radios will never fall to bits – they are really very similar to British products – lots of wood and very heavy. With transistors that size, it can never go wrong. I suspect the same model (first produced in the 50s) is still being made in the same factory in Minsk. The cameras were less reliable, whatever Technical & Optical Equipment Ltd. in Tottenham (the importers) had to say about them. I must write to them and see if they can send me some replacement knobs for my SW-MW-LW-VHF set, built in 1991.
If they still exist. They were probably funded by the KGB.

53. Daggi - April 20, 2007

When I write And everyone else had a Capri, or Cortina,, I mean the seven other people in our street who actually owned a car. Of course, these days, you can’t walk (or drive) because the place is full of parked 4x4s. Idiots.

54. pleite - April 20, 2007

Daggi, Leon, I am having (mostly happy, oddly) flashbacks galore. The Triumph Dolomite. Adored those. Wooden Morris Minors. Was that only the estates? Maxis. Beige. My uncle had an Allegro. And wasn’t there a car called the Vauxhall Vulva? I know there was a Ford Probe. My ex was once a car journalist and not a fan of the wanky Probe. He said AIDS-aware drivers would feel safer if the gear-stick was wearing a condom.

A pal of mine from England of Polish origin didn’t go to Poland for the first time till the mid-to-late eighties. They drove. Their drive through East Germany was townless but for Berlin. Her impression was that East Germany was a big forest (and she guessed with barbed wire behind the first layer of pines/conifers/whatever-trees-it-was) with people in Berlin only. Even fewer people here now than then, though, of course.

Back to cars for a sec. I saw a Cortina here the other day. A really style-free estate. My parents always had those. Once it was brown. Really. And yesterday, Daggi, the Russian and I saw a fucking gorgeous, utterly falling-apart Skoda estate. Not for sale.

And Daggi, I don’t think the Russian would want to be on TV. Though maybe he’d discover his inner extrovert. Let me know when you get the deal.

55. Daggi - April 20, 2007

The deal can be easily done if we register at the Offene Kanal, it’s as simple as that. We’d have to get Mr. Berlinbites to join in though I think. “Daggi Solves Your Problems With Germans (if we’re lucky)” is the working title.

56. pleite - April 20, 2007

Daggi, I don’t know anything about Offener Kanal. I’ve opened their website and will now have a good rummage. Is it the Berlin/German equivalent of Public Access TV in the States? B. sent a brilliant link the other day to an American mother and daughter talking about vagina and penis power, but it’s been removed from youtube already, alas. Anyway, I’ll happily be an assistant/rent-a-nancyboy for your show. Dunno if Ed’s done TV before, but he’s done the written word and radio galore. Time to branch out.

57. leon - April 20, 2007

I think the two of you should drive round Berlin in a Wartburg solving people’s German-bureaucratic problems (periodically the Wartburg would break down, causing hilarity).

I’ll do a property segment (wherein I hurl abuse at buy-to-let investors), or interview people called Saskia, or something.

58. MountPenguin - April 20, 2007

My parents used to own a “Moskvich” (slightly better than a Lada, I believe). This was mid 70’s mind you, and they were teachers (but at the same time Telegraph readers, which in hindsight is a little weird).

BiB, there are a couple of Cortinas that seem to live at the bottom end of the Greifenhagener Straße; someone around there seems to have a fetish for them. (Between the ages of 2 and about 8 I was besotted by automobiles and can still identify virtually any car that was running in the UK in the 70s, which made “Life on Mars” strangely enjoyable when I saw it recently).

59. MountPenguin - April 20, 2007

Bib, the Offener Kanal is more-or-less what you think it is, but only available via cable. The Molly Luft show was one of the better programmes, I recall, although the lady in question, despite being surprisingly eloquent, should be prohibited from singing.

60. Daggi - April 20, 2007

I’ll do a property segment (wherein I hurl abuse at buy-to-let investors), or interview people called Saskia, or something.

Leon: can you come and sort out our new owners? Two suits in the hall and what do you know, four days later a letter saying the place has been sold. To, according to a very quick internet search, some very nasty speculators who just cut off the gas or plant C4H8O2-bombs (see http://www.chemindustry.com/chemicals/452087.html )outside your flat door (making everything stink of puke), or get “heavies” in bomber jackets with very short hair to hang around late at night, often armed with pitbulls, if the tenants don’t want to go “voluntarily” (and quickly). Am I psychic?

Give me some English bloke who’s only trying to be a speculator instead as our new owner any day. Time will tell what happens, but it doesn’t look good. I’m glad I didn’t re-wallpaper the entire place last week…

61. pleite - April 20, 2007

God, Daggi, that sounds hairy. And more St. Petersburg than Berlin. I had a German Mitbewohnerin/Mitarbeiterin in St. P. and she used to go and visit old ladies in need of being visited. And one day, one disappeared. New people in her flat, unwilling to give any info. But she wasn’t found in the docks with concrete shoes. She’d just been bought out – against her will, of course – and rehoused somewhere less interesting as far as property developers were concerned. This will keep on happening in St. Petersburg. Lots of gorgeous houses in the centre are currently communal flats, full of annoying, cumbersome, poor folk. Actually, a few of them can strike lucky, as they should be bought out and I did hear the odd case of people being thrown out of their rooms and getting a flat of their own away from the centre. But I heard more horror stories than fairy-tales, funnily enough.

Penguin, I didn’t know Moskviches had made it to the UK. Or do you mean your parents were happily teaching at (V.I. Lenin) school no. 44 in the Admiralteiskij area of St. Petersburg and were suddenly uprooted by unscrupulous types and rehoused in the UK? Truth is stranger than fiction, after all…

Leon, Daggi would have to do all the driving. I could lean rakishly out the window and ask folk if they needed their problems solved, Amélieishly. Actually, there is a Quiztaxi, or Taxiquiz, where youngsters are driven round Berlin (or perhaps some other town) and asked questions and when they don’t know the answer, they holler out their requests for help at passers-by. Don’t know what make of car it is.

62. Daggi - April 20, 2007

there are a couple of Cortinas that seem to live at the bottom end of the Greifenhagener Straße; someone around there seems to have a fetish for them.

It’s Prenzlauer Berg’s main fetish street, isn’t it?

The quiz taxi sounds like a fab idea. The quiz question I usually ask myself when in taxis (not that this happens very often at all, me riding in a hackneyed carriage) is “Why is the cost at the end different (=more) than the one on the meter?”.

Does the Russian have lots of Molke in stock? If he drinks a load he could come round here and give the new owner’s heavies a run for their own money. One of our neighbours has his Afghanistan invasion memories on the net, including, I think, self-composed poems (I might send you the link, you can tell me what he’s on about), but I think the man’s not to be trusted. But perhaps they’d both get on like a house on fire.

63. pleite - April 21, 2007

Daggi, I haven’t had a good look at that man’s Afghanistan stories yet, but it sounds a bit too boyish for me. The one poem I saw was about the boys coming round and having a good old reminisce, without food or women, but plenty of vodka. Drone.

We’ll have Leon praising Kefir before you know it. The Russian would happily join him in that venture.

64. Daggi - April 21, 2007

We’ll have Leon praising Kefir before you know it.

These comments do go round in circles sometimes, don’t they?
And regarding the Afghanistan stories: the accompanying photographs made that regiment look like a bunch of pirates. It could have been a photo from the civil war, the way they were dressed and all that. (Belarus is going to stop making their army wear the Tsarist boots that turn everyone’s feet into raw flesh, apparently).

65. pleite - April 22, 2007

Daggi, they do, they do. I’m in another anti-blog mood at the mo. I’m sure it’ll pass. (I now have tonnes of work to do in about two/three days. I normally up my blogging when the pressure’s on.)

I’ll get round to the Afghan vet eventually. Do you bump into him on the stairs? Is he to be avoided?

66. DAggi - April 22, 2007

He was a vet? Sorry, for a moment there, I thought you meant as in “I’m taking my rottweiler to the vet’s to get him a feline-prozac prescription”. I bump into him on the stairs, in the cellar, everywhere. He’s one of those neighbours who is very “involved”, which means, doing a lot of work for the landlord, for free, in return only for the privilege of being able to get all his mates a cheap-ish flat in our house.

67. pleite - April 23, 2007

…but do you think you’re really about to be thrown out (potentially) by your slum landlord (he says at 2.35am, translation making no headway)? I wouldn’t recommend you becoming friends with this geezer in the interim.

68. Daggi - April 23, 2007

“About to be thrown out”? Not yet. But I was looking at some of my previous files (when something similar happened 4 years ago) and it all happened quite quickly. Ok, the place was sold, and resold, and resold, and resold again, and then within 2 months the first building works had started, and I was gone (with, for them, a tiny sum of money, but for me at the time, something resembling 6 months’ wages) within 4 months. No, the chances of becoming friends with that bloke are almost zero, as he’s too bloody nosy and thinks too much of himself.

69. pleite - April 23, 2007

I think I should rename this blog ‘I Hate my Neighbours’, as I do hate neighbours. Well, perhaps not actually hate them, and they’re probably perfectly nice, but living with this type of wall and a wicked witch who lived underneath us in our first flat has made me paranoid. Now that I’m on a bit of a working sesh – I’m refusing to notice the weather till Wednesday – I have to worry again that my typing at 4am will make the freshly bechilded youngsters next door call the police. Are there any cheap inner-city castles going anywhere, I wonder?

70. Daggi - April 23, 2007

I could sell you the name and the blog address if you like.

71. pleite - April 23, 2007

I’m slowly psyching myself up to pay off part of a huge debt. I’ve been delaying and delaying until the next pay-day, which is any minute now, but I’m too scared to check my bank balance as I might have frittered away every penny, and my mother now constantly asks me if I’m going to New Zealand with her this winter and I’m about to be so broke (again) that I won’t be able to afford butter. A Danish friend once told me she was so poor she couldn’t afford butter, and I don’t know if that’s a Danish expression or she meant she was so poor she couldn’t afford to buy butter (but could afford, perhaps, champagne and caviar. And bacon). I’ll need to get Appy Linguist on the case, though he’ll be going all German on us now. Better catch him early, before the devil’s got his socks on, as a Danish friend…

72. Daggi - April 23, 2007

The Tierarzt is currently in the flat next door, the one I wanted to get my hands on for years, and the architect is telling him that that flat and mine are going to be turned into one. “Then we’ll have to see Dagmar X’s flat too. How do you say that Xxx, or just X. No idea. There’s no name on her door.” He tells them to go downstairs and try ringing the doorbell, then they will see if I’m there or not (“her windows are open”).

It’s funny that he’s having to give up all the keys to the flats he currently has stored in his hallway. And that he does it so cooperatively. What a fool.

73. Daggi - April 23, 2007

I mean – because those keys are his status symbol, and the architect has no right to them. None at all. It’s not even clear who’s told her to come and eye up all our flats, the old owner (unlikely), the new one (probably – but as the sale isn’t registered yet, he/she, and she also have no reason to be here), or the old letting agent (unlikely, as they couldn’t organise anything).

I was hoping he’d use one of his keys to try and break into my flat and then I’d call the police. But he didn’t. Perhaps he hasn’t got one. But I bet he has, somewhere.

74. pleite - April 24, 2007

Gosh, people wandering round your flats, thinking how nice it would be if only you weren’t there? That doesn’t sound very cosy. I don’t know if it’s age, genetics or the pain-in-the-arse-hood of neighbours but I’m fantasising ever more often about my very own home. Pure fantasy, of course, as I am as likely to be given a loan by a bank as a child. Or a dead person. And it would be such a pain to have to look for a place. Now that the Russian and I have fallen vaguely in love with a restaurant actually on our street, I’m hoping that Vinetastr. U-Bahnhof will soon seem as far away to me as Bangkok and I can lead as localised a life as can be. I might even try and have the shower and kitchen put into this room. I have the internet and there’s a sofa-bed. I think that’s all I need. Oh, and the adjacent flat and flat underneath empty, of course.

75. Daggi - April 24, 2007

Every now and again I hear of someone I vaguely know having “bought their own flat”. Then I hear how much “service charge” they have to pay per month – and it’s usually more than I have to pay in total for my flat’s rent and rates together. I usually, very quickly, consider the idea of “buying your own flat” to be a pretty rubbish one. The only vague advantages seem to be “being able to do what you want to do with the place”. But if you rent a hovel for (hopefully) very little money, you can do what you like with it, too. The landlord’s not going to get worked up about the wrong kind of wallpaper or you painting the front door a strange colour – they’ll just be semi-pleased someone actually lives there, heats every now and again and prevents the walls from collapsing quicker than otherwise would be the case.

Incidentally, the two cheapest flats anywhere in Berlin I’ve found – not including one on the very border to Brandenburg, in Berlin-Buch (which looked beautiful in the photo, with no bath and a Außentoilette, built in 1870 and in a house with only two stories and trees around it) are literally in the next street to you. They were bloody tiny though.

76. pleite - April 24, 2007

To buy or to rent, you mean? Which street was it? I think I’m against tiny. Perhaps I’m against dingy more, but tiny is pretty grim too. I suppose I’ll just stay here. (We’ve got our five minutes of balcony sun so the place seems OK.)

77. Daggi - April 24, 2007

To rent. Those bloody architect women were here again, probably sunning themselves on the roof. I had to rush out to avoid them. I can’t remember exactly which street those 23 m² flats were in for 130 Euro ‘warm’, but it was a bit nearer to Vinetastraße than where you are.
I wonder how much time I’ve got left to live in cheap dingyness, before I move “up” in the world to significantly more expensive dingyness. In any case, I shouldn’t really be looking for flats yet anyway, as I’ll only be disappointed when I find something lovely, but not move there as the bribe from the landlord to leave where I am now will take some time. Aaaaarrrgh.

78. pleite - April 24, 2007

Yes, wait for the bribe. I’d love a bribe to make us move. Maybe if we whisper especially loudly so that the neighbours grind the Hausverwaltung down with their complaints, they’ll give us cash to go. Or would they just throw us out? I might go on a rampage and have to gun down everyone who lives on the other, sunny side of the street. My sun-envy knows almost no bounds. By the time we get our five minutes of sun at 6pm, it’s already freezing. Perhaps I do need to consider moving more seriously. Though even with our (unintentionally) minimalist interior design, I think 23m² would be just too small.

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