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Me, myself and I April 19, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

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.



1. Taiga the Fox - April 19, 2007

Solo-socialising ? Just brilliant. Today I wished so hard I could had socialised just with myself, but what did I do: stared blindly at some really confusing English loan forms and agreements and tried to translate them into Russian (which I can’t at all) with a lawyer who just spoke about onions and potting soil. The rest of the day I spent with a fax machine trying to send a fax to Kyrgyzstan about one thousand and twentythree times and listened to someone telling most interestingly about her adventures in the land of the wrong postal codes.

2. leon - April 20, 2007

Oh God, the Wide Range Reader series – I’d forgotten all about them. But suddenly it all comes flooding back.

I wish my job involved sitting in cafes during the daytime, it sounds pretty much ideal.

3. aimee m. - April 20, 2007

everyone’s job should involve sitting in cafes in the daytime. if that was the case, berlin could consider itself fully (and gainfully) employed. but we’d have to keep hush-hush about it, so the government subsidies could keep rolling in, keeping everyone in free milchkaffes. marx had to have written about this somewheres…

4. Annie Rhiannon - April 20, 2007

Use three duvets — two to make a big comfy chair / bean bag type shape underneath you and one to go on top. That’s what I do. Also add lots of extra pillows, as many as you can, all around you.

5. Daggi - April 20, 2007

The WRR were part of my early school years too.

6. Blonde at Heart - April 20, 2007

I love socialing with myself and working. The best dates I had with myself where in posh cafes. It is far better than socialising with yourself in a chain-store cafe. In posh cafes solo-socializing makes you stand out and look (at least in my eyes) far more sophisticated than those who insist on dragging someone with them rather than share this experience with their own selves.

7. pleite - April 20, 2007

BaH, happy to read you’re a solo-socialiser too. Aren’t dates with yourself heaven? I’m so romantic with myself when on a date with me. I always pay the whole bill, offer to remove/help myself on with my jacket. Usher myself to my seat etc. I’m the perfect date, in a way.

But, Daggi, I think the image in the link is much later than my day. I don’t think the covers were as sexy back then. But you’re only 19. I thought Wide Range Readers had gone out by your time. They were a good system, though, if I remember rightly. Roused the competitive spirit. And I’m sure I was always ahead of Peter F_, admittedly the dimmest boy in the class. He told me, as a daring stunt, that he’d rung the speaking clock and sworn at the posh woman down the line. He’s probably loaded now.

Annie Rhiannon, hello! And thank you for the tips. Do you know, I’ve been in a supermarket today and bedding was on sale and I did have a longing look, and even grope, but didn’t purchase anything. But I need to. Both for the sake of bedtime-blogging and so that our poor guests stop having to sleep under a duvet the thickness and size of a green-shield stamp.

Aimee, it is all a bit of a mystery, isn’t it, how Berlin stays afloat. I think everyone is secretly a freelance translator and has the same working hours as me, ie. about 10pm to 5am. I’ve given work some very serious thought indeed today, though only in the dreary cafe attached to the supermarket (and only because I didn’t have change for the trolley). Plus it has been decided that wine is to accompany this evening’s dinner so I think I can safely rule out any further work/work-rumination until tomorrow afternoon. It’s no wonder I’m broke, really.

Leon, my sympathies. But freelancing does have its very, very many downsides too. And only works for the three months of the year when it’s not too freezing to leave the house. One can ruminate indoors in a cafe, I suppose, but layers make me worry I’ve lost something and I have to check all 73 pockets every two seconds, which gets in the way of the rumination. But, Leon, if it’s not too rude a question, what would your Traumjob be, actually?

Taiga, don’t take an English loan. DON’T DO IT! I’m sure the UK interest rates are the naughtiest in the world. If you borrow 12p, you’ll owe them a million pounds and your soul by the end of May. Send faxes to Kyrgyzstan instead. Alone, if need be.

8. leon - April 20, 2007

My Traumjob? No idea, more’s the pity.

As for duvets etc. I currently use two (one for the top, one underneath), six pillows, and a (real) sheepskin. Probably overkill, but as a cretified insomniac I spend most of my time in bed reading anyway.

9. leon - April 20, 2007

Or even certified. Though cretified does sound oddly appropriate

10. MountPenguin - April 20, 2007

I’ve just come back from a walk with the laptop. I was going to sit in a café and pose while doing some very menial work, but ended up mooching round the bookstore instead.

Those Wide Range Readers have been troubling me all afternoon. The name rings a very loud bell but after looking at piccies like these I don’t recall ever having had anything to do with them. Maybe it was my brother. But having found the linked site I was delighted to discover The Three Pirates and the Griffin, which I haven’t seen since about 1979, and which were my first contact with literature which didn’t mainly consist of pictures and sans-serif type.

11. Daggi - April 20, 2007

The WRR of my day looked very different too. Indeed, very much like the second and third ones in the page linked to by MP. That textured-cardboard cover, as often also found on eastern European publications, stapled together.

Before I forget: “Read, Write and Remember”. And we had the “Ginn 360 Reading Scheme” as well, and all music books published by A & C Black. “Okki-tokki-unga, okki-tokki-unga, hey-missa-day-missa-do-missa-day”. Do today’s infant school kids learn Eskimo (I mean Innuit) songs?

12. pleite - April 20, 2007

Daggi, my infant/primary school was standardly cack, and full of nuns, so we didn’t do anything interkulturell, BUT one year we took part in some contest or inter-school concert, or something, and maybe multiculturalism was just beginning, and we learnt a Japanese song. I can’t remember it now, but it was bound to be about cherry-blossom. Penguin, do you know the most famous Japanese children’s song?

…and brilliantly found, Penguin. The first (and no doubt oldest, alas) WRR book from that link is my era. God, that font. I rememebr it so well. And, while I pretend it reminds me of Peter F_, it REALLY reminds me of David A_, who was way ahead of everyone. Git. Thankfully, he left the school around the same time.

Leon, I liked cretified. But I’m glad you’re not it. Though sad you’re an insomniac. I think I’m one too. Unless I’m drunk. Have you thought of drinking more?

And while I’m on, to all of you, please help me make my memory of my favourite childhood book less vague. Alas, not so favourite, or beloved, that I can remember its title. But I reckon it was an early teenage book. Or a bit earlier. Small print. Paragraphs and everything. And constant rain. And a match-factory. And, I think, a tall man who always seemed to be dressed in black – perhaps there was the odd illustration – perhaps with a goatee and, I think, a top hat. I was longing to recommend it to my niece when I was having an avuncular phase – she’s my goddaughter too. I rejected satan for her. Hope she bloody appreciates it – and asked if it sounded familiar, but I think she was reading Jane instead.

13. Daggi - April 20, 2007

Small print. Paragraphs and everything. And constant rain. And a match-factory. And, I think, a tall man who always seemed to be dressed in black – perhaps there was the odd illustration – perhaps with a goatee and, I think, a top hat.

That sounds very East German to me. Darkness, rain, match factories, Victorian-looking men. Mohr und die Raben von London, ‘the moor’ concerned being Charlie Marx.

14. pleite - April 21, 2007

Daggi, thank you. I’ll check it out. Can I have been reading about Marx, without realising it, in my youth? God knows how the book made it into our house. Maybe a teacher stealthily stuck it in my bag. But I must say, whenever I have thought back to it, it doesn’t seem a very English-sounding book at all. Reminds me, in my mental image, of Czech animation. If you have sleuthed correctly, I’ll have to invite you out FOR AN OCCASION. I won’t take my passport.

15. Daggi - April 21, 2007

I think I’m wrong. The chances of East German childrens’ propaganda literature having ever been used in a Catholic school in the UK are as small as “Lenin i deti” being currently on the National Curriculum, in, say, Turkmenistan.

Where was your passport found, incidentally?

16. annie - April 21, 2007

Ha! I think the Russian is quite mad. I love it that he talks to himself.

I’m a little bit envious of your laptop. I reckon you need a
pillow like this (usually used by ladies feeding their babies, I’ve always wanted one – a v-shaped pillow for reading in bed, not a baby).

17. Beaman - April 22, 2007

When using a laptop in bed do you rest on your front or back? Not that it matters, both get incredibly uncomfortable after 5 minutes. I thought it would be a magical idea with my recently acquired wireless connection but how wrong I was. Maybe it’s just me with my rigid joints but the only place I can use a laptop for any amount of time is at a table. Hence I will now refer to my laptop as my tabletop. Hmm, that’s confusing. Fourlegs-top perhaps.

18. pleite - April 22, 2007

Beaman, genau, genau. Their mobility is useless around the home. Well, unless on a table. When I am just sitting on the sofa with it on my lap, I get knee-ache within a billionth of a second. In bed, lying on my side, which is agony after twelve seconds. And if propped up against the wall, utter back agony in two seconds. Perhaps I should reduce my addiction to the internet…

Annie, I have heard him scolding himself occasionally, or practising his French with himself. Which is all very sweet. I’m in a very pro-Russian mood these days. Must be the lovely weather. But, yes, I need to check out some of these bedding laptop-aids. Though I’m going to be perched at the regular old PC for the next god knows how long thanks to cleverly ignoring work for ages (and drinking myself to oblivion). When will I ever learn? When will I ever learn?

Daggi, where have all the passports gone? Long time passing. Where have all the passports gone? Long time ago. Where have all the passports gone? Deutsche Bahn’s plucked them, every one… Well, I think it was them. They were the people who wrote to my mother (from whichever ‘strab’ it was) to say it had been found. Is the S-Bahn part of DB, technically? I’d taken the S-Bahn on the way to the Festsaal that time… Can’t think how I came across the book, which I desperately now want to be the one you suggested. When I get round to it, I’ll track it down and read it avidly and let you know. Don’t think my Catholic school did books (as I’m guessing I might still have been in junior school when I read it). Maybe I’ve invented the book. Maybe it’s MY book. You know, the one novel we all have in us. It’d be dreary to write it, though, and then be accused of plagiarism by some Czech 107-year-old.

19. marshaklein - April 23, 2007

Sitting alone in cafes really is the business, isn’t it? Much as I enjoy (hand-picked) company in this situation, you can’t pretend that you ARE somebody else when you are WITH somebody else, and I LOVE pretending to be somebody else. Somebody more glamourous, bohemian, interesting and adventurous than I am (so approximately 99% of humanity, then). Solo cinema visits serve the same purpose (esp. when the film in question is European arthouse). How I enjoyed my rebellious little excursion the other night!

By the way, No.1 daughter read your most recent post and found it hilarious. Although I was partly pleased (“thank God she approves”) I was also a little miffed, because my blog and everything that goes with it is mine. This is why I rarely blog at home – I don’t want to share! I would try curling my arm protectively around what I’m writing, so she couldn’t see (in the manner of a schoolchild trying to prevent a classmate form copying) but it’s hard to do that with a PC, I’ve found.

Your favourite book sounds Dickensian to me. Was it a children’s story?

20. pleite - April 23, 2007

Marsha, I discovered solo-cinema-socialising by accident. I can’t remember if it was from arguing non-stop with the Russian and doing something vaguely interesting that he’d have liked to do himself to annoy him or from missing him when he was on one of his five-month summer holidays in Russia and not being able to think of anything else to do. Mind you, it once even paid dividends. There was a queue for some popular film. I wasn’t at the front of the queue by any means. And then it was sold out but for one ticket, and I was the only solo-socialiser there and could walk past all the happy couples with my head held high. I hope none of them had been patiently waiting to have their first snog that very evening.

Gosh, that’s quite a compliment to have had a teenager approve. But I hear ya on the not-sharing front. And I try to do the arm-round-computer thing when the Russian sees me blogging, though he knows the blog exists and could read it anyway. But he rarely does, I think. I sometimes worry that members of my family have lurked here. If I ever manage to substantiate these suspicions, I’ll delete the whole damn bastard without a moment’s hesitation. (OK, that’s probably not true.)

And, yes, it was for children. Or biggish children. But in my imagination, it’s later than Dickens. I’ve probably invented it.

21. Taiga the Fox - April 23, 2007

>>Taiga, don’t take an English loan. DON’T DO IT!

22. Taiga the Fox - April 23, 2007

For fox’s sake, I think I believe you. If I ever even think about taking a loan. (Which I haven’t done, not even 12 p, never.)
Erm, I was actually writing about art loans. I tried to find out what it says in one bit tricky art loan agreement, written in Russian and tried to compare it to an English version with a lawyer who just chatted about tulip bulbs, but actually I didn’t say anything about art, did I ?

23. Taiga the Fox - April 23, 2007

What happened? Seems like I can’t write one decent comment, without it being oddly divided. It must be because I’m Gemini. Or because I have twin sisters. I will start practicing some solo-socialising with the other half of me now. Sigh.

24. pleite - April 24, 2007

Darling, it must have been your Kuril-Kamchatka Trench in the Internet that divided your comments. Or just a computer in a bad mood. That happens quite often. I recommend extreme violence at times like those. A computer likes to know its place. They end up loving you for it.

And it is down to my dimness that I didn’t even think of a loan as being an art loan. I really should do something CULTURAL once in a while. I think filling my body with poison is only quite a good pastime. And I’m wonderfully impressed that you’ve never taken a loan. I wish I could say the same thing (and that I’d paid back the ones I’ve taken out). I just watched a South African documentary on TV. Someone quoted their father as having said, “If you don’t have money by the time you’re 35, something is wrong.” The ‘something is wrong’ bit was repeated galore, and said in English, whereas they were speaking, I think, Zulu otherwise. I’m 36. Something is wrong. But money isn’t everything. My mother has some platitude about wealth and health. I think I like it.

25. Taiga the Fox - April 24, 2007

Well, my Mum worked in the bank and she always said to me: “Never buy anything if you don’t have the money”. Well, I’ve managed to buy one half of a rotten house and a piece of a bloody useless muddy land without taking any loan, but that’s why I’m / will be always so skint.

“If you don’t have money by the time you’re 35, something is wrong.” Woo hoo! I’ve still got one month to earn some.

26. pleite - April 24, 2007

Excellent, work like a demon for a month, strike it rich and then resign on your 35th birthday. Working is so old-fashioned.

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