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Saturday night, Sunday morning May 6, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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Darlings, you won’t believe it, but there are TWO parties taking place within ear-shot of our humble abode on the most boring street in Berlin. Of course I’m secretly chuffed to bollocks that a bit of life has come to Ruislip, but my inner quiet-street-dweller has made me peer out windows and prepare a withering grin should I happen to make eye-contact with any of the revellers as they prepare to vomit off a balcony. And there’s no peace from either. If I sit in my blogarium, facing north, I have the hubbub of the working-class party – no doubt celebrating one of the attendants’ win at the bingo – happening in one of the forlorn houses further along the street in the direction of oblivion. If I pop into the kitchen for a soothing late cup of tea, I can hear the flonflons of the middle-class party from the other direction happening in an Altbau that’s been done up and which the new arrivals are no doubt trying hard to convince their guests is located in Prenzlauer Berg Nord.

I can only assume the police haven’t come and shot up all the guests of both parties because there was such a rush to jam their switchboard by every curtain-twitcher on the street within the first few bars of whichever music it was – Ace of Base from the WCP and Nana Mouskouri from the MCP, I think – floating out the open windows of each flat that it went into meltdown and the boys in green are busy with the phone-engineers.

But it all makes me wonder whether the Russian and I haven’t accidentally ended up living in Berlin’s next big area. Yes, yes, so it’s Ruislip, but it’s very, very close to Prenzlauer Berg (as I never tire from telling folk). But, apart from the Russian and me being a great boon to local property prices (probably), there are a few other signs that the place is up(-off-its-knees)-and-coming(-back-from-the-brink).

Take our once-dreary but now host-to-multiple-multi-class-parties-of-a-weekend street, for want of a better example (which would mean me having to leave the house once in a while and getting to know the area). When we arrived, it had a Greek restaurant on it which must have only won awards, which it perhaps chose not to frame and put on its wall, as the world’s worst-located eatery. Not only on a street which no-one has ever been known to randomly walk down, but mid-row. Not even on a corner where it might hope to leap out at drivers who’d got lost. Hopeless. It closed, was missed by precisely no-one, and then re-opened in some other equally hapless and short-lived guise. “Who the bugger would choose to open a restaurant there?” I would holler at the top of my voice whenever I saw the builders gutting the place yet again (and thus putting them off their work). And then it took on its third guise. “Tsk, tsk, tsk,” I clicked noisily when I saw the next bunch of losers-to-be doing the place up. And then we saw the sign-writers doing the sign. In yer actual French. With accents graves and aigus and everything. And the place seemed to have a bit of life in it. We’d walk past with our shopping, shaking our heads knowingly, yet there’d be lights on. Staff bobbing about. Folk chomping away on nosh in numbers which, we hoped, in a new spirit of supporting local businesses, were enough to make the owners some money.

“Darling, I know it’s the thin end of the wedge, and it means I’ll soon never walk further than forty paces even when we go out, but shall we try it?” And we did. And it was lovely. The interior still looks a tad like a Soviet kitchen, but the house has enough frontage for a few tables to huddle higgledly-piggledly on the street and though one has to battle the animal kingdom whenever it’s warm enough to eat outside, the experience has remained a decidedly pleasant one. And not only is the restaurant name yer actual French – Déjà Vu (which I’d sneered at on these here pages before, before we’d been there) – the flippin’ staff are too! The chef cooks gallically away and, when he has a moment’s respite, pops out to mingle with the punters and puff on a well-deserved fag. He speaks German as Antoine de Caunes speaks English. He’ll give you unwanky tips. (“Here, wanna try a drop of my Bénédictine?” for example.) And the waitress is French too, with an even more de-Caunesian accent than her boss. I spoke French to her. French! On our street! In Ruislip! And she’s everyone’s dream of just what you’d want a nice, stereotypical French waitress to be. She’s beautiful and slinky. Charming and teasing. Probably a temper like Krakatoa. I sometimes walk past her as she is cycling into work (with baguettes under her arm and garlic strung round her ne… OK, that’s not true) along our boring street’s cycle-path (which has seen better days, between you and me). “Salut!” she’ll shout out to me with a tinkle of her bell. I’ve seen her cycling in with her just-as-French boyfriend in hot pursuit on his bike. That’s at least three Frenchies on our street at one time, which is, let’s face it, Paris by any other name.

But the locals aren’t slacking when it comes to making Berlin’s Ruislip, or Prenzlauer Berg (very) Nord, the next big thing either. There’s nothing much high about our bit of high street. A couple of dull, permanently empty shops. A Lidl. A kebaberie or two. And then a new hairdresser’s went and opened with an undisgusting interior and squishy seating outside so you can soak up the sun. A table is strewn with lighters. And copies of Siegessäule, one of Berlin’s gay rags. A muscly queen stood touting for business. “Darling, how convenient. I just needed a haircut.” “But you had your hair cut yesterday.” “Yes, but she did it all wrong.”

I went in and had my riah done by the queen. The hair-wash was all massagey. Probably Ayurvedic. The sink was free-standing. He cut in a fashionable way, with vaguely grand, jabbing hand movements. He flicked his fingers through my locks in an (abortive) attempt at making me look groovy. He gave me no choice when it came to putting products in at the end. He rubbed a dab of something in, gave a cursory whoosh with the hair-dryer and sent me on my way. I’d asked how business was doing. I was worried he might burst into tears and say it had been an unmitigated fucking disaster opening a new salon in Prenzlauer Berg Nord. “Couldn’t be better,” he said, and gave a slightly haughty chuckle. “The other salons around here,” he went on, alluding to our soon-to-be-fashionable environs with a jerk of the head, “are no competition.”

I’ll let you know when both businesses have gone tits-up within the week and the parties fizzle out… BUT, potentially, and with enough get-out clauses to make an especially wily lawyer proud, you mark my words. Ruislip’s on the up.

Comments»

1. narrowback - May 6, 2007

hysterical…but as it is 2 a.m. and i’m just in from drinks – as in multiple – with friends i’m in no shape to be verbose..at least in writing.

but i do have to say that’s a great snap of the dynamics of current urban real estate

my neighborhood has had five names since i moved here 15 years ago

2. Blonde at Heart - May 6, 2007

Apparently I was not the only person around the globe to go to bed late (5am, back from a proper student party).

Finally you found a normal place to do your haircuts. Hurrah!

3. annie - May 6, 2007

You want to watch that – it all starts innocently with French bistros and cool hairdressers – just look at Hoxton. (Who’d ever have thought that Old Street roundabout would be at the centre of avant-garde London?) Soon you’ll be sporting a ‘fin’, wearing dayglo and mirrored shades and introducing yourself to people as an artist working primarily in new media. Then the property prices will shoot up, the locals won’t be able to afford to live there anymore and it will be all your fault for encouraging the new businesses! Tsk!

(PS Not really. It sounds nice.)

4. Daggi - May 6, 2007

Soon you’ll be sporting a ‘fin’, wearing dayglo and mirrored shades and introducing yourself to people as an artist working primarily in new media

You’ve met him, then?

5. MountPenguin - May 6, 2007

Oddly enough, I was up in your latitude yesterday (albeit a little further east) taking my freshly renovated wire donkey for a spin, and found myself thinking how “nice” the general area has become. I don’t venture up that far north very often – danger of icebergs and all that – and my memories of it are still of general dilapidation.

6. bowleserised - May 6, 2007

And there was RFM and I, watching Das Leben Des Anderen (no, I can’t be arsed to look up how to spell it properly), and saying in uppercrust Prenzel’berg tones, ‘I wonder whare on earth they filmed it, such an authentic DDR patina! Must have been Pankow.’

7. pleite - May 6, 2007

B., I thought that too, at first (Trelleborgerstr. just round the corner from here was my guess), but (Yuhang-based) rumour has it the Stasis-in-the-roof (which I think is German for bats-in-the-belfry) flat was in Friedrichshain. Actually, an English pal who saw the film said she wanted to know if she could nicely imagine me living in that sort of house, and I said she sort of could, though our flat is not so grand, and we don’t have a Stasi operative on the top floor. But then the Russian and I were in the kitchen and the old hag from the top floor in the Hinterhaus opposite popped out onto her balcony and we both got suspicious that she might be up to no good. No way of knowing.

Penguin, it is perfectly all right up here, though it would probably still be nicer to live where you do, even if just to take 10 minutes off the journey-time to any social engagement, as I am always late and worry I’ll soon worry myself to death about my lack of punctuality. Mind you, I’m also having a fantasy about moving within Prenzlauer Berg Nord, but the fantasy is in its very early days.

Daggi, you mustn’t reveal that I am a secret fin-sporter (although Annie has met me, so she knows it’s not true). I have to confess that I DID once sport a slapdash, home-made fin, because I thought it would instantly turn me into Andy Roddick, who, I know, is sickeningly strait-laced-looking, in a way, but god I fancy him. It didn’t turn me into him, of course, as he is twelve and sporty, and I am 90 and not.

Annie, ‘an artist working primarily in new media’ is exactly the term that I wanted to use in the post for the type of people holding the MCP, but I couldn’t think of it. Thank you. That’s who they were, and who EVERYONE in Berlin is. OK, apart from everyone I’ve ever met here, but everyone else is an an artist working primarily in new media. There’s not a bloody plumber in the city. I haven’t been to Old Street since it went up in the world. But I really don’t think I know London any more. The Russian announced he wanted to visit Hoxton on one trip, but I don’t think I’d even heard of it and certainly didn’t know how to get there. Isn’t Willesden still the place to be? Or, indeed, real Ruislip? There’s an excellent Ritzy’s with half-price bacardi every second Tuesday.

BaH, I thought all my hairdressing conundra were now resolved too, but I think I might be too scared to go to him again and might start repatronising my drunken old lady. The Russian and I have already been known to cross the street deliberately so we don’t have to say hello, fashionably, to him if he happens to be touting for trade outside his shop. Anyway, I’m glad you’re being a proper student and partying till all hours. Quickly do it now and get it out of your system so you don’t have to do it when you’re a middle-aged fart like me.

Narrowback, five names! Don’t people get fed up of amending their stationery? Actually, I’ve got a feeling there really has been some kind of official boundary redrawing here and I think Prenzlauer Berg, Pankow and Weissensee are all now technically Pankow, although I can’t imagine anyone who wears huge sunglasses is going to admit as much. Perhaps I’ll write a letter to the relevant Amt and suggest we have a referendum on renaming the whole bastard area Prenzelnord. No worse than Berg, after all. And there’s not a mountain in sight. And where the fuck is Prenzlau anyway?

8. MountPenguin - May 6, 2007

It’s the next big town after Eberswalde, and almost as far north as Stettin. One of those places nobody’s ever been to. You are right about the boundary redrawing; until 2001 Prenzlauer Berg, Pankow and Weissensee were seperate districts; then, much to everyone-down-here’s disgust they became Pankow. And double bad luck for you, BiB: where you are is also the Stadtteil Pankow, within the Bezirk Pankow, so I suspect you will have some difficulty in getting it renamed. What I’d do is form some kind of independence movement to get the area south of the S-Bahn renamed “Prenzlauer Höhen” or something.

9. bowleserised - May 6, 2007

Well if IMBD is right:

“Errors in geography: Christa-Maria and Georg’s apartment is in Wedekind street in Friedrichshain, as confirmed in the DVD commentary. The buildings in the entire quarter surrounding Wedekindstr were part of a massive rebuilding project in the GDR, and were completed in the early 1950s. All of the balconies that can be seen while Georg is playing football with the children on the street, along with the ceramic work illustrate the particular Soviet style really clearly. However, the interior of the apartment and most of what we see of the building interior is what would be called ‘alt bau’, effectively ‘old style’ – the apartment has high ceilings, the stairwells have carved wooden balustrades and doors which clearly predate the 50s. When the Stasi men come through the front doors for the first time, you can see the interior of these buildings as they really look, in the next shot the style has gone back at least 40 years.”

http://imdb.com/title/tt0405094/goofs

10. Daggi - May 6, 2007

Didn’t we go through all this somewhere else once? On Ed’s blog? Or was it here.

11. Daggi - May 6, 2007

IMDB: Anachronisms: Cars of the type “Wartburg 1.3” are shown in the year 1984 but they where released in 1988.

One of those Wartburg 1.3s used in the film is currently up for grabs on Ebay. It’s still got its MOT and is ready to drive. Too expensive for me though – Leon, do you fancy a new car?

http://cgi.ebay.de/Wartburg-353-S-tourist-Requisite-OSCAR-Film_W0QQitemZ160109576766QQihZ006QQcategoryZ150033QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

Hmm, seems the auction ended a few hours ago.

12. pleite - May 6, 2007

Daggi, it ended up going for 401 euros. Not bad. I have now acquired a camera, so may take it round Berlin with me and photograph all pretty old cars for sale and send you the details. One good turn – and you’ve done more than one – deserves another, after all. There’s a lovely old American thing – don’t know what make – I’ve seen twice now in Pankow Süd (formerly known as PB). First time, it was just itself. The second time, it had a ‘for sale’ sticker in it. 7800 euros. Yes, TWO zeros.

B., so THAT’S where the flat was. Yes, with Daggi we’d also wondered where the Stasi man’s tower-block was. I should have an explore of that bit of Friedrichshain. On this map, all of that area close by, near Wedekindstr. and by the legendary Berghain, is even marked in brown. A brown-site. I’ve driven up to it once in a taxi. Might be worth traipsing around on foot.

Penguin, you mean I live in the CAPITAL of Pankow? I am bristling with pride. I’ve ripped up the contract for the 800-room flat I’d found for 12 euros a month (warm) and will stay here till the better end. Maybe I could sublet this flat to any embassies in need of new representation in Germany’s capital’s capital…

13. MountPenguin - May 7, 2007

Well, if you cross over the Schönhauser Allee (is it still the Schönhauser up there?) and wander in the general direction of Wedding, you’ll come across a whole district of Plattenbau villas, many of which are actually embassies, and those that aren’t, used to be. It’s sort of the bargain-basement diplomatic quarter for places like the Semiotic Republic of Obskuristan etc. So the market may already be saturated. But yes, you are in the spiritual heart of Pankow – not merely in say Heinersdorf bei Pankow.

Note to self: must finally see Das Leben der Anderen, I used to live down the street from Wedekindstraße, I shall see what I can recognise. The brown area on the map, btw, is former railway yards, now steadily being encroached upon by big commercial buildings.

14. pleite - May 7, 2007

Penguin, do see Das Leben der Anderen. I saw it on DVD, on the Russian’s computer, so certainly didn’t have the large-screen effect, but it was still gripping. Of course there were things I missed, as my German is still so spectacularly crap, so you will appreciate it EVEN more fully. I’m convinced you’ll like it.

Berghain is on Am Wriezener Bahnhof and I was impressed as we drove up to it through that street in a taxi and it might be nice to see it close-up in the daylight. Going to Berghain was petrifying, in many ways, as it was far too cool for me, but the building is fucking impressive. Has the Ostbahnhof been majorly downsized then, if all these old railway buildings are being used for other purposes?

And I know that little diplomatic area. Moldova, Eritrea and Cuba all boast embassies there. Mongolia and Ghana too, I think. Brazil used to have its/an embassy there, but they’ve presumably gone up in the world. And yes, the crucial point at which Schönhauser Allee turns into Berlinerstr. happens somewhere around there. It’s definitely Berlinerstr. by the time you’ve got up as far as us.

15. MountPenguin - May 7, 2007

Well, the Ostbahnhof – the original one, not the Johnny-come-lately ex-“Hauptbahnhof” down near the river – apparently used to be just about where the Neues Deutschland building is now, until it was downsized by Bomber Command. Otherwise the area was mainly tracks – mostly disused while I was living there, and now largely vanished.

So that is where the Berghain is (from the photos it looks like a 1950’s building). I am of course far too cool for such an establishbment, although according to the font of all knowledge that anyone can make up, “this (the door policy) allows the homo-, hetero-, and bi-sexual guests to throw social restraints to the wind and live out their most pornographic fantasies“, which sounds fascinating and might enable me to finally put the 40-gallon drum of Marmite I have in my cellar to good use.

16. Mark Holland - May 7, 2007

Entschuldigenmich, I was just going to commend BIB for another magnificent post but I seem to have stumbled into the Berliner taxi drivers’ knowledge exam. Können Sie mir zu Ku’Damm bitte nehmen?

17. Daggi - May 7, 2007

There’s a flat going in Pankow’s equivalent of Kensington Palace Gardens – Esplanade – just ask the WIP. It wasn’t too expensive, assuming you earn any kind of reasonable wage, or get Hartz IV and aren’t worried about the prospect of getting a badly paid job in the near future. You can invite all those ambassadors and their spies, I mean attachés (that explains why spies carry attaché cases) round for your house-warming (or house-bugging, should the old ones not work anymore).

There’s also an embassy in Neukölln. Benin, I think. In the only posh bit of Neukölln – Rixdorf / Richardplatz.

I also wondered where the Berghain was, and I’d also wondered what that particular building was. When I lived in that bit of Friedrichshain, it was all railway tracks with the occasional train-like thing going over them. Now it’s all clubs and warehouse buildings, garden centres and space for a motorway planned by the West Berliners in the mid-1970s, but what do you expect when the Deutsche Bahn makes most of its money through either (in Germany) renting out retail space or (internationally, it’s a global player now) through “logistics” i.e. parcel and other item delivery by lorry. Why don’t they just abolish these old fashioned “train” things and let anyone hire out a Regionalexpreß, assuming they’ve registered themselves by phone first? If it works for DB Carsharing and DB Call a bike, why not for Berlin to Eberswalde?

18. MountPenguin - May 7, 2007

DB is of course also trying to acquire Tempelhof Airport. I suspect their plan is, once they’ve modified their ICEs to flight-ready status, to give away their actual rail network to someone like Connex.

@Mark Holland: this may look like BiB’s blog, but it’s actually a Berlin film / housing / public infrastructure / politics discussion forum.

19. pleite - May 7, 2007

Penguin, does Deutsche Bahn really want to turn into Deutsche Luft? It would be nice to fly in a train, although I have visions of rear carriages flapping about in the breeze and that would be a worry, especially as I already shudder when the plane does a minor turbulence wobble… And I missed all that at Berghain on the one occasion I was there. I didn’t even live out my least pornographic fantasy, although perhaps I got a good frisking on the way in. The door policy is, indeed, terrifying. I was with the Russian and two confident groovy types from London who were convinced we’d breeze in. I was practically crying in the mile-long queue. (I was turned away from somewhere else for being pink and wearing an anorak.) But we were allowed in, after a grilling from a doorman, and the Russian, oddly, telling him we were from London.

Daggi, I’m already having fun on that GEWOBAG-Verbund site. I’m playing “Guess a Postleitzahl” with myself. Perhaps I should go out. Or do some work. (I am (perhaps) about to start on a suicidally technical translation. I really think I want to become a drag-queen.) But, speaking of DB, and addictive websites, have you seen/got addicted to the site Penguin referred to somewhere? (I’ll look for it.) On this DB website, you can put in a train-search-item such as Romford to Gidea Park and up it springs in no time. I’ve never found a British site that was so straightforward. And you can do Strawberry Hill to Athens too, for example, if such a journey should take your fancy.

Mark, sorry, yes, we’ve got a bit Berlin-specific here. I’d even thought of putting in a few footnotes in for the non-Berliners. But always thrilled to see you here, even when we do go xenophobic, as my first stranger-blogger-pal. Hope you’re getting a few extra bike-kilometres in on this Bank Holiday Monday. I trust the weather has obliged by going freezing?

20. Daggi - May 7, 2007

Berlin film / housing / public infrastructure / politics / old cars / kefir discussion forum.

On this DB website, you can put in a train-search-item such as Romford to Gidea Park and up it springs in no time.

But why would you want to? Just to confirm that it’s far too quick to bother with and that the 294 bus would be slightly more “scenic”?

Southern Railways (ex-Connex) i.e. London-Brighton via slowish modernish trains use the same database as DB. Unfortunately they don’t update it with things like engineering works and cancellations etc. so if you’re planning a cheap weekend trip to Brighton with their equivalent of a Wochenendticket my advice is to strictly ignore all train information that the railway company’s website provides you with and use the really difficult to use National Rail Enquiries. Beforehand. Before you buy the non-refundable ticket. Before it takes you 4 hours each way using a stopping service pulled by a lame donkey via Strawberry Hill, instead of the 1 hour you were expecting.

Nevermind the GEWOBAG-Verbund (which must somehow be an abbreviaition for “Council flats we haven’t managed to flog to some hedge fund British/Americans yet, but don’t worry, we’ve put up the rents a great deal anyway, so you won’t notice) – what about the GSW when it comes to playing “fantasy flat search”? (Now in the hands of those hedge funds, who have again already sold it off for about 10 times they paid Berlin City Council for it). They have some nice cheap-ish flats in Kreuzberg, some even with Ofenheizung, and you can really be in the thick of it every New Year.

21. Mark Holland - May 7, 2007

No, no, don’t apologise.

And, you’re correctamundo. Like the end of Passport To Pimlico, our fortnight heatwave has come to an end this morn.

I was wondering about you gestern in fact young Bib. Don’t know why. Just was. My mind wandered as I was mountain biking.

You know how you’re always saying about being tied to the computer doing translating? Is it not possible to do it on a laptop out in the fresh air, for a change of environment? I remember having an ice-cream in Treptower Park and being somewhat taken with the topless sunbathing going on. And as for the beach at Wansee! Maybe that’s not your bag but surely other delights are on offer in the warm air for the Britisherpervert not used to lack of German hang ups about naked flesh.

Maybe I’ve said too much…

22. Daggi - May 7, 2007

Can you find a video of “Go wild in the country”, the only song I can vaguely remember by Bow Wow Wow, and post it on your blog please Mark?

It’s raining here too.

23. Mark Holland - May 7, 2007

It’s here.

Wasn’t there some controversy over the cover? Malcolm McLaren said it was art, the tabloids said it was filth. Not like Talcy Malcy to court press outrage!

24. Ed Ward - May 7, 2007

Coming in late here, but BiB:

1) You’re a good writer. Writing is an art. Therefore, you’re an artist.

2) The Internet is new media. Blogging occurs on the Internet. Your good writing (an art) is in your blog (new media)

Therefore:

You are an artist working in new media.

Thank you. I’ll accept dinner at the Frogatorium in grateful appreciation. Especially if I can see the French waitress.

25. Daggi - May 7, 2007

You’ll probably have to wear a suit and tie, Ed.

26. narrowback - May 7, 2007

the multiple name changes didn’t discomfort the residents much as they were mainly a creation of the real estate broker community…the “official” name of my neighborhood was and remains “The Near South Side”. we’ve never had a postal code change or even the dreaded telephone area code change.. however as the term “south side” has historically had negative connotations in this city, realtors had to come up with a better marketing approach…printers row, burnham park,dearborn park and now the south loop… not unlike your suggestion of “Prenzelnord”. there’ll probably be a few more before i cash out and decamp.

27. Ed Ward - May 8, 2007

Daggi, a suit and tie in fucking PANKOW?? Or, if it really is Prenz’lnord, that makes it even less likely. They probably only check to make sure you’re wearing trousers.

28. Daggi - May 8, 2007

Aren’t French restaurants always posh? And Pankow is a bit posh. So make sure you have that suit and tie on or otherwise Sarko will have you and the rest of the sans-suit-et-tie mob stuck in prison tout suite. Or does this new rule only apply to the Frogosphere?

29. pleite - May 8, 2007

Daggi, between you and me, I should have been/be a pundit. I knew – knew, I tell you – Sarko would be pres even when I lived in Paris which was at least a hundred and twenty years ago. OK, 1995/1996. I could feel it in my waters. Or in my tea-leaves. I’ve tried to impress the Russian with my psychicness, but he’s not falling for it. Anyway, my other predictions are my now well-documented Pankow-being-the-next-big-thing (newflash, a groovy new café by Vinetastr. U-Bahnhof, for fuck’s sake), Cameron to be Prime Minister some time or other… erm… Molvania winning the Eurovision Song Contest and Tim Henman definitely winning Wimbledon before he retires (singles, doubles and mixed doubles, teaming up with Buster Mottram for the doubles and, naturally, Ginny for the mixed).

Ed, rest assured, no dress-code there. The chef isn’t the most kempt-looking bloke I’ve ever seen, but he can cook. But thank you, lovely compliments. You win dinner at Déjà Vu. But how do we do the logistics? I think I need your phone number and a diary of days when you can be a one-man rapid-reaction-force. Because I can’t go into the resto and ask in advance what days the pretty French waitress will be working, as I’ll be prosecuted for stalking, yet it would be a shame to go when she was off – let’s hope she hasn’t resigned/been sacked for being caught with her fingers in the till already – so I suggest me walking past on a day when we both know we are free and that you can react rapidly and if she’s working – they open at 4 – and if it’s sunny – we can only eat there when it’s sunny, and because of the sun being so errant, this has to be timed to perfection. So, on a rapid-reaction day, when she’s on duty – we’d have to go at about 7. Early, I know, but freezingness/darkness or indoority would be gloomy.

Narrowback, London’s done endless dialling-code changes, though not for cosmetic reasons. New number-capacity needed, new codes. But they went for two: an inner-London one and an outer-London one. Cue panic from people who considered themselves inner but ended up telephonically outer. Some posh lefties I knew ended up with the outer code and looked into how much it would cost for them to get an inner one. Pricks. Don’t think they went through with it. Anyway, London’s gone back to a single-code system but the first digit of the rest of the number still reveals whether you play Ace of Base or Nana Mouskouri at your parties, if ya hear what I’m sayin’.

Mark, I need to conquer my laptop-phobia and get out into the parks with it. You’re right. Berlin has plenty of green space, some of them even quite nice (and some with all the charm of Albert Square) and the nudity is a very satisfactory addendum. Actually, our local lake, Weissensee, which is grotty, but I don’t really care, is fine for getting yourself wet and lying on a fake beach. You pay to get into the fake-beach bit, which costs about 2p, and there are beer-and-sausage facilities on tap. It’s not nude (though there’s no shortage of short-term nudity with people happily changing without bothering to wander off to the changing rooms). But last time I was there, in the fenced-in bit, there were a gazillion naked frolicking folk just beyond the fenced-in bit. Don’t know if there are rules about it or not. It did turn a few heads, but the police didn’t come and shoot them dead within seconds (as they would have done if they’d crossed the road when the man was red, or flushed their loo after 8pm). And I’ve been meaning to write to you for ages to ask if it was you I saw at Amberley station (ages ago now) with a bike heading off for a cycle. The man was a redhead, could have been you. But do you take the train to Amberley before heading off into the wilds?

30. narrowback - May 8, 2007

t’was the same set of circumstances and outcomes here in the US..first in nyc the 212/718 split (212 being manhattan/718 the rest) and here in Chicago 312/708…

I have received requests for use of my telephone number just so callers would think that the recipient was an inner resident (312)

31. pleite - May 8, 2007

Gosh, aren’t folk odd? Although I’d happily let people use my phone number, because I almost never do so myself. Although, if there is any social cachet hidden within Berlin numbers, I’m yet to find out about it. But I wouldn’t be surprised, living where we do, if even our phone number was fantastically fashionable. (Hmm, went to visit our new local café. It’s half of a mobile-phone shop. Don’t think it passes muster.)

32. narrowback - May 8, 2007

ah, take comfort in the fact that such commercial hybrids are usually the mark of a neighborhood that has a weak economic basis…ergo, Pankow ain’t Posh – yet.

33. pleite - May 8, 2007

I’m not sure whether that’s good news or bad news. Mind you, the area’s first ‘nice’ café was extra-depressing for thinking it was the (very local) area’s first ‘nice’ café and I suddenly had visions that the friendly-in-a-wrong-way boss was actually probably extremely violent and then I wanted to rescue his waitress, who, I think, is emotionally involved with him but hasn’t smiled since 2003. And I don’t want to drink coffee with my field of vision taking in, peripherally, ads for mobiles and all the accoutrements. Mind you, it’s made me realise the area could do with one, decentish café. A dad/man from the 100%-long-term-unemployed-house across the road frequents, or rather permanents, one of the kebab-places, which is actually far less grim than our new coffee-cum-mobile place, but I won’t want to start going there until I’m quite a lot more sure that my alcoholism is definitely definite.

34. Arabella - May 8, 2007

Things are getting a tad Seberg & Belmondo in your street? It sounds goood.

35. pleite - May 9, 2007

Arabella, don’t tell anyone, but I’ve never seen Breathless. Should I dash out and rent it today? Will it make me happy, successful and beautiful all in one go?

36. Taiga the Fox - May 9, 2007

Ruislip?
You know, every time I see that name, I feel myself indescribably blissful. It’s because it reminds me of the very first time I visited England and the moment when we had just arrived and were on our way to London. I saw a roadsign “Ruislip”, which amused me a lot, because “ruis” means rye and the image of something called ryelip was as amusing as something can be when you are in your early teens, sitting in a steamy bus filled with people in their early teens.

37. pleite - May 9, 2007

Taiga-paiga-laiga-faiga, according to this page, “Its name is derived from the Old English ryse, “rush” and hlype, “leap”, which is thought to refer to a spot where the little River Pinn could once be crossed.”

I hope your first trip to England didn’t have Ruislip as its ultimate destination? Say you drove straight past that road-sign (perhaps even sticking your fingers up at it, teenagerly) and ended up somewhere a bit nicer. Mind you, language-exchanges/school-trips always seem to end up in funny, queer places. Every Scandinavian I know has lived with a family in Eastbourne, where no-one not-Scandinavian under the age of 112 has ever been seen, at some point or other.

38. Taiga the Fox - May 9, 2007

We drove straight past that road-sign and eneded up to London. I’ve lived with a family in Isle of Thanet and Weymouth, so now you know one Scandinavian who hasn’t been seen in Eastbourne.

No, wait, no, I think I might have been there too. Just for a day though.

39. Mark Holland - May 9, 2007

Bib, many thanks for the guided tour of the neighbourhood fleshpots. I’ve only spent 3 days in Berlin but enjoyed it a great deal.

Now listen. You are not allowed to be in Amberley, no, Sussex, ever again without coming for a visit. Mi casa su casa. Anyway if the person was on the train then it wouldn’t have been me.

We lived in Northwood for 9 months some years back, just around the corner from Ruislip. Far more upmarket. Which is why we were moved on…

40. pleite - May 9, 2007

My French exchange was in Douai, which is a nice enough place, and most famous for its martyrs. I saw a boy with one eye there and, with a youngster’s logic, naturally assumed this was a French problem. I haven’t been able to come up with any other corroborating evidence, though.

For Russian, we were sent to Petrozavodsk, which is Russian Weymouth.

Actually, my English feels a bit rusty at the moment. I might sign myself up for a language course in Eastbourne. Do you think I’ll be able to convince the family I’m a 15-year-old Dane?

41. Taiga the Fox - May 9, 2007

Petroskoi! If you go there for a language course they might believe you.

Actually, I quite liked Weymouth, but I was there for riding, not for language.

42. Sylvia - May 9, 2007

You talking about neighbours having parties reminds me of a Victoria Wood tape i got recently from the BHF shop – There’s a sketch from Patricia Routledge where she’s Kitty, a formidable lady who knows how to deal with things – if the neighbours are having a party, she gets her cocktail slacks on and goes to the party and gets frigging, or whatever the latest dance craze is, and the parties soon come to an end. Have you thought of trying it?

43. Arabella - May 10, 2007

Or you could try the Collegiate Shag…….

44. pleite - May 11, 2007

Arabella, I had to do some serious googling there. I wish I’d done more dancing in my time. We did ballroom dancing in the sixth form, but the classes were spoiled by the heterosexual boys, who wouldn’t take it seriously. I could have been Billy Elliot, I’m sure. Livid.

Sylvia, hello! You humbly haven’t linked to your own site. Should I edit it in? (You can do all sorts at wordpress.) But you remind me of a story. The ex and I had a party in London. A neighbour came to complain or say how depressed she was to be overhearing a party, so she was invited in. She was mad, of course. And she was soon seen scuttling off with a bottle of red wine under each arm. At a previous party, another neighbour came to complain and warn us that this wasn’t a partying type of street – tosser – and my ex, who listened to all this with a glass of red wine in his hand, was aching to throw the wine all over him. He resisted.

Taiga, are you actually the Finnish national showjumping champion? I need to know if I have high-achievers visiting me here. I’ll do name-dropping galore during the Eurovision tomorrow. I’ll probably even tell people you’re one of the presenters.

Mark, I didn’t know you’d had a London phase. You do get around… Now, re. Sussex. Of course I’ve thought of that too. I’ll have to work out the logistics of it. Normally, when I go to see my old lady, I’ve just flown in and then flown straight out again, without any other distractions thrown in. But as I see her on weekends, I could tag on an extra day one time, perhaps. Would visiting on a Monday be bonkers? Or – if I OK’d it with her – would you perhaps like to come up to that part of the world? (She loves young men. You don’t happen to be a practising Catholic, do you? That would give you a bazillion brownie points!) But, yes, let’s work something out.

45. Sylvia - May 14, 2007

hello again! er, didn’t link because I didn’t know how to do it. Does this work?

46. pleite - May 18, 2007

That works like a dream!


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