Saturday night, Sunday morning May 6, 2007Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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.