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The Sanjak of Novi Pazar revisited June 20, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

Darlings, remember this? Not that I expect you to, of course. In fact, I’d be a tad worried if you did. But what I thought was a one-off, one-man extravaganza on a boiling summer’s eve in fact turns out to be something of a tradition.

Not that I should have heard music on Berlin’s most boring street at all in weather like this. I should have been living it up. Soaking up the sun. Showing off my favourite new clothes item, a pink t-shirt handed down to me by my ex-boyfriend. (Although I think he and his present must have a live-in lover. My ex is a large gentleman. His present is tiny. I am neither, really, yet it fits like a dream. I like it so much, in fact, that it’s the only thing I can bear to wear and have to wash it constantly and then put it back on, so it’s bound to fall to shreds any sec.) Not that it’s turned me any heads, mind you.

But I can’t. Because of the demon work. Stinking, bloody work. Work for people who pay such a pittance that I, for once, was willing to haggle an extra few tugriks out of them. “Look, I really can’t be bothered to work for that sort of sum,” I said, honestly, and, if I don’t have to chase the person round the world to get my tugriks out of them, it might put off death from starvation by a couple of days.

And who should work in this weather? With midsummer upon us? Mind you, I’ve had guests galore of late. And then there was gay festivating to do last weekend (and more this). So I suppose it is about time I picked a translatorly pocket or two. But, honestly, I really can’t remember the last time I could take a well-deserved month off. It must have been at least WEEKS of work in a row now, I tell you. Weeks!

I am having computerly problems of late. I decided to remedy this by deleting half the programmes I didn’t recognise on my non-laptop. Unfortunately, this included the internet browsers too – I knew I recognised that big e from somewhere – and I seem to have sent the bastard into permanent meltdown. So it’s my rubbish old laptop to the rescue. It does its best, bless it, but does see fit to crash about eighty times a second. Still, nothing for it. It’s me and my laptop against the world.

Which means I can work on my sunless balcony. It’s logistically tricky. I don’t have some sort of table and I can’t put my feet up on the metal railings to prop the comp up as I’m worried the neighbours from the 100%-long-term-unemployment-house across the road will see my dirty feet. The clothes-horse needs to be positioned carefully, and to have a strategically hung drying item on it, to accommodate my cigarettes, lighter and mobile, which last rang in 1983. Then it’s jiggling of knees, bemoaning my lack of non-mouse skills and taking breaks every three seconds to stretch my nagging limbs.

To break the relentless boredom, I thought I’d have Serge, whom I’d cleverly downloaded into the laptop a second before, to distract me with lovely old ditties about incest and coming and going between someone or other’s kidneys. But I couldn’t hear Serge for the wailing of, as I thought, someone’s Bulgarian folksy music going loudly in the background.

I looked at my watch, germanly. Gone 8. The music was awfully loud. And quite an odd choice. I couldn’t work out what type of neighbour would happily admit to listening to accordiony, mouth-organy music with such pride that he’d subject the rest of the street to it too. Naturally residents’ heads popped out onto balconies at regular intervals. None seemed particularly happy. There was frowning and tutting. I began to enjoy the music more and more.

And then an odd sensation. The music seemed to be getting louder – it would be a brave neighbour who cranked his Bulgarian folk music CD up even louder having already brought the disdain of 90% of the street on him – and the quality seemed rather good. I rubbernecked for all I was worth. And within seconds a troupe of actual musicians wandered into view.

Darlings, I was thrilled. Last year, it was just one drunk accordionist. This year it was two grown-up men, a grown-up woman and a child in a baseball cap. I think the child’s cuteness was meant to be an extra selling-point. He was wearing a German national team football top with an 11 on the back and the word Deutschland emblazoned across it rather than the name of any player – I think the German no. 11 is Beckenbauer – presumably for the sake of neutrality. He occasionally shook his baseball cap at the people hiding behind the plants on their balconies. The woman would sometimes join him, with a plaintive cock of the head. And the two men beed men, holding things together, bossing the choreography, setting the walking pace. One of them was just – not that he’d have noticed – waiting to be spotted on the street and turned into a top model. Ravishing. And he could play. And it was a lovely contrast to our boring old street. This genuine taste of central Europe. Dark-skinned, proper travelling musicians. And the odd yellow-haired local dashing into their houses to escape the danger. But I took a quick mental straw-poll of the neighbours’ reactions and, do you know – it must be because it’s midsummer – I’d say they were mostly positive. Just as Ed told me was the case last time this happened, some people hurled coins at them at well-timed intervals.

The session appeared to have come to an end. There was a two-minute silence as they wandered to their next mobile bandstand a few hundred metres further on and, having counted the takings, the boy could put his baseball cap back on. They then warmed up a bit as they went. The boy, who, I realise, hadn’t played a note, decided to join in. He shouldn’t have.

Thrilled, I got back to my translation. Still, it was quite nice when they stopped.



1. Blonde at Heart - June 21, 2007

So funny! I assumed correctly you were snowed under a hip of papers, since you do not blog much.

I liked the title, too. We just learnt about the Ottoman way of ruling and how big a sanjak is (in correct Ottoman Turkish you write it “sancak”).

I guess you liked the tortured faces of your neighbours more than the music, right?

2. marshaklein - June 21, 2007

“Welcome to Hell, here’s your accordion!”
I like accordion music although, sometimes, minor key accordion music makes me cry.
Your story reminds me of our last holiday in Switzerland when, as we sat outside a cafe one afternoon, a group of men turned up with alp-horns slung over their shoulders, proceeded to play a few tunes and then sloped off.

Are you in Berlin in mid September, by any chance?

3. Ed Ward - June 21, 2007

This is the curse of the Berlin summer: the Romanian gypsies with accordions. Every! Single! One! plays “Spanish Eyes” is a sort of autistic manner. Got me in trouble with the Rock Critic Establishment when I was in New York, too: everyone was listening to Orkester Whatzis and various other “wedding orchestras” from, um, east and south of here. “Sounds like the assholes who show up at the outdoor restaurants in Berlin in the summer and won’t go away until they’ve extracted as much money as they seem to think they need,” I said. I got cold, cold looks for that. But fuckit: most of ’em can’t play.

Too bad they’ve supplanted the Hinterhof Musiker of old, who played fiddles and hurdy-gurdies. But then, they were mostly Jews.

4. pleite - June 21, 2007

Ed, yep, it was the standard Berlin, summer, outdoor musicians, but god knows what took them up here. They must have got on the wrong tram. Mind you, I could almost sense their joy as, wandering further into no-man’s-land (i.e. going east along our street), they came across that little French restaurant which I still haven’t got round to inviting you to. They started back up with brio when they saw outdoor diners ripe for exploitation.

Marsha, good crying or bad crying? I almost wanted to cry, because I thought it had pissed off the neighbours, which is one of my greatest joys in life, but once they too realised it was live, and a bit of a spectacle, they came round and it was the talk of the balconies. And, YES, I’m sure I’ll be here. Are you coming to stay? All of you, or is it just you and hubby on a getting-to-know-each-other-again-now-that-the-girls-are-quite-big trip? Or you and one of the daughters on a now-that-you’re-quite-big-it’s-time-we-had-a-grown-up-just-
the-two-of-us trip, where you teach them about life ‘n all? Or just you? Keep me posted and I’ll make sure I don’t end up in England at the time.

BaH, yes, a bit snowed under, but also just struggling on the blog-front a bit. I would have thought it mad in the past to only write something once a week or every ten days or however long it is I keep leaving it, but, then, too bad, I suppose. Still, I don’t think I want to give it up altogether. It’s still fun. And sancaks… I know nothing about the Ottomans, really. Were there sancaks in your bit of the world, then? (I owe you 100 e-mails. Will answer before 2034, I promise.)

5. marshaklein - June 21, 2007

I booked flights this morning for September 13th (leaving on the 16th). It’s just me and Mr K, celebrating twenty glorious years of wedded bliss (or something like that, anyway). I’m ridiculously excited – we haven’t been abroad together (without kids) for 9 years!

6. pleite - June 21, 2007

Gosh, how exciting. I’d offer you our double IKEA sofa-bed with a lump in the middle but are you aiming for luxury? In any case, consider yourself well and truly penned in to my hyper-empty filofax. (Will Mr. Klein mind you trotting off to meet cyberpals on a trip to celebrate all those years of wedded bliss? Although it would be lovely to get a gawp at hubby too, of course, if he wouldn’t be scared. (He knows about the blog, doesn’t he?))

7. marshaklein - June 21, 2007

Mr K don’t scare easy (as twenty years married to me will testify etc, etc…) He absolutely won’t have a problem with me meeting up with folk or, indeed, with meeting them himself – he’s fabulously easy-going.

8. pleite - June 21, 2007

Oh, I’ve got quite a crush on him already. Has he developed even a smidgen of a Scottish accent? Gordon’s doing his best at desexyising the Scottish accent, of course, but he hasn’t finished the job yet. If Mr. K. has a hint of Scottish dulcetness in there, I might just quiver like a himbo the whole time. Anyway, darling, tell me, do you both drink? I know no-one smokes any more, but if you tell me you EVEN smoke and we can go out and smoke and drink, or droke and smink, together, then I will OFFICIALLY start ACTIVELY looking forward to the whole occasion this very day. In any case, it will be lovely to meet you. Bring photos of my nieces.

9. Appy Linguist - June 22, 2007

Oh, that would just get on my tits. I hate noise where I live. (Unless I’m making it, of course.) In Copenhagen I used to curse the ice-cream van man as he drove around, ringing what sounded like a handheld bell. Accordion players forcing their music on me – and asking for money, to boot – would at least prise some creativity out of me, as I’d have no option but to start making voodoo dolls of the beggars.

Yours grumpily

Appy Linguist, aged 947

10. Arabella - June 22, 2007

I’ve become obsessed with musette dancing – popular in Paris dives in the early 1900s, via immigrants from Italy and the Auvergne – but it’s really hard to find clips of it. Usually not a big fan of accordians either but this stuff combines folk accordian with manouche guitar and clarinet. Django began on the banjo doing this stuff – that blew my mind!
Glad you found your pants this time.

11. pleite - June 22, 2007

Gosh, Arabella, you know your stuff. That’s given me plenty to google. I quite often wish I wasn’t nearly as stupid as I am. And, yes, luckily, this time nudity wasn’t an ishoo. Actually, it’s vaguely freezing. I’ve just been out on the balcony, trying to make this working-out-there thing a tradition, but it’s too cold and, anyway, I’m watching an oodle of Christopher Hitchens videos on youtube and couldn’t hear them for the traffic. Are you a fan?

Appy, good for you, making a positive out of a negative. I could never do anything as creative as voodoo-doll-making. I think I like noise. Not the noise of cars and planes, which I can hear all the time and all too well, but anything which breaks the monotony of life on this most lifeless of streets is always a boon to my jaded old soul. Mind you, as much as I love nature ‘n all, I do wish the fucking birds would stop their tweeting. Deafening. Why don’t they go and live in the countryside with the rest of the animal kingdom? This is the city, for fuck’s sake.

12. Arabella - June 22, 2007

I’ve got a soft spot for Hitchens and especially like it when he locks horns with Martin Amis because I have a soft spot for Amis as well.
Have to admit these days I’m relieved when CH doesn’t fall over during his telly appearances…

13. Appy Linguist - June 22, 2007

Don’t get me onto the topic of birdsong or I’ll be here all night! Bloody evil miniature dinosaurs, put on this Earth with the sole intention of making my life hell.

Not that I have any particularly strong opinions, mind…

14. narrowback - June 22, 2007

I’d trade your wandering accordionists and folk musicians for our bucket drummers and boombox accompanied vocalists anyday… we do get the occaisional guatemalan folk ensemble but they’re so exotic that they can park in front of a major tourist site and rake in the cash without so much as a “boo” from the constables…

last year wandering around the border between wedding and p’berg i came across an actual organ grinder (that’s what they were called here at least – don’t know if there’s a different name for them over there) but, alas, he didn’t have the wee trained monkey so often associated with the stereotypical early 20th century version (often of italian nationality) here in the states.

i’ve been a hitchens fan ever since he savaged (justifiably) mother teresa…

i learned a valuable lesson this week BiB…do not attempt to go head to head with a russian in a shots of irish whiskey competition. the national drink advantage did not hold in my favor. i was crippled for days

15. BiB - June 22, 2007

Narrowback, organ-grinder works both sides of the pond. I’ve seen one here too, perhaps at a Weihnachtsmarkt, though I can’t remember if he had a monkey with him or not. Probably not. Christmas is no time for a monkey to be out on the streets of Berlin. Mind you, neither is summer, really, if summer means, as it does at this very moment, constant rain and utterly freezing temperatures. And, yes, Russians are not to be gone head-to-head with on shots. They’re major girls’ blouses on the beer front, and even I can drink them under the table then, but they’re not to be messed with on anything that’s downed in one.

Appy, they’re cunts, aren’t they? Although I suppose they’re pretty enough, and they probably eat something more nasty than themselves for breakfast, like worms. And they do make a good nest. The best one I’ve ever seen was in a summer-house I stayed in up in your old country. NZ and Thailand were pretty good for the big bastards. Eagles and the like flying around as if they owned the place. Still, prefer them to rodents and amphibians any day.

Arabella, good, now that both you and Narrowback have told me it’s OK to do so, I too can declare my affections for CH. He does look a touch bloated, though, there’s no denying it. Even I don’t have that look yet. Still, I trust (hope) he’s a good few years my senior. I haven’t seem him and Amis go head-to-head. I’ll have to get onto youtube again and see if it comes up trumps.

16. marshaklein - June 25, 2007

Happy to report that both Mr K. and I drink. It’s a “no” on the smoking, though although no objections to anyone else doing it. Put it this way, I never let cigarette smoke come between me and a night in the pub. Of course, we’re smoke-free in Scotland now and watching the fuss that’s accompanying the forth-coming English ban with great amusement.

Mr K. has (to my ear at least) a resolutely English accent, a mix of Home Counties and London (probably) although others have remarked on how Scottish he sounds. Don’t give Gordon too much of a hard time – at least he started out as a conviction politician, unlike yer man Blair.

I love watching most of the birds in our garden and their singing doesn’t bother me (but then I do live with one teen and one pre-teen) but when it comes to magpies ALL BETS ARE OFF!

17. pleite - June 25, 2007

Marshypops, magpies sometimes settle on the balcony not more than 3m from where I’m perched now, and I think I vaguely loathe them. But are they especially tweety? I think some bird-that-coos must have its nest invisibly close by. I could recognise that bird in an (audio) identity parade. Sounds rather pigeony. I presume we don’t even need to discuss how loathsome pigeons are.

I’ve officially given up drinking and smoking again for the eighteenth time this week, but I’m sure I’ll heroically be able to join you in a little tipple in September. There was a gay thing this weekend and all sorts of freebies were given out, including lighters with DILDOKING happily written all over them. It’ll almost be a shame not to smoke.

18. marshaklein - June 25, 2007

Magpies make a horrible, harsh spluttering sound. It’s loud. VERY loud.

19. pleite - June 25, 2007

Our street is deafening, vaguely, so I might not notice one more bird species’ chirrups. It’s cobbled, so cars make a thunderous racket. We’re practically under a flight-path. And the foliage from our local swarm-of-birds-holding tree is visible from my window. Much noisier than Glastonbury, I’m sure.

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