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Anyone for proverbs? July 30, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
27 comments

Darlings, we haven’t had a game for ages. So let’s have a game.

Now I’ve decided it’s about time we upped the level around here. I’m a big boy now. 36. I should have been over the poo-stage at least a year ago. So it’s time to get wise. Which has nothing to do with street-smartness. I mean it’s time for some wisdom.

So, darlings, I want you to make up some proverbs, and then I’ll put on my reading-glasses when they come in and analyse them all wisely.

The Russian’s to blame, of course. He was meant to fly to Russia on Friday but Her Britannic Majesty’s Visa Section hasn’t sent him his passport back. No way of knowing when they will, either. You can check on-line, but that’s been saying it’s been in the post for a week. There’s a helpline you can ring for $14 (no, not euros or pounds) which will tell you what you can see on-line. I was told as much by the woman from the normal, wrong, non-visa, British-Embassy-in-Düsseldorf number I phoned to see if I could find out any more. She was forbidden from putting me through to the visa people, she explained. She also explained the new(ish) system was crap. And broken. And behind schedule. And whatever you do, don’t phone the $14-dollar helpline. “They’re not even in Germany. They’re in Hungary.” Which seemed to be her ultimate condemnation.

So the Russian and I are here together. And as he couldn’t make it to Russia on Friday, he has decided to compensate by creating really horrible tasks which would use up the same amount of energy as, say, jogging to Russia would take. I came in from some non-errand or other on Friday to find all the flat’s internal doors closed and the place reeking of paint. I struck bingo with the first opened door (because it’s the closest. Not because of wisdom). There was the Russian in nothing but shorts, a mask and rubber gloves painting the kitchen table which he’d placed on an old shower-curtain, now being given a second chance in life as a dust-sheet. The kitchen table, which we found on the street, was being made over from a rather nice blue, which used to make me think it might easily not be out of place in a painting in Arles, to white, which made me think it might easily not be out of place in a particularly sinister hospital ward, which is what the kitchen has now become. (Not literally. We haven’t started curing folk.)

“It’ll need four coats,” the Russian said relievedly, thinking the more work it was, the less time he’d have to think about how hard it is being alive. But nothing can need four coats of paint, can it? This just has to be the Russian soul thinking the more suffering the better. In any case, I think the Russian’s come round to thinking the kitchen table looks rather sinister white and has asked if there’s anything I’d like to paint on it which he could then lacquer. (Any ideas? That can be a separate game. Maybe if one of you comes up with an especially good, table-appropriate proverb, I’ll immortalise you… until the Russian decides to change the table’s colour again.)

Anyway, what this all means is that we’re having to eat not in the kitchen. (Oh god, I thought I’d reached blogging rock bottom with the poo. Perhaps new depths can still be plumbed.) Which was awfully convenient, especially for a more-than-seven-years couple. This flat is minuscule, vaguely, and eating in the kitchen meant sitting next to each other and staring at the wall. Which made conversation tricky. Which meant we could just be silent nicely. But now, while the final coats wait to be applied, we must sit OPPOSITE each other in the living room. Which is awfully embarrassing. I tried to talk of taxation and disestablishment of the church but it was no use. The Russian explained there was no sage in the Buletten he’d made. I examined closely the point at which the radiator pipes disappear into the wall. He went to turn up/down/over the music. I nicked a forkful from his plate while his back was turned. And I had my proverb. “Food never tastes as good from another’s plate.” I’m sure it’s probably awfully deep.

Right. Your turn.

Poo in a box July 27, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
20 comments

Darlings, let me apologise in advance for what, even by my facile, puerile standards, will be my most ludicrously facile and puerile post to date. It’s all gone very toilet-and-genitals around here of late – and the tradition ain’t abating yet – but I promise to write on the essence of being any month now.

My body is broken. To such a point that I’ve even had recourse to the medical profession. The doctor asked politely if I was suffering from stress and even though I like to think I have much the hardest fate in all humanity, I would have been hard pushed to call my maximum-sleep, minimum-work lifestyle stressful. “Mm, nöö,” I answered, unstressedly. She listed other factors likely to have contributed to my body’s breakdown. It was all in the acids, you see. “And what might have got my acids up?” I asked, reclining my chair just to prove how unstressed I was. “Alcohol, nicotine, coffee,” she rattled off, clearly not for the first time. I frowned to pretend I was only faintly acquainted with all of those evils and worried that she didn’t even bother to ask if I partook.

The ear’s currently the guilty organ. Similar grief before, when I ended up being prescribed vaginal cream. So I know it’s not to be taken lightly. Plus it’s been a week of pure social joy. The wonderful, beautiful, kind, modest, engaging, altruistic, thoughtful, divine AND, even more heavenlily, SMOKING Annie was in town with her pal, Emma, who is all those things but DOESN’T BLOG, for god’s sake, though she might be pesterable into it, you never know, so I had to get the ailment sorted so I could hear what they were saying and not have to spend the whole time catching my ear-goo. And, as the social gods were smiling on us, Mike held an utterly brilliant get-together which featured, if my Alzheimer’s allows, all these super-bloggers: Ben Perry, BerlinBites, Bowleserised, John Borland, Peasant Glasses and Zis German Life, plus a whole load of other non-blogging weirdos, so I just needed my faculties.

The doctor gushed an oceanful of warm water into my ears, which, I’m sorry to say, is actually better than sex. Took readings with instruments that would have looked space-age in 1975. Tested me for allergies by holding a substance a foot from my knee and then swinging a divining rod between the two and nodding with satisfaction that I was allergic to everything. Asked if my ears itched. (They do.) Asked how long I’d had this cold. (Oh. You know. A while.) And then asked that tricky question about what time of day the symptoms were worst, which I can never remember, so I always say a resounding yes to whichever she suggests first once she’s bored of my dim-foreigner silence. (Yes, half four in the morning!)

“Well, we’ll do a dipsy-dosy test and then come back in two weeks.” The receptionist seemed to be in charge of the dipsy-dosy test. I followed her around the surgery like a particularly servile dog and then realised I was to be sent on my way with instructions and containers to do the test at home. The instruction sheet had helpfully been crossed at all the bits I can’t ignore. Then she opened a neat little cardboard box with two sealable tupperware test-tubes inside. “Put your poo in here up to this level, then seal it inside the bigger test-tube and then send it off in the box.”

The odd thing is that poo-post is free.

Real black people and Suzanne Vega July 19, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
52 comments

I was a bit skint, so the Russian and I decided to go on holiday. Thank heavens for Barclaycard.

We went to “Germany’s most beautiful island”, Rügen, and it’s the only German island I’ve ever been to, so I can’t claim to think otherwise. It’s about an inch off the coast, next to Hanseatic Stralsund, accessible from Berlin by one of those trains that stops at every bird’s nest and makes you work out the British Rail journey time from London to Glasgow and realise that, contrary to all logic, yep, this train really is slower.

We arrived just in time for a party to celebrate something or other at the bandstand on a promenade an inch from the beach. A tackier (or more enjoyable) occasion you could not have asked for, even by the sea. A compère with yellow hair played music just as bad as you’d hope for – Eye of the Tiger, D-I-S-C-O and so many more – and occasionally even sang along, with perhaps a sway of the hips and a click of the fingers.

We were still at the orientation stage of the trip when we stumbled across the party. We’d found the sea, cleverly. We saw what the resort-town Binz looked like. We saw the holiday-makers there were quite a mix – young and old and, which made us feel quite exotic, almost all German – and that the place had no designs on coolness at all. The party was just warming up when we got there. Some real black people, invited over from the mainland, no doubt, were trying their best not to think of suicide and the tokenism as they knocked out the odd cover-version or two. Folk stood around, but it was all just like a wedding with only the children, a couple of teenage girls and one or two ancient couples waltzing about while everyone else concentrated on boozing.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said one of the real black people, in English, oddly, which I think was meant to add to the exoticism – Look, people, we have real black entertainers on Rügen! – “…raise your hands in the air for… (unbearable tension)… Miss Tina Turner!” “Fucking hell, there’s a turn-up for the books,” I thought, until out onto the stage strutted a person whose only similarity to Tina Turner was that she was a black woman. OK, so she could sing and strut too. But I was thinking it was all a tack-overload.

The people-watching was brilliant. In true northern European fashion, everyone present got slaughtered. The acts were all very summer-season-in-Sunderland. But at some unnoticed critical juncture, the party went from early-wedding to full swing. Young and old danced side-by-side. I looked on in envy. If the Russian wasn’t ashamed to be a homo in public, you can bet your bottom pfennig I’d have been on that dance-floor waltzing away to The Macarena with the rest of them. As it was, I had to content myself with a rush of love for the Germans (and getting slaughtered on provincial Mojitos, which are a glass of rum). This was supreme tack, everyone knew it, and they all had a rollicking good time. Willing to make the most of it. Russians (apart from the Russian) would do likewise. I wondered if my teenage nieces and nephews would waltz with their parents/grandparents, or would sit on a bench with folded arms.

But it can’t all be fun, fun, fun. There was sunbathing to be done, an island to explore and bikes to be hired. Prora is one of the island’s main attractions. A million-kilometre long building designed as a Nazi Butlins, which was never finished and was subsequently used by the GDR army as barracks. It’s an extraordinary sight, today houses a museum or two, and skirts the best beach on the island. The Russian and I parked our bikes, noted happily that we were there at just the wrong time to tour the museums and trolled down to the beach.

Well, it was organisms all over the place. There is a notional separation of regular bits of beach from the Freikörperkultur – or nudist – ones, but some folk seemed to go naked anywhere and others seemed happy to keep their kit on with people’s bits bobbing around beside them. The Russian and I settled on a non-nudist bit, technically, but the majority of folk had their bits out. And, exposed genitalia aside, it was interesting to observe. Germans, especially eastern Germans, are famed for their non-shyness about nudity and that is no doubt largely what contributes to the utterly ordinary atmosphere there. There is no shyness, no perviness, no leeriness, no staring, no giggling, no pointing. Next to us, a group of 20- and 30-somethings was playing volleyball. Some were in the buff, some not. Willies were flying everywhere. But there appeared not to be a hint of embarrassment (or competition) at, presumably, a group of work pals letting it all hang out at the beach. I thought it was only fair to go with the flow and whipped my willy out too. Ten seconds later, a family with three teenage children sat an inch away from me. No-one paid the tiniest bit of attention. (Bastards.) And I was unconscious – I mean not conscious about it, not that I blacked out – after three seconds. And, do you know, it was lovely. Ordinary. OK-feeling. Utterly uncringeworthy. To be recommended. And this was with the sporty beauties around. And obese non-beauties. And regular neither-heres-nor-theres on the beauty stakes. And me, whose body looks like an x-ray with a beer-belly.

“Fuck, darling, I haven’t shaved my minge,” I hollered, in my only moment of worrying perhaps I’d got some aspect of etiquette wrong. While the sporty boys seemed very casual and ordinary about it all, I did notice they’d all shaved. I had a quick non-pervy look round (with my binoculars). Shit, everyone had shaved their muffs. Then a woman loomed into view with a veritable riot of pubes and I was at peace once more.

But you can’t look at willies and fannies and compare pube-cuts all day. The Russian and I got back on our bikes and headed for the white cliffs further up the coast. Darlings, my one hint for the non-professional biker is, if (potentially) cycling through a national park, ignore all the signs for cycle-paths and stick to the road. The cycle-paths may have been all scenic and green, but they are a bazillion times more circuitous and a lot less smooth than a lovely, tarmacked road. We got lost a million times. Had to carry the bastard bikes up and down staircases hewn in the forest (and we didn’t have groovy mountain-bikes but shitty old rust-buckets that any nun would be proud of). And ended up cycling a million miles further than if we’d just gone the way of the motor-car. 100km we reckon we clocked up (instead of 60). If you ever have the choice of two bikely routes to point B and option 1 is five inches on a forest bike-path and option 2 is 793 miles on a delicious, car-clogged road, go for option 2 every time.

The last day was a bike-free, sore-arse, stiff-and-sunburnt kind of day. The Russian and I arguing about where to have a shandy. Him aiming high and wanting to go to empty places with funky furniture and all very designy, me wanting to go to the trashy place next door with plastic tablecloths and a reassuring number of overweight families. I accidentally ordered the Russian the wrong drink which was, naturally, a cue for us to remind each other what bad luck we’ve both had to find each other and how we’re both much wickeder than Pol Pot and remember the time you did that? And what about that time? And when you?

Suzanne Vega came on the radio. And we all know it’s only one step from Suzanne Vega to Tracy Chapman. But that’s the kind of place Rügen is. Very Suzanne Vega and Tracy Chapman.

We took the train home.

My Allen-Carr Mojito epiphany and other ideas July 9, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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37 comments

Darlings, I’m having so many good ideas at the moment, I’m a bit worried I might have to get a second head, or, alternatively, that my foot will fall off. In any case, I’m a public-spirited kind of chap and I think it’s only right that I share the fruits of my one-man brainstorming sessions with you. As ever, inspiration came during a silent but lubricated dinner-for-two. I was in a mega looking-out-the-window mood. Perhaps in search of a sign of summer. Whatever the weather, it did the trick. My perceptive senses would have been the pride of any sniffer-dog.

So, my Allen-Carr-like epiphany means I can now help you all give up booze. Or, rather, wean you of booze. Or, even more precisely, wean you off cocktails with a strong hint of lime in their make-up. I’ll be putting it to the test myself any year now, of course, and will keep you up-to-date with how I’m getting on. So hands up who needs to give up Caipirinhas and Mojitos… Mm-yes. Very good. Mind you, I’m not sure Mojitos do have lime in them after all. Do they, darlings? Something green, other than the mint, is definitely springing to mind as I flash it back to happy times spent downing them and paying with my credit card. Hopeless in this weather, of course. There should at least be a suggestion of warmth to ideally suit Mojito-quaffing. Whereas it is currently so freezing that I have to have the heating on and wonder how the mosquitoes – freshly arrived on the scene – are surviving. (And also wondered if mosquitoes migrate, and these ones have arrived from Scandinavia in search of heat and blood.) (Mind you, at least mosquitoes seem dim and are easy to kill. None of the wiliness of flies. And you think evolution might have taught them that if they want a chance of a bit of a suck without being splatted to death within half a second, it might be an idea not to announce your arrival with a buzz. Twats. They’re slower than flies too, in spite of their more svelte frames. A failure all round, really, mosquitoes. Unless one views malaria as a success.) (I don’t, personally.) Plus, my Allen-Carr Mojito epiphany, which surfaced as I had my nose deep inside a glass of mineral water with a slice of lime in it, made me also flash my mind back, or sideways, or somewhere or other, to this nice noise from Volver – do people know that Lůkáš loathes Almodóvar? Shall we all go over there and make him feel weird? – and I wondered also – non-stop wondering round here these days, let me tell you – if that was Penélope Cruz’s voice. It probably wasn’t. It also made me think of Penélope Cruz’s breasts, which I consider very pretty. I think, as a homo, I’m allowed to say this without being accused of anything. Which, boys, is an awfully good trick. Although I don’t know how much longer I can spin this homo-lie out for. Just as well the Russian did some shot-putting in her youth. Anyway, hands up who else finds Penélope and her boobs pretty…

So, yes, the epiphany. Well, I had such a strong flashback to lime-containing cocktails as I knocked back my glass of mineral water with a slice of lime in it that I was suddenly washed over in brilliance. “This fab idea could help millions,” I internalised as I gazed out the dirty window at the Hinterhaus. I can’t be bothered to write a book and make a fortune from clinics so, philanthropist that I am, I’m going to give you the tip for free. Gratitude may be expressed, along with your thoughts on Penélope’s pretty bristols, in the comments box.

So, how to give up Caipirinhas and Mojitos? First, get absolutely hammered on Caipirinhas or Mojitos. Then, hopefully with the assistance of a friend or member of the waiting staff whom you’ve alerted to your strategy beforehand, when you’re too hammered to notice the difference, start getting the Caipis or Mojitos you order automatically replaced with a glass of water with a massive, fuck-off slice of lime in it. As long as the lime smells strong enough, I’m convinced you’ll be convinced. Once I fine-tune some of the details, I might write a book after all.

Darlings, while I’m on, though I realise I could string this out to another post, but who knows when I’ll have had enough red wine to be bothered to write again, I must tell you the upshot of a conversation with a pal further to the events at Glasgow Airport whenever that was and you must all tell me if it’s worth writing a book on or getting on to a think-tank about. Well, my friend and I could only conclude that folk who want to kill lots of people (and themselves into the bargain) are morally reprehensible. Loathsome, even. Horrid. Despicable. And mean. Personally, I think it’s a poor idea to kill (yourself and others) for your cause. I was already livid enough that someone or other had tried to shoot down the President of Ivory Coast’s plane. What about the other folk on board? Are they collateral damage? Fair game? And then folk driving themselves into airport buildings but doomed to a smeatonly failure! Anyway. I’m all for freedom of choice. And while I would discourage hot-headed youths, and even grown-ups, if that is the case, from killing themselves and others because not everyone thinks as they do, I don’t want to restrict their right to death. So my friend and I wondered if they might not just see fit to kill themselves in future. All sorts of interests are catered for in this day and age. Shopping centres and other public spots have baby-changing facilities (where you can go and change your baby for one you like more). Airports and other communal buildings have quiet spaces or prayer rooms where folk of whatever persuasion takes them can go and do their thang. I’ve even heard that Dutch or Danish town-planners factor in concentrations of foliage so gay men can go cruising. So I think we need to cater to the suicide-bomber. My friend and I thought that perhaps landfill sites could be made suicide-friendly. There, misguided types could be allowed to blow themselves to kingdom come while making sure that all health and safety requirements were met. And then they could biodegrade nicely.

I don’t know why I have to blog everything today, but as I’m on, this story (with a video bit too, to bring home the sheer wickedness of it all) simultaneously made me cry and turn into my mother/Melanie Phillips (not that I mean Melanie Phillips is my mother, because she isn’t), shaking my head in disbelief and asking (myself) what the world had come to. Contrary to the Russian’s assertions, it all proves that I am, at the very worst, only the fourth wickedest person on the planet.

PS. Thank you to Sylvia for pointing out my case of egregious mistaken identity.