Real black people and Suzanne Vega July 19, 2007Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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.