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Anyone for proverbs? July 30, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

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.



1. Karl-Marx-Straße - July 30, 2007

“Never automatically assume you’ve entered the wrong bar if you find a Russian in nothing but shorts, a mask and rubber gloves, but in both cases, make sure you are careful what you put your fingers on, it could be sticky”

2. Karl-Marx-Straße - July 30, 2007

That’s less of a proverb, more a kind of helpful advice.

3. bowleserised - July 30, 2007

“White tables in the morning, Russian’s warning”


4. annie - July 30, 2007

Ah, I’d always thought it was ‘food always tastes better from another’s plate’. Maybe it’s a girl thing – we always like to nick other people’s chips.

I shall be back when I’ve thought of a proverb.

5. MountPenguin - July 30, 2007

“Call centre abroad, customer-facing stakeholder-orientated solution implemented”?

6. Karl-Marx-Straße - July 30, 2007

“Free banking, No free cash machines anywhere/higher balance in savings accoung/fridge empty”?

7. Billy - July 30, 2007

If you walk around with your eyes shut for long enough you will fall asleep.

8. pleite - July 30, 2007

Darlings, you’re all too brilliant and should be at Oliver Kamm’s place, not here. Well, maybe you drop in there too.

Billy, is that true? I sometimes set myself the rather pointless challenge of walking along the street with my eyes closed. I have to make sure I’ve got a good, personless, straight stretch ahead of me and then I try to make myself walk 10 steps with my eyes shut. Never manage it. I haven’t dropped off yet, though, for fear of turning into River Phoenix.

Karl, two excellent tips. Though Shakespeare would be confused by the second one. I often worry about Shakespeare accidentally coming back from the dead and being flummoxed by our modern ways. Though anyone else from the past would do just as well as an example. Florence Nightingale. Jesus. Jack the Ripper. And, well, I suppose the first one might throw him (or whomsoever) a bit too, actually. (You’re not hungry, are you?)

Penguin, brilliant, though both Shakespeare and I are a bit confused, if I may speak on behalf of the as yet unresuscitated playwright. I’m scared of all that type of word. So I probably need a few more proverbs in that area, actually. Good stuff!

Annie, it’s my sister’s favourite pastime. I thought it must be the case too, but have decided it isn’t, which probably marks a fantastically important shift whereby I no longer think getting something for nothing is good. Which is a sure sign of ancientness.

B., excellent. And quite right. It’s a sign that he’s in a let’s-have-a-long-protracted-period-of-sheer-utter-misery mood. All pleasure has been banished. Pleasure (for him) can now only be achieved either by doing something unspeakably ghastly, like painting wasps, or getting me to do something equally loathsome, or moaning at me for not doing something equally loathsome. I had the cheek to eat earlier, which he saw as particularly wanton behaviour.

My next proverb, staying with food, is, “A chef requiring coriander won’t be fooled by parsley,” which means that a chef requiring coriander won’t be fooled by parsley.

9. Karl (drinking some organic milk) - July 30, 2007

How about “If milk’s going to go up in price by 50%, you might as well buy the organic stuff now anyway”? It’s not strictly speaking a proverb. Or is it?

10. MountPenguin - July 30, 2007

Well, what I meant is, from your description it sounds like people in suits were given the task of overhauling the UK visa distribution system, making it fit for the globalised security challenges of the 21st century. Following some blue sky thinking there was probably root-and-branch reform of the legacy system bringing forward a new, more flexible and responsive operating environment into harmony with the customers’ 360 degree interaction experience.

(Translation: the costs of the new IT system were probably about ten times the savings made by moving the call centre somewhere where the locals speak a language similar to, but not entirely like English).

(I’m in the wrong business, methinks. Time to whip out the tie and call myself a consultant).

11. pleite - July 30, 2007

Penguin, you are, indeed, consultant material. Do you know I once called myself a consultant. I can’t really remember who consulted me, or about what, but I felt confident enough to have cards printed with ‘BiB – Translator/Consultant’ on them, but was then too embarrassed ever to give them out. But they’ve come in very handy as coasters. Anyway, I’m sure you’re spot on about why the visa section has gone to pot. An agency now takes care of the application process, utterly unnecessarily, as the decision is still made in Düsseldorf so they still have to read the bastards. I think the agency folk check you’ve sent all the papers. Seems an unnecessary inter-stage to me. And it’s all now super-slow, and, as the system is broken and the call-centre people can only tell you what you can see on-line, which says his passport was sent over a week ago, but then you can’t be put through to the real people who know, i.e. those in Düsseldorf – I don’t know why picking up the phone has become such a chore for them – there really is no way at all of finding out the full, unadulterated truth. Fantastically annoying. And expensive. Looking at changing his flight for a second time. Throwing 100s of euros down the drain. Bugger.

Karl, yes, or we can proverb it up a bit. Something like, “A non-organic penny saved is no economy,” or something annoyingly smug-soundling like that, which you can imagine people saying as they bake their own bread happily at 5am before dashing out to open up the hostel for sick squirrels which they run from 6 till 8 every second Tuesday.

12. Appy Linguist - July 30, 2007

Pointless work:

I temped at a Danish government agency last February and March. When people sent application forms for various things we dealt with, the Danish post office opened the letters, scanned them, and sent us the scanned versions electronically. My role was to print the post – by a long, complicated process – and then sort it into piles. Then the case workers could deal with them.


I was just watching a TV programme about wild boars in Westphalia. At one stage they showed one lying in a pool of water. It then got up and went off to look for some grub. The commentator said:

Auch ein faules Schwein muß irgendwann fressen.

‘Even a lazy pig has to eat at some stage.’

I had just been thinking a moment beforehand that I ought to shift my arse and grab something to eat. The timing was spot-on!

13. annie - July 30, 2007

‘Weissbier good, white wine bad’ was all I could come up with.

This proverb was inspired by my hangover on Friday morning.

14. emma - July 30, 2007

A proverb for non-sequiter loving Catholics –

“Better an old table painted than the Papal one tainted”

15. emma - July 30, 2007

oops, I mistakenly thought papal and table rhymed – it´s a p and a b thing. How about “4 legs good, last coat bad”

16. MountPenguin - July 30, 2007

Interesting, non-proverbial milk-related fact: in 1991 a litre of milk in Berlin cost DM 1.39, which I believe is about 71c. At some point during the late 1990s it went down to DM 1.19, and has only recently gone up from 55c to 62c (uniformly across all supermarkets I shop in; I suspect price-fixing).

Apparently the Chinese are to blame for recent and coming price rises in the dairy sector, due to an increasing demand for powdered milk.

17. Appy Linguist - July 30, 2007

I’m currently correcting essays (still!), and a few of them aren’t all that good. It’s making me crazy enough to liken myself to wild animals in the forest.

I’m not sure if that means I’m marking bad or barking mad!

(Sorry – I’ll get my coat…)

18. pleite - July 31, 2007

“That which has always been accepted by everyone, everywhere, is almost certain to be false.” (A propos of nothing. Just found it stored on the comp and thought it might not fit in too badly here.)

Appy, you old pun-meister, you! And I remember you doing that job. Weren’t you alongside a jobsworth who used to race you? And more food proverbs. Excellent!

Penguin, I am clearly not consultant material as I would have thought that increased demand would make things cheaper. Mind you, I think I vaguely approve of food being expensive. I am always particularly unhappy if I find meat that costs 1 euro, for example. As they say (now), “A fairly-priced good is better appreciated.”

Emma, is that you? Barcelona-Berlin Emma? Bloody hell! Hello, if so. But what’s this about Papal legs and table’s coats? I think there’s an old saying about Pontifex and Pontefract, but I can’t be sure.

Annie, you poor thing. Did we have quite a shant on Thursday, then? Of course I thought we were remarkably abstemious, but then I might have lost touch with alcohol respectability quite some time ago. But as the old saying goes, “Don’t measure your hang-over with a teetotaller’s yardstick.”

19. Appy Linguist - July 31, 2007

Very vaguely food-connected: the best fridge magnet I’ve ever seen (that’s the connection – food… fridge) said on it:

Everyone else seems normal – until you get to know them.

Except it was in Danish. It meant a lot to me at the time, anyway. Not sure if it counts as a proverb, though.

Yes, that was the one. I hear his efforts have paid off, and he’s now been promoted to stapling. Well done, that man.

20. pleite - July 31, 2007

Yes, I agree with that fridge-magnet philosophy. We know that no-one is normal now and that normality is greatly overrated. I’ve still got a bit of respect for sanity, mind.

Promoted to stapling? Yes, go him. Remember Brenda Blethyn being proud of being, “the only one on slits,” in Secrets and Lies?

21. Billy - July 31, 2007

I don’t know if it’s true, I just like the sound of it. I’m going to scour Beckett this evening, he’s bound to have some stuff I could adopt as proverbs

22. emma - July 31, 2007

Yes! It is Barcelona-Berlin Emma! And I´m going to put much more work into my comments in the future, promise…

23. bye bye bellulah - August 1, 2007

A Feast of Friends is the best Soul Food. Banquet on Life. Let them eat cake…and cheese, and meat and drink fine wine and share it all with friends and lovers.

Do I get my Hallmark TV contract now?

24. Appy Linguist - August 1, 2007

Haven’t seen Secrets and Lies, I’m afraid.

Re sanity: the word reminds me – totally unconnected – that one of my students recently informed me in writing that he couldn’t attend my seminar “for sanitary reasons”.

I must remember to get some more deodorant, or maybe he should – it was unclear who had the problem…

25. Arabella - August 1, 2007

Here ya go:
“What doesn’t kill you… can however be fucking annoying”

26. Sil - August 1, 2007

Well, let’s try this one: What’s the only thing worse than being sexually harassed? Not being sexually harassed.

Ugh, how un-Canadian of me to utter such nastiness! But spare me your Bronx cheers ;-)

27. pleite - August 2, 2007

Sil, you bad Canadian! It must be the naughty Hungarian in you. I am never sexually harassed, and I agree it’s a great pity. An old man did do something naughty to me on the metro during a strike in Paris, so the metro was quadruply packed, and there was little I could do in the throng to escape his attentions. Where I went, his hand went with me. Actually, another old man did something very indecent on the Tube in London when I was a teenager. I told him it was rude and he stopped.

Arabella, I’m afraid you know all too well what you’re talking about. I’m sorry. And I hope it’s not driving you mad. (Excellent swearing, by the way.) Tell me the philosophical spin-off, please. Making you all thoughtful and shoulder-shruggy and that’s-life-ish or just it’s-a-bloody-pain-in-the-arse and I’m-not-going-to-deign-to-even-be-philosophical-about-it-ish?

Appy, I think I can recommend Secrets and Lies, although any Mike Leigh film seems to come, for me, with its fair share of cringe moments. I wish Timothy Spall hadn’t blubbed when he did. May I recommend, while we’re on film, and seeing as you’re here, you’re queer and you’re not going shopping – sorry, the last part of the ‘quote’ doesn’t work, but forgive me – Coming Out, East Germany’s famousest gay film. It would be even better if you were here in Berlin and then you could say, “Ooh, look, that’s Alexanderplatz,” but it’s well worth a watch. I refuse to believe you smell, by the way. Bloggers don’t smell.

Bellulah, you do, you do. And I couldn’t agree more about the cheese, meat and fine wine. Although I need to have a year off booze, really. But red wine doesn’t count, does it? Seeing as it’s good for you, and helps you lose weight, and stops heart attacks etc. etc. Are there no proverbs which encourage smoking AT ALL?

Emma, I beseech you, there’s no need for effort. Well, I don’t discourage effort, but this comment box is for you to write whatever the bugger comes into your head. When I moved to France a billion years ago, it was all a bit lonely and a struggle and I’d just split up with someone. I rang an old friend, an Englishman who’s lived in France for ever. I caught him pissed. And he said, “Do ring. Even if you just want to be silent. Or just cry.” All in a vaguely French sort of posh English accent, which added to the moment. Anyway, my comment box is here for the same reason. Although you can also comment when happy! (You usurped your gent’s blog yet?)

Billy, I like the sound of it too, and we can get all metaphorical with it, and assume that the walking-round-with-your-eyes-shut bit means walking around not noticing what’s going on around you and the sleep bit being that you’ve become unsentient (or something) and might as well be sleep-walking your way through life. Which I think I am, actually.

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