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Tables, visas, quacks August 6, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

Nothing to write. At all. So let’s go over some old ground.

The Russian has surpassed himself in making an elephant out of a fly (as our German and Russian cousins like to say) of the unnecessary yet seemingly-simple task of giving the kitchen table a make-over. It must now be seventeen coats to the good and I have to say I’m gripped by whatever incarnation it will eventually end up in. Its first fifteen (or thereabouts) coats consisted in getting it from that lovely blue I talked about in some post or other to a rather Spartan white. As lazily minimalistic as we are on the decor front, I did think this was pushing things a tad, but with a resplendent bunch of some thorny-looking flower that the Russian found somewhere with a nice orange bloom, the ensemble had a not unpleasing finish.

And then a stripe. Blue. About nine thirteenths of the way down the whitescape. I was transported to Haifa, circa 1947. (The owner of this blog would like to make clear that he bears no liability for the depiction of ‘facts’ which can only be called wrong. Or pre-Israel Israeli accents which can only be called London.)

David – “‘ere, Yitzhak, you come up wiv a design for a flag yet?”

Yitzhak – “I ain’t makin’ that good progress, Dave, now’s you ask.”

David – (aside) “Rifka, whydya recommend Yitzhak for the job?”

Rifka – “His bruvver’s me sister’s doctor, inne? He said he was good wiv designin’ stuff.”

David – “So how far ‘ave you got?”

Yitzhak – “Well, I thought we’d have a nice white background. And then a blue stripe about nine firteenfs the way dairn.”

David – (to Rifka) “I don’t know who’s the bigger meshuggeneh, you or ‘im. A flag I ask for and a stripe he gives me, ‘nine firteenfs the way dairn’.”

Rifka – (to David) “Dave, don’t be ‘arsh. You know he’s been very busy with the kibbutzim.”

Yitzhak – “…and then summink Jewish in the middle, like one of ’em candlesticks. And maybe anuvver stripe.”

Though subsequent events have brought me back from the Middle East. A new stripe has appeared. Grey. And with no respect for vexillological tradition, pre-Israel or otherwise. There is talk of another stripe and further huffing and puffing, all of which will only shine further light on the work-shirking me.

Darlings, and you wouldn’t believe quite how incompetent British visa bureaucracy has become. My life is now a tawdry correspondence between me-as-the-Russian and Hungarian pen-pushers. “Dear Hungarian pen-pusher, further to my previous seventeen e-mails, each of which you have failed to read or, if not, in which you have failed to answer my one very simple question, i.e. have I, Mr. Russian, been granted a visa and have you sent me my passport back?, I ask again, have I, Mr. Russian, been granted a visa and have you sent me my passport back?” “Dear Mr. Russian, you can see online that your case has been dealt with and your passport has been sent back to you.” “Dear Hungarian pen-pusher, thank you for your eighteenth identically-worded and inadequate answer. As I have pointed out to you seventeen times, we both know that information is false, because the one time I did manage to speak to a human in Düsseldorf, she told me that the online info was an arrant lie and there merely to placate angry visa-applicants who would rather like their passports back.” “Dear Mr. Russian. OK, you’ve finally sapped my will to resist. I’ll get onto someone at Düsseldorf and ask. So can you give me the details of your application?” “Dear Hungarian pen-pusher. By application details, you mean precisely those which have been included in each of the e-mails I’ve already written you?” “Dear Mr. Russian. Yep, that’s them.” “Dear Hungarian pen-pusher…” Sometimes progress has much to answer for.

And just when I was beginning to enjoy my spate of summer run-ins with the quacks – think I might squeeze in the asthma dr. soon while I’m on a roll – my ear-quack has lost my confidence and made me think she’s mad. I went back on cue today to explain my ear was still generating an unsightly goo. On this occasion, she didn’t even bother looking at my ears themselves but resorted exclusively to swinging her divining rod between my knee and some bottles, muttering to herself reassuringly throughout. Then she prescribed me another new set of drops, each of which has 99% alcohol content and costs a small fortune. Mad as a brush, or getting a commission from the dumb foreigner with posh health insurance. Can’t decide which.

Still, it’s reassuringly sane-feeling-making doing business with the inane and the inept.



1. Blonde at Heart - August 7, 2007

Unlike the story in your post, the flag was actually well thought-of. There were two suggestions, one by Herzl, who proposed to have a white flag with seven silver stars on it, and Nordau’s suggestion, which is the flag you know today.

2. Ed Ward - August 7, 2007

Couldn’t you just drink the ear drops? Sounds like the best answer at the moment.

3. pleite - August 7, 2007

Ed, I do drink them. I hope that’s why they’re not so disgusting, because they’re meant to be tipped down my ear. No, they’re for drinking, with, I recommend, should anyone ever get ear-sick, as strong-tasting a liquid as possible to disguise the taste. They are total puke.

BaH, damn, I knew I was probably quite far off the mark. Have tried to find an image of Herzl’s flag, but have only come up with a sketch. And then theories that the two stripes on the real flag – this would never have happened if my Yitzhak had been in charge – represent the Nile and the Euphrates. Apparently it was something Arafat used to moan about.

4. Sil - August 7, 2007

BiB, if you think it would help, and as long as it’s not too long, I’d be happy to translate your visa/passport inquiry into Hungarian; perhaps that would speed things up? Alas, it is rather slow in the Canadian bureaucracy at the moment…

5. pleite - August 7, 2007

Sil, thank you. Or köszönöm. That would be fun, wouldn’t it? They’d get a bit of a surprise, all of a sudden me enquiring in Hungarian. Of course nowhere is it intimated that you’re dealing with a call-centre in Hungary, but the human I had fleeting contact with in Düsseldorf revealed the secret. In any case, sadly, language doesn’t seem to be the problem so no need to trouble you yet. The Hungarians answer quickly enough, and in perfectly good English; it’s just that they don’t know any more than anyone else. Wedding to go to in twelve days’ time…

6. Valerie in San Diego - August 8, 2007

I suspect you’d do better if you stole the Russian’s paint, and put THAT in your ear…

Though I have to say the table sounds rather lovely. It might not look so flaglike if you made him paint it with ear drops. Hrm.

7. Marsha Klein - August 8, 2007

Perhaps, having painstakingly painted the table white, the Russian now intends to cover it in stripes of different colours so that, eventually, he can paint it all white again and so on, until his visa & passport arrive…?

Sorry to hear (no pun intended) that your ear is still giving you gyp. Earache is second only to dental pain in my book.

Whose wedding? (none of my business, I know, just being nosy!)

8. pleite - August 8, 2007

Marsha, hers. Christ, it took me for ever to find that post, which was lovely, because it meant I didn’t have to do any work. She is an old university pal, marrying a Kraut, whom we also know, and they’ll be moving to Berlin for a year (or so) after the wedding, so we’ve ended up connected in a number of ways.

And, Marsha, even more importantly, I’ve finally watched a few episodes of Spaced, thanks to youtube, so I now have a much better understanding of everything. I even heard, “Skip to the end,” and Marsha Klein is wonderful. I wish there was much more of her in the show. If you don’t fall asleep on my lap with a fag hanging out of your mouth while you’re here, I’ll be most annoyed.

…and you might be right about the table. Officially, I think the plan is still for just one more stripe, but I think even more important than the design is the keeping-busy-factor of doing it at all. Russians don’t bother with suicide and depression and that sort of thing. I’m sure it’s because they’re great distractionists. In day-to-day life in Russia, there was always something to repair or to improve. Worked a treat.

…and thank you on the ear-front. Luckily, this time it isn’t actually ag. But I’ve had ear-ag, and I agree it’s ag of the worst sort. This is just annoying. Messy and deaf-making. Slightly annoying that the dr. didn’t even look last time!

Valerie, actually, it might not be a bad idea for us to exchange liquids. One of my many liquids is in fact a powder, but when I turn it magically into liquid (water’s my spell’s secret ingredient), it looks and tastes exactly like paint. Or exactly like I imagine paint to taste. Then there are my two sets of drops, to be drunk, which taste like paint-stripper, perhaps. Maybe the painting and pharmaceutical branches have gone into business together… But to the Russian’s credit, you’re right, the table does look rather nice, even if it still is, as yet, the unfinished product.

9. marshaklein - August 8, 2007

Sooo pleased you’ve discovered “Spaced”, which is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. The whole Klein family are fans, although recently, when I asked them all who they’d prefer as next door neighbours, the characters in “Spaced” or the characters in “Friends”, everyone of them said “Friends”! Bah!

10. pleite - August 8, 2007

No. I refuse to believe it. They’re all so nice in Spaced. (I don’t like the male’s best friend, though.) I don’t know why I’ve never heard of it. Mind you, it’s getting old now. Have the stars all gone on to achieve great things or are they all just in The Bill?

11. marshaklein - August 9, 2007

Simon Pegg (Tim ) has co-written a couple of excellent movie comedies – “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” – with Edgar Wright (who produced “Spaced”). Nick Frost (Mike) (who co-stars in both Simon Pegg’s movies) is currently on BBC 2 in the OK-ish “Hyperdrive”. He was also in a rather weak sketch show “Man Stroke Woman”. Mark Heap (Brian) was of course in the wonderful, luminous “Green Wing”. Jessica Stevenson (Daisy) had a sitcom of her own, which I think she also wrote. It wasn’t great. I think Julia Deakin (Marsha) appears in “Hot Fuzz” but, other than that I’m not sure what she and Katy Carmichael (Twist) have done since.
More information can be found here


12. pleite - August 9, 2007

Marsha, thank you for the top info. So Daisy and Tim actually wrote the show too? How wonderful. I hope they’ve at least had an affair if they haven’t gone the whole hog and fallen in love. I’ve watched the whole of the first series now and have started on series 2. The site you link to claims there’s going to be a third series, but is that out-of-date now? Or was there a third series which I just haven’t come across?

13. marshaklein - August 9, 2007

There hasn’t been a third series and I don’t think there will be one. I think the second series ends nicely ambiguously, allowing for a number of possible endings. Having said that, there’s always this to consider

It appears on the “definitive” DVD edition (which I don’t have. Yet)

14. pleite - August 10, 2007

Yes, it would be tough to make one after such a long time, unless they ignored the time-factor, which would be tricky, unless the show took on an air of The Simpsons.

I’ll trawl my way through the second series eventually. I really must do a drop of work between now and Christmas though. Still, no need to rush.

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