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Past perfect September 26, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

Just a quickie.

The perfect friend has been and gone. His new girlfriend is perfect. He has got slightly more perfect since I last saw him. Cooking was kept to a minimum. I didn’t sneeze all over them. The Russian is back, which is perfect. We went out to dinner as a perfect foursome tonight and that passed off perfectly, even though I thought the floor might tip up as the Russian and I both sat on one side of the table and the perfect Finns sat sveltely on the other. But it withstood the strain.

A dear friend and his boyfriend, the beautiful friend – I helped get them together, so I can die happy – held a bash on Saturday night. The perfect friend and his girlfriend agreed to come along. I also dragged perfect bloggeress B. along and she agreed, perfectly, to be dragged. The perfect friend is probably perfectly unaware that when anyone ever meets him, the conversation that ensues within one second of him leaving earshot is about his beauty. The dear friend, the perfect bloggeress and I popped out onto the balcony for a ciggie so we could discuss the perfect friend’s perfection. “He is gorgeous,” commented the dear friend, hostlily. “He looks just like a Finnish A_ – my perfect friend was a Finnish A_ – I was neighbours with in California in the early 80s,” B. added.

I put off the ciggie.

“B., he DID live in California in the early 80s.”

We turned on our heels and once we’d calmed down from the palpitations his renewed beauty inspired, B. asked if he’d lived on such and such a street.

“Perkele jumalauta saatana vittu!” he exclaimed. “I’d just said to my perfect girlfriend that you looked familiar!”

Cue ferocious reminiscing, photos being taken on mobiles and sent to siblings, a quick mobile chat between the perfect friend and B.’s brother and subsequent sterling work by the B. family in getting me old photos of the families and of the two sets of children playing together 25 years ago which I presented to the perfect friend this evening.

You’ve got to admit, as coincidences go, that’s a pretty good one.

Perfect September 20, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

Oh god. I’ve got guests coming. For three whole nights. And the Russian isn’t here. And I can’t cook. And we’ve only got one set of keys, and you can’t just go and get keys cut in Germany as, when you walk into a key-cutting shop to ask for them to cut keys, they look at you as if you are a criminal. Presumably the shops are there as part of a non-work work-creating scheme. Or for the key-cutting man who can’t cut keys to practise his skills just in case.

My guests are Finns, so at least from the nicest nation on earth, and my friend, the he in a couple, is perfect. Actually perfect. When I play that game with my old lady friend in England, you know, where you answer the questions that some famous person that you’ve never heard of has been asked in The Guardian, like when did you last have sex and what’s your greatest fear and how would you like to be remembered and there’s the question whom do you most admire, I always answer this Finnish friend. (My old lady answers her daughter. And sniggers at the when did you last have sex question.)

I’m not joking about the perfection. This friend is happy and can do everything. Academically he did something obscure and clever, partly in London (where I met him). He can speak a hundred languages (having a head-start in multilingualism by being a Swedish-speaking Finn). He can sail and do all sorts of clever sports. He can play piano (to the level where he gives concerts, even though it’s something he probably learnt one Thursday evening between rescuing people from an avalanche and finding homes for the indigent). And guitar. He can cook. He can sing. He adores his family and they adore him. He probably adores his new girlfriend and I suppose she adores him. He is charming, kind and modest. He’s got a job which I don’t think he loathes. And, to top it all off, he is tall, wiry and muscly and quite grotesquely beautiful. Who knows? He’s probably hung like a horse and a wizard in the sack too. I don’t know why he’s friends with me at all.

But what do I do with guests for three whole days? I’ll have to feign normality and go to bed at a normal time and get up at a normal time to provide a perfect breakfast. I’ll have to clean the flat so that they don’t catch diphtheria the moment they walk in. (Hopefully they’ve had their jabs.) And I’ll have to cook. Oh god, and I so can’t cook, as I have been reminded with stunning clarity while the Russian’s been away. The problem’s in the herbs. Whatever I cook, I always use the same effing herbs. Oregano, basil, tarragon and thyme. If I make a creamy pasta sauce, it’s oregano, basil, tarragon and thyme. A tomatoey one – oregano, basil, tarragon and thyme. Cheese on toast – oregano, basil, tarragon and thyme. A cup of tea – oregano, basil, tarragon and thyme. Every single dish I make ends up tasting precisely of washing-up liquid.

Oh fuck, and the flat stinks of smoke. Their bedroom – the living-room – is where I do my best smoking and more cigarettes have been smoked in this very room than in a Greek taverna holding a smoking competition. I’ve flung open the windows for the last god-knows-how-long, in spite of the freezingness. I’ve lit the scented candles which stink of cat’s piss. All to no avail. It’s been such a worry that I’ve had to start smoking again – and in this room – to ease the stress. Scrabbled around in jacket pockets to see if there were any fags left over from a spontaneous two-for-the-price-of-one piss-up last night. Thankfully, an elegant sufficiency.

It’s awfully difficult having friends, especially ones who make you feel genetically inferior. It’s times like these when you need a husband. I’m psychically punishing the Russian by sending him texts and e-mails of woe. Thankfully, he’s bored stiff in Russia now – he doesn’t much care for abroad either, it turns out – and wonders if it wouldn’t be the most obscenely preposterous idea for me to actually join him on one of these never-ending Russia trips. Imagine.

Right, I’m off to drink myself senseless.

I don’t much care for abroad September 12, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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If flying wasn’t such a loathsome experience, these non-stop trips to the island could be seen as mind-, horizon- and everything-broadening, but as it is, they just become something for me to moan about on a blog.

Though I should be grateful. Never having to leave the house apart from when I deem absolutely necessary means I am largely in control of the people I commune with. (Who those people are, I mean. Not that I have powers over them.) I meet my regular group of pals. Even the strangers I see have something of the familiar about them. Familiar local faces. Familiar neighbours. Familiar checkout ladies. I don’t have a commute. I don’t shop or hang out on the high street. I have my own queer little world, which usually has the Russian bobbing around pricklily in it, and strangers remain strange.

So trips to the island are excellent for a bit of people-watching and, reluctant as I am to admit it, having to have an airport involved makes the watching even better for the international angle.

As I drift sleepily through life, I am often only reminded that I live in Germany when a stranger addresses me. I jump out of my skin and think, “What the bugger am I doing here?” and then calm back down when the Russian pats me on the head and says, “There, there, BiB. Russian pat it better,” and explains that we moved here to escape persecution abroad. I drift back towards somnolence. And so it is as I make my way reluctantly towards England on flights from Berlin. The loathsomeness of airport security procedures – although I quite like that laptop-wiping thing they always do now. The only clean the bastard ever gets – is tempered by my imagining that I’m running off to Poland. Berlin-London is a popular route for Poles. And then I have the cultural shock of touching down at Gatwick or Luton and the carpets and the football uniforms and the great British public’s eyes wide with indignation at some perceived scandal or other and remember I’m not in Poland after all.

But, darlings, why don’t Poles play rugby? The men seem just the right shape. I queued up at passport control behind two identical Polish couples. Each woman was petite, had dyed hair that looked like an oil-slick on sand, and spoke in accusations. They bollockingly parried inquiries from other Polish women who wondered if this was the queue for Gatwick/Glasgow/Manchester. Each man was huge, the shape of a cupboard, had cropped blond hair and square shoes to match his shoulders. I would happily have snuggled up and got lost in one of their man-cleavages. When one of the man-mountains got to the front of the queue, and with the due deference of anyone who’s lived under authoritarianism, he rid his throat, adjusted his stance and straightened himself and his clothes up, thinking, mistakenly, this would make his head look less like an anvil.

England-by-Gatwick (not the name of a village or a service station on the M3) looks lovely from the air. And from the ground, indeed. That nice non-flatness that England is good at (as are other places, I hasten to add, non-jingoistically. No-one could call Nepal flat, for example) and the lovely irregular shape of the fields. Towns (i.e. Crawley) which might easily be shit-holes at ground level have their beauty from the air too. The neat (British English, not American) little houses, keeping each other warm. That helps lift the soul – as does a massively huge, rather testy-looking Indian man, sprouting hair from wherever possible, asking the eAsyjEt staff for a newspaper and, realising they didn’t have those, asking if they had anything at all in English to read and the trolley-dolly scampering dutifully off and coming back with some nonsense magazine – can’t remember its name. Damn! Is there a magazine called ‘New!’? (Note to self: buy notebook) – with stories about how someone from Girls Aloud had dissed someone from (or all of) The Spice Girls and him devouring it anyway – as you worry about the rigours of the trip ahead and how your exiled soul will cope with the motherland and will your family drive you mad and should you really have come when you have so much work to do and actually you can’t really afford all this carbon-pacing when you’re as skint as you are etc. etc.

9 million people waited their turn with the three (OK, maybe a few more) immigration officers on duty. By the time the scrum had got to a space wide enough to form queues, indignation was bubbling to the fore. Elderly English folk, in a way that any German pensioner would be proud of, hassled some queue-monitor who harried those with children into a queue of their own and then, once they’d realised their monitor-moan was fruitless, moaned to each other about all the foreigners making the queues so huge, which seemed to me an odd complaint, and even odder at an international airport…

And on into England proper. It’s always good when you’re worried you’re an alcoholic to go to England and see how ordinary people drink. The amount of booze consumed by me, my sister and brother-in-law over the course of the evening would have had me and the Russian crying, praying (before different icons) and ramming our fists into our chests for a week. But there we got slozzled, ate a ton of chocolate (the Russian and I would have had to do an extra week’s penance for that) and got up bright and breezy the next morning none the worse for wear. Another booze-heavy family occasion beckoned which must nearly have drained that wine-lake officials used to bemoan years ago, if it still exists. We asked each other the same questions we always ask each other and which we all know the answers to and drank the boredom away. Actually perfectly enjoyable until, of course, as the subject hadn’t been at the heart of every conversation on screen and off for eight seconds, someone started to talk, again, about that missing child and her potentially murderous parents.

I heard someone speaking Welsh behind me on the complimentary shuttle-bus to the airport. I was thrilled to bollocks. I’d never heard spontaneous Welsh before, even in Machynlleth and Dolgellau, so in Luton, the most soulless town in England, it was all the more exciting. I let my mind drift off towards visions of a comely lady, perhaps wearing some lace, a pointy bonnet and modest skirts. I wondered if she was called Nerys or Cerys. Or Delyth. She was probably flying to an eisteddfod in Argentina. But she kept ruining my image by saying words like ‘commander-in-chief’ and ‘all right’ in the middle of all that ll, th and ch.

Travel’s nice ‘n all. But you do it for me.

Keef’s mum September 5, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

The Russian’s gone to Russia. So I need a housekeeper. Or, rather, a me-keeper.

I can’t offer much in the way of recompense for whoever takes up the job. In fact, I can’t offer anything at all. Well, I can offer a roof over the house-cum-me-keeper’s head. Now call me traditional, but I’ve got some ideas for who my house-cum-me-keeper should be. A terse but kindly middle-to-getting-on-for-pensionable-aged working-class English woman would suit best, I think. Preferably from one of those counties with nice bumpkiny accents. Like Devon. Or Suffolk. She should provide her own bonnet and, if I can set any rules at all, I’d request that she pop her head round the door wearing a concerned frown and respectable night-wear, while holding a candle, naturally, and tut and raise her eyes to heaven as she sees me stumbling clumsily in at an ungodly hour and then that she smile maternally while remembering the japes her own son got up to when he was my age (before being sent to prison for selling pirate DVDs). I’d also like the me-keeper to do quite a lot of baking of… erm… items that get baked and to introduce herself to me as Mrs. [Name] and for me still not to know her Christian – I presume she’d be a Christian. Not majorly ardent in her beliefs, but she’d probably have a biblical quote or two up her (elasticated) sleeve for when necessary and get a rush of blood to the cheeks when her favourite hymn – what one would it be? I can only think of To Be a Pilgrim. That’ll do – resounded to the accompaniment of a swelling organ – ooh matron! – around the church. (Bugger, is there an Anglican church in Berlin?) – name even after 20 years of service and she’d call me Mr. BiB sir with the post-vocalic r very much present thank you.

Though maybe I’ll survive without. He’s only going to be gone for a couple of weeks after all. I already don’t know what to do with myself. Once he’d been gone for at least ages and I’d worried myself frantic that he hadn’t texted confirmation of his safe arrival, I decided to swallow my pride and send the first text of the hiatus. “Darling, have you landed in Moscow yet?” “I left the house five minutes ago. I’m waiting for the tram at the end of the street,” came his reply. Plus there’s talk of an internal flight to the home-town on a tiny plane with propellers. Now I don’t want to be one of those disparaging first-worlders who moans about internal flights (and the state of the roads) (and the food) (and the politics) in second and third world countries… But, fucking hell, an internal flight in Russia on a tiny plane with propellers! Do those things even have engines or are they utterly dependent on catching a good gust of wind? (Although that creates nice images of Le Petit Prince at least.) (Oh god, the plane with propellers will be overrun with yellow snakes.) Still, it’s that or a 24-hour train ride with men who change into tracksuits and slippers for the journey.

“Darling, should we have some goodbye nookie before you go?” “No. Sleep.” “Darling, do you wish you were staying here with me? … Darling?” “No, not really.” But the Russian’s departure coincides with an awkward period of contentedness in the BiB+Russian household. Perhaps from a reinforced, cast-iron solidarity at the loathsomeness of having to be alive. Nothing like a shared enemy. So I’ve waved him off with genuine despair.

We went on a last-minute shop. Utterly freezing. Torrential rain. Hurricane, umbrella-breaking winds. Once we’d made it to the tram-stop, I decided I’d impress the teenager who was already impressed at us exotic foreigners further by nonchalantly hurling the broken umbrella into the bin with heterosexual aplomb. Of course I missed from half a centimetre away and then had to scrabble around on the filthy pavement picking up umbrella elements. I couldn’t even redeem myself by coolly smoking a reexoticising fag.

And as I lumbered back from the supermarket, laden down with food to get me through the russianless winter – all sorts of things I don’t know how to eat. How do you eat a real pineapple, for example? And I vaguely loathe herrings. And why is Brie packed so tightly into its condom-packaging that it has to bulge out like some constricted (admittedly very white) (and tapered) (I hate that kind) willy – I remembered Keef’s mum. Keef lived down the road from us when I was a child. He was ludicrously tall and thin and all his features were far too large for his own good. His mother didn’t have an Irish, Nigerian or Pakistani accent so I think we thought she was posh. And she was the most motionless, statue-like, miserable woman in the world. Or on our street, at least. Even when she moved she was motionless. Admittedly, I’d only see her wandering past the window laden down with shopping for her too-tall son (and presumably husband. I don’t think we had single-parent families in those days) and what I could see – her face and upper body – never moved. Cast in stone. But she did somehow propel herself forward, so I presume she was on wheels. Her life had become shopping. And then getting it home. On her wheels. And Keef. House-and Keef-keeping. She seemed unimpressed with her lot.

Could be ideal for the job.

На танцующих утят… September 2, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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Starting’s the hardest thing. After that it gets easier.

I am consumed by a gloom of cosmic proportions. Not anything that could be called depression, because I don’t think I do depression. But just gloom at everything. Gloom that it’s September and I might never see the sun again. Gloom at being a translator, though that is ongoing and, unlike the markets or whatever it is that fluctuates, doesn’t ever ebb (though I am currently working on something which I so don’t understand and from a language I so won’t ever understand that I have been forced to test how brazenly unenthusiastic I am allowed to be about it, resulting in a bollocking from the employer. A friend of mine – a rather delicate, prim queen – did go down the MacDonald’s route here when he’d reached professional rock-bottom and said for his efforts he received 700 euros and abuse from the other staff, so I’m not going into the catering industry just yet). Gloom at being. Gloom both that the Russian hasn’t yet gone to Russia and that he’s going (to stock up on sighs for the winter) at all. Gloom that I haven’t done a solitary social thing since being in the UK however many years ago that was. And gloom that I’ve accidentally given up smoking.

Luckily, my built-in anti-gloom mechanisms have sought and found solace in music, dance, Finns, the Russian and a clever book on, “A journey in the shadow of Byzantium,” that the ever-generous DJ sent me. (Mr. Dalrymple is still obscenely young, unnaturally knowledgeable and, to rub a grain more salt into the wound, a bit of a dish. In the time I might take to wrangle over a tricky decision like whether to have another cup of coffee, he would probably have started another book on something arcane and learned. Depths of gloom.)

So, working-class weddings. The wedding I went to a few weeks ago wasn’t at all WC – I was probably the closest thing there to downright riff-raff – and I was too busy smoking on the street to pay any attention to any of the hits played. I don’t know if Agadoo was line-danced to while I was downstairs smoking with the Germans (because no English people smoke) and trying to pretend I can speak the language after 100 years (t)here (have folk spoken a foreign language ‘at home’? It’s a bit enqueering. Still, the Germans were chuffed to bollocks with my efforts) (and surely Gang Bang is too raunchy for any wedding) (must watch Rita, Sue and Bob Too again one day) (Karl, you still in possession?) (Fucking hell. I’ve got link RSI).

Which all means I was too busy schmoozing and boozing to notice if even the obligatory YMCA got an airing. Which is always good for the homos at any wedding to see which of the hets missed a potential vocation. Anyway, thanks to Ben for lifting the gloom, as I sat wondering about weddings, by inadvertently alerting me to this old, improved version of YMCA. Improved, naturally, by mere dint of coming from Finland, which improves just about anything. Now I’ve been to a Finnish wedding, and can’t remember if the tune got an airing there either, but just how do you make an N or a K with your arms? Any ideas Taiga? Anyone? My own research hasn’t come up with a hard and fast answer yet but I’ve learnt a few new moves for my next Finnish wedding (which might even see me brave auditions if this little gem (which everyone in the world has already linked to. I might just start linking porn and be done with it) ever needs to be remade).

I shared my gloom-alleviation news with the Russian over a sultry, booze-laden kitchen-table last night. The sun, if it had ever been up, was on the way down. My beloved’s features were lit just by the light of three huge fuck-off scented candles. Each had a different scent and, unfortunately, these came together to form the unmistakable stench of cat-piss (though, luckily, my fetishistic quack (sorry to self-link) hasn’t managed to repair my ears and nose (but is now holding out for me to send a combination of poo, wee, blood and goo in the post) (not for free if it’s not pure poo either) so my senses are somewhat dulled). I’d been so enhappied by my clever book, and my Finns and the Russian (and red wine) that I thought it was time to show my darling some of my new moves. But blow me if I didn’t get stage fright. All those seconds of rote-learning and memorising gone out the window. And all I could remember was The Birdie Song.

“You khed zet song in Vest too? Ve khed it in Soviet Union,” the Russian intoned gravely, proving that we can still have cross-cultural conversations after so many years. But the Russian must have mistaken me for some Russian-world dilettante. Of course I know the Russian birdie song. It’s even got words (about dancing ducklings, enumerated above should anyone wish to start a doctoral thesis on the matter). Mind you, it proves once again how far ahead Russians are intellectually of their Western counterparts. For them it was a kindergarten affair, whereas in London (I think I’m not mistaken) it’s performed at The Royal Festival Hall.

Anyway, I got dancing. But, darlings, horror of horrors. I couldn’t remember all the moves. I made my hands into snapping beaks (x4) for the first set of der-der-der-der-der-der-ders, bent my arms at the elbow and flapped my wings (x4) for the second set. Wiggled my bum side to side and swivelled my way down onto my haunches for the third. But could I remember what the action was for the fourth and final set of der-der-der-ders? Could I fuck.

So please let me know. Gloom-aversion depends on it.