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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.



1. MountPenguin - September 5, 2007

Bugger, is there an Anglican church in Berlin?

Yes, St. George’s Anglican (Episcopal) Church (not to be confused with the bookshop; dragons presumably not welcome).

(Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with any religion, whether organized or disorganized).

2. pleite - September 5, 2007

Penguin, I’ve followed your link and I can never expect Keef’s mum to travel so far. I’ve heard of neither the U-Bahn or S-Bahn stop they claim as their locals on the site. Mind you, she could easily pop down to the Marienkirche when they go Anglican once a week. Or maybe she could just go to the regular old Lutheran church round the corner if she’s not too anti ecumenism.

Hark at you with your zeds!

3. marshaklein - September 5, 2007

Hmm, I don’t know, the Anglican church seems a bit wishy-washy and lacking in actual spiritual rigour these days. What you need is good Presbyterian Scot (they’re awfully good at hellfire and damnation with NO WAY OUT – unlike the Catholic Church). Although they do also seem to rather opposed to enjoyment of any sort and so may fall short in the baking and maternal smiling departments.

As for real (by which I take you mean “whole”?) pineapples, slice off the leaves at the top, peel longitudinally, remove the central core and then cut into slices horizontally (that is to say the slices should be cut along the pineapples horizontal axis, not that you should be horizontal while cutting it). You can also carve a series of spirals into the outside before cutting it into slices (this takes care of the little “eyes”, which remain after the fruit has been peeled, but that might just be showing off.
Alternatively, leave it alone for a fortnight. It will look decorative and will probably still be good when the Russian comes home and I’m sure he knows how to deal with a pineapple.

4. pleite - September 5, 2007

Marsha, you understand my pineapple fears exactly. The problem is, I’ve seen them peeled cleverly, with that spirally movement, on beaches in Thailand and I was instantly convinced I’d never be able to peel a pineapple properly. I’ll probably learn to drive before I can peel a pineapple. Mind you, will it really last three weeks? Maybe I could bring it along when we meet and I could pretend it’s the Berlin equivalent of the Russian welcome greeting of bread and salt. But would you and Brian be miffed at being presented with a prickly pineapple? I could bring a knife.

I’m perfectly happy for my me-keeper to be Scottish and Presbyterian. I could cope with a minorly frosty bollocking when I fell over the threshold, clanking of keys and reeking of booze and wet mud. Penguin, as our resident religion-expert, can you let me know if there’s a church which obliges in the environs?

5. marshaklein - September 5, 2007

BiB, the implement you need is this: http://www.lakeland.co.uk/productvideo.aspx/!10478

Shall I bring you one?

6. MountPenguin - September 5, 2007

My zeds? Oh, (looks at dictionary) those must be ‘zees’. Never can remember which is the, ehm, correct spelling.

From the location (general guide: on the way to IKEA in Spandau) I’d guess the church is a remnant of the British occupation. There used to be a lot of British-y stuff up that way, wouldn’t be surprised if there was a “Berlin International Cricket Club e.V.” hidden away somewhere with a small but dedicated following of Spandauers and former soldiers.

7. marshaklein - September 5, 2007

That other link doesn’t seem to work. Try this.


8. marshaklein - September 5, 2007

Bugger! OK, go to http://www.lakeland.co.uk/ and type “pineapple” into the search box.

9. Geoff - September 5, 2007

Ah, more memories. St George’s used to be the church of the British Garrison in Berlin, and hosted both Anglican & RC services for the forces, so I used to get dragged there every Sunday (for the RC services, Anglican is far too wishy-washy). It was a particularly dull and inspiring church, and yes, the location is way out of the way (although was handy for where all the forces used to live).

10. MountPenguin - September 5, 2007

Ah, knew there must be one somewhere: Berlin Cricket Club e.V.

11. Geoff - September 5, 2007

The place where the Cricket club play is right next to where the British military had their HQ

12. pleite - September 5, 2007

Penguin, you do, indeed, appear to have gone for the zee. Although I’ve got a feeling the s or z thing isn’t as straightforwardly straightforward as the s being British spelling and the z American. Although I might be making this up as I go along, actually. I’d heard of the cricket club because, like a good mug who thought the British Embassy would sort my life out for me when I arrived here, I went along and got their Being-a-Brit-in-Berlin (or something like that) bumf which gave details of the club. And the church, actually. And I can’t remember what else.

Geoff, I’m still waiting for my epiphany. And when it comes, which I’m not holding my breath for, between you and me, I want it to direct me towards an Orthodox church or a synagogue. B. and William have both written about Berlin’s largest synagogue reopening, and William’s even had the great joy of having a Holocaust-denier comment. Hurrah for the internet once more!

Marsha, a silent video. A bit creepy. And made me think it was going to turn into porn. I think I’ve seen that implement in a kitchen-drawer somewhere but never known what it was. So it was a pineapple-corkscrew all along. No need to bring one along. Just looking forward to seeing you and Brian (and hoping my ears will be sorted by then. I’m now having some trouble balancing. This is getting beyond a joke).

13. Geoff - September 5, 2007

I’ve always used -ize, as it’s an excuse to use the letter z more, which i like (and to save wear and tear on my s key). According to wikipedia both are OK in British-English (and they claim the OED prefers ize, and that’s good enough for me).

Oh yes – an Orthodox or Jewish epiphany would be good, although I went to a Zoroastrian temple once when I was in Baku. Fire-worshiping looks even cooler.

14. MountPenguin - September 5, 2007

It appears I am guilty of misinterpreting my English-Japanese dictionary, which is handy for looking up English spellings too, but always lists the American version first with the “proper” version afterwards. Evidently the little plus symbol implies “variant allowed in British English”, rather than “British English spelling”.

My Concise OED (“The New Edition for the Ninties”) lists the -ize version first.

15. pleite - September 5, 2007

Boys, I’m using a Chambers, and while it lists ‘centre’ before ‘center’ and states that the latter is NAm, it lists ‘organize’ before ‘organise’ and doesn’t say anything about UK or NAm or anything, but I’ve always been an -ise man and can’t imagine I’ll be brave enough to ever take the z-plunge.

Geoff, I know we’d be dead ‘n all, but as (dead) Zoroastrians, wouldn’t we have to leave our corpses out (presumably with the recycling) for vultures to devour? I’m all for organ donation (not that I should imagine any of mine would be much use) but I’d rather a human, however undeserving, got it/them than a vulture.

16. KMS - September 5, 2007

I’m also an -ise man. I was once asked by some (obviously stupid) person at work (a German, a customer, not a workmate) if I was “from St. George’s”. I assumed this was a ridiculously contrived way of asking me if I was from England (she must have had many screws loose if she might have thought I was Catalan). but it wasn’t.

I’ve been making crumpets lately, and you can’t get more Mrs. Christian Country-Bumpkin-esque than that, can you? They do taste delicious, and are easy to make.

17. MountPenguin - September 5, 2007

I think I remember deciding to standardize on the ‘z’ back when I was still textually active.

Presumably the Russians got his passport back from the clutches of the British Department of Non-Visa Issuing then?

18. Marsha Klein - September 5, 2007

Right then, Mr BiB, sir, will ye be wantin’ anything else before I leave fur the night? No? Well, I’ve set a lichted caundle on the table through-by. Mind and no set licht tae yersel’, ye scunner!

19. Arabella - September 6, 2007

I’ve been right off Brie for ages now. At last I think I know why.

Melons, pineapples…I love ’em but get so tired of pressing and weighing and sniffing to find a ripe one, I end up buying bananas instead.

20. pleite - September 6, 2007

Arabella, I’m a bit bored of having to pretend to like Brie and Camembert now too. The pineapple’s still sitting there, undisturbed. I live on bananas. But the Russian’s got me a ton of peaches, which he knows I vaguely loathe, which must be a cunning way of him being able to create guilt in me from afar as he knows I’ll cry from shame when I tip them into the recycling.

“Thank you Mrs. Klein. That’ll be all… Oh, Mrs. Klein.” “Yes Mr. BiB sir?” “You do know how much I appreciate all you do for me, don’t you? How you do my kippers just so and how my slippers are always just where I want them and how you iron my newspaper.” “It’s a pleasure to do it for you Mr. BiB sir. My mother taught me that if a job was worth doin’ at all, it was worth doin’ proper.” (Do you mind still being Devonian for a minute?) “So if there’s anything I can do for you in return, you know, to help your son…” “No, sir, he’s got the punishment he justly deserves, sir. The good Lord do send us these tribulations as for us to put up with as best what we can and it’s not up to the likes of me to argue with the fate what has been preordained for me… You could pay me though, sir. It’s twenty years what I’ve been skivvying for you ‘ere and my son did only flog the VDVs for to pay my TV licence.” “Well, Mrs. Klein, I must say, it’s a little late in the day to start complaining about your conditions after our agreement has worked so well until now.” Erm, sorry, I’ve got carried away. I need to learn Scots.

Penguin, he did, with enormous belatedness and an apology from the post-office for failing to deliver it once and complaining that the address was wrong, when it clearly wasn’t. Which still doesn’t exonerate the wankers in Düsseldorf for then just leaving it lying around on a desk for another few weeks.

Karl, I bloody adore crumpets. Are they buyable here? Or are yours better than any mass-produced rubbish? Right, Alzheimer’s check. Should I get the Catalan reference? Is it a joke that everyone’s understood but me?

21. Marsha Klein - September 7, 2007

Och, Mr BiB, sir, beg pardon fur ma impudence, sir. Ay, my mither aye telt me ah wis a cheeky besom. Dinnae you fash yersel’, sir. I’ll jist hae tae watter doon ma gruel a wee thing mair, but dinnae you gie any mair thocht tae how ah’m tae keep body and sowel thegither. Ah’ve aye managed fine (and a’ they peaches and fancy French cheeses you throw out are a grand change fae oats, oats an’ mair oats) Ah must hae the cholesterol level o’ Gillian McKeith! Ah dinnae ken whit ah’m gaun tae dae with yon pineapple, though. Whit’s that, Mr BiB? Dae WHIT? Oh, ah’m awfae sorry, sir, I thocht ye said…aye well, ah better get oan. I like tae get hame in time fur the wrestling. Oan the television, ye ken. Aye, Mr Klein isnae able fur any o’ THAT carry-on any mair. Pair sowel.

This is kind of addictive. Your scenario above made me laugh out loud (lol! Oh yes, I am down wit da kidz)

22. Geoff - September 7, 2007

I presume the Catalan reference was referring to the fact that St George (old whore of a patron saint that he is) is also patron saint of Catalonia (as well as Georgia, Palestine and people suffering from Syphilis)

23. KMS - September 7, 2007

Geoff’s right on the St. George whore front. I didn’t know he was also the patron saint of Lenin, which puts a different face on those working class shitholes which are full of St. George’s flags (Lenin died of syphilis).

I’ve never seen crumpets on sale here (not having spent more than 14 seconds in the KaDeWe food department, which was long enough to notice jam from Essex (one of the better brands) going for literally about 15 quid a jar), but perhaps I’ll make some more and invite you for a late lunch sometime. I got the recipe from some English (I suspect translator) woman off of flickr, who lives somewhere (judging by her photos) round the corned from me, and kindly makes me hungry and jealous by posting pictures of her delicious (and delicious looking) home-made-breakfasts. Better than cook books as far as food porn goes.

24. pleite - September 7, 2007

Dee Zee, might we have a reference to the lady-in-questions’s photo-page? Or are you being possessive? Though she’s already gone down in my estimations for being a translatrix, crumpets or no crumpets.

Geoff, thank you! How’s that Locked in the Attic project coming along? WordPress didn’t e-mail me your comment, which it normally does, so now I’m worried it only e-mails when it can be bothered and that I might have a number of unreacted-to comments languishing ignoredly by somewhere. Something for me to worry about. (Avoiding work so brilliantly at the moment you can’t believe.)

Mrs. Klein, I had to look up ‘fash’ and ‘besom’. I’m going to bring one of those clever translating machines when we meet… But now, this McKeith lady. I hadn’t properly heard of her but googled and recognised her face. And then found this delicious exposé by this nice-seeming chap. And I’ve instantly started having more wicked thoughts about my poo-obsessed quack who hasn’t given me a single, proper, chemical drug yet. Damn… The peaches are festering and mouldering away, but providing a slap-up feast for the midges or fruit-flies or whatever those horrid little flying things are that loiter around food and the bin and, oddly, the dregs in discarded and unwashed-up red-wine glasses (which I commend them for).

25. KMS - September 7, 2007

I’m certainly not possessive: look here:

She might not be a translatrix, as she seems to have an office – see this picture, http://tinyurl.com/ypl7qu – it’s also a quiz (sadly very easy and already solved)…

26. grievingallthelittlestuff - September 10, 2007

If you get a whole queue of these helpmates you ordered, do consider sending a few on down my way. Won’t you?

27. pleite - September 12, 2007

Hello grieving, and will do the second they come banging down the door, which they’re being a little slow to do, admittedly. I’m managing the practical side of solo-domesticity heroically well but don’t like it much. Is that your complaint too?

DZ, what are those tinyurls and how do you make them? Dimly (again), I can’t work out that riddle either. Maybe Geoff will leap in again and explain it to me. Her breakfasts do look bloody good though, so I’ll forgive her if she does turn out to be a translatrix.

28. KMS - September 12, 2007

Those tinyurls are a handy method of providing a link that will work as it’s shorter than the 25-line-http-madness it would have otherwise been, which would get broken by every email and blog program, making it pointless. There’s some website on which you can make them, probably called tinyurl.com, and there’s also (my method) a plugin for Firefox/Mozilla etc. which means you just have to right-click on anything and then select “create tiny url” and hey presto, it’s stored on the clipboard ready for a Ctrl-V. Does that make sense or am I just talking madness? Both at once, I think.

29. pleite - September 12, 2007

No, it does make sense, and the name did suggest that it was to do with entinying, and good for it/them.

30. redneckarts - September 16, 2007

keep yer lovely chin up.

31. pleite - September 17, 2007

Thank you, Redneck. Actually doing OK, but it’s slightly horrible not having the Russian comfortably around the place. Plus I have to worry he’s dead every second we’re not in touch, naturally.

Are you well? Are you staying down in the big city for a good chunk of the exhibition you’re involved in? Or do you prefer to be at home, I wonder…

32. engelsk - September 17, 2007

Hadn’t read this thread, I must admit – am busy marking exams (written with horrible handwriting). Just had a quick glance, though, and thought I’d add something on -ise vs -ize.

The difference isn’t UK v US. It’s Cambridge vs Oxford. Traditionally Cambridge was -ise and Oxford -ize.

Both varieties are acceptable in the UK and US. But it’s true that standardisation-liking America seems to have become almost exclusively -ize. And many British people mistakenly think that that means -ise must be British.

So in a way, perhaps it has become a sort of UK/US difference. But not entirely. I have no idea what the statistics show.

Interestingly, if you look up ‘standardise’ in the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, you get this. So perhaps they’ve decided to dumb down the explanation to an simplified trans-Atlantic difference?

Me, I use -ise. It’s what I’ve become used to over the years. And ‘s’ is easier to type than ‘z’.

33. MountPenguin - September 17, 2007

Me, I use -ise. It’s what I’ve become used to over the years. And ’s’ is easier to type than ‘z’.

Ah, that might be one reason: I have a German keyboard, where the z key is within easy reach of both index fingers.

34. pleite - September 17, 2007

Engelsk, thanks for that. I must have heard something like this somewhere because I had a suspicion it wasn’t a straightforward American/British thing. But I suppose I have consciously become an -ise-person from wankishness then, thinking that to write -ize would have me writing theater and neighbor in no time. Mind you, I did once flirt with saying ‘gotten’ but have given up on that now. Probably liked it for the sake of a nice, regular(ish) verb-paradigm, but fuck that shit. Sometimes we can just let language be language, can’t we?

Penguin, snap! I thought exactly of the keyboard as soon as I saw Engelsk’s comment too.

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