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Present continuous October 4, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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Gosh. Life’s a bit relentless, isn’t it? You go to bed at night thinking, “I am good, aren’t I? Got through another whole day. In Russia I’d probably be given an Order of Someone-or-Other for that.” And then, sure enough, you wake up again the next afternoon morning and have to do the whole living thing again.

So, to fill in the time… some books wot I have been given.

Quite exciting getting books in the post. Well, terrifying if the postman happens to catch you in, because there’s all that opening-the-front-door and worrying that it will be the police, who’ve finally tracked you down for the crime you haven’t done, or the landlord to say you’re too unspeakable to go on living in his flat, or someone from some Amt or other making sure that you’re living your life correctly. But, luckily, the postman normally can’t be bothered to ring – we live on the second floor – and pretends we were out and leaves the nice note in our correct, standard and labelled-in-keeping-with-the-other-fonts-of-the-house post-box downstairs. “Ooh, a parcel!” I think. And plan to dash straight off until I see in big letters that the parcel is to be picked up at such and such a place – heute jedoch nicht – but not today. Then I pace the streets all night until I finally get exhausted and pitch my tent outside the post-office to be in before all the ne’er-do-wells with too much time on their hands first thing…

I wake sodden and confused, then rustle up a full-English on my camping-gas and have some tepid tea from my flask. Check if I’ve started a tent-city and a democratic revolution and burn the tickets for illegal camping from the Ordnungsamt. Then I change out of my Kevlar into some appropriate day-wear – a nice pair of slacks, my deck shoes and a tweed jacket – and take up my position in the queue. Of course I’m normally beaten to first place by some pensioner (posting letters to the Stasi) (you think they’d do pre-paid) but patiently wait my go with the woman-with-short-blond-hair-and-glasses with heroic forbearance.

But do you know who was in the queue between me and Stasi-woman last time round? Only a young woman, with LONG blond hair and NO glasses – have you ever known such a scandal? – with a huge parcel for, and I’m not joking, the Engelbert-Humperdinck-Schule in Frankfurt. I forced my brain into activity and can only conclude that she had printed out all of Enge’s fan mail to send just in case spirits in Frankfurt were at a low ebb. I know it’d work for me. (OK, I suppose that the school could, possibly, be named after another Enge but I’m choosing to go with the other option.)

I rushed through my transaction with the woman-with-short-blond-hair-and-glasses so that the pensioner behind me wouldn’t have to labour for too much longer under the weight of the parcel he was having dispatched to the Paula-Abdul-Schule in Hoyerswerda. Truth is stranger than fiction.

So the DJ has been up to his old tricks and is sending me books in the post again to try and keep me on the straight and narrow. And he’s so clever, knowing that it’s my only ambition in life to be a Jew (but without the God bits) (or kosher bits, while we’re on the subject) (well, or probably most of the bits, actually) and giving me a book on Yiddish civilisation by a certain Paul Kriwaczek, whose family fled Vienna for London when he was a boy. It’s got Jews. It’s got anecdotes. It’s got Central Europe. I’m in clover.

“You khev got peckidzh?” the Russian asked out of the blue in an e-mail from Putin’s perfect post-communist paradise.


“Bzzzzzzz,” went the postman, who was obviously working on a commission that day. I slipped into my negligee and high-heels just in case he’d need to be encouraged to take the weight off his feet. Up the stairs bounded a lovely, big, blond thing. “I’m having awful trouble with my cistern,” I said, thinking he’d happily help a damsel in distress. But he said it wasn’t in his remit, asked for my signature and went bounding off back down the stairs with, I think I’m not mistaken, a hint of a chuckle.

I got back into my slacks, deck shoes and tweed jacket and made short work of the overdone packaging. The book of Belle de Jour with her name and a big high-heel that frankly wasn’t a patch on the ones I’d put on in my failed attempts at seducing post-boy in glittery pinky-purple on the cover.

“Oh, darling, thank you. You’ve got me the book by that blogging prostitute.”

“Yes, I sink you laik. She prostitute. She Jewish. She blog. She make book.”

Liukchik, will you marry me?



1. Sylvia - October 5, 2007

Well, they sound more interesting than the books I’ve got to read. I could open a bookshop with all the self help, diet, new age, crystal books I acquired from the charity shop nearby. They are mostly unreadable. I’m trying to work through an Eckhardt Tolle book and it’s really difficult. Perhaps I’m just not ready for the Power of Now. I’ve just finished The Leopard – in translation, alas, shame on me – supposedly the most important novel of the twentieth century – but lost on me.

Lucky you, still getting post. Royal mail have gone on strike today and it’s reckoned that no-one will get any post for a week.

2. pleite - October 5, 2007

Sylvia, hurl them out. If you have a garden, have a lovely big bonfire – you’ve only got to wait another month for the perfect excuse, unless they’ve been made illegal – and burn the bastards. Or give them back to the charity shop. Or a different one, for the sake of diplomacy.

I haven’t read The Leopard either. Or a single word by this Tolle chap, whom I’ve never even heard of. If you don’t want to burn these books, wrap them up in some nice brown-paper and dump them outside a post-office with an unfathomable address on for them to deal with when they get back from their lovely strike.

3. KMS - October 5, 2007

I was always confused by the case of the two Engelbert Humperdincks. Anyway, there is the John-Lennon-Schule in Mitte, which isn’t in the Frank-Zappa-Straße in Marzahn. The Dean-Reed-Schule in Potsdam has presumably been renamed.

4. liukchik - October 5, 2007

Sorry, I am spoken for;)

5. pleite - October 5, 2007

Oh Lukeski, don’t be an old sourpuss. What’s wrong with a bit of intersexuality polygamy in this day and age?

DZ, poor old Dean Reed (whom I know nothing about, but have just read about his accidental drowning/suicide). But I’m afraid he has, indeed, been usurped by Bruno Rehdorf, whoever the bugger that is/was.

6. William Thirteen - October 5, 2007

Eckhardt Tolle? I thought that was a type of chocolate chip cookie…

7. bowleserised - October 5, 2007

“Yes, I sink you laik. She prostitute. She Jewish. She blog. She make book.”

I love this! The syntax (weirdly) reminds me of one of my favourite bits of Maureen Lipman writing. She and her husband are at a kosher restaurant in Florida and the waitress asks them if they want soda water. No, they say. Why?

‘Then she said, “You Jewish?”
“Er… yes?”
“You Jewish and you don’t want soda water?”
“Er… yes. No, we don’t.”
She let her pad drop, sat down at the table and regarded us with the mixture of sorrow and pity usually reserved for cannibals by a missionary.
“Well, howya gonna eat it all? Ah mean, if yu Jewish yu come in heah, yu drink the soup, y’eat the liver, y’eat the kishkes, you swaller some soda water, yu burp, yu eat some more, yu drink some more, yu burp some more so’s yu can eat some more. Now. Are y’absolutely sure you don’t want soda?”‘

8. pleite - October 5, 2007

B., thank you. Poor old Maureen. I don’t know how she’s coping without her Jack. I heard her on the radio – probably Radio 4 – not that long ago and their life together seemed to be one long period of happiness after another. It’s not natural.

William, his name does make a better cookie-name than person-name. Lovely Hard Edge indeed. Or is the -hardt bit meant to mean ‘heart’ somehow?

9. annie - October 5, 2007

Paul Kriwaczek is my friend’s dad (at least, my friend’s surname is Kriwaczek, and his dad is Jewish and a writer who writes on Jewish history, I’m guessing it’s the same one.)

10. pleite - October 5, 2007

Annie, darling, see how wonderful Lukeski is, even giving me a book written by your friend’s father. According to this, he is married with three grown-up children, so he fits the bill. He used to be the Afghan royal family’s dentist!

Lukeski is wonderful. You’d love him. You could swap DJ tips.

Come back, or I’ll have to start a campaign to have you hassled till you give up giving up and grace the blog-world with your proper presence again.

11. liukchik - October 5, 2007

Please stop. I am blushing again.

12. narrowback - October 5, 2007

I think it was during my first visit to berlin at the 1.Mai demo at the rathaus that someone asked me if i was familiar with the “famous american rock star” who had defected to the DDR…”Dean Reed who? Never heard of him” …I replied

I heard a while back that some folks – germans i think – were trying to put out a movie about his life. shame that his memory is being eradicated in the former DDR as that’s the only oplace where he was known (besides his family that is)

Bib… i’m a bit shocked that you’d suggest that even worthless books be disposed through fire… “Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen”… there’s always someone somewhere at sometime who is willing to read even the most worthless trash

13. MountPenguin - October 5, 2007

There’s a recent documentary called “Der Rote Elvis”. Mrs Penguin has seen it and said it was quite interesting. Apparently Tom Hanks wants to make a film, but nothing has come of it.

14. pleite - October 6, 2007

Penguin, I’ve heard of that film, though had no idea what the subject matter was. Now we are all the wiser. Is there nobody with a vaguely unusual life-story that Tom Hanks doesn’t want to play?

Narrowback, I though EXACTLY of that quote as I was telling Sylvia to toss those books onto the bonfire. Good for you for bringing it up. And I agree with you that it would be better to pass them on than burn the bastards. Unless they’re really execrable, in which case a nice bit of recycling might not go amiss.

Oh Lukeski, when did I last pay you a compliment? It must have been 2002. So it really was time. Everyone, again, Liukchik is wonderful!

15. narrowback - October 6, 2007

BiB, that quote has been etched on my brain since my teen years. The only book that I’d send off to the recycling/pulping is one that has become so tattered and worn that it is no longer complete. otherwise the dregs get donated to a charity thrift shop.

The documentary must’ve been what I heard of as I think the Hanks project would’ve been more salient in my memory…don’t know how commercially viable it’d be as Reed is an unknown and in the current socio-political climate a defector to the DDR isn’t going to be a sympathetic figure

btw the berlin trip has been pushed back to early dec due to family issues…i’ve not given up yet

16. liukchik - October 6, 2007

Nope, sell them through Amazon – I have made enough for 2 holidays from selling on books from our undergraduate years…

17. pleite - October 6, 2007

Sylvia, Sylvia, are you getting all these tips?

Liukchik, you cunning old capitalist, you. I don’t know where all my old books have gone. Actually, I do a bit. Some got left in Russia, along with a very nice ushanka that Pavvers gave me and others languish on the ex’s shelves. Too expensive to lug them around.

Narrowback, sorry to hear it. Hope things turn out for the best and see you in December. (I’m away for the first weekend of it.)

18. Sylvia - October 7, 2007

Thanks for the tips, everyone – will certainly get rid of them once I’ve read them.
That’s the thing, you see, actually ploughing through them. I don’t like to give up on a book.

My latest read is Joanna Hall’s Body Blitz – £2 from the charity shop. Actually quite useful, and at least it’s readable.

19. MountPenguin - October 7, 2007

> My latest read is Joanna Hall’s Body Blitz

Is that the one where you get bombed?

20. marshaklein - October 8, 2007

Liukchik’s comment about selling text books reminds me of a book-buying incident from my own undergrad. days.

By the beginning of second year we had all realised that only the greenest of freshers referred to books by their titles and so, armed with this information, we began scanning the departmental noticeboards for details of new third years who might have books to sell us. One of our set texts that year was Phonology:Theory and Analysis. Which we had to ask for by title. A bit of a mouthful, admittedly, but still preferable to ringing a woman you’d never met before and asking her if her Hyman was still for sale!

21. narrowback - October 8, 2007

just a bit of a dicey period…all is stable at the moment.

i’m looking to “land” in berlin around the 4th or 5th

22. pleite - October 8, 2007

Narrowback, I’ll be back by then, I’m sure, so shall look forward to seeing you in fine fettle and worry-free.

Marsha, I appear to have missed this whole book-buying-and-selling phenomenon completely. I’ve never asked a single person to sell me their Hyman.

Penguin, I could do with demolishing various parts of my body. Just a controlled explosion, leaving most of it intact.

Sylvia, I’ve started giving up on books. I used to think it was against the law too, but some are just too bad not to be given up on. Or too impenetrable. I never did get to the end of Also sprach Zarathustra. Surprise, surprise.

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