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Tidy October 11, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

I woke up craving quite strong, milky coffee, toast with a hint of crispiness and slatherings of jam and wondering whether the Russian and I should get married tomorrow or pack our bags, decide that it had all been a bad joke and agree never to see each other again.

We sat down later to spaghetti with bacon and halloumi and talked of Marx and nuclear fission, work and our next hundred holidays. England, Turkey and Poland are all on the agenda and will be visited by Friday. Squeezed in some speed-nagging. Both enumerated with pride each of the communal things we’d paid for to score points over the other. Then celebrated being alive with a disgusting cup of tea – I vaguely loathe tea – from our brand new teapot.

The Russian would ideally like every moment when we’re not eating or planning a holiday to be occupied with some activity or other, preferably useful and unpleasant. Little does he realise what a nag-meat godsend it is that he is, like almost all Russians, a stickler for cleanliness and tidiness and I am a slovenly slob. We have colonised a room each in the flat. I get culture shock every time I leave his room, which looks like a neat Norwegian hotel room and re-enter mine, which looks like a room in a doss-house where the resident’s corpse has been lying unnoticed for a week and a half. His room smells of flowers and productivity. Mine of cigarettes and dust.

“Vot zese papers lying khere?” my darling asked primly, motioning towards reams of tree scattered around my desk with only some dictionaries, calendars, anti-allergy pills, a calculator and wayward ash for company. “I dunno. Probably some unpaid bills or other.”

I live in fairly muted terror of the times when the Russian decides it is time for me to conranise my life. When I can sense that his sigh-level is about to beat all previous records, I might frenziedly try and bring some order to my chaos. But it’s worthless and counterproductive labour as outward neatness only means that my system has broken down and none of these papers will ever get dealt with. For when things are as I like them, one pile of papers strewn there may be the dealt-with pile, another might be the being-dealt-with pile and another the haven’t-even-got-round-to-thinking-about-dealing-with-them pile. Whereas any neat stack of papers will inevitably turn into an oh-I-give-up pile and will then only get dealt with when the threats start coming in the post.

But the Russian is currently into tidying my internal as well as external world. Terrifying. This inner and outer slovenliness has got to stop. “You’re 72 now.” It’s going to be theatre on Mondays, swimming on Tuesdays, museums on Wednesdays. Exhausted just typing it. Basket-weaving on Thursdays. Fish on Fridays and god know what little something for the weekend.

I try to put up resistance but I know he has the moral high ground. I say it’s part of my translatorly lifestyle – you know, we’re almost writers and all that – to live like Christopher Hitchens but we look down at our hitchensian bellies and concede that he is right.

If I can get past the lashings of (sugar-reduced, at least) jam, I’ll be all lithe, lissom and tidy in no time.


1. KMS - October 12, 2007

Hitchens didn’t just have his face “done” (waxed?) for that article, did he now? “Back, Crack and Sack” is I believe what it was called, but I’m sure someone else can correct me if I’m wrong….

2. pleite - October 12, 2007

B. knows all about backs, sacks and cracks. Have you read the article? Quite fun. Hitchens tickles me. I can’t remember which blog I saw it on but someone linked to his appearance on Fox News after Jerry Falwell died where he said something along the lines of if Falwell had been given an enema, he could have been buried in a matchbox.

3. KMS - October 12, 2007

I’ve never heard of him before, but WP tells all:
Falwell led services at Thomas Road Baptist Church, a megachurch in Lynchburg, Virginia. He changed affiliations from Baptist Bible Fellowship International to the mainly conservative Southern Baptist Convention, and ended his self-identification with fundamentalism in favor of evangelicalism.

Lynchburg! Haha. Stopped being a Baptist in order to remain a Baptist, and stopped being a fundamentalist, in order to remain a fundamentalist. A consistent man, I suppose.

I haven’t read the article, but other pictures and a quote (I think it was “he isn’t having this done for the first time”) were over at Shiraz Socialist….

4. pleite - October 12, 2007

Thank you. Yes, that’s where I found it. Must have got there from chez toi, in fact.

5. KMS - October 12, 2007

I woke up, incidentally, craving toast with red jam the other day. Sadly I got neither that nor hallomi, but there was some bacon in the fridge.

6. pleite - October 12, 2007

…and I hope it sated your cravings one way or another.

7. KMS - October 12, 2007

I’m not sure. I’d feel a lot more sated, indeed, probably as sated as a member of the Putin Youth in one of their heart-shaped sex camps, if I could finally finish the essay I’m attempting to write.

8. Marsha Klein - October 12, 2007

I think Daisy (No.1 daughter) will enjoy this post. I think I’ve mentioned before that she likes to re-cast your “domestic bliss” posts to feature me and her father, where Brian plays you and I play the Russian? Although, I suspect that, if it ever came to a contest, the Russian would beat me hands-down – I lack staying power in the domestic arena.

Great Christopher Hitchens article. Also Fox News link was very funny and, despite speaking no German, I checked out the expat bloggers link. Off to rescue the washing I abandonned about an hour and a half ago. See? No staying power!

9. Ed Ward - October 12, 2007

You might want to alter that schedule a bit; the free days at the museums tend to be Thursdays, so you should swap that out with basket-weaving.

Just trying to be helpful and save you a little dough!

10. pleite - October 12, 2007

Ed, thank you, thank you. Free-on-Thursdays penned in. Museums were meant to be on the agenda this sec but work and nonsense have intervened, and the weather’s getting to just that I-think-I’ll-next-leave-the-house-in-June stage, so it’s not the end of the world.

Marsha, you have years of staying power and a husband and two daughters to prove it. That Hitchens article (link will probably be redundant in ten seconds) is fun, isn’t it? And by the expat blogger thing, do you mean this, which immortalises these four Berlin bloggers? Good, innit?

KMS, that level of satiety is not to be sniffed at. Finish that essay – essay? Are you studying again? Or do you mean as part of some grown-up enterprise? – and have some bacon and jam and sit back and feel virtuous.

11. MountPenguin - October 12, 2007

I don’t really look like that, in fact I have a beak, little beady eyes and flippers.

(MountPenguin slinks back down to the cellar where he is hiding in shame and embarrassment).

12. pleite - October 12, 2007

Don’t hide! The article is fun. Good for you! Get a t-shirt printed and shout it loud and proud.

13. Mr D - October 13, 2007

MountPenguin: Well done to you! That’s pretty impressive, I think.

BiB: I enjoyed that Hitchens video – I think he did well against their rhetoric. His final comment about the enema and the matchbox, although funny (note to self: must remember to use it somewhere and somehow), was a bit of a cheap comment. But still worth it.

How do other people avoid books and papers stacking all over the place? They must live in a perpetual state of filing. And how can they possibly hope to develop a new colony of dust bunnies if the room isn’t full of objects for them to cling onto? It’s not normal, I say!

14. pleite - October 13, 2007

Mr. D., exactly. I’m just being kind to my dust. I file about once a decade.

Herr Hitchens didn’t obey any of the rules about not speaking ill of the dead, but I suppose it was fair enough what he said, i.e. that Fox had asked him on for his opinion and shouldn’t have expected him to say something nice about Falwell. Anyway, there have been cases of public deaths where the corpse has instantly been vilified, haven’t there? Robert Maxwell was instantly called a cunt in death. I was in France when Mitterrand died, and the French press was duly reverent, but my ex told me the British press instantly went to town (which disgusted one French gent I told).

15. Marsha Klein - October 13, 2007

I wouldn’t normally favour speaking ill of the dead (although I can think of a couple of cases where I’d be prepared to make an exception), but that Fox News interview was such a stage-managed affair, as these things always are, I think Hitchens was simply playing the part he’d been given. I suppose, if he’d wanted to be really subversive, he could have refused to say anything unpleasant.

The National Trust was (is?) conducting an experiment in one of it’s properties to find out if dusting books etc doesn’t actually do more harm than good. You could declare your desk a conservation area then nobody, including you, would be allowed to disturb it.

16. pleite - October 13, 2007

Marsha, what a brilliant idea. My desk is now a listed building. I expect accolades from IKEA.

17. narrowback - October 14, 2007

But you should understand that Fawell was never reticent about speaking ill of the dead himself and oft ascribed their death to some perceived “sin” on their part – the most famous being the blanket condemnation of AIDS victims as having reaped the consequences of their sin of homosexuality…more power to Hitchens I say, as that was a spot on statement

18. pleite - October 15, 2007

Narrowback, yes, fair enough. I’m sure Hitchens didn’t lose a single second of sleep over it. This article is now doing the rounds a bit and it’s something which he very much is losing sleep over. The story of a soldier killed in Iraq who said Hitchens’ writings were part of his inspiration for signing up in the first place. Also worth a read. (I think almost everything Hitchens writes is worth reading. Not because I agree with what he says, necessarily, but it’s always so utterly deliciously written.)

19. Mangonel - October 15, 2007

Oh dear God in Heaven. Do I have to follow each and every link before I am qualified to comment here? Well Bugger that for a game of soldiers.

Put it all in plastic bags, me. Leave ’em long enough and it all turns into a really-past-caring pile.

20. Sylvia - October 15, 2007

Mangonel! Yes! the stuff it all in a black sack trick! I’ve done that on many an occasion, and after a little while, out the bag goes. Marvellous.

This postal strike is also a marvellous thing. No post equals no crap to chuck out.

21. Mangonel - October 16, 2007

Milena – does this mean you didn’t read all the linky linky stuff either?

22. Sylvia - October 16, 2007

No I didn’t – The Hitchens brothers depress me deeply. I want news, not comment.

Oh, and the post has arrived. All in the bin now. Wish they’d kept it.

23. pleite - October 16, 2007

Sylvia, what, really? Even bills go in the bin? That is brave. Me leaving them lying around is much the same as them being in the bin but the trouble with this type of rubbish is that it recycles itself and reappears a couple of weeks later… I like Christopher – his writing, at least – but can’t bear the other one, whose name I’m deliberately refusing to remember as a protest. That told him, I bet.

Mango, it did get a bit link-heavy, didn’t it? I hadn’t even noticed. Anyway, as I’m sure you’re worrying frantically that you’ve missed out terribly, let me round up by saying all the links were to something Hitchensian or to other bloggers. And, anyway, no, no commenting restrictions here. Even just pop in to say hello without reading the post if you like. You’re always welcome.

24. Sylvia - October 17, 2007

There were no bills in this consignment, only credit card offers and bumph about holidays we can’t possibly afford. And the usual trade magazines, one for the his pile, one for the hers. At the end of every year, we just bin the lot.

25. pleite - October 17, 2007

Sylvia, one bonus on this front of living Berlin-style is that your mail doesn’t come through the front door. You have to pop downstairs and pick it up. The boxes are close enough to the recycling bins, of which there are 700 million, this being Germany, so rather than this junk ever making it into your home, you just dump all the bastards immediately OR, and providing the postman/bumf-spreaders obey/can read, you stick a Keine Werbung (No Advertising) on your post-box and it never darkens your door (or box).

I do get one magazine in the post, which I file away neatly. The Russian would like it filed away neatly within one or two days of its arrival. I think leaving it strewn around for a year or so is acceptable. We really don’t suit each other at all.

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