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Toss April 30, 2008

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

…and turn. Toss and turn.

I am keeping an old pal company in his insomnia. When it would be much better to keep him company somewhere else. And so I am trying to exhaust myself, thinking this is just about not expending sufficient energy in the daytime, with fifty-hour walks. Now that the greyness and arcticity appear to have gone for good, it is, goddammit, even pleasant to do so.

But fatal, if an insomniac’s problem is a busy head, to go for a walk. All those people out looking and being interesting. They’re enough to cram your head full of sleep-preventing images till the winter comes back, though I hibernate well, so the eight dark, gloomy months of the year here have their purpose.

A couple of days ago, I needed an excuse to leave the house, a work-sesh behind me. I’d forgotten about the purposeless walk, what used to be known as ‘a walk’, and wondered how I could possibly justify going out of the house. But I haven’t had an idea since my importing-samovars-to-Tula business proposal was rejected out of hand so have had to, unless one presents itself of its own accord, create jobs that involve burning calories and creating tiredness.

So I’ve started destroying my documents so that I can go and apply for new ones. I trotted off to the town hall to remind the ladies there that I still live exactly where they know I live. “But would you mind printing it out for me again? Oh go on. I’ll give you €4.09.” But, darlings, it was all so much more stimulating than I could have hoped for. The town hall is chock-full of riveting snippets of information. Once I’d got my number, I settled in to watch Town Hall TV. Some failed to be gripped. Paid attention to their children. Or their newspapers. But I couldn’t take my eyes off it. For Town Hall TV lists facts and, for someone incapable of thought like me, facts are brilliant.

“Pankow has this many trees,” Town Hall TV explained with pride. And then there was a breakdown of make of tree. “And Pankow has this many people and is the largest district in Berlin.” My heart swelled with civic love. But Town Hall TV must have had consultants in who’d said that inculcating the locals needs to be done interactively. You can’t just bombard them with facts. Get them involved to keep them fresh. Just as I was about to burst from fact-excitement, Town Hall TV gave us a quiz. And not even about Pankow! But about the outside world, as if Pankow didn’t have everything a human could need! A flag appeared on the screen. “Which country’s flag is this?” asked the quiz. It was so Finland’s flag. Christ, this quiz was made for me. “a) El Salvador. b) Finland. c) Burkina Faso.” “b). b). Finland,” I shouted with all the force my pleuritic lungs could muster and springing to my feet competitively, almost ripping my waiting-room number in the process. “Is Burkina Faso the one that used to be called Surinam?” asked my neighbour, an old Berliner still indignant at having had to press a button to get a number in the first place.

Didn’t sleep a wink all night.

That walk was such a success, though, that I decided to repeat the performance yesterday without so much as a purpose. An old-fashioned, purposeless walk. But blow me if I wasn’t bombarded with all sorts of interesting events and goings-on. “This isn’t going to help knock me out this evening,” I worried, and then post-worried that that would mean the Russian moaning at me with sleepy indignation when, at 5am, having managed to lie still for 3 hours, I decided I needed to have a minor tossing-and-turning session, waking him up in the process. He doesn’t do insomnia. Indeed, he’s got the bed=sleep association so down to a t that sometimes, just when I think we might be about to embark on something sinful, his envy-inducing snores ring out. So I’ve taken to wearing a cow-bell on bed=sex occasions to keep him awake and that works very well.

Just as I was getting into my ambling stride, I saw a youth trying to catch my eye. He appeared to be heading a youth convention. He was the only boy and was tonnes taller than the six or seven girls. “Oh god, I’m going to be mugged in broad daylight by a group of 15-year-olds.” But I wasn’t. “Do you speak English?” he asked and I was thrilled to be linguistically unhandicapped for once in my life. “Can you tell me how to get to the Brandenburg Gate?”

That was sweet, wasn’t it? And respectful of tradition. To want to get to the Brandenburg Gate. I instantly had thoughts of Big Ben. And being asked directions to Big Ben. That would have made me bristle with some positive emotion for London. The trouble was, for the non-mugging youngsters, we were in Camden Town. Nowhere near Big Ben. Or the Brandenburg Gate.

“Hmm, well, you’re quite a way away, youths,” I said, thinking there was no point breaking it to them gently. The male youth took the news like a man and asked me to suggest a route nonetheless. A bus, perhaps? The girls all agreed. And I realised they were Danish. They gobbled advice to him like rather aggressive turkeys as he manfully led the show. His English was so good, at 15, that he could even put on a cool accent. He’d selected London for this linguistic outing. He used the word mate. And a glottal stop. I sent him on his way with his gobbling brood behind him.

Music of the type heard in discotheques – not a tune you could whistle and not a lyric for love nor money – boomed out of an establishment. I was on a busy street but this seemed to be taking the piss. Discotheque-volume music in the afternoon. And then there appeared to be a queue. Good lord. Could it mean that there was a new phenomenon of daytime dances? The French used to do those. As I got closer I saw the boom-boom was coming from a Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream emporium. Flyers for free ice-cream were strewn across the street. The Ben & Jerry’s staff, all dressed in blue, were struggling to cope with the throng. The girl who was on balloons was hard-pushed to inflate them fast enough, thereby keeping the party atmosphere alive. You can’t have a party without balloons, after all. I wonder if queuing for free ice-cream at a Ben & Jerry’s day-time discotheque was part of this cool-Berlin phenomenon that folk are so fond of talking about.

I won’t sleep till Christmas at this rate.



1. ThePenguin - April 30, 2008

Ah, insomnia. All this international galavanting about has put me severely out of whack, my sleep regulating whatever seems to think I am in two timezones four hours each side of where I actually am, and refuses to contemplate sleep in the overlapping four hours.

(You know WordPress is putting a random list of “Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)” beneath your posts now?)

2. BiB - April 30, 2008

Penguin, that’s a bit queer, isn’t it? I don’t know whether to disable it or not yet. You never know. Maybe it could lead to interesting places. Or is it a bit bossy? It’s something I thought about on one of my walks, in fact.

Yes, bad luck. Your body must have taken a bit of a pounding. I often wonder if I’m living in New York time. But it’s not late nights and late mornings that keep me tossing and turning at night, I don’t think.

3. Geoff - April 30, 2008

I am very lucky to never, ever suffer from insomnia. I generally fall into deep sleep within seconds of putting my head down on the pillow, for which I am eternally grateful. This has in the past been a source of much resentment from former boyfriends, two of whom have been insomniacs. Apparently nothing is more annoying when being unable to sleep than being laid next to someone rubbing it by falling asleep so easily.

Daytime dancing is well-established in the increasingly popular gentlemen’s clubs in Vauxhall these days – in fact it’s now possible to go clubbing continously 24 hours a day from Wednesday evening right through til Tuesday morning should you so wish.

4. Ed Ward - April 30, 2008

Wow, I must’ve just missed you yesterday. I was bummeling around that part of town yesterday, and walked past the B&J’s three times.

I do that walking thing a lot in good weather when I need to wear myself out for a good night’s sleep, and you’re right, you wind up discovering all sorts of odd stuff. I found a restaurant serving gnu, for instance, the other day. Or I find myself finding shortcuts to here and there, putting the jigsaw puzzle of the city together. Insomnia’s for when I’ve got too much going on and it runs through my head, and a good walk will quiet that down for me.

As for daytime disco, some of my neighbors seem to have a very good mix going on right now, and I’m half thinking I should ascertain the source and find out what the records are.

5. BiB - April 30, 2008

Ed, on a random Pankow walk not long ago, the Russian and I decided to drop in on a place we once popped into for just a coffee with a friendess who lived above it. But this time we ate, and it was GOOD, and I instantly thought of you. On a sun-drenched (OK, not always) corner, and we sat outside, and the waitress was nice and not rude. Emposhened/internationalised German fare. Though perhaps not only. Bugger, there was a website, which I now can’t find. But Café Nord, Grunowstr. 21. Very close to Pankow U-Bahn. Let’s organise a lunch there on a sunny day.

Geoff, looking at a sleeping beauty next to you helps while away some of the insomnia-hit hours but eventually I slightly want to nudge him awake and say, “I can’t sleep,” which I don’t do. But I might as well as the tossing-and-turning is the same thing without words. And I’ve got a feeling you somniacs sleep like twigs, so are easily awoken. Whereas when we insomniacs do finally get to sleep, we could happily sleep through war, famine and pestilence… Clubbing for a week! That sounds like a very bad holiday.

6. bowleserised - April 30, 2008

No insomnia, but I am regretting getting white curtains.

I should use those early morning for bummeling instead.

7. IsarSteve - May 1, 2008

Insomnia in my opinion doesn’t have anything thing to do with not being able “to sleep”. I think it often has more to do with not wanting to be part of the rest of the world.
Sleep during the day to avoid contact and work at night when you can’t be disturbed.
In the periods of my life when I’ve had problems, financial or boyfriend trouble. I often sank into the nightlife way of living and slept during the day (if I could)….. aaaahsoooo undtttt BiB… was haben SIE füüürrr Probleme?

8. BiB - May 1, 2008

Isar, spot on about the night-working. That’s when I peak, when I’m least disturbed, and when I can concentrate best. But I think I (just about) manage to be part of the rest of the world too. I almost constantly wonder whether I should get a ‘real job’, both to force me into a regular routine and to have the joy of colleagues… and then almost everyone moans about work, and their colleagues, and getting up at 6 and I bow down and kiss the floorboards and thank providence that I am my own boss. I manage to hate colleagues I only ever have e-mail contact with and those I meet once every five years for a drink, which I think is meant to be fun. And those – sorry, I am in the middle of a translation which I’m especially loathing – who send you 800 pages of legal bollocks for you to sign and fax back when the translation itself is 2 words and for 2p.

B., could you even sleep last night with the constant whirr of helicopters overhead? I enjoyed walking through the throng around Eberswalderstr. and was almost tempted to burn a car but everyone was behaving pretty well, so I curbed my anarchic urges. But, yes, walking is a very good thing.

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