Toss April 30, 2008Posted 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.