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Water July 29, 2008

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

The Russian and I were still suffering the aftershocks of orgasm when we were both dazzled by the sunshine which had doubled its intensity to make it through our blacked-out windows – you can never be too careful – to advise us, subliminally, to take our annual trip out of the house. We got up from our respective computers and bumped into each other in the hall. Both thought of trying to pretend we hadn’t seen the other. But as extremities of our blubber came into accidental contact, we admitted we were no longer alone and attempted conversation.

“How was it for you?” I asked.

“Ze desk moved.”

“You’re a fantastic cyber-lover,” I added, my heart softening. “I love the way you do that thing with capital letters.”


“Should we, like, you know, actually go out?”

Of course it mostly ends in tears, this leaving the house. I have decided it’s the height of degradation, for example, to go anywhere without buying a shirt. Which could go part of the way to explaining my fantastic debts. But you never know when you might have to look respectable somewhere or other and what could be more respectable-making than a shirt? Once I decide it’s the height of bad manners to leave the house without buying a suit, I’ll be sorted.

So the sun redazzled and redoubled its intensity and branded the words, “Sit out in me,” in the filth of the flat’s windows. Out in the sun! What a thought. My feet lead me inexorably to other built-up bits of Berlin when I deem the quarterly walk necessary but the Russian had a brainwave and remembered that during a period of especially hating me a couple of years ago, he would seek refuge in Treptow, a suburb on the south side of the river Spree which affords all the beauties of the river itself, a huge fuck-off park and a Soviet war memorial.

Darlings, it’s heaven. Well, the war memorial isn’t, especially, but the river is. Water is such a good invention. And even better when not full of salt. We wandered through the park, whooping for joy at all the exposed flesh. “Phwoar,” I might shout, at two-second intervals. “Woof,” I might bark, at the seconds in between.

“Darlink, you must not shout ‘voof’ at every myen zat passes.”

“Darling, why not? I haven’t seen another human since 1986. I’d forgotten how beautiful they all are… Woof!”

“Darlink, zat voz statue.”

And then we hired a pedalo. A pedalo! (Thought it was easier than a rowing boat.) And it was heaven. Actual heaven. To be on a pedalo on the Spree. And people were swimming in the river, so I did too, except I had to do it naked because I didn’t have any swimming stuff with me – distance assures discretion – and it was double plus lovely, swimming round the pedalo moored to a buoy, until I got worried that the Spree might have alligators and breed tick-borne encephalitis. The Russian and I would smack each other’s hand away from the steering rod with matrimonial ease. And then pedal-paddle to the next buoy.

“Zere is nice outdoor disko,” the Russian instructed me as we reacquainted ourselves with terra firma after a hopeless dinner on a pretty-view-affording boat. The boom boom could be heard from the other side of the river. With my head still giddy at recent memories of quarterdecks, shank-painters and clew-garnets, the Russian and I trod purposefully discowards.

Teenagers with dreadlocks and rucksacks rolled cigarettes furiously. On more than one occasion, we were approached and asked if we had any spare papers. Perhaps, in their youthfulness, they hadn’t yet realised that you could buy ready-made cigarettes, thus obviating their labour. I suggested to the Russian that we might tell the DJ to make a public-service announcement to give them this intelligence (and to remind them, even if they did have dreadlocks, that there was a smoking ban, you know), but the Russian thought I was missing the point.

I asked a barmaid where the loos were. She looked at me in disgust a) because she had never before seen anyone so old and b) that I should want to do anything so conventional as use the loo. I returned to the Russian with a spiel prepared that I was no longer twelve (and very happy not to be) and this was without doubt the most miserable half-hour of my entire existence. A couple helped matters briefly by dancing in a gaze-capturing way. He played an air guitar languidly enough to do a very good impression of a scarecrow with a pacemaker. She jumped up and down as if having electric shocks applied to her feet every time she made contact with the floor.

We left as soon as I could convince the Russian he too was no longer in the first flush of youth, played British Bulldog with the swarms of teenagers asking for papers and, in one case, money, dodged past another teenager vomiting into a bush, stole back down to the river bank, threw the Russian’s and my disco shoes into a pedalo, cut it free of its moorings and let it drift away into the waters of the past.

Don’t walk July 11, 2008

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

My road rage, or, more specifically, pavement rage, knows no bounds. I wanted to write this post for the benefit of your minds and well-beings four days ago but I accidentally popped out for a pint of milk which involved crossing the road, which took four days.

It can take so long to cross the road here that you can witness whole lives play out before your eyes, as long as they’re the type of life which happen at a different speed. As I waited six months to cross the road on one of my recent expeditions – see how it’s pointless ever leaving the house – I saw a couple get married, have their first baby and start divorce proceedings, all at a junction. I saw a child finish school and graduate from university. I saw a toddler clamber down from her father’s back when it became embarrassing to be there with the body of a teenager. Royal dynasties came and went. A putsch occurred but was put down and order restored. People changed from summer to winter dress and back again. Continents moved apart and new seas formed.

All in the space of time it took to cross one street. The only plus side of this forced immobility is that I allow myself to have torrid affairs at traffic lights. I confess all to the Russian the second I get in, so relieved to discover him still alive after such a long separation that infidelity seems trifling. “I don’t know if I’m free, Wolfgang,” I’ll say to Wolfgang who was a bit immature at the start of our relationship but had developed into a fine, respectable citizen by the time we parted some years later. “I think I’ve got a husband. I haven’t seen him for some months because I had to go to the post-office and buy a new belt, which involved crossing three streets, so he might easily have run off with the raggle-taggle gypsies by now, or established a cult, or become Bundeskanzler. No way of knowing.” Wolfgang and I part, him having aged terribly. The cruel, cruel injustice of it all.

All cars’ fault. Not surprising in Germany, perhaps, that cars should be kings of the road. The Germans make every car on earth and they don’t need them held up at traffic lights because how else will they get exported quick enough to make room for new ones? Types have probably worked out, knowing types, how long, ideally, for the cars, pesky pedestrians should be given to cross the road. It was awfully complicated, no doubt, and the formula used every letter in the Greek alphabet and even had to make some new ones up but it was decided that, for traffic to flow optimally, pedestrians should be given one eighteenth of a second every 43rd leap year. The joyous moment, when it comes, releases a rush of such emotional turmoil and civil unrest that the formula is revised.

Yet don’t you think, if you are without Germany’s borders, that our moment, when it comes, is ours alone. Pedestrian joy is not only short-lived. It is shared. With cars. The types worked out that not only should we be given one eighteenth of a second every 43rd leap year to dash across the street but that, for traffic flow to go unhindered, the cars should be able to weave in and out between us. We have the moral authority. But it’s also crystal clear who’s going to blink first if there really is a showdown.

I am always unsure of how to react in such moments. I get home and write a road-crossing manifesto. But so much time elapses between one car-avoiding sprint and the next that all principle goes out the window. But I wonder whether to stand my ground and walk at a smidgen below regular speed, the car nudging ever closer, and defend my pedestrian rights, which makes me feel like a bit of a tosser. Or whether I should up my speed a little for the driver’s (and traffic-flow’s and, thereby, the German economy’s) benefit, worrying the whole time it’ll only encourage them. Or whether I should walk at a very fake normal speed and hope the driver doesn’t realise that my mind is turbid with worry that I’m holding him up, he’s going to run me over and, in attempting to appear normal and unconcerned with external appearance, I have adopted the gait of John Merrick.

Civil disobedience is called for. For I’m only quite sympathetic to a Berlin motorist’s need for perfection on the roads. Our public transport is a dream. I can take a tram from my computer to the bathroom and there’s a price reduction for short-hop journeys. It’s that well-planned. (Though it’s annoying that ticket inspectors have access to my home.) I have some moral objection to travelling underground, like some rat in a tin-can, but bite my lip heroically if needs must. Folk can whiz around this not-too-hilly city on bikes. We have big fat overground trains and some excellently well-appointed railway stations.

The motorists need some mayhem in their life. All this perfection is no good for them. A traffic-jam or two will do them good. The odd low-speed pile-up never did anyone any harm.

If we can just seize control of the traffic lights…

You say tomato July 7, 2008

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

Darlings, I’ve been working like someone without an inheritance to look forward to of late. Ghastly, of course, to have to pay one’s own way in the world when surely it is a human right to be able to do nothing and yet still go to restaurants at least four nights a week. Still, working for a living does give me something to bollock the Russian about so it’s almost worth the bother.

The queer thing is, I had to linguistically reinvent myself as an American for the latest bout of wage-slavery. I’ve done this before, of course. Every now and again, an employer will add, as one final extra nudge towards irredeemable alcoholism, “Oh, by the way, the client would like the text in American English.” Piece of piss. Even employers whom I’ve regrettably built up a bit of a relationship with – the most boring drink I’ve ever had. Worrying about grammar and not getting too drunk throughout – have daringly admitted it’s just a case of changing the odd ess for a zee. The odd -re to -er. And then it’s been a life-long ambition to write the word ‘maneuver’ in some context or other. Sadly, it didn’t come up. Again.

But it all seemed much more difficult this time round. Perhaps the flippancy of the previous employer made me think it really was as easy as pie. But then their translations were always technical. Hardly as much as a sentence. So even if I did americanize wrong, it meant nothing because everyone who laid eyes on the document had committed suicide before the end of the first paragraph. Yet here it was all sentences. And grown-up-sounding ones that looked like they needed to be taken seriously. And my new-found zeal for the zee had me in trouble in no time, sticking them in where they had no rightful place. When I spelled and ‘zand’ I knew I was in trouble.

I went online for some real-American advice.

“Yo beeyatch. You online?” I wrote to a friend who’s not even that much of a bitch.

“Yo beeyatch.”


“Yes beeyatch?”

“Do Americans say, ‘annual leave’?” I asked, feeling more parochial with every zee-free tap of the keyboard, though I suppressed the emotion with restorative thoughts of the House of Windsor.

“Dumb-ass mutha-fucka. Ain’t no cock-suckin’ faggot gonna say no ‘Annual Leave’,” and I could sense him mouthing ‘annual leave’ in a fake English accent and raising a fake cup of tea to his lips with his little finger raised. He corrected me accordingly. “Hell, scrub, you needz to get yourself a real job ‘stead o’ sittin’ round all day on yo’ fat ass typin’ shit like some mutha-fucka.”

I finished sewing some frilly lace onto my curtains and got on with the job, imbued with the vigour of one who has learnt something new. He’d given me just the sort of gentle hints I needed. Any time I had another doubt, I would say the sentence out loud to myself. “Would an American say that?” I’d ask. When the case was particularly thorny, I’d say it out loud to myself in a Deputy Dawg accent, assuming, no doubt rightly, that no parochial anglicism would make it through that stern filter.

“Darlink, vot you doink? Vy you speak yoursyelf?” asked the Russian, standing scornfully in the doorway.

“Saying my translation in Deputy Dawg.”

“OK, but zen you maast hang out voshink.”

Almost happy with my final version, I pressed F5, replaced every ‘you’ with ‘y’all’ and sent off my last ever translation. My prostitute training-course starts next week.