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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.


1. oyebilly - July 29, 2008

Capital letters do it for me every time. That and underlined red text.

2. BiB - July 29, 2008

Billy, you filthy bitch. I never dare do underlined AND red.

3. wyndham - July 30, 2008

Gosh, what a racy beginning! And with your lyrical style I see a career as a romantic novelist if, by some mistake, mostly everyone ends up speaking German and the translation business dries up.

4. Annie Rhiannon - July 30, 2008


5. Marsha Klein - July 30, 2008

Skinny-dipping in the Spree – sounds blissful. Swimming nude is the most wonderful feeling. Unfortunately if you tried it in Edinburgh’s inner-city river, the Forth, you’d glow in the dark afterwards.

I LOVE your blog!

6. annie - July 30, 2008

Ooh, the sunshine has made your blog all frisky. Hurrah!

7. Mr D - July 30, 2008


It probably won’t.

8. Mr D - July 30, 2008

Nope, it didn’t. Was supposed to be red and underlined. Oh well.

Any minnows in the river?

9. narrowback - July 31, 2008

Swimming in the Spree?! Doesn’t the endemic german hypochondria argue against such pursuits?

Having spent my childhood on the island of Manhattan, when I think of swimming in an urban waterway the Hudson and East rivers jump to mind. The health related disincentive that those memories generate is so strong that despite having lived in Chicago for 20+ years with our numerous lakefront inner city beaches that I have not been able to so much as put a toe in the water. While I’m sure the broad expanses of the Spree down by Teptow are far cleaner than the narrower (and funkier) stretches that I’m familiar with up in Mitte – I’ll still take a pass.

A few years ago my firefighter brother decided that running into burning tenements wasn’t exciting enough and he decided to volunteer for the harbor rescue unit of the FDNY. He quickly dropped the idea after being advised that after each dip into the waters surrounding NYC he’d have to undergo a battery of injections to ward off such nasty bugs as typhoid, amebic dysentery, cholera, etc.

10. Neal - July 31, 2008

Though I don’t smoke, I’ve heard that rolling your own cigarettes is far cheaper than buying pre-packed varieties, thus the appeal to teenagers. Or maybe the allure lies in the act of rolling one’s own, which has an air of coolness that can only be shared amongst the future lung cancer recipients.

11. Ed Ward - August 1, 2008

Somehow, I suspect the cigarettes being rolled in this particular instance aren’t available pre-packed anywhere but maybe Holland.

12. d.z. bodenberg - August 1, 2008

In gabba establishments, as only then could they be rolled ‘furiously’, possibly due to the strength being enough to cause psychosis and those doing the rolling probably being pitbull owners.

13. Wierdo - August 2, 2008

I’ve spent the day in an ice cream van, looking at everybody else swimming in the sea.
Granted, it was not that sunny so I was sitting in the van thinking “what are you doing?!” but after reading your post, my memories of today seems to be of tremendous sunshine and me sitting in the van, hating everyone….

14. BiB - August 6, 2008

W., I hope you at least had the privilege of being able to serve yourself as much free ice-cream as you wanted. The swimming-in-rivers weather has long since passed now.

d.z., I had to google gabba, which took me to wiki. And I learnt it was a type of music, and then I worried that maybe you were a line too low on the keyboard with your consonants, and had meant ragga, but then remembered there’s no reason for you to mistype your comment so that it would be a type of music I’d heard of.

Ed, who was it I was asking about the smoking ban in Holland and how this affected their coffee-shops? Or did I read it on a blog? Have I invented that it is now the case that narcotics on narcotic-friendly premises may now only be smoked if tobacco-free? Sometimes the law throws up some lovely anomalies. (Not majorly a drug fiend, but did do the youngster thing of swallowing a lump of something on the way home from Amsterdam 100 years ago. Sick as a dog for days.)

Neal, perhaps there is an element of coolness in the rolling. I never managed it once when I was a smoker. Now tell me, is Antarctica smoke-free? Is there a whole continent where nobody smokes? Or, presuming there is the odd smoker or two in your ranks, where do they get their supplies? Commandeering a ship from Chile to provide 20 Rothmans seems a bit extravagant.

Narrowback, I must admit I was cavalier where my health was concerned. As soon as I saw the odd swimmer wasn’t being sucked under by a powerful current, I dived in without a thought for cholera or typhoid. But now think those are probably slow-incubating afflictions and that I’m bound to get them soon. As long as I can antibiotic them away I won’t mind too much. How will I know if I’ve got them?

Mr D, damn and blast not being able to porn up our comments. I forgot to notice, and when I started worrying about alligators, tick-borne encephalitis, catfish and dinosaurs, I clambered out as quick as a (fairly slow) flash.

Annie, I do apologise. Indeed, it must have been the sun wreaking havoc on my wiring. The weather is remarkably unspectacular again so I’ve put sexiness into mothballs till next summer.

Marsha, I’m not sure how common an occurrence it is here. I didn’t swim till the second day we’d been there and I saw someone clambering off the river bank the first day, just up to the waist right next to dry land, and thought he was mad and would instantly drown. But then it felt Nu Labour and nanny state not to swim. And I went in before the Russian, which meant I was harder than he was and could call him a wuss.

Annie R., thank you, but you are far more blonktastic than this sorry blogger. But, really, a million thank yous. I had a squillion readers over from your gaff and had to go out in a panic. Didn’t even offer them a cup of tea and slice of Jamaica ginger cake.

Wyndham, I repeat the apologies I made to Annie. It was the sun wot done it. Do you mean you think I’ve got a chance as the next Jilly Cooper? But I don’t know the first thing about polo! I’m going to go and google some polo-porn.

15. narrowback - August 6, 2008

you’ll know if you picked up any of the bugs…most manifest themselves in the form of fevers, severe gastorintestinal distress and/or boils-lesions. Given the length of time that has passed you’re probably OK… then again you’ll have missed out on joing such notables as Clausewitz, Hegel, Tchaikovsky, etc.

16. BiB - August 7, 2008

Narrowback, thank god you warned me. I’d worried those symptoms were somehow alcohol-related and was thinking of going back on the wagon. Now I know a little injection or some lovely pills will save the day. Had to check who Clausewitz was but would happily share anything in common with the other two. Alas, this may have been my only chance.

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