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With or without you September 6, 2008

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

Darlings, I was in the shiatsu chair in my local shopping centre the other day – honestly, the best 2 euros you’ll ever spend (downstairs in the Arcaden on Schönhauser Allee, for the locals). You are mechanically fisted – no penetration – for ten minutes and while it’s a bit embarrassing whimpering from pain and pleasure in public, it’s well worth the humiliation – trying to avoid thinking about the Russian being in Russia for fifty years again and watching the world go by. “But what will I do if anything breaks while he’s away?” I pondered. “What if I have to use some device with more than one button? What if I forget my keys and am locked out for a month?” (The concierge has a spare set, he assured me, but I don’t believe him.)

Just as the mechanical fists were giving my lower back a right good going-over, my thoughts of abandonment were rudely interrupted by interesting-looking passers-by. A professional son with a very vacant look in his eyes, though there was intelligence behind the vacancy, supported his aged and disabled mother as they dawdled past me at record low speed. I doubted they’d spoken – to each other or anyone else – in a number of years. I imagined their life consisted largely of tea and dry cake in a flat decorated with the German equivalent of Hay Wain reproductions. Perhaps the mother might occasionally cry, “Me knees,” and the son would adjust her pouffe or blanket as the occasion demanded.

“There but for the grace of god,” I started to think to myself, but then nipped that cliché in the bud lest I instantly turn religious. “Still, even if my beloved does fuck off and abandon me for eleven months of every year, my fate is a lucky one. I am yet to be institutionalised into any caring, familial role. I live my life quite disgracefully selfishly.”

I was just working my way up to the top floor of the shopping centre to buy a self-help (or help-others) book on how to be good when who should I see on the escalator going in the other direction but the institutionalised son! Without his mother! There was no way he could have delivered his charge back to their flat and put a blanket over her knees in this time. Naturally I assumed he had flipped – those eyes had a hint of the murderous – and killed his poor mother, chopped her up and left her body to dissolve in sulphuric acid – or is it folic? Though isn’t that the one that stops you getting Alzheimer’s? A shame to waste it on murderous pursuits – in a bath. But, then, if he hadn’t had time to get her home, logically, I suppose he couldn’t have had time to commit the perfect crime either. All such a worry. But better safe than sorry.

“Murderer, murderer,” I screamed, pointing hysterically at the very likely cold-blooded killer. A few blonde-haired ladies interrupted their gossiping for a moment or two but chose not to get involved. The Turkish greengrocer continued announcing reductions in a holler. The freshly-orphaned very likely cold-blooded killer turned his head to face me very slowly, his expression unchanging, and turned away calmly, not even quickening his step to escape.

I was being as socially useless as ever. Not only wasn’t I helping a disabled relative have a more comfortable life, I couldn’t even help detain the most recent very likely cold-blooded killer of our times and region. I dashed for the street, hoping I’d find a trusty German bobby, recount the whole grisly tale – I’d stop off in an internet café first, I thought, my ideas racing, and check German for sulphuric on an online dictionary – before fainting helplessly into his arms.

I hurtled out into the autumn, barging bag-laden consumers aggressively and refusing to answer their facial indignation with so much as an apology. I saw a police car and rolled over its bonnet which brought me face-to-face with a pot-bellied Berliner whose disdain for me was growing by the nanosecond. I noticed that my attempts to detain a killer had, at long last, begun to cause a ripple of interest. I surveyed the scene and prepared to launch into my spiel. When I saw the son reappear on the scene laden down with shopping bags and walking towards his mother whom he’d seated at the outdoor café.

“Sorry. Falscher Alarm,” I whispered to the policeman and rolled off the other side of the bonnet and crawled along the road to the next junction.

“You kopink vizout me?” asked the Russian by text, presently.

“Yes, very well, darling. Very well.”


1. Marsha Klein - September 6, 2008

Ooh, my hairdresser has chairs like that by the hair-washing basins. You have to be careful not to yelp too enthusiastically – a mouthful of warm, sudsy water would not be pleasant!

Please try not to get arrested before your beloved’s return from Raasha.

P.S Daisy is going to be studying “Huis Clos” soon. When she told me, I had a giggle again at your story about your ex and “that story”.

2. BiB - September 6, 2008

Darling, isn’t education marvellous? I was just thinking this the other day. I mean, when I was actually being institutionally educated, I probably thought it was pants, and that I could read all this stuff at home. Which is a bit true. But, of course, institutional compulsion provides the motivation. I have never been thicker than in my 30s.

But at university, you mean? No, you mean for the Scottish equivalent of A Levels. Or university already?

3. marshaklein - September 6, 2008

No, you were right the first time. Advanced Highers (which I guess are the Scottish equivalent of A Levels).

I know what you mean about education – if I’m honest, I think* I’m more excited about Daisy’s courses than she is. I bought a load of books about existentialism from Amazon yesterday, ostensibly for her…

*OK, I’m definitely more excited than she is!

4. BiB - September 6, 2008

…but she’ll appreciate it in the end. So wonderful that education hasn’t yet been wegrationalisiert, as the Germans say, i.e. rationalised away, i.e. got rid of, as an unnecessary drain on public funds. I mean, when else in life might a person get to concentrate on Sartre? Have Sartre as their priority? Their be-all-and-end-all? Not that I mean Sartre is the be-all-and-end-all, of course, but you know what I mean.

I’d love to study philosophy, a bit. Every time I come across those epistemologies and teleologies and phenomenologies and positivisms and existentialisms, I go and research them a bit and try to convince myself I once knew what this all meant but, sure enough, by the next time I stumble across them, all is forgotten.

5. oyebilly - September 7, 2008

Do Germans drink tea? And if so what kind?

I’m just curious.

6. BiB - September 7, 2008

Billy, not with the same quasi-religious fervour as back on the island. And, to the best of my knowledge, though I might be pretending Germans are Russian, not usually with milk. Fruity, herbal and green teas are probably as much the rage here as the regular black stuff. Rooibus, rose hip. That kind of thing. A pal gave me a cup of PG Tips tea not long ago at his house and it did taste like home, I have to say.

7. bowleserised - September 8, 2008

I think Germans are more obsessed with tea than Brits, especially given the number of specialist tea shops here. Blimming masses of them. And all kinds of Japanese tips harvested by virgins at the light of the gibbous moon etc etc.
I muse get some PG Tips next time I’m in an Asian food shop… It seems to be considered a staple.

8. BiB - September 8, 2008

B., do you mean he might not have had it imported especially and got it at a corner shop?

I vaguely hate tea, unless it’s served ceremonially and importantly, like in Russia – not with a ceremony, I mean, just that tea can be a formal affair – with some nice sweet accompaniment. I think the Russians are far more fervent about tea than the British, actually. The tea they make is also 100 times nicer.

9. narrowback - September 9, 2008

Tea? Can’t stand the stuff. I was nearly drowned in it as a youth between it being the irish-american equivalent of a cure-all… (Got a fever? Have a cup of tea and some toast. You’re nauseous? Have a cup of tea and some toast. You lost your arm in an industrial accident? Have a cup of tea and some toast) and the fact that until well into the 1970’s it was the only non-alcoholic beverage served at adult social functions.

Despite not having touched a drop in oh say 20 years my mother still greets me upon returning home for a visit with “would you like a cup of tea?”

Give me coffee…good old pre-Starbucks, tailored for the palate of a drill sergeant, american style coffee… mit milch, bitte.

“tea-totaler” is a pejorative for a reason.

10. ThePenguin - September 9, 2008

Here’s a fun thing to do: give a German person a proper British tea bag to make a cup of tea with, and watch the ensuing palpitations.

@Bowleserised: that tea harvested by Japanese virgins is very very rare. They just can’t get the staff these days.

11. Sexless Berlin - September 9, 2008

My ex used to like to refer to my behavior when he was gone for extended periods as “chewing up the furniture”. I never appreciated the canine sound to that, but there was something to it. I really enjoyed this post of yours — I know exactly how you’re feeling. I’m sort of liking the idea of swooning into the arms of a Madrid policeman; plenty of them are my cup of tea in the looks department (if you’ll permit the mixed metaphors). But somehow I’ve never been any good with authority. What do you think about firemen? The Spanish women are wild for them; apparently they have to pass fiercely demanding physical qualification exam and are all buff beyond belief.

12. BiB - September 9, 2008

Katchita, I think that love of firemen is international. I know one back on the island – a fitness fanatic. In incredibly good shape – and he says it’s not unknown for ladies to just turn up at the fire-station to, erm, express their admiration. In Paris, there was a fire-station open-day/party every year – La Fête des Pompiers, or something like that – which I think many took advantage of purely to gawp at their hosts.

Penguin, do you mean because they’ll be so excited at having got their hands on some quality stuff or because they’ll be scared they’ll get some aspect of etiquette wrong? It’s quite nice to have that drink-respect though, isn’t it? I think tea and gin & tonic are the only aspects of our ‘cuisine’ which are respected. One guest once commented what an honour it was to have a g&t made for him by an Englishman, as if he’d been cooked for by some 20-Michelin-star chef.

Narrowback, it is the Irish equivalent of chicken soup. When I visit my mother, I do drink tea because I lose the ability to make coffee in England and just want to watch local news and soap operas and eat fish-fingers. Mind you, tea and toast? Now you’re talkin’. I might even have some white bread on my next trip ‘home’.

13. Mr D - September 9, 2008

I love the way PG Tips is starting to infiltrate cornershops on the Continent (well, in Denmark and Germany to my knowledge, and possibly elsewhere, too). It’s still cheaper for me to import it as an individual – just enough for my own use – mind.

Narrowback: Was your mum in Father Ted?

14. BiB - September 9, 2008

Mr D, maybe I need to revisit my tea-drinking past. I’ve got very out of practice. Another Russian tea-drinking tip for if, which seems unlikely, you ever happen to run out of sugar but do have jam… Yup, sweeten with jam. Nicer, actually, and you get a nice mouthful of hot jam at the end.

15. ThePenguin - September 21, 2008

BiB, no I meant the person in question was used to the “tampon-style” one-cup teabags and their corresponding barely-one-diddly-cup-strength, and was somewhat shaken after imbibing the same amount of tea caffeine from that one cup which would normally occupy half-a-teapot.

16. BiB - September 21, 2008

Pengers, marvellous. ODing on tea. I think I’ve certainly noticed the reverse phenomenon whereby English (or foreign) guests have been given a cup of tampon tea and been very unsatisfied at its strength, or rather, its weakness. I never realised that blog Tampon Teabag was actually named after a real thing.

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