jump to navigation

Trois Hongroises November 14, 2008

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

“Surprising to bump into someone around here,” I thought to myself. They looked familiar, but I was damned if I could remember who it was. The ideal solution would have been to pretend I hadn’t seen them. Turn my eyes away not too demonstratively. Fake rivetedness in some passing fancy. But it was too late for that. We’d clocked each other. I was going to have to tough the occasion out.

I rid my throat, preparing for speech. And began to contort my face to express honest but, I hoped, polite bewilderment. The stranger’s face showed no equal foreboding, so I was going to have the redoubled shame of being the only one to admit I didn’t know who the other was. I clicked my fingers. Then wiggled them. All semaphores for, “It’s coming to me. Tip of my tongue.”

“Sorry, I know I know you from somewhere, but I can’t remember where. You’re going to have to tell me your name. I do apologise.”

“Raashn,” said the Russian, who never had mastered articles.

“Good Lord! Well, fancy that! What are you doing round here?”

“I leev kheer,” said the Russian. “Zees our flyet. Kyen I gyet past?” And he disappeared into the bathroom.

“Well there’s a thing!” I thought, though I suppose bumping into the person in my own flat should have been something of a hint. It’s a rare occasion indeed that out-and-out strangers parade up and down the corridor from kitchen to living room, bedroom or bathroom. Though with all the talk of doom and gloom I shouldn’t wonder if I were soon sheltering all sorts of sundry Berliners down on their luck.

“Darling, do you mean we’re still a couple?” I inquired having entered the bathroom unannounced, eager to get to the bottom of the mystery and deciding, our acquaintance rekindled, that I had the same rights of intimacy as before. “It’s just I’d clean forgotten. I mean, it’s been so long. Must have been ’99, mustn’t it? The Biafra campaign? Or, no, wait. ’03. Jonty’s wedding! Where have you been all this time?”

“In nyext room,” he said with ease, as if conversation of this levity was an everyday occurrence. He wiped toothpaste foam away from his cheeks.

I went back to my quarters to regain my composure. There I’d been thinking I was a man of leisure without a care in the world and it turns out there’d been a significant other all along. So troubling was my confusion and so chaotic the flood of memories pinballing round my minimally-furnished head that I wasn’t even sure if my conscience could vouch for good behaviour in the intervening years. Still, no time for going back over old ground now. It was time to face up to the current lie of the land. Which seemed to mean a new beginning. A clean sheet. Starting over.

“Um, so what’s your best news?” I asked the Russian when we next bumped into each other, minutes hardly having passed. An old trick I learnt – the Trucial States, ’77 I think it was – to oblige the person to answer positively. Or was it to counter the slew of miserable old widowers my parents appeared to have adopted when I was young? Ask them how they were and they’d have the cheek to answer in all honesty. “Well, BiB, sure I don’t like to complain but this diabetes is fierce hard altogether. I can only have 100 calories a day. One cup o’ tea and that’s me lot.” Poor old widowers. Gone to London to make their fortunes and if their wives didn’t up and die the second they left, their children flourished with some foster family or other while they floundered, unable to look after themselves in the big city.

“Obama veen elyekshn,” the Russian retorted, only minimally getting into the spirit of the question yet refusing to take the contemptuous scowl off his face.

“Really? Did he? I hadn’t heard. Yes, that is good news.”

“And your byest news?” asked the Russian for the sake of at least passable propriety.

“Well, funny you should ask because I did see three rather gripping Hungarian women on the U-Bahn. One was prim. One was terse. One was frumpy. And they all had such small feet. And I thought the prim one had probably married rather well and the terse one slightly hated her. But the frumpy one seemed the happiest and…”

“Zet not news. Streektly spyeekink.”

“Oh. I see. Well, you know, darling. Same old, same old,” and I closed the door gently behind me.


1. Mr D - November 14, 2008

Gosh, you have been busy! And I agree with you about asking people to tell you something good and happy, rather than presenting them with a chance to reel off a list of complaints.

He’s right, though, about the Hungarians: that’s not really news.

2. sylvia - November 14, 2008

I’m not proud, I’ll listen to any news. It’s lonely at the bottom, here in South London!

3. wierdo - November 14, 2008

I’ve never thought of asking people to tell me something good and happy. I panic about small talk and general conversation and say the first thing that comes into my head.

Which usually involves the weather or my socks.

4. BiB - November 14, 2008

W., those are perfectly good topics of small talk. Well, bar the socks, perhaps. And, today, the weather. Awful here. Makes me wonder what the point of Berlin existing where it does is. Needs to be swept up and put away.

Sylvia, but with such a large family, mustn’t you be bursting at the seams with news from folks telling you about their days? Mind you, do people do all that recounting their day stuff? The Russian will occasionally ask me to tell him how some event or other went but I always think it’s such an effort. “I don’t speak Russian,” I say on those occasions.

Mr D, good tip, isn’t it? It instantly makes the immediate area, up to a radius of quite some kilometres, smell of roses. I’ve got Danes this weekend and we usually manage to tell each other a lugubrious tale or two, but I might just see if I can jolly us up this time round. I’ve bought the booze in case that plan fails.

5. Mr D - November 14, 2008

You’ve got Danes? I hear there’s an ointment to help it clear up.

Enjoy your weekend! Or ‘weekend’, as they imaginatively say in Danish…

6. marshaklein - November 15, 2008

I can tell you something good and happy – Daisy and I saw David Tennant in Hamlet the day before yesterday!!

7. Valerie in San Diego - November 17, 2008

An excellent plan. My best news is that 25,000 people turned out for the pro-gay-marriage march/rally in San Diego on Saturday, and Rob and I were amongst them. San Diego has a history of being conservative, so this was welcome enthusiasm.

But really, it’s hard to beat Obama being elected for good news over hereabouts…

8. BiB - November 17, 2008

Valerie, yes, people going to vote to stop gay people having a way to give some legal status to their relationships seems remarkably vindictive. Not content with tutting in disagreement over how others live their lives but actually going out to vote to stop them doing so. Nasty. Though I’m confident(ish) there will be a time when people will wonder what all the fuss was about. I mean, it’s not as if gayness is illegal anywhere in the States. So what can possibly be the harm in those nice legal gays making their relationships official? The convulsions over this in the States do seem far more critical compared to when the same issue has come up in Europe. Of course there was umming and aahing before gay marriage was introduced to the UK but now that it’s a fact, I think there has been relatively little post-natal trauma.

Marsha, which means it and he must have been good. Or better than good. And do you mean you went all the way to Stratford to see him/it? Or has he/it travelled? This Tennant geezer now seems to be the biggest star in the world. Can he do no wrong?

Mr D, my Danes are lovely. Nice, proper, old friends whom I get gooey and sentimental with. And drunk.

9. Sylvia - November 17, 2008

Alas, Bib, my family only speak to me to ask for something or to complain. Rosa Klebb’s school send parents postcards telling us of our children’s achievements (didn’t stab anyone today, etc) because they know the TMS (Teen Messaging Service) is an oxymoron.

10. Geoff - November 17, 2008

It’s not quite proper marriage that we have in the UK though, it’s still a second-class status. I wonder how long it’ll be before we get proper marriage in the UK? I mean, if the catholic Spanish can do it there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to.

11. narrowback - November 18, 2008

it t’wasn’t all that long ago that many states in the US had sodomy laws that were only used against gays – IIRC it was a supreme court decision in the 1980’s that corrected that problem.

is the setup in the UK a domestic partnership/civil union kind of thing? Many cities here already have that.

There were massive demonstrations in opposition to Prop. 8/in support of gay marriage across the U.S. this past weekend. My bet tho is on the courts. Currently, the California Supreme Court is considering three filed lawsuits, challenging the legal validity of Proposition 8. The suits claim that a majority of voters cannot revoke rights deemed suitable for everyone under the equal protection clause in the state’s Constitution.

12. marshaklein - November 18, 2008

He was wonderful and, yes, we went to Stratford to see the play (Daisy’s 17th birthday present). It does seem he can do no wrong at the moment – I’ve been an admirer of his for a long time though*, way before things like Blackpool, Casanova and, of course, Dr Who brought him to the attention of a wider audience.

As for seeking out good and happy news, well, had I not been still in the grip of Tennant-mania when I commented before I would, of course, have pointed out that that’s why I read your blog – you never fail to make me smile.

*This is code for ‘I’m not just a FAN, I’m something deeper, something MORE’!!!

13. Mr D - November 19, 2008

Obama won because more Democrats voted than normal and fewer Republicans voted than normal. Of the new Democrats to vote, a great many were black (“African-Americans”). In California, it was due to new black American voters that Prop 8 was voted for. Without the new black voters it wouldn’t have been voted for. Let’s be clear about this, and not deny it. Ethnic minorities and working class people tend to be extremely homophobic. The only cases of homophobia I knew of when I lived in Copenhagen were all caused by young men of an immigrant background, including the time when the people on the Gay Pride parade had rocks thrown at them.

Let me also be clear about this: I’m not being anti-black American! Far from it. But it seems that this is a segment of American society which needs, generally speaking, to be told that it’s OK for people to be gay.

Anyway, it’s a horrible irony: Obama won because more black people voted. But gay marriage in California and a couple of other states was voted against – and state constitutions changed – for the same reason.

14. Mr D - November 19, 2008

Let me stress that, by the way: rocks. Not stones. Rocks.

Ever tried dodging a rock?

There’s not much love there.

15. Mr D - November 20, 2008

Well, that’s one way to end someone’s otherwise healthy comment thread!

I was only repeating what I’d heard a couple of CNN International’s in-house experts saying, but I must admit it’s hard to write on such a topic without sounding incredibly un-PC, to say the least. Perhaps this is one of the hardest topics to try to approach from some kind of middle ground, as issues of race and class are so emotive.

I hope I haven’t offended anyone, by the way; it certainly wasn’t my intention. I’m willing to get my coat if I have…

16. Arabella - November 20, 2008

The CA Feed Poll below analyzes the Pop 8 vote. Education and religious denomination seem to be the largest influences.

Click to access 1031release.source.prod_affiliate.4.pdf

17. Mr D - November 21, 2008

Oh gosh – I just had a quick read. Serves me right, then, for believing so readily what I saw on TV. Hmm, I’ll have to think about why I was so ready to accept what I heard. It fits in with some previous experiences I’ve had. But, based on Arabella’s link, it seems that what happened in California must have been more complex.

18. narrowback - November 21, 2008

Mr. D don’t take it personal,,,the blog’s been a bit quiet as of late

19. Arabella - November 21, 2008

Mr D, with the exception of Bill O’Reilly, there is some non-fictional news on the telly sometimes.
Reading polls is so boring that I have to have a cup cake as a reward for finishing.

20. Mr D - November 21, 2008

Can’t believe how stupid I’ve been. Should have written: “CNN said this. Anyone know if it’s true?” But I swallowed what they said hook, line and sinker (sp?), and tried to sound knowledgable. Ha, well that didn’t work!

Cake sounds good.

21. redneckarts - November 26, 2008

mmmmmm….sodomy and cake….its beginning to sound a lot like Christmas!

22. marshaklein - November 27, 2008

‘Sodomy and Cake’ – Cliff Richard’s less successful follow-up to ‘Mistletoe and Wine’.

23. BiB - December 1, 2008

Marsha, you are a very good and kind mother and commenter. Shakespeare for Daisy and encouragement for me. And your Cliff Richard comment actually made me wet myself. Terrible rash, though.

Redneck, does sodomy increase at Christmas? I might have to alert the Russian, who’s just bought pyjamas, which I thought might amount to official confirmation that we’ll never have any naughtiness ever again. I did read on the BBC today, though, that Brits are having more rodding to make up for not having any money.

Mr D, sorry for taking ages to answer and don’t think I was stunned into silence or apoplexy. Just haven’t had a sec of late. Well, I think it’s fair enough, in this day and age of statistics for everything, to look at the breakdown of figures and if they did show that one group especially unwanted gay marriage more than others, that’d be fair enough to point that out. And, yes, I heard a figure of more than two-thirds of African Americans in California voting to ban gay marriage, but did that turn out to be total bollocks? Via Valerie, I came to this which is in great detail. But, yes, hard to be anything more than general when referring to groups and homophobia. Russia’s more overtly homophobic than the UK or Germany, yet the oddest display of some sort of latent anti-gayness I’ve seen, and from people who knew and loved me (and, indeed, had a whoopsy in the family), was from posh, lefty, intellectual Anglo-Catholics. A friend and I were ganged up on by a group of black youths once in London but I thought at the time an equivalent group of working-class white boys, trying to impress their lady-friends, might have done likewise. (Sure I’ve said before, on a happier note, that once the ex and I were bravely holding hands in night-time London, thinking we’d come across no-one, and we did come across a (mixed, actually) group of youths. I went to withdraw my hand but the ex grabbed it more tightly. One shouted out, “Who fucks who?” which I thought wasn’t a bad little quip. I shouted back, “Whom!” of course.) Anyway, also on the gay marriage front, this tickled me.

Arabella, thank you for coming up with that reference and, yes, you’re quite right, we all deserve cake – I’ve got some home-made (not by me) apple pie – if we’re to get through or have got through such a tough and scientific-looking read.

Narrowback, I’m not quite sure of where gay marriage in the UK stands in the hierarchy of close-to-real-marriage-ness. As far as I know, the version on offer there is pretty marriage-like. When it was introduced, I remember reading somewhere that the UK was now the third country to have something-very-close-to-marriage gay marriage, after Holland and Belgium. This obviously excluded lots of other versions, including Denmark’s, which was the first in the world, and Germany’s.

Geoff, you look as if you might be able to enlighten me more with regards to what I was just saying to Narrowback. Is the Spanish gay marriage better than the British version, then? Of course we have gay marriage here in Germany too but, again, I don’t know where it lies on the scale, though presumably it is less marriage-like than in Britain. I know it confers all sorts of legal obligations and – surprise, surprise – doesn’t get you the married person’s tax allowance. I hope the homophobes at least appreciate our taxes.

Sylvia, I refuse to believe that any daughter of your good self would even be a suspect in a teenage stabbing.

24. Geoff - December 1, 2008

Best of all are Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada & Norway, where Same sex marriage is essentially the same as opposite sex marriage. I think Massachusetts is the same.

Civil partnerships in the UK (and I think all the other Scandinanvian countries apart from Norway) are the next best thing, in that they offer *all* the same legal benefits / obligations as marriage, the only difference being the name. (although in my opinion this option is still very much second class – separate but equal is not really equal. Plus ‘civil partnership’ hardly sounds very romantic, does it?)

25. BiB - December 2, 2008

Good points, Geoff. In the past, I used to think, “If folks’ objection is just to the name, then let them come up with another name.” But, yes, fuck that. I’m not sure if Eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaft sounds very romantic (or catchy) either but it is referred to as Homoehe mostly anyway which pretty much tells it like it is. I was just on a website and commenters describing Germany’s gay marriage said it had all the obligations of regular marriage and none of the perks!

26. narrowback - December 2, 2008

I had an interesting discussion of the topic with my Thanksgiving Holiday hosts, a gay couple of 15 years who live on a farm in a VERY rural part of the state… the princpal point they made was putting aside the religious conotations of a church wedding, what’s the difference between a civil partnership and a civil marriage as long as the state gurantees the same rights/privledges to both? Both governmental actions take place in the same city clerks office in the basement of city hall…it’s not as if we want to troop down to Our Lady of the Fourteen Virgin Martyrs to have the parish priest throw some holy water on us.

27. marshaklein - December 2, 2008

I’m hugely unqualified to comment, but that’s never stopped me in the past…
It seems to me that the difference lies more in the inability of straight people to easily pigeonhole the partners in a gay marriage/partnership. It is, even in these supposedly enlightened times, still generally assumed that in a male/female relationship, the male is the dominant partner (the question ‘what is the occupation of the head of the household?’ when directed at me still means ‘what does your husband do?’ and not just because he IS the main wage earner. There seems to be a great fascination among some straight people for working out which partner is the ‘wife’ (or ‘husband’ in a lesbian couple) ie the submissive or dominant one. The matter of producing children undoubtedly complicates things (it complicates EVERYTHING!) but I’m at a loss to understand exactly why a gay couple are viewed as different to a childless, straight couple. I think Narrowback makes a good point above – hell, I wasn’t allowed to marry in the Catholic church (Brian is technically Catholic) because I’m not baptised – although I suppose, for some people legal recognition alone isn’t enough, although personally I feel that if the Christian church can’t accept people for who they are, fuck ’em.

28. BiB - December 2, 2008

Marsha, nonsense. You are as qualified to comment as anyone else and non-gayers have just as much right to comment on gayness as gayers themselves. And vice versa. We’re all one big happy family, after all. And gayness (or straightness) is only one aspect of the human condition and… oh god, I can feel myself wanting to write something nasty about Melanie Phillips. But, yes, with regard to what the church has to say about gayness, I’m afraid I’m in the fuck-’em club too. Not that I that much mind them saying it, in a way, as, unless one wants to spend one’s life in tears hiding under the sofa, you can’t listen to all attacks on gaiety and take them personally/seriously. And, obviously, I know a squillion people who are religious and don’t mind at all that their faith has it, amongst other things (many of them good, of course, and I still think of myself as Christian, culturally), that gays are wicked. (I used to follow this sort of thing much more closely but I believe some encyclical or other from the Vatican downgraded gays from inherently wicked and said just gay acts themselves are.) (I agree, actually. They can be well wicked if you’re lucky.) But these pronunciations are pointless, aren’t they? Gay people simply exist. There are no two ways around it. And there aren’t even that many of us. And if a religion thinks, by being one-size-fits-all about things that it can, in its own eyes, perfect humanity, well, it should probably grow up, shouldn’t it? Anyway, even within a faith, people pick and choose the bits they want and don’t want, and more power to their elbow. As an atheist, I simply don’t care two hoots about what a religion has to say about me loving the Russian.

Narrowback, and have they got the right to legalise their partnership in some way where they are? I remember reading one blogger – couldn’t find it now if I tried – who wrote about the whole Proposition 8 thing. He was straight and conservative, as he put it. But he argued in favour of all marriages being civil. Getting the religion out of it altogether, at least as far as the legality was concerned. Mind you, if, knowing the Lutherans, they do start allowing gay church weddings, it might be a bit of a hoot to go to one. Must befriend some gay Norwegians immediately.

29. Mr D - December 2, 2008

Am I right in thinking that straight marriages in France – and for that matter also Germany and probably many other places – are officially civil? You have to do the town hall thing, and the church is optional?

On the other topic: yeah, I was shocked when I realised what I’d written and how it sounded. I had to double-check that my name wasn’t on that BNP members list. But I can take comfort in knowing that it doesn’t represent who I am and what I believe. My friends suggested I should spend less time staring at the TV screen, so that I have more time to think instead of just being bombarded with stuff and allowing my brain to go on holiday. I can also see homophobia coming from all parts of society in Britain. I do, however, stand by my Copenhagen comment. I’ve never heard of any white-Dane homophobia, whereas I’ve heard (and experienced) abuse from young men with an immigrant background. There are two issues here, though: one is a question of reporting. The second is that it’s not skin colour but culture. For instance, most of the Turks in Denmark are from very conservative villages in the east of the country (they’re mainly Kurds, in fact). Add that background to being put down constantly by Denmark’s politicians and journalists, and of course they want to find another group to attack. But anyway, I hope we can draw a line under this now.

30. BiB - December 3, 2008

Mr D, not sure. I have been to a French wedding, which seriously wasn’t going to happen in a church, the father of the bride being a convinced (and English) atheist and her mother being an equally convinced atheist of Jewish origin and the daughter herself not giving a toss and being about 70 months pregnant. But I do remember there being fuss about her having to pretend she lived at her father’s gaff so she could marry in the sweet little town hall there. I know France is big on its ‘laïcité’ but don’t know whether it applies to marriage too.

I scrabbled around looking for that BNP member list at first but soon got bored a) because it took so long not to find an overloaded site and b) because when I could finally open it, it took me about half an hour just to scroll as far as Aardvark. Rest assured, I was NOT expecting to find your name on there.

31. narrowback - December 3, 2008

here in the States you can substitute the town hall experience with a venue/ceremony of your choosing. You then have to have the officiating individual certify on a document that the “marriage” ceremony took place. You still have to obtain a license from the civl authorities but that can been done in a fashion similar to renewing your driver’s license sans any ceremonial conotation…and I think that’s the crux of the problem here in the states

Bib, no we don’t currently have civil unions here in Illinois. Some cities and Cook County have adopted a domestic partnership “registration” but in and of itself it doesn’t accord any civil or legal rights. However, the registration is recognized by some employers and other institutions for purposes of insurance benefits, family leave, etc.

The core of my discussion with my country buds (btw I just have to send you a pic of me feeding the goats) was whether the drive for “marriage” in the context described above as opposed to “civil union” only inflames the opposition and would are chances for success be improved if we just dropped the term “marriage”.

Our conclusion? Religion should stay out of politics and politics should stay out of religion…the state should legally recognize our unions – civil unions – and if the churches don’t care to – fuck em. Like we could give a shit

would you believe that I also perused that BNP list? Gawd knows who I thought I’d find tho I did have some doubts about a guy from East Belfast I met some years ago…

worst wedding I ever attended was a polish one here in chicago… a broiling un-airconditioned church in august with a lot of extraneous ceremony that I’d not encountered in the irish and italian versions

32. BiB - December 4, 2008

I went to an Anglo-Polish wedding in London once which was very good fun. I was called upon, as the person who knew three words of any foreign language, to translate the best man’s speech into Polish for the mother of the bride. Seeing as it mentioned both the death of her husband and the death of her granddaughter, I’m afraid there were tears all over the shop, though perhaps that was my grammar. Anyway, there were Polish songs and there was dancing, so I was happy.

Yes, maybe a gradual approach is better. Let’s get some legal recognition of gay relationships first and then perhaps go on tweaking or making improvements with time. When I was looking at that German discussion of Homoehe, there was talk of already amending one tax rule for married gay couples, but you can be well sure that it wasn’t the one about granting married persons’ allowance/deduction/whatever it’s called.

33. marshaklein - December 4, 2008

This is a really interesting comments thread (is that the right term?) which has made me think about all sorts of related things in the last couple of days – everything from why a married women who doesn’t take her husband’s surname talks about keeping her ‘own’ name (it isn’t, it’s her father’s so she’s still defined in terms of the males in her family) to whether the whole notion of ‘marriage’ is changing (yes and no!) Also, I hope my previous comment did not come across as being against gay couples having children. I’m not – I just meant that having children inevitably alters the dynamics of any relationship.

Best wedding I ever attended was Anglo-Finnish. Restrained, elegant and the pastor had the most wonderful bass-baritone voice.

34. BiB - December 10, 2008

Marsha, apologies (again. Keep not getting round to things these days) for taking such an age to reply. Where were we? The Royal Wedding? No, no, sorry. Gay marriage. Do you know, I must say that a good many years ago, when it seemed like a distant prospect, I didn’t give that much of a toss myself and, if I’m remembering my gay contemporaries’ attitudes right, neither did they. I’m sure I’ve mentioned here before that my ex met a much older gay couple in London just before the legislation was about to come in and they planned to be down the Town Hall on day 1. For practical reasons too, because marriage, I guess, stopped the state getting its hands on oodles of their cash if one of them croaked – though, actually, on this point, surely a will would get round that. Still, it wouldn’t have been automatic without a will and outside marriage. I suppose that was the difference – but also, because they were very much from a different generation who’d grown up not taking anything for granted, they wanted to make the most of the new rights they’d been given. And, personally, even though I won’t evangelise and do the gay equivalent of bible-thumping and speaking out against those gays who DON’T marry, it seems like such an obvious right to have, now that it’s here, that it’s very well worth protecting and, as in the case of California, fighting for.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: