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Winterspeck December 22, 2008

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

Darlings, the sky over Berlin has decided to give up on keeping up even the meagrest of appearances. The sun thinks, unlike the diligent lamp-lighter in the Little Prince, that it is not worth its while shining weakly for half an hour or so a day and has put its feet up and decided to tend to Berlin later. The shortest day is, of course, just behind us – summer starts today! – but the shortness this year appears to have borrowed an extra layer of grey. It is now gone 8, so should, I think, by rights, be daylight and, while you wouldn’t think it was night if you bothered your arse, needlessly, to look out the window – I’m only bothering to open the curtains so I’m not the subject of neighbourhood tuts – the sky hasn’t got that much of a daytime quality about it either.

So I plan to eat and drink the darkness away. Plus everyone’s favourite day of the year is just around the corner so eating and drinking are majorly par for the course. And we have guests coming this year – they know this blog exists, so I can’t be too revealing – but we are a drop worried about what we’re going to give them to eat. Mind you, they’re both from the English-speaking world so hopefully don’t know anything about food. Still, I slightly can’t get beyond thinking a bowl of cornflakes for the starter and then two bowls of cornflakes for main course. Perhaps with a bowl of cornflakes with sugar for pudding.

Plus there is a no-sweet-things policy in this house…

We’ll relax it for guests. But, gosh, terrifying letting people into your home, isn’t it? Giving them first-hand experience of your domestic folie à deux. The Russian and I are going to have to hide so much evidence of bits of our existence over the days to come. Like we did when his brother came to visit before he knew my darling was a trouser-bandit and I was his bellebeau and then he walked into the kitchen when the Russian gave me the only spontaneous peck on the cheek he’d ever given me. And then the Russian accidentally pinched his bum. I think as long as I can remember to take my discarded clothes off the Christmas table, we’ll pass muster…

I think it may have been a one-man executive decision – the no-sweet-things policy – but the Russian mostly goes along with it and makes sure that any gorging on Snickers is done outside the home. I do occasionally remember that policy needs to be enforced so, in moments of political zeal, I carry out spot checks and make sure no sweet things have been smuggled into the house. Yes, sorry, I’m afraid you do have to remove your shoes and belt, sir. All in the name of girth-control, of course. Which hasn’t factored in that the consumption of 18 billion savoury/liquid calories a day are also a significant contributory factor to size.

But it’s the season to be jolly. To let your hair down. Bend the rules. Yet I am busier with work than I have ever ever ever been in my long-legged life so have had almost no opportunity to make the most of the atmosphere of almost unbridled joy that Berlin’s ever-smiling, ever-polite citizenry never need an excuse to create. I did manage to have one or two light ales in honour of this chap’s birthday the other day – there was a sweet angel at the occasion that I chatted to. When I realised I was being exposed to a new species of human, I asked him his age. And he said 24. Which I think was the sweetest thing I’d ever heard. I didn’t even know 24-year-olds still existed! I gave him a brief lecture: don’t take drugs, put a little money aside every month, what do you mean, you’re a musician? Get a job! And a hair-cut! Help little old ladies across the road, an apple a day…, wash behind your ears, wait till you get married, tolerate benignly but laugh and point fingers the second they leave your field of vision at those dim enough to think differently from you, look both ways, careless talks costs lives, honey’s very good for you. And then I gave him the five-euro note I’d been planning to use as a hankie to buy an ice-cream. Mind you, that’s 700 quid now, isn’t it? – but otherwise it’s been work, work, work and almost no play at all.

So the Russian had smuggled in Nutella. I’m a late adopter because of growing up in such non-privilege. Can you believe I didn’t get to go skiing in Switzerland for the first time till I was 15? Fif-fucking-teen! If that’s not child abuse, I don’t know what is. But a school French exchange when I was 17 introduced me to Nutella. And oysters, and rabbit, actually, but Nutella’s resonated with me more ever since. But, obviously, one can’t just pander to one’s desire for Nutella! Like other almost unimaginably extravagant luxuries, I thought it was to be savoured strictly away from home only. Perhaps in a little hotel somewhere. Or as the house-guest of an obscenely rich friend who just has Nutella cavalierly lying around cupboards! So I needed an excuse, to assuage my guilt and justify the consumption, to open the jar, excavate huge, great, stonking mechanical-digger-loads of the stuff and polish it off before looking down at my rotund frame and regretting it with due speed. “I’ll only allow myself a spoonful with a cup of tea,” I settled on as a routine and had hardly got to my second cup before it was all too late anyway and the Russian had cleaned the thing out better than brigands raiding a jewellery shop.

Anyway, it’s led to a quest for ever better, ever more luxurious, December-only sweet items. And we’ve discovered this. If it’s only available in Germany, and you’re mad enough not to live here, drop what you’re doing and hijack the first conveyance that will get you here. Chocolate and mint but – imagine! – even better than After Eights.

I think we’re all allowed a little indulgence till the sun comes back, don’t you?


1. Tim Footman - December 22, 2008

Skiing is vastly overrated. Nutella is not.

As to trouser-banditry, I am not qualified to comment.

2. BiB - December 22, 2008

Tim, it’s overrated too, if, that is, it’s more highly rated than anything else.

Mind you, it IS better than skiing, actually. But I don’t suppose I can start suggesting one over the other. “Don’t bother with that trip to Tignes. Become a homosexual for a week instead.” Then again, smaller carbon footprint.

3. Geoff - December 22, 2008

No, with all the conspicuous consumption that appears to be required to be a successful modern homosexual, I fear the carbon footprint of skiing pales in comparison.

4. BiB - December 22, 2008

Geoff, oh no. Well, at least that makes me an unsuccessful and unmodern homosexual, then. I’m sure I’m greener than skiing. I was going to regale you with how heroic the Russian and I were last year when we went on a skiing trip without the skiing. Two trains and a bus, don’t you know! But then I remembered the first and last legs of the journey were flights to and from Barcelona. Oops.

5. bowleserised - December 22, 2008

Why not go to Trespassers and drink their hazelnut brandy? It smells like Nutella, but I don’t think it has sugar in it. Would that sort it?

It is so bright here in Britain, although my mother wanders around saying “what a greeeeeeey day” and I feel obliged to point out how lucky she is to be living so close to the equator.

6. d.z. bodenberg - December 22, 2008

My school exchange (to Germany) introduced me not to Nutella, but to the concept of eating raw mince on slices of rye bread. I wasn’t that convinced at the time (though I’d eaten much worse), but the idea has grown on me since I’ve lived here, and I’d prefer it to skiing (or “ski-ing”?) any time, as I’ve been poisioned against the idea of the snow-sticks-skis-business by both the computer game “Horace goes ski-ing” and once a week’s hell in the hottest summer of the 1990s (in 1990) while still at primary school at the then “Beckton Alps”.

7. chendaberry - December 22, 2008

Last time I went to FEAST, Suzy was making hot chocolate with a shot of mint baileys. Quite delish!

Glad to hear there’s someone else out there in Berlin who hasn’t fled home for X-mas…

8. BiB - December 23, 2008

Chen, but tell me you’re not going to be sitting lonelily in your jim-jams on Christmas day eating pasta and pesto? I did that one year in Paris, and it was a touch gloomy. In Russia, I think it was a working day. A friend came round and we ate potato salad… But, anyway, I hadn’t thought of the chocolate + mint combo being improved yet further with the can’t-fail-to-go-wrong accompaniment of alcohol. Would be rubbish in wine though, wouldn’t it?

d.z., but tell me you’re not going to be sitting lonelily in your jim-jams on Christmas day eating pasta and pesto? I did that one year in Paris… I haven’t gone down the Mett-route ever. And I never bothered with tartare in France (or anywhere else) either. Or raw liver, come to think of it. So is it good, then? And I can only support you in not pursuing skiing in England. Sarah H_, who was the prettiest girl in the year after Amanda R_, but she was cheating because her mum was Italian, broke her leg during games in sixth form when the sixth form college thought it was being clever by introducing going to an indoor ski-slope as an activity. Don’t know why they couldn’t just stick to running, skipping and jumping. Anyway, it’s bound to have been health-&-safetied away now.

B., the troubling thing, from the point of view of truth, is that I started this post a couple of days ago. And yesterday ended up being an actually rather lovely day, although perhaps even a tornado might have seemed quite nice if it had provided even a second’s let-up from the non-stop bloody grey. England’s boiling, isn’t it? I sometimes look at the weather there and I’m sure it said it was 25 degrees yesterday. Alas, work means brandy at Trespassers or anywhere else is off until the New Year. You’ll be back by then, wontcha?

9. Marsha Klein - December 23, 2008

Nutella is something I buy when the girls have guests to sleep over and I want to impress them with my hostessly talents, not to mention my ‘cool mum’ credentials (as in ‘your mum’s SOOO cool – she let’s you eat piles of sugary gloop for breakfast). However, Daisy has unexpectedly invited a friend to stay the night tonight and I am unprepared – damn my Nutella-less state!

I am terrified of skiing. I’m frightened I’ll break a leg or something. I’m even more terrified that it might be one of mine.

10. BiB - December 23, 2008

Marsha, Happy post-Birthday Day! I always think that’s the saddest day of the year, in a way. Although at least the days are getting longer again. Hooray. And you have Christmas to look forward to, and I think you like Christmas (or have I made that up)?

Quick, call Dial-a-Nutella. Or, if they have an Edinburgh branch, Dial-a-Grashoff. It must be very good having children, though. To keep one sane. I think it must be a good thing to have to cope with unexpected guests. Keeps you in touch with life. The Russian and I still think we’ve outdone Tara Palmer-What’s-‘er-Chops when we’ve said a half-hearted hello to a neighbour on the stairs.

11. red - December 23, 2008

i’ve a feeling this christmas will bring interesting posts. hurray. have a good one. x

12. BiB - December 23, 2008

Oh Red, I hope so, and thank you for saying so. I’ll make that my New Year’s resolution. Never have the time these days, but January is normally awash with periods of unemployment. Hurray! Happy Christmas to you too.

13. Valerie in San Diego - December 23, 2008

If I banned all sweet things from our house, half our house guests couldn’t get in. We do seem to have rather pretty friends…

Instead, I’m not sure there’s anything our house BUT sweets at the moment. Oh, maybe the odd turnip. But I remind you that anything dipped in Nutella becomes sweet. Even shoe leather or the odd housemate.

Nutella brings back memories… it brought me solace, discovered in Israel on a miserable family trip when I was 19 and desperate to get back to my boyfriend in San Diego. The Israelis may be many things, but they do know about toast and chocolate-hazelnut spread for breakfast, and this I am grateful for.

That Grashoff spread looks like it should be illegal. I sigh for it. Not quite enough to get on a plane, but there you are.

14. BiB - December 24, 2008

Valerie, that’s very nice. We so rarely have guests because we’re so horrid but they are lovely when they come. And sweet. To add to sweetness levels, we’ve upped our guest-count for Christmas from two to three. A fourth is phoning in sick for now, but hopefully will change his mind because then it would be, wonderfully, 3 post-Soviets v. 3 Anglos around the table. Which will be handy if violence breaks out and we have to take sides.

Shit, what shall we provide for pudding? I did buy an emergency jar of Grashoff just in case, but the Russian will probably have eaten it before tomorrow anyway.

Will you go through the motions tomorrow or does being an atheist Jew – oh… Or have you gone theist since you called yourself that? – give you the perfect get-out clause?

15. ThePenguin - December 24, 2008

I’ll be at work over Christmas… no rest for the wicked… but then winter-solsticy tree / bearded old man worship isn’t officially on the agenda hereabouts. Which hasn’t prevented 6 weeks of non-stop carols and worse, Christmas songs, being played everywhere, and the cashiers in the local supermarket were even wearing Christmassy hats yesterday… It’ll all be forgotten by tomorrow, fortunately.

Not much Nutella to be found anywhere though.

16. BiB - December 24, 2008

Pengers, if it’s any consolation, I’ll be working up until the second the guests arrive and will start again the second they leave. OK, that’s a lie, as I’ll probably fall into a coma the second they leave. Or, likelier still, I’ll leave with them and we’ll go for a nice Christmas drinkette, which has always been very nice here when I’ve done that in the past. Genuinely nice atmosphere, probably reflecting relief that it’s all over.

In one shop today, I heard Mistletoe and Wine when I walked in and, when I walked out, only minutes later, Merry Christmas Everyone. Thought I might escape those here, but no. Are there no German Christmas songs? (Apart from sensible ones like Stille Nacht.)

17. Valerie in San Diego - December 25, 2008

As an atheist Jew, I’ve been lighting the Hanukah candles for fun, and will have a passel of friends over tomorrow for Christmas, feeding them homemade pizza and watching silly movies….

18. BiB - December 26, 2008

I’ve been lighting candles like mad recently too to try to defeat the all-encompassing darkness. Don’t suppose I’ve really won the battle, but they at least have the emprettying effect.

Hope your day was fun yesterday and that you’re entering 2009 full of verve!

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