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Tout va très bien Madame la Marquise March 16, 2009

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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The Russian, who has asked that I refer to him here as ‘my lovely husband’, but I have had to stick to the old version, call me anal, because while he is, by all accounts, almost unbearably lovely, he is not technically my husband, and we can’t just go around lying to all and sundry, is away. I don’t think, even though it isn’t a family trip and he is still somewhere on Germany’s hallowed soil, it’s a complicated ruse for the sake of an affair. Ostensibly, it’s to do with academia. Going off somewhere to do study in a group. Can you imagine anything more ghastly?

The trouble being, of course, his fellow students. The Russian had the misfortune to meet me at a tender age. Though perhaps any age would have been a misfortune, though naturally I tell him on an almost daily basis that I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to him. And the trouble with youthfulness, and my being older, is that he must have, at some unhealthy level, held me in some sort of esteem. Not my words or opinions, necessarily. But in the early days of our courtship, shortly before emancipation of the serfs and just as Avdotya Potapovna was about lo leave our service, I suppose I was, technically, the grown-up. The one with a job and some qualifications behind me. And, fatefully/fatally, for the Russian’s future happiness, translation was the profession this exotic grown-up, whom he also happened to be in love with, was beholden to.

When it came to emigrating from St. Petersburg and the Russian deciding what to study in Berlin, the only way of him staying here or, indeed, getting here in the first place if we wanted to play Germany by the book, which we did, neither of us having an imagination, call me strict, but I don’t think the Russian took the procedure all that seriously. There was a couple of minutes of fingering through the university prospectus. “Mongolian Studies?” “Darling, don’t be ridiculous.” “Scandinavian Studies?” “Darling, do you even like foreign languages especially? Why not something computery? You love computers. Or proper cooky-cheffy training. You’re a whizz in the kitchen.” “Translation?”

Without hesitation or explanation, I went to St. Isaac’s Cathedral to throw myself off the dome but was thwarted by the entry price, which was 400 times more expensive for foreigners than for Russians, and then counted my blessings that poverty had prolonged my life on this occasion and made my way home to reason with the Russian. “If you study translation in Germany, you’ll go blind from the glint off all the translatrices’ glasses within the first term,” I prepared internally as my killer punchline, deciding against throwing myself in a canal as a plan B as I remembered Rasputin’s ignominious end. Anyway, I can swim.

“Darling, if you study translation in Germany, you’ll go blind from the glint off all the translatrices’ glasses within the first term,” I remonstrated, the padded inner front door barely closed behind me. Silence. I was pleased that the Russian was stunned so by my excellent reasoning. Only to find a note tucked between the samovar and the collected works of Vladimir Ilyich.

“Gone post-office. I choose tryenslayshn for staady. I syend off epplikayshn.”

Forty years later and here we are, the Russian allegedly nearing the end of his studies. And thank heavens, for the world needs as many translators as it can get.

“All going well down there?” I wrote to inquire, assuming this translation outing must be taking place as close to hell as geographically feasible. “Or have you been blinded by the glint off translatrices’ glasses?”

“Almost blind,” came his immediate reply, only to be followed by a stream of incomprehensible typos, a translatrix with particularly dazzling eye-wear having presumably loomed into view.

While alone, I have worried my inability to be a grown-up might have terrible consequences. In a chaos-theory, butterfly-effect way. That, say, I might wobble my body along in an attempt at rhythm to Good Shoes and that the current of air created by my flapping double chins might make the curtains billow and catch light off a candle and before you know it the whole castle house would have burnt down.

I’ll probably be all right though.


1. headbang8 - March 16, 2009

For a moment, when reading your story, I expected that you would use this occasion to announce that since the Russian can no longer remain in Germany on a student visa, in order to regularise his visa status, you’d need to troop off down to a notary and sign a Lebenspartnerschaft. True?

2. bowleserised - March 16, 2009

Will Avdotya Potapovna pop back and cook you a meal or two while he’s away, out of the goodness of her heart? Or should we just go and have a drink instead?

3. bad sar - March 16, 2009

The Russian is so sweet. Bless! Where are these double chins of which you keep speaking?

4. narrowback - March 17, 2009

tsk, tsk BiB…any student of russian history will tell you that Rasputin did not throw himself in the canal…he was thrown in but only after imbibing a ghastly amount of poison and IIRC getting plugged a few times with revolver shots.

good to see you resurface…

5. BiB - March 17, 2009

Narrowback, that’s what I meant. Apparently he took an age to die. Though I wonder if the story has been embellished with the retelling. Like that god person we’re always told about. Seven days my foot! But, yes, I have resurfaced. Unlike Rasputin (well, or, at least, upon resurfacing, I haven’t been shot). Boom boom! And see you soon, by the way…

Bad Sar, my mother visited last week and all we did was eat. And then eat again between meals. And, oddly, my mother being here meant I had to drink 80 times more than I normally do, which is already a fantastic amount, and I am now so fat that the neighbours have complained about bits of my blubber hanging over their balconies and seeping under their front doors.

B., yes. Let’s drink. I haven’t had a drink for ages. Minutes at least. And he’s actually long since back, me having started writing this latest piffle in 1978, but I just haven’t got round to finishing it. But, anyway, him or no him, yes, drink. I haven’t seen you for an age. See you this weekend!

Headbang, your comment made me have one of my turns. But I’ve had poultices applied to all my ailing bits and am almost feeling as right as rain again. I think he’s probably good for one more student visa at least. But can you recommend this married-life lark? Any discernible differences from the unmarried lark? (And have you moved to typepad, or are you holding down two blog-dwellings?)

6. headbang8 - March 17, 2009

The married lark? Well, the larking rate has taken a dive, but one expects that with cohabitation.

The hubby put his hand down his pants the other day, and he confirmed what we both suspected. It had fallen off.

I lept into the helpful-spouse drill. “Where can you last remember using it?”

“I think it was at the candy counter in the Karstadt.” he replied. “Perhaps we should phone their lost-and-found?”

“Nah. It’s probably been sucked up some vacuum cleaner hose by now.” I observed.

As for my own todge, I reminded the hub that like anything else in cold storage, if he doesn’t eat it soon, it’ll go off.

On a more practical note:

We needed to get a Lebenspartnerschaft for Master Right’s visa. But it’s actually a financial disadvantage.

Unlike a state marriage, I can’t claim hubby as a dependant on my German tax. But I have to provde him with health insurance and support him, i.e. LPS spouses can’t claim the dole. Luckily, none of this is a problem for us.

And yes, DüE moves to Typepad shortly. As soon as all the DNS palaver sorts itself out, you’ll find it on deutschlanduberelvis.com.

7. marshaklein - March 17, 2009

Oh hurrah, you’re back!

Hmm, it is an awesome responsibility, isn’t it? Being the grown-up in a relationship? Daisy has been talking about tryenslayshn as a possible career (admittedly, she won’t actually HAVE a career for ages) but I’m wondering how well translation will fit into my plan for her, i.e. setting herself up with a huge country estate in some pleasant French or Spanish speaking clime where Brian and I can spend our twilight years indulging in mutual recrimination!

8. narrowback - March 18, 2009

yeah, as I said I’m more than ready for my visit… just a week to go

9. BiB - March 18, 2009

Narrowback, see you then. We have each other’s numbers.

Marshypops, my resistance is too weakened to warn Daisy off with the passion I might have done when I was a stronger man. But I suppose it’s an OK way to earn a living. I’m too dim to know where my job is on the likely-to-be-done-away-with scale but I can still cover the bills for now (though one person is claiming he won’t be able to pay). A friend of mine lives in a lovely, ramshackle house east of Paris and I have had many a nice summer’s day there, I must admit. I will live in a tiny, freezing, rented shit-hole till the day I drop dead.

Headbang, yes, I’ve been warned about the financial side of things. When we first arrived here, which was before gay marriage existed and we hadn’t yet realised he’d be able to be a student here, we did look into me inviting him to stay on the strength of our relationship. I would have had to show I could support him and, yes, pay for his insurance and provide a certain amount of square metres etc. And I’m not even sure he’d have been allowed to work. Bonkers. I wonder if that’s been done away with now that marriage is up and running. Can your other half work here now like a fully-fledged grown-up?

10. Paula - March 19, 2009

Rasputin! hahaha, difficult to kill apparently then and now

11. BiB - March 22, 2009

Hello Paula. Thanks for dropping in. I tell you, we’re bloody invincible, both of us. (Well, apart from him. He’s dead.)

12. Arabella - March 24, 2009

“I will live in a tiny freezing rented shit-hole till the day I drop dead”…does the friend east of Paris have a gazebo?
I know I know, the only thing worse than German red tape is the French variety….(but is that really the case, d’you know?).

13. Beau - March 26, 2009

BiB your writing is constantly brilliant. But St Isaacs dome is not a good platform for a suicide leap. I cannot think of a single part of the balcony that would offer fatal airtime. You would only end up with a twisted ancle on the roof posing for the punters who had paid the camera supplement. If a better spot comes to mind I shall surely let you know, keep up the good penwork in the meantime.

14. red - March 29, 2009

if you aren’t already doing/ haven’t already done so, please please please write a book- your writing talents are too great to be confined to the bleurghosphere. x

15. redneckarts - April 1, 2009

so glad you’re back lad… spring is good.

16. BiB - April 28, 2009

Redneck, isn’t it marvellous? It’s been what-seems-like-hot and sunny here for bloody ages. Spirits raised. Outdoor drinking. Worrying about losing weight before the summer etc. etc.

Red, thank you. What an incredibly kind thing to say. Let me assure you I am not writing anything for anybody, bar the odd e-mail to people to tell them to pay me more/at all/more promptly. I save all my eloquence for those.

Beau, bloody hell. Hello! You are the Beau? Pavlik’s Beau? SSEES Beau? How the bugger are you? I hope this finds you well wherever you are and thank you, too, for the incredibly nice words. So St. Isaac’s is suicide-proof, you say? What can you expect from a country with so few civil liberties!

Arabella, I actually saw him last week and didn’t ask his permission but the place is so rambling and has so many rickety, untended-to corners that I’m sure I could move in without him noticing. He’s aggressively hospitable. And it is France… I did live in France when I was a whippersnapper and I think the bureaucracy was indeed pretty bad, though, because it’s more fresh in the memory, or because I’m older and less tough, the German version seems more pervasive and invasive. But Ed has recently moved from Germany to France and I believe he’s found the French version none too fun either.

17. Beau - May 1, 2009

Yes, it’s me. And I’m fine thank you. I’m not going to litter up your blog with crap because I like it much more than Paul’s Blog (which I have single handedly ruined). I just met Paul in London too and he stayed at my house but we did not discuss his blog. Maybe he’ll read this. I think he likes being miserable. He likes Chicken Madras too, I could be wrong but I got the impression he is not allowed curry at home. Anyway take care and keep up the good work.

18. BiB - October 20, 2009

Beau, you naughty old one-man destroyer of things, you. But I see Paul is soldiering on, even if he has exciting life changes to look forward to in the very near future. Which I don’t, really. So I have no excuses for being such a pants blogger. But does he like being miserable? I always think of him as one of the most contented people I know. Good at life. Happy with his lot.

19. Helena - January 6, 2010

That’s the problem with being a girl – no matter how much younger than your other half you might be – you’re automatically the “grown-up” in the relationship.

20. BiB - January 28, 2010

Helena, sorry to hear it. It very much depends on my mood whether I enjoy or detest the grown-up mantle, though I am glad not to remove it altogether, as two non-grown-ups could be (and has been) very messy indeed. Still, here’s hoping to some mantle-sharing soon.

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