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Central European porn, Berlin as home and thinking about my mother July 13, 2010

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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I’d so been looking forward to not going anywhere that wasn’t in Berlin ever again, or at least not this summer, yet somehow the Russian managed to cajole me into going to Hungary.

I’m bored of travel. Firstly because my mother was ill from last summer to this Easter, when she finally died having run out of all other options. I can very thoroughly unrecommend the death of a mother and the toing and froing between Germany and the UK added nothing to the experience. As I got on the plane back to Berlin the day after her funeral, I resolved to have no truck with any public transport journey that cost more than €2.80 for at least the next eternity.

And secondly because travel means leaving Berlin and I am obsessively in love with the city at the moment. I’m still not sure what home and place should mean as I fumble towards forty, but I’m very grateful to Berlin for opening its arms, perhaps originally a little reluctantly, to me and the Russian. Russia couldn’t give us a home. And the UK would have been awkwarder than Germany. And as neither of us had even heard of any of the other countries either of us had ever visited, Germany it had to be. And now that Berlin has let me into its embrace, I’ve got as clingy as a drunken lover.

We headed for the Hauptbahnhof and the night train to Budapest. Czech, it turned out. And we had our own little hotel room. Bathroom. Room service. Bunk beds… And within about eleven nanoseconds of the train chugging out of the station, the realisation that this was the first journey in a year that had nothing to do with my mother lowered the mood, which wasn’t that much in need of lowering, quite considerably.

I drifted off on the top bunk and let the Russian compose poetry about his terrible fate in peace.

“Room service,” chirruped Pavel the train person. He showed us how everything worked. Told us which button we could press if we needed anything. Explained he’d wake us up half an hour before Budapest with breakfast. All in perfectly good German. Then he paused. And stepped right inside our little compartment and closed the door behind him. He then switched into Czech, which the Russian and I were preparing to work out how to make the basis for an argument, but as he spoke, subtitles dripped out of his mouth and floated along the bottom of both the Russian’s and my field of vision. “And have you seen the shower?” he said/we read. And began loosening his tie.

I juddered awake. Slapped myself about a bit for equating anything Czech with porn. And swigged at a bottle of beer to help me drift back off to the soothing accompaniment of the Russian tapping furiously on his typewriter and suppressing anguished sobs.

The literature lying around in our little compartment had explained we might be awoken in the night as we crossed national borders but easily might not be. So I thought nothing of it when a Slovak – Lukas – and Hungarian border guard – Árpád – came to check our passports together. And I love having my passport checked vaguely far from home, and then it’s even more fun seeing officials checking a Russian passport, fingers flicking fervidly through every page to make sure a foreigner they might quite enjoy hassling had obeyed all the rules. They began in German and then switched into English when they saw a UK passport.

“Thank you, Mr. Inberlin,” said Lukas the Slovak.

“Full name?” Árpád the Hungarian asked the Russian having got a sniff of Cyrillic. “Russian Russianovich Russianov,” answered the Russian, for that is his full name. The two border guards looked at each other and seemed to establish a tacit solidarity at one of the old enemy who seemed to have incomplete documentation. They closed the door behind them and began to speak in Slovak and Hungarian, again subtitles dripping out of their lips and floating along the bottom of our fields of vision although, vexatious neighbours as they are, the Slovak insisted his subtitles be placed before the Hungarian’s. Lukas took off his peaked cap. Árpád began undoing his belt. “This is very serious transgression of legislation of Hungarian Republic,” he said/we read, and the Russian and I agreed that we could probably both have done a better translation. “You very bad boy.”

I juddered awake in Budapest.

Now not that everything is about sex, of course, but I thought if we were to compare Prague and Budapest, as I couldn’t help doing with every porn-free step I took there, then they would make very different lovers. Prague had smothered me in kisses, sent me flowers and bought me huge boxes of chocolates. Budapest had stood in a club with its arms folded, refused my ever more desperate advances and then relented with a huff, taken me home, shagged the living daylights out of me and left without a word the next morning. I loved the city.

But Budapest’s downside is that it isn’t in Berlin and the time for the return journey came round with a pleasing speed. And again the journey became very motherful and the map of my internal world felt piercingly more shapeless and sparse than ever. I’m not sure I know what grieving and mourning are. Unless missing and being sad. But perhaps there is a method to them, one which I haven’t discovered, unless to think of her and remember her and wave to her photograph and wish that she’d never got sick in the first place.

The Russian and I discussed the pros and cons of bunk beds on the way home from the Hauptbahnhof.


1. Tim Footman - July 13, 2010

Despite the fact that your line about having run out of all other options made me laugh, please accept my belated condolences.

2. BiB - July 13, 2010

Thanks Tim. You’re a gent.

3. Andrew - July 13, 2010

Sorry to hear about your mother.

And thank you for writing the best post I’ve read in a long time

4. Expatsagain - July 13, 2010

Enjoyed your post and feel like I’ve gotten a sense of who you are after having read it. Look forward to reading many more.

5. Arabella - July 13, 2010

I send you my sympathy, dear. It won’t help but it is heartfelt.

6. annie - July 13, 2010

Me too, my dear. Well said xxx

7. IsarSteve - July 14, 2010

I’m always a bit slow on the uptake.. but nice to read you again.. and I had a similar parent experience a few years back ..it’s certainly not easy.. But you know what they say time heals.. not to mention that urge in the lower reaches of the body.. to get on with living..

p.s. Anrew’s right .. nice stuff! Right from the heart..

8. IsarSteve - July 14, 2010

and if I’m allowed to plug my (mostly Berlin) photo site..


Berlin pictures–

9. BiB - July 14, 2010

Steve, please, plug away. And, yes, trite as it sounds, life does, of course, go on. The world feels somewhat skewed, but life rolls on in a similar vein.

Annie, thank you, and thank you for writing separately too. I haven’t managed to get round to anything in recent months, it seems, like acknowledging condolences or, indeed, blogging.

Arabella, thank you, and it WILL help, and does. Sympathy is lovely. I was surprised at how comforting all those messages were at the time of her death. But I remember from when my father died – my first death – that everyone is nice and kind at times of death. I thought at the time that if my mum had lived next door to Hitler, even he might have come round and condoled (as everyone else on the street did).

Expatsagain, thank you and hello! Yes, I will try to write more. I really miss blogging whenever I’m too busy/disinclined for it. Looking forward to delving into yours.

Andrew, hello and thank you for such kind words. Do you know, for the first time, I was thinking of sending it to another blogger before I pressed publish and asking her if it was too cringey. But then thought, “Fuck it,” and pressed publish anyway. Also looking forward to delving into your blog.

10. emma in barcelona - July 14, 2010

Beautifully written, and funny and moving – which is sometimes exactly the right balance to take when facing grief, very glad to be reading you again, emma x

11. BiB - July 14, 2010

Em, thank you galore, both for reading and commenting. Hope you still have the ringing of celebratory horns in your ears (if you want it).

12. Annie - July 15, 2010

Hi BiB and welcome back!

So sorry to read about your mum. x

13. BiB - July 16, 2010

Thanks Annie. And it’s nice to be back. Glad you’re getting back up to speed too.

14. Valerie in San Diego - July 17, 2010

Hurrah, it’s you!

“Run out of options” is rather painfully to the point, I fear, where long illness is concerned. :-P Losing a parent, coupled with the exhaustion and stress involved in the backing and forthing and worrying, is officially Dreadful and you have my utmost sympathies :-(

I love train travel — I am a complete Train Romantic — but the bunk beds are a bit melancholy-inducing, so it is no good getting on a train when you are already melancholy. By the time you arrive at your destination you are a proper sighing French poet, on the verge of developing consumption and dying in a garret.

15. BiB - July 20, 2010

Valerie, ha ha, thank you. Your comment made me snort. And thank you for the utmost sympathies. They are very much appreciated (and required). Backing and forthing and worrying makes for a good summary of the last year. The only good thing about it having already happened is that I hope nothing its equal can ever happen again (though I suppose there’s no hope/point trying to statistically anticipate calamity).

16. Ed Ward - July 21, 2010

Very happy to see you back, very sorry to hear about your mom, although actually I did hear via the jungle telegraph. You are hereby urged to blog far more frequently about this love affair with Berlin while you’re experiencing it. Soon enough, there’ll be a break in the weather and then, well, it’ll be over.

17. sylvia - July 24, 2010

your post is wonderful – please keep blogging. Don’t forget us! So sorry to read about your mother.

18. Sil - July 25, 2010

It is the small things in life that, if we can be open to appreciating them, makes the hard times easier to bare. Your beautifully written post reminded me of this. As well, humour, at the most challenging of times, is liberating, and I was moved by your post because of this. I too hope you continue blogging. You were missed these past few months!

19. Bloke in Berlin - July 26, 2010

I type in your URL monthly in the mournful expectation that you haven’t updated, so this was a very pleasant surprise. Moving, reflective, kind of hot – to encompass all those moods while being consistently hilarious requires a rare gift. But you must never abandon us for so long again. You very bad boy!

20. Bleistifterin - July 26, 2010

So sad to hear about your mom, please accept my condolences. It does explain your absence, and I missed you. Even if it is a funny thing to say to a complete stranger…

21. narrowback - July 26, 2010

I think you did find the method and it’s just as you stated near the close. I’ve struggled with the same dilema and my conclusion so far is not much different than yours.

22. headbang8 - August 2, 2010

No matter how well prepared, nor how emotionally in control, you cannot keep sadness on a tight leash. Grief is shock and shock is physical. I trust that all is as well as it can be.

And drat that I missed your return to blogging for a couple of weeks. True BiB style that you should mix a post about mourning with recollections of BelAmi past.

Horniness, like grief, is an autonomic physical state. You can no more stop it than hold your breath. Or rather, you can contain it for a moment, but animal needs make themselves felt pretty quick.

Condolences and love.

23. cartooncat - August 18, 2010

Sorry to hear about your mother. Your post is fabulous though… funny and poignant at the same time.

24. a blogger once known as daggi - August 27, 2010

Sorry to hear about your mother. But also pleased to see that you are still around – I had wondered.

25. headbang8 - October 26, 2010

Earth to Pleite. Missing your blogposts.

26. Sil - November 15, 2010

Wir vermissen dich! :)

27. Le Welsh - December 3, 2010

Please blog! Something Christmassy, BIB-style will do just nicely :)

28. Le Welsh - December 3, 2010

Please blog! Something Christmassy, BIB-style will do just nicely :)

29. erratus - March 10, 2011

Hi Broke,

Thought I’d check in after a five-year absence, though it feels as if you’ve gone into retirement. I did smile ever so gleefully to read your words, however – you’ve always been such a beautiful writer.

Hope all is well in Berlin-land.


30. Arabella - March 24, 2011

Same here. I was shocked to read “five years ago” on my blogroll. Howdy BiB. x

31. IsarSteve - June 12, 2011

Hi, hope is all well with you.. please get in touch..

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