Dirty hands, 80 cents and David Bowie

21 01 2009

Like bad sex all I ever get from visiting DIY shops are dirty hands and a headache – DIY shops, and anywhere that sells flat-packed furniture. Nevertheless, on my last visit to Ikea I did completely indulge myself in what I can only describe as a GIANT CREAM HAT. I’ve had one of these before in Stockholm and I think they’re a January/February delicacy. Just a giant puff of cream served with red berries; then you need a gallon of coffee to wash it all down and prevent your throat momentarily closing due to the build up of  lactose-phlegm.  Anyway, that was yesterday. Today takes us to postmodernism and illusions, hallucinogenic for some, illuminated with halogen for others. 


I’m declaring myself the postmodern Christiane F of 2009. Much like the Bowie-loving, drug addicted teen protagonist of the 1981 film, I too love to hang out at train stations! But for all the GOOD reasons. I’m smitten with Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof to a degree which is is more than necessary for a train station, but I need to quickly explain the difference between ‘Hbf‘ and any English train stations. When I traveled on a train out of Berlin back in the hot summer, the cheeriest train conducter I’ve met waltzed into my carriage (all glass and cushioned head rests and halogen-spotlighted vanity mirrors!) and sang ‘Kaffeeeeeeeeee? Capucccinoooooooo? ‘ I actually declined because I was so stumped, and half expected him to put out his hand for a 5 euro bill afterwards. 


England – trains late

Berlin – trains on time!

England – cup of weak tea/coffe/chocolate with floating rawhide

Berlin – proper cafes!

England – stale Cornish Pasty (if you’re lucky)

Berlin – Italian ice cream parlour!

England – yesterday’s copy of the ‘Daily Diana’

Berlin – Virgin media store!

England – small shop selling polo mints

Berlin – chemist, CLOTHES SHOPS, food court, supermarket

England – curling egg sandwiches, costing £5

Berlin – sushi, miso soup and noodles!

England – shambling psychotic strangers intent on starting conversations with you

Berlin – super-glossy businessmen connecting to WiFi and calling Geneva on their iPhones!


I actually go to the Hbf just to go to the Hbf! Maybe buy some new clothes (ok, before the pound started on its slippery slope), get some sushi, have an ice cream, marvel at all that shiny, shiny glass, hear Bowie singing ‘Fame, it’s not your brain, it’s just the flame‘ in my head. Everything I need is in that Hauptbahnhof and I’ve really got no excuse to leave it. I could just shunt back and forth on one of the S-bahns for a bit of a scenery change, but that’s all. Apparently you can also get all the way to Kazakhstan, but then I don’t believe everything I read on Wikipedia. I’m not that much 2009. Nevertheless, that would be one hell of a train journey!


A Taiwanese friend of mine told me it’s quite normal for her to meet her friends in the main train station when she goes back to visit, but things have always been super-swishy over in the Far East. I also like the local Hauptbahnhof here  because when you come out of the main entrance, it’s really, really eerie. Exiting at dusk reveals a big concrete, open plaza and then laid out in front of you is the government area, the Reichstag, and to the left you see the “Death Star” TV tower way out in the distance. Behind looms the megalithic glass construction of the station. Our images reflected back, and back again. Truth, standards and ideals lost in a labyrinth of mirrors; the reason and order of the Reichstag, symbolised in the the Brandenburg Tor, glinting back in the glossy windows. It’s a sharp shock returning to the heavy damp air of Berlin after being swaddled in the constant flurry of advertising, the shooting in and out of travel, consumerism, people, 80 cents to spend a penny. Train stations no longer about serving trains. Wir kinder vom Hauptbahnhof – I wish you a very happy 2009. choo choo. choo choo.


It’s a puppy post!

12 01 2009

But first I have to say that actually the grit on the icey streets is wearing a bit thin on my patience. Berlin roads aren’t really metaled, in the proper sense, they’re more cobbled. And the cobbles are small squares, with a slight rounded top; perfect for slipping on and over as the tops are polished smooth from many years of street pounding. So proper snow boots are called for. I haven’t yet gone butt over tit and I’m crossing all fingers that it never happens. I’ve also noticed that the worst place where I feel the cold is on the bridge of my nose. Witzig!

The cold then spreads out under my eyes, like a bad sinus headache and it’s not a very easy place to keep bundled up under thermal clothing. Then the tops of my shoulders get cold too. 


But….. when cold, hug a puppy!



Puppies for warmth - ahhhhh.

Puppies for warmth - ahhhhh.

A shoulder stole.

A shoulder stole.

Jealous, moi?

11 01 2009


Or ‘why I wish I lived in America right now‘.











Which means I can’t read Bamboo Nation for the next three months. Oh, wait…I’ve been promised spoiler warnings! Ace!

I shall go to the Mountain!

11 01 2009

That’s right! I’m not going to wait for the mountain to come to me, I shall go to it! Far be it for me to sit on my faulpelz backside anymore, I’m getting busy. I am now doing something, albeit part-time, that I’ve always wanted to do…..work with animals! I’ve free time, I love soft, cuddly things (including Peter Gallagher’s eyebrows) and I don’t want to sit around staring at the white walls. So I’m volunteering my willing hands!

I think I wrote earlier about my first post-school job, working for a call centre. I had a similar ‘OH-OH life is changing‘ feeling back then, and had to endure a few days making sodding lampshade frames at a giant soldering machine before my first proper job came along. In that job, the ‘prototype call centre’ (I have to say that to make it sound vaguely professional, as the reality is, it wasn’t, and we were far from being so) I met one of my future best friends, one of my first ‘real loves’ and a boss who tried to fix us all in our chairs as he regaled us with stories of artificially inseminating his horses. I kid not. The real love didn’t even materialize into anything in the end, but I did spend many a night sleeping over at his, each of us lying in a twin bed in the guest room, separated by the night stand, chatting the night away. So near, yet so far! So cute! So sweet! I loved him, loved his mum and loved his dog. Strangely enough I found out 5 years later that he was dating a girl from Belgium who happened to be good friends with a Belgian friend of mine. Tuscon weird!

I learnt this over a glass of red wine sitting in a dingy bar in freezing Hamburg one December. Me, from England, talking about my English friend, sitting in Hamburg with a Belgian friend. Whose own Belgian friend is now dating my ex-love from England. Continental time-travel, post-modern time/space blurring or what???! I don’t know what really affected me but I actually had one of those feelings you always see on the big screen, when voices sound like they’re underwater, the room slowly starts to spin and you can’t focus. The heartbreak of it! The tragedy! The unrequited love! He’d never be mine!!!!! However, happy ending here, I actually met the girl a while later and I can genuinely say that I really, really liked her. And who can say that about their ex-love’s new crush? I thought she was great! And then the next time I saw them, outside the Japanese restaurant back home, they were wearing matching rain jackets. Phew. Lucky escape.

So after that circumlocution, I should really just say that I hope the temporary lacuna in my life is filled as quickly as the last one and matters as exciting as teenage love come along once more!

I am greatly enjoying all the slush and mush of winter in Berlin. Coming out of Warschauerstrasse underground station last night, seeing the Spree covered in broken patches of ice and the Death Star glinting in the distance through the heavy fog, made me feel like I’ve really found a new home. I’m longing for a bit of urban grit, but good urban grit, and I think Berlin has it. I’m more than happy to tramp through the streets, spraying grey slush everywhere, and I’m happy to just sit on the U-bahn going from place to place. I particularly love it when the train goes above ground, on bridges over the roads, and you can peer right into the rooms of the high-rise buildings. You never get hungry on the train here either; practically every tube stop has a croissant shop and those Schoko croissants are welcome to fill the small, extra ‘croissant stomach’ that I have. Much like a cow, I have more than stomach. One is regular, the other for pudding.

This reminds me of a fourth matter I’d agree upon with a Times journalist, ‘harsh weather makes people stoic’. This is true. And one thing I always said about Berliners, is that they’re stoic. And I like being stoic too. I want to feel a little more alive these days, and this city makes me feel that. I’m not going to claim I’m some hardened ghetto dweller, raised on dingy street corners or anything like that. But cities do make me feel alive; I love wide-open countryside and the sea too, but sometimes I just need a bit of grit, a metaled road under my feet to spark me awake. I’d be happy to buy a rail ticket and just ride those over-ground trains, endlessly peering into uncovered windows, innocent city-voyeur, chocolate croissant in my hand.

Not Berlin, but NYC. Also urban, also grit, also over-ground travel. Also my picture.

Not Berlin, but NYC. Also urban, also grit, also over-ground travel. Also my picture.

This is Berlin. Also urban. Also my picture, or my friend's. We're not sure.

This is Berlin. Also urban. Also my picture, or my friend's. We're not sure.

Mumble schmumble, botox schmotox

11 01 2009

Again! I’ve still got no coffee to drink; this time I did attempt to make some but forgot to put the water in the bottom of the pot. I’ve burnt out the rubber ring seal and left the air in the kitchen smelling rather noxious. Too bad. I’m thirsty. 


For a while I’ve had a quote in my head about the increasing propensity of actors to mumble their words too much, and audiences not being able to understand them. I couldn’t remember who had said this and when, but a quick internet search of ‘actors hard to hear because they mumble too much’ brought up the exact website that I’d read as the first result.


Apparently it was Sir Peter Hall, the founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and quoted in The Times, who first voiced concern, and backed up by the actor Edward Fox. Young actors were claiming that to raise their voices would detract from the realism that they were trying to portray because no one SPEAKS BLOODY LOUD ALL THE TIME. But the truth is, no one can hear. And usually we pay money to hear something; personally I’m not a fan of French conceptual mime, so I want to hear.  And as with a Christian wedding, if the granny at the back can’t hear the ceremony, it’s not valid!  (Bribe your gran if you want a quickie divorce)


I’ve been noticing more and more that I just can’t hear what people are saying in films, I’m really having to strain my good ear towards the screen or rely on lip reading to get what’s lost between those expensive pearly whites that are flashed around. It’s the same with facial expressions; actors, women in particular, just can’t express anymore. I think their expressions have been lost under all the makeup and enhancements. The only actresses I really like at the moment are Charlize Theron, because of her amazing transformation into Aileen Wuornos and then transformation into a Dior perfume model (come on, there’s hope for us all!), Cate Blanchett and Jackson’s vote, Frances McDormand. Of course there are old timers like Helen Mirren and Judi Dench, and I would put Scarlett Johansson in as a new fave, perhaps Ellen Page too as she defies the LA stereotype. Oh, oh and I know! Mary Lynn Rajskub! But the rest? Come on! Act a little, speak a little (actually a lot, please). Don’t pout and emote so much. We want to see expression played out on your faces, we want lines and wrinkles, we want to see that you’ve lived, otherwise how we can imagine that your character is living on the very screen in front of us? I think the reason for me having more favourite living male actors than female is because of this, men just seem to have more going on. They add a depth to their characters because they can show more on their faces. 


So now I have three things with which I agree with The Times journalists: that actors mumble far too much, that Cate Blanchett is “curious looking”, and that I, like Sathnam Sanghera, have a “perpetually pissed-off looking face”. We can’t help it, it just works that way.

Empty as a Pocket

8 01 2009

I have nothing but a cup of hot water to drink right now, I’m like a raggedy poor street urchin. I barely spend any time in my flat so there’s currently nothing in my fridge at the moment, and I’m also feeling kind of funny-looking poor. I could have made coffee but I’ve already had two today, which isn’t really that bad and nothing like the Berlinerisch habit of downing cups of the stuff at every opportunity, but I’m really enjoying my bed these days and don’t want to be kept awake more than is necessary. I love my giant bed, the giant duvet and the giant toy puppy and bunny that provide extra insulation for me in the cold nights. Sometimes I wake up and mistake the rabbit’s giant ears for Peter Gallagher’s eyebrows, but alas the fantasy is short-lived – I am alone. 


The only downside is the lack of curtains; with the snow and ice all I can see is the strange white glow of the night sky poking out above my makeshift cardboard curtains that covers most of the window – kind of eerie. 


I think I’m going to give up on my online ‘friend finding’ foray, I’ve come to the conclusion that only the strangest of society lurk on such sites. That might include me but I like to think I have a genuine reason – new to a city and just looking to meet people. I’m also wondering if writing blogs is just for people with no internal monologue, unless they actually have something to promote or important things to say. Given my readership is currently at 3, that is people I actually communicate directly with, I’m wondering if I’m only writing this to give myself a laugh. 


Anyway, here’s a list of my favourite online encounters so far; in brief and with identifiable details hidden:

The lying sociopath who stood me up twice, luckily it wasn’t to the point of me waiting outside in the cold at the U-bahn, but near enough. 

The guy writing in caps lock who said he had no thumbs.

The guy who wrote to me and said he’d like to ask me some questions. Conversation went as follows:

‘I really like your profile, perhaps I can ask you some questions?’

Me: ok, what would you like to ask me about?

‘What’s your name?’

Me: sILEnt_FaNTAsy (blah). Do you have another question for me?

‘What questions should I ask you?’


???? What? Use your imagination!!


The offer of erotic stories was also interesting, but I declined. I would accept if only that stuffed bunny did miraculously morph into Peter Gallagher. 

The men I have met who look nothing like their photos. Disappointing. 

The multiple wet lettuces who run off to the bus stop as soon as the date’s ended, like little children desperate to get home so Mummy can make their dinner. Weirdly enough these are often the more good looking ones, but they can barely manage a good bye kiss before being freaked out by some hot female contact. 


The guy who asked if I had ‘dots’ on my face. ‘You mean freckles?’, I asked him. ‘No, red ones. Spots’, he answered. NO, I do NOT have spots and you shouldn’t ask someone you barely know that. Jeebers, what happened to trying to make a good impression? 

What about the emails that read: ‘I don’t suppose there’s any chance of an answer?’. What?

Or this one: ‘Hmmmm’. What does hmmm mean, on it’s own? With no beginning, middle or end to the sentence?


And the profiles that answer questions such as ‘what do you think is most important in a relationship?’ with the answer ‘the relationship’; or the question ‘what are you afraid of?’, answer: ‘being afraid’. Surely the whole point is that you try and show your best side to your new, ahem, friend?? Be a bit creative perhaps? Show some initiative? Show you are still…living?


It’s going to hit minus 12 later today. I love snow, in Winter, which is when it should snow. Not like in the UK when it snows in March and April. I’m still getting a slight Fargo feeling every time I put on a giant winter coat to take the rubbish out in the night. The heck ja mean?


Amendment: I wrote this post a couple of days ago, but didn’t publish. But I’d just like to share that on the night of writing this, I walked home late and my nose froze up – on the INSIDE! It’s cold here!

Gut und Guenstig

3 01 2009

I still can’t write umlauts with my English keyboard so the title up there looks a bit funny to me. Although I can’t type very well at all right now because two dogs are lying over me and my brain feels severly dehydrated from eating too much salty/sweet popcorn. Spokaki!


So, why ‘Gut und Guenstig’? Because that’s how I’m feeling right now, good and good value, in the English translation, or even ‘convenient’ in the alternative translation! Berlin is still coming up trumps, we’ve had snow in early December and on New Year’s Day so I feel like Winter has arrived for real. I’m enjoying the changing of the seasons over here, unlike the washed out grey skies of back home which seem to last from September through to May. I know lots of people complain about the gradually descending wet blanket of torpor that they think hits Berlin, but so far I’ve been happy. 


The strangest experience I’ve had recently though was New Year’s Eve and waking up on New Year’s Day. I’ve celebrated NYE in many different cities, but this one in Berlin scared the heebjeebies out of me. It seems that the locals like to spend most of the year arguing in a constant, unfaltering drone, never really raising their voices but never letting up either, and then on NYE all their testosterone, adrenaline, thyroxine and whatever, just wooshes out in the form of a giant, Berlin-wide gunpowder plot. The sky must have been fluro for well over 45 minutes, ash was falling from above, rockets dive bombing in the courtyard. People weren’t gathering in parks or big back gardens to let off their Catherine Wheels and Golden Willows, they just let them off as they stood in the roads. People were outside the front door just lobbing fireworks from glass bottles. When I walked home in the early morning the streets were covered in broken glass and spent fireworks; this stuff was tripping me up there was so much. In the morning it was snowing a really fine powder which made me briefly think that the fireworks the night before were actually the impending nuclear attack we’re all secretely wondering is going to happen, and that the snow was a huge blanket of fall-out dust blocking the sun. But then I heard the birds singing in a confused chorus, and knew I’d still have all my fingers and toes in the coming months. 


Although someone out there thinks I’m missing a finger. I couldn’t help it, I told a porky to someone. But to give him credit he’s still interested in me, and I really can’t think why. I have to defend myself though, I got the idea after receiving an email from someone which was all in capital letters. When I asked them to write normally because it was hurting my eyes to read, he replied and said it was because he had no thumbs. Which doesn’t actually make sense.


So  a new year, and I’m feeling Gut and Guenstig, that’s my best offer to you all. Take me out on a date and I’ll cost a glass of drink, a cheap enough price to pay. One drink is usually enough to make me blotto, although having said that it would be nice if the drink was a Pomegranate Martini. Not that anyone here would buy me a drink, I think one date has paid for me so far, the rest have all split the bill ‘getrennt‘. Which is an interesting conundrum; by no means do I expect anyone to pay for me just because I’m female but sometimes the offer is nice. Even if it’s ‘I’ll pay this time, you next time’. Anyway, if I’m Guenstig enough for a date to pay for  just one drink, maybe the lucky guy will also find out my ‘Gut’ side. Although they’d also find out I’m pretty much good value back home too; I still have hill-billy plastic bags instead of curtains, and that’s in my new place. I also only have lights in the hallway and living room, which makes showering and dressing interesting. Oh, I also only have a mirror the size of a postcard so I’ve no idea what I look like when I leave the house, having showered and dressed in the dark and then not even seen more than the side of my nose in a mirror. 


I’m kind of behind on this blog thing; there was heaps I should have written about just before Christmas but in my defence I was writing over 400 pages of work (ok, it was double sided) and I kind of didn’t know that Christmas was approaching let alone much else. I can say though, that the 24 face was back ON! I am fan enough to pre-order 24 Redemption after hearing it had already hit State-side and watched it in a pre-Christmas slump of 24 joy. It took a while to warm up, as Jacks was all alone sans the CTU crew, but my rigid face of ueber- concentration soon set in. And, what is GOING ON (yeah, I’ve no thumbs as well) with Season 7??? I wish I wasn’t geeky enough to know the actors’ real names because it kind of ruined the surprise for me when the trailer started, but I took great delighte at squealing to my parents ‘oh my god, oh my god, OH MY GOD! I can’t believe it, I’m not going to tell you, but I know, I know…!’


I’m not really one for a big round up of the year’s events, but I can say: seeing Duke Special live in Birmingham and the Fleet Foxes live in Berlin was AWESOME (NO THUMBS awesome). I think my squealing is even on a youtube video of the Fleet Foxes. It feels good to go out and see live bands again and it feels good to now be able to enjoy my life again, even though I’m ‘arm aber sexy‘ like a true Berliner (poor but sexy, yup). I can go to the cinema, hang out at the flea markets, 3222222 (er, the dog just typed those numbers with her long nose) and day dream to my heart’s content. But feeling good about having a poor but sexy, faulpelz big butt might not last long, I remember vaguely feeling like this in 1997 before I got my first job pre-college, working for a prototype call centre for Radio Rentals! But the last 11 years were good for me, so there’s hope for me yet. And if any Sugardaddy’s are out there, I’m ‘gut und guenstig’ which is what everyone wants in a recession.