Bread, eggs, coffee, gender

16 05 2009

I’ve just translated a tagline on the back of my paper bakery bag; in German it reads “Leidenschaftlich Kernig”, which in English means “Passionately Corny”. This isn’t an emotion I’ve experienced myself, and I’m wondering if I’ve been missing out all these years.

Given that underneath there is a picture of a woman on the bag, I’m sure it is the woman’s emotions to which the line is referring. Modern life is bringing a whole new host of emotions to me, especially after the weeping into the microwave lasagna event.

I’ve noticed some areas of Berlin are beginning to smell a bit like a giant egg right now; summer must be approaching. Whilst waiting for the night bus home, clutching my cakes from the all-night bakery, I really don’t want to be inhaling a giant whiff of sulphur from the drains. Anyway, soon I’ll get a bike which means I don’t have to get the night bus home. I can also check more things off my list of ‘gradually becoming more German’. For example:

Taking a boat ride whilst drinking beer – check
Eating ‘Vollkorn’ bread for breakfast – check
Shouting back at people who shout at me on the street – check
Wearing scarves indoors – check
Spending hours drinking coffee and not working – check
Riding a bike everywhere – almost

Whilst on the topic of coffee, or ‘Kaffee und Klatschen’ as one might say in German, I have to voice my sickening disappointment at reading the following on a McDonald’s leaflet.

“Ein Kaffee ohne Kuchen ist wie ein Kleid ohne Handtasche. Überstezt in Männersprache: wie ein Auto ohne Soundlage.”

In English:
“A coffee without cake is like a dress without a handbag. Translated into Man Talk: like a car without a stereo system.”

Is this really how far we have progressed? That the general population still think that men and women speak differently? Or rather, we are still conned into thinking we should speak differently, and if we do we can’t understand each other? Do not underestimate the power of mass marketing and the twists and turns of semantics that convince us that men and women do come from different planets – we don’t.

This type of language is dangerous, dangerous stuff and can only hinder the efforts of those who want to break down gender divides and barriers. Of course I am not negating schools of thought that promote ideas that women/men do bring different skills and talents to situations, that perhaps others haven’t yet learnt to utilise, or were socialized differently to not use, but – what I don’t agree with is the view that all women do is talk about ‘dresses and handbags’ and men talk about ‘cars and sound systems’. I think I can grasp the idea behind what a Kaffeklatsh is without it having to be translated into ‘women’s speak’, but then again – this example did come from McDonald’s.

Thankfully Berlin offers a growing space of resistance against corporatization and commercialization and mainstream dogma. Places where people can go and not feel under pressure from the stifled divides of the man vs woman world. It is possible to be ‘woman’ or ‘man’ and enjoy being that, but without feeling a compulsion to act in strict binaries the whole time. It’s so boring.


Too busy to think of a title

8 05 2009

The night before last I was cuddling up to a rather dopey rottweiler from somewhere in Russia. 

Last night I was cuddling up with one of my favourite singers, Duke Special, from Northern Ireland. I say ‘cuddling’ but actually all I got was his autograph. So lucky me! That’s the benefit of small gigs, you don’t have to elbow your way up to the band to say ‘hi’. Anyway, my signed ticket is now displayed in prime position next to the stereo, an Olympus Trip camera and stuffed toy Warthog. 


Bell X1 were also playing as the main act last night, but the music hurt my ears so much that I left early. And I really only went to see Duke Special sing so I was happy to leave and find a midnight crepe to eat on the way home. That was miles better than the last time Jackson and I saw Duke Special play and we had to rush out at the very last minute to get the train home, with no chance of getting any decent snacks. Berlin – all night public transport, snacks galore! England – crappy public transport, and curling cornish pasties if you’re lucky.

Oh the tragedy!

4 05 2009

I’ve committed one of modern life’s most troublesome sins:

Crying into my microwaveable lasagna whilst watching Jamie Pugh sing on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’.

The poor guy, never had the courage to stand up and sing in front of anyone before, and then who’d believe what came out! A man singing opera with a Welsh accent really can’t be beat can it?

I think watching ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ is one of the few things I miss about home (that and HMV, and yes, Topshop), see last year’s posts tagged ‘cultural petite mal’ for more. I love the triumphs and tribulations but I equally revel in the mishaps and slip-ups. I indulge in a bit of schadenfreude when it all goes wrong. The only part I find awkward is when parents push on their little darlings, and little darling does not have one ounce of talent. Having said that, any saccharine child act doesn’t really agree with my sensitivities anyway. But that’s just my taste.

So, weeping tears into a mush of bechemel and vegetables, what next? Twirling round the living room clutching a martini glass listening to Neil Young’s “Hurricane”? Reading the end of “Mice and Men”? Putting “Sophie’s Choice” on to play whilst…..alone???

It’s just not my world

1 05 2009

We’re off to a contemporary art exhibition soon.


Jackson’s going as the potato famine and I’m dressing as a full-stop.

Faces of Berlin

1 05 2009

Three faces of Berlin…

Following up on my posts about bin hokers and plate hokers, my latest encounter has been with a remarkably verbose drunken lady. Sitting down on a park bench to eat our ice-creams (oh, I love you Berlin, and all your ice cream shops), Jackson and I were approached by a lady dressed in pastel colours and dream catcher earrings. She immediately picked up that we weren’t German and switched to fluent English, this despite the smell of Aldi’s cheapest wine and the type of spirits sold in those miniature bottles, flowing off her breath. Coupled with the collection of bags that she’d dumped on a bench nearby, a gentrified conversation didn’t appear too promising, but – never judge a book by it’s cover. Our newest acquaintance had more than enough sharp observations of the differences in mentality across Germany. The Berlinerish ‘Landkreig’ (no one ever, ever gives way on pavements or opens the door if you are coming through), the peering through curtains and judgement of neighbours, compared to the more open and easy-going manner of Hanseatic area. Of course, living in Berlin one soon appreciates that ‘God knows everything, but the neighbours know more‘.

UPDATE: Jackson just reminded me of the strange joke the lady made about Jackson speaking ‘Egg speech’. Somehow she moved from Ireland-isch, to Eier-landisch, to Egg speech. It does actually make sense: eier means ‘eggs’ in German; but our new linguist found the joke immensly funny for far longer than is usual. 

I’m never sure if people I meet on the streets, who clearly display signs of alcoholism, madness (who are we to judge?), and general dirtiness, spin out embellished stories, or do tell the truth. The lady in the park had, accordingly, sailed around the world many times, and was an accomplished yachtswoman. I’m leaning on the side of believing her, and why not?

Later that day I also had an impromptu conversation with an old Vietnamese man. I was buying Summer Rolls on the spur of the moment on my way home, and the restaurateur started talking to me. I told him I’d visited Vietnam a few years ago, which is where my love of Summer Rolls started. He, in turn, told me his story (which was certainly more interesting than my love of Asian food) of arriving in West Germany decades ago, as a guest student. Apparently after the Berlin wall was erected, and then when the war in Vietnam ended, Gastarbeiters and students from the north of Vietnam were invited to Eastern Germany (the communist connection), and many students were invited from the south of Vietnam into Western Germany. The restaurateur had been an electrical engineer for many years, before starting a restaurant with his wife. I think being a foreigner in Berlin, and recognisably so (I lack the required accent), has made me somehow more susceptible to being approached by many characters wanting to tell their own story. In the true sense of narrative history, everyone has a story to tell, but often no one takes the time to hear. My new friend also gave me some fortune cookie so I’d “know what’s going to happen later”. I opened mine up at home the paper strip read “You will have success on Thursday“. But it was Thursday! So have I already had my success for the day, was it to come in the remaining 3 hours, or come next Thursday? Or on another Thursday, ten years away? Tell me for certain!

Or maybe my success is linked to this:

Another reason why I love Berlin is the chance to meet Daniel Brühl, the face of Berlin, on the U-bahn. I’m 99% certain it was him, and 1% certain it was a spitting-image copy, but as I went down the steps at Potsdamer Platz, he was coming up. It was actually a second or so afterwards that I realized that I might have unknowingly experienced a star-sighting. Oh, missed opportunity! Actually, our eyes did meet….sadly, nothing else did.

Daniel, if you were at Potsdamer Platz at about 7.45pm, then, you know – call me!

Mein Gott

25 04 2009

I wish I lived in Witzleben, Berlin. Then I could in all honestly say “life’s a joke”, whilst shaking my head in despair as the fine particles of our crumbling civilization scatter around us. Schadenfreude even invades the place names round here. The locals can quite happily say ‘we told you so’, perhaps whilst mixing in a Cambridge Footlights’ song (circa 1995/6/7?) that chimes out ‘shit happens, and life’s a bitch and then you die’.


For the record, personally I am fine, but once in a while I like to comment on the state of affairs that I witness around me.

Scary wet pants

13 03 2009

I’ve just watched a video clip on the BBC news website about the world’s steepest rollercoaster drop, located in Thorpe Park, England. Apparently you travel 100 feet vertically upwards, facing the sky and then drop 100 degrees down again. 4.G (??) forces you into your seat. Then you travel a very twisted track until you disembark to walk again on your spaghetti legs.


A journalist from the BBC took the ride, named ‘Saw’ (from the films?) but what I noticed was the guy sitting in the end seat is chewing gum as they take off . Hello??  Young man, that gum is going to be thrust back into your throat at 4.7 times the force of gravity. You’re getting your kicks from adrenaline, do you want to add sticky windpipe to the thrills?


I was disappointed that I heard only about 5 screams throughout the whole video; where are the manic, high pitched screams of terror and fear? Where is the pant wetting? Were the riders all meditating throughout (don’t laugh, I do this on rollercoaster rides) ? Or perhaps praying? Or does gravity constrict the vocal cords too much to be able to scream? 

Thankfully they interviewed the masticating guy at the end, so the viewers can see that he didn’t afer all get choked by a stick of Wrigley’s or strawberry Trident lodged somewhere behind his tonsils. 

But if I watch rollercoaster footage I want screams, shrieks, wet pants, and vomit in hair.