My kicks are now below the waistline

1 06 2009

I’ve lived in Germany a good few months now, and yet I’ve only just discovered my latest German celebrity crush! This is more evidence that I am slowly turning German.

 

It’s Bill Kaulitz from Tokio Hotel, everyone!

 

Oh Bill, you make my London Bridge go down, down, down

Oh Bill, you make my London Bridge go down, down, down

 

It’s the anime features, the androgyny, the knowledge  he is probably way too young for me (but not that young). That PERFECT NOSE.

 

I’m loving the way the fans have made all sorts of Bill youtube dedications; montaging his gorgeous picture against a whole host of ill-matched songs. Yes, that’s ‘Lady Marmelade’, ‘London Brigdge’, ‘Sexy Back’ (yes!) and strangely ‘La Booooooomba’. OMG, I just saw video footage of the Kaulitz twins cuddling lion cubs – TOO CUTE TOO CUTE TOO CUTE TOO CUTE.





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.”

P-L-E-A-S-E
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.





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!





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.





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.





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.