Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Fighting fear with guns

No matter how many machine guns you have, you cannot flight an unknown enemy you cannot see. The stadium was absolutely stuffed with armed Polizei on Tuesday night, many of them conspicuously displaying their weapons, but you wondered just what the hell they were going to do with them. They probably wondered the same. They’d have to see the enemy before they could use them but by then of course it would already be too late.
For once I didn’t resent the Polizei’s presence. This wasn’t fun for them. Uncertainty was in the air, not fear, but apprehension. Certainly all the sirens, flashing blue lights and machine guns did not create a feeling of security, even if that was all they could ever hope to achieve – a feeling.
In the end it was all for nothing, the game was called off, the bad guys won. Yeah, no one was killed, but that’s just another facet of the uncertainty. We don’t know if there was a real threat. Nobody seemed to know. De Maiziere, who called the game off, wouldn’t give the reasons, but did his best to worry everyone by saying the reasons would worry everyone. The bad guys must be delighted. This is exactly what they want.
Now there are concerns about the weekend’s Bundesliga matches, every train journey, concert and large gathering. Christmas markets will lose some of their cheer, perhaps business won’t be so brisk. But what to do?
If an army of police armed with machine guns can’t ensure a football game can go ahead without the fear of people being killed or injured – despite searching every single person entering (media too, a sniffer dog examined my bag) – then what hope have people they can be safe elsewhere?
It’s not a war, no matter how much the protagonists like to think it is. Just assholes with guns. Restricting access to them would help, as would reducing their sales and putting an end to the conditions that drive people to extremism. It’s easier said than done. More likely is that privacy and freedom will be curtailed, intolerance will flourish, and insecurity will thrive. This is exactly what they want. We can’t give them what they want.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


It’s been autumn for a few weeks now and it’s actually been quite pleasant. You could even enjoy it if you weren’t aware of the hell waiting around the corner. Those leaves aren’t jumping off the trees for no reason. They know what’s coming, can’t face it either.
But the colors are lovely, the air is crisp and bright (until 4pm now that the fucking clocks have been set back) and the mountains of stricken leaves are great fun to run through – until you stand in dog shit that some dog shit owner left behind. There’s always something…
Damn, this was supposed to be a positive uplifting post about beautiful colors and the wonders of nature but it’s getting bogged down in dog shit, and dogged down in bog shit. I’d better let the pictures do the talking. Taken in Lübars, Jungfernheide, Humboldthain and Schönholzer Heide. Herbstlich.

In other news, it’s 26 years ago tonight since Mauerfall. This video is from around the corner. “Tor auf! Tor auf! Tor auf!”

Monday, November 02, 2015

Marathon task

I’ve been running a bit in secret. Nobody knows but I’ve started going out every second day or so. Not far – I’d run down to Mauerpark, go around the Sportplatz a few times and run back – 6km or so. It doesn’t take long.
It’s not particularly fun. It’s boring and pointless but I have to do something. So I’m going to do the marathon next year. I sent in my application last night half an hour before the deadline.
I’ve decided to do it to raise money for Syria. Whatever pain and misery I go through will be nothing compared to what Syrians are going through. Provided it doesn’t kill me – then I guess it will be similar.
But I’m the privileged position of being able to go about my life without barrel bombs falling from overhead, the fear of death, starvation or mutilation. I have an apartment with walls and a roof, food for me and the kid. We’re safe, and we take it for granted.
This is the least I can do. And I figure if other people can run marathons then I can run it too. Why not? Well, the first complication is getting someone else from AP to cover it. I’ve covered the last three. If no one else does it I’ll have to run with my laptop and pull over at the side of the road before the two-hour mark and start typing. Unless I run ahead and finish before anyone else…
I’m joking of course. I know it’s going to be a nightmare, not least getting up so early in the goddamn morning. But I’ll deal with that on the day. I’ve plenty of time to prepare.
Ninety percent of anything I raise is going to Human Appeal Ireland, who provide food, aid and medical supplies directly to Syria while also helping those fleeing the country, and 10 percent will go to Don Sergio Castro, whose tireless work for the indigenous population of Chiapas, Mexico impressed me so much when I was there. He must be 74 now but he’s still at it, six years later.
So I’d be grateful for any donations you can make. I’m sure others will be too.
If I’m not accepted for the Berlin marathon – numbers are limited and I’ll only find out for sure Dec. 1 – I’ll run another marathon somewhere else. What the hell, it’s just running.
Tomorrow I’ll go for a longer run. Now there’s a purpose.

(Donations here are handled through Paypal, though you don’t need a Paypal account to donate. My Paypal account is the one I opened for Abandoned Berlin, hence you’ll see that when you click through. I’m also opening a separate bank account only for donations. If you need the number just get in touch. And of course thank you for your help!)

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Die gruseligste Hallowe’en je

Why should the dead have all the fun? We want our fun too. We made the most of Hallowe’en again, though it’s hard in this country. Germans haven’t a clue when it comes to Oíche Shamhna, but I suppose you can’t blame them – it’s just not their thing.
We made the brack already on Thursday, had the decorations up for weeks before, and we did the annual Hallowe’en extravaganza at Tierpark this evening. We went there last year and it was an enjoyable experience so we went back for a second helping. Jaysus. You’d think after the chaos they had last year with queues they’d have sorted it out for this year. But no, they still have only two “Kassen” open for 30,000 people arriving at the same time.
The good thing about queues in Germany is you can skip them easily enough. Germans are such upstanding citizens they like to stand up for as long as possible by joining the longest queue they can find. They even form queues to join queues. And if you pass they just assume you’re some figure of authority entitled to do so. No one ever questions authority.
So we didn’t have to wait too long before we set off along the “Gruselroute” through the zoo. It was dark, but there were lit pumpkins along the way to show the route. Monsters, zombies, ghouls and fiendish looking beings would jump out from behind bushes or swing out of trees along the way to scare the shit out of anyone they could. Teenage girls were hyperventilating from all their screaming.
The “Gruselroute” led to a house that was decorated in more “gruselig” garb – cobwebs and shit like that – where some woman dressed in a medieval outfit was reading “Gruselgeschichten” for the kids. I never heard the word “grusel” so often. One mother was asking her kid if he had done enough “gruseln” already. I thought she was talking the piss but I looked it up and it’s an actual verb. German, just when you thought it couldn’t be more gruselig...
We left quickly and got waffles and punch and Glühwein – my first of the winter, though it was probably Gruselwein – while we waited for the fireworks to start. A crowd of flamethrowers threw around fire and another bunch dressed in medieval shit did some dancing, badly, before the fireworks finally got underway. They were good while they lasted, which wasn’t long. No one complained. It was getting cold.
One the way home we encountered more monsters, zombies, people covered in blood and so on. The young fella assured me nobody needed an ambulance.
“They’re just costumes!”
He was dressed as a pirate but made the fatal error of leaving his sword at home. Luckily he didn’t need it on this occasion.
The Hallowe’en decorations were up till June the last time. I’ve a feeling they might come full circle this time. Oíche Shamhna shona daiobh.

Saturday, September 05, 2015


The Fuckparade took place in Berlin today!
“It started as a counter-demonstration to the Love Parade,” said a friendly Polizist(!) that I(!) spoke to. He was a motorcycle cop, I suppose they’re different.
“It’s against consumerism and commercialism and all that,” he continued.
“But they’re selling t-shirts down there!” I told him.
He shook his head before driving off.
“So much for that.”
In fairness to them, I only saw one crowd selling t-shirts, the official Fuckparade t-shirt, and I don’t know how much they were. Maybe they were donating the proceeds to refugees, half-starved techno DJs or antifa squadrons.
One of the revelers certainly seemed to be gearing up for battle, holding his fists defiantly in the air while he surveyed the dancers before him with his eyes almost bulging out of their sockets, all the while as an increasingly frantic voice in German urged them to lay down their bottles, pick up their weapons and join the fight – or something like that. The voice sounded eerily like Hitler’s.
All around were weird and wonderful people. The star, in my opinion, was a guy dressed from top to toe in blue, an array of spikes across the top of his leather blue jacket, his head crowned with his hair standing out proudly in impressive blue spikes. He was like a blue hedgehog, only dangerous looking. Certainly no fox would ever attempt to bite him.
The music was shite, unless you’re into that type of thing, or on a mad cocktail of drugs. Many were. But most seemed to be enjoying it – thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, waow, waow, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, waow, waow, and so on. You get the idea. Maybe it’s not so bad.
The first Fuckparade took place in 1997, primarily in response to the Love Parade, as our friendly Polizist mentioned earlier. Eighteen years later the fuckparaders are still calling for a society based on diversity, freedom and tolerance. They do this by blasting the fuck out of everywhere they pass through with ear-splitting techno.
“We’re going to annoy you today because YOU will hear us today!” said organizers as they promise to test the limits of tolerance.
They describe themselves as part of a subculture open to everyone who supports the same values. Fuck anyone else.
“We are still fighting in a country which is preventing active people with positive attitudes from carrying out a self-determined form of pacifist protest,” they say, whatever that means. But what they call for seems reasonable enough.
They’re standing up for artists, people living in “alternative” spaces, squatters and so on who are being threatened and forced out of their abodes through commercialism and general city development. They blast the city for letting empty buildings fall to the ground without allowing for temporary use.
“We ask ourselves, where is it supposed to go?”
They also want the legalization of cannabis, the use of public land “without too much red tape” and for politicians to create a tolerant environment in which minorities are also supported. They want more talking and less evictions.
Last but not least, they’re for refugees and against Nazis, calling for “more action and intolerance against the brown shit.”
The fuckparaders I saw were very much calling for more drugs and alcohol. They’re still partying as I type. If you hurry you can still join them.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Mad month

“After a few drinks I forget to pronounce my nouns.”
The Germans looked at him incredulously. If they didn’t think we were mad before, they certainly did now.
“My vowels! My vowels!” Noddy protested.
But it was too late. The damage was done.

It’s a month and a day since we departed for Ireland, the young fella and I, and a lot of mad shit has happened between now and then. This is the first chance I’ve had to even think about it.
Eoghan and Mary got married the first weekend. I met Mary at the wedding, and a load of other people, some familiar, others not, but all a pleasure to meet.
The priest told a story of when he was a kid, his sister had a cat that she was dearly fond of. She loved that cat. But one day the cat stopped moving, not a budge. Of course she was distraught, in bits, and she went inside to tell their father. He told her they’d go up to the village, get a load of chocolate, crisps, sweets and ice-cream, “and then we’ll come home, have a party and bury the cat.”
But then they looked outside and saw the cat get up again. “Kill it!” she said.
I don’t know what that story had to do with marriage, the church, love or anything, but it’s a good one and the wedding party appreciated it. Definitely better than the usual banging on about Jesus and all that.
Eoghan’s mother gave out to me for “corrupting him” but I heard she holds a lot of people responsible for that. It was great to see him, and his brother Geoff after all they’ve been through. Humbling stuff, puts life in perspective. Lots of drink was consumed, merriment had, friendships made, and promptly forgotten over hangovers the next morning as we awaited breakfasts.
The young fella and I hightailed it to Inishbofin with the help of Helen, my cousin, on the Monday. She only had a couple of days there but they were good ones. He loved the boat over, it was flying up and down like a yo-yo, battered and thrown around by Atlantic waves.
“Weeeeee!” he shouted as bodies flew around. Nobody else could stand. Neither could he. It didn’t matter.
Inishbofin itself is simply great. I’ve decided it’s my island. I might retire there some day if it hasn’t been washed away by the sea already by then. The wind would blow you off if you’re not careful and the sudden rain showers would freeze you to the bone, but the shades of green and blue are beautiful, and any island with as many donkeys is magical.
We rented bicycles and stayed on a couple of days after Helen left. We’d forgotten the young fella’s cough juice in Helen’s car back on the mainland so she sent it over with the next ferry back. Everything comes over on that ferry, the island’s lifeline.
We cycled to the cliffs, went looking for seals and rabbits, said hello to every donkey or sheep we met. We went to the pub every night for dinner. The young fella loved their chips and ketchup. I loved their stout, the best stout I’ve drunk anywhere.
We found the nicest beach in the world and the young fella scurried around collecting bits of smashed crabs. He threw them all into the sea, back where they came from.
“That’s Ireland over there!” I told him, pointing out the majestic mountains that could be seen across the sea in the distance.
“I know!” he said after I’d told him the umpteenth time.
He didn’t want to leave, so I promised him we’d be back. There’s another island beside Inishbofin, Inishark, which was abandoned in 1960 and is now uninhabited and full of ruins. I want to get over to that. We have to go back, we’ll be back.
From there we made it down to Whitechurch, about as far away from Inishbofin as you can get. Home. Niamh and Síobhra picked us up on their way down from Sligo. So it was a real family reunion with the parents there as well.
We went out to Duncannon, were nearly blown away again, paid a visit to the pub, walked down to the river, called up to Noddy’s mother, and visited the aunt and uncle in Kilkenny.
“Shite Kilkenny,” as the young fella called it. I don’t know where he picked that up. He evidently didn’t think it was that shite as he didn’t want to leave there either. We went for a walk by the river in Inistioge and he was treated to ice-cream. No matter how cold it is you can always eat ice-cream.
A brief trip through Dublin was too long for my liking. Overpriced bars catering for stag and hen nights, guarded by bouncers wearing ill-fitting suits doing their best to look even shiftier than the people they’re letting in. Only the earpieces set the bouncers apart.
A woman working in the Spar on George’s Quay told a beggar outside to “move on” away from the shop. He wasn’t even near the door.
The same Spar didn’t have any beer. There are no Spätis in Ireland. But there are in Berlin! We escaped “summer” in Ireland before it killed us – it was 13C in Dublin as it was 36C in Berlin – and made it back to the warm embrace of Spätiland.
Noddy and Tahnee beat us to it after flying over from Australia. They were asleep or trying to sleep when I got in the door. Noddy woke up fairly promptly after I got in and the drinking and general madness began.
It might have been that night that he told the Germans in the Späti across the road he forgot to pronounce his nouns – that night or another one, I can’t remember – but he ended up staying up all night to collect Paul from Cincinnati at Tegel airport the next morning. I gave him directions but have no idea how he made it. Neither has he. He brought Paul straight to the Späti upon arrival so he was well oiled when he woke me up in the afternoon.
They did their own thing while I had to work at the weekend but there was still time for dinners, more drinking, talking shite and drunken philosophy before I took them to the “Zombie Hospital” of Weißensee. Then a bit of relaxing at the lake before we enjoyed starlit pizzas at I Due Forni.
We got the train to Prague the next day. That was fun. Of course there was lots more drinking involved. Noddy used anything and everything to open his bottles, including chairs, the door from the kitchen press, and the front door to the apartment we were staying in. The latter looked spectacular but proved problematic to get back on the hinges. But we persevered and it turned out all right in the end.
We nearly didn’t make it back to Berlin. Our train broke down as soon as we got on it and we had to wait two hours for the next one. As soon as the next train arrived, everyone ran off in different directions, as if they were allergic to it. Tahnee had disappeared so Noddy ran one way, Paul another, while the young lad and I ran over to the other platform. Nobody’s phones were working. Pandemonium. But we somehow found each other again and got on the damn train before it took off.
We went to Wannsee the next day. It was fantastic, frolicking, swimming and splashing in the water, throwing a football around, and sipping beer in the sun’s warm glow. I could have stayed there forever.
But there was work the next day, and more drinking to be done – we didn’t get to bed before dawn any morning – before it was time to say goodbyes with a heavy heart. Cincinnati and Australia are fucking far away.
Last week was a recovery week – I haven’t touched a drop of beer since they left – and one catching up on all the commitments I’d deferred while they were here. Documentaries, newspaper interviews, excursions, and more work. I really need another holiday.