Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Breitscheidplatz

So many words and feelings floating around. It’s shit reading a bedtime story to your kid while aware of what’s happening and sirens are providing the soundtrack outside. Pettson and Findus. I misread gun for grub. But at least the young fella thought it was funny the chickens “would suddenly run off because one of them had found a gun or something.”
This is the world we live in after all. Innocence being eroded. We should be thankful for any that’s still left. I’m acutely aware that kids in Syria, Yemen, Gaza and elsewhere have witnessed horrors that will haunt them for years to come.
I had to go back to Breitscheidplatz today, scene of just the latest normal atrocity. I’d to get quotes and do journalistic stuff, not the kind of stuff in the circumstances any journalist wants to do.
There was a woman beside me just crying, lost in herself. I asked her if she was there last night. No. She shook her head. Just fucking moved by the whole thing. The implications of my question sank in and she moved off again quickly. As if I’d suggested she wasn’t allowed cry because she wasn’t directly involved. I regretted it straight away but there was no undoing it.
There were others there too of course, loads of people, laying flowers, the candles, the signs asking “why?” and denouncing war and terror. All well meant of course. I just thought the candle manufacturers must be making a fortune. It’s boom time for mourning.
To be honest I don’t think it was a great shock for anyone. Of course there was the initial shock with the first news, but then a sort of acceptance that it was going to happen some time or other. There’d been the business in Hannover after the Paris attacks when they couldn’t secure a football game despite an army of security in around the stadium, and since then I think most people accepted that you cannot secure everything from everyone, every deranged poisoned individual out there. Any crowded place, any public venue. There were fears last year about Christmas markets. It just took another year.
Merkel said today that we don’t want to live paralyzed by the fear of evil. Well, who does? But this is the age of fear and politicians, our esteemed leaders, are contributing to it.
More politicians now are banging the right-wing drums – Trump, Fuckface Farage, the AfD, Le Pen – adding just as much to this “terror” as the sick people who carry out these indiscriminate murders in the first place. Anyone seeking political gain from these abhorrences is just as abhorrent, the same, brothers in deadly arms, people without heart.
Media too – Bild’s front page for Wednesday is straight out of an ISIS propaganda manual, shamelessly designed to stoke fear. Fear sells more newspapers.
I talked to two refugees tonight, one from Syria, near Aleppo, the other from Egypt, and they refused to be down about the whole thing. One said, “There are always nice people, always others with different opinions. We can’t do anything about it. I haven’t spoken to any (AfD people) and I don’t know what they want. But if we stay here they will see the good we do and hopefully that will change their minds.”
Merkel’s not perfect – I think of Greece and Ireland – but she is one of the few politicians who has shown she has a heart, a conscience, and I’m sure this latest attack has hit her hard, even if she expected it to.
She came to the Gedächtniskirche beside the Christmas market to light candles and lay flowers and so on. Gedächtniskirche literally means “Memorial Church.” It’s one of the most striking buildings in Berlin because it’s the shell of a formerly magnificent church bombed to shit in the war. If that doesn’t make you think...
The problem is getting other people to think too.

UPDATE: Thursday, December 22, 2016 –  Story I wrote for AP today: https://apnews.com/52cafbe1e0bc405b9437dcea18c8f9e9/Defiance,-not-fear,-as-Berlin-Christmas-market-reopens

Monday, December 12, 2016

Humpeln | humpelte, gehumpelt

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. I read that today, reckon it makes sense, at least when it comes to life and little things like that.
I was back at Dr. Gunter Frenzel’s for another x-ray of the finger (still fractured) and another examination of the knee (still banjaxed). He said it’s likely chondropathia patellae and I’m to have an MRI on Thursday to be sure. I guess they’ll finally treat it then so that’s something.
I thought it was getting better when I ran four days straight and followed up with 15K in an hour. I bought running tights and was putting it all down to these magic tights. All I was missing was the tutu. But my phone was deceiving me as I ran the same route the next day and it’s only 12.5K.
However, I’m running which is the main thing and the knee only seriously kicks up at 7, 8 or 10K, then I have to slow down.
It’s been two steps forward one back. Sometimes the steps are sideways and sometimes more are back but steps are the main thing. I’d been swimming in circles because I can’t stroke as well with my left hand due to the weakened finger.
My German grammar’s getting better thanks to the course I’m on. I know if I were to tell you to look at the moon tonight I’d say, “Guck mal den Mond.” Because Mond is masculine and accusative. All males are accusative actually, no one ever accepts responsibility, it’s always someone else’s fault.
An accusative female told me I was being too hard on myself so I ripped off the Berlin Marathon wristband I’d been wearing as a mark of failure and released some of the pressure I’d put myself under. I’m happier now. Everything’s still up in the air, nothing’s certain, everything’s crazy, the world’s gone mad, but what the hell, I can only do so much. And everything is someone else’s fault.
There’s a guy that cycles along the cobblestoned street below whistling the East German national anthem. He’s been doing it since before summer, not every evening but frequently. He starts at the bottom of the street, timing it perfectly so he’s finished by the time he gets to the top. It wasn’t quite so perfect the other night as he zigzagged along, evidently under the influence of some substance, possibly Glühwein.
I still need to get down there to talk to him, get his story. By the time I realize it’s him again it’s too late to get the boots on, run down the four flights of stairs (or eight, depending on your definition) and catch up. I guess I’ll just have to keep my boots on, or sit on my bicycle in the hall. I thought maybe the sight of the Trabi was fueling this patriotic outburst but I can’t be sure till I ask.
I’ve a load of things to do, like go to the dreaded Bürgeramt tomorrow for a new parking pass because one of the number plates fell off the Trabi and I had to go back in time to a land that no longer exists to get new ones.
Work is going to get a helluva lot busier because my mentor is retiring after 36 years and I’ll be the only one left in Germany. At least I’ll be in a better position to pay the bills. I’ll be full-time or more on a freelance basis, not a promotion but I guess an endorsement of sorts for what I’ve done till now. Fuck! It’s six years since I started. Maybe in another 30 I’ll be able to retire too.
Meanwhile, I’ve to get up when it’s dark every morning because the damn Kita wants all the kids in extra early because they’ve so many advent-related activities to get through. I mean nobody gives a shite about advent, least of all kids. They only care about Santa and what he brings. And he comes twice here! I had to buy sweets behind the young fella’s back for his shoes when he told me “Nikolaus” was coming that night. He was horrified when I called Nikolaus a gobshite for not warning me, but I told him I was only joking, and he seemed relieved when there were sweets in both our shoes the next morning.
I’ve ergotherapy twice a week on the Frankenfinger, which looks much better, though the Therapeutin said it will continue to look “komisch” for some time. I actually bought black nail polish but before putting it on I need to find out if the hipsters are already doing that.
Meanwhile, the finger massages are quite pleasant and the exchanges with the Therapeutin offer another opportunity to be accusative, nominative, dative or genitive as the case may/must be.

I’m still fundraising for MSF by the way, still determined as ever to run this marathon in April, still convinced despite evidence to the contrary that I can and will do it. Every cent goes directly to MSF’s Syrian appeal. So far it’s €1,641.10. If you want to make a contribution, see the donate button top right above.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Last night on Ireland

Last night on Ireland. Goodbyes are cruel at the best of times, only welcome at the worst of times.
We traveled a lot, Dublin to Wicklow down to Wexford back up to the Wicklow Mountains, hiking through bogs, then Dublin again, Phoenix Park, Botanic Gardens, the oldest pub in Ireland, back down to Wexford for a spooky supermoon, Waterford, Tipperary, Wexford again and back up to the big smoke, catching as many people as we could en route.
Next time I’ll plan it better to catch more, though I vow that every time and it never works out.
And then we fly away, gone like Leonard Cohen, who wasn’t around long enough either.
It’s never enough. At least we’ll be back.