Monday, May 31, 2010

Karneval atmos at der Kulturen

An unhealthy weekend, both for body and for soul. Ronan arrived over from Cork with two buddies of his and the only sightseeing centred around cafés, pubs and nightclubs.
They found plenty to look at however. "How are the women so beautiful in this city?" they asked the taxi driver on the way down to Kreuzberg as we headed towards the Karneval der Kulturen.
Earlier, Ronan had observed that no two women are dressed the same in Berlin. Each has their own unique style. "It's quite remarkable." Aaron was doing his best to get to know all of them, while Steve was happy to enjoy the company of whoever was present there at the time.
"Outstanding," said Ronan as he spotted another one.
There were plenty of other outstanding specimens at the festival, on both sides of the scale, as the "Carnival of Cultures" ensured thousands of people of all shapes colours and sizes. Dreadlocks abounded and the atmosphere followed suit, lazy but lively, relaxed yet intense. Excitement bubbled in the air as scores of revellers milled between the colourful stalls and stands. Drink flowed and food was eaten.
"It was a carnival atmosphere," as I told my dad a few days later.
After arriving with our bottles of Sterni, we soon ran out and were quite happy to find the African drinks stand with Nigerian Guinness. The best of both words; Irish, yet exotic. A perfect 7.5 per cent combination of home and away. "Jaysus, we'll be goutered," I noted. It was delicious. Of course we had to get some more.
"You can always spot the Irishman at things like this," Ronan observed. "He'll be the fella, pasty and white, looking kinda confused and bewildered at everything - saying 'Isn't this all mad?' - trying to take it all in."
We looked around, confused and bewildered, trying to take it all in. "Isn't this mad?" We got another Guinness.
On one of my increasingly frequent toilet stops, after following the sound of African drums behind the trees just as light was failing, I discovered a grassy park absolutely covered in people, hundreds of them sitting or lying in little groups, all chilled out in the grass, sipping beers, passing joints, letting the sound of the night just wash over them and away. Lanterns hung from the trees, twinkled with the soft breeze. Gentle sounds soothed through the branches. Perfect.
We sat there with our Guinnii and discussed life. To be honest actually, I've no idea what we discussed, but I'm sure the conversation was of a very high standard. But salsa was calling and so regrettably we'd to take our leave of the gentle beats for some more turbulent ones.
Nights seem to deteriorate once you leave the Karneval der Kulturen. The night before, a girl Ronan became acquainted with was on her way from the festival to meet us in Kaffee Burger around 7am when she got knocked off her bicycle by a car. "She had to get stitches in her head," he lamented the next day.
His bad luck was compounded when their flights back actually took off without volcano-induced delay, the first time that's happened with any visitors of mine since the thing erupted in the first place. He's already talking of coming back. I don't think he'll get away so easily the next time.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Downing Drunkels with Yann

"Who the hell is Yann Tiersen?" asked my uncle Michael before his visit to Berlin. I was bringing him with my aunt and cousin to see the great man play at the Festsaal Kreuzberg and told them they were in for a treat.
"Oh Jaysus I don't know," was the reply. "I don't know if I like the sound of this fella at all!"
When we got there I wondered what I'd done. The volume from the support act was louder than max and I could hear feel the base thumping at my chest. The place was absolutely jammed and the air heavy with excitement. The concert had been sold out ages before and Berlin's young and beautiful were all there, grooving and shaking as groovers and shakers are prone to do.
My aunt and uncle plonked themselves in front of the merchandise table at the back and took it all in. There was too much to look at, I'm sure they didn't know where to look. As soon as Yann the Man (as he became known) came out on stage the place went berserk and I really feared for their well-being. Myself, Helen and Jenny had become separated from them and so it was only after a couple of songs that I fought my way through the crowds to see how they were doing.
"Jaysus he's great!" said my aunt Eileen. "Mighty," agreed my uncle. They were begeistert as they say in these parts, enthralled by all the goings on and the manic music at manic volume. (Yann seeems to have turned his back on Amélie.)
In the end I think they enjoyed it more than Helen and Jenny did, particularly when Yann lost the plot and played like a madman possessed by a swarm of bees for the finale - I believe he was trying to get rid of people at that stage - but when I met Eileen and Michael anyway they were still smiling.
Not as much as when we met after work and they saw me in a shirt and tie and my pointy shoes - I've never seen a camera whipped out as fast - but their smiles were never far away for the duration of their visit. Michael had a smile from ear to ear when he found out we were going to his favourite pizzeria, the one ran by Italian punks renowned for bad service, or whenever another Dunkelweißen was ordered; Drunkelweißen as they became known.
Tierpark in the East Berlin was apparently shite however and not worth the entrance in. Helen reported miserable animals in small pens and nothing to do. The poor elephants were rocking back and forth in a manic fashion. Probably still recovering from Yann Tiersen. They didn't need such large ears to hear him...
I ate like a king for the duration of their visit and wasn't allowed pay for a thing. In the end they only way to get them back was provide a long-promised dinner, although Jenny did most of the work as we used her apartment due to a lack of a kitchen table at mine. (If anyone is giving away a kitchen table please let me know.)
They also brought more tea. Two more boxes of Barry's to add to growing stockpile (don't worry it'll be drunk) and their generosity just went on and on. As with my previous visitors, Eyjafjallajokull conspired to keep them here longer than originally planned. Not long enough. Just a few hours in this case, but at least there was time for a couple more Drunkels.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Little post

It's the little things that make a big difference. Life hangs on little details and little details hang on life. Just a little thought.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Spreepark revisited (Dodging security)

Get down! We flung ourselves to the ground, flat, fast, fearful, face in the dirt, hearts pounding, nerves jangling, pulses racing. The car zoomed up the road. I dared not look, barely peering through the foliage. Jessie grabbed my arm. Shit. They're stopping! A door slammed. Voices. Laughter. A man's voice. Brash, loud. Fuck. Run Jessie, run! We bolted, running behind the giant monkey head where we flattened against the side. Did they see us? They must have seen us. How could they not? We waited, waited to be caught.
We were in Spreepark, the old abandoned fairground beside the Spree, home only now to forgotten dinosaurs, neglected Ferris wheels and unwanted amusement rides. We'd already ignored the "betreten verboten" signs, hopped over the chain-link fence, past the looming trees, shadows ominous and inhospitable, and made our way along the broken road to where we found ourselves now, hiding behind a giant monkey head afraid to even breathe.
I'd already warned Jessie there may be guards on the site, if not the guy who oversaw its demise, but we didn't expect them to be patrolling in vehicles. What the fuck? What would they do when they found us? Ring the police? Lock us up, beat us? Through a gap at the bottom we peered out, watched as a man approached talking with another waiting by the car. There were four of them altogether, two girls too. I could just see his legs, coming closer and closer. He was just in front of us, the other side of our hideout, still talking with the others behind. Jessie gripped my arm like an eagle clasping its first kill after a long fast. Shssshhh! Stay still! Don't breathe!
Suddenly she dropped to her knees and began furiously typing on her phone. What the hell was she doing? Calling for help? Writing her final will? I peered out again underneath, used my camera to get a better view, but I couldn't see anything. The man was still there though. We could hear him, calling back at the others. No idea what he was saying.
We waited for fucking ages, an interminable suspense, before he eventually went back to the car. Doors slammed again and the car drove off. Silence. Phew! We could breathe again. We peered out cautiously. Maybe it was just a ruse. Maybe he was still waiting, waiting for us to come out before swooping. We ran behind a tree and waited again. Okay, nothing. It's all clear!
"What do you want to do?" I asked Jessie. "Do you want to leave or do you want to go on?" I didn't want to be responsible for her having a heart attack.
"This is fucking brilliant!" she replied. Grand, we'll go on so.
We tip-toed back out onto the road. Light was failing and twilight ensured shadows loomed everywhere. Okay, let's go! We checked out the roller coaster, rusty, rolling and coasting no more, then some cars in the shape of bespectacled moustached heads with bowler hats stopped as if in protest in the forest. The tracks still snaked their way around the trees but the cars had long before given up.

We went on towards the Ferris wheel and found the dinosaurs scattered all around, some on their side as if toppled by a giant bowling ball, a couple of them beheaded. The poor tyrannosaurus rex lying on his side, his severed foot the only part of him still standing. The brontosaurus still upright, no bowling ball big enough to know him over, and the unfortunate mammoth was long overdue a visit to the dentist.
It was almost dark so we had to hurry. We went on to some buildings at the back where I noticed another car was parked. We have to be careful! We ducked into a shed but it was too dark to see what was around. Of course we hadn't a torch. With the infra-red from the autofocus on my camera we could make out various shapes, objects. Boxes were piled up haphazardly. Then a load of medicine behind a door, plasters and medical supplies, two black bags underneath. Weird shit going on here, I said.
We went further in, poking around at the boxes. Jessie walked on a bit ahead but it was too dark to see her properly. The infra-red bathed the room in red light again. Okay, there she is. I looked back at the doorway and saw the silhouette of a man. I froze. Fuck! Did he see us?! He shone a torch into the room. Run Jessie, ruuunnn!!!! I shouted in a whisper. We ran. Through a gap at the back of the shed we bolted. Through the trees behind. We just ran through branches. I'd no idea where we were going, couldn't see what was in front, but just ran and ran, through bushes, breaking twigs, tripping over branches, but still we just ran and ran. I'd no idea if he was behind us. I envisioned a hand grabbing me from behind. We just ran.
We got to the fence. It was leaning in towards us so was quite tricky to get over. I gave Jessie a boost first, threw her the camera when she was over, and flung myself over too, head first, legs in the air, before landing on the other side. Okay, let's go! We walked quite briskly away, casting furtive glances back through the trees to see if we were being followed. That was close!

Before long we came to another abandoned building, Zum Eierhäuschen, an old restaurant and guesthouse first opened in 1837 but no longer in business after it was closed in 1990. It's now surrounded by a link fence.
"I've always wanted to get in there," I told Jessie. We circled the perimeter.
"Sure we may as well go in, now that we're here," she said. "Just for a quick look."
I propped up the fence with a couple of branches and in we went. A door was ajar to the cellar and I thought we might be able to get into the main building from that but there was no way up.
Jessie was reporting on the situation to her pals on the phone. "Yeah we were just in an abandoned fairground park and we nearly got caught. We had to leg it through the trees to get out and now we're in the cellar of an old abandoned house in the forest."
Suddenly through the trees I saw a man with a flashlamp approaching. "Hang up! Hang up!" I told Jessie. We flattened ourselves against the wall. The man stopped. He noticed the propped up fence. He took away the branches, righted the fence and waited, wondering what to do next. Had he seen us? Bhí mo chroí i mo bhéal. He shone the torch in at the doorway, the beam flickered across the wall. He circled again, shining the torch in through the windows. I almost became the wall I was pressing so hard into it. The yellow light danced across the bricks but crucially not across us. He gave up. The torch disappeared and he walked off.
That's enough, let's get the hell outta here. We lifted up the fence and managed to squeeze our way out. We'd to walk past Spreepark on our way back to the S-Bahn, the trees mocking us from behind the fence, each one of them holding a possible security guard just waiting to grab us as we passed. It was a brisk walk. Only when safely on the actual S-Bahn did we dare breathe normally again.

I wrote about Spreepark before and how one can reach it and get in. Further information you'll find here: http://www.irishberliner.com/2009/06/spreepark-and-how-to-get-in.html
Just watch out for the guards!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ein Haargeschnitt

Got a haircut last Monday. A hair, that is. Don't think she cut any of the others. If anything, I've more hair now than I did before I got it cut. Seems impossible to get a decent haircut in this city.
After going to all the fancy places with coffee tables and poodles and forking out a fortune to get previous Haarschnitts, I followed the advice of someone who hasn't had a haircut in years (should have known) and took my custom to one of the cheaper places. €10 for a wash, cut and go.
A lot of places advertise €10 for a wash and go, leading my uncle (visiting with my aunt and cousin last week, more on their shenanigans later) to wonder why they emphasise the "go" part. "What else are you meant to do?" he asked.
I went to a a snazzy-looking place, all mirrors, black and white furniture with jagged edges, on Alte Schönhauser Straße called Unicut (again, I should have known), determined to look normal once again. The girl's eyes nearly popped out of her head when I walked in. Once she recovered she pointed me to a ticket machine such as they have in the Bürgeramt to pacify the commoners. I was number 321. 3-2-1, I felt I was being launched into space.
"Just get the hair out of my eyes, and make sure I don't look like I'm from the 80s anymore," I told her as she prepared to tackle the mop. It's fast becoming my mantra.
Well she lashed into it as her life depended on it, pulling and tugging, chopping and clipping, snipping and hacking enough to deforest the Black Forest. They'd have to call it the Black Deforest then although it wouldn't be black anymore either. The White Deforest I suppose but that would be treeson.
It actually hurt, and I didn't argue with her when she eventually announced: "Das reicht." That's enough. It's most certainly not enough - it looks as ridiculous as ever. The hair went straight into my eyes as soon as I left the shop. I'm afraid it might soon be back to the days of the shaver.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Moonlighting für Füßball

With Füßball Fieber about to grip the nation, I was asked to contribute regular rantings on the upcoming Weltmeisterschaft on another blog. Fear not dear readers! I shan't be abandoning you like a floozy to run away at the first sign of attention from better-looking readers, but will continue bringing you a perturbing look into my perturbulant life on a peturbular basis.
In the run up to the World Cup however - and during it too if they haven't politely asked me to stop in the meantime - I will be offering profound gibberish and insightful nonsense on all matters Füßball-related for Young Germany, a joint project of the German Federal Foreign Office and a pub(lishers) in Frankfurt which offers all sorts of information on this oft-misunderstood country.

Writing about Schweini and company on a regular basis was all the invitation I needed. Schweini... I love that name. Literally Piggie for you non-German speakers. Germans are mad about pigs, considered a magical animal, and any reference to a pig is seen as a compliment. Some of the Theresas Mütters affectionately call me a Kampfschwein (fighting pig) because of my efforts on the field. Like most pigs around here though, they usually come to Wurst.

Back to the moonlighting and I'm sure the frighteningly-large picture used to introduce me to readers will scare them off reading the witty and insightful biography. It's scarily accurate however, and may one day find its way to my own profile here. It would save me the effort of coming up with another.

The first post appeared online today. Here's a sneak preview for you:
My bags were packed, boots polished, jerseys neatly folded. One by one the national team managers announced their squads for the World Cup last week. One by one they reeled off the names, the stars, the personalities; most of whom will be travelling to South Africa for the great party which kicks off in 22 days’ time.
I couldn’t wait to join them. Like an excited puppy on Puppies’ Day, I waited for my name to be called out. I’d been waiting four years for this moment. Since watching the great Zidane walk, head-bowed, past the trophy down the tunnel of Olympiastadion during that fateful final in Berlin, I couldn’t wait to appear on the same stage. “Oh Zizou! I wanna be like Zou too!”


The rest of this literary marvel can be read by clicking this link.
Please enjoy, leave complimentary comments, and share with the world! And don't forget to check for updates as Füßball Fieber really takes hold...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dir Deine Meinung!

The first day at Bild! I've been launched into the world of trashy tabloid journalism. It's great! This morning as I glanced up at the glass facade of the 19-storey building of a million stories more, built in 1966 as a response to the Berlin Wall, I realised I was entering a whole new level in the world of media empires. The security on the way in would rival an airport's, with metal detectors and name badges and fearsome looking guards. Twice they searched me as I went in! I must have been looking particularly suspicious despite my best tie and pointy shoes.
Another girl with a particularly hard-to-pronounce name was starting with me and we were quickly shown the ropes. We were brought to the online editors' meeting on the 16th floor in the afternoon, where the latest stories and scandals were discussed at a frightening pace, with snappy opinions exchanged frank and forthright. "Ich finde das langweilig," one poor fella was told of his story pitch.
Once the dust settled I had a few minutes to take in my new surroundings; picture desks strewn with prints, fancy glass-walled offices, trendy desks and chairs, rows and rows of keyboards and screens, telephones everywhere and plasma televisions hanging from the ceiling beaming out pages of the newspaper or the latest images of interest from around the world. The energy palpable, excitement in the air, people everywhere scurrying about with a decided Springer in their step.
The cantine was fancier than most restaurants I've been to, while there was also a trendy café bar, a chemist, a snazzy delicatessen, and beer for sale in the shop! There's even a concierge. "If you've anything to post or if you need to get dry cleaning done, you can bring it there," Rowan, my new boss, told me. Wow! All without having to leave the building. People bustled all over. A far cry from the Gorey Echo when just meself, Sandra and Evelyn in the mornings would hold the fort.
In the afternoon I worked on stories of Earth-shattering importance; Paris Hilton baring her arse again, Rachel Stevens being pregnant, and Ballack insisting that Schweini would save the day for Germany after he was ruled out of the World Cup. Any story with a character called Schweini in it is always going to be a good.
In truth, it was an exhausting day. I'm absolutely knackered and my head feels like it's gonna explode, but dammit, I'm a journalist once again no matter what anyone else says. Mir meine Meinung!

I forgot to mention there's unlimited caffé lattes, freshly made as soon as you make them. A real machine which froths and steams the milk and everything, real coffee too, absolutely delish! There's also an unlimited supply of bottled water - without gas, with gas, and with just a little gas - take your pick. It's gas!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Telebuddies' adieu

Bidding adieu to my teletubby colleagues was harder than I thought. Despite the work itself being the most soul-destroying and demotivating I've ever had the misfortune to have to get up for, my colleagues had done all they could to help the long days go quicker. We laughed a lot, probably more than we should have had, or more than we would otherwise have had if we hadn't gone crazy from the incessant pestering of people through what felt at times like phone terrorism.
For exactly eight hours everyday I would ring people who did not want to be rung, speak with people who had no intention of being spoken to, and try and sell them things they had absolutely no intention of buying. One guy who'd obviously been receiving hundreds of these calls practically cried from exasperation when I called too.
"Please, please stop calling me," he begged. I hadn't even a chance to tell him what I wanted.
At least I managed to get through to him. Most were in never-ending meetings, on long term holidays, deaf, dumb, dead or otherwise unavailable, with incredibly bitchy receptionists taking perverse pleasure in their bitchiness. Others just hung up, slamming phones down with maximal eardrum-damage in mind. The Italians were the worst. "Pronto!" they'd shout when answering the phone, before slamming it down as soon as the first words in English. Pronto my arse. The French were the bitchiest while the Russians didn't answer the phone at all. The Spanish took four days to find out who it was you needed to speak to, but at least they persevered.
So you can see why we laughed a lot. It was either that or cry. Misunderstandings among an international mix of people lead to some hilarious conversations.
"Can I speak with Mr. So-and-so please?"
"Sorry no. He's in the States."
"He's in a state? What's wrong him?"
Or asking someone to speak louder only to be told there's no one by the name of Louder working there. Or the best one, when one of my team members unwittingly rang a company and asked to speak to Queen Margherita after confusing the person's name with the address. They weren't saying pronto after that.

It was hugs all round when I was leaving. Alexa, my boss, seemed sad to see me go as did the others who will no doubt miss the slagging and non-work-related entertainment they received. A good bunch of people. So it wasn't all bad - I was lucky to have made some telebuddies while I was there.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Irish Berliner dot com

Exactly two years and two months to the day I became an Irish Berliner the blog has a new address! Out of careful and loving consideration for you, dear reader, you will now find the latest ravings and rantings about life in Berlin or wherever else my cravings lead my ravings under the much easier to find title of www.irishberliner.com.
Far simpler to type and remember than all that dot blogspot stuff you had to remember before, especially after stumbling home late from the pub or after swigging a few too many Sternis. Fewer keys to hit means fewer possibilities for drunkenly hitting other keys when you're checking in with sloppy fingers for your regular dose of Schadenfreude.
Of course, for those of you who don't like change, you can of course type in the the old address without suffering any adverse consequences, and old bookmarks or saved pages you have will remain and function as they did before.

The bad news is that small adverts will soon be appearing on the site. I've shamefully capitulated to capitalism but only after careful consideration further exacerbated by the need to eat. I've come to realise capitalism is inescapable - work is capitalism for Erich's sake - and sooner or later everything boils down to the need to eat. Even boiling comes down to the need to eat, particularly where shrimp are involved. Like the shrimp, the ads will be small and shouldn't interfere with your enjoyment of the site. Any shrimp caught interfering with your enjoyment of the site will be boiled down to the need to eat. I'm getting peckish as you may have noticed...

In further technological advances, twits can can now follow tweets from Der Irische Berliner on Twitter! All posts are now also tweeted to http://twitter.com/irishberliner. Not sure what the advantage of this is as the content will be exactly the same - I won't be tweeting everytime I have a bowel movement - but I guess twits can retweet tweets to their twit friends.

All these developments come on the day the site has reached 100 different countries thanks to Macedonia, and a few days after Delaware became the 50th US state to check it out.
Del may be aware, but not enough it seems to avoid being the last goldarn state of them all to discover Der Irische Berliner.
After 300 posts (this the 301st) it seems this blogging malarkey is going places I didn't think it would go. It will certainly be trespassing a bit more from now on, but further details on that I'll leave for another exciting announcement when the time is right.
In the meantime, business as usual tomorrow with more eye opening escapades and enough updates to launch a rocket. So go on, spread the word, tell your friends if they haven't all been taken over by Facebook, Twitshit, MyArse or Gobbledygook. Irish Berliner dot com!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Six and the city

Any lack of excitement from the rather disappointing riots on May Day was more than made up for with the arrival of six girls from Ireland for the weekend. I met Jessie on the platform at Kottbusser Tor and was quickly introduced to the rest of the gang who'd already made themselves at home by parking themselves outside an Imbiss and ordering a load of beer.
The names I promptly forgot but was made to remember over the following days - Eibhlin, Gillian, Amanda, Cara and Fiona with the heart of gold and sturdy eyes.
The beer didn't last long and so we'd to get more.
"Will we get a crate?" enquired Fiona, still cursed with that Irish panic we might run out and be left with our tongues hanging out gasping for another.
"Not at all. You're in Berlin now," I replied. "There's beer in all the shops, you can drink in the streets and the pubs never close."
I explained you can simply buy another beer when the one you're drinking is finished. There's no need to build up stockpiles in anticipation of the bar closing without the prospect of more.
"Wow. Berlin's great!" They were happy. We got more beer. Then more, and then more again.
Walking through the crowds we took in the ambiance of Kreuzberg on May Day. Oranienstraße jammed with punks and pacifists, anti-fa and weirdos, swaying to the beats of techno, traders taking advantage, scenewatchers in overlooking balconies. One guy stumbled into the middle, whipped his lad out and pissed right in front of everyone. Crowds morphing around. He whipped it back, stumbled back to his place and looked around blinking as if wondering where he was, already oblivious to what he'd just done; the crowd too, his pool already spread by a hundred passing footsteps.

In the square as we all sat on a bench sipping more beers I was asked if I needed help.
"You can't handle six women on your own!" pointed out a young Turkish fella playing the Good Samaritan. Very considerate. Suddenly about eight of his buddies surrounded the bench, willing to help out too. Okay, time to go!
We sought refuge from them and the rain in a quiet café. More beer, Jägermeisters and before long the café sought refuge from us in the rain. Cara, who has arms for legs and legs for arms, fell over backwards as she was sitting on the floor. The others fell around laughing. Remembering hip dudes, she then put on a show with her own, posing like a catwalk queen long after we stopped taking photos. "You can stop now Cara. We've enough photos." No matter.
Fiona slid down the stairs, and soon everyone was joining in the fun, fighting over whose go it was on the banisters and sliding down as quickly as the level of conversation. Weeeeeeee!!!! Happy smiles all round. We left before we were asked to leave.

I'd been looking forward to the riots, but they really were quite disappointing. I'm sure even the Polizei were a little underwhelmed. There were hundreds of them, all decked out in intimidating riot gear and simply begging for a hint of trouble.
We did get shoved and heckled, as they tried make the area as uncomfortable as possible, just itching for a good old-fashioned scrap. I saw a couple of them hit out at people who didn't take kindly to being pushed or shoved. A few years ago I would have reacted but the years have made me wiser; it's better in most cases just to move along. So we left once we got pissed off being shoved around without a burning car or Molotov cocktail in sight. Very disappointing as I mentioned before. I've a mind to write a strongly-worded letter of complaint.

I wasn't complaining when Jessie gave me three boxes of Barry's Tea. Three boxes. Almost 500 bags of tea! I'm going to have to stop writing about all the presents I'm getting because it's getting out of hand.
Unfortunately (or thankfully from my liver's point of view) I'd to work so was unable to stay out all night as the girls seemed to do every night they were here. It took poor Fiona three hours to walk home what would normally take five minutes one morning when she stumbled in at 11am, frightening the living Scheiße out of workers on her way when she burst into an office in her pink tights and short skirt to demand: "Internet!"
Other hi-jinx included dancing on tables and the loss of a wallet and glasses (not mine this time and thankfully recovered), as the girls made the most of what Berlin has to offer, offering hoch fünfs to everyone and anyone who'd hoch fünf back.

It's very hard to leave this city once you arrive, and so it proved with the cancellation of their flights due to a smoking mountain hundreds of miles away. "That's a plane in the ash," they were told as they wondered how they'd get home.

Jessie and Fiona stayed, meaning they could actually see a bit of Berlin in the daylight. (Myself and Jessie had already been exploring Spreepark on the Sunday, but more on that later.)
We got back in touch with our friends at Alternative Berlin and embarked on the Twilight Tour of all the places one shouldn't go. Abandoned breweries, graffiti galleries, freaky caves, dolls floating in baths, groping around in the dark, tripping over bricks, hopping over fences, climbing over pipes and out of holes - it really was an eye-opening affair, especially at the end when we were brought to bar of hackers and geeks, hacking and geeking as if the future of the planet depended on it. Apparently they're looking into the existence of a UFO 4.5 billion years old under Alexanderplatz. Well, it wouldn't surprise me to be honest.

I was wrecked by the end of the week, but a happy wrecked and sorry to see them go home. Riots? Forget Kreuzberg. A week in Berlin with six crazy Irish girls was always going to be riot. I'm sure they're already planning their next visit. Hoch fünf!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Handy pandy

Back in the loop! Finally contactable by phone again after taking too long to get a replacement. The sim wasn't sent out by the mobile phone company despite their receipt of €10 for same because I hadn't rung them again to order it. They must have thought it was a present.
Once that was sorted all that was left to do was get a new phone. Well, not new exactly. This evening I got a call from Ali, presumably not his real name, who wanted to know how soon I could meet him. Twenty minutes I told him. Twenty minutes later we met. A lonely ill-lit platform. He emerged from the shadows of an Imbiss as I walked towards him. A short fellow (definitely not German) of quite dubious character. He fidgeted while I inspected the phone. I tut-tutted over scratches on the back, bemoaned the lack of charger or headphones. But dammit I needed a phone. I made an offer. He refused, sticking to his original price. No deal I told him. Hold on he said. He made a call. Okay. A deal was struck. €40 changed hands behind the Imbiss and that was that. He disappeared down one end of the platform and I waited for the train back home.
'Twas probably the same fucker who stole my previous phone 16 days ago. The scene of this crime not far from where the other took place, only this time as I took the S1 back I at least had a phone with me. Now I just need to get a new wallet, preferably one with some money in it too.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Nationalismus

Nationalismus struck Berlin again this weekend but thankfully this had nothing to with hysterical little men with bad moustaches, anti-semitism, or a feverish desire to have the world populated only with blue-eyed blondes. There was an element of fanaticism involved however, as I saw the same band twice in two days for the first time since U2 used to be good.
It could only be The National of course, as I went to see them with Jenny at Huxley's Neue Welt on Saturday, and then again last night with the wonderfully-named Adonis at Astra. They were fucking brilliant, amazing, and I'd go see them again tonight if I could. (The National I mean, although I'd like to see Jenny and Adonis again too.) I'd goosebumps for almost the duration both nights, and the music is still in my head as I type.
It may have been The National who convinced me to come to Berlin, the urge to throw everything away and start again from scratch, everything to lose, more to gain, totally irresponsible, utterly romantic, inescapably beautiful, the feeling there's simply more to everything. There is.
Moving lyrics and songs that lift the soul, fill the heart, urge you to scream, cry, throw your arms up, kick the person in front of you - especially if she's a fat heap wearing a hat who keeps moving her head directly in your line of sight...
It was this weekend I discovered Germans are just too damn tall for my liking. I'm no midget, but they all decided to stand directly in front of me, the tallest forcing their way to the front so they could block everyone else's view. They should be banned altogether. It's a definite disadvantage going to a concert in Germany, compared say, with going to one in Perú or Guatemala where the tallest native only comes up to your knees.
Another noteworthy phenomenon at German concerts is the handing out of ear-plugs at the entrance. Ear-plugs! At a concert! I can't say too much about it, but when I go to a concert I want to hear every note, every chord, every drumbeat, every scream, at a volume to wake the dead.
Thankfully The National were good and loud, and despite not being able to see much of the Matt Berninger, especially when he went bananas and jumped into the crowd at the end, I could certainly hear him. And damn was it great.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

All not enough

When I turned up I learned Theresas Mütter won without me last week. Again. "You keep missing our victories," I was told, gently reminded I missed another famous win while I was away in Perú. It seems they win more games when I'm not there.
Christoph came out from the changing room. "Ah Kiri! [For that is what they call me.] You're here. We'll definitely lose today so." Prophetic words as it turned out.
To optimise our chances I started as a substitute, and watched as we shipped three goals in the first half to Lions Titan from Cameroon, a very stylish team and I don't mean just their football. Matching white tops were complemented by black shorts and dark blue socks. They were faster, stronger, fitter and more skillful, but still we gave a good account of ourselves.
I was thrown on for the second half, charged with the responsibility of scoring goals as the lone striker, as we adopted a slightly negative 5-4-1 formation. I ran and ran and ran, chased, chased, chased, but like the wolf huffing and puffing at the little piggy's house of bricks, it was all für nichts.
It was awful. I chased and harried, gasped and wheezed, bust my guts to get the ball - my ears actually popped at one stage from the effort - but the ball just refused to cooperate, a magnetic aversion keeping it at least 10 metres away from me at all times.
Midway through the half I pressurised their goalkeeper and he fumbled the ball. I pounced, knocked the ball past him, surged past to follow it. In slow motion I watched as a defender joined the fray. Every ounce of my being strained as I tried reach the ball, the goal gaping invitingly, huge and waiting. I couldn't reach the ball. Somehow the goalkeeper and defender managed to scarper it out of harm's way and I was left to kick the goalpost in frustration. It fucking hurt.
Later we'd another chance. Two against one. Just me and Christoph as we ran towards their abandoned goalkeeper. He passed the ball. All I'd to do was score. I didn't. Magnetic repulsion struck again and I missed it completely. I managed to withhold possession but the chance was gone, along with what was left of my pride.
I fear it's the beginning of the end. The legs are getting older and wearier. Not quick enough, not good enough. I liked it better when we completely shite and we took pride in the effort we made despite losing every game. Now, giving my all just forces me to confront my limitations. Like Madrid doing all they can to reclaim the league, sometimes all just isn't enough.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Better suited

Things are afoot, so many I can't count them on my toes so really I should be telling you things are afeet.
I quit the job yesterday. But I'm leaving my ill-suited employment to get back into journalistic waters. I'll still be wearing ill-fitting suits, but I'll be doing so in the offices of Bild. Bild! Yes, I know, Germany's trashiest newspaper but one loved by the nation (not by Greece), read by 12 million people everyday and a newspaper all the same. I won't have had so many readers since my days with the Gorey Echo.
I'll be translating articles from German to English for Bild's English-language website, and contributing a few other wordy marvels of my own on the upcoming World Cup. Working for Erdnüsse but I will be getting paid (in itself quite an achievement in Berlin), using my German, and - most importantly of all - earning a living in the world of words once again!