Friday, August 27, 2010

Internetional

Yesterday I waited from 8am to 4pm for the phone guy to show up to install our internet. For eight hours I was afraid to go to the toilet in case he called and I missed him. He never showed up! Ohne Scheiß - literally.
For eight hours I fluted about and pissed around waiting for the fucker, until there was no other option but to ring the phone company, Alice, to ask what happened. It took 11 minutes at 42 cent a minute - they wouldn't call us back - to find out he didn't show up for a reason marked as "Sonstiges", which means anything at all. They were happy to book another appointment, the earliest being September 6th. I couldn't believe it. I'm guessing that would be sometime between 8am and 4pm too.
I was absolutely furious. Not only had I wasted a whole day of my life, but they now wanted me to waste another one, go another two weeks without the service for which we were paying in the meantime, and pay 42 cent a minute while holding for eternity to find out why, which they then wouldn't tell us anyway.
So today I took matters into my own hands. Alice will be getting a letter informing them of the wish to break the contract based on the fact they're not fulfilling their part of it (i.e. providing the service), and I availed of a month long trial of a USB surf stick which I will be returning within the month during which another provider will have provided us with Internet und Fastnetz.
That's the plan anyway. At least we have internet for now. Hauptziel erreicht.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Kicks

Expanding now at a frightening pace; the little thing must be farting in there. Or growing I suppose. Jenny went to the doctor again on Monday, to get special pregnancy tights pregnant women have to wear to stop their legs going weird. It's so much simpler being a man. She took the opportunity to have another look inside her belly at the little being unknowingly causing all the commotion.
I didn't get to see it as she didn't know she'd get a viewing, so I was quite disappointed when she produced another blurry photo afterwards. These viewings are few are far between and I don't want to miss a thing.
Looking at it this morning she said: "The kid looks weird." No matter what way you look at it, I have to say I agree. But I'm sure it won't be one of those kids with a face only a mother could love. It has such good-looking parents. The father's only gorgeous. Apparently the doctor assured her all kids that age (almost minus four months) look weird in their snapshots.
It already appears quite thoughtful, holding its chin in the picture as if pondering the meaning of womb, wondering if there's a world outside the womb and if there's any more excitement to be had there. Yes, it might be warm and comfortable but there ain't a whole lot going on inside a belly except gurgling.
That night we could see her belly moving! Then I felt it kick! It was mad, just a few days after she first felt it, to be able to see a little sudden protruding bump. The underside of a tiny trampoline. I put my hand over it and definitely felt a little bulge. It made up for missing the latest viewing - gettin' my kicks from a little one.

Friday, August 20, 2010

First contact!

The belly’s getting bigger by the day. By the minute it seems sometimes, but Jenny assures me it’s just the cup of tea she drank.
This afternoon she felt the little nipper for the first time. First contact! She may have actually felt it for the first time last week but it was so slight she cannot be sure. But this afternoon she definitely felt “a touch”, probably as the little being is getting curious about its surroundings. “What the fuck is that?” Although I’m sure it wouldn’t be using language like that. And if it is, it certainly didn’t learn it from me.
Whether it’s a boy or a girl is yet to be determined. At the last doctor’s check up (August 2nd) he asked if we were ready to find out. Jenny deferred the big revelation for another day, saying the father wished to keep it a surprise, even as I told her it was okay if she wanted to know. (To be honest, I was pretty damn curious.) Curiosity is now involved in a titanic struggle with the desire to keep it a surprise, and there promises to be another mighty tussle between the two at the next doctor’s appointment. It'll be a surprise if my desire to keep it a surprise isn't usurped by my curiosity.
Everything is fine and in working order. The doctor was able to give us a peek again. He covered her belly in jelly and slid a slippy camera around to produce more blurry pictures on the screen for our viewing pleasure. To be honest, I couldn’t see much this time either. Either the jelly was to blame or it's fairly cloudy in there – perhaps the Irish half is affecting the prevailing weather conditions.
I could make out a round blob for the head and a slightly longer blob beside it for the body. Apparently 11.637 cm tall (roughly). For some reason they only measure head to arse at this stage, as if legs don’t matter at all. We did see the legs moving briefly, a little tadpole’s kick as the image flew across the screen.
It may have been trying to get away from the rain. Despite having all the organs and necessary limbs and what not by now, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have an umbrella. Perhaps that first touch this afternoon was merely the opening address of a nipper who already has enough of the weather. With a due date in January then, now would be the time to start thinking of growing some fur.

We still have no internet at home. It's internot at the moment. So I've nipped out (making me a nipper too) to a nippernet cafe to copy this over from a USB stick. I appreciate all the comments/emails and will of course respond to them with the care and attention they deserve once we're connected to the interweb by next weekend.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Endlich zu Hause

The last of the Umzugs is over. It better be the last. After finally moving into our new apartment on Sunday, I told Sven - one of the many helpers required to move Jenny's mountain of belongings - that we wouldn't be moving again until the child in her belly would be able to help too. He or she should be able to carry at least a fridge or washing machine before we even consider moving again.
The next weeks now promise to be fun, filled with never-ending possibilities of drilling holes in walls, unpacking boxes. rebuilding Ikea furniture, sanding floors, laying carpets, varnishing wood and painting walls. There's also plenty of cleaning to do. But first we've to buy a new hoover - the old one died shortly after moving in, just after I cycled 6km with it under my arm. It seems all the stress got to it too. And although we'll never be able to replace the old teapot, we'll need to if we want to have any tea breaks at all in between all the work to be done.

As the job-search enters a critical phase and when I want to complete the online TESOL course I started last week (Plan B is teaching English), we've no internet when I need it most. Three weeks for the phone company Alice to switch the line. Three weeks! Surely just a matter of flicking a few switches but oh no... I even rang but couldn't get any joy after holding ten minutes because I didn't have a password for the account. A password! Do they think someone wants to steal our phone bills?! Despite being able to make an appointment three weeks in advance, they can't be any more specific than "between 8am and 6pm", dealing the fatal blow to the myth of German efficiency. I'll have to take a day off work if I have a job by then. Who the fuck is Alice you may ask? Well now you know.

But we're finally in our new home! That's the most important thing. Happy dreams in your first night for a happy stay, but we were both too knackered to remember dreaming at all. Simply moving in and putting the Umzugs behind us is enough of a happy dream for now.
(The first to move in - the day we got the keys last week - were the tortoise and Affi, pictured above and right respectively. I'm pleased to report both are very happy in their new abode too.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Polterabend! (A smashing success)

Some German customs are simply smashing. The one I was at last night certainly was. Ahead of next Saturday's wedding, the most eagerly-awaited since Miss Piggy became Mrs. Kermit the Frog, it was time for two brides-to-be to hold their pre-wedding bash... their Polterabend!
Bash was certainly the right name for it - there was more bashing at this bash than any bashes bar the obvious example of the annual St. Patrick's Day shenanigans back home.
A small group of friends and family gathered at Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse's place for a plate and pottery-destroying ceremony to bring them luck for their impending nuptials.
The 'Polter-evening' started of course with Kaffee und Kuchen (no German occasion is an occasion without Kaffee und Kuchen), accompanied by copious quantities of Sekt, and more gefühlte Brötchens than you could shake a Gürke at. After chatting, eating, drinking and toasting, it was time for the main event - plate smashing!

We all filed out onto the street outside their Wohnung, everyone clutching their sacrificial plate, vase, cup or bowl. There were only two rules - it couldn't be glass and it couldn't be new. These bring bad luck apparently - so running to the shop to buy something beforehand, or stealing a pint glass from the pub were not options. Unfortunately these had been my options as the only smashable things I had were smashed already in my Umzug - not that I would have smashed my favourite mug or teapot.
Jenny had grabbed some old pottery wall decoration thing left hanging on the balcony our new apartment (must have been an auld woman living there before us) and she insisted we smash it together. Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse had already smashed their plates on the pavement and there were bits of pottery scattered all around, and now they were waiting with brushes and dustpans to clean up the destruction to come.

"Fling it up good and high!" I told Jenny. She was reluctant however and was still humming and hawing as we prepared to launch the pottery into the air. I aimed for the moon, Jenny was happy just to hit the pavement, and the resulting crossed-wires saw the thing fly up to the left, hit the side of the building over where the girls were standing, narrowly miss a window, before sending them screaming as they scurried away from it as it hurtled back down towards them. It hit the ground with a comforting smash. Bits of pottery everywhere. "Woohoo!"
I don't think Danger Mouse was quite so happy to be nearly decapitated however, and Sparklehorse was conspicuously quiet too.

More plates and things were flung on the pavement, albeit not so dangerously, and then they got to work, sweeping up all the mess. I offered to help but apparently only they're allowed sweep it up if they're to get the good luck.
We ensured they'd have plenty of good luck - there were plenty of large pieces on the street which needed to be smashed some more, and so we took to flinging them on the pavement with gusto too.
Then a few neighbours who had heard the commotion came out to their balcony above us - and they started throwing stuff down too! There was stuff smashing all over the place, and bits of pottery flying everywhere!
By the time Sparklehorse and Danger Mouse had finished cleaning it up, I'd say the street was never cleaner. And of course, a smashing time was had by all.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Finalesehturm und umgezogen

Last night I looked out at the Fernsehturm from my bed for the last time. There it was above the rooftops, red lights blinking at me, winking goodbye. Auf Wiedersehenturm.
The night before the Umzug. Boxes were packed, pictures taken from the walls, the bond with where I'd lived more than two years broken. Time to go. But the bond with Fernsehturm was as strong as ever. I looked out at it as it kept blinking. Savouring every blink. Finalesehturm.

Today I realised I'd far more shit than I'd like to have. Apart from the necessary purchases of a bed, mattress, lamp and wardrobe, and the acquisition of a bedside table and shelves, I reckon my possessions must have doubled since I left Ireland with everything in the boot of the car. The concrete hippo and elephant have been joined by a pottery bull from Perú, a hammock from Guatemala, a tent, kiwi plant and books on German grammar which are best left unopened.
There were four 80 litre Kisten to be dragged down the stairs, much to my shame, not to mention all the furniture, and four bin bags of bedclothes and clothes. Never again will I get onto Jenny about having so much shite. Not until Sunday at least when her Umzug takes place.

One prized possession failed to make it however. My Barry's Tea mug threw itself on the floor rather than face the move. My favourite mug! The only cherished possession I would have been contributing to the new kitchen. Perhaps it still hadn't gotten over the trauma of seeing the teapot doing exactly the same thing the week before. That too took its own life rather than face the prospect of an Umzug.
After getting over the first Umzug today - with the help of Dáire and his car for which I will always be grateful - I think I can better understand how they felt. The mug and teapot are dead! Long live the mug and teapot!

At least they didn't have to sandpaper floors and paint them. "Be careful you don't spill any paint on the floor!" The work continues. Skirting boards to be painted tomorrow, in between finding a job.
My current job ends next week. I've already written my last article for Bild. It was originally just supposed to be three months, but they were happy for me to stay on for another few months. Until last week when the head honchos decided to pull the plug on the whole English-language site.
Evidently it's just a coincidence Bild now has a daily readership of 12 and a half million readers. I do believe it was only 12 million when I started. But obviously just coincidence.
In any case, it may be a good thing. €600 a month - €477 after tax - for 40 hours a week says I needed to find another job anyway. Especially with another mouth to feed on the way.
Now I have yet another incentive: Some people actually like DIY. I don't. The sooner I find another job the better. Preferably one somewhere with a view of the Fernsehturm...

Pigtail dreams gefressen

A momentous day. Not only did we get the keys to the apartment but I got a haircut! The apartment's quite small as I mentioned before - there was no way I'd fit into it without a haircut.
I went back to the scene of the previous crimes, Haartari on Bänschstraße, with the usual instructions: "Nicht wie etwas von der 80er Jahre, kein MacGyver-look, und kein mehr Haar in meine Augen!"
Mauricio was happy to oblige. He got to work with furious abandon, snipping, cutting and hacking like a sap-thirsty lumberjack, only stopping every so often to ask if he should cut a little more off. "Mach was Du willst," I told him each time. I'd given up caring what I looked like anymore - I just wanted to look normal, and to fit into our apartment of course.
He kept snipping, cutting and hacking, while we small talked away each cut - I didn't want to be rude - and before long there was very little hair left at all. You may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb so I told him to go the whole hog. As the sun was setting I was feeling bullish and Mauricio was uncowed. (Any more animal metaphors would just be a pain in the ass. Hee haw.)
Almost an hour later my hair was as short as it hasn't been for a long long time. I can't even shake my hair dry like a dog anymore. Yes, Monday was a momentous day, the day my dreams of pigtails were laid to rest.

Apologies for the pictures, but I only had time to take them as I was cycling to the Haarschneiderei and back. Time is at a premium these days what with Umzugs, sandpapering, painting floors, online TESOL courses and trying to find a new job. I'll explain more when I've more time.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Laundrying in Berlin (More dodgy dealings)

Dodgy dealings are never far from the surface in Berlin. Perhaps it's inevitable in a city shaped by the Cold War and still scarred by the Berlin Wall that shady shit goes on to this day. What worries me is that I now find myself in the middle of it...
We have a problem. As mentioned in an earlier post, the apartment we're moving into is quite small. Even kitten-swinging isn't an option. There's no room for Jenny's attention-seeking washing machine, a top loader which refuses to slip under the kitchen counter.
Then yesterday, a solution: "My cousin Peter knows someone who needs to exchange their washing machine," Jenny announced with her hand in front of her mouth at breakfast.
I nodded, casually took another slurp of tea. She didn't divulge anymore, and I didn't ask. We quickly changed the subject.
I wondered however, what kind of shady characters did her cousin know, who actually "needs" to exchange their washing machine, and what were the risks involved? Should we just wash our clothes of the whole conspiracy?
But it seems we're going ahead with it. Apparently arrangements are already too advanced to suddenly call it all off - the dangers would be too great - and Jenny is detergent to proceed.
I haven't been told yet where this proposed exchange will take place, whether in East or West Berlin, but I guess it will have to be under cover of darkness. The risks of being caught are increased due to the size of the washing agents to be swapped. We'll certainly need vehicles to transport them to and from the exchange site - otherwise we'll be left hanging out to dry.
The holder of the other washing machine is called Füschy - seriously - and apparently she's anxious to have the swap completed by this time next week. Further details are still cloaked in secrecy, but I'm sure they will all come out in the wash. One thing is for sure - no money is to be involved in this laundrying operation.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Facebollox

Der Irische Berliner can now be accessed on Facebollox. I know, I know, I swore it would never happen but this here website has developed a mind of its own and it dreams of stardom. It's insatiable! The premise of more than 500 million friends was just too strong to withstand. Buddha be with the days when I'd real friends. They all disappeared as soon as I announced an Umzug next week...
Much like the shameful capitulation to kapitalismus almost three months ago when the blog became IrishBerliner dot com and advertising started to appear (earnings to date have topped €3.87, an average of 4.39 cent a day), or catering to twits with tweets on Twitter, this latest measure boils down to the need to eat, much like boiling and eating do.
Who knows where it will end up? However, I can categorically state now that I shan't be partaking in any of the Facebolloxology like poking people, throwing sheep, leaving idiotic comments on misspelled examples of inaneness, or exchanging virtual pints with virtual friends. Although I must stress this does not in any way reflect any dampening of enthusiasm for having real pints bought for me.
Blog posts will now appear on Facebollox shortly after they appear on IrishBerliner dot com. Apart from that, I intend to fully ignore it as I've done up to now.

EDIT: Email address to find the Facebook page: facebollox@irishberliner.com.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Home straight (Despite bureaucracy's efforts)

We got an apartment! It's a bit shit, but €500 says it's okay. And swinging cats ain't as fashionable these days as it used to be...
But it ticks most of the boxes - it's cheap, reasonably central, three rooms and kitchen, balcony, quiet street, and most importantly of all - we can actually have it!

The amount of crap you've to go through to get an apartment here - this country really takes the biscuit. In fact this country takes all the fucking biscuits when it comes to filling in forms. There are enough forms to be filled in to make you want to leave the country if you didn't have to fill in a million forms to do so.

The Schufa is a disaster, a "free" credit check which costs €18.50 if you actually want to receive it on time. A piece of paper proving the unprovable as I've no history of credit or debt in this country. But all the landlords insist on it...
Then there's the Freizügigkeitsbescheinigung, a piece of paper stating my right to freedom of movement already guaranteed by an EU passport.
To get it you need your Anmeldebestätigung (proof of registration), passport or ID, "invitation letter from the host institute", proof of health insurance, biometric passport photo, a completed Aufenthaltsanzeige für Staatsangehörige der EU und EWR-Staaten form and "proof of activity". What in the name of sufferin' Jaysus?!
You have to bring all these forms in your wheelbarrow to the local Bürgeramt where you will queue for three days before they tell you, "Actually, there's another form you need..."

Jenny found the apartment on Monday. No bureaucratic bullshit. The property managers sort out the Schufa themselves and didn't ask for a Freizügigkeitsbe-shite-igung. Nor did they seem to mind the fact we earn peanuts and I'll be effectively unemployed in two weeks.

It's on Hallandstraße (in Pankow, just north of Schönhauser Allee), named after the Swedish province, tree-lined and cobbled (the street, not the province). There's a nice garden out the back. There's a suspicious abundance of German flags hanging from a near neighbour's apartment (come on, the World Cup was ages ago), but the main drawback is the lack of Fernsehturm view. Jenny agreed to get a big poster of it and stick it on the wall so we can at least feel like we're looking at it.
And it's on the U2, so we'll get to meet Bono whenever he's driving. I don't know where he gets the time to do all he does...

We signed the contract last night. Too many pages to read, but your wan put stickers in it so we knew which pages to open to sign. It only took a few hours to autograph all of them. Jenny dropped it back to them today and now it's ours! We get the keys next Monday. Tonight we celebrate! Tomorrow we can start thinking of the dreaded Umzugs...

Clarification: Apparently it's not a bit shit. It has potential.