Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Homeward bound

This time tomorrow I'll be back in Ireland, probably drunk, and thinking all sorts of crazy shit. It'll be my first time home since the last time and the last time before the next time.
Desperate measures call for desperate times and vice versa and I'm going back to sell my car. After so many adventures, including a romantic weekend in Paris together, my beloved Derval's been sitting idle and neglected in a carpark for the last year. She has her NCT on Monday, giving me a day to sell her before I come back to Berlin. She'll probably be upset. It feels like betrayal to simply show up after a year to flog her willy nilly to whoever flashes the most cash. Not that she has a willy. But it's also unfair to keep her locked up any longer. It's been far too long since she felt the thrill of the road, the wind in her front grill as she zoomed along to her favourite music and, well dammit, a car should be allowed be a car.
I also have to stock up on tea – stocks are getting dangerously low again. We went through a long period drinking inferior shite while trying to conserve the last of the boxes Jessie brought over in May. I opened the last one on my birthday and it was magnificent. Jesus Christ, the difference is unbelievable...
There are people I've to meet who weren't even alive the last time I was home, literally new, and of course others who are anything but, but who I can't wait to see again anyway.
Pints will be had I'm sure, in copious quantities in spite of and/or inspired by the great depression or whatever reason happens to be most apt at the time.
"Jaysus, the country's fucked," I'll hear. "You wouldn't believe what the gobshites have done."
Yeah, it will be good to be home.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The System

Goddamn fuck almighty. Hell hath no fury like the bureaucracy and utter bullshit this country can unleash.
It started with the arrival of a bill for €200 for health insurance last week. For the month after I finished working at Bild. Well, €200 for a month's health insurance in the past – when I clearly didn't use it – seems to me a bit much when my earnings are €0 a month and I have no intention of being sick.
There is something contradictory in insuring for the past. Retrospective insurance is as pointless as trying to think of an example of something more pointless. When you know something didn't happen, there's little point in being insured against it in case it did.
When I rang Techniker Krankenkasse, your wan on the phone was having none of it. "You have to pay it." Health insurance is compulsory in Germany and you have to have it whether you want it or not, regardless of financial situations. I reminded her mine was dire and my priorities rent and food.
I told her I couldn’t pay the bill and I didn’t want health insurance. I’d take my chances without it. No, not allowed. Compulsory, blah di blah. The bills would keep arriving and I’d have to pay them or face going to court. Not for the first time in this country (and probably not the last), I told her I'd rather go to prison than pay it. She assured me I wouldn’t have to go to prison, somewhat defeating the purpose of the bills and threat of court, and told me to go to the Agentur für Arbeit (work agency) to see if they’d pay the bill.
I’m not here to mooch off the system, but if Germany makes it compulsory to have health insurance and then sends me threatening letters to pay for it when I can’t, then Germany can pay the goddamn bills itself.
I brought along every form I received from officialdom since I moved here, but the Agentur für Arbeit wouldn’t pay the bill. A pleasant woman told me I’d have to go to the JobCenter across the road, fill in more forms and jump through more hoops, to see if they would.
The JobCenter was a sight to behold. Every freak, waster and layabout in Pankow was there. There was no ticket machine to deal with the queue, so you had to go into the waiting room, shout to find out which moocher was last, and then watch them like a hawk so you knew you were next after he/she/it had been called in. Fights broke out in the confusion much to the amusement of the others.
Eventually I was called in. Again I explained the situation and Frau Zemke typed it all into a computer. She too was very nice. I told her I didn’t come to Germany to be unemployed and that I wasn’t claiming dole, but was getting bills for compulsory health insurance I didn’t want and which I couldn’t pay. I filled out more forms.
She told me they’d pay my health insurance (she wasn’t sure about the existing bill) and give me Arbeitslos Geld II. I’ve since learned this is the basic unemployment benefit, commonly known as Hartz IV, and it’s what every moocher, piss-head and dosser in Berlin is living from. I’m now one of them. I guess it makes me a real Berliner. I should be proud.
Frau Zemke literally gave me a stack of forms to take home and fill in, and a frightening list of shit to provide, including bank statements, Meldebescheinigung and a Freizügigkeitserklärung. The latter is to prove that I can work in Germany. I pointed to my EU passport and reminded her that I’d already worked in Germany, no employer had ever needed it, but no – she needed a Freizügigkeitserklärung stamped from the Bürgeramt.
Good Jaysus. Yesterday I went back to the dreaded Bürgeramt. At least they had a ticket machine to deal with the queue, but I still had to wait two hours before I could explain the situation to a sour-faced old hag behind a desk littered with plants and teddy bears. I filled out more forms. She then produced another form for me to bring to the JobCenter to get them to fill in before she could issue my Freizügigkeitserklärung. I could have choked her. I told her the JobCenter sent me there in the first place. Again I pointed to my EU passport. “Es ist doch klar dass ich in Deutschland arbeiten kann. Ich habe schon in Deutschland gearbeitet!“
The wagon pulled a face and discussed it with her colleagues across the room. Then she made calls, a snot on her as she dialled the numbers while telling me there wouldn’t be anyone in any of the offices she was calling. Eventually she got hold of someone. “Wat?” she scowled down the phone. “Zeit wann denn?”
She hung up, stamped the fucking form as if she was stamping her own death warrant (pity she wasn’t) and handed it over like she was handing me a lump of shite.
This is The System at work, controlling, watching, manipulating. A state in charge of its pawns. All this bureaucracy and bullshit is designed to keep control. The sheer amount of information they demand is frightening. They want to know EVERYTHING. They even wanted to know when I started primary school! I had to enlist Jenny to fill in the forms; they wanted all her details as well and there was just too much for me to fathom. There are more details to be filled in than details available. People talk about the Stasi, but at least they filled in their own forms.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


We still don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl. It’s human anyway, or humanoid at least. The doctor this morning said its arms were three weeks ahead of schedule and the legs two.
“It could be an ape,” I told Jenny on the way home.
She didn’t seem to mind, but she did blame me for kid’s longer limbs: “Daddy long legs.”
I maintain my legs are perfectly normal. It’s not my fault if everyone else has short stumpy ones.
Even Jenny couldn’t see much on the cloudy screen today. We could see the nipper’s head and two little hands up beside it as if in surrender. No son or daughter of mine would ever surrender however, so it was obviously just a cunning ploy to get the doctor to feck off with his obtrusive camera. Evidently this little nipper likes his/her peace and quiet.
Apparently now it can yawn. I’m not sure if it puts a hand in front of its mouth when it does so, but all in its own good time. It must be bored shitless in there, so I guess it’ll get plenty of practice. The belly’s really noticeable now. Today was the first day Jenny was offered a seat on the S-Bahn.
The previous check-up was the big one, the Feindiagnostik, where we would have been able to find out the sex if we wished to. It was in a very snazzy clinic on Friedrichstraße where the doctor had an assistant with him in the room as they scoured the screens for any possible issues or complications. They checked everything. The screens were fine, thank God, and the baby was too.
There we saw our child in 3D for the first time, on a huge plasma screen while the doctor carried out his checks. They encourage you to bring a video cassette to capture these first moments, but of course we forgot. I rushed out as we were waiting to buy one, but then we forgot to hand it to the doctor beforehand. Na ja!
It was a bit mad looking to say the least. It didn’t want to cooperate with the doctor, preferring instead to use the placenta as a pillow while enjoying a nipper nap. Being a fœtus is tough work. The doctor tried prodding it to wake it up or get it to move, but I was quite proud as he/she ignored him. I was about to intervene when the doctor gave up. Round 1 to the nipper!
It may actually have a career in boxing, judging from the punches it’s been delivering inside Jenny’s belly. With its longer arms it already has an advantage. I’ll have to find sparring partners among the other babies once it’s born.
Apparently it looks like me. First time I’ve been told I look like a fœtus. But apparently we sleep in the same position, and our faces are similar. Lucky kid. Oh, it’ll break hearts...
It’s crazy. It’s done nothing but grow, throw a few punches, deliver a few kicks and ignore a doctor, but I’m quite proud of it already.

Unfortunately there are no pictures for now to accompany this post. The 'Mutterpass' containing all the important information and photographs has been mislaid somewhere along the way. The nipper would be proud.


No other words necessary. Except those ones. And those. And these. Dammit, you know what I mean...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Kapitalismus strikes again

Only in Berlin is the job market so bad, employers can force prospective employees to undergo three days of training under the premise of work before deciding whether to give them a job or not.
In hindsight, I can see now it was ludicrous – 20 hours training on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for a job lasting six days. All this after an interview I'd presumed was to determine the applicant's suitability to teach kids English on a holiday camp, but which was just the first step in a company capitalising on the shitty jobs market for its own means.
For three days, during which I found out the training was "part of the ongoing interview process", I learned the ins and outs, does and don'ts of camp life and everything in between. We even went through the contract of employment (in case we got one), word for word, every sentence explained in excruciating detail, every opportunity used to hammer home the obligations and underline the boundaries. No drugs! No drinking! No twisting kids' ears! Rules which could normally be safely assumed, but these guys were making sure.
The weekend was fucked. There were other things to do naturally enough. I could have spent time sending job applications, writing, socialising or just scratching my arse. Anything else would have been more beneficial.
At the end I asked the head honchos if they could circulate the list of participants' email addresses, but they refused, saying they didn't want people comparing notes or saying who got jobs and who didn't. So I'd to go back outside and we exchanged them ourselves the old fashioned way. All very nice incidentally.
Today I got the call from the initial interviewer – also very nice by the way – informing me that lamentably there were not enough jobs to go around and that others on the training programme (we were 11 in all) had more experience teaching children and so on. He admitted they purposely took on more people than jobs available in the expectation some would drop out. None did.
He seemed genuinely sorry (if not embarrassed) and wished me the best with my ongoing job search. Time is precious. I’d have been happier if he could have given me back the three days I wasted.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ende der Mütter

And so it ends. My beloved football team has played its last game. There'll be no Uniliga for Theresas Mütter this year, no competitive action for 2010/2011. It's a sorry state of affairs, terrible tidings which pain me to bring to the world.
We played our last game last Sunday (the 12th), a farewell against the inappropriately-named Dionysos Berlin. (Dionysos, the Greek god of wine, madness, festivity and ecstasy.) A friendly to which all Mütters, past and present, were invited. The significance of the occasion combined with the glorious weather ensured we were able to field a full team for a change, and despite it being the last act in a long drama with many twists and turns (but very few goals), the participants seemed happy to appear on stage for a final bow (perhaps because of).

I won't dwell too long on the game itself. Of course we lost, 4-1 or something like that. I played up front and missed three clear chances. The first was a shot I drew across the goalkeeper but just agonisingly wide of the far past. The second was a sharp cross from Christian which I threw myself at between two defenders but could only direct over the bar, and the third was a cross which I volleyed first time at the keeper when I'd all the time in the world. I felt like Gonzalo Higuaín and co. as I trudged off the pitch. On another day they would have all gone in, but there won't be any other days. At least 'Pipita' will have his chances again.

In truth, things had been looking pretty bleak for Theresas Mütter for some time now. There was little or no training over summer due to a lack of participants, but the beginning of the end was a year and half ago when the Mütters were beset by bitter internal strife.
After one season of abject performance and dismal results, it was realised our ethos and aims were incompatible. Theresas Mütter's ethos had always been the noble one of 'everyone is welcome'. This applied regardless of nationality, colour, sex, tendencies, or indeed, footballing ability. Where else would you meet José, a Barcelona fan from Madrid?
Whether you had two legs, one or none was deemed immaterial as all were welcomed with open arms. Everyone got to play in every game.
Naturally enough, this did not lead to great results in the league. There was one victory in that first yearpossibly still the highlight of my time to date in Berlin – but that was not enough for some who felt we should be more competitive.
The ensuring debate threatened to tear the Mütters apart, but eventually a sort of compromise was reached where those who trained and put the most effort in were favoured.
It was never the same since however – Mütters may have been more competitive, and there were other (rare) victories, but the fun was gone. The joy in winning was tempered knowing what we had had before, and I, for one, just did not enjoy it as much as I had before.
I wasn't the only one. No longer were there meals together after games, or drinks together after training. Theresas Mütter had been a team united by its ethos, but without it...

Of course, there are other reasons for its demise. Players drifted off, moved to other cities, got jobs, got injured, got lazy, found they had better things to do. Nils went to Frankfurt to study God; André officially retired from football after banjaxing his knee; Johannes likewise; Friedemann and Christophe are concentrating on their musical careers; Eoin moved back to his mammy's cooking in Ireland; Hans has to work, Jean Baptiste is moving to Switzerland; Frederico got pissed off with the whole shebang and everyone else either has something else going on or is unwilling to organise it from now on. This includes me I'm afraid – baby and work are my priorities now.

It was fucking great while it lasted, especially that first year, but it seems Theresas Mütter has had its day. I write these words with a heavy heart and a heavy cold – unrelated apart from the point of view of adjectivity. My cold will get better, but my heart will always be a Mütter's heart.

Never before have I met such a friendly group of damn good people, people who welcomed me in as one of their own and made me feel at home as soon as I arrived. I can honestly say my experience of life in Berlin has been greatly enhanced because of Theresas Mütter. This loss will weigh much heavier than any of the others.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Cyclogical lock-in

I've had to buy a new lock for my bike. Another one. Some fuckers tried steal it the other night (the bike that is, not the lock). I came downstairs in the morning to find the bike still there but the lock in a distressed state, clinging on with a deep gash through the outer casing showing the frayed inner wires bare in their moment of weakness. Don't look! Don't look!
Unfortunately the lock has had it. It died heroically, paying with its life for my bike's protection. I guess the thieves were interrupted. Another few snips with their lock-snipper and they would have had it open.
Only in Berlin do bicycles live in daily fear of abduction. More than 23,000 are reported stolen here every year according to the latest figures. The Polizei are helpless apparently, so nothing new there. It seems to be their normal state of being, unless their being happens to be a head of state, in which case they make themselves very helpful indeed, blocking off roads from commoners like me and ensuring their precious cargo VIP treatment. I digress.
The lock cost me €35 last year. Thirty five yo-yos and still not good enough!
I deliberated long and hard over what to do. Leave it out another night and let the thieves come finish the job before the claiming the insurance? No doubt I'd be told: "Tut mir Leid, your bike theft insurance doesn't cover you for bike theft."
(I've come to realise insurance only covers eventualities which never materialise, and eventualities which do materialise are no longer deemed eventualities making them exempt from cover. I'm sure it's in the small print somewhere.)
Plus that would be giving into the bicycle terrorists and we don't want that. (Anyone else miss Dubya? Obama just ain't as funny.)
So yesterday I went crazy and ordered a new lock for €70 I neither have nor want to spend. But it was reduced from €100 and comes with "maximum security 15". Only an atomic bomb will prise it open. If they're willing to go that far to take it... Imagine the lock I'd have to get then. Jaysus, the mind boggles.
At this rate it won't be long before the locks are worth more than the bike. But my bike is precious to me; it comes everywhere with me (40km today, story for another day, but what a story!), and I'll only go to parties if my bike is invited too.
For now though, pending the arrival of the new lock, it's cowering in the cellar after its ordeal at the hands of the fuckbag thieves. If there's one thing I can't stand it's thieves. Fair enough if you have to feed a starving child, but they sure as hell can't eat bicycles, no matter how hungry they are.
The bike is awaiting the arrival of the new super-lock as eagerly as I am. They'll probably steal that now and leave the bike. I suppose I'd better get a lock for the lock.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Angepisst with €urination

And they wonder why Friedrichstraße train station smells of piss. €1 they want for using the pissoirs there. One flippin' euro to take a pinkle!
Obviously it's the same if you want to deposit something more substantial (you'd want to if you want to feel you're at least getting some value for money), and it's €7 if you're desperate enough to want a shower. Jaysus, you'd want to smell like a skunk after a hard day's work lugging multiple decomposing skunk carcasses from the scene of a particularly stinky skunkland killing.
Just as at Hauptbahnhof and at Alexanderplatz, none of the restaurants, food joints or coffee shops in Friedrichstraße train station have their own toilets, with just one WC centre in each station, forcing passengers with bulging bladders to fork out outrageous sums for relief, or find a quiet spot just outside where they can pee as nature intended - without paying.
Many are doing just that, voting with their pinklers and taking their urine outside. The resulting stench is stomach-turning; tell-tale black stains on the pavement not warning enough for the putrid piss perfume of a surreptitious slash.
You can actually get 'Kaffee to go' at Friedrichstraße for 95 cents. It means you have to pay more for disposing of it after drinking than it originally cost. They are literally taking the piss. Or not as the case may be, judging from the smell just outside.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Gettin' shirty with Germanification

I am now the somewhat reluctant owner of a German football shirt. This country is doing all it can to assimilate me.
It arrived in the post last week as a ‘Thank You’ from Young Germany for those startlingly insightful and wonderfully witty World Cup pieces I wrote for their blog. (I’ve been reduced to self-congratulation – it’s all I’ve left to cling onto.)
Unfortunately it didn’t arrive during the World Cup when I might have considered wearing it, definitely for the game against England, and now I’m left with a straight choice of whether I would willingly pull on a German football jersey for no particular reason at all – willingly willy nilly if you will. (Isn’t that the greatest sentence fragment? Sorry, I’m at it again.)
There’s something symbolic in pulling on the shirt of another country or team. In the same way I could never wear a Barcelona jersey or an England shirt, I now have to think long and hard about whether I can wear a German one.
If Germans find it hard to develop patriotic feelings for their country, what chance does an immigrant have? The not so distant past evidently still casts its shadow over this land, a land indeed only formed not so long ago. Patriotism sits awkwardly with normal Germans, and only comes to the surface at times of Eurovision wins or great sporting achievement. Right wing extremists buck the trend but these aren’t the type of patriots any country wants.
Ironically, as an immigrant it may be easier for me to develop patriotic feelings for my adopted country, unburdened of any of the natives’ feelings of guilt for the past, but too many current Germanisms repel such advances – the inability to do anything in this country without having played Bureaucracy or Bust and come back with a wheelbarrow of forms; the subservience to rules, authority and power whether it exists or not; the sheer numbers of motorists who are gobshites; the shockingly-poor customer service; the downright pettiness and pointless pedanticalness. It is a word; I looked it up.
Thankfully, there are far more positives to living here than negatives – the lovely beer, the public transport, the ability to combine the two, the delicious bread, the open spaces and all the abandoned buildings to explore, and I find the locals are friendly and well-meaning, despite the infamous grumpiness of the Berliner Schnauze.
I tried on the jersey when it arrived. It fit like a glove, perfect. In fact I may never have had a better-fitting football shirt. It’s quite snazzy too, with fancy stripes and World Cup stars. Even so, no matter how tasty the Kürbiskernbrot or delicious the beer, I can’t simply throw myself into a German jersey like a floozy. Hell, if I can’t vote in elections here, why should I allow myself be Germanified?
Patriotism for my homeland has actually grown now that I no longer have to endure it. Ireland is part of who I am. Friends, family and tea stay close to my heart and I remain very much an Irish Berliner.
As if to strengthen the link, there’s even a Fahey playing for Ireland now! He scored on his competitive debut of course, to get Ireland’s Euro2014 campaign up and running. Maybe he won’t be the last...
So I still haven’t worn the German jersey. It stayed in my bag with the tags on last Tuesday as I played five-a-side. I’m sure I will wear it some day. But never before has an item of clothing caused me such soul searching and reflection. How typically German.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Wedding belles

Danger Mouse came flying on her bike towards us as we waited outside the flower shop, dressed in jeans and a check shirt but with her veil flowing majestically behind her. Barely time to exchange hugs and greetings before she ran into the shop, a flurry of excited haste. And why not? It was her wedding day.
Myself and Jenny were already dressed for the big occasion - me in my pointy shoes freshly polished the night before and clothing ironed from the pointiness up, (not that you'd notice - it was flippin' roastin' and everything was crumpled after lugging a tent, sleeping bags, mattress and provisions for the night in a frantic rush not to be late for the bride on her big day), and Jenny in a fetching gown (not that I was throwing sticks for her to chase; I mean she looked rather fetching in it).
The Asian flower shop staff were as excited as the girls, chattering and laughing and wrapping and bundling, flowers everywhere, more than we'd be able to carry.
Then Danger Mouse rushed into the "American Style" nail salon next door with her bridesmaid, leaving me in charge of all the flowers in Asia on the pavement, and her bicycle and the tent and camping equipment. I'd never been in a nail salon before, so I stuck my head in to be greeted with a scene from another world. More Asian girls in white uniforms looking up from their little booths eyes wide with wonder above facemasks in front of weird lamps and crazy contraptions. They too chattered excitedly adding to the commotion while the smell was like no smell I'd ever smelled before. My suspicions were confirmed - it was going to be a mad day.
Danger Mouse had the fanciest nails in Berlin by the time they were done, and we rushed back to her apartment with arms full of flowers and bouquets, and tents and sleeping bags, for the next step of the preparation. Of course, she wasn't able to carry anything for fear of damaging her beautiful nails.
It was flippin' roasting as I mentioned before. "Ich schwitze wie ein Schwein," I announced much to the girls' amusement. Already I needed a shower.
Then the hullabaloo of Danger Mouse fitting into her wedding dress without messing either her hair or her nails. Jenny had to stand on a chair like a crane and somehow lower it over her head. As a designated photographer I wasn't allowed miss a moment and I snapped away like an impatient crocodile. Then the complicated procedure of lacing up and tying the back of it. How the hell she was going to get out of it later on was beyond me.
I'd already opened a fancy blue bottle of prosecco and was more than happy to help the bride-to-be drink it once she was ready. She posed for more photographs in front of the bay window. She had no need for the sparkling wine - she was drunk already with happiness - but she drank it all the same.
My turn to get ready then - gel in hair and about 17 attempts to get the tie just right (always either too long or too short), and we were ready!
A girl with dog prints on her back picked us up and we set off. We brought the bottle of prosecco with us and Danger Mouse promptly polished it off as we drove past the Fernsehturm. Later we were ironically overtaken by the old vintage car hired for the day to bring the brides from one château to the next.
Another hullabaloo before exchanging cars down a quiet country bodhreen when a pee stop was needed. Must have been all that prosecco. Danger Mouse needed help with her dress so Jenny had to find a quiet spot for them. It wasn't quiet for very long - the world and its mother passed by, all offering their congratulations on seeing the bride-to-be and waiting wedding party. Some last minute applications of lipstick, eye-shadow, cheek-gloss and Jaysus knows what else - and Danger Mouse was ready. Beautiful. It was time to get married!
Up to the Schloss in the vintage car (we were relegated to the normal one behind), and by the time we found parking she had already made her way in. People people everywhere, all smart in suits, dresses and fancy hats, but nothing ridiculous (it wasn't an Irish wedding). Some didn't bother dressing up at all.
And there we saw Sparklehorse for the first time, clearly at the very limits of happiness, radiant with emotion, her face in danger of being taken over by an uncontrollable smile. She emanated joy and looked like an angel in her white gown.
The ceremony descended into one of beaming smiles, tears and laughs; impossible to keep the bundles of emotion in check any longer. Both brides answered the question with resounding "Ja!"s, much to the delight of the packed hall.
The 'marriage-maker' (not a priest but no idea what she's called) spoke of love and the happiness of harmony, prompting more tears from the brides and bridesmaids. I sloshed my way through the deluge to keep my snappy obligations happy.
Great applause greeted the official signing which makes Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse wife and wife. More tears, laughter, then a explosion of flowers as Danger Mouse's bouquet flew out of her hands in a bid for freedom. "Noch nicht!" she was told as she and everyone around her were covered in flowers.
Once the site was cleared, queues formed for a series of neverending hugs as joyful relatives and gushing friends lined up to congratulate the happy couple. Then a squillion photographs outside, before some well-earned Sekt (German sparking wine) was served on the lawn. Not a moment too soon - my tongue was hanging out for some refreshment.
Then it was off to the second castle for the obligatory Kaffee und Kuchen, wedding games, speeches, a wedding newspaper(!), Bier, the wedding cake, presents, more speeches, more Bier, before the Brautpaar displayed some very impressive log-cutting. You wouldn't believe it if you saw it, but I did and the girls did too, each one side of the said saw sawing their way to a future of harmony at the expense of the poor log.
They were wise to work up an appetite - such mountains of food would have fed an army of lumberjacks. I did my best - it was absolutely delicious - but I could only make a little dent despite going up for more.
Then a mini concert under 2 trees with Sparklehorse beating the drums for her new wife; Danger Mouse the picture of happiness looking on.
The first dance provided more photo opportunities, as did the dancing afterwards. Again I snapped like a snappy snapper.
The perfect end to a perfect wedding. Absolutely nothing was missing. As I told Sparklehorse towards the end: "Man könnte das nicht besser machen."
They simply couldn't have had a better one.

Hunderttausend herzliche Glückwunsche ihr Lieben!
Alles gute und wunderschönes.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Pulling the plug on gurgling

Baths in Germany don't gurgle when you let the water out. Gurgling must be verboten as well in this country.
Admittedly, I'm only basing this theory on the limited number of baths I've used - two. Having said that, I've used the second one a few times now (in the new home) and I can safely say not one gurgle has been gurgled after the plug was pulled. The other bath I encountered was just as quiet, although it may have been on its best behaviour at the time - I only ever used that once.
Anytime I ever had a bath in any bath in Ireland it gurgled loud enough to wake the dead after I let the water out. The whole neighbourhood would be able to tell bathing and personal hygiene habits simply from the almighty racket emanating from the bathroom anytime a plug was pulled.
I hate baths only slightly less than I hate smelling like I need one. Unfortunately there's no shower in the new gaff (Wohnung) but at least now I can pull the plug on neighbours knowing when I've just done so.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire rocked the Tempodrom last night. They were fantastic, as I expected them to be, all 17,000 band members playing with fire, brimstone, heart and guts. (Not literally, that would have made quite a mess on stage.) Their music soared and lifted until the venue couldn't hold it anymore. The crowd spilled out. It was over.
But what a concert! They all played their hearts out (again, not literally), and the main guy was everywhere, all over the stage, at times in the crowd as he out-Bonoed Bono*.
It occurred to me as I watched them that I no longer pay any attention to band members' names - it doesn't matter a fuck who's in a band as long as they produce great music. As soon as I realised this I remembered the singer's name was Win Butler, thus contradicting my original thought. But Win is a great name for him - the guy just cannot lose, and they do produce great music.
The new album's damn good but it's not brilliant, not like Funeral or Neon Bible which are stupendously good. They reached unattainable (again) levels of brilliance.
If you were to pay any attention to the local press however, The Suburbs is the best thing to have happened since Curry was first introduced to Wurst. Radio Eins and Motor FM have been falling over themselves to come up with superlatives to describe how great it is, and tickets for last night's long sold out show were rarer than pigs' manners.
Having said that, goosebumps accompanied every captivating song they played until I could wait no more; those Weißenbiers gulped down in nervous anticipation beforehand forcing me to the pissoir. As Win contemplated the meaning of being a Modern Man, I contemplated what the hell a cleaning lady was doing polishing doors in the toilets in the middle of an Arcade Fire gig! What a country! Shiny doors evidently a prerequisite for anyone visiting the toilet during a concert in Germany.
The bump seemed to enjoy the show. There was reported movement. Presumably it was dancing in there. They didn't have any extra-small t-shirts for sale though, nor indeed any hoodies to replace the one I'd bought at the outdoor (summer) gig three years ago in Dublin when it was so damned cold I asked them for the warmest thing they'd got. I was quite disappointed not to get another. I'll freeze this winter. There used to be a time I got all my clothes shopping done at concerts but this, coming as it does after a disappointing lack of t-shirts at Yann Tiersen in May, seems to indicate those days are over.
Arcade Fire have a lot to answer for. They last time I saw them was in November 2007 when I came to Berlin to do so. Four months or so later I was living here. Now they're coming to see me. I hope they come again soon.

*I take it back. Nobody can out-Bono Bono. Click on his name above to see why. (Or here.) His hair alone in 1985 makes him immortal.

Enjoy the following video. We were standing just behind the cameraperson. The girl screaming as if she was being murdered was standing directly behind me. Fantastic.