Monday, February 28, 2011

Long live the hair

Well, the hair is gone. Long live the hair! No longer can I shake my head dry like a dog.
I’d had enough, so I told your wan in Haartari: “Mach was du willst, aber nicht nichts.” Whatever the hell you want, except nothing at all. (You can never be too careful.) She didn’t get me. “Etwas. Mach etwas.” Just do something. She suggested something. That’s grand, work away.
For over an hour she chopped and sheared and clipped and cut and chipped and chopped some more. She even brought the shaver out and shaved and cut and chopped and cut and chopped some more. When she finished I could see my ears. My ears!
On the way home I could feel them; bitter wind whistling by without mercy. Never again will I slag anyone with ear muffs.
“Jaaaysus,” Jenny said when I opened the door. The shock too much to take. She gulped, almost laughed, tried to recontrol her composure. The nipper couldn’t look. He was asleep, and I sure as hell wasn’t waking him.
I’d been worried he mightn’t recognise me, but once he woke up he didn’t look any more sceptical that he did already anyway. Maybe he thinks I’m trying to copy his style. He needn’t worry – he’ll always be the centre of attention, but finally, I’ve had a proper haircut. The days of people pointing and laughing are gone. Hopefully.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Earning a crust on the way to a Pulitzer

I was in celebratory mood when I finished work today. I’d just sent off the report for Bremen’s plucky draw with Leverkusen and was finished earlier than ever before, so I rushed home to be with my little family to toast the end of a ridiculously busy month. I opened the door to be greeted by darkness and snores. Fast asleep, at 9pm! Ah well, I’ll celebrate on my own.
There’s a warm glow which comes at the end of a hard day’s night, and a warmer one at the end of a hard month’s night. February was mental, starting with 12 days in a row, but I ain’t complaining – working in Berlin is almost a contradiction, and when it’s a job you like...
Getting paid to look at football sounds perfect and in truth it is, although it demands concentration levels to the point of exhaustion. The fear of not making a mistake is the single biggest contributing factor towards making them. Every report is breaking news – there is no unbroken news – and need for speed just increases the pressure of perfection. Perhaps the greatest pressure comes from within; the desire not to mess it up.
However, it’s definitely becoming easier as I familiarise myself with players and sports – luge, speedskating and skeleton are all new to me – and of course there’s the fame and glory, with bylines in USA Today, China Post, Taiwan News, Sports illustrated, Times Union, CBC, Yahoo Maktoob, Canadian Press etc. etc.
I haven’t heard any complaints so far, but won’t be resting on any chickens or counting my laurels anytime soon. The slightest mistake – mixing metaphors for example – could strike at any time and I don’t want to let complacency set in. Longevity is my aim in this one.

For those of you with an unhealthy interest in the fruits of my labours, or with a penchant for Bundesliga or wintersport, “Things I'll do for money” on the right will give you an idea of what I’ve been up to. Some illustrious names there, so don't be shy about leaving comments to tell them what a wonderful job the world's most little-known famous journalist is doing. These could be my first steps to getting that Pulitzer. I dream of the day I can finally wear one.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Polling time

Watching the three leaders’ political debate ahead of tomorrow’s election, I was struck by the sheer gall of Micheál Martin’s calls for honesty and transparency from his opponents. The guy who blatantly lied about the IMF, who voluntarily takes over the crooks responsible for the ruin and damnation of Ireland brought about by systematic lies, betrayal and greed is now calling for openness. Either he is a complete fool or everyone else is.
How Enda Kenny didn’t turn around and slap him. “Shut up Micheál you treacherous rat,” with a disdainful flick of the back of his hand.
I’d love to be able to vote tomorrow, but understand the reasons I can’t. Conversely I should be allowed vote here but can’t do that either, despite paying the same taxes etc. as any Chancellor-fearing German does. I guess they don’t want the smelly immigants voting in smelly immigant Politikers, an alternative to the NDP, but I digress – this is about Ireland.
I was still living there during the last election. “If those fuckers [Fianna Fáil] are voted in again, that’s it, I’m leaving the country,” I remember saying at the time. Little did we know.
Ireland’s misfortune is self-inflicted. The people voted in these self-serving gangsters in the first place. Tomorrow is a chance to put that right. Even if the alternative fails to live up to its promise, at least something might change.

These pictures are not my own, but come to me courtesy of Jill after doing the rounds on the interweb.


Totalitea

Stuff's a-brewin’ and it ain't tea. Between work, nipper and fending off bureaucratic idiocies in the post, the tea stockpile has been allowed dwindle to alarming levels. That mountain I brought back from Ireland in October is down to a few last miserable bags.
It’s gotten to the stage where I’ll have to fork out through the näse for some locally purchased Barry’s Tea. You can buy it online at Barry’s now, but they charge more for postage to Germany than for the tea itself. I’d rather stick 160 bags on an envelope of stamps.
Here, Deutsche Post actually charges postage if you order stamps online. Krass in ein Faß. Don’t start me on Deutsche Post – those stampers should stamped out. They send back letters here if there isn’t enough postage, fair enough, but not before ruining the insufficient postage you’d bothered with in the first place. Lesson: never write your address on the back. (If your Christmas card hasn’t arrived by now, you know why.) Forgive my seemingly harsh view of anyone connected with stamps or stampers; it’s a post modern view of modern post.
The tea situation is almost as critical as my hair, now officially ridiculous. Rid-iculous. I’ll have to get rid of it until it’s iculous. A hippie would be embarrassed. Someone told me last week: “I recognised you from the hair.” She didn’t mean just the one either so tomorrow I’m booking a haircut. A proper one.
Then there’s legal shit coming up. More Scheiße. Even thinking about it is enough to make you put the kettle on...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sick system

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Never EVER go to a hospital or doctor’s unless you want to be sick*.
Jenny brought the little fella to the Ärztin for her to tell us what we already know – he’s grand – and came home with an uninvited bug. The little varmint just wanted to get the hell outta there.
They force you to bring your kid to the doctor here, whether you want to or not, for check-ups/shake downs. It’s all part of the health insurance racket. Doctors get paid by the companies which get rich off colossal compulsory premiums from their victims. The sick system at work.
I wouldn’t be surprised if they purposely infected healthy individuals to make money from their “cure”. It happened before in the GDR. Plus ça change. It was unthinkable before too.
So anyway, Jenny was sick, her assistants who came to her rescue while I was at work are sick, and now I’m sick. The nipper projects liquids top and bottom anyway but he’s howling more than usual today so I guess he’s sick too.
It was bad timing on my behalf to break the toilet seat as I was cleaning the bathroom yesterday. Oh toilet seat! How can you leave us now in our hour of need?!
I’ve felt worse truth be told. Last Friday after consuming far too many Sternis the night before on a rare night out with the DB was ridiculous. I could barely function at all. I’m afraid my Sterni days are over. I mean, it tastes like shit and there have to be better reasons for buying a beer than it costing 50 cents in the Späti in Friedrichshain where you can get 10c back on the bottle.
Now that I’m working I think I’ll splash out on some slightly more expensive rotgut in the hope of less vengeance the next day. 75 cents perhaps. Or perhaps moderation is the way to go...
In any case, one thing which has to go is the Drunken Hippo opposite. I shall be replacing him with a friendly frog. He looks suspiciously French, despite his friendliness, but we can forgive him this due to its irony. I think a Frosch more aptly reflects me right now.

* Disclaimer: Obviously if your symptoms are that bad that you couldn’t possibly pick up anything worse than you have already – if you’re knocking on death’s door for example – then this rule should be carefully considered once again. But only then.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Smile

He smiled for the first time today. Not one of those inadvertent sudden muscle movements gone in a flash, but a proper smile which went on for ages as I was telling him about the state of the Irish economy: “It’s fucked, Nipper! Fucked!!!”
I had to stop before he puked himself silly with laughter.
But he smiled for the first time today, and so did we. (We’d smiled before obviously; what I mean is his smile is contagious. Watch out!)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Get ‘em young

A letter arrived for Fionn today. Not a card or a present of which the little fella has been lucky to get many so far, but a letter. A proper letter. Official, from Bonn.
He didn't seem too interested strangely enough, so Jenny opened it up for him. It was a letter from the Bundeszentralamt für Steuern, with his tax number. His ID number for taxes. He’s been on the planet for 32 days and they’ve sent him his tax number. Unbefuckinglieveable.
The number – he has been informed – is lebenslang gültig. Valid. For. Life.
They are aware he is 32 days old as they printed his date of birth, presumably so he knows they know it, and his sex, in case he forgets, or perhaps to show they know that too.
I’m not sure how many of those 32 days they’ve been gathering information on him – they haven’t had a lot of time to work with – but fuck it, they’ve gathered enough to nail him down for tax. A one month old.
I suppose now he’ll have to go off and find himself a job. I’m not sure what he’d do. He seems to like sleeping, grunting, snorting, crying, feeding and excreting. Perhaps a job in politics then. Maybe he could be the next Chancerer.
I’ll be writing back to the Bundeszentralamt für Steuern on his behalf. He hasn’t quite got the hang of correspondence just yet, so I’ll do it this once to inform them he has no intention of paying taxes anytime soon, nor does he need a number by which he can be tracked the rest of his days.
Taxes are one thing the Bundeszentralamt für Steuern will find hard to extract from a 32-day-old infant, but I also might include a sample of the one thing he can produce.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Un mes

¡Un mes hoy! ¡Que la vida es rápido! Forget Valentine, who’s had 1,515 days so far – today we’re celebrating one month of the nipper!
Grub’s being cooked, apples have been crumbled, ice cream flung into the freezer, and beer’s chilling as I type. If I drink enough of it, he won’t wake me up this night.
They’d no party hats in Kaisers, but I got fancy multicoloured balloons instead. There’s also a little cake with a solitary candle sitting in the middle of the table, waiting for him to sneeze it out. It’ll have to be a sneeze – he’s not yet following instructions, but if one sneeze comes then another invariably follows. He always sneezes three times, except when Jenny says, “he always sneezes three times,” when he always sneezes twice. One way or another, that candle is going out.
The last couple of weeks have been pretty hard to be honest. The little fella has been crying a lot. At times he’s inconsolable – either he’s realised he’s living in Pankow, or someone told him about all the forms he’s going to have to fill in once he’s older.
When he’s quiet though, he’s fantastic. Respites, when they come, make up for the rest. We look down at his peaceful face – ironically angelic – and try and keep up with all the others he pulls, happy to have the little fella in our lives.

Sorry for the interruption – had to go. Both the nipper and the grub were calling. The grub’s been consumed, much as he has consumed the past month, but the rest didn’t go according to plan I’m afraid. He sneezed – three times – but before the candle was lit, and he was in no mood for festivities once the candle was lit. Again, thoughts of Pankow must have flooded back.
The candle did go out, but by the time I finished changing his nappy – un mess – it had burned down to the cake. One way or the other. He’s a bit quieter now, happier to be slurping at the place he likes to call home. A little present from his Patentante remains unopened on the table, but there’s plenty of time for that – he’s still only a month.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Waaaaa

Been meaning to write for a while but haven’t had a chance. Ain't got much time now either. I’d better make it quick while he's still quie–

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Out of joint

My back was fucked. Tremendous pain. Couldn’t walk, couldn’t sit, couldn’t stand, couldn’t even lie down without stabs of pain. Couldn’t even sleep to escape it.
Jenny recommended I should go to the doctor to get it seen to, but I preferred the rest and do nothing approach. Unfortunately this was impossible due prevailing living conditions and I relented as it got progressively worse over the next day.
It was Thursday. I looked up orthopaedics and found there was one up the road with an emergency service. I rang. The phone rang and rang and rang, click, answer machine. “Our opening times are blah di blah...” I looked at the time and wondered why the hell they weren’t picking up so. It suggested sending an email. So I did. “My back’s fucked. Help me!”
At that stage the pain was getting too much. I decided, fuck it, I’d go up to the clinic directly. The Gemeinschaftspraxis Mohnke Kirsch, in case you were wondering.
What should take ten minutes took almost 40. I could only walk at a funny angle, like a lopsided crab, and each tiny step sent stabs of pain shooting up my back, down my legs. I gritted my teeth and went on. No choice. People looked at me strangely as I lurched forward, little lurches, grunting and gasping through the agony. Grannies overtook me, probably feeling young and vitalic as they passed inexorably slowly.
Eventually I got there, and found they were open as they said they would be on their unanswered phone. Top floor of course. It wouldn’t be the same if they didn’t make you crawl up four fights [sic] of stairs.
I waited at the counter while your wan argued with some oul’ bat over a form, as I swayed in front of them in pain and exhaustion. Eventually she turned to me. “Mein Rucken tut sehr weh. Ich brauche Hilfe,“ I told her.
“Nicht möglich,” she replied. The doctors’ schedule was full and they weren’t taking any appointments.
What about the emergency service, I asked. My back was fucked!
Nope, sorry. You’ll have to come back another day.
So there’s nothing you can do for me?
Sorry, we’re full.
Full for emergencies?
The sow just replied again, I’m sorry, we’re full. You can come back next week.
I could have choked her if my back would have allowed me, but realised she was just an ignoramus in a dead end job taking orders and probably grateful for them. I gave her what I hoped was a look which could kill and left.

When I got home ages later, pissed off and in a worse condition than which I’d begun, there was a reply to the original email I’d sent:
ich kann Ihnen anbieten, dass sie sich am Montag zu 7:30 oder am Dienstag zu 12:30 telefonisch bei uns anmelden können. Ihnen würde dann eine Uhrzeit genannt werden, zu der sie in unserer Praxis erscheinen können! Wichtig ist, dass Sie aber bitte mit unbestimmter Wartezeit rechnen müssen!
(I can offer you, that you can ring back Monday at 7.30 or Tuesday at 12.30. A time would then be named for you, at which you can turn up at our praxis! It’s important though, that you must calculate on an uncertain waiting time!)
I asked if they'd actually read my original email and reminded them it was an emergency.
Another email came back offering a “handling opportunity” on Monday or Tuesday, and thoughtfully giving me full permission to seek help elsewhere if I was experiencing “increasing difficulties”.

Holy fuck. I thought the health service in Ireland is bad. But here in Germany, where they want you to pay a third of your income for health insurance, they were asking me to call back in four days to make an appointment for my emergency.

That night this happened. It might have been the nipper’s way of getting me to a hospital. Once he arrived they checked me out, found I hadn’t slipped a disc, and gave me enough pills to sleep an elephant for a week. All’s better now, no thanks to the incompetents at Gemeinschaftspraxis Mohnke Kirsch.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Working wonders

I've to go to the launch of a Formula 1 car tomorrow. I didn't even know they were sending those things into space, but The Associated Press is opening my eyes to all sorts of wonders.
Since I started this job I still can't believe I've landed, I've come to learn there's more to winter sports than snowballs and stayin' warm, covered more Bundesliga games than Franck Ribéry can miss in a season, and got as close as safely possible to the world heavyweight boxing champion.
Jogi Bear is announcing his team to face Italy tomorrow, while the game itself will need coverage on Wednesday - you can't leave those pesky Eyetalians off without keepin' an eye on them. (Hence the name.) Athletics takes centre stage on Saturday, but really this weekend is all about Fußball, and the meetings of bitter local rivals in particular. It’s derby weekend! Work is good.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Existence approved

He exists! I'd had a nagging suspicion he was only a far-fetched figment of my imagination – despite the sleepless nights, arse-wiping and futile rocking – but the nipper’s existence has been confirmed by the Standesamt in Spandau!
Well, not quite confirmed yet – they still have to post us the FIVE birth certs (you can never be too sure) but I’ve been assured the formalities have been disposed of like a soiled nappy and the rest is just a suspense-building exercise.

It was actually relatively painless this morning when I wheeled my wheelbarrow of forms into the Bürgeramt. They wanted my passport to prove my existence; my birth cert to prove I was born; the translation of my birth cert so they could understand the dates and numerals (September is September in German y’know); the official stamp to prove it had been translated by an official stamper and not an illiterate monkey who mightn’t be able to correctly understand September; Jenny’s birth cert to prove she was born (they didn’t want proof of her existence); the Anerkennung der Vaterschaft (the stamped form which alone proves I’m the father); and the gemeinsamen Sorgeerklärung (which proves we are jointly responsible for the kid as parents, rather than, say, Banana Gatherers Anonymous or the Philanthropic One-Legged Fish Admiration Society, primarily engaged in the procurement of waterproof crutches). I also brought my Anmeldebestätigung to confirm where I normally do my existing, and my Freizügigkeitserklärung to prove I’m allowed work in the EU (not otherwise discernable from my EU passport).

I would have thought the most conclusive proof of the child’s existence would have been the child, but he wasn’t required, presumably due to the impracticalities of stamping new born children.
I signed a form, paid my blood money, and was assured his necessary paperwork would be sent out to us in the next few days. Wouldn’t it be mad if they came back and said he didn't exist at all?