Monday, August 29, 2011

Vorsprung durch Sprache

My German’s gone to the dogs. Zur Hunde gegangen as the Germans would say if they weren’t allergic to metaphors*. So I’m starting another course tomorrow.
In truth, it’s probably not that bad, and might even be getting better, but my German’s nowhere near as good as I want it to be. I won’t be happy until I speak it better than the natives, until people stop showing me how bad it is by telling me how good it is.
I still curse at motorists in English when we cross paths. Once I’ve vented my fury at another gobshite, fuckbag, ass-wit, toerag or bollocks, I’m left with a disconcerting feeling of inadequacy for not expressing myself in their tongue. Sure, they get the message, but the feeling remains. And there are enough of them around to ensure I feel like that every day.
So enough. Tomorrow I start and I won’t let up until my first reaction is to curse at the motorists in their language. The next Schweinehund, Arschloch, blöde Kuh, alte Sau or Hurensohn will get the message in double quick time.
No longer will I feel like a donkey after taking part in another cross cultural exchange.

*Jenny has reliably informed me that Germans do, in fact, have “thousands of metaphors” such as: “Schweine gehabt, kalte Kaffee, Schnee von Gestern, spitz wie Nachbars Lumpi and millions of others.” I’m not sure if millions is a metaphor for thousands, or vice versa, but let it not be said that Germans are allergic to metaphors. Allergic to slagging perhaps, but not metaphors.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Que peña madridista

I’ve been a Real Madrid fan since Hugo Sánchez used to somersault after scoring. I do not remember any of his goals, nor did they matter. Somersaults were the thing. That was a long time ago.
Heroes came and went, trophies and leagues were won and lost, but my faith never wavered. Madrid were simply el mejor, aristocrats of futbol, showing others how it should be played and striking fear into opposing teams’ hearts. For the most part anyway.
Recently Barcelona have assumed that mantle, and life as a Real Madrid fan has been a little more challenging of late. Nobody likes to be beaten 5-0 away or 6-2 at home. Times have been hard. Barcelona are enjoying a golden age. I’m not a fan of tiki taka but they like it and others too so leave them off.
In the latest Clásico between them, I was happy to see Madrid hold their own with skill, guts, determination and incredible stamina over two legs, albeit in vain as Messi made it 5-4 with three minutes to go.
That’s when the shit hit the fans.
A kerfuffle broke out and the Madrid coach took advantage by stooping to a level unfathomable, inexcusable for a coach of any team, let alone Madrid. Whatever his excuses, the moral outrage of wrongs perceived or otherwise, there is no excuse.
With one cowardly act, he has brought shame on the club he represents – my club.
Florentino Perez (Real Madrid president) looked like a shattered man as he surveyed the damage. Old and sad. Barcelona might have inflicted defeat, but the greatest harm is self made. Despite doing all he can to make Madrid great again, the club is instead scorned and vilified, past glories sullied by the actions of one man.
That coach should go. He might be the best bet to beat Barcelona, but without dignity and respect, he’ll always be a loser.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Smells like mean spirit

Whatever about the French, I can hereby confirm that the Germans do not believe in showering or deodorant. My conclusions are based on the unwelcome company of two of them and so are categorical.
On the train to Stuttgart, a young fella sat beside me reeking of sweat and piss, while on the train back, a hairy galoot with a kid stunk to high heaven of acrid sweat. To make matters worse, his kid insisted on eating – for fucking ages – with his mouth open. Perhaps he was afraid of breathing in through his nose.
There are other examples too. On Thursday I contemplated leaving a tram contaminated by a human skunk before he mercifully left, only for some other piss-encrusted waif  to embark on the way back.
I am cursed with an exceptionally good sense of smell, as sensitive as my sense of fairness in insulting all nationalities in equal measure, but the former has trumped the latter at the expense of diplomacy – I've sniffed out Germany’s stench stinks more than all others.
Either the natives have no sense of smell and/or are somehow proud of their efforts. Gestankfreude?
Sweat and piss are only the most common stenches one has to put up with, but other putrid pungents also lurk, sneaky stinks just waiting for an opportunity to assault an unsuspecting nose.
The foulnesses can be astounding: I've actually had to leave S-Bahn carriages on occasion, the ghastliness simply too much to bear. Not that a bear could put up with it either. They might be the symbol of the city, but you'll notice they no longer roam its smelly streets. Jaysus only nose why the natives don’t get the hint.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Not sure about Germany, but getting hit by bird shit is considered good luck in Ireland. Don’t ask me why.
The poor fella was minding his own business in a friend’s garden when a feathered fucker flew over and landed a direct hit. I don’t know what Nippity did to offend him – he doesn’t even know what a bird is, never mind have an argument to pick with one.
‘Twas a hell of a month for the increasingly unlittle fella. It started in the land of the ancestors and he took to it like a duck to water, not that he had any choice with the water. Thankfully he seems to have a fondness for rain, drizzle, storms and wind.
I honestly haven’t seen the nipper as happy as when we were in Ireland – squealing with delight meeting horses in Connemara, blinking in sea spray thrown up by the enthusiastic wind, contemplating the wide expanse of the Atlantic from the Cliffs of Moher, savouring views from Sliabh na mBan, running fingers through sand for the first time at Duncannon beach, marvelling at the swaying boughs of trees at Kennedy Park, ogling the weird sheep-shaped creatures there, or fixated in wide-eyed wonder at the stampeding cattle across the road from the ancestral home.
Jesus he loved it! I think he enjoyed it more than we did. He must have felt like a rock star with all the attention at every port of call. He didn’t like the travelling per se, kicking up an almighty fuss any time he’d to suffer the indignity of the baby seat, but once we arrived, all was forgotten – happy as a pig in shit, tongue out and sheer bliss gurgles.
I thought he’d be downcast to be back in Berlin at first, but there was enough excitement and attention with the visit of his godfather and posse to distract him, while he always has his hurl to swing and his first musical instrument. He’s been regaling all and sundry with his renditions of “Some Say the Devil is Dead” on his bódhran.
We also introduced him to real grub, if you can call it that. Jaysus it’s awful slop, but apparently the babies like that sort of stuff, their taste buds not yet corrupted by the pleasures of roast chicken and spuds. He’s been lapping up mushed pumpkin with a face as mushed as the pumpkin, but he’s been lapping it up all the same. Next on the menu of discovery are spuds. He’ll like them, even if it’s only mushed spuds.
So he’s seven now, but he’d pass for more. My aunt called him “Buster” and it fits. He’s certainly rowdier in the last month. Nothing to do with Ireland of course, his manners were always atrocious. He’s busted his way through nipperdom already though. Definitely a snapper now. How quickly they grow!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Fifty years ago today...

So it was 50 years ago today – to this minute – that the fuckers closed the border to imprison their own brethren. People talk about Ostalgia now, but if the country was so flippin’ great, then why did they need to build a goddamned wall to keep people in it? Gah.
For those who know nothing of the Berlin Wall, basically it was a 155km barrier around West Berlin, made first of barbed wire, fencing, guards and guns, before being fortified with concrete and a 100 metre death strip so those attempting “Republikflucht” could easily be gunned down. They blew up houses and even churches in its route, just to make sure they could have a clear shot at people.
Despite the obvious risks in attempting to get over this indication of man’s stupidity, thousands tried, their risking of life and limb a damning indictment of the country they were trying to leave behind.
While in effect the wall encircled West Berlin, it was really to keep the East Germans out of it – the GDR head honchos had evidently suffered enough embarrassment already from seeing their best and brightest leave for better opportunity elsewhere.
Goddamnit, that wall would have boiled my blood. And those fuckwits guarding it deserve nothing but contempt. Fifty years ago tonight they lined up with their guns “just following orders” as they stopped anyone crossing an invisible line. They made sure it became visible over time.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Stuttgart samba

The furthest assignment yet! I’m enroute to Stuttgart to see Schweini, Poldi, Jogi, Götzi et al as they take on the lads from Brazil tonight. I’ve responsibility for bringing news of this momentous occasion to the rest of the world.
It’s six hours on a flippin’ train to Stuttgart. I could be back in Ireland stocking up on tea and back by the time it takes to get there. But there you go. I take solace from the fact it’s even further from Brazil.
For them Neymar is the main star, supported by a Ganso-load of other Brazilians nobody has heard of since Kaká started living up to his name and the original Ronaldo went into retirement. But I look forward to meeting them all the same and showing them a trick or two. Apparently the feeling is mutual.
My expectations of Stuttgart are mixed, however. On one hand it’s the city where Ray Houghton scored a goal no Irishman, woman, child or animal will ever forget. On the other, there’s my experiences in other German cities. Jaysus only knows how small their beers are.
At least there’ll be the futebol! Sambando com a bola no pé.

*Post post addendum. I wasn't in Stuttgart long enough to make any observations on the place. Nor was I even in the place long enough to come up with a general feeling based on my whims at the time. All I saw was the train station really. However, I was impressed by the Stuttgart 21 protests outside the beloved Bahnhof, and must salute the Stuttgarters for standing up for what they believe in. Macht's jut.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Liquid weekend in Barlin

Both Noddy and weather followed us back to Berlin for a few days, making the visitors’ stay a very wet one. He was accompanied by wife, brother, three sisters and brother in law, and it pissed rain with a vengeance for the duration of their visit. They left yesterday morning and the sun’s been shining since.
I’m sure none of them will ever come back. For four days and four nights we sheltered under umbrellas and in bars as I tried to tell them what a great city Berlin is, each claim dampened with each depressingly predicable raindrop. Poor Tahnee saw nothing of all the exciting things she’d heard of.
Their whole trip was a disaster. They only seemed to meet rude Germans who gave out to them at every opportunity for heinous crimes like not putting the divider between groceries on the conveyer belt, or other unforgivable offences still to be deciphered. Even an unplanned party had to be cancelled due to the overall inclemence. I’d be rightly pissed off if I’d put any further effort into not planning it.
We had no option but to console ourselves with beer, copious quantities called for to counteract the amount of liquid falling from the sky. It was a heroic effort and I’ve lost track of all the bars I can no longer step foot in.
Captain Ahab will no longer miss us after Johnny nonchalantly dumped his tobacco discards over his pristine counter, his indignation already roused by the affront of my toe infringing on his precious bar space, while Entweder Oder is definitely out after Noddy balanced a chair on Johnny’s head. I suppose they should be grateful he didn’t try sitting on it too.
Tuba the waitress will not forget us either, where Johnny uttered the immortal words: “Life’s a garden, just dig it.” In fact, none of Berlin’s waitresses or bargirls will forget Johnny in a hurry.
I’m sure the guy in Dolores is still scratching his head after Noddy bought every type of beer they had in the place within a ten minute spell while he and his brother tried finding one they liked; the two of them pulling faces of disgust in front of a growing mountain of bottles.
“I thought Germany was the home of good beer?!” Johnny asking incredulously.
“Yeah, but this is a foreign place – they only have foreign beers,” I replied.
“They’re all foreign beers if you ask me.”
We sought refuge from the rain under a giant umbrella outside Schnelle Quelle – with German Biers – the flow of conversation like the entertainment level uninterrupted by thought, sense or pause for breath.
Noddy told us of his horse named Connor, while we recounted Captain Ahab’s annoyance the night before (or was it the night before that?) and laughed at memories of Johnny fighting a dog for a chicken carcass that had twice been in a fire. Unfortunately I wasn’t there at the time but it still brings a smile to hear Sully’s reaction: “Your brother’s not right in the head.”
They’re gone now, allowing Berlin a sigh of relief, back to Ireland before catching planes back to the US or Australia. To be honest – although my liver might disagree – I’d be happy if they had stuck around a lot longer as it be years rather than months before we meet again. All tomorrow’s parties. Where or when exactly is anyone’s guess. Fare ye well my friends. I miss you already.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Nippity with the bodhrán

We brought a bodhrán back for the little fella. He promptly tried eating the cipín but soon got the hang of it. He's happy. I'm sure the neighbours are delighted.